Scotland’s island communities have welcomed a decision to freeze ferry fares but say it doesn’t solve the longer term problems of service unreliability.
On Sunday, the Scottish Government announced the six-month plan in a bid to help communities recover from disruption due to years of breakdowns, cancellations and delays.
Two new vessels commissioned eight years ago to form part of the Caledonian MacBrayne fleet were hoped to be the solution to issues faced by islanders.
Due to be delivered in 2018, the ferries are millions of pounds over budget and are still not ready for service.
As a result, island communities have been left plagued by cancellations and unreliable service, claiming millions of pounds are being lost to their economies.
The Scottish Government says it is aware of the challenges and confirmed ticket prices will remain at current levels from April to September to help communities recover.
However Joe Reade from the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee said a fare freeze won’t fix the issues communities have been facing.
He said: “The problems we have will take years to resolve and a six-month fare freeze wont fix it, however welcome that is.
“We just want dependability and that is going to take some time to fix and that’s really where we need to see action and the first part of that should be listening to islanders. I think that’s the biggest frustration we have – we are not being listened to.”
The price freeze applies to Northern Isles, Clyde and Hebrides ferry networks.
Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said the Scottish Government is “mindful of the disruption” and that a fare freeze is the right thing to do “to boost tourism”.
She said: “The Scottish Government is acutely aware of the particular challenges faced by our island communities, where the ongoing cost of living impacts are arguably more challenging than in any other part of the country. Ministers are also mindful of the disruption on the ferry network in recent times – particularly in relation to the Clyde and Hebrides network.
“This fares freeze is the right thing for our island communities and I hope it will go some way to encouraging tourism this summer as island businesses continue to recover from the pandemic.
“We will consider fares policy in the longer term as part of both the Island Connectivity Plan and our wider ‘fair fares’ review, to ensure that we continue to address the needs of Scotland’s islands.”