Tavish Scott attacks Scottish Government on unconsulted fare hike on Serco Northlink ferries

Yesterday’s Shetland News reported Shetland MSP and former Scottish Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tavish Scott, on the attack after discounted fares have been substantially hiked by Serco – the controversial winner of the contract to provide ferry services to the Orkney and Shetland isles.

The MSP’s position is that the Scottish Government is disregarding the ‘lifeline’ status of the service to these islands in making the cost of transport for islanders substantially more expensive.

Mr Scott’s information is that:

  • Discounts for seniors and students have been cut from 25% to 10%
  • The former group discount scheme has been dropped in favour of a ‘sponsorship’ scheme for which specific application must be made and which is not yet in operation.

The group discount scheme has traditionally been used by sports clubs and schools in Shetland to make educational school trips to the mainland possible. The cost of such fares, according to Mr Scott, has now risen from £40 per pupil three years ago to £92 per pupil today.

This price level will deter schools in Shetland from making the visits to the mainland that enhance the cultural experiences of their pupils.

Mr Scott alleges that these price hikes have been imposed without due consultation.

Transport Scotland insist that there was consultation before the introduction of the new discount system. However, there seems to be something of a swerve going on here, since the detail they give is that specific consultation was carried out with ‘key local authority officials and regional transport partnerships’ while the new ferry contract was being drawn up.

If this is all they did, it would certainly not be the required public consultation with the affected groups – the passengers.

This statement also means that ‘key local authority officials and regional transport partnerships’ may have been complicit in agreeing, in advance of contract, future changes to the fare structure, which would disadvantage user groups.

It also means that these ‘key local authority officials and regional transport partnerships’ may have been complicit in keeping quiet about the coming fare hikes during the dispute over Serco being awarded that contract. The likelihood of a private sector profit taker hiking fares was a core issue of that dispute.

The nature of whatever consultation took place on this matter should be easy to demonstrate, since consultation cannot be an invisible or unrecorded process.

Now that Mr Scott knows the limits of that consultation, we suggest that he uses FoI again to discover its detail.

Mr Scott is saying that he has a letter from Transport Minister, Keith Brown, admitting that there was no consultation before the discounts were cut.

Transport Scotland say that Mr Scott has misinterpreted a document received under freedom of Information.

Note: The Shetland News piece of 10th June is here.

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17 Responses to Tavish Scott attacks Scottish Government on unconsulted fare hike on Serco Northlink ferries

  1. In an enlightened society the contribution Shetland’s oil & gas revenues make to the prosperity of this country would be seen as ample justification for keeping essential ferry costs affordable, given the distance from the rest of Scotland.
    I wonder what our government would say if the Shetlanders told them they could stuff their remote and self-interested antics – and push for fiscal autonomy, aka independence; if Aland can have that relationship with Finland, Shetland certainly can with Scotland.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

    • Not going to happen despite the best efforts of Tavish Scott – wee lairdy that he is continuing feudalism

      Was he not involved in some issue re expenses?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

      • My notion that the way Holyrood treats Shetland could be likened to the way Westminster treats Scotland doesn’t seem to be very popular – I wonder why?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

        • Because what you say is tosh.

          How was Shetland treated before Holyrood?

          Either way Scotland in charge of all its sea resources with the removal of crown estates will benefit all of the communities in the coastal areas.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

          • So you think that the Holyrood government should have total control over Shetland, the same way as Westminster should have total control over Scotland?
            Shetland’s part of Scotland, in the same way that Scotland’s part of Britain?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

      • Was he ?

        I recall Salmond was caught out claiming Westminster food and drink allowances for two weeks when he was back at home in Scotland.

        Figures.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

      • Aren’t the level of national concessions for Seniors and Students 10% anyway?
        FOI might be useful to find the request and authorisation that allowed concessions at over twice the national level. Who was the Transport Minister back then?

        There must have been some local consultation before writing the full specification that determined acceptable service levels and pricing?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    • “In an enlightened society the contribution Shetland’s oil & gas revenues make to the prosperity of this country would be seen as ample justification for keeping essential ferry costs affordable, given the distance from the rest of Scotland”

      Robert

      You say Shetland contributes to the prosperity of this country – Which country? I am fully aware that the UK is not a country however the revenues from the resources you mention do not head to Holyrood, instead Westminster coffers contributing to the prosperity of the countries the UK consists of.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

      • The country we inhabit, and it doesn’t matter which country in the context of what I said – the point is that Shetland does contribute to our general prosperity, whether directly – eg jobs in Lerwick – or indirectly – by ‘trickle down’ of tax revenue one way or another. You can turn it into a political argument if you want, but please don’t hijack what I was saying – that Shetland is a valuable asset, but is relatively remote due to its far north location, and people deserve to have the benefit of affordable travel.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

        • Hijack what you were saying?

          Listen, if I disagree with anything anyone posts on here believe me Robert I will comment. If anyone has a problem with that complain to the moderator.

          All I was looking for on this particular occasion was clarity, that’s all and it’s up to you whether to simply ignore my post or not

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

          • No need to get antsy, it obviously doesn’t matter which country, does it? – the tax revenue goes, via both the Shetlands council and the UK treasury, to the benefit of both the Shetlands and the rest of the UK, or if Scotland becomes independent, presumably just to the benefit of Scotland.
            Now that’s been clarified, perhaps you’d like to give your opinion on my question of whether the Shetlands’ revenue-raising function would justify keeping the ferry fares from escalating. I think it does – and the same argument could be applied to Islay, though it’s not as remote.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. How refreshing to see a MSP speak up for his constituents .
    Michael Russell MSP for Argyll & Bute has had nothing to say about the cut in bed numbers at Campbeltown Hospital , cut from 32 beds to 21 , despite the fact the overwhelming majority of people in the community are strongly opposed to the cut .

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 10

    • from NHS Highland website

      “Plans will now be progressed with local staff to implement the new service by
      1st April 2013. The closure of surplus beds in the hospital will also allow
      funding and staff resources to be transferred into community based services
      thereby further increasing the service available to the community.

      Donnie Cameron, Clinical Services Manager for Kintyre, said:
      “This work is a further important step in ensuring that we have the right
      balance of service provision in Kintyre to make sure that our hospital beds are
      available for those patients with acute illnesses. We have also increased
      community services in both health and social care which will help prevent
      people getting ill and letting them remain in their own home.”

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  3. It appears that neither Russell nor Mackenzie will stand up for the people of Campbeltown regarding the reduction in hospital beds – not even a comment. I wonder why?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

  4. I was just wondering what had happened to Tavish Scott, so decided to search the ‘net for him and came upon this forum as the most recent mention of his name in a Google search directed me here, as I believe he hasn’t been visible since his attempts to undermine the ‘Yes’ campaign were shot down in flames by the results of the Press and Journal survey, has anyone seen him ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

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