Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil is fully supportive of the hauliers in the Outer Hebrides as they pull together to oppose the decision to remove RET from hauliers.  Many questions need to be answered and I have written to Keith Brown MSP, Transport Minister, on behalf of hauliers and stressed the importance of retaining RET.

Angus MacNeil said:

“I said from the outset that the decision to remove RET from the hauliers was a mistake.  Since this was announced, I have spoken to many hauliers who are understandably worried at the effect this will have on their business.  The removal of RET will ultimately lead to an increase in prices for customers in our islands.    I will be pressing for a meeting with the Transport Minister early in the New Year. Meanwhile a campaign group “Hauliers for RET” has been assembled to both work on the RET case and to dispel the myth that arose in Edinburgh that island hauliers did not want RET.  If this is not sorted freight costs and prices will go up which could ultimately impact on jobs.

““Business is also hindered by the current 5-metre ruling on CalMac Ferries, where their vehicles are slightly over 5 metres in length.  This should be increased to 6-metre, similar to NorthLink Ferries, I have written to CalMac regarding this and have asked that they change the current ruling.  This would mean that commercial operators could take advantage of the cheaper ferry fares.  A small change by CalMac could make a huge difference financially to smaller businesses.

“Also Ferries to the Shetlands are considerably cheaper per mile travelled, I do not begrudge them this, they have longer sailing times (which gives them a more expensive return fare) but our Hebridean distances have to be taken into account also. This issue illustrates the need for full autonomy for Scotland, so that tax revenues raised by stimulating the economy are kept by the Scottish Government.”

Northern spokesman for “Hauliers for RET”, David Wood, Woody’s Express Parcels said:

“This will be a huge addition to costs.  RET has benefited the islands and to remove it from the haulage industry will be detrimental to the whole community.  With RET we revised our prices and reduced costs to customer, we will now have to look again at our cost base, ultimately our customer will have to pay.”

Southern spokesman for “Hauliers for RET”, Donald Joseph Maclean of Barratlantic Ltd, commented:

“We are now back where we were with lorry prices going up almost 40% this will of course cost jobs and mean higher freight charges. The cost of living on Barra is already high, as we know.  The removal of RET will have a detrimental effect on this company, which has been established since 1974 and is the largest private employer on the Island. Since RET came into effect four years ago, we have been on the same working level as our mainland competitors and our turnover has increased by 20%, which made us competitive.  The removal of RET is unimaginable.”

Derek Murray of Macaskill Haulage also commented:

“The increased costs will damage the local economy, based on the figures that we have even with the maximum 25% discount, it is going to cost us alone, a  ¼ million pounds per year which will have to be passed on to the customer.  It will be extremely difficult to continue, particularly with the current economic climate.  I am also concerned about the impact this will have on smaller businesses that may not qualify for the discount.  I believe all businesses should be treated in a fair way.”