Isles MP Angus MacNeil welcomes Transport Minister Graham Dey as he visits the islands this week and hopes he will engage closely on the key transport problems facing the islands at this time.
- The loss of HIAL Air Traffic Control jobs in the islands
- Ferry construction and the current booking system
Speaking ahead of Mr Dey’s arrival, Mr MacNeil said: “It is good that the Minister is coming to visit the islands as he gets to know this part of Scotland.
“Obviously the number one issue of the moment for many is the likelihood of the Government losing £2m each and every year from HIAL moving jobs to Inverness.
“Hopefully the new agreement with the SNP and the Greens gives the space for the Government to reassess whether needlessly wasting £2m each and every year and removing about £1m in wages from the island economies from the Hebrides to Shetland, is the best value for money.
“This is also a time when we need to be pressing on with ferry construction and look to yards that can do this.
“It is also an opportunity for the Minister to hear about booking windows, or indeed to look at devolving power over when parts of the car deck are released on ferry bookings to the islands.
“We should release about 70% in the beginning, about 20% a month before a sailing, a further 8-9% about a week before the sailing and then on the last day the final 1 or 2%. This would give the variety of travellers – whether leisure, business or emergency – the possibility of moving backwards and forwards.
“I hope the Minister is in a listening mode and also the Scottish Government is in a mode to devolve things such as booking windows to island councils, who could set the structures in conjunction with Calmac as to how we could better use the ferries so that everyone has access and no one is resented for booking early on for a justifiable holiday.”