The goal posts have been changed again, and suddenly no-one is happy about any aspect of the decision.
Quoth the Minister:
However, Mr Stevenson said the Western Isles needed the road equivalent tariff (RET) scheme due to lower wages and a falling population.
His comments coincided with the end of a ferries review consultation.
Mr Stevenson told BBC Radio Scotland that Shetland residents had weekly earnings that were on average £70 higher than in the Western Isles and in Orkney it was some £50 higher.So is eligibility for RET now to be determined on the basis of household income in the island group?
The Minister continued:
It is absolutely clear that investment in the Western Isles is investment to support the economy and the future of these islands.Now, no-one can argue with that. Especially the corollary of that which is that the remove of RET would undermine the future of the islands. Which begs the question of why that might even be on the agenda as part of the fares review. If the Government were serious about supporting the islands, we wouldn't have a hand-to-mouth year-by-year policy for RET, as that doesn't encourage investment or long-term planning.
Indeed, as I have previously argued, the timescale for the 'pilot' is far too short to make a sensible decision.
Year 1, few know about it. Year 2, the problems issues start to arise; Year 3, the position starts to stabilise and you can start an assessment; Year 4 of a 5 year policy would give you a sensible base on which to form a strategy; Year 5 is for an early decision.
The review came too late and too near the election for anything to be decided and implemented before this time next year, meaning uncertainty for all.
And even the SNP's guru on CalMac, Prof Neil Kay, a resident of Cowal, has very sharp words to say:
What has clearly happened is that the public relations horror and electoral disaster that the RET pilot has stored up for the Government has finally dawned on someone in Edinburgh.
The RET pilot was due to end Spring next year. The penny finally dropped that Calmac will introduce their Summer timetables around end of March and that as things stood the end of the RET pilot would mean the Summer timetables would have to show a doubling of many of the current fares back up to their pre-RET levels – just weeks before the Holyrood election in May.
Of course there may be reasons other than defering electoral trauma as to why the Government is spending an extra £6.5mill on Western Isles to extend the RET pilot there by another year. If anyone has any other rational explanations it would be good to hear them.With a flagship policy causing your friends to have a go, the competency levels are demonstrably low.