Scilly Islanders are suffering from the adverse impacts of isolation, due to the lack of an affordable ferry service to the mainland, writes Lord Berkeley.
The Starred Question arises from the publication of a Report on 25 April 2012 from the Isles of Scilly Council comparing transport links between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland and other UK and European islands. The report sets out the next steps required to deliver an affordable, year round daily ferry service as a 'lifeline' on a similar basis to the Scottish Government to their islands.
The report, sent to Justine Greening MP, secretary of state for transport and Norman Baker MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for transport, compares the transport and economy of Scottish islands with the Isles of Scilly, using Islay as the nearest equivalent. Most of the comparative data (fares, cost of living etc) show a stark contrast between Scilly and the Scottish Isles.
Contrary to widely held views, the Isles of Scilly, with a population of 2,200 are not wealthy and have the 4th lowest wages in the UK, and one of the highest costs of living and the least affordable housing in the South West.
Launching the Report, Mike Hicks, the chairman of the Council, said:
"While Scilly is a special place, the majority of islanders are ordinary working people who strive to make a living. Most believe it's a good place to live but, as in other places, life can be harsh and probably, more than in other places suffers from the adverse impacts of isolation."
The report recommends that, to achieve parity with Scottish islands, there should be at least one daily year round 'lifeline' ferry service charged at the same rate as applied in Islay which would mean a return fare of significantly less than £20. This compares with the Isles of Scilly, summer only ferry fare of £95.00 for a period return. In the winter there is only a helicopter service (£190) and a fixed wing air service ('from' £120).
I shall be asking the minister what action the government is to take to implement a lifeline service on the lines of those currently provided in Scotland.