19 August 1997

Crofters anger at ferry costs

SCOTTISH crofters have appealed for government intervention in their battle to stop a potential increase in the cost of ferrying stock from the islands to the mainland.

Caledonian MacBrayne, the state-owned ferry company that serves the Scottish islands, is threatening to ban four-tiered livestock lorries from its roll-on roll-off ferries from Oct 1 to comply with new animal transport rules.

The Scottish Crofters Union says that will add significantly to the cost of shipping animals from the islands. In a letter to Scottish farm minister Lord Sewel, the SCU says: "The immediate effect of this will be to increase the freight charge on animals being ferried from the islands. It is estimated that this may be in the region of 80p to £1 per lamb. As you will appreciate, this will take effect in areas which are already disadvantaged with regard to transportation and its costs.

"This development will simply exacerbate this situation and translate as a further economic penalty on island producers and these communities in general."

New EU animal transport rules, introduced in the UK in July, said that four-tier floats were not considered suitable for transporting animals on ferries. Although the SCU says that the Scottish Office indicated that this was only a recommendation, Caledonian MacBrayne has announced that from Oct 1 it will no longer permit of these vehicles. &#42