Scottish government may halve First Milk ferry bill

Scotland’s government may step in to help beleaguered processor First Milk by halving its £149,000 annual bill for ferrying dairy products from two Scottish islands.

Plunging world milk prices forced First Milk to withhold payments to its farmer suppliers in January.

The lack of cash has put the First Milk suppliers on the isles of Bute and Gigha in a precarious position.

See also: Landlord’s bid to help Bute dairy farmers may be too late

The Scottish government is considering cutting the ferry costs to help the processor reduce its overheads.

The move would bring milk transport into line with livestock and animal fodder hauliers who already pay a lower rate for ferry crossings.

Under the current rules fares can be reduced to one-way charges for operators when return loads are impractical.

NFU Scotland has been campaigning for the reduction and its regional manager for Argyll and the Islands, Lucy Sumsion, said: “We have been lobbying the Scottish government’s transport and rural affairs ministers and we’re optimistic that we’re making progress.”

First Milk has also been involved in lobbying and Scottish farmer director Jim Baird confirmed officials were now “making the right noises”.

“They’re keen to help the industry and this would make a difference,” he said.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “NFUS has recently been consulted as part of the ferry freight fares review, which will look at discounts and surcharges with the aim of delivering an overarching freight fares structure for all Scotland’s islands that is fair, transparent and straightforward, as well as delivering best value for taxpayers at a time of severe cuts to the Scottish government budget.”


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