Together with its members, the Scottish Islands Federation is developing policies to inform responses to consultations. We have looked to the Irish Islands Federation for inspiration as they have done a great job of developing a number of policies covering many aspects of island life.

Transport Policy (adopted 2010)

The issue of Access is the most fundamental issue of concern to those living on islands as it impacts on every aspect of life. Affordable, frequent, safe transport services, including sea and air transport, (and safe piers and airstrips) are vital to island communities.

The principles of Affordability, Reliability, Flexibility and in many cases, Commutability, should be central to any Island transport policy.

Key Transport Policies adopted by the S.I.F. :

  • Passenger fares need to be affordable in order to avoid becoming a barrier to accessing mainland services, employment and other economic opportunities.
  • Freight charges to and from the islands should also be affordable and kept to a minimum so that users face no higher costs than their counterparts on the mainland in exporting or importing goods and materials.
  •  Service integration should be at the heart of island transport for aeroplanes, trains, buses and ferries to work together.
  • In case of disruptions due to weather, there should be a system in place to allow a common sense approach to the use of public transport connecting to ferries. This system should allow buses in particular to wait for a delayed ferry, if they provide the only connections that can be used by the public.
  • Provision must be made for transport in the case of emergencies, eg ambulance, fire fighting support, police. For example, Helicopter pads and helicopter services should be available on all islands to accommodate the Air Ambulance Service.

RET : S.I.F. welcomed the RET pilot trial in the Western Isles as well as Coll and Tiree as an indication of this government ‘s commitment to look at island Ferry and Air travel as an extension of our national roads networks. It is now welcoming the RET roll out programme which should extend all Scottish islands by autumn 2015.

One problem remains for the smaller islands: freight charges are still too high, with cost building material for example at least a third higher than on mainland. 

S.I.F. was invited to participate in the Scottish Government Ferries Review. S.I.F. will continue to participate using this Transport Policy as .a guide.
S.I.F. support an optimised ferry service that minimises the sea crossing between islands and the mainland.


  • Quality of service should be dependant on the service provided to the ferry users not to a predetermined set of performance indicators: a ferry timetable cannot be equated to a train timetable.
  • In adverse weather conditions, there should be a degree of flexibility allowed to deliver a service to the islands, rather than penalties to the ferry operator if this entails changes in the timetable.
  • In awarding contracts to ferry providers, priority should be give to the developmental needs of islanders rather than to the lowest price tender. These needs include access to employment, education and essential services.
  • Parking facilities, toilets and shelter should be provided at piers on the mainland which serve the islands.
    Management plans for piers should be developed and implemented, in consultation with local communities
  • When considering future ferry services, an island based ferry should be the norm.
  • In the current drive to become more energy efficient, it is crucial to look at ferries that are designed to consume less fossil fuel, and encourage innovative design, provided safety and reliability are not compromised.
  • Support the small ferries concept providing there is no loss of service during adverse weather conditions.