Prices will be kept on hold for 2017 as the Scottish Government works towards its key commitment of reducing fares on the Northern Isles network.
Future fare levels are already being considered as part of the STAG study into the Northern Isles Ferry Services, but a further report has been commissioned to look specifically at the issue of a new fares policy for the network.
Mr Yousaf is visiting Orkney and Shetland as part of his summer island tour, hearing more about the opportunities and challenges of island life. During the three day visit he will be engaging with a variety of island communities, helping develop and inform future legislative proposals.
Mr Yousaf said: “I’m pleased to announce that fares on the Northern Isles Ferry Services will be frozen for 2017, the second consecutive year they’ve been kept on hold.
“We want these vital services to continue to be accessible and affordable, so keeping ticket prices on hold next year will help achieve that.
“We have made a key commitment to cut fares on ferry services to the Northern Isles and we continue to work towards that goal. I have commissioned a study to look specifically at fares on Northern Isles routes, with a view to bringing in a new pricing policy and ultimately reducing the cost of ferry travel.”
He added: “The Northern Isles present a number of challenges for a new fares policy. As we have said before, bringing in Road Equivalent Tariff would significantly increase the ticket prices on the majority of services. The presence of a commercial operator on some routes also complicates matters.
“So I will be asking my officials to engage and meet with the local councils, elected members, community groups and other key stakeholders to discuss the potential options available to us.
“The Scottish Government is committed to empowering our island communities, which is why I’m meeting with local people to discuss the issues that really matter to people living and working on Scottish islands.
“Last year’s Islands Bill consultation sought views on island-proofing, additional powers for island councils and the introduction of a National Islands Plan, and the views expressed are currently under consideration. I anticipate my visit will be a fantastic opportunity for me to hear the many and varied views on the future of our islands.”