Comments on the Lochboisdale Mallaig ferry situation.
11 September 2008
"There is a real danger of this issue descending into a fog of confusion
"The Minister says he supports a consultative process, but it appears Councillor Manford has abandoned that consultation, so where does that leave the Minister now?
"More worryingly, one of the answers I have received doesn't seem to have taken into account the proposal from Storas Uibhist for a direct Lochboisdale to Mallaig service, which would leave the Barra to Oban connection, the very thing the Minister wants to have consultation on.
"Given that a Barra service to Oban would not be under threat if the Storas Uibhist proposal were accepted, I hope this does not mean the Minister has ruled out the Storas Uibhist proposal, otherwise why consult on that one issue?
"You need to add to this mix the national ferry services review the Minister has commissioned and its possible impact on a decision about Lochboisdale to Mallaig, and it becomes more difficult to see as the fog of confusion descends.
"In the final analysis there is a viable proposition on the table from Storas Uibhist.
"The Minister says that a stand alone service would need to be tendered but, there are probably other ways of addressing this.
"Where there is a will to make something work, normally there is a way.
"The Minister has now publicly accepted there is support for a new service, he has previously said he has the money to proceed, what is needed now is a clear decision by the Minister that he wants this service to go ahead, then everyone can apply themselves to doing that.
"So long as his intention and determination to proceed remains unclear, no real progress can be made.
"The ball is firmly in the Minister's court for a decision and I will keep pressing him to make that decision quickly."
Parliamentary Questions raised by Peter Peacock
Ferry ServicesPeter Peacock : To ask the Scottish Executive whether there is any domestic legal impediment or European Union regulation that would prevent a publicly subsidised ferry service being run by an operator other than CalMac Ferries Ltd between Lochboisdale and Mallaig.
Answered by Stewart Stevenson (Wednesday, September 03, 2008): There are no domestic legal impediments or European Union regulation that would prevent a publicly subsidised ferry service being run by an operator other than CalMac Ferries Ltd between Lochboisdale and Mallaig provided the subsidised ferry service was tendered in an open and transparent procurement process.
Peter Peacock :
To ask the Scottish Executive when ministers expect to make a decision on the proposed new ferry route from Lochboisdale to Mallaig.
Stewart Stevenson : Stēras Uibhist submitted a proposal for a Lochboisdale to Mallaig ferry service on 21 July 2008.
Following consideration of the proposal The Scottish Government wrote to Stēras Uibhist on 27 August 2008 seeking clarification on a number of the financial and technical elements of the proposal and making it clear that another operator and/or dedicated vessel could only be secured through an open and transparent procurement process. We await a response.
Peter Peacock :
To ask the Scottish Executive whether the current consultation in South Uist and Barra concerning ferry services is to determine demand for a Lochboisdale to Mallaig ferry route or to seek an appropriate timetable for the new service.
To ask the Scottish Executive whether, following a number of community initiatives to demonstrate support, it believes that a clear community demand is apparent for a new ferry service from Lochboisdale to Mallaig, serving South Uist and Barra.
Stewart Stevenson : It is clear that there is support for a new ferry service between Lochboisdale and Mallaig serving South Uist from the communities of South Uist, what is not clear is the level of support for such a service also serving Barra from the Barra communities. That is why Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are taking forward a consultative process to ascertain the views of all the communities in Barra and South Uist. The Scottish Government supports this initiative.
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