Two potentially positive Islay ferry related articles were published in the latest Ileach. The first article is about the future of the Isle of Arran ferry and the second article is about ferry services in general and the budget. One can only be glad that the word "good news" is used in relation with "budget", which is a rare combination these days....
The fate of â€˜Isle of Arranâ€™ undecided
The fate of the ferry "Isle of Arran", which currently serves as the â€œsecond vesselâ€™ on the Islay route is yet to be decided by the Scottish Government. The vessel could theoretically be used as the relief vessel for the fleet, covering in the event of "Clansman-style breakdowns" in the future once the new ferry "Finlaggan" is established on the Islay run alongside the â€˜Hebridean Islesâ€™. Ferry campaigners are concerned that the "Isle of Arran" could be sold as a cost-cutting exercise when the "Finlaggan" is commissioned, which would then effectively leave the "Hebridean Isles" as the relief vessel, and Islay once again facing a similar diminution of service to that experienced this summer when the island was reduced to a single ferry service during the period of the "Clansman" breakdown.
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has suggested that the "Isle of Arran" could commence a new service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale while also serving as the fleet relief vessel. The adoption of this policy could effectively guarantee the maintenance of a two-vessel service to Islay in the face of breakdowns in the fleet. Continue reading...
Ferry Services and the Scottish Budget
Finance Secretary John Swinney announced significantly increased support for the operation of ferry services in his 2011/2012 draft budget statement. The subsidy paid to CalMac, Northlink and the Gourock/Dunoon service will increase from Â£77.9m to Â£94.4m. The statement reads "we will: maintain existing ferry services at affordable fares on the Clyde and Hebrides and Northern Isles routes; bring the new Â£24.5 million vessel MV Finlaggan into service on the Islay route and complete the associated pier and harbour works at Port Ellen and Kennacraig; place orders for the construction of the next generation of CalMac vessels; and fund the continuation of the pilot of RET fares to the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree to March 2012."
The statement has to be good news for Islay in that there is a specific commitment to Port Ellen and Kennacraig. There is also implicit good news in the increased operational subsidy - which may (we must hope) reflect a desire to retain the "Isle of Arran" when the "Finlaggan" comes into service. Industry sources estimate that the additional annual operational cost of the "Finlaggan" will be in the order of Â£4-5million, which would go some way to explaining the increased budget provision.