Response Alex Salmond over Port Ellen Pier

Let me take you back to the end of January when Lord George Robertson wrote a protest letter to First Minister Alex Salmond. In this letter he objected against the possible one ferry port option, not being Port Ellen, and he protested against the possibility that in future the ferry could sail from Oban instead of Kennacraig. Last week Lord George Robertson received a reply which was printed by the Ileach Newspaper. The letter itself is available by clicking here. The letter gives an overview of the Government decision not to proceed with the redevelopment of Port Ellen pier recommended by the Halcrow “Business Case” commissioned by CMAL, but instead to simply repair the existing structure. This will enable CMAL to fulfil its contract with Diageo with regard to grain boats and to continue berthing the existing ferries but confirms the claim made by the Ileach for a year or more - that the MV ‘Finlaggan’ currently being built in Poland will only operate to Port Askaig. The Government has also decided to adopt the ‘do minimum’ option at Kennacraig, which is to simply move the sunken barge impeding the current berth and alter the passenger access arrangements to enable boarding of the new ferry. Continue reading....

George Robertson responds: “This is sad news for Port Ellen. In spite of all the assurances and in spite of the overwhelming case made for two ports and the effect of a Port Askaig-centric service the First Minister merely repeats the usual platitudes. What is most disappointing is the party political message at the end of the letter. I had deliberately made my letter non-political – Port Ellen is too important for that. If I wanted to be political, which I don’t, I could point out to Mr Salmond that his government has eliminated toll charges on the Skye, Tay and Forth Bridges at huge cost to the general taxpayer (including those on Islay). I could have pointed out that RET (Road Equivalent Tariff) has been introduced for the outer Islands massively reducing the cost of journeys there – but not to Islay. None of this involved independent borrowing powers. Islay produces, through the whisky industry, more revenue per head to the Treasury – and through them to the Scottish Government, than any other part of the UK but it is still being short changed. “Now that the picture is being progressively unveiled and the truth exposed, it is to be hoped that our elected representatives, without making political points, can waken up to the reality for Port Ellen and get the situation changed.”

This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.

Tag: ferry calmac port ellen kennacraig port askaig