Transport Minister Shows Surprising Lack of Knowledge of Island Ferry Services
“This is no way to run a country”
Tobermory, Kerrera, and Tarbert ferry ports are set for new year facelifts thanks to a £2.7 million funding boost.Transport minister Keith Brown said:
“This funding comes as part of a package of £205 million investment in ‘shovel ready’ schemes by the Scottish Government across the country. Our ferry ports play a crucial role in supporting the delivery of ferry services across Scotland and are key economic drivers for some of our key industries like tourism and food and drink. We have already directly committed £26 million to maintaining and improving ports and harbour infrastructure since 2007, and have set out a further £73 million in our recently published ferries plan for improvements to port infrastructure over the next decade.”
“Vital maintenance work to the port at Tobermory – one of the key ferry hubs serving routes to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra – can start. The £600,000 of work at Tobermory harbour, including new concrete and steelwork installed to the slipway walls as well as re-pointing of the masonry, will support local jobs during construction.”
Now, forgive me if I’ve got this wrong, but didn’t Mr Brown – the man who removed RET from commercial vehicles to Coll, Tiree & the Western Isles; the man who ignored the independent report on the damage that this action could cause to fragile island economies – just say that Tobermory is ‘one of the key ferry hubs serving routes to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra’ ???? It seems unbelievable but true, that the Transport Minister for the Scottish Government does not realise that CalMac ferries from Oban bound for Coll & Tiree, Castlebay & Lochboisdale, used to call in at Tobermory – but have not done so for a long, long time!
In 1999 a Labour / Liberal coalition government was formed on 7th May following the first ever Scottish Parliamentary Election, with Donald Dewar elected as First Minister. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Scottish Parliament on 1st July. Elsewhere in 1999 the Euro was established; the Columbine High School massacre occurred in Colorado; Slobodan Miloševi? agreed to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo; the Khmer Rouge was officially disbanded in Cambodia; and Médecins Sans Frontières won the Nobel Peace Prize. One thing that DID NOT happen in 1999 was the ferry to Tiree calling at Tobermory, which Mr Brown describes as one of the key ferry hubs serving routes to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra.
In 2000 Donald Dewar died and was succeeded as First Minister and Scottish Labour leader by Henry McLeish. Elsewhere in 2000 Dr. Harold Shipman wass found guilty of murdering 15 patients and sentenced to life imprisonment; the billionth living person in India was born; and the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Florida presidential recount, effectively giving the state, and therefore the Presidency, to George W. Bush. One thing that DID NOT happen in 2000 was the ferry to Tiree calling at Tobermory.
The Tiree ferry did not call at Tobermory in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005. In 2006 ‘Transport Scotland’ began operation as an agency of the Scottish Executive, but still the Tiree sailing did not stop in Tobermory. When Keith Brown was appointed Minister for Transport in 2010 the ferry to Tiree did not call at Tobermory, nor did it in 2011 when the Draft Ferries Plan was produced. In fact, the last time the ferry from Oban to Coll & Tiree did stop at the ‘key ferry hub of Tobermory’ was 1998, the year that Frank Sinatra died; Google was founded; the Good Friday Agreement was signed; and Bill Clinton was impeached over the Monica Lewinsky affair.
The Editor contacted Keith Bown for comment, even providing him with a draft of this article. Mr Brown did not reply in person, instead An Tirisdeach received the following statement from the Transport Scotland Press Office:-
“The role that Tobermory has played, and continues to play, as an important port in the network of services in the Clyde and Hebrides should not be lost in all of this. That is why the Scottish Government has provided the significant funds for the maintenance and upgrade of the ferry port at Tobermory. The reference as worded, which was an administrative oversight on the part of the officials has been edited on Transport Scotland’s news page to accurately reflect the ferry port’s current role in serving local communities.”
Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll & Bute, was happy to reply to The Editor. He said:- “While I am always pleased to see work being carried out to improve harbours, it is extremely worrying that the Scottish Transport Minister and his civil servant advisers aren’t aware ferries no longer sail from Tobermory to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra. Sailings now only go to Kilchoan. It’s very concerning that millions of pounds of public money are being spent by a Minister who lacks a basic knowledge of his brief.
“This is no way to run a country. What I think has gone wrong is that the present Scottish Government is putting all its efforts into campaigning in the Independence Referendum and not paying enough attention to the difficult job of running the country.”