I would have expected to see Corran Ferry …

Comment posted McGrigor runs out of patience on Dunoon ferry as Kay looks for world’s most expensive ferry by MB.

I would have expected to see Corran Ferry in the list because it is such a short crossing?

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20 Responses to I would have expected to see Corran Ferry …

  1. I like Jamie McGrigor, but he has a politician’s memory.

    The root cause of this issue go back a lot longer than ten years, and well he knows it

    It was a Tory Scottish Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, who triggered off the whole can of worms over the Dunoon-Gourock route when he restricted the Calmac service in the first place and gave the cash cow to Western ferries, who have milked it ever since.

    None of the parties can claim any credit for their role in what followed, but it is fair to say that the SNP’s failure to deliver on a major and specific manifesto promise has really put the icing on the cake.

    To refer to Jim Mather as ‘honourable’ in the context of this issue is a serious misnomer.

    He is an intelligent man, intelligent enough, one assumes, to have ensured that the promise he made on the ferries issue was one which was deliverable.

    It now transpires that this is really a complex issue and Europe is the root of the problem blah blah blah…..words that could have come straight from the lips of the unlamented George Lyon when he was the constituency MSP.

    You describe the former transport minister as ‘evasive’ – are you seriously suggesting that Jim Mather has been straight on this issue?

    This whole process has been characterised for years by a patent lack of honesty and trasparency, and in that respect nothing’s changed.

    It’s a sorry state of affairs when Alan Reid, an MP for whom the word ‘astute’ was certainly not invented, can get political mileage from this.

    But as usual there are politicians of all colours who assume that Joe Public is an amnesiac fool.

    There is, of course, an obvious question arising from all this.

    Since the SNP is deservedly being assailed from all sides on this issue, which of the other parties is going to come up to the plate and be the next to give a ‘cast-iron’ manifesto guarantee to provide the town centre to town centre vehicle/passenger crossing?

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  2. Just read ‘professor’ Kay’s questionably researched assasination of Western Ferries.

    Is this supposed to be a balanced or objective study?

    This gentleman obsesses over Western Ferries minimising tax payments, but completely FAILS to reason within his discourse the £3,000,000 free taxpayer operating subsidy and free ships that CalMac enjoy on the Cowal route. Whilst Western Ferries receive NO subsidy and have to compete against a very heavily subsidised state competitor.

    The professor should be more careful in what he publishes. Fortunately I do not work or have shares in Western Ferries. If I did, then I would be considering a strongly worded letter to Professor Kay’s University seeking they investigate their professor to establish whether his well ground and SUBJECTIVE axe is bringing the university reputation into disrepute.

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  3. I do not intend to get involved in the debate on this forum, that is for others to make their own contribution, they can read my online article on this (referred to above). As said in my analysis, the question of what is the most expensive ferry in the world is a matter for debate and this was just one contribution. I would welcome other contributions benchmarked against sound economic criteria.

    However, I have to comment on and correct Mr Matthew MacKenzie’s contribution. If you are going to criticise something someone has written you should at least take the trouble to read it properly and report accurately what was said. He says the article by me “completely FAILS to reason within his discourse the £3,000,000 free taxpayer operating subsidy and free ships that CalMac enjoy on the Cowal route. Whilst Western Ferries receive NO subsidy and have to compete against a very heavily subsidised state competitor”.

    Mr MacKenzie obviously had not read my analysis clearly enough (and obviously also did not know enough about Western and subsidy). In fact, as I had said: “The CalMac, WSF, and Forth Road Bridge services are subsidized, the other services generally are not, though Western did receive a major grant to help it extend its shore based infrastructure. The grants to the other services help pay for public services (such as provision for foot passengers) which Western can totally or partially avoid incurring”.

    As for “free ships” under EC law CalMac has to pay full commercial rates for lease of all the ships it uses (including on the Cowal route). It does not own any of the ships it uses.
    Mr MacKenzie was obviously unaware of any of these facts, or what I said in my article in this context.

    I would also note Mr Mackenzie’s encouragement to Western Ferries for my university to investigate me (not sure which one he means, I currently hold professorial appointments in two universities).

    Fortunately this is not North Korea and I know my universities would take such an attempt very seriously as an attempt to stifle academic freedom. If Mr MacKenzie had actually read my analysis properly he would see I looked at the facts and that when I made an interpretation or judgment based on these facts this was also made clear.

    One thing I will also note about Mr Mackenzies badly informed intervention is that it is in line with what I have encountered here when anything that can be taken (even indirectly or mildly) as criticism of Western Ferries is made. In the past when I have tried to put forward reasoned arguments on this issue in addition to abusive blogs I have abusive letters in the press (some anonymous) and even an abusive phone call. I would emphasise that I have no evidence and absolutely no reason to believe that Western had anything to do with any of this, on the contrary blogs like Mr MacKenzies and the other actions hardly do the company any favours. But it is a sad state of affairs in Argyll and Bute when you cannot have a reasoned debate about a matter of such real public interest without those who want to contribute in the public interest having to be willing to withstand ignorance, abuse, and implied threats.

    I hope those who want to make up their own minds will read the analysis at


    Neil Kay

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  4. Western Ferries’ has subsidised Lord Robertson onboard and believe Professor Alf Baird of Napier University is Mr Kay’s competition.

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  5. Dear Professor Kay,

    If you stick your head above the parapet, please be prepared for criticism. Sorry if my review of your review evidently touched a raw nerve.

    My concern is you present yourself at Holyrood, and throughout the press, along with your website as an academic. I stand to be corrected, but my belief in academics is they should endeavour to be OBJECTIVE and scientific.

    Having read many of your ‘contributions’, over the years – for example your childish weblog comments about ‘what do you call someone who makes a Freedom of Information request’ cherrypicker ramblings, I think you protesteth too much in your post above. Anyone reading, and I have read a lot of your very long efforts – excuse me if I fall asleep or miss some of the voluminous text – will soon realise you have an axe to grind and are not as balanced as anyone first stumbling upon your work might expect of a university appointee.

    Professor, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a fervent CalMac supporter like yourself. Fair play to you.

    But PLEASE do NOT take the rest of us as idiots by insulting our inteligence.

    Your effort to subliminally slur Western Ferries by entitling your ‘objective’ report ‘The Most Expensive Ferry In The World’ does your reputation no good whatsoever. Surely to be a professor you must have a reasonable IQ. Please, go and think about your title and then wonder why people like me post on forums like ForArgyll?

    As for abusive comments and abusive phone calls. I object to the implication professor. I posted openly above. Maybe, just maybe you need to look in the mirror and wonder why you are getting abuse as you call it??? Anything to do with the one sided inflammatory comments you present as scientific fact? Perhaps if you dropped the ‘professor’ title and signed off your contributions as a ‘CalMac supporter’ you would have much more respect and people would understand that you are quite rightly expressing a partisan point of view. Whereas what a lot of people think they are getting is an authoritative balanced objective piece of academic research.

    Last, PLEASE don’t start a debate, then go off in an academic ivory tower huff saying ‘I do not intend getting involved in a debate on this forum’. What are you? Too good for this forum? Man or mouse? You throw a literal hand grenade of a ‘contribution’ slagging off ferry companies, then run off and say ‘I don’t want involved’.

    I don’t expect a reply as you clearly aren’t keen to stand by or debate your report and comments. However, next time you have a ramble don’t get on your high horse and slag of the plebs until you have a cold hard look at what you have written.


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  6. I stopped reading Matt’s comment at “excuse me if I fall asleep” in his response to Mr Kay… shame I found Matt’s first comment informative but will not read on.

    Where’s Argyll’s RET we have been patiant – enough?

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  7. Bob,

    Try reading Professor Kay’s reports. I just spent £20 on ink cartridges printing a lot of them off. Thought it important to give the professor the courtesy of reading what he has written. I defy you not to nod off a bit. There is a lot. He enjoys his writing. It isn’t the most objective I have read.

    Here is a short one….


    Proves the point about….

    Western Ferries/Competition = Bad
    CalMac/Monopoly = Good

    My frustration is I have lived on an island all my life, and Professor Kay appears against me, my friends and islanders having any choice at all. I think a lot of CalMac, they are an excellent company. However, Professor Kay has the very choice he seeks to deny me and my island. From Innellen, he can go CalMac, or Western Ferries, or by road, or by train. Plenty of choice.

    I visit friends on Orkney. They have competition, and can use either Northlink or Pentland Ferries, or Orkney John O’Groats Summer Passenger Ferry.

    Why oh why are so many islanders labelled as cherrypicking plebs who should be actually restricted from being allowed any competition in their ferry services because of questionable agendas by one partisan person or another. Worse, by people who don’t even live on the islands?

    Bob do you live on an island?


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  8. Bill,

    Used to read your enjoyable Dunoon Observer paper with great interest, and the Oban Times, and The Ileach, and the Press & Journal. Great thing – no monoploy in the press industry, and freedom of choice. What exaactly is your problem with that?

    Just out of curiosity, now you are lucky enough to be retired abroad, do you chose the most expensive airline to travel on when coming back to visit?

    At least you have a choice of airlines.

    We don’t have a choice of any transport. CalMac or swim.

    When working in Dunoon did you use CalMac or Western Ferries or the train or the road? Maybe you are guilty of using all four choices of transport.

    We don’t have a choice of any transport. CalMac or swim.

    Hear hear back at you pal on all counts.


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  9. Dear Matt

    I will pass for now in reading Mr Kay’s report, I will take your word his work it’s a bit long winded… for now.

    Yes I live on Islay where Western Ferries have come and gone. I think that’s why on Islay Western Ferries name leaves a bad taste. I believe MD Gordon Ross of Western Ferries has called for private involvement in CalMac, maybe he knows the game is up with RET and WHY do you think Mr Ross or Lord Robertson (are not) commenting via this service you can’t shut them or Prof Alf Baird up via the Ileach newspaper as their partisan paper where as this site they have no where to hide in open forum… if their there to serve us lets hear it, don’t tell us Matt they don’t use this ‘new free service’?

    I am intrigued Matt as to why you have turned away from your papers listed above and what island you are from that CalMac serves so poorly?

    AND is there anyone stopping a private ferry company running ferries in competition with CalMac and if not then where have all the private ferry companies been all these years?

    Islay, ‘Port Askaig’ is A&B Council owned I am sure anyone can use it our penniless Council just spent millions on it CalMac only use it twice a day?

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  10. Matt:

    I wasn’t ‘lucky enough to retire abroad’. We worked damned hard to get into a position whereby we could afford to do so – and luck had absolutely nothing to do with it.

    I’m baffled; what makes you think I’m in favour of monopolies rather than freedom of choice?

    From where in my posting, or anywhere else for that matter, have I said or even inferred this?

    I’ll respond to your points one by one.

    We’ve been back to the UK once in three years. I drove to Zeebrugge, crossed to Hull, and thence to Argyll – a choice dictated by a number of factors of which cost was only one – and it was far from the cheapest option.

    We travelled on both ferry routes when we lived in Innellan. My personal choice was Calmac, because it was nearer, and I preferred the bigger ships and the opportunity to have a coffee en route.

    However, given the greater frequency of Western Ferries, we probably used them just as often.

    I took the long road route on numerous occasions, often because it was a nice day and in those days I was still fit enough to get aboard a motorcycle.

    I also lived on Shetland in the days when P&0 had a monopoly on the link to the mainland and, even although they tended to use old second-hand tonnage, did the job reasonably well.

    So my experience of ferries isn’t confined purely to the Clyde.

    I have very mixed views on Calmac; I lived on Bute for many years, before and after the advent of the streakers, and it was certainly a second-class route as far as the company was concerned.

    During my tenure at the Standard I can say with utter certainty that I had more arguments with Calmac’s spokesman, Hugh Dan MacLennan, than with any other individual.

    In fact, I suspect Calmac got infinitely more bad publicity in the Standard while I was editor than it has had before or since.

    Nor would I deny that Western Ferries is a very efficient company which has served Cowal well for many years.

    The issues raised by Neil Kay in the most recent addition to his blog are certainly debatable.

    However I’m surprised that if you have indeed read his blog extensively, you have failed to recognise that what he is trying to prevent is the very thing that you are arguing against – a monopoly.

    Gordon Ross of Western Ferries is a very sharp businessman whom I like and respect, but he contends that there is room for only one vehicle-carrier on the route to Cowal, and he wants that carrier to be Western Ferries.

    In other words a monopoly – for no-one would consider providing an unsubsidised passenger only service from the railhead – except, of course, to keep a competing vehicle-carrying service out.

    Would that be any different from the monopoly that Calmac currently enjoys elsewhere on the Firth?

    My own view remains that a direct vehicle-passenger link from Gourock into the linkspan in Dunoon town centre is crucial to the future prosperity of the town – and whether the provider of that service is Calmac or another operator is utterly irrelevant to the argument.

    In closing, Matt, If you must jump to unfounded conclusions about my opinions, please do yourself a favour in future and look before you leap.

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  11. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the reply. The only jump I made was as a result of the throw away one-liner you gave above. Maybe agree to disagree on that one?

    I cannot believe in Professor Kay’s objectivity on the ferry issue, and become aggravated when in his reports he professes, for example NOT to use the word ‘cherrypicker’ pejoratively, then goes on to be the very personification of it on his weblog slagging off anyone who dares make a Freedom of Information request. That is undeniable fact. If he came out of the CalMac closet and nailed his colours to the CalMac mast, I would have a lot more respect for his views.

    The biggest disappointment with Professor Kay is his lack of vision. His reports appeared too blinkered (just read the one I refer to above) to allow for islanders to have some ferry service competition. He virtually condemns Bute to a CalMac monopoly forever in his fantasy narrative in the report I quote.

    With regard to the premise the good professor is trying to stop a monoploy. Well that is flawed, again by a combination of lack of vision and blinkered viewpoint.

    At no point have I read what the professor SHOULD be challenging – Western Ferries and CalMac (I stand to be corrected) with regard to monopoly (whether state or private).

    It takes no academic Einstein to see if, for example, Western Ferries become the professors doomsday monopoly at Cowal, there will be a STRONG possibility Western Ferries shall have a new competitor. Probably Stagecoach running in competition with them.

    What is wrong with that? Competition is good.

    All due respect to CalMac. It is a fine institution, but horrendously inefficient, and we islanders pay, no, bleed, through the nose at being FORCED to use the monopoly ferry service.

    Just my viewpoint as an islander (well mostly ex-islander thanks to the cost of living on and getting to my island).


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  12. Hi Bob,

    The reason I don’t read the local papers so much is because I had to leave my island due to very high cost of living, in part due to ferry competition being seen off by CalMac and our being screwed with sky high ferry fares. Though I still have a Royal Mail delivered subscription to the Ileach. I know from that, that your view is simply one view of what generally appears to be two camps on Islay. Pro-Western Ferries or Pro-CalMac.

    Bob, you ask about anyone stopping ferry competition. Were you asleep when Western Ferries were forced from Islay? Did you read the Monopolies & Mergers Commission Report of 1983?

    Were you aware of why Taygran Brothers were put out of business further north? Are you aware why more recently a local haulage firm looked at starting a commercial service (freight) to Islay which may be why Islay has two CalMac ferries instead of one now.

    Same thing happened on Arran. The slightest whiff of competition and here comes a second CalMac ferry that has the coincidental effect of blocking out competition.

    Don’t get me started on Orkney. Did you see what happened between Northlink (CalMac) and Pentland Ferries? Maybe to balance Professor Kay’s viewpoint, you might like to read Pentland Hero by Roy Pedersen.

    I am not against CalMac. I just would like there to be some ferry competition and choice.


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  13. Matt:
    I quote:

    “It takes no academic Einstein to see if, for example, Western Ferries become the professors doomsday monopoly at Cowal, there will be a STRONG possibility Western Ferries shall have a new competitor. Probably Stagecoach running in competition with them”.

    Where are you getting this from?

    Have you access to information to which the rest of the world is not privy?

    I might be in a different country, but this is from a different planet.

    Quote: ‘Competition is good’.

    Who’s arguing with that?

    I’m not, Neil Kay certainly isn’t.

    So why are you labouring the point?

    Frankly, to accuse anyone else of being ‘blinkered’ is pure pot and kettle material.

    I really have no more to say on this; it’s patently obvious that you think you know what you’re talking about, and I’m not going to waste any more time trying to disabuse you of that notion.

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  14. Good evening Bill,

    Thankyou for the near abusive message. I don’t want to waste your time nor mine either. However, it would be discourteous not to answer your question.

    You ask ‘where am I getting this from’ in relation to Stagecoach becoming a competitor to Western Ferries (thereby avoiding a private monopoly bogeyman as expressed by your colleague from Innellen).

    I am not on a different planet. That is plain rude of you. It is clear one of us is out of touch and in a different country. With respect methinks that may be yourself with one visit to Scotland in three years.

    I am getting the information from the Scottish Government Transport Directorate.

    Stagecoach has completed and been accepted for the Cowal ferry route tender PQQ. It is reasonable therefore to deduce that Stagecoach have an interest in the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service – yes?

    The Cowal route and tender process is in disarray just now. It may very well come about that Stagecoach bypass the process and do what Western Ferries did. Start an unsubsidised service and run on the adjacent Dunoon Gourock route in competition to Western Ferries if CalMac withdraw. This is public domain information – what kind of reporter were you?

    As for my right and those of islanders to be allowed a ferry service to run in competition to CalMac, I quote your ex-neighbour above where he is evidently bias against, for example, a private operator running to Bute. In your posting, you appear to speak for Neil Kay in saying neither you nor he are against competition. Fair enough.

    Though before you start with the pot calling kettle black allegations, please consider reading your neighbours article….


    If that isn’t a small dissertation on ferry competition = bad, then I don’t know what is.

    Whilst responding, you might be a little less abusive, and a little less selective in defending your colleague. For example has Mr Kay criticised anyone who dares make a Freedom of information request as a ‘cherrypicker’? Has he or has he not made a mockery of his position by denying the use of the word cherrypicker as pejorative, and then gone on hypocritically to do exactly what he has denied?

    The reason trivial contributers are so irritating is that they pontificate from afar, with the net result, islanders are deprived of ferry competition.

    Unlike you Bill, or it seems Professor Kay, I am more than willing to debate and not go off in a huff if I either lose an argument, or fail to get my message across.


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  15. Matt

    A complex one, when Islay and Argyll gets our RET it will cost us £40 return from Islay and if any ferry company can provide ferries from Islay around about the same £40 rate then bring them on?

    Surly Western Ferries or other ferry company could have compete with CalMac’s £70 car return from Islay and still made a profit all these years, thought its the freight Western Ferries are after?

    As for Islay and Arran getting two CalMac boats maybe CalMac listened to Islanders needs, though believe RET up north in the Western Isles CalMac’s boats are creaking under the demand which will also test Argyll when our time for RET comes and is probably why the SNP sold Argyll out by extending RET for the Western Isles knowing Argyll’s CalMac fleet and piers have been neglected for years by CON/LAB/LIB and want Argyll to get by without a fuss while primary schools close, Fuel hits £1.40+ at the pumps, we can’ affort a house as the demand for holiday houses is so high, come on Jim Mather, Gordon Ross, Lord Robertson, where are you (living it up on the mainland like Matt?)… is this new site not somewhere to sell us the dream, Argyll is at a crossroads, its use it or loose it?

    Hey… if there is any ferry company out there who can sell us a cheap ticket to and from Islay to benefit Islanders… then sell us the dream as I see a new plane service to Islay and Oban. Some people/companies talk the talk, others… well they show us what they can do?

    As for the Ileach ‘community newspaper of the year 2006′ is reporting in its latest edition its up for nomination for community newspaper of the year again this year passed… though Matt who gets one in the ‘Royal Mail’ post as he can’t pick one up on Islay notices above via the Ileach reporting that Islay’s community is in two camps one pro-Western Ferries and one pro-CalMac.

    Aye, us and them, the A team and the B team, community split and at war… though even Islay’s Community Council felt the need to write into the Ileach to warn the community not to take everything we read in the Ileach as factual information… there’s an old saying Matt ‘don’t believe everything you read in the papers’ though thanks to new competition like this site more voices can be heard – ‘forargyll’ the Western Ferries of the media world??

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  16. Hi Bob,

    You have a sense of humour for sure ! ! !

    I am not living it up on the mainland. I am stuck here. Can’t get home as often as I would like because of the sky high ferry fares. Hence why I am irked by some reports from those who have a very expensive education and should know better.

    Bob, to quote your point….

    “Surely Western Ferries or other ferry company could have competed with CalMac’s £70 car return from Islay and still made a profit all these years”.

    The reason that no private competitor has, as of yet come across to you is because they don’t want to have to sell their ships and piers to pay off the debts and get out of dire straits they have been put in by unfair monopoly ferry practices (MV Sound of Islay, MV Sound of Jura, Kennacraig Ferry Terminal all sold off to avoid Western going to the wall – does that ring a bell Bob?).

    Wonder why Gordon Ross has chosen Arran instead of Islay to expand?

    Would you invest in a ferry company to take state monopoly CalMac on? The reason this can now be considered is the EU investigation of CalMac in 2005 and the company having all of it’s ships and piers taken off of it. The era of pushing competition out via monopoly-might and power is coming to an end.

    As for two ferries on Isaly and Arran. Sorry buddy, but documents I’ve seen indicate otherwise. Worse, CalMac can be rightly accused of a Professor Kay job on Arran. Using the profs favourite term ‘cherrypicking’. CalMac runs the second ferry for a meagre 8 weeks in the peak of the season. If a private operator did that they would be castigated by academics as ‘cherrypickers’. The FACT is Western Ferries run ALL YEAR ROUND, and so do PENTLAND FERRIES.

    As for you askeing people to show you what they can do? Why?

    Why should they risk their money (when you wont) just to get slagged off by academics, and locals, or be put out of business by rigged ‘bundle’ tendering that keeps any fair competition off of routes like Islay.

    Last but not least, let is not forget the topic of this thread, or at least the http top line above….

    Kay Looks For The Most Expensive Ferry In The World.

    Objectivity my transom (to be nautically polite).

    I mean really that title is a subtle and pointed that it may as well be called ‘Sail With Titanic Cruises – You’ll Love The Ending’.


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