And such a low fence, no more than a practice jump – but such a big signal of detachment.
This was not the eyeball-the-nation and force through the death of public sector lifeline ferry services.
This was not a failing to keep economic development in mind in the coming renewal of the operating licence at Campbeltown Airport in Kintyre.
This was not another failure to address the permanent economic drain for Argyll and the Isles of the landslide-prone A83.
All these are now clearly failures to come.
This was the failure simply to put a stop to a waste pf pubic money in a pointless feasibility study.
But it sends a disappointing signal.
The Depute First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in her new role as Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Spending has shown alarmingly quickly that the critics of the First Minister’s recent reshuffle were on target in calling her a part time occupant of this post.
Yesterday’s press [13th September] were fed words of encouragement for transmission to the public on meetings between Ms Sturgeon and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP – on the possibility of arriving at a mutually acceptable single question for the Independence Referendum.
This major yawn is clearly the priority for the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure in her parallel role in charge of the constitution.
Why ‘clearly’? Because, while the referendum question occupied the all important headlines, the government’s public sector contracts website was advertising the opportunity to tender to produce a feasibility study for ‘a Future Passenger and Vehicle Service’ on the Gourock-Dunoon route.
This feasibility study was the empty pacifier offered by outgoing Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Alex Neil, to the Dunoon fantasists who persist in demanding the return of their former vehicle and passenger ferry service between the town centres of Dunoon and Gourock – as well as keeping the parallel Western Ferries service.
The study’s sole purpose was to slam the issue into temporary deep freeze and ultimately to hand to others the responsibility of repeating to the Dunoon agitators the self-evident truth.
All Ms Sturgeon had to do to signal a competent confidence in her new job was to scrub this decoy device and be straight with Dunoon – and with the taxpayers in general whose money is being thrown away on this weak inheritance.
It’s so simple it’s embarrassing.
How can any study find feasible a proposed service which CANNOT be financially competitive with its private sector alternative – the successful Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service from Dunoon to Gourock?
Western sails between Hunters’ Quay on the northern fringe of Dunoon to McInroy’s Point on the southern fringe of Gourock. This is a 20 minute passage.
A vehicle and passenger ferry service between the town centres of Dunoon and Gourock is a 25-30 minute journey
It takes only the most rudimentary intelligence to see that a boat carrying vehicles and passengers travelling for 25-30 minutes will use more fuel than the same size of boat carrying the same payload for 20 minutes.
The additional financial and environmental costs involved are unavoidable, uncompetitive, therefore indefensible and cannot be magicked away.
Only the passenger fares may legally be subsidised since the Gourock-Dunoon route is not a lifeline service.
Higher fuel costs would mean higher vehicle fares than in the shorter Western journey. Higher vehicle fares would mean fewer vehicles using this service in preference to Western.
The boat would be more expensive to build than a passenger ferry, more expensive to run and less popular with vehicles in a context where rising fuel costs force drivers to a consciousness of alternative routes and prices.
If the Scottish Government were to find ways of cushioning the higher costs of running such a service, making the longer and more expensive service cheaper for vehicles to use than on the shorter, private sector Western Ferries service, Western would have them in court under competition law before you could say ‘ten-journey-saver’ – and Western could not lose.
This is all a feasibility study has to say because it is incontrovertible and these are the decisive issues Nothing else matters. Anything else is expensive waffle.
What will this exercise cost? Not much in relation to a road or a new boat but more than enough to do real good and to contribute to even more if it was spent purposefully in the public interest.
Any government regarding such sums as pocket money and of no account is already out of touch.
But Nicola Sturgeon, eyes elsewhere, has simply waved through the pacifier she inherited from Alex Neil, regardless of the cost to the public purse of so unnecessary a contract. She was not bound to issue this contract. This was where the nonsense could have stopped. But the hurdy-gurdy whines on.
Ms Sturgeon’s other utterances in the infrastructure arena provide no hope for her intention to do a real job at Infrastructure.
Yesterday she was muttering about building houses. That’s the equivalent of a little girl moving the furniture in a dolls house.
It is not engagement with the great sweep of strategic planning for the country as a whole that infrastructure demands – the roads, the bridges, the ports, the airports, the vision for transport systems specific to the nature, needs and economic development of different areas.
Houses matter and will keep builders busy to a degree – but they require far less thinking and far less of the bold imagination this country, independent or not, absolutely requires to put it on its feet and to build for future economic survivability and growth.
The construction industry and the country would together benefit infinitely more from a level of coherent overall thinking on infrastructure of which there is no sign.
The government should remember that it was principally elected to govern.
It has been too long since there has been much sign of this. Throwing a pick n’ mix of workaday bills into a legislative programme is not governing. It’s keeping the civil service occupied. Who ever heard of having a bill for ‘Better Regulation’? Surely you just do it?
Ms Sturgeon’s autopilot continuation with the needless and expensive feasibility study on the Gourock-Dunoon ferry shouts, ‘Go away. We’re busy’.
Sorry, It’s Scotland that needs to be busy.
This government’s political credibility is running into the sand.
Notice Type: Contract Notice
Title: Gourock – Dunoon Ferry Service – Feasibility Study of a Future Passenger and Vehicle Service
Published by: Transport Scotland
Full Text: http://www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/search/show/Search_View.aspx?id=SEP124593