As The Islay Fair Ferry Forum group drops a bombshell on opponents to a more equable share of the Islay ferry service between Port Ellen and Port Askaig, the case for that share has become even more powerfully unanswerable.
Yesterday afternoon two things were carried out:
- a comment was posted on our story of the Islay and Jura Fair Ferry Forum’s campaign to bring a fairer number of the mainland ferry services from Kintyre into Port Askaig;
- followed by an email to Transport Scotland.
The issue is the campaign to see the 70% of the Islay population, that of sister Isle of Jura and island businesses which would benefit, served by a better ferry service into Port Askaig, in the north of the island on the Sound of Islay.
Im the comment and the email, the group was making public what meticulous researches have revealed about the integrity of a campaign from the 30% of the population in south Islay which opposes any sharing and wants to keep virtually all of ferry services coming in to Port Ellen in the south east.
This campaign had organised a mass of objections during Transport Scotland’s consultation on its Draft Ferries Review – which had itself proposed a better sharing of the ferry service between the two ports – but still left the greater weight with Port Ellen.
Residents and businesses in west and north Islay and on Jura, now represented by The Islay and Jura Fair Ferry Forum, were happy to accept that proposal – but south Islay was not.
The flurry of objections and added political influence brought to bear, caused Transport Scotland summarily and without warning, to withdraw their own proposals and stick to the status quo in their final Ferries Plan, issued, very late, at the end of 2012.
The group’s researches showed conclusively that the campaign of objections was much less than it seemed and had been seriously manipulated.
The comment referred to above is posted at No 33 on our original story here; and below is the email sent to Transport Scotland.
What these communications reveal is a serious matter because they call into question the proper use of public funds, with a state funded body, South Islay Development, campaigning less than straightforwardly against the rest of the island and against those on Jura.
Email letter to Transport Scotland
‘Dear Mr Greive
‘Find pasted below which I have obtained regarding the petition sent to the Scottish Ferries Review. This has been posted on a public forum www.forargyll.com.
‘Something has come to my attention that appears to be gross misuse of public funds…this has been lifted from the page on Islayinfo.com.
‘The petition started by South Islay Development now has over 850 signatures between the online petition and hard copies and this is a great start but it is vital that as many people as possible also respond directly to the proposal explaining that any reduction in the number of ferries coming to Port Ellen would have severe negative economic and social impacts on Port Ellen and Islay as a whole.
‘My question is: Why has a publicly funded body (S.I.D.) actively campaigned against other parts of the island to benefit its own area? The following figures are also very disturbing: the votes can be traced as to their origin.
• Votes from Islay = 166
• Votes from the Scottish Mainland = 205
• Other Scottish Islands = 13
• England = 69
• Wales = 4
• N. Ireland = 2
• Rest of the World = 36
• Not Applicable = 28
‘So only 166 votes came from Islay. 357 votes came from off the island. I leave you to make your own observations.
‘Additionally the signature petition was placed ONLY in shops and the Post Office in the Port Ellen area. Evidence of this can be found on the South Islay Development Facebook page. For your information South Islay Development is a publicly funded body, funded by HIE.
Islay Fair Ferry Forum
If the Ferries Plan is seen to have integrity in answering local need in a responsible spend, Transport Scotland now has every reason and no choice but to revisit its abrupt decision in the final version of the Ferries Review to change tack and go with the status quo.
In putting forward its own proposals in the Draft Review – to bring more scheduled services into Port Askaig to serve better the west and north of Islay and the Isle of Jura – it was well aware of the need.
But faced with high level intervention on behalf of south Islay and the mass of objections it received, it simply turned in the Sound and sailed away with this particular tide behind it.
Where it is culpable is in its failure properly to scrutinise the objections and to see the obvious fact, in the hard copy ones at least – that these were from one part of Islay only – and therefore not remotely representative of the population as a whole or of the views on need held across Islay and Jura.
The rest of the island and Jura had trusted Transport Scotland to implement its own judicious proposals to serve so much of Islay and all of Jura better in a more equitable distribution of ferry services between the two ports – and had seen no need to respond to the consultation document.
‘Put not your trust in princes.’
In their reasonable trust, these residents and businesses made themselves invisible. In contrast, those opposed to the proposal swelled their number improperly and to a massive degree.
The group’s evidence shows that of the 357 online objections only 166 were from Islay – or rather, from south Islay – only 46.4%.
Nothing in this can be used by Transport Scotland to substantiate staying with the reversal of intention it has already publicly made.
This is a clear case for revisiting the ferry provision planned for Islay and Jura. The evidenced arguments are irresistible and the case utterly unanswerable, with savings in journey time, cost and environmental impact adding their weight.
The group has put the ball firmly in Transport Scotland’s court. Let’s see how they return the serve.