‘Unanswerable’ now an understatement on Port Askaig ferry share case

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.

‘Yours faithfully

Islay Fair Ferry Forum

Where now?

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.

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40 Responses to ‘Unanswerable’ now an understatement on Port Askaig ferry share case

  1. ‘…and added political influence brought to bear…’ – care to expand on that? Are there more public entities / figures than just South Islay Development involved in dubious behaviour, misinformation??

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    • On a Thursday in August 2012 at the Islay Jura and Colonsay Agricultural Show Alan Reid MP visited the Show Secretary’s stance where I was working and in answer to my question about the re balancing of ferries to the Islay ports as laid out in the Ferries Review Draft. He told me I had very little chance of this happening such was the response from ‘Islay’. What did he know?

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  2. So now the freely expressed wishes of 357 tourists, who you purport to be representing, are to be ignored? As far as I’m concerned I couldn’t care less what port is used as long as it comes to Islay- what I object to is this complaining that, just because you made no representation to the Ferries Review, your views are being ignored. You had the chance to inform the Ferries Review that you agreed with their draft plans and choose not to. As a result you now berate SID for doing what it was set up to do – developing SOUTH Islay – this is what they were given public money for, hence their title is not AllIslay

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    • The draft ferries review proposal for redistribution of services between Port Ellen and Port Askaig was not so drastic as to offer any real hindrance to the economic development of southern Islay.
      If there was a proposal to drastically cut services to Port Ellen, then you’d have a point. But there wasn’t.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • Robert

        this will be my last contribution to this debate as it will soon be hijacked by the North/South debate which is not what I was critical of – I think that the strength of feeling in the south of Islay was because the ferries review did NOT state that the preferred end-game was a 50/50 split, it was a very ambiguous
        “we intend to run more services from Port Askaig and fewer services from Port Ellen than
        was the case before the suspension of services from Port Ellen. Port Ellen is an important facility for grain delivery and storage. We will run ENOUGH (my emphasis) services to ensure that it continues to operate effectively and contributes to the local economy.”(page 35 of draft ferries review).

        My point was that the people now complaining should have taken the same opportunity that those in Port Ellen/South Islay did to respond to the ferries review – after all if 75% contacted them to disagree with the proposal then this must mean that 25% of the respondees did so to agree with it – these people did not blithely sit back and assume that all was well in the world as those now complaining did.

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        • Enough services are obviously what’s needed, both for Port Ellen and Port Askaig, and neither should be favoured at the expense of the other – but due consideration MUST be given to the need for Jura people to reach the mainland just as easily (and economically) as Islay people can. And I suspect that the only way of defusing the long term resentment of different factions in Islay would be to try and provide exactly the same level of service to both ports, over a week.
          There’d undoubtedly be arguments that one port should be favoured over the other, but the complainers would surely be a small minority and as long as the timings were carefully considered none of the complaints would hold much water.

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    • How do you know the 357 “off Islay” respondents are tourists ? If they are how many times have they visited Islay – just the once, or did perhaps their B&B landlady suggest that they lend their support to “save Port Ellen “.Perhaps the “off Islay” respondents were ex pat Ileachs whom were persuaded to do their bit for their South Islay homeland and vote against the Draft Ferry Review proposals. They may hardly ever travel on the ferry to return home. If some of the respondents were mainland businesses supplying Islay voting, they get business from all of Islay and earn their reward from all of the island and should be mindful of all of their customers on the island, not just the ferry preferences of those in the South.

      As regards responding to the Draft Ferry Review, I and many others, throughout the island did respond, through the response mechanism on line, which I understood to be the proper channel for opinions. For the avoidance of doubt I voted for the Draft Review proposals as I agreed with the thinking behind the proposals, for Islay and Jura to achieve a ferry service which would be more reliable, more economic, as environmentally friendly as is possible and with a more even distribution of ferry sailings between the island ports. The least I expected was to have Transport Scotland to ignore the Draft Review recommendations in favour of a petition, both on line and signed copies, where the provenance of the respondents (always a problem with petitions) and motives lack clarity.

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  3. This appears to be more like a lynch mob than a democratic attempt at consultation.I was not aware that Islay info was a more reliable source of information than the Scottish Government nor how they know the details of the petition which was submitted -perhaps this should be shared along with the invites and membership of Islay and Jura Fair Ferry forum -or is it perhaps a group of self-selected representatives with South Islay excluded?These are pieces of information which are needed.
    a
    As far as I was aware the Islay Community Council have representatives on the ferry forum which already exists (and does not have a memebr from South Islay)and also there is the Islay & Jura Transport Forum which is open to the public ,community representatives and various businesses and transport providers -but no invite was made to this group regarding the formation of an I&JFFF

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  4. Jean Knowles.
    Do you know who are members of the Islay Ferry Forum and if so can please list them on this topic for our information. I cannot find anything about the members of the Islay Ferry Forum on the internet.

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    • I do not intend to bore readers with a long list of names and addresses but suffice to say tha t all those supporting the forum to date are business people situated including but not exclusively from Jura, Bowmore, Port Askaig.Bridgend,Port Charlotte Portnahaven and areas. Thes include 4 of the main hauliers ,retail outlets and accommodation providers. Correctly Dr Knowles there are no representatives from the south of Islay but then none of the rest of us were asked to sign a petition to support ferries to Port Ellen. Further – exactly how does Port Ellen qualify for being a fragile community?
      With pontoons for expensive boats, 3 world class distileries in easy reach ,similar a top class golf course 3 accessible silver sand beaches, a cybre cafe , playing fields and a brand new hotel – fragile – I really do not believe any more fragile than any other village on this island – but better with a pen and paper perhaps.

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      • As far as I’m aware the petition did not actively preclude anybody from signing it, unlike the FFF which has not invited any South Islay membership if I understand the situation correctly?

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        • The petition was circulated in the “south of Islay” and was organised by SID. There was also an online petition, also organised by SID, on the Islayinfo web site, with a highly coloured appraisal of the Draft Ferries Review and how bad it would be for Port Ellen,should the recommendations of the Review come to pass. No details or facts, just supposition. “Save Our Ferries” !!!!!

          Why would anyone in favour of the Draft Ferries Review recommendations wish to sign a petition against it. Those in favour responded through the online response provided by Transport Scotland. There are obviously no supporters or members of the IJFFF from south Islay, as they are not in tune with our aims and objectives, namely, the re-instatement of the recommendations of the Draft Ferries Review and a fairer share of ferries between the Islay ports. If there is/are such persons in existence then they are obviously welcome to join the group.

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  5. COuld you please advise who is organising the Isley & Jura Transport Forum and when it has meetings – to my knowledge it has NOT met for at least 18 months.
    Perhaps if it were still active this current situation of ferry splits might not have happened.

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  6. Last meeting was in September and was publicised in the Ileach – next meeting is in March and will, presumably be publicised as well as it is also the AGM

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  7. Marion Spears.
    I said on the other Islay ferry topic that I think that South Islay received fragile status around 1980 when Ardbeg Distillery closed down and the other distilleries in South Islay were put on short time working.
    The situation has now changed completely with South Islay no longer requiring fragile status as the area is “booming”.

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  8. For those of you who are based on the Mainland, people on Islay are good at holding meetings when it comes to transport matters especially concerning ferries.
    Unfortunately most of the people who are invited to these meetings such as the Islay Ferries Users Group Meeting are people with a vested interest. The minutes of this group’s meeting on 12th January 2012 is available on the Islay Community Council website http://www.islaycommunitycouncil.org.uk
    click on “current issues” then click on “ferries” and scroll down to the Islay Ferry Users Group Submission which is highlighted in Red and click on the minutes for 12th January 2012.
    At this meeting there were no members of the public present to put forward their points of view and the meeting was not advertised locally.
    As far as I am concerned this group do not want any members of the public present at their meetings.

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  9. There is another group on Islay called the Islay & Jura Marketing Group which consists mainly of businesses who deal with tourists such as Hoteliers, Bed and Breakfast providers and people who own Self Catering establishments.
    This group has been trying to get CALMAC to provide an extra sailing in the afternoons from Monday to Saturday departing from Port Ellen at 12.30pm with the return journey departing from Kennacraig at 3.15pm (15.15) and arriving at Port Ellen at 5.35pm (17.35) in time for the scheduled departure of 6pm (18.00).
    At a meeting on 10th August 2012 with members of the Islay Community (no doubt only those with a vested interest) Martin Dorchester of CALMAC announced that with the departure of the MV Finlaggan on 1st December 2012 CALMAC would utilise the ferry which was sitting idle at Port Ellen from 12.05 until 18.00 with an extra return journey to Kennacraig.
    This is what the Islay & Jura Marketing Group had been demanding.
    It is a pity that Islay & Jura Marketing Group have not practiced what they had been preaching. This extra return journey has hardly been used by Islay residents and visitors. I travelled on the 15.15 sailing from Kennacraig on Thursday 20th December 2012 and there were 6 cars and a lorry on the ferry and a couple of foot passengers who travelled on the 12.00 bus from Buchanan Stret bus station. My wife has travelled on the 15.15 sailing a couple of times as a foot passenger and she said that the ferry was deserted on both occasions. According to the pier manager at Port Ellen the busiest crossing since 1st December 2012 was the 12.30 sailing from Port Ellen on 2nd January 2013 with 22 cars onboard. This extra return journey must be costing CALMAC and ultimately the Scottish Government a fortune.
    This extra return journey is not listed in the CALMAC 2013
    Summer Timetable as there is obviously no demand for it.

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    • The extra sailing was given as a sop to all those who were complaining about the Finlaggan being withdrawn from the Islay route, resulting in less overall capacity.
      Those asking included but were not restricted to the Maketing Group. Allowing the sailing, which was underused, seemed to me to be a knee jerk reaction from Martin Dorchester MD but it could be argued that ‘ you do not know until you try’. The Finlaggan is scheduled to return for summer ,thus the discontinued service – for now. Extra services in winter – when it’s quiet and less in summer does not make much sense as even allowing for the Finlaggan on the route they increase above the winter capacity is – I am led to believe- only 6%. Most will know that traffic increases by a lot more than that – MAY is just around the corner.

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      • Less sailings in summer than in winter makes no sense – UNLESS the extra sailings are due a lack of WEIGHT capacity which is what Calmac said was the reason when the press release regarding it was printed in the Ileach. In other words, there are no more passengers in winter but the Lord of the Isles cannot carry all the freight traffic – hence ther ferry being “full” when half the car deck is still available. In the summer Finlaggan and Hebridean Isles can cope with all the traffic except on certain days when all sailings are full. These are the dates extra sailings are required but to timetable them with no realistic chance of filling them makes no sense – mch better to do it on an ad-hoc basis as and when required. Having spoken to calmac staff I understand that the 0945 and 1530 sailings are frequently full but the 0700 and 1800 sailings are not – on these days no extra sailing is required as there are still spaces availble.

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    • Quote-It is a pity that Islay & Jura Marketing Group have not practiced what they had been preaching.

      Douglas, get a grip. As a matter of principal I and many others book the “new” timetabled ferry…..the timing may not suit everybody so to make such a stupid statement only demonstrates your lack of understanding.

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  10. The relative weight capacities are
    Hebridean Isles & Lord of the Isles (LOTI) – 200tons
    Isle of Arran – 240tons
    Finlaggan – 480tons
    LOTI has the additional handicap of restricted height on her car deck because she was the last vessel built for the Outer Isles service with overnight cabins available for passengers so all the weight capacity might not be usable.

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  11. John Smith.
    You suggest putting on extra sailings on an ad hoc basis when required. How much notice of these extra sailings would you suggest that CALMAC give.
    Once again like the Islay Community Councillors you are only interested in car drivers and you could not care less about foot passengers.
    At least with these extra sailings being listed on the CALMAC Winter Timetable foot passengers can take the 12.00 bus from Buchanan Street bus station and know that the 15.15 sailing will be waiting for them at Kennacraig something wich cannot be guaranteed on an “ad hoc” basis.

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  12. :
    February 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm
    The relative weight capacities are
    Hebridean Isles & Lord of the Isles (LOTI) – 200tons
    Isle of Arran – 240tons
    Finlaggan – 480tons
    LOTI has the additional handicap of restricted height on her car deck because she was the last vessel built for the Outer Isles service with overnight cabins available for passengers so all the weight capacity might not be usable)

    The relative weight capacities are (corrected)
    Isle Of Arran & Lord of the Isles (LOTI) – 200tons
    Hebridean Isles – 240tons
    Finlaggan – 480tons

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    • LOTI’s vehicle deck is no more restricted than IOA’s; tall vehicles cannot use the areas beneath the mezzanine level, but there’s more than enough room(room for at least 7 HGVs) to exceed 200t if that is the limit. From a position of ignorance I’m curious to know the relationship between the summer deadweight of 464t and this 200t figure; for reference Finlaggan’s summer dwt is 780t and IOA’s is 666t.

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      • I’m curious too. These figures give the Heb Isles, LOTI and IoA not much greater deadweight tonnages than the relatively tiny Lochiel (170 tonnes) or a typical puffer (150 tonnes). Is this progress?

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  13. I absolutely love the part almost right at the start of this nonsensical ill informed biased bile where you say “what meticulous researches have revealed” to go on and state a completely incorrect statement “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”
    Where do you get that stuff?? serious question, which member of the meticulous research team gave you that info?
    And do you stand by that statement or do you admit that it is completely wrong?

    I look forward to your response to that but will not hold my breath. It is sad that a site like this misleads the public on such a disastrous level.

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  14. TTT if you read the post, I said as and when required so, if sailings are full as son as some people say they are then there will be plenty notice – but if the truth is that only some sailings are full (as I suspect) then there would not be an opportunity to give much notice. After all, if there is space available until the day before on a sailing at 7 am how can they give you any notice?

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  15. John Smith.
    Do you actually live on Islay or are you carrying out a “desk top” exercise.
    The biggest problem is the lack of use of the extra sailings this winter has been the lack of publicity.
    The previous editor of the Ileach and his assistant editors were completely dependent on press releases to fill the columns of the Ileach.
    Apart from the initial statement by Martin Dorchester of CMAL at the opening ceremony of the re-furbished Port Ellen at the end of August 2012, there has been no further mention about these extra sailings in the Ileach.
    People especially foot passengers require plenty of warning to ensure that their Citylink bus meets the Islay ferry. There is no point getting 12.00 bus from Buchannan Street bus station to Kennacraig to find out that the sailing has been cancelled due to a lack of demand.
    You sound just like the Islay Community Councillors who are all car drivers and give absolutly no thought to foot passengers on the Islay ferries.
    There is a well known expression; “Use it or lose it”.

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  16. TTT

    as you didn’t bother reading the post – I made no mention of the use, or lack of use, of the additional sailings – I will explain in simple terms what I meant. Everybody moans that the 1230 off Islay and 1500 back is needed due to capacity issues FOR VEHICLE TRAFFIC in the summer months. What I suggested was that if this is the case then Calmac could give plenty notice that there would be an additional sailing, if this was not the case and is just a statement made by some people who wish they had more guests, then they would not be able to. Why anybody would get on a bus in Glasgow at 12.00 when there is no sailing until 18.00 on the summer timetable and there is a bus at 14.00 which gets you to Kennacraig is beyond my comprehension – only if there had been anadhoc extra sailing announced would this make sense. I do, however, agree with you on the publicity front for the winter sailings.

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  17. Well Well the folk on here that say Port Askaig is always a sheltered Port are wrong.. 1300hrs ex Kennacraig was diverted to port ellen instead of port askaig and the 1800hrs ex kennacraig tonight is also diverted to Port Ellen instead of Port Askaig this is due to adverse weather conditions….

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    • No surprise there, with a gale from the east (not the prevailing weather in this part of the world – how often does the Colintraive – Rhubodach ferry get stormbound?)

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