Following the non-answer from Transport Minister Keith Brown to an earlier written parliamentary question he had put to the Deputy First Minister, who was directly responsible for the issue in which he is seeking more information, Highlands and Islands MSP, Jamie McGrigor, asked a follow up question.
The issues relate to the text of the Deputy First Minister’s letter to the members of the Gourock-Dunoon Ferries Steering Group, which she sent with the copies of the ‘Feasibility Study’ on a competing vehicle and passenger service for this route, which the Scottish Government had commissioned from MVA consultants.
In the letter, Ms Sturgeon repeated in print a commitment she said she had previously made verbally to the group – that she would involve Steering Group members with her Transport Scotland officials in pre-tendering discussions with potential operators of the service in question.
This was a move that we and many local authorities and ferry action groups on the west and north coasts found welcome as a signal of the democratisation of public tendering processes.
Jamie McGrigor was and is seeking further and practical information on how is planned to work in practice.
He has now had a response to his second question.
The second question
Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government , further to the answer to question S4W-16541 by Keith Brown on 21 August 2013, whether it will provide the information requested regarding whether it will involve action groups for other ferry services in a similar way.
The second response
Mr Keith Brown MSP :
Further to the answer to S4W-16541, we will involve action groups regarding other ferry services as and when appropriate. The level and type of involvement for such groups can be considered by Ministers on a case by case basis.
This is a welcome response, guaranteeing parity of access with the Gourock-Dunoon group to other ferry action groups in Scotland.
While it was to be expected, because no government could consider preferential treatment of any one area, it is very reassuring that the Transport Minister has now confirmed the more inclusive access policy and its availability, on a case by case basis, to other ferry action groups.
Since the two local authorities involved in the Gourock Dunoon service – Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde – are members of the Gourock-Dunnon Ferry Services Steering Group, we assume that the Minister’s assurances also reasonably cover local authority involvement in ferry tendering processes elsewhere.