Russell back in the bathtub, now trying to sink Keith Brown’s boat

In his desperate struggle to recover and defend a reputation now driven to a low discount by an unable and controversial performance at Education and in the necessary decorum and fair treatment of others as a cabinet minister, Argyll’s embattled MSP, Michael Russell has had recourse, yet again, to the bathtubs of Dunoon.

While the image of his overheated and now befurred visage beneath a steamie turban is the stuff of cartoons, the reality is every bit as bizarre, if less visually glorious.

The ‘bathtubs’ are the Argyll Ferries passenger boats, plying the route between G0urock and Dunoon with 60 sailings a day but christened ‘the bathtubs’ by the Dunoon Ferries Action Group campaigners, determined to achieve a return to the wholly uneconomic vehicle and passenger service provision between the two town centres.

Mr Russell has asked the Ombudsman for Scottish Public Services to investigate a fellow department of government, Transport Scotland, for alleged ‘maladministration and negligence’ in its management of the publicly funded ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon.

The law of the European Union, to which Mr Russell and his Scottish Government colleagues remain determined, with or without legal advice, that an independent Scotland should join, was what forced this same government to remove the subsidy from the vehicle element of the former service, making the enterprise financially unsustainable. The result was the advent of the passenger only service to which the Dunoon campaigners object.

The route is, of course, also serviced by the almost 100% reliable Western Ferries vehicle and passenger service which operates between Dunoon and Gourock, but not via the town centres.

For Argyll showed earlier this year that the two services together see Dunoon grossly over supplied with ferry sailings for the evidenced demand. A city dweller could not catch a bus as frequently as Dunoon residents can take a ferry – but still the whinges come and still the reputation of a perfectly serviceable ferry is abused in the interests of a campaign that cannot succeed on the key ground of irrecoverable cost.

Early proof of stress in Russell’s first scalp

In an earlier populist move this year and regardless of his own government being the agent of this change, Mr Russell sided with the campaigners and began characteristically yelling in the media ‘Heads must roll’.

The head he was after – and got – was that of the Group CEO of Davie MacBrayne Limited, the parent company of ferry operators Argyll Ferries and Caledonian MacBrayne. All three companies are directly owned by the Scottish Government and Mr Russell is, by his ministerial position, a shareholder of all three.

With a superannuated ferry captain in tow, Mr Russell demanded a meeting with Mr Robertson over the Argyll Ferries service – and, in what should have been an early warning sign of a minister stressed to the point of loss of control, his behaviour at this meeting was, from the outset, shouting and roaring for Mr Robertson’s resignation.

Scalp number two, a minister out of control and collateral damage to the FM

In the end, a weary and demotivated Mr Robertson took early retirement and a triumphantly engorged Mr Russell went on, very recently, similarly to scream and yell at Kirk Ramsay, Chair of Stow College for having taken audio rather than written notes during a meeting Mr Russell addressed. Russell again demanded resignation; and, lacking the authority to remove Ramsay, wrote to every single Chair and./or CEO of every single college in Scotland to pressure them to ensure it happened.

Mr Ramsay was left with the awareness that if he did not resign – the Minister has no power to remove him – Stow College could suffer. He too went.

Yesterday Mr Russell had to go before the Scottish parliament and apologise for his misleading of members in figures he had given to show that the budget allocated to the colleges sector was not declining but increasing.

Claiming that this had been a genuine mistake, demonstrated by different figures he had also given on another occasion, this excuse was smartly torpedoed by Labour’s Neil Bibby and others. They asked why, if Mr Russell was so sure of the correct facts, he was endlessly nodding agreemen as his boss, First Minister Alex Salmond, gave parliament the wrong figures yet again at First Minister’s Questions last week.

In that session, Mr Salmond contemptuously dismissed Labour Leader, Johann Lamont’s assertion that the funding to colleges was in decline – a position supported by Audit Scotland’s independent calculation that this funding is to be cut by 24% over the next three years.

In support of his assertion Mr Salmond repeatedly gave erroneous figures and insisted that they were correct.

He had to make an ignominious return to the chamber before close of play that day, to apologise, curtly, for having misled members with inaccurate figures. This did little for his now serially evidenced reputation for making it up as he goes along.

Mr Salmond’s erroneous figures are said to have been provided to him by officials from the education department presided over, more or less, by Mr Russell.

The latest Russell war kite

It is beyond belief that a minister, so clearly under the stress of a job that is more than he can manage, should turn from enraged scalpings of senior figures like Messrs Robertson and Ramsay, on the fringes of government to assaulting colleagues within in.

His call on the Ombudsman puts a former and a present senior colleague right in the firing line: former Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson and the current incumbent, Keith Brown.

These two men individually have poor records in office, although Mr Brown’s was initially promising by comparison with the utter ineptitude of his predecessor.

Mr Stevenson oversaw a transparently machiavellian delay of the award of the Gourock 0Dunoon contract until after the Scottish Election of 2011 which saw the SNP win an unprecedented majority in an electoral system specifically  – and shamefully – designed principally to prevent them from doing so.

Mr Brown, already Stevenson’s successor after an episode where more snow fell than the helpless Stevenson knew what to do with, then presided over the award of the contract to a government owned company constituted for the purpose. Both Mr Brown and Mr Russell are, with their ministerial colleagues, shareholders of Argyll Ferries for the time being.

In Mr Stevenson’s favour, however, is that there was no whisper of his being a bullying minister  – that would have been outside his benign character. Mr Russell’s track record is at least partly in the public domain; and Mr Brown is known to have recreated Transport Scotland as the most politicised department of government. Fear is king.

First a laugh then a political disaster

The Russell-requested intervention into the bathtubs of the Ombudsman ought to produce a series of unforgettable cartoons:

  • with beturbaned Russell and Brown reclining in separate bathtubs on a collision course in front of Dunoon pier
  • both without steering
  • Russell hollering in the steam
  • Brown ordering minions to swim between him and the oncoming Russell tub to protect himself
  • the Ombudsman scuttling around on a JetSki between them, confiscating their soap and bubbles to make sure each has an equal means of inadequate propulsion
  • and then the bang –
  • but there’s no Clyde Coastguard over the water at Greenock…
  • Who will locate the bobbing turbans in the murk of the dual sinking?
  • Who will even try?

For us amused spectators, this could be fun to watch playing out.

But in the interests of his party, who will rein in Russell, who seems content to inflict potential collateral damage on his own already troubled government, in an overt public assault on fellow ministers he imagines somehow may help to shore up the wallowing barque of his own reputation?

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Related Articles & Comments

  • You don’t seem to understand the separation of a MSP’s duty to his or her constituency and their responsibilities as a Government Minister.

    Yet again, this is another instance where a member of the Government can do no right: speak up and be condemned as “desperate” or stay silent and be accused of not serving your constituents’ interests.

    It is just as well that Mr Russell has broad shoulders!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Dr Douglas McKenzie November 21, 2012 2:37 pm Reply
    • In the case of an impartial and independent minded minister, this action – and your position – would be perfectly correct.
      In Mr Russell’s case, objective analysis, disinterest and sound judgement are not his hallmarks.
      Amongst many other incidents that can demonstrate this, his conduct of the call in of the Angus council decision to close Muirfield School will not bear scrutiny, nor will the call in decision he took on Highland Council’s decision to close Hillhead School in Wick – which was so bizarre and so divorced from defensible procedure that it has, through the precedent set, left the 2010 Schools Act an unusable piece of legislation, if challenged.
      That last decision would also never have survived the scrutiny of Judicial Review, had it been an affordable recourse for the wronged school.
      Mr Russell’s conduct is far too often demonstrably partial and frankly intimidatory.
      The signs of stress behaviour in his current job have been clear if not fully understood for some time.
      His party ought to have a care to the consequences of his current actions over the Gourock-Dunoon ferry.
      Had this stunt been born from a sincere and sole care for the views of his constituents, Mr Russell could have taken this line at the time, BEFORE Mr Brown awarded the contract to Argyll Ferries, when he was already MSP for Argyll and Bute. He went along with that decision.
      Today’s reheated pursuit of a maligned ferry service, gagged because it is owned by Mr Russell himself and his colleagues, is the act of a publicity hungry coward who needs friends in the current mess he has made over forcing Kirk Ramsay to resign and over misleading the Scottish Parliament, not of a minister with a conscience.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom November 21, 2012 4:02 pm Reply
      • To be honest, this post clearly shows that you are speaking from your personal dislike of Mr Russell rather than an unbiased analysis of the man. Phrases such as “publicity hungry coward” are well beyond what is reasonable comment.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        Dr Douglas McKenzie November 21, 2012 4:29 pm Reply
        • You are quite wrong and this is unworthy of you.
          I have no personal dislike of Mr Russell whatsoever.
          I am often angered by his lack of principle and by many of his political machinations; and in a fair percentage of these, I would not refute that this reaches contempt.
          But this is not at all personal. I do not know him in any real sense.
          It relates to his professional capability and his political performance, which has been disappointing and markedly distant from what we and I had hoped and expected – and at a level where he has done considerable harm.
          Beyond that, my only personal stance is that I have contempt for bullying behaviour, whatever its source.
          I have been horrified by the extent to which this succeeds. Culturally we cannot allow this – and I am surprised – disappointed – that, by default you appear to condone it.
          In terms of the phrase to which you particularly object, you would be hard put to find anyone in the media who would not describe Mr Russell as being an assiduous self-publicist.
          ‘Coward’?
          Using bullying behaviours to defenestrate the CEO of a state owned company which, gagged and shackled, can never fight its corner against its owner or its shareholders – of which, by dint of his position as a Scottish minister, Mr Russell himself is one – is hardly a risk-taking assault.
          Forcing from office the Chair of a college which, like its fellows, is dependent for its funding and its very continuation on the Scottish Government and, in particular, on the good offices of Mr Russell himself as Education Secretary, is similarly the intimidation of the weak by the strong.
          By definition, aggressive cowards take on soft and certain targets. They do not square up to formidable opponents in a position to land a decent or a terminal blow.
          What may be uncomfortable is that what you are getting really is an unbiased and unvarnished analysis.
          Lynda

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          newsroom November 21, 2012 9:26 pm Reply
          • I’m afraid you condemn yourself by your own words. I don’t think that anyone reading what you have written here and the language you have used would conclude anything other than that you have a deep dislike for Mr Russell and that dislike is leading you to basically lose all sense of either proportion or impartiality. It doesn’t matter how well (or otherwise) you know Mr Russell you are clearly exercised by your interpretation of his actions and it is leading you well beyond the pale in what I would consider fair comment.

            This vendetta against Mr Russell and the SNP is destroying FA’s credibility and I have to confess that I’m seriously considering whether or not to continue reading FA (which will cheer Malcolm up if nothing else). I for one am becoming increasingly disenchanted by the constant negativity and sheer nastiness that has crept into this blog. I say that with a lot more sorrow than anger because I think that FA could have been great and indeed still could but there has to be a degree of balance, civility and indeed humour. All we are getting here is bile and it is causing me heartburn.

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            Dr Douglas McKenzie November 21, 2012 10:13 pm
      • “objective analysis, disinterest and sound judgement”

        Ever thought of applying these criteria to some of your inanae and puerile “comments”?

        Kirk Ramsey resigned because he overstepped the mark by SECRETLY recording a PRIVATE meeting.

        You should be asking WHY he recorded it SECRETLY!

        If you’re so interested in colleges, you should also be asking why the JAmes Watt College (a college attended by students from Argyll) can spend a fortune of teh college funds building a wet-room solely for her use, gets to stay in teh Tontine Hotel in Greenock, again expensed from college funds and considers friendship a good reason to employ folk in managerial positions.
        You may also ask why these managerial positions have grown in number whilst teaching staff have been reduced

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        sam November 22, 2012 7:33 am Reply
  • So you would deny Mr Russell the right to support his constituents?
    He has not asked for Transport Scotland to be investigated , as you wrongly state. He has supported the Ferry Group’s right to have their complaint heard.
    I would expect no less from an elected representative.
    This is another nasty little piece from an increasingly nasty – and irrelevant – little blog.
    Its anonymous writer should stand for government – they are clearly an expert on everything and, armed with all the answers, would have the country running like clockwork in no time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Patsy November 21, 2012 2:38 pm Reply
  • Once again a load of utter unresearched and inaccurate claptrap from the poison pen of For Argyll. Who in the name of the Wee man is bankrolling this rubbish?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    timeous November 21, 2012 3:19 pm Reply
  • Just a quick factual correction: the phrase about the Chair of Stow College ‘having taken audio rather than written notes’ could be misleading. Mr Ramsay did make an audio recording, but (and this is an important point) he also distributed it to others. So, the intervention of MR was due to fact that audio was recorded AND distributed.
    I want to make clear that I am not commenting in any way on whether MR should have intervened, just wanting to ensure accuracy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    BFOandC November 21, 2012 3:29 pm Reply
    • This is rather misleading – in that while Mr Ramsay did distribute the recording – he did so only to colleagues who could not be present at the meeting.
      There has been no suggestion that he distributed it to any other source.
      It is also clear from The Herald article that revealed the Russell yell for Ramsay’s head on a platter, that Ramsay had not shared the recording with the reporter concerned.
      Russell’s problem was potential loss of deniability.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom November 21, 2012 3:46 pm Reply
      • Sorry, I really don’t think anything I said was misleading. The facts (not opinions) are:
        Mr Ramsey made and distributed a recording without others at the meeting knowing about it.
        MR intervened because a recording had been made and distributed.
        Those are the facts.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        BFOandC November 21, 2012 4:10 pm Reply
        • BFOandC, it seems to me, why let facts get in the way of Nat Bashing, case of negative journalism personified

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          john in kintyre November 21, 2012 4:38 pm Reply
        • The difference – which does not imply any intention to mislead – is that Mr Ramsay did not engage in the sort of wholesale distribution that might have made his audio note-taking seem mischievous.
          And since his care was simply to have verbatim notes to clarify issues which cannot be fully understood in transit, his making this record available only to others who couldn’t be there, supports that reading of his actions.
          Do the secretaries of meetings get persecuted for taking and distributing full minutes? Do those who take full written notes [sometimes in shorthand] and on key issues,every bit as accurate as an audio note – get hounded from their jobs for sharing thier notes with absent colleagues?
          The keeping of a record and the distribution of that record if a core part of the normal administration of democracy.
          You are unlikely to wish to suggest that Mr Russell’s preference was for the undemocratic?
          Mr Russell’s was not rational behaviour about an actual issue.
          This was the conduct of a minister suffering from lese majeste and under extreme stress to the point where he lost his reason – a matter for concern.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          newsroom November 21, 2012 5:59 pm Reply
          • Sorry but I’m not dealing with issues of rights and wrongs here nor what MR should or should not have done. All I wanted to point out was that Mr Ramsay had both recorded and distributed his recording. That fact is now at least recorded and accepted by you.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

            BFOandC November 21, 2012 6:46 pm
          • Are there not official minutes recorded at such high level meetings?
            Why audi record without informing those present?
            Secretaries, company or otherwise are recording the minutes in an official document of the meeting which will be read at any subsequent meeting to be approved as a true and accurate account.
            I do not think it would be the norm to audio record any official meeting where minutes are being taken without the unaminous approval of all those present.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

            john in kintyre November 21, 2012 10:10 pm
          • DOH! – WHY DID HE DO IT IN SECRET THEN?

            If he was being altruistic, then why not inform the attendees of this audio recording of the meeting.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

            sam November 22, 2012 11:57 am
      • RUBBISH! – if the “story” is as you assert, why was the recording made in secret using a spy-pen?
        DOH! – you seem to have an abject dis-like to mentioning te recording was done in SECRET

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        sam November 22, 2012 7:35 am Reply
  • Contrary to the nonsense in this article the European Commission Decision of 28.10.2009 actually contained a table showing that the vehicle carrying portion of the old town centre route made a profit every year from 2002/03 to 2007/08.

    All the EC required was that the route be tendered.

    The EC conclusion that the vehicle portion made a profit was based on the statutory accounts of the company and was agreed with auditors KPMG.

    The former service was reliable, the current service as we have sadly seen over the last two days (and in fact almost weekly since it started) is not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    ferryman November 21, 2012 4:02 pm Reply
    • This account is very far from being the case because the figures for the former service were presented in a manner which disguised the real cost of the profit and loss split with regard to the vehicle element.
      We have chapter and verse of this somewhere in our files and notes of the relevant documents which attest to it.
      Over the next couple of days we will recover these, work on them and come back on this matter, possibly in a separate new article laying out the facts and the relevant sources.
      In the meantime, it is tactically uneducated for the Dunoon-Gourock Ferries Action Group to prosecute intervention by the Ombudsman – which will centre on his investigation of the conduct of Ministers who signed off on the necessary elements of the Scottish Government’s ‘Judgement of Solomon’ solution to the state provided service between Gourock and Dunoon:
      Dunoon did not get – could not get – what it wanted: a replacement for the former vehicle and passenger service.
      But Dunoon also did not get what it did not want – Western Ferries as the provider of the new passenger-only service. Dunoon had persuaded itself that Western was the corporate devil incarnate [yet it is a successful unsubsidised private sector company that has not ripped off Dunoon, is the provider of a much used and reliable 20 minute service across the Clyde and is building two new boats for its four boat shuttle service on the route].
      By pursuing the ministers responsible for what was, in fact, the best the Scottish Government could do for Dunoon, the Ferry Action groupers will alienate the very ministers whose support they would absolutely need to cook up some exotic recipe that might attempt to serve up what they want. These ministers will hardly be motivated to risk such a course of action now.
      And our MSP’s self-serving opportunist rush to support them, associates him with their impugning of his own colleagues to gain a few claps on the back from the off-the-wall ferry campaigners. This typiclly unthought panic populism will leave Mr Russell short of the goodwill of his colleagues to swing to the assistance of his constituents.
      Political education seems to be a long time coming in too many quarters.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom November 21, 2012 5:42 pm Reply
      • Talk about conspiracy theories! Newsroom (aka soapbox) says “the figures for the former service were presented in a manner which disguised the real cost of the profit and loss split with regard to the vehicle element”.

        So the Scottish Government, and the accountants, for some unspecified reason manipulated the accounts for the former service to make the vehicle portion appear profitable. The European Commission then joined in this conspiracy, as did KPMG, by producing their own figures which agreed with the published company accounts. Then further accounts were published all in the same vein.

        Private individuals like a chartered accountant and a professor of economics then put their reputations on the line by agreeing that carrying vehicles is profitable.

        Fortunately we have the all knowing Newsroom who understands what is really going on – I don’t think so.

        As for the complaint it is against the civil servants isn’t it, not Ministers?

        The current service is an unmitigated disaster, as would and should have been anticipated by anybody doing their jobs. If the politicians are having to clear up a mess because civil servants were failing in their duty why should the politicians not seek to have the matter investigated?

        It is probably hard to get rid of career civil servants and Ministers need to be able to rely on them to do their jobs. Ministers may well welcome a bit of a sweep through Transport Scotland by the Ombudsman. After all Transport Scotland are not covering themselves in glory either over the ferries or the A83.

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        ferryman November 21, 2012 9:35 pm Reply
        • The civil servants are there to advise but ultimately to do the bidding of the Ministers. Remember it was the minister who signed off the tender and the award of contract. If this investigation goes ahead then it goes all the way to the top.

          As for putting the reputations on the line, the problem is that if they are wrong then they are busted.

          Time will tell.

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          Peter Wade November 21, 2012 11:15 pm Reply
      • Newsroom (aka soapbox) wrote;
        “Dunoon had persuaded itself that Western was the corporate devil incarnate [yet it is a successful unsubsidised private sector company that has not ripped off Dunoon”.

        You are inventing things again. Everybody I know thinks Western is very important for the town, but are deeply concerned about a monopoly crossing.

        In your in depth financial analysis will you be showing that Western just makes average profits for its sector?

        The last time I bought a book of 10 car and driver tickets for Western, which was not that long ago, I am sure it cost me £73 – which was steep. Looking at their website recently I was genuinely shocked to see a price of £92. That is a stonking 26% increase, and those are the cheap tickets!

        No idea what they charge commercial vehicles, though I pay for them through most of the goods I buy.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        ferryman November 22, 2012 9:31 am Reply
        • The difference is that the lower value is the price you pay at their office or at the shops in Dunoon. The other price is what you pay on the boat.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          donald mcdonald November 22, 2012 2:45 pm Reply
          • I knew you got stung if you bought singles or returns on the ferries but I am surprised about the books of 10.

            I could have sworn I had checked the price on the website in the past and it was showing the shop price.

            Anyway £92 is eye watering.

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            ferryman November 22, 2012 10:27 pm
    • Mr T. you are cherry picking again.

      The EU report highlighted significant flaws in the way that the vehicle service was accounted for. And I remember western ferries having a go at Calmac for these shortcomings.

      Lets look forward though to the outcome of the feasibility study, but here is a question for you, what happens if the outcome is not the one that the action group wants?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Peter Wade November 21, 2012 6:50 pm Reply
  • I wonder what Mr Russell has done to Newsroom since the election to deserve the recent venomous attacks on this website. Not paid for his election adverts? Insulted the reporter over her journalistic competence? Spurned her advances? He must have done something VERY serious to warrant such unbalanced articles on this BLOG. Newsie should come clean. Go on, I won’t tell a soul.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Andy November 21, 2012 4:17 pm Reply
    • “Insulted the reporter over her journalistic competence?”

      “journalistic competence” – can you provide any examples of this, I’ve struggled to find any?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      sam November 22, 2012 7:39 am Reply
  • If the town centre route is so profitable, why did Cal Mac, or others not find a suitable ferry to run a service, and make a nice profit for their efforts? I am sure a suitable vehicle ferry could have been leased short term, until 1 or more were built, and then continued without a subsidy when the profits started rolling in.And why are Western refusing to run from Dunoon or Gourock knowing that this service would be a great success with vehicle owners and passengers, and with no opposition in sight? I am sure they would be able to get a great deal with Argyll and Bute Council to use the Dunoon linkspan, but maybe not with Cal-Mac for Gourock.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    DunoonLad November 21, 2012 8:45 pm Reply
    • Exactly. And why was there not a fierce fight in tendering from private sector operators mustard keen to cream off the profit from a profitable vehicle and ferry service.
      All were free to submit a bid of this type – and none did.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom November 21, 2012 8:53 pm Reply
      • Newsroom (aka soapbox)it is very tiring that you go over the same old ground. The contract was for six years. No company could recoup the cost of investing in new vessels in that period and the tendering period was far too short for any company to get vessels.

        Had the SNP followed through on their promise to provide new vehicle ferries for the route companies would have been banging at the doors. After all Western seem to be creaming off profits well above most in the transport sector – look at their tax bill.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        ferryman November 21, 2012 9:45 pm Reply
        • Ferryman (aka Mr T) it is just as trying reading your posts.

          Argyll Ferries bought vessels and Northlink came with 3 brand new vessels for a six year contract.

          This debate is not about Western Ferries, it’s about the Scottish Government.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          Peter Wade November 22, 2012 12:05 am Reply
          • The Northlink vessels are(or were) owned by RBS; sensibly the operator is not expected buy tonnage on the basis of 6 years earnings, and allows vessels to designed for the job. If only this very sensible policy applied elsewhere, rather than the farce we’re enduring with Clydelink and their fair weather ferries.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

            db November 22, 2012 12:18 am
        • Ferryman – it’s ‘very tiring’ that you repeat the ‘aka soapbox’ moniker ad infinitum; if it wasn’t for this blog you’d be far less able to so noisily and repetitively thump your tub.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          Robert Wakeham November 22, 2012 1:35 am Reply
  • Does anyone know anything about the recent meeting between Councillors and Western Ferries? Newsroom?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    DunoonLad November 21, 2012 9:21 pm Reply
    • We have no knowledge of this but will now enquire.
      Thank you.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom November 21, 2012 9:33 pm Reply
  • Bet a £ to a penny there was’nt a recording made without everyone knowing, then again might be a trend that catches on

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    john in kintyre November 21, 2012 10:15 pm Reply
    • Perhaps a recording was made by a chap named Russell?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Jim Williamson November 21, 2012 11:54 pm Reply
  • I think it’s now obvious to everyone (even Newsie Duh!!)that what I said from the start has been proven by events – Mikey Boy is interested in Mikey Boy, has made some horrendous decisions, is visibly pretty incompotent and intent now only on protecting his own position.

    You also have to ask question the judgement of the supposedly astute politico Smug Salmond who appointed him a minister in the first place. His judgement as well as his competence is now in question.

    And of course the whole boats debacle in Dunoon would NEVER have happened if the SNP had actually delivered on their pre-election promises.

    Have a nice day y’all 🙂

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Simon November 22, 2012 9:33 am Reply
  • Just another one of Newsies self opinionated pieces masquarading as News. I don’t know why anyone bothers reading this tripe. You should stick to easy factual stories Newsie as your forays into political matters make you look somewhat deranged. We all know many of your sources are either flawed or fake and you do very little to cross check. You are alienating more and more people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Michael Banks November 22, 2012 11:00 am Reply
  • I have stopped reading For Argyll, not least because it has fallen very far from Lynda Henderson’s original noble intention of providing a new , positive and responsible voice for the people of this area.

    However a friend has drawn my attention to this “article” and I must respond because it contains an untrue statement which I hope will be quickly withdrawn.

    In Paragraph 10 the writer (who is, I understand Lynda Henderson herself) says at a meeting with Archie Robertson of Cal Mac my behaviour was “from the outset, shouting and roaring for Mr Robertson’s resignation.”

    She introduces the paragraph by saying that at the meeting I had a “superannuated ferry captain in tow” which I assume is a very slighting and offensive reference to the former Marine Superintendent of Cal Mac, Captain Sandy Ferguson.

    No such meeting, and no such behaviour , ever took place.

    I met with the Chair of Cal Mac Peter Timms and one of the Board Directors , Norman Quirk, on 13th August this year to discuss Captain Ferguson’s worries about an Argyll Ferries MCA certificate – worries that turned out to be correct. Archie Robertson did not attend the meeting, nor did Captain Ferguson. I am sure all those present will agree we had a perfectly amicable and positive discussion.

    Archie Robertson was at a meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday 1st August along with his Chairman Peter Timms. I was there with Captain Ferguson but so were representatives of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Scottish Government including my colleague Alex Neil. It was called by Alex Neil. All those people will also attest to what took place, what is not in any way what Lynda Henderson describes. The matter of resignation for anyone was never even mentioned.

    At the very least, therefore, Para 10 would appear to be actionable. However I would be content if Lynda Henderson would now withdraw this item and apologise for making a completely false accusation.

    I must say in passing that Lynda Henderson’s supposed “coverage” of my discussion with Kirk Ramsay is also completely false. She was of course not there and could not have been. As to the many other comments she makes in the piece and in the frequent responses to postings subsequently made (as well as in a range of other pieces in recent times) , it is up to my constituents to decide if I am guilty of “self serving opportunism” but , to quote just two more of the many other accusations, I do not “impugn my own colleagues” nor have I ever “assaulted” them.

    In supporting the right of my constituents in the Dunoon Ferry Action Group to go to the Ombudsman I made it clear, in a published comment, that I took no position on the merits of the case – that was up to the Ombudsman. All my colleagues in the Government do the same with regard to constituents.

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    Michael Russell MSP November 23, 2012 4:37 pm Reply
    • So everything in the gardens’ fine Michael?
      I think not! Having a go at ‘forargyll’ wont help as many constituents find you increasingly smug and dismissive. Too many ‘misunderstandings’ and the FM appart who has given you ‘the vote of confidence’ not too many colleagues jumping to your defence.
      Notwithstanding para 10 which on reflection Lynda Henderson may remove if at all inaccurate, it appears you M.R. are unable to hold your own hands up for anything.

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      phill November 25, 2012 9:54 am Reply
  • “the quote was a straight lift from Harold Wilson in the 1960s”

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/drumlanrig-the-lighter-side-of-politics-1-2658521

    “They’re behind you, Mike…

    EDUCATION Secretary Mike Russell endured another bashing in parliament last week after admitting the government had misled MSPs by telling them that funding for FE colleges was not going down, then admitting that it was, only then to claim it was rising – but all unintentionally. Having tasted humble pie for the first time in recorded history, Russell rose on Thursday evening to face down his accusors. “People at home will wonder what on Earth is going on,” he declared. “Let me tell you what is going on. I’m going on!” It sounded good, but the quote was a straight lift from Harold Wilson in the 1960s. This was in response to a series of plots from within his Cabinet to unseat him as Labour leader. Does Russell fear something similar is taking place today?”

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    John Sinclair November 25, 2012 8:53 am Reply
  • What a surprise.
    Dr Douglas McKenzie sticking up for Michael Russell.
    There is no way that Michael Russell will resign no matter how many mistakes he makes.
    He will have to be sacked.

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    Treble T November 25, 2012 2:00 pm Reply
  • The day after the “Never Seconds” blog went viral due to incompentance by Argyll & Bute Council, whilst buying my Dundee Courier I was introduced to Michael Russell MSP by my local SNP Councillor who happened to be in the shop with him having coffee.
    Michael Russell did not bother to get out of his seat and when he shook hands with me he gave me a “non-standard” handshake.
    I said to him that he would not be having his troubles to seek as a result of the Never Seconds blog and he replied that you should not believe all your read in the newspapers.
    I replied that I would believe what I read in the newspapers before I believed what politicians had to say.
    As the events round the Never Seconds blog has been serialised in the Sunday Times and published by Cargo Books I rest my case.
    Therefore the result is Treble T 1 Mike Russell 0.

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    Treble T November 25, 2012 2:12 pm Reply
    • Why would Mr Russell bother himself over a stushie created entirely by the hysterical and disturbingly Stalinist activities of A&BC? I’m not surprised he wanted nothing to do with it.

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      db November 25, 2012 3:02 pm Reply
      • Treble T, I think it’s Treble T 1 (and you were in good company with that prediction), Argyll & Bute 0.

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        Anne Baird November 25, 2012 10:33 pm Reply
  • Once again the out of control lady editor of this on line rag has got things completely wrong and libelous. At the meeting she refers to regarding Mr Russell and Ex AF CEO Robertson at no time did Mr Russel “roar and shout” for Robertsons resignation. In fact Mike Russel did not address Robertson at any time at the meeting let alone roar and shout. Another Government Minister did show his frustration at Robertson as he continued to show no apparent regard for safety measures regarding the Ali Cat and MOT restrictions. I am amazed at the number of people who still access this frequently fictisious web rag to read utter rubbish the.

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    abf November 25, 2012 2:37 pm Reply
    • Almost a rant, abf, but it’s time the editor responded to Mike Russell’s statement – however it’s Sunday, and maybe legal advice is required.

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      Robert Wakeham November 25, 2012 3:01 pm Reply
    • you mean people like yourself ?

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      Gus Mackay November 25, 2012 7:12 pm Reply
  • Newsie has been getting away with publishing rubbish for years and Mike Russell had been getting away with spouting rubbish for years.

    Personally, I think on balance they probably deserve each other.

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    Simon November 25, 2012 7:53 pm Reply
  • I’ve only just seen Mr Russell’s contribution above.
    This is a straightforward decoy device and nothing to do with the issue.
    There were so many press releases and so much uncritical, unthinking local media coverage of Mr Russell’s well promoted activities and meetings at the time of his opportunist attack on Argyll Ferries, that it is impossible to be sure who was at what meeting.
    Quibbling about which meeting and who was there is not the point – nor was it the point of that element of the article.
    The core issue is of bullying, of the repeated practice of the merciless hunting down of critics, of erratic political judgment impacting on his own government – and whether people think that this sort of conduct is healthy for the body politic, to be welcomed and approved – or outlawed.
    Regardless of who precisely was at it, we know that there was a key meeting at which Mr Russell shouted unpleasantly and was pushing forcibly for Archie Robertson to go.
    This was allied with a “‘Russell says ‘Heads Must Roll'” type of media coverage, in which Mr Robertson’s departure was publicly called for.
    The persistence of this deeply questionable attack succeeded in forcing Mr Robertson out of his job as CEO of the David MacBrayne Group.
    We had contextually assumed that Mr Robertson had been present at this meeting – but it may well have been that it was Mr Robertson’s superiors who were being hectored to sacrifice him and that he was not himself present.
    Either way, it is of no account.
    The issue is that Mr Russell had been yelling for Mr Robertson’s head and carried on making a noise until he got it. This is out of control feral behaviour and, in our book, utterly politically unacceptable.
    The sole question here is whether or not we are, as a country, prepared to accept such behaviour from a Cabinet Secretary.
    Mr Robertson had been a determined critic of Transport Scotland in the dubiety of its award of the Northern Isles Ferry Services contract to Serco, rejecting the bid of NorthLink Ferries, the sitting operator and one of the Scottish Government owned companies under Mr Robertson’s control in the David MacBrayne portfolio.
    Robertson was known to have wanted to issue a judicial challenge on the matter against Transport Scotland – as indeed did another finalist, Streamline. He was expressly forbidden from so doing by company owner and sole shareholder, Scottish Ministers.
    This meant that Mr Robertson’s was a cheap and easy scalp for Mr Russell to go for. Robertson would have had no one within the Scottish Government to defend him from the increasingly shrill Russell onslaught.
    With Robertson’s known concerns about Transport Scotland’s intentions for the Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services likely to prove obstructive to such intentions, it may even be that Russell was given a quiet green light within government to take out Robertson with a guaranteed non-intervention by Transport Scotland.
    Whatever the full ins and outs of this distasteful matter were, Mr Russell’s bullying behaviour is and was the core issue.
    It is this that requires his explanation – and of course he avoids this issue altogether in his decoy.
    Mr Russell went on to demonstrate this same modus operandi again at what Kirk Ramsay of Stow College himself publicly described as an immediate shouting storm when he entered the presence of the Education Secretary, having been regally summoned to Holyrood for the purpose.
    We note Mr Russell’s typical threat against ourselves.
    As part of forcing Mr Robertson out of his job, Mr Russell harried him until he apologised for threatening to sue a former CalMac ferry Captain for being a nuisance – in the vein of a vexatious litigant.
    Funny how it’s always different when it’s you.
    Lynda Henderson

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    newsroom November 26, 2012 5:12 pm Reply
    • “Quibbling about which meeting and who was there is not the point” – no need to be accurate at all then , just make things up, is that what you mean?

      Robertson inflicted the MV Ali Cat and the MV Argyll Flyer on the local community. It rapidly became apparent to everybody that the bathtubs were not up to the job. He should have had more care for the reputation of his company rather than tendering a solution which he should have know would not work.

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      ferryman November 26, 2012 8:05 pm Reply
  • You Newsroom, have completely and totally lost the plot.

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    morag November 26, 2012 8:14 pm Reply
  • Let me repeat this incontrovertible fact. No meeting took place at which I screamed and shouted for anybody’s resignation.

    There can be no doubt of that as witnesses to all the meetings mentioned by Lynda Henderson in her piece will attest. None of which , of course, she attended – not even the imaginary one she described but which never took place.

    Accordingly not only Para 10 in the main item above was wrong in “context” , to quote the word used by Lynda Henderson. The whole item was wrong in fact and conclusion as well.

    I am sorry that Ms Henderson cannot find it in her heart to apologise for misleading her audience in such a way. But that being the case her readers can from now on draw the inference that anything on “For Argyll” written by Ms Henderson about me is likely to be false because there is precedent.

    Moreover I think all reasonable people will accept that a series of postings from a self styled impartial commentator that use the personal insults “coward” “contempt” and “feral” ( amongst others) in political reporting about anyone, let alone the local MSP , are so beyond normal journalistic practice as to be not only totally unacceptable but also utterly inexplicable.

    I bear Lynda Henderson no ill will – I am simply bemused at her hatred ( there is no other adequate word for what is well displayed throughout the original piece and her obsessive interpolations to comments) disfiguring as it does the hater much more than the hated. With that in mind she might want to reflect on a fine bit of writing by an actual journalist about that subject, to be found at

    http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/opinion/comment/euan-mccolm-politics-needs-passion-but-leave-out-hateful-attacks-1-2658541

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    Michael Russell MSP November 26, 2012 8:20 pm Reply
  • Nice to know that MR is still reading For Argyll. He must have a lot of time on his hands!

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    Lowry November 26, 2012 8:54 pm Reply
    • That’s his staff that have the time; good to see our taxes at work! 😉

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      db November 26, 2012 10:42 pm Reply
    • I know, the cheek of these politicians and civil servants not to work 24 hours a day. Personally I would expect them to work through their lunch hour and put in 25 hours a day!

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      Integrity? Not in the CondemAll November 26, 2012 11:14 pm Reply
  • Indeed, but this particular chap seems unable to stick to what he says.

    Post 12: “I have stopped reading For Argyll…”

    He must find For Argyll as addictive as the rest of us but if I were he, I think I’d rather spend more time making sure I had my figures right!

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    Lowry November 27, 2012 8:47 am Reply

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