Today’s edition of The Herald [22 November 2012] carries a letter from Argyll and Bute’s MSP, Michael Russell, rebutting aspects of an article it had published yesterday.
This had centred on Mr Russell’s letter to the Ombudsman for Scottish Public Services, on a request to the Ombudsman to investigate Transport Scotland for alleged ‘maladministration’ and ‘negligence’ around the award of the contract to Argyll Ferries for a passenger only ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon.
The Scottish Government – and the Gourock Dunoon Ferry Action Group, have always maintained that the vehicle element of the former CalMac vehicle and passenger service was not in receipt of public subsidy and was profit making.
Regardless of hard evidence to the contrary, this is the position to which the Scottish Government has held and that the ferry campaigners maintain to this day.
In the second paragraph of Mr Russell’s letter to The Herald today, he clears the matter up once and for all. saying:
‘European law, among other factors, made it impossible to sustain the publicly funded vehicle service.’ [Ed: our emphasis]
In the face of this, revealed by Mr Russell himself, the ferry campaigners will find it difficult to sustain their argument that a vehicle service between Gourock and Dunoon town centres can be profitable.
That has clearly never been the case. It was always a loss making operation in need and in receipt of public subsidy.
This admission also makes it hard to see quite how Transport Scotland and the Transport Ministers in question can have been guilty of ‘maladministration’ and ‘negligence’ – in so far as the Gourock-Dunnon ferry campaign group is concerned, at any rate. The view of the European Commission may be a little different.
The Transport Ministers had simply established a legally subsidised passenger-only ferry service on this route, ceasing what is now admitted to have been an unlawfully subsidised vehicle service element.
The Ombudsman may find that any investigation conducted can reach a swift conclusion.