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The concerns of residents on the Rosneath Peninsula …

Comment posted Councillors Freeman and Robb get unanimous council approval for urgent motion on Kilcreggan ferry by Councillor George Freeman.

The concerns of residents on the Rosneath Peninsula have continued to increase over the past two months at the apparent refusal of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to take their fears about the future of the Gourock – Kilcreggan ferry service seriously.

These concerns were again discussed at length at the meeting of Cove & Kilcreggan Community Council on 13 March that saw the hall packed with concerned residents. Those attending were told by me that contrary to the line that SPT and Clydelink had taken over the past two months that there would be a new-build vessel on the route as from April, it had now been admitted that there was no new vessel and that the service would be provided by the Island Princes which is approximately 16 years old.

Because of the real fears within the community that there may be no vessel with a Passenger Certificate to provide this service at the start of the new contract on 1 April, I decided to submit an urgent motion to the Council meeting on 15 March asking for Council support in seeking assurances from SPT that they have plans in place to ensure that there will be no break in service between the old contract ending and the new contract starting, even if this meant SPT agreeing to extend the current contract.

As this was an urgent motion, I was aware that I had to ensure that it was competent and that I could also persuade the Convener of the Council that the matter was urgent before the Council would consider it. Thankfully I managed to get over these two hurdles and, having explained to the Council the grave concerns of the community and the impact that any break in the service would have on those individuals who have to travel across the Clyde to get to work, college and to health services, the Council agreed unanimously to support my motion. I was able to inform the Council that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at Greenock had confirmed to me just an hour before the Council meeting that the Island Princes did not have the appropriate Passenger Certificate that would allow it to operate on the Gourock to Kilcreggan route.

Because of the level of misinformation that we have received over the past two months on this issue, the community does not accept the statement from SPT that as it stands, they are confident that a service will run on 1 April. I am delighted at the number of people who have now come forward to campaign on behalf of the community. Locals are so frustrated by the dismissive attitude of SPT that a Facebook campaign “SAVE KILCREGGAN FERRY” has been set up by one of our dedicated campaigners which attracted almost 200 members in under 24 hours.

A protest is now planned to demonstrate the level of concern and show support for the pier staff who currently face the serious prospect of being made redundant as a result of the proposed new contract. Campaigners are confident of a good response from the community and ferry users who will meet at Kilcreggan Pier at 12pm on Saturday 24th of March.

I would encourage as many of your readers as possible to sign up to the Facebook cause / compaign PLEASE.

Councillor George Freeman also commented

  • Bob, for your information, the Island Princes is not a new-build vessel as SPT and Clydelink have insisted over the past couple of months. She is now 16 years old.

    Although we were told that she has a Passenger Certificate for Class IV operation for 96 passengers, it now transpires that she is only allowed to carry 74 passengers in the winter months. It has also been confirmed that all these passengers cannot be accommodated in the covered cabin. I certainly would not want to travel back and forward across the Clyde in the winter months without any shelter.

    We do not know how many passengers the MCA at Greenock will approve for the Clyde which is a Class V Category C waters passenger route and is certainly not the sheltered waters of the Solent.

    The Island Princess is also at least 2 knots slower than the existing vessel on the route. We are told that her sister vessel which is identical, cannot sail in a straight line but has to tack when underway. This will clearly add to the journey time.

    The Island Princes is smaller that the current vessel on the route and only has a draft of 1.0 m, a beam of 5.0 m and is only 13.7 m long. MCA have confirmed that she currently does not have the relevant Passenger Certificate that would allow her to operate on the Gourock – Kilcreggan route at this time.

    The new owner intends modifying the vessel prior to presenting her for certification. It is difficult to see how all this can be done prior to the contract start date on 1 April 2012.

Recent comments by Councillor George Freeman

  • Boundary Commission recommendations reduce Scotland’s councillor numbers and wards – and Argyll & Bute takes most of the hit
    When referring to the reduction in the number of councillors, it is certainly not correct to say that “Argyll & Bute Council takes most of the hit”. If you take 2 minutes to check the numbers in other local authorities across Scotland, you will see that there are 8 local authorities who are facing a reduction of 3 or more councillors. These are Highland -6, South Lanarkshire -3, South Ayrshire -3, Dumfries & Galloway -4, Western Isles -4, Fife -3 and Borders -3. Based on population and the other criteria the Boundary Commission is required to take into account, I believe that the proposed reduction of 3 councillors in Argyll & Bute is fair and acceptable.

    Although the final proposals will not please everyone, and I am aware that there are some concerns about linking Cowal and Bute, I believe that the proposals that have now been passed to the Scottish Government are the best options available for Argyll & Bute and have addressed most of the concerns that were raised in the original proposals. I would therefore encourage the public to contact the Scottish Government by the deadline of 7 July to record their support for these proposals.

  • Final Tiree Community Council letter to Council on approaches to proposed service cuts
    I have now received confirmation that the Community Council letter dated 18th January 2015, that Mr Holliday accuses me if ignoring, was not received by me or other councillors. The reason that Cllr Breslin managed to respond to that letter was that he had been in contact with the secretary of the Community Council and received his own personal copy. I hope that this now clarifies the matter. I would advise Mr Holliday to email me in future if he wants to confirm that I have received correspondence from the Community Council as the electronic system never (or very seldom) lies. Best wishes to Tiree Community Council and all on Tiree.
  • Final Tiree Community Council letter to Council on approaches to proposed service cuts
    As I have pointed out to Tiree Community Council, I do not take kindly to being accused of ignoring correspondence from anyone. The letter that Mr Holliday states was sent to all councillors, was certainly not received by me. I have investigated and it now appears that no councillors received the letter dated 18th January. It appears that the reason Cllr Breslin responded was that he was given the letter separately by the Secretary of the Community Council. As I informed one of the Community Councillors yesterday evening, I am investigating further to try and determine why councillors did not receive that latter.
  • General Election part of the political Gallipoli of indy versus union
    RitchieMac, as you will be aware, the number of submarines changes as new Astute Class boats come into service and boats go out of service. Although it is irrelevant as to whether there are 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 submarines, the point I was making is that the SNP will insist on referring to the 4 Trident boats only so as to try and down play the number of jobs that are at risk and the massive loss to the Argyll & Bute economy.
    Although the jobs numbers quoted may be a few hundred or so either way, it is noted that you have not challenged the approximate figures quoted and you have not tried to say that only 550 jobs are at risk if the SNP get their way which is the official line that the SNP continues to quote. You have also failed to comment on the line Brendan O’Hara argues “that the site could remain a base for existing submarines”. This is certainly NOT SNP policy.
    Do you agree with Brendan O’Hara that “Faslane and its current capacity is there and will stay”? How can this be? This is just a comment to try and gain a few extra votes.
    As part of the Maritime Change Programme, all of the UK’s submarine fleet is due to be based at Faslane. That is the reason for the additional jobs that are due to be created. As far as submarine numbers are concerned, there currently 4 Trident Class boats, 4 Trafalgar Class boats (was 5 but Tireless has just been laid-up), including the new boats in the pipeline, there will be 6 Astute Class boats and there are 7 boats laid-up at Rosyth. We can then add on to that the DSRV (Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle). At no stage did I say that there would be 17 submarines at any given time.
    If you want to play with numbers as the SNP continually do, then based on the above numbers, there are 20 (if you only include 2 Trafalgar Class boats) that are currently based in Scotland or are due to be based in Scotland (excluding Tireless which is now laid-up in Devonport) that the SNP do not want here.
    From what Brendan O’Hara now says, nothing will change and these will all remain in Scotland? Can this man be believed?
  • General Election part of the political Gallipoli of indy versus union

    I note that some of For Argyll’s contributors were recently taking my name in vain and trying to attribute a number of comments on FA to me. Some of your contributors assumed that as information on Trident and Faslane had been placed on FA, this information must have come from me. Not so. I do have a wide range of information on this subject that I provide to many people and organisations so as to try and counter the misinformation that comes from the SNP and others who are opposed to Trident.

    I note that Brendan O’Hara, the SNP candidate for Argyll & Bute, has been quoted in the Press and Journal (P&J) on their Complete Guide to Voting report where he is trying to mislead the electorate. When referring to Trident and Faslane, the P&J reports that: “SNP candidate Brendan O’Hara, lives in Helensburgh and is well aware of the issues. He argues that the site could remain a base for existing submarines without the need to spend £100 billion on replacing Trident” “There is a common misconception that that the SNP will close Faslane, which is not the case at all” he said. “As much as I personally would like to see all nuclear weapons removed from Scottish soil, that is not on the agenda. So Faslane and its current capacity is there and will stay” he said.

    Although they do not like it being discussed in public, the SNP and Scottish CND have confirmed that they want all nuclear powered submarines removed from Scotland and not just the 4 Trident boats. Taking into account the new Astute Class boats, we are talking about a total of 17 submarines and not just the 4 that the SNP would have us believe.

    On Jobs, a Scottish Enterprise ECOS Study confirmed that a total of 10,598 jobs were dependent on Faslane. That figure does not include the additional 2,000 that are due to be created as a result of the Maritime Change Programme which would bring the total up to approximately 12,500 jobs. Dr Philips O’Brien of the University of Glasgow confirmed that compared with other similar sized countries, if Scotland was to get rid of Trident and have its own conventional forces, the total number of jobs that would be left would be 2,000. These would be split with 1,000 based on the east coast and 1,000 at Faslane. A loss of over 11,000 jobs in Argyll & Bute.

    The SNP are keen to highlight that the Trident replacement would cost £100 billion. What they do not say is that figure would be spread over the next 40 years (£2.5 billion per year). What they also keep quiet is that the welfare budget over the same period will be £10,380 billion (£260 billion per year). The cost of the Trident replacement is therefore less than 1% of the estimated welfare budget over the same period.

    Apart from the jobs that would be lost within Argyll & Bute if the SNP were to get their way, Argyll & Bute Council would potentially lose massive sums of Non Domestic Rates (NDR) and Council Tax income. The rateable value of MoD properties at Faslane, Coulport etc is over £17 million. Based on the current poundage rate, this would generate a potential annual loss of over £7.5 million in NDR to Argyll & Bute Council. If we then include the Council Tax or Contribution in Lieu of Rates that the Council receives from the living accommodation within Faslane, that financial loss is pushed up to approximately £8.5 million per year.

    These losses do not take into account the massive losses / costs that would be generated as a result of the massive redundancies that would result from the removal of all submarines from Faslane.

    I believe that these facts must be taken into account when people cast their votes tomorrow.

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