23rd November 2017

Mr Pot and Mr Kettle (Jonathan Wills)

The basic problem with public funding of our ferries is that no government (including the one in which Tavish Scott was transport minister) has ever understood that all of the Scottish ferries we’re talking about are “internal” services, by definition.

The only “external” ferries in Scotland are those to Northern Ireland – and the boats that once upon a time ran from Lerwick to Denmark and from Rosyth to Zeebrugge.

The Aberdeen-Lerwick route joins the A90 in Aberdeen to the A970 in Lerwick. In that way it is no different from the Uig-Stornoway crossing, which also links two “A” class roads.

So why are they financed differently? This is something that Mr Scott and all of his successors have never explained and cannot justify.

The only logical and consistent policy is to treat all trunk ferry routes as if they were trunk roads or bridges and make their funding a central government responsibility. That would include the ferries to Unst, Yell and Whalsay.

There is nothing to stop the SIC continuing to operate these routes, and the ferries to smaller islands, but the money must come from government, as long as there is what Europe calls “market failure”, i.e. no commercial operator can make a profit at fares the public can afford.

Longer routes will obviously need bigger subsidies but the yardstick for setting fares must always be affordability for a family on the living wage.

I hope the SNP government will see the sense of this. Meanwhile Mr Pot should stop criticising Mr Kettle for errors he made himself while in office.

Jonathan Wills
Sundside,
Bressay.

4 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    Setting aside that “Mr Pot” was in office for less than two years and “Mr Kettle” is now enjoying his 11th year, Jonathan has a very good point here.

    Reply
    • Bill Adams

      There were several “Mr Pots” in office for the eight years between 1999 and 2007
      as well as several “Mr Kettles” in the subsequent ten years , John.

      Reply
  2. Michael Garriock

    Mr. Wills makes some good points, but its a shame those points are in danger of being overlooked by turning the letter in to an exercise in pointless pedantry.

    Yes, from a pedantic point of view, all Scotland’s ferries are ‘internal’ and there’s no argument that they all should be financed in the in an equal and equitable manner, but that’s a gross oversimplification.

    The terminology currently used could be made much more descriptively accurate for sure, but regardless of what anyone chooses to call it or who finances it, clear water (pun intended) must be kept between currently so-called ‘external’ services, and ‘internal’ services.

    The former involves connecting island group(s) to the UK mainand, the latter connects island(s) within island groups, and regardless of what pedantic pigeon hole(s) are chosen, the realities and practicalities of transport between the mainland and island group(s) and transport between islands within a group are very different, and any attempt to amalgamate a mixture of both in one pigeon hole, and apply ‘one size fits all’ Holyrood default philosophy, will result in it being to the detriment of one or both services.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Wills

      I had a senior moment there: the Uig ferry gors to Harris, not Stornoway…

      Reply

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