"Western Ferries have never sought a monopoly".

In the Dunoon Observer, Friday 6th June 2007, a local association, Pier Pressure Group, stated; "Western is continuing to lobby ...to have the CalMac service stopped or restricted to a passenger-only vessel so that Western would have a total monopoly of the vehicle service".

Mr Gordon Ross (MD of Western Ferries) responded; "Western Ferries have never sought a monopoly".

In fact, Western Ferries were involved in several meetings and associated correspondence (2004 and 2005) with civil servants and successive ministers in the last Executive to discuss their "Users Charter", which Western made absolutely clear to the Executive was dependant on their becoming the "sole operator" of vehicle-carrying services Gourock-Dunoon (meeting 9th November, 2004) .

The meetings and correspondence were private and unpublicised, but I recently received confirmation of their existence and details of some of their content under a Freedom of Information request. Mr Gordon Ross was involved in all the relevant meetings and correspondence.

I have posted the documents here

What is worth noting is that these private meetings designed to create "sole operator" status for Western, overlapped with the period in which the previous Executive had publicly stated their intention to open up the route to competition by tendering the Calmac service.

There is no suggestion that CalMac knew about these meetings or correspondence or were party to them. Indeed there is not even a mention of CalMac in any of the documents, despite its management having previously put forward a proposal for a frequent low-cost vehicle-carrying service for its part of the route. It is as if that public service did not even exist, or was not going to exist.

Those interested can form their own opinion as to what was going on here from the records of the "User Charter" meetings and correspondence. For what it is worth, my own opinion is that it is less consistent with the previous Executive's publicly declared intention to create true competition on the Gourock-Dunoon market, more consistent with private decisions and processes designed to create a monopoly of vehicle-carrying for Western.

Neil Kay July 6th 2007