Letter published in Dunoon Observer 12th October 2007
Some questions on ferries
I received two ferry-related pieces of correspondence through the mail
last week. The first was from the constituency MP Mr Alan Reid with
a picture of him and his Leader Nicol Stephen in front of a CalMac ferry
in Dunoon. Mr Reid "called on the Scottish Executive to put the
route out to tender" (I presume he meant the Scottish Government).
The second piece of correspondence also featured Mr Stephen, this time
when he was Minister of Transport in the Scottish Executive. Apparently
I had not been given all the information on the "Users Charter"
meetings that the Scottish Information Commissioner had instructed I
be given as a result of my appeal under Freedom of Information legislation.
The fuller version of the record of one meeting between Mr Stephen,
SE (Scottish Executive) officials, Gordon Ross Managing Director of
WF (Western Ferries) and A&BC (Argyll and Bute Council) on 11th
August 2004 reads as follows;
"15. The Minister then attempted to summarise WF's position;
WF develop and get agreement on a tri-partite agreement between
WF, SE and A&BC, WF develop and get agreement on a Users'
Charter [Two bullet points omitted- information outwith scope of
request and redacted] Without the tri-partite agreement and
Users' Charter the SE and local users would be exposed to a monopoly
situation. 16. Gordon Ross confirmed the Minister's summary was an accurate
assessment of one possible outcome. The Minister indicated that the
Executive might still have to go through the tender process but that
the outcome he had just described was attractive. The Minister particularly
mentioned that he would welcome a Users' Charter".
While still Minister, Mr Stephen was to announce to Parliament the decision
to tender a few weeks later. As Western made clear in these meetings,
a "Users Charter" depended on Western being sole operator
of vehicle ferries Gourock-Dunoon. So the choice being discussed by
the Minister was between Western as sole operator or Western as monopoly.
As his Leader's representative in Cowal, perhaps Mr Reid could answer
What is the difference between Western as sole operator and a Western
Why were these two outcomes apparently the only ones being discussed
in these meetings?
Why did the Minister Mr Stephen say that the outcome he had just described
(which meant Western as sole operator) was attractive even though he
"might still have to go through the tender process".
Is there any reason why any company, including CalMac would be interested
in a tender for this route given the way it was mishandled last time?
Why should anyone other than Western Ferries listen to any advice Mr
Reid and his colleagues give as to when and how to tender these services?
Will Mr Reid answer these questions? Or, better still, will he invite
his Leader, Mr Stephen, the former Minister responsible, back to a public
meeting in Dunoon to answer them for himself?