Letter Printed in Dunoon Observer, 19th February 2010

Dear Editor

As of Monday 15th February the fate of the town centre ferry service was effectively sealed because that was the deadline for submission for tender bids or requests to participate for the replacement of the current service

You might be forgiven for not knowing this. After all, all government and local council representatives who might be expected to bang the drum to encourage strong bids for this tender have been about as vocal as a Trappist monk with laryngitis. But why be surprised when the actual announcement of the contract was made on New Years Eve, which could hardly be bettered if you did not want to invite interest and if you do not want any awkward questions from the media.

A previous editor of this paper, Bill Jardine, once said in these pages that I had a knack of making the right predictions as to what was going to happen next with the ferries. There was no mystery to this, just a matter of knowing what the vested interests are here.

I am not going to make any firm predictions, but I will point out some things that are likely now we are into the final stages regarding the town centre vehicle and passenger service

First, expect fast passenger ferry solutions once again, once more getting much publicity in the national press, and again as practical and as needed (and as long lasting) as all the fast passenger proposals that preceded them

Second, expect delays that will have the unfortunate effect of shunting as much of this process as is possible until after the Holyrood elections in May 2011, with probable extensions to the contracts of Jupiter and Ali Cat

Third, expect national and local government politicians to express “disappointment” when the exercise fails to deliver the modern vehicle-carrying ferry service the town centre route needs.

Fourth, expect some vested interests to question whether the public really wants a vehicle and passenger town centre service, despite all the evidence to the contrary

Fifth, (and this is a definite prediction), the national and local leaders who were quick to claim the credit for arranging this tender process (that is, Minister Stewart Stevenson and Council leader Dick Walsh) will refuse to accept the blame for any ensuing debacle.

Neil Kay