Call for "Rebate" from the Commission by Tavish Scott MSP
In my submission to the Parliament on its ferry inquiry April 2008, I said
That was an attempt to allow us to look ahead rather than get bogged
down in recriminations as to who is responsible for the present mess that
has led to a formal investigation by the European Commission here. I have
to say that I had one particular former Minister in mind when I said that,
and that was Tavish Scott who was the Minister presenting the proposals
to tender CalMac to Parliament 14th
September 2005 when he and colleagues misrepresented my views on the
issues - as some other MSPs correctly observed and stated at the time
in that debate.
I think my statement in the submission above could be regarded as generous given the treatment of me by Mr Scott and his colleagues in that debate when I was given no chance to defend myself.
But rather than show appropriate humility and accept due responsibility for the present situation, he is now publicly creating the impression that all this was the Commission's fault. The BBC reports Thursday 17th April that
I think some clarification is needed at this point
First, Tavish Scott portrayed the Commission bogeyman to scare MSPs into voting for his proposal in the Parliament debate. He said at the time
Second, Tavish Scott as responsible Minister in the CalMac debate was basing his dismissal of my own proposal on a document released by his department just before that debate where it said in consideration of my proposal
Third, Tavish Scott as Minister responsible, stated in a parliamentary answer, June 13th 2006;
On the first point, I said at the time, and have continued to say since (most recently in my Submission of 15th April), that there was no suggestion that these services would be terminated or interrupted as a consequence of any Commission investigation. That has since been confirmed by the Commission in their Press Release confirming their formal investigation where they explicitly say;
On both the second and third points, Commissioner Barrot responded on behalf of the Commission in an answer as to whether public service obligations were needed for subsidised ferry services 6th October 2006;
In short, contrary to all that Mr Scott implied, there is no threat from the Commission to the continuance of these services, and public service obligations (PSOs) and Altmark are both not only relevant, but central to defending and promoting subsidised ferry services.
Mr Scott as responsible Minister at the time of the CalMac debate (September 14th 2005) may have had some excuse in so far as he was acting under advice, though that still does not excuse the systematic and unjustified trashing of my arguments and those of my other two colleagues from Glasgow and Edinburgh universities under his leadership in that debate.
But Mr Scott now has no such excuse since the points about Altmark and the need for PSOs have been made very clear, not just by myself (eg see here), but by the Commission.
In fact, in wrongly suggesting that a Commission investigation could lead to the suspension or cessation of these lifeline services, in wrongly rejecting the central relevance of Altmark, in wrongly rejecting the need for PSOs, all that while he was the responsible Minister in that crucial debate in 2005, then if there is one person who could probably be said to be mainly responsible for the circumstances that led to the Commission's Decision to launch a formal investigation here, that person is Mr Scott. If he clearly did not understand then (and apparently still do not understand now) the basic mechanisms through which you comply with EC law in this context, is there any wonder that the Commission wishes to check that you have adhered to EC law here?
If you built a house and say the published building regulations are irrelevant, should you be surprised if the inspectors decide to call, and if they do, whose fault is it? Well, Altmark and PSOs are the equivalent of building regulations for EC subsidised ferry services.
His call last week that "If it turns out that (the Commission) didn't like that process and they subsequently decide we shouldn't have done that, then I'll be looking for a cheque payable to Scottish taxpayers." would be laughable at the best of times. If view of the seriousness of the situation that has been created, it is beyond being funny, it is a provocative and potentially very dangerous statement to make. And in view of the responsibility that Mr Scott bears for all this, I will leave other to find appropriate adjectives and nouns to describe his past and present behaviour in this context.
Neil Kay April 22nd 2008