Michael Russell, the MSP for Argyll & Bute, has welcomed the announcement by the Scottish Government of major enhancements to the ferry services on the West Coast of Scotland from next summer.
Mr Russell said :
“These announcements are very good news. Not only has the Scottish Government honoured its commitment to introduce RET across the Hebridean and West Coast routes in this Parliament – a task that will be completed next month when Bute and Mull join the scheme – and recently commissioned two new vessels but it is now signalling its intention to go on investing and improving ferry services for the benefit of our island communities.
Mull has been waiting for a long time for a timetable that would make doing daily business between the island and the mainland a realistic proposition. I have been involved with a number of groups who had wanted an early morning service and the use of two vessels and the increase of 50 crossings a week will go a long way to ensuring that the island can take advantage of the short link to Oban. I am sure that Cal Mac will also want to work on better reliability on the route given the high level of cancellations over the last year but if that can be sorted then the new opportunities allied with the reduction in costs from RET from this October will be a major boost to the island economy.
The increase in sailings for Coll, Tiree and Colonsay will also be very welcome. The success of RET has meant that some summer sailings to Coll & Tiree have been difficult to book for weeks in advance and greater capacity will allow greater flexibility and better opportunities for visitors and residents alike. Colonsay has been hit hard by cancellations this year with some severe difficulties in terms of reliability of vessels so once again if reliability can be improved alongside new services and RET this will be hugely beneficial.
Two significant areas of concern remain. Islay has also had significant problems with ferry reliability this year and the island is very concerned about any possible erosion of the overall capacity on the Kennacraig route which requires not just two vessels but two large vessels. Islay is not only a tourist destination it also produces a very substantial amount of whisky and has a strong agricultural trade. There must be a commitment to that route and improvements on it and I shall continue to press the issue.
The people of Kintyre are also keen to get a firm commitment to the continuation of the Ardrossan service which has just completed its three year pilot phase. It has worked well but a more flexible timetable is needed to fit in with the realities of holiday lets and the needs of local people and I am glad that the Minister has agreed to meet a delegation from Campbeltown led by Cllr John Armour in October. I hope he will have good news for the area. “