“Local people are being used in a game of contractual brinkmanship”.
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has urged Argyll and Bute Council and the current provider of Islands air Service paid for by the Council to “step away from the brink” after the Council announced the service would be suspended for at least six weeks from mid-May following a failure to agree a new tender.
Mr Russell said:
“This is almost an exact repetition of the situation that arose in May 2015 when once again the Council said the service would have to be suspended as it could not agree a new tender.
On that occasion common sense in the end prevailed, after the affected communities of Coll, Tiree and Colonsay had made their extreme concern and anger known and after they had asked me to raise the matter in the Scottish Parliament.
Once again, however, it seems as if local people are being used in a game of contractual brinkmanship. It is likely that the difficulty remains the cost that the Council can pay, and the price that the contractor wants to receive. That should be a matter for discussion and negotiation and I would urge both sides to step away from the brink and ensure that a settlement is reached well before the expiry date of the current arrangement.
There are two additional elements that need to be understood and acted on. One is the fact that news about this matter was given to the media before islanders and their representatives were informed, which is in clear breach of the spirit of the Islands Act.
The second is that these services are lifelines and any threat to lifelines causes extreme worry in remote communities. There should have been no question of this situation arising given past experience and the management of the tender process has clearly fallen well short of an acceptable standard.
I have been in touch with the Council about this and have also written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport. I hope that a resolution can be found very quickly indeed.