A delegation from Bute travelled to Edinburgh this week to discuss the cost of travelling to the island with Scotland’s transport minister Keith Brown.
Mr Brown agreed to meet the Bute group, which included all three of the island’s Argyll and Bute councillors and local business representatives, after a petition protesting at the high ferry fares to and from the island, and containing more than 2,400 signatures, was given to the Scottish Government last year.
The Scottish Government has promised to bring fares based on road equivalent tariff (RET) to Bute within the lifetime of the current Scottish Parliament, which runs until May 2016, but many other islands have already been given a definite date for the introduction of RET – Islay, for example, has had RET fares since last October, while Arran will benefit from lower fares from October 2014 onwards.
One member of the Bute delegation, Jean Moffat, who until recently was a director of the island’s tourism and marketing organisation VisitBute, told The Buteman: “We stressed the iniquity of half the Clyde getting RET when we are in a horrendous position: every hotel but one is up for sale, all the businesses that haven’t closed are up for sale, and to put us in a position where it is cheaper for an hour’s sail to Arran than a half-hour sail to Bute will decimate our already fragile tourist industry.
“I felt the civil servants from the ferries division were more amenable and open to what we were saying. All you get from the minister is ‘financial constraints, financial constraints, financial constraints’.
“We pointed out that if the SNP gets its way and Scotland votes for independence, Scotland will be paying for its unemployed – and there will be a great deal more unemployment on Bute in 2016 than now.
“I don’t think the situation is going to get a lot better. But it did make me determined to keep on battering away at them. We can’t just sit back and wait for something to happen – we have to go out and make it happen.
“I don’t see us as moths throwing ourselves at a candle flame. We’re more like a Chinese water torture, aggravating the situation to the point where someone might just say “get them out of my hair”.”