The groundswell of opposition over Bute’s place at the end of the RET ferry fares queue continues to grow if the letters page of our June 27 issue is any guide.
Also included in this week’s letters page are views on the advertising of things to do on Bute and the maintenance of a soon-to-be-replaced bus shelter in the centre of Rothesay.
If you’d like to add your thoughts to those which have appeared in print so far on any issue of Bute interest, just click on the email address at the top of this story. The deadline for letters to appear in our print edition is 5pm on Monday, although the earlier your letter is received, the better are its chances of being published. Please also remember that all letters submitted for our print edition require to be published with the author’s name and address.
Cost of travel is ball and chain for Bute
I would like to congratulate Andy Walters on highlighting the absurd situation of RET fares being introduced to Arran before Bute. However, this is only part of a much larger problem - the cost of getting to and from Bute and the effect on the overall economy of the island.
For many years my wife and I have holidayed on the Isle of Harris, experiencing first-hand the great effect that the introduction of RET has had on the economy; the island’s tourism activity has been transformed!
We now have to book accommodation months ahead, rather than as before, when a week or so before arrival would give sufficient time. The number and quality of cafes, restaurants, B & B and self-catering accommodation has increased markedly, and since RET was introduced, passenger numbers have increased 14 per cent and vehicles by 26 per cent.
If one applies to Bute the RET fare calculations now used on the 23 mile Uig to Tarbert crossing, a return ticket for Wemyss Bay to Rothesay for two adults and car would cost £21.36 (currently £51.60). A family of four without a vehicle would pay a total of £9.39 (currently £25.80) for the round trip!
Initiatives to improve Rothesay and the island as a whole, both past, current and planned, are very welcome, but only part of what is required to regenerate Bute. Unless the cost of getting to and from the island is also addressed, such well-meaning initiatives will not achieve the economic regeneration of Bute.
The rail and transport links to Wemyss Bay place over a million people less than an hour from the ferry terminal, providing excellent easy access to the ferry for foot passengers. However, how many families are deterred from taking the crossing for the day on learning of the return cost?
On the whole we have a good ferry service which generally works well. This service though should be an integral part of the island’s activity to attract more visitors.
The mid-morning sailings to Rothesay and the evening boats from Rothesay, which are often significantly below capacity, could introduce imaginative and creative ticket pricing to encourage visitors to use the service, as implemented by train operators. It costs the same to operate a vessel whether full or empty, and with the annual passenger numbers less than 20 per cent of the capacity of MVs Argyle and Bute, there must be plenty of opportunity!
The entrepreneurial flair and capability of the island’s business community is as good as anywhere else, but unless action is taken to realistically price the cost of transport to the island, our ferry costs will continue to be the ‘ball and chain’ limiting the economic potential of Bute.
What appears to be an arbitrary decision by the Scottish Executive to introduce RET to Arran a full year before it is introduced to Bute, is unjustified and will further disadvantage this island.
Tony Harrison, The Huf Haus, Ascog
MP outraged over SNP claims on RET
I was outraged to read SNP councillor Isobel Strong (Viewpoint, June 13) trying to divert attention by referring to the events of several years ago. When the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition took office in 1999, we decided that improving the ferry infrastructure was the priority. We provided the money for two new ferries for Bute and the new Rothesay linkspan and development of the pier area.
Both parties in that coalition had put a ferry fares discount scheme, which applied equally across all islands, in our 2007 election manifestos. However, the incoming SNP Government used the money earmarked for that discount scheme to introduce RET to the Western Isles in 2008. Six years of SNP rule later, Bute is still waiting.
I hope that Councillor Strong will sign the petition and campaign for RET for Bute now, instead of diverting attention with her distorted version of history.
Alan Reid MP (Liberal Democrat, Argyll & Bute), 95 Alexandra Parade, Dunoon
Bute needs to market itself better
I read in The Buteman that concern had been shown about the decline of Bute. Thank goodness! I was beginning to think that no one cared.
I was born in Rothesay and return frequently and I have noticed this decline.
As one of your commenters said, getting to the island is extremely expensive but when you do get there, there is no evidence of things to do.
The Discovery Centre do their best but have very little information on local events. The Buteman, I would have thought, would have an ‘events page’ but again, very little apart from past events. [Ed: We do have a ‘Coming Events’ column, and regularly feature previews on upcoming events - when organisers advertise them!]
Last year I went to a Highland dance competition and thoroughly enjoyed it, but the advertising was very poor. This year I heard at the last minute about the Corn Potato String Band playing at Craigmore Bowling Club: I went, and it was great. Why isn’t there more of the local type of music? A ceilidh would be brilliant and visitors would love it too - if advertised properly they would flock to it.
Come on Bute, you are a beautiful island, badly marketed, but I know it is possible to turn things around. I look forward to next year when I visit to see if anything has changed.
Lesley Bowler, 2 Sovereign Drive, Botley, Southampton
Bus shelter’s lack of maintenance
With the advent of a nice new shelter in Guildford Square (hopefully, although it always appears to be mentioned in the singular, there are two shelters) at an estimated £30,000, the replacement(s) will be better looked after than the original(s).
I retired back to Bute in 2004 and I noticed that there were quite a few panes of glass missing then and - hang your head in shame, Argyll and Bute Council - these panes are still missing. Where has the maintenance budget gone? I can only remember one or two side panes in the large shelter being replaced. Also, I have been reliably informed there has been no paintwork carried out since their installation in 1991 - again, where has the maintenance budget gone?
There appears to be a new garden growing along the central gutter of the large shelter, and although we are attempting to improve the town as part of the Bute in Bloom campaign, elected councillors have told me that they, in turn, were informed by officials that it was impossible to clean the outside of the roof. Rubbish!
I have been told by another council employee that the council used to clean this regularly. This cannot be classed as a health and safety decision as it does not require anyone climbing on to the roof.
There is also very little cleaning, apart from daily brushing, of the floor inside. I am still willing to show anyone, councillors, officials and users how easily it is to keep this type of amenity clean.
The large shelter has regularly been abused and the windows vandalised by mindless locals smearing them with some sort of greasy substance.
This can be addressed by the permanent removal of existing slatted seating (I have been informed that these are getting cleaned and reinstated) and the installation of long, narrow single strip fittings now used in many bus shelters.
Iain Gillespie, 37 East Princes Street, Rothesay