Argyll & Bute Council pushes for ferry transfer

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Argyll and Bute Council is to continue to look to transfer four of its ferry services to a Scottish Government agency.

The local authority is looking to pass on its ferry services at Easdale, Lismore, Luing and Jura to Transport Scotland. And members of the council’s policy and resources committee agreed last week to refer the decision to the full council, due to meet next on June 27. The committed also agreed to “consider how the issue should continue to be escalated”.

Councillor Roddy McCuish (Oban South and the Isles) said: “It emphasises how urgent it is to get on with this. Shetland and Orkney ferries get £20 million and we don’t receive a penny.

“This is to the detriment of other services that we have to do this.

“Given that Transport Scotland have had everything in place since 2017 and we are no further forward, we really have to escalate this.

“Some ferries have to be replaced in the next two to three years, and that will cost us even more money.

“So it is a worry for the whole council.

“We are not being unreasonable; we are just asking for a fair crack of the whip.”

And Councillor Sir Jamie McGrigor added: “Argyll and Bute is not a statutory provider of ferries, but it is costing us at least £1 million a year.

“Other authorities are getting paid large sums of money and I think overall the Scottish Government realises a reduction in council budget has consequences.

“Why not subsidise something which is a responsibility of the Scottish Government, and a cost to ourselves, because it reflects on other services?”

A council report said that there was a shortfall of around £1 million for the four ferry services, which the council is currently subsidising.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Argyll and Bute Council remains responsible for the delivery of its internal ferry services, but we recognise the challenges the council faces in sustaining ferry operations.

“We are committed to finding a funding solution for Argyll and Bute Council from 2020/21 and onwards, as part of the negotiations of a transfer of responsibility of the council’s ferry services to Transport Scotland, and we continue to have constructive engagement with the council to that end.”