Is the tide turning in favour of a bridge across the Kyles of Bute? That certainly seems to be the case among the people hoping to be Argyll and Bute’s next MSP - none of whom rejected the idea out of hand this week.
Asked at The Buteman’s hustings by audience member Duncan McAlister, of Kerrytonlia farm near Kingarth, for a straight yes or no answer on whether they backed the idea of a fixed link, two of the candidates in next month’s poll gave a simple ‘yes’ in response - the SNP’s Michael Russell and the Conservatives’ Donald Cameron.
Labour candidate Mick Rice said he, too, favoured a bridge linking Bute with the mainland, but added: “I would prefer to check first whether it would be best between Colintraive and Rhubodach or between Port Bannatyne and Ardyne.”
Only Alan Reid for the Liberal Democrats remained determined to hedge his bets - but only insofar as he said he favoured the community being consulted first.
Mr Reid, though, also had a warning for those who yearn for a day when access to and from Bute is freed from the whims of the weather, when he said: “If the wind is strong enough to put the Colintraive-Rhubodach ferry off, it would probably close a bridge too.”
Mr McAlister posed his question in the context of the crisis facing the island’s dairy farmers, pointing out that they had lost out on a contract with the major Scottish dairy firm of Graham’s in Bridge of Allan, having been unable to give a cast-iron guarantee of a milk delivery every day because of their island location.
Back in February the first report published by the new Argyll and Bute Economic Forum stated the idea of a bridge should be “seriously considered”, while the forum’s chairman, Nicholas Ferguson, told The Buteman he believed it would be a mistake to dismiss the idea out of hand.