More than 2,400 names have been added to a petition calling on the Scottish Government to take urgent action to reduce the cost of ferry travel to and from Bute.
The petition, which was launched in mid-August, was to have been presented to Argyll and Bute MSP and Scottish Government minister Michael Russell in Rothesay on Monday afternoon - but bad weather prevented Mr Russell from attending the presentation in person.
His SNP colleague, Argyll and Bute Provost and island councillor Isobel Strong, said Mr Russell had been on Bute earlier in the day, but had a meeting to attend in Edinburgh on Tuesday, and had been advised that bad weather might stop him leaving the island.
Provost Strong and her Bute SNP colleague Cllr Robert Macintyre accepted the petition on Mr Russell’s behalf.Jean Moffat, one of the driving forces behind the petition, said: “We have gathered more than 2,400 signatures and I sincerely hope the Scottish Government will use this petition to address this island’s needs with all speed.”
Among the demands contained in the petition is that the Scottish Government revisit its commitment to introduce fares based on RET to Bute “within the lifetime of the current Scottish Parliament” - i.e. potentially as late as May 2016.
Mr Russell told The Buteman: “I am sorry I wasn’t able to be present. Unfortunately I had to leave early because of the weather problems.
“I am keen to meet the group again and my office will be making those arrangements. I am glad that Cllrs Strong and Macintyre were able to substitute for me.
“I am regularly in touch with the Transport Minister about all the ferry services in Argyll and Bute and I am very keen to ensure that the continuing roll out of RET takes in Bute as soon as practically and financially possible.
“There are also some other actions that could help and with local representatives I continue to put forward ideas such as cheaper fares for concession holders including those who could visit Bute on off-peak sailings. “All this is taking place of course against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts to the Scottish Government budget from the Conservative/Liberal coalition at Westminster.
“This year those cuts in revenue will total 11 per cent and in capital over 30 per cent. So there are constraints, which we we all need to recognise.”
Copies of the petition have been sent to Labour Highlands MSP David Stewart, chair of Holyrood’s public petitions committee, as well as to infrastructure minister Nicola Sturgeon and transport minister Keith Brown.