Reports that CalMac stands ready to take over the Gourock to Kilcreggan ferry service are welcome.
The ferry is a lifeline public service and, as such, it should be in public hands, owned and operated by government.
Back in 2017, I spoke in the Scottish Parliament about the disruption caused by the failure of Clydelink to honour its contractual requirements with SPT. Disruption on both sides of the Clyde. Disruption to communities already at risk of depopulation on the Rosneath peninsula, in need of a good reliable ferry service make shops and services like the IRH accessible to them.
Disruption to the tourism industry. Disruption to businesses. Disruption to workers who commute every morning from Gourock to naval bases and defence jobs on the Clyde, many who live in the Inverclyde area.
At the time, I observed that it was unusual for SPT, instead of Transport Scotland, to be responsible for a ferry contract of this kind. I also argued that it was unacceptable that contractual requirements should have been so readily ignored by the operator.
Services have improved since Clydelink had the contract taken from them. But the fundamental question of where responsibility for lifeline ferry service should lie had not been resolved. Now, if reports are accurate, the public sector will not just become a commissioner of the Kilcreggan service, but the provider too. And in a mark of how important the route is, it seems calls for the ferry to be taken over by Scotland’s transport agency have been successful.
It is not fair that the burden of providing a lifeline service should fall to an overstretched and underfunded local transport authority like SPT. All around Scotland’s coast-ferry services of national importance are the responsibility of Transport Scotland and central government should not be allowed to avoid their responsibility to users of the Kilcreggan service.
Hopefully, we are at a turning point for the Gourock to Kilcreggan ferry and communities on both sides of the crossing will now have access to a reliable service they can depend on all year around.