Ferry Services

Question Time — Scottish executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 2nd March 2000.

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Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat 2:30 pm, 2nd March 2000

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to ensure the future of the Campbeltown-Ballycastle route. (S1O-1257)

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The Scottish Executive has worked with the Scotland Office and project sponsors to develop a package of support which goes as far as possible within legal constraints. That package may be available to other operators.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

Is the minister aware of the anger in the local community, as expressed at a meeting in Campbeltown on Monday, about Sea Containers' decision to pull out?

Looking to the longer term, I ask for an assurance that everything possible will be done to ensure that a case is taken to Brussels for implementation of a public service order that would guarantee the long-term future of the Campbeltown-Ballycastle route and ensure that there is an operator who is willing to take it on and work to make it commercially viable.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I am grateful to George Lyon for reminding me of the concern that I know exists in the local community. We are keen to establish the opportunity for a public service order on this route. I understand that the Scotland Office and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions are actively considering that possibility. Great interest has been shown by the sponsors of this route and much energy is being invested in trying to resolve this issue.

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party

If the minister is indeed aware of the deep concern and anger of the people of Campbeltown about the last private operator who pulled out without giving the service a chance, will she give us a commitment today that the publicly owned and run Caledonian MacBrayne will be considered for that route? Is she aware of the view of at least one of the private sector operators that might take over the route that the option of CalMac taking over would be the right one, as

"Caledonian MacBrayne are the best suited to run this route"?

Will she take that on board, along with the fears of the people of Campbeltown, and give us a commitment that CalMac will be considered?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

It would be open to CalMac to consider the route if it wanted to. It is not a lifeline service, so it would not be covered by the sponsorship of the Scottish Executive. However, out of a range of options for route operators, CalMac is clearly one that could be considered.