To ask the Scottish Executive what reasons are emerging for the lack of bids to provide a ferry service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle from its investigation into the matter and what steps it will now take to establish this economic artery. (S2O-9206)
We are examining the feedback that has been received and considering whether there is a feasible and practical way forward within the terms of the current tendering process. We are also in close touch with our colleagues in Northern Ireland.
As I have said, I recognise and well understand the strong feeling locally that we should look seriously at any possibility that has been brought to our attention, to ensure that all the options under the tendering process have been considered. We will make further information about our position available as soon as we can.
Given its vessel availability, its involvement with Pentland Ferries and its experienced personnel, will Dalriada Shipping be included in the options that the Executive considers? Will the process include an evaluation of the negative effect that non-fulfilment could have on the population and on economic activity? Will we see a justified reconciliation of the subsidy that is paid on the route to bolster the local economy with the subsidy that is paid on other routes, such as those that NorthLink Orkney and Shetland Ferries serves?
The short answer is yes. As I said, any option that we can consider within the procurement rules that we must follow will be examined. I assure Mr Mather that any particular company will be taken into account in that exercise, subject to those caveats.
I take the point about the disbenefits of not having—or the economic advantages of having—the link. We take that into account seriously when considering what can be done to promote the economic viability of the Kintyre peninsula. Mr Mather advanced an argument by making a comparison but, as he well knows, comparisons