It is going to be extremely serious for some businesses that are trying to thrive, and is a set-back for inter-island trading.
The Council are absolutely right to be pushing for RET to be extended to all the ferries and not just island to mainland services, but one has to ask just what they have done to try and move this agenda forward over the past 4 years? Have there been any meetings with the Minister, the MSP or MP* about this? Has the Chair of Transport tried to use his political connections to try to make the case?
With the RET scheme up for renewal, did no-one think about lobbying the Minister to extend the scheme to its logical conclusion?
Anyone know what the MSP and MP (have been told to) think about the Comhairle's ambitions?
Obviously, this was an issue that the Council took forward at the community consultations. Wasn't it?
Well, no it wasn't.
The Councillors discussed the interim results from the consultation last week. The consultations haven't finished, so they are going to have to go through an update again before coming to any conclusions.
More that that, the Council launched an online survey (please, take part) in which you can outline your preferences, for many issues that didn't form part of the consultations that have already taken place, and omits some of the issues that have arisen.
I haven't found anything about inter-island ferries on the consultation, which poses all sorts of questions about the extent, relevance and purpose of the consultations.
Whilst it seems to be a great opportunity to let the public sound off, I am told that the remit and extent of options are very tightly controlled by the Council, and certain items are off the agenda. With the actual options available to be discussed by the public not fully known at this time, it seems more like a cosmetic exercise than a real consultation. Perhaps when the real menu of choices is provisionally selected by Councillors, then the public can be asked to have their say, before a final list is decided upon.
The public do not have the right of veto or compulsion over the decisions, but the absence of any suggestion of job losses is irking. Not that we want to see people sacked, but if the impression is that staff will be retained even if they have nothing constructive to do, it's only going to get the public's back up.
Returning to the initial subject. I am told that the current arrangements for hauling the waste from Balivanich to Stornoway are costs about 4 times what some hauliers say they could do the job for. This is partially due to vehicle choice, and partially the general overheads the Council has to carry. Perhaps this should be put out to tender to allow some of the hauliers who are going to suffer from the abolition of the subsidy a chance to recover some of the losses, whilst offering easy savings to the Council.
After all, operating and then moving into the private sector exactly is what was intended at the time the recycling service was set-up, and was a fundamental part of the strategy that was agreed by the Councillors. I should know, I helped design, approve, recommend and establish the service.
*I know that it's a reserved matter that doesn't affect the MP, but his press releases ignore this when he has something to say.