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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RET - a different take

This will be contentious, but I would like to put forward a proposal which I think could benefit from discussion, debate and argument.

How should RET be best structured to bring the greatest benefit to the islands?

Let's start with the given that we all want full RET for all the ferries; but the SNP Government are saying "No" to that.

Well, I'm coming around to the idea that as much as possible should be ploughed into the Commercial sector at the expense of the private traveller to lower the costs of basic foodstuffs, fuel, and other essentials, whilst making it more difficult for private individual to go to Inverness and spend their money in M&S or Primark, rather than in the local shops.

Absolutely no special volume deals for any haulier, and remove any practical barriers that are preventing mainland based hauliers competing on the islands.

5m commercials and buses qualify for the reduced fare, but not motor homes.



Anonymous said...

penalise the consumer, then leave us to the vagaries of Stornoway businesses (never merciful)and we don't even get a jaunt to Inverness, are you mad?

Anonymous said...

All ferries to all islands to be free and subsidised by the taxpayer. Like the Skye or Forth Road bridges which require continual maintenance, upkeep and repair.

RET at its simplest.

Anonymous said...

A tunnel to Benbecula and bridges over the Sound of Harris and the Sound of Barra. No ferries. RET at its simplest!!

Anonymous said...

So all the prices in the shops come down to show us that the savings are being passed on and then they all slowly go back up to what they were? All that will be achieved is that RET is taken away from the ordinary citizen and the tourists will stay away. Certain businessmen on these islands are already making fortunes (don't say they aren't) so why not give them some extra?

Anonymous said...

A very interesting idea, however a few points....

Not much fuel arrives via Calmac (coal, petrol, gas, etc?)
Travel is and always be more accessible.
Those who want to spend £ in Primark, M&S or Fortum& Mason will continue to do so, it's called the Internet.

However a interesting point. It reminds me of a pensioner that was grinning ear to ear as he could go across the Minch on an 'RET' fare and a 'free' bus ticket to Inverness when he was more than capable of paying his way. A good use of public money- I don't think so!

The delivery of ferry services is an absolute vital link in the future of the western isles and I've lost faith in either of our politicians in protecting these services for both the commercial & public sectors.

Iowa boy said...

That reads suspiciously like an election manifesto pledge... ;-)

Donald said...

Mr Nicolson’s view is correct – especially if you take the Scottish islands as a whole, which is, after all, what the RET scheme in the Western Isles was designed to pilot. (Have you all forgotten that?)

RET, as it’s currently practised, would be disastrous for the islands of the Firth of Clyde and Inner Hebrides. It would mean more and more visitors from the Central Belt to islands which simply do not have the infrastructure to cope, all seeking a cheap weekend away from their homes in the environs of Glasgow. This would entail the building of larger and larger ferries – largely empty for six months of the year – and also more and more holiday homes, where the hard-pressed solicitors of Scotland could refresh themselves during occasional stays, depriving locals of housing and making a bad situation worse. (Their car-boots would, of course, be full arriving on these shores. No income for the locals here either.) What would the economic benefit of this be? It would only multiply the negative effects of what is already happening throughout the Highlands and islands. For the benefit of a cheap weekend away, more and more island cash is going into the cash-tills of Inverness and Glasgow, ensuring that more and more jobs are created there instead of at home. No doubt this is welcome news for the transport spokesman of Highland Regional Council. For the more economically disadvantaged people of Lewis, Harris, Barra etc, I have my doubts!

Proper open, commercial RET has greater benefits. While some might warn of more profits for the businessmen of Stornoway, it might also in the long term encourage greater competition and private enterprise. I think the Scottish Government took a huge backward step when they withdrew it. By a single, thoughtless act, they made the future Scotland’s islands a lot more untenable and difficult.

Anonymous said...

Great Idea Angus !!??

Let's just cut to the chase. Ban all personal travel, stop tourism, put up some security fences and let the local businesses get all the benefits and reduce their prices (Ha!) so we're all much better off.

In fact nothing comes or goes off the Island unless in the back of a lorry.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with the thought in principle, however you are then going to have to set up some structure to ensure that shopkeepers do not use their monopoly to screw the public.

As for bleating that Stornoway is bad; you might want to spend some time-and money in Barra!

Anonymous said...

Good idea. The hauliers could then make some extra cash by loading up people's cars on the empty lorries returning to the mainland using the massively discounted RET fare each evening and dropping them at the old Mackaskills yard at Dalcross.
This would allow us a nice long lie before hoping onto the plane to Inverness, collecting our car and away we go!

Anonymous said...

Donald 9:31 - sounds like a jealous rant against those better off, more successful, more mobile than yourself. And a way to try and get back at them. What a bitter man you are; would you resent any of your relatives, friends, yourself being successful, getting on in life?

Or do you just want everyone around you to be poor, so you can permanently play the "Our community oppressed and downtrodden by the richer folk over the watter" card?

Bit pathetic, really. I feel sorry for you, and hope the people round you find inspiration, to aspire, from more positive people.

Donald said...

re - 1.35 pm

Sorry but it's contributions like yours that are 'pathetic'.

One can only wonder what gives you the right to second-guess people's motives and judge them in such a harsh and ill-considered way. It is contributions like yours that hamper both democratic debate and economic development within the islands. The place has no chance of being succesful if people are not allowed to be 'different' and express opinions opposite to your own instead of having their character assasinated when they do so.

At present, islander consumers are spending much of their income elsewhere (And I'm as guilty as anyone else of that!) With a reduction in RET for commercial vehicles, we could, if it were properly monitored and organised, be doing more to reduce the costs of goods on the island and encouraging jobs in places like Lewis, Harris, Uist.. Otherwise, we are harming ourselves in the long term.

Let's discuss the idea in a sensible, rational way instead of attacking your opponent's personality. Are you capable of doing that?

Dr Evadne said...

Discuss this: Our hard done by fuel retailers are sticking up their prices so that we will notice completely no difference when the 5p fuel discount is applied. Is anyone surprised by this? Its not profiteering, apparently. They are just covering their costs.

Anonymous said...


I can see the rationale behind some of what you say. But your resentment at visitors and non-islanders because, rather nakedly, they don't spend enough money here doesn't come over very nicely. The islands should market themselves as visitor-friendly, not as opportunistic visitor-fleecers.

Otherwise, visitors stop coming. Tourism income falls. "Emigration" and deaths far exceeds "Immigration" and births. The islands eventually die.

Remember these are public forums. A solicitor researching where to spend his holiday (and therefore his money) may choose to spend it on accommodation and food elsewhere, other than in Western Isles businesses, after reading your post and judging locals to be unwelcoming.

Donald said...

Re - 6.59

I must confess I don't accept the premise of your argument.I think a solictor who would put off coming to the islands because of a few comments in a blog would be one of extremely limited intelligence and excessive sensitivity. Neither I think are common characteristics of most members of the legal profession. Few wilting lilies would survive for long in that job.

Neither do I think that this is any argument for stifling democratic debate about the future of the islands.

Finally, while I mentioned solictors in this discussion, it was not motivated by either jealousy or resentment and I'm utterly bamboozled by the argument of anyone who might think this is the case.

Instead, I was referring to the number of holiday and weekend homes which - I am aware - already exist in the Inner Hebrides and the Firth of Clyde. For all that I understand why people enjoy their time living in them, they should not be any community's top priority. Instead, it should be the young, those with a family or wanting to live and work full-time on the island.

I come back to my main point... The present RET scheme is not going to help them very much wheras a properly monitored and developed RET scheme for commercial transport would definitely be in their interest.

Anonymous said...

"Absolutely no special volume deals for any haulier, and remove any practical barriers that are preventing mainland based hauliers competing on the islands."
Totally agree with above but subsidy should make cars/passenger travel affordable but allowing huge Motorhomes car rates is a very poor use of subsidy as the discount applied to all has made booking ferries essential as spaces are very limited now.

Extending car rates to <6m vans should help open up some competition for traders.

Anonymous said...

Just like the islands will never be able to offer wide enough career choices to stop people leaving, similarly the island shops cannot supply the diversity of goods people want these days. Living on the islands already demands some weighing up good and bad, restricting people will just tip the scales towards the bad.

Anonymous said...

Is it not time that everyone realised that the only solution to all this half baked attempt at delivering a fair RET provision is with a tunnel linking the island and the mainland. Its only about 12 to 15 miles and the technology has been proven for decades all over the world. Include the power connector for renewables as part of it for cost savings giving a better return for the investment. Then, we will all have a proper RET system in place which everyone has access to 24hrs a day, 7 days a week which will create a level playing field for sole traders, businesses, hauliers and the general public. This will remove all the middle men who may be dealing with conflicts of interest that are too difficult to deal with fairly.

Donald said...

Re - 6.59 pm

A footnote to my earlier point ...

Where on earth did you learn that emotive and personalised way of arguing? What makes you think that is acceptable in any rational form of debate?

Anonymous said...

Great idea.

Kill the tourist trade stone dead.

Anonymous said...


I have to agree with the other guy quite frankly.

Anonymous said...

Re - 2.11

As the lack of RET has seriously affected the number of visitors to Bute, Arran, the Orkney...? All of which have more visitors than the Western Isles...?

You serious?

Donald said...

Re - 2.11

Mull - with neighbouring Iona - would be another place that has a high level of visitors despite not having RET.

However, I'm not convinced that the interests of the occasional visitor or holiday home-owner should be central to this argument. Neither should those with relatively high incomes who enjoy an occasional weekend away.

Instead, it should be those who do most of their shopping in Stornoway, Lochboisdale, Stromness, Port Ellen, Lamlash etc and cannot really afford the cost of transport or Travel Inn in Inverness or Glasgow. Wouldn't properly controlled and organised Commercial RET not be best for them?

PS - Let's just ignore the whole car-transporter idea. It might work once but I can't see it catching on!

Anonymous said...

Does the comment about off island people owning most of the holiday homesand so driving up the cost of housing for locals stand up to scrutiny? From what I've seen many of the vacant houses are actually owned by islanders reluctant to get rid of them.

Anonymous said...

What is this nonsense that the affluent only go on holiday for an "occasional weekend", spend no money here, and bring all their food here?

We run a guest house. Our rates are not cheap, but not in the luxury price range. We rate highly on Trip Advisor and in guide books.

We feed them using food 100% bought locally. And damned good food it is too. We employ several local people. People who stay with us spend money in restaurants and cafes, shops and tourist places on the islands.

It's hard work, but enjoyable. The income keeps us here, and invariably we put most of it into the local economy.

I would like to see references to data concerning the lack of income spent by tourists, as it seems strangely the opposite to our experience, and to others in the local tourist industry. References to back up your point of view, please.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and also no "stop emotionally attacking me, you horrid debater" nonsense in reply. If you can't stand someone having a different point of view, or calling out your prejudices or lack of supporting facts, then grow up until you can.

Anonymous said...

CnES need to put a container ship on from Uig to Tarbert & Lochmaddy this would solve a lot of the SG/Camcal monopoly.

Donald said...

Re - 6.20

Let's have a look at the language you used since beginning this discussion. You opened with expressions like 'jealous rant', 'bitter', 'oppressed', and 'pathetic' and went downhill all the way from there. Clearly these are all words that are very conducive to reasoned discussion.

You second-guessed my motivation, asked for data while providing none yourself apart from your own personal experience, trumpeted out your own 'successes'...

And in the middle of behaving in that way, you somehow possessed an astonishing lack of of self-knowledge and told another individual to 'grow up'! Uhhh?

Think there are some discussions that are not worthwhile engaging in.

PS - Think it does not require any detailed analysis to point out that full time residents are better than weekend visitors and holiday home owners for the communal and economic life of any island township. It is clearly evident to virtually every individual, whether native or incomer, I have ever met who lives on a Scottish island. Can you supply any evidence that suggests otherwise?

Anonymous said...

Think it does not require any detailed analysis to point out that full time residents are better than weekend visitors and holiday home owners for the communal and economic life of any island township. It is clearly evident to virtually every individual, whether native or incomer, I have ever met who lives on a Scottish island. Can you supply any evidence that suggests otherwise?

St Kilda

Anonymous said...

The research done in 2006 estimated that 1,000 Full Time Equivalents are supported by tourism to the islands. Clearly both full time residents and visitors are needed..

"for the communal and economic life of any island township." (7.55)

Donald said...

Re - 11.03

A lovely response - but a trifle exceptional!

Donald said...

Re - 8.21

Yet there is a human story behind this. I met a couple in Tiree a few years ago who bemoaned the fact that their house was the only light on in their (rather large) part of the village in the winter months. All the other houses were now holiday homes. What is the psychological eeffet of this on people?

While there is little doubt that much of what you are now arguing is true, tourists do bring some jobs to the islands, they tend to be seasonal and short term. If commmercial RET was brought in and properly managed and monitored, there would be other type of jobs, ones that depend on the other resources found in Scotland's islands. There might also be an expansion of the retail trade, both to locals and mainlanders alike.

Another correspondent mentioned St Kilda - somewhat flippantly! On a more serious level, there does seem to be argument that its tourist trade did much to damage the fabric of community life. If people become over-dependent on it and too many houses go to weekend visitors etc, it seems to me that it has much the same, dispiriting effect on the community life of islands today.

PS - Glad to see that this is now what Angus wanted in the first place - a discussion on the topic. No hint of emotionalism ...

Anonymous said...

Donald trolled:

No hint of emotionalism ...

Apart from in your repeated, nasty, ill-informed and not backed up by any data - we're still waiting - comments about tourists, and the small number of people who have second homes here.

As has been pointed out to you by others now, which you've just ignored or diminished:

- tourism is a major employer here
- most of the empty houses here are owned by locals

Again - are you going to provide any data to back up your prejudices? Or are you going to carry on trolling? There's a sensible debate that could be started here about RET.

Anonymous said...

The tourism that RET brings can be very much a mixed bag.

This is the gist of an actual conversation overheard between three caravanning families who were on Barra.
First male: 'We have done very well, only spent £8:00 this week'', Male two ' oh that’s very good, I we managed on £15:00'', male three 'well we only had to spend £12:00, this is the kind of holiday that we need. I don’t care about the place much but its cheap!''

If you exclude their ferry fares that was a grand total of £35:00 into the local economy for a total of ten individuals. Now, if you take the cost to the local economy of removing their rubbish and detritus I think that you might find out that the local economy actually spent more than it got.
Further, one of these families was later seen dumping the contents of a chemical toilet onto the airport beach. A phone call to SEPA, who will doubtlessly deny having received it, was answered with 'what can we do? They will be gone before we can get anything done'.

Tourism is important, however it has to be the right kind of tourist. RET favouring caravans does little for the local economy primarily because most in their caravans do all their shopping long before they land on our shores. Many dutifully avoid honest boxes on croft sites so pay nothing for their sites.

Anonymous said...

I see this Donald person is continuing his one person anti-tourist campaign. Right; he claims:

"While there is little doubt that much of what you are now arguing is true, tourists do bring some jobs to the islands, they tend to be seasonal and short term."

Would you therefore explain, Donald, why we've had guest stay every week in the last year, and on more than a few days in October, November, December and January we've been at full capacity and turned down bookings?

As more and more visitors are finding, the Outer Hebrides are a stunningly beautiful place to visit in any and all season. The more this trend continues, the more year-round employment, businesses and services there will be, which is good for us all.

Anonymous said...


Your wasting your your breath, most lorry drivers are thick as mince :p

Anonymous said...

Tourism is important, however it has to be the right kind of tourist.

Yes! Agreed.

Donald said...

Re - 10.46

This is not an anti-tourist campaign. (You're personalising things once again and reducing the whole discussion to a tabloid headline.) As 11.29 and 10.39 point out, there are some tourists who contribute very little to the island economy - and, I would add, have a negative effect on the communal spirit that exists in such locations.

Besides, for all that I'm glad you're doing well, the vast majority of people are not going to survive on the income that tourism brings. It's much more complex than that. They need industry. They need to develop the human and natural resources that exist on islands in other ways. They need good reasons to spend the majority of their own money within their own communities rather than benefitting the shops of Inverness and Glasgow.

It seems to me that a proper commercial RET scheme - such as Angus pointed out in his initial introduction to this entire discussion - is a way of doing it. The part that the Scottish Government has just modified and altered is, in fact, the most crucial part of the service. The fact that they failed to monitor and think it through properly (and then abolish it!)is a tragedy for all the islands - not just the Western Isles, but also Orkney, the Innner Hebrides and the islands of the Firth of Clyde...

Anonymous said...

Donald the troll said - in the same paragraph:

"This is not an anti-tourist campaign ... and, I would add, have a negative effect on the communal spirit that exists in such locations."

No references, as usual. Continue trolling away with your anti anyone-but-islanders hate speech. It's all you can do, Donald.

Donald said...

Re - 2.05

At least I'm not reduced to name-calling - or telling people to grow up when, judging by your language, you're in the final throes of adolescence.

I refer you to this link. It tells of the tensions that are going on in one Hebridean island between those tourists driving camper vans and locals; the owners of weekend and holiday homes and those resident on the island. With the current form of RET, this strife has increased.

Commercial RET - in a modified form - would not have the same negative effects, but encourage industry and enterprise on the islands.

Anonymous said...

@ Donald wheres your toosers

There's a wiff of a die heard labourite about you sir !

Anonymous said...


@2:32 here.

I did not tell you to "grow up". I think you will find there is more than one person here who disagrees with your tirade.

Speaking of which, the link you gave in your continuing anti tourist / weekender / holiday home owner campaign is to anti windfarm campaign.

Donald said...

Re - 5.02

Read it. It bears ample witness to the tensions that exist between the two groups on one of the islands of the Inner Hebrides ...

Just as opinion here seems to be more accurately divided than you think.

Re - 3.57

It's so much easier to label rather than do any thinking about the issues, retreating behind the barriers of whatever tribe we belong to. It's one of the saddest aspects of the Western Isles. I think it's the case that even Angus MacNeil MP's first response to the withdrawal of commercial RET was to regard it as a disaster. His insight and his honesty in saying this should be welcomed by everyone in the Western Isles. He showed real understanding of the issues involved ...

Donald said...

Re - 10.37

RET is not intended to be limited to the Western Isles...

As far as I understand it, RET there was a 'pilot scheme' which is now to be rolled out elsewhere to other islands. Some of them have a major issues with both second homes and motor homes.

Anonymous said...

Proof that it wasn't just Labour supporters who were against the removal of Commercial RET. Read the first sentence ....

Anonymous said...

Donald! Where's you troosers?

Dr Evadne said...

Its down to folk to exploit these cheapskates:

Set up proper sites for them to hook up to and pay armed guards to patrol the beaches to see off the great unwashed. Make them pay to park up and it will either stop them or encourage them in their droves. Either way its a result. And if they do buy all of their shopping here (which some of them do), what are the rest if us supposed to eat? Most of the time there is sod all in the supermarkets so its fine by me if they want to bring their own bog roll with them. Enough already.

Anonymous said...

@Donald where's yer troosers

Ahh, one of Stalin's little helpers. Your party fought against RET been established initially, as usual Liebour Scotland don't give a stuff about the country and just play to the tune of your Westminster pay masters. You were found out at the last election, hopefully your horrible lot never get back into power, you were a disaster for Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole.

Anonymous said...


Some of them have a major issues with both second homes and motor homes.

That's interesting. I own a second home on the isles. We use it several times a year, and let friends and other relatives use it. Us, and them, do our shopping there. Local people service the place (more income) and two local builders maintain it and fix stuff (yet more income coming from the mainland to the islands).

Also, there's the six figure sum paid to the previous owners (local). Overall, rather a significant sum of monies going into the local economy.

But, on either side, there are two empty houses owned by locals. Both haven't been lived in for years in one case, decades in the other. On this island the number of empty houses outnumbers the number of holiday homes by 5:1 - a figure tabulated by concerned locals.

That's where the real problem is. More housing stock released by locals would make for more local housing for all (locals and non-locals). And the local building industry would get great benefits.

So, if you genuinely want to make yourself useful in terms of community improvement, lobby and argue for locals to release the large amount of crumbling housing stock they hold.

Anonymous said...

@12:06 PM

If only that was always the case of people moving to the Islands. You (and a few other decent folk) are the exception to the rule sadly.

Your point is valid though...unlike Donald McLabour

Anonymous said...

Re - 9.03

Unfortunately your talents are more Stalinist than anyone else here.

The smearing and name-calling. The attempt to stop all ideas that disagree your own by insults and not argument or discussion.

Pity us all if your lot ever get fully in charge.

Donald said...

Re - 11.06

Again, this is a rare example.

Go to other islands in the Inner Hebrides and the Firth Of Clyde and the locals cannot buy houses because of the numer of holiday homes, pricing them out of the market.

RET - in its current form - is set to make things worse for them. Best if it were given to commercial firms to encourage cheaper goods (all year round) and industry there.

It's just like MacNeil claimed. Its withdrawal was a backward step.

Anonymous said...

@4:29 PM

Hmmm, the way the polls are going and with Eddssh Milisshband's best efforts you'd better get ready for a lot of self pity.

Anonymous said...

Re - 8.59

Counting ...

chickens ...

... plucked.

I'm sure that empty barrels like you will do their best to dissuade people from voting SNP.

Anonymous said...

Now that the political mudslinging about RET has quietened down its useful to point out that the ferry is bust and stuck in port so what bloody use is RET anyway? Give us a tunnel!

Anonymous said...

Actually 5.10pm, this is a very good point. I can't see them ever digging a tunnel out here, but a couple of high speed, fit for purpose ferries might square the economics over this spat. To the haulage firms, I would have thought that the time their kit is spent sitting on a slow lumbering ferry or stuck in port or a combination of both, is what stacks up the costs. They must have to factor that in as a contingency when working out prices. So increased frequency of sailings and more reliable boats is a benefit to all. Or is that just too simple? I understand that tenders for the new and marvellous super ferry haven't even been issued yet. So yes, what is the point of RET when we have no ferries?

Donald said...

Re - 5.10

There is no chance of a tunnel.

If it was given to the Western Isles, there are many other islands that would demand the same. Orkney (already asking); Islay, Mull, the Inner Hebrides;
the islands of the Firth of Clyde.

What is most apparent from this discussion is how blunt an instrument RET is. Some would benefit. Others would not. It is only in the case of Commercial RET - properly monitored and controlled - that everyone in the islands could benefit.

Anonymous said...

Never mind the other islands wanting the same, just focus on what we need here, that is what the issue is. It is clear that the current form of RET was not budgeted properly and if I may say so, you do sound like someone from the government with that approach. A tunnel is very affordable, the price of building two ferries, which is what the government should now consider seriously. On the basis of your answer, since a third Forth Rd bridge is being build, does that mean we must have one as well because Skye already have theirs?

Donald said...

Re - 10.56

Unfortunately, any Government has to govern for all of the people of Scotland - including those on islands which do not vote SNP. Unfortunately, the present Government forgot this in the beginning and is now being forced to remember that the pilot scheme is designed to be spread out to other islands and this has major cost and other implications.

They are having to wake up to the fact that - as you say - the entire scheme was not budgeted properly. Nor was it properly monitored and controlled. This may mean that the whole notion of RET has to be adapted to local cicumstances not one catch-all idea. I personally think that in all islands, for instance, commercial RET has the greatest importance. If pproperly monitored, it can keep the cost of living on islands down.

Yet instead of this more flexible approach, you are insisting that this special relationship between the Western Isles and the Government continues with the building of a tunnel. How is that going to go down in Orkney? The SNP plan to win a seat there eventually. What is that going to do to their chances?

We have to stop this .... The only way the islands are going to have power in an independent Scotland (or any other structure) is if islanders speak with one voice. This current obsession with our own needs first and foremost is not helping us in the long run.

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, any government has to govern for all the people of Scotland, ......." is exactly why it is their responsibility to ensure that their constituents are looked after. The RET scheme was created specifically for the Western Isles because of its unique difficulties which the government are consistently failing to solve. Don't accept the one size fits all mentality you get from institutionalised policy making, year after year, where you see local politicians and councillor political affiliates falling into line or else their comfort zone will be removed. The real solution for the ills of the islands must be solved from within - a new approach to local government is required!

Donald said...

Sorry, 9.47

I thought the whole idea was to 'roll out' the RET scheme to other islands, which they're now doing to the Firth Of Clyde and Inner Hebrides.

Thought that was the basis of a pilot scheme.

Anonymous said...

The vision of 2007 is fading.