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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to drag defeat from the jaws of victory

The political fallout from the cask-handed and panicked decision to extend RET to the Western Isles is causing even more problems for a Government and Minister who should be sitting back and expecting plaudits.

The goal posts have been changed again, and suddenly no-one is happy about any aspect of the decision.

Quoth the Minister:
However, Mr Stevenson said the Western Isles needed the road equivalent tariff (RET) scheme due to lower wages and a falling population.
His comments coincided with the end of a ferries review consultation.
Mr Stevenson told BBC Radio Scotland that Shetland residents had weekly earnings that were on average £70 higher than in the Western Isles and in Orkney it was some £50 higher.
So is eligibility for RET now to be determined on the basis of household income in the island group?

The Minister continued:
It is absolutely clear that investment in the Western Isles is investment to support the economy and the future of these islands.
 Now, no-one can argue with that.  Especially the corollary of that which is that the remove of RET would undermine the future of the islands.  Which begs the question of why that might even be on the agenda as part of the fares review.  If the Government were serious about supporting the islands, we wouldn't have a hand-to-mouth year-by-year policy for RET, as that doesn't encourage investment or long-term planning.

Indeed, as I have previously argued, the timescale for the 'pilot' is far too short to make a sensible decision.

Year 1, few know about it. Year 2, the problems issues start to arise; Year 3, the position starts to stabilise and you can start an assessment; Year 4 of a 5 year policy would give you a sensible base on which to form a strategy; Year 5 is for an early decision.

The review came too late and too near the election for anything to be decided and implemented before this time next year, meaning uncertainty for all.

And even the SNP's guru on CalMac, Prof Neil Kay, a resident of Cowal, has very sharp words to say:
What has clearly happened is that the public relations horror and electoral disaster that the RET pilot has stored up for the Government has finally dawned on someone in Edinburgh.
ferry fail
No, I am not talking about the public relations horror and electoral disaster that it will create for it in Argyll and Bute, that has already happened. I am talking about the public relations horror and electoral disaster that it would create for it in the Western Isles where this “experiment” has already cost £22mill.
The RET pilot was due to end Spring next year. The penny finally dropped that Calmac will introduce their Summer timetables around end of March and that as things stood the end of the RET pilot would mean the Summer timetables would have to show a doubling of many of the current fares back up to their pre-RET levels – just weeks before the Holyrood election in May.
Of course there may be reasons other than defering electoral trauma as to why the Government is spending an extra £6.5mill on Western Isles to extend the RET pilot there by another year. If anyone has any other rational explanations it would be good to hear them.
With a flagship policy causing your friends to have a go, the competency levels are demonstrably low.


Anonymous said...

Well with the pending cut about to lay waste to basic services, and the withdrawal of RET after the election, looks like it might be game over. The nonsense is, of course RET will have a positive effect, thats why it is employed all over the EU, or at least some form of subsidy to make travelling affordable. It is typical of UK politicians to endlessly twiddle with deck chairs. Transport to all islands should be made affordable and kept affordable - no debate necessary, not even any brains required.

ferrylouper said...

Every other island group in Europe (including Orkney and Shetland) benefit from a substantial residents discount (also available to family on the mainland).

I am pleased that the SNP recognised that our ferry fares were disproportionately high, but very disappointed they did not simply apply a residents' discount. The benefit to islanders would have been greater and the cost to the public purse would have been less.

No matter what the cost to visitors, the residents should be entitled to a discount as is the case everywhere else. Even the visitors expect it!

Anonymous said...

It is the height of absurdity to argue that because people in the Northern Isles earn 'on average' £60 or £70 more than those in the Western Isles, this means that those in Orkney, for instance, should not receive RET.

These figures are easily distorted. A few millionaires who live in, say, the fish-rich island of Whalsay can alter the average earnings of a small community considerably. The fact remains is that there are single mothers or families with low income in Lerwick, Kirkwall, Stromness and Scalloway - even Port Ellen in Islay. Why should they not receive the same rights and political pay-offs as their counterparts in Stornoway? Neither logic nor justice can justify the inequalities of the present scheme.

Besides, Mr Stevenson has done all this before, trying to cut the subsidies on the Northern routes for his party's political gain.

In most cases, experience teaches fools.

Not apparently in the case of the Scottish Minister of Transport.

Anonymous said...

I doubt if the average wage on Islay, Colonsay and Mull is less than in the Western Isles. Anyway, Neil Kay is right. The key point is that there is no guarantee of this electoral bribe to the Western Isles extending beyond the Holyrood elections.That is why the "exension" is for only one year. How cheaply can we be bought?

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