Council urges Transport Scotland to take on lifeline ferries

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Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy and Resources Committee has agreed to pursue the transfer of lineline ferry services currently being subsidised by the council with £1 million, including the one between Islay and Jura, to Transport Scotland.

The provision of lifeline ferry services is the statutory responsibility of Transport Scotland. These small services were likely to have been operated by Strathclyde Regional Council and were taken over by Argyll and Bute Council when the single-tier authorities came into being.

As well as the Islay to Jura route, the other ferries currently operated by the council are Easdale to Seil, Lismore to Port Appin and Luing to Seil.

The council receives some funding, through grant-aided expenditure (GAE), for ferry services but there is a shortfall of around £1 million once passenger fares have been taken into account.

In 2018-19, Orkney and Shetland received £10.5 million of support from the Scottish Government for operating island ferry services and a similar amount has been made available for 2019-10. Argyll and Bute has not received a similar payment to date, despite being home to 23 inhabited islands.

Discussion with Transport Scotland over the operation of these services has been ongoing since 2013.

Councillor Roddy McCuish, policy lead for Roads and Amenity Services, said: ‘We are not asking for anything other than fair and equal treatment.

‘There is no doubt our island communities need these lifeline services and we will continue to provide them as we continue to make our case.

‘The reality is, however, Argyll and Bute is one of the three local authorities in Scotland to see the largest reductions in funding allocations since 2013/14. Subsiding these lifeline ferries puts increasing pressure on other essential services.’