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The leader of Argyll and Bute Council secured a ‘sympathetic’ response to the area’s need for ferry funding, when she took Argyll and Bute’s case to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands.
In a meeting held on Tuesday January 28, Councillor Aileen Morton raised the funding and service issues affecting ferries across Argyll and Bute, with Paul Wheelhouse MSP.
Councillor Morton said: ‘Argyll and Bute has the highest number of inhabited islands of all of Scotland’s councils. Ferry services therefore play a key part in keeping our communities connected, and in ensuring Argyll and Bute can support the national economy.
‘The Scottish Government provides support for ferry services in other parts of Scotland. Argyll and Bute deserves the same kind of support.
‘This is a fantastic area, with award-winning businesses and people, and huge growth potential for our local and wider economies.
‘We are working hard to raise understanding, at all levels, of Argyll and Bute’s challenges and opportunities.’
The focus of the discussion was the need for funding to support the ferry services currently operated by the council, including the need for capital funding to replace the Lismore ferry. However Councillor Morton and chief executive Pippa Milne also raised other ferry-related issues such as the wish for more sailings to Mull, increased capacity for Islay, improvements to the Dunoon town centre service and resilience for the main Rothesay service.
Councillor Morton gave a cautious welcome to Tuesday’s meeting: ‘We arranged this meeting as another opportunity to stand up for Argyll and Bute, and I am pleased that our case received a sympathetic hearing.
‘What matters however is action. The minister confirmed his commitment last year to finding a funding solution for Argyll and Bute’s ferries. This is still to be identified.
‘Similarly, it was announced last week that there will be delays to the improvement works at the Rest and Be Thankful due to budget pressures. Argyll and Bute’s transport connectivity is crucial to its success and we need to see our aspirations matched by the Scottish Government.
‘I look forward to continuing discussions with the minister after next week’s Scottish Government budget announcement.’
Tuesday’s meeting comes a week after the council’s leader raised the challenges facing the area with Scotland’s Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy.
In the past week the council leader has also written to all party leaders pressing the case once more for a funding settlement from Holyrood that recognises Argyll and Bute’s unique challenges.