Sunday 17 August 2014

Subsidized Scottish ferries- half a century of Government involvement.

The argument that the IOS should get Govt help with transport costs like the Scotland isles is often countered by the assertion that Scottish subsides are the result of the new Scottish Government and that London would never counternance such largess.  In reality the Government in London has been subsiding routes to isolated Scottish islands for half a century.  Read on for the details.

Subsidies for transport links between the IOS and the mainland are a hot topic given the very high cost of travel to the IOS and the limited ferry service that runs only 7 months of the year using a ferry now 37 years old. The peculiar situation has arisen where despite islanders and visitors clamouring for better and less expensive transport services, the tourism based economy faltering, and the Government neither ruling in nor ruling out subsidies in the future, the IOS Council in the last two years has spoken out against subsidies for passenger services albeit with diminishing credibility and confidence given the granting of a Public Service Obligation for the London – Newquay air route (here) and a lacklustre (if not humiliating) performance in front of the Parliamentary Transport Committee in March 2014 (see here).

One of the specious justifications offered by the IOSC for not pursing a subsidy has been the assertion that the Scottish islands only get generous ferry (and air) subsidies because of the new devolved Scottish Government (implication: feckless spending of English taxpayers money) and that Whitehall would never consider such thing. The truth is that Whitehall has been embracing transport subsidies for isolated island communities for over half a century. An authoritative summary is provided in the Scottish Ferries Review (Appendix 9) – recommended reading for anybody wanting to know the facts.

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