The Scottish Parliament today debated the RECC inquiry report that identified 'catastrophic failures' in ferry procurement procedures. The inquiry convenor, Sir Edward Mountain, condemned the dismissive response to the report by Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands and Chair, Ardrossan Harbour Task Force. While Ferguson Marine had undoubtedly proved incapable of fulfilling the contract, the tripartite arrangement between Transport Scotland, CMAL and CalMac required root and branch reappraisal. He said CMAL was largely to blame for the breakdown in communication and for being late in attempting conflict resolution.
To the amazement of many, Paul Wheelhouse continued to defend the status quo, disputing the inquiry findings and proposals. He even had the audacity to claim that islanders' views had been considered, but then admitted that these were overridden where they differed from the requirements of the triumvirate.
Subsequent speakers, referring to the 'unanimous committee conclusion, across party lines' condemned his arrogance, Graham Simpson MSP saying it was 'unbelievable' as he dubbed him 'Paul Asleep-at-the-Wheelhouse'. He called for wholesale reform, the abolition of CMAL and a 'knocking together of heads'.
Other speakers called the Minister's response 'shocking', 'astonishing', 'incompetent' and 'disappointing'. A refusal to acknowledge failings would not lead to urgently required improvements. There was a call for a forensic examination by Audit Scotland, and perhaps a criminal investigation. It was pointed out that building ferries too big for ports was anything but cost effective. Several MSPs highlighted the damage to island communities caused by the delays in adequate ferry provision, leading, on occasion, to a loss of lifeline services.
The green credentials of the dual-fuel vessels were again questioned, with them described as a 'vanity project'.
Our local MSP argued for community involvement, yet still still refuses to engage with us!
This was an unedifying debate, with little prospect of achieving improvements while those responsible refuse to accept the need for clear and urgent reform.
The current state of our lifeline ferry service shows it is not fit for purpose in terms of reliability, resilience and infrastructure. The Arran Ferry Action Group is a new and fully representative lobbying group, set up to represent Arran interests in demanding service improvements and accountability in future investment decisions.