Jamie Greene could hardly have anticipated the bombardment of information we fired at him, but stoically recorded your frustrations, which we continue to collate, filling many pages of his notebook.
It was immediately clear that Jamie is knowledgeable about ferry matters, both from a practical and political point of view. As his party spokesman for transport, he meets regularly with the Transport Minister and other stakeholders. Jamie has been a member of the Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee (RECC) since its inception and impressed us with his apolitical, pragmatic approach. He has already met with CalMac's new Group Chief Executive Officer, Duncan Mackison, and told us he was encouraged by this appointment. CalMac are currently developing a long-term ferry plan, so it is essential that we let them know what sort of ferries we want.
With regard to the ill-fated Glen Sannox, Ferguson Marine and CMAL are currently in mediation. However, Jamie warned that regardless of what decisions are taken to complete the vessel, it remains our only option for a new ferry. As to the design disaster of the new Brodick Terminal, with its profligate cost overrun from £18m to £31.2m, he explained that lines of accountability make it extremely difficult to hold government bodies to account. We impressed upon Jamie our determination to do all we can to prevent a similar waste of public money at the Ardrossan terminal. We pointed out that to date, all our requests for evidence that these developments will improve reliability and resilience have been refused. Jamie promised to obtain this evidence.
It was agreed that, between us, we would draw up a list of questions aimed at eliciting meaningful answers and appropriate action. The mainstream media may turn out to be our friend.
Summarising almost three hours of intense discussion, Jamie Greene raised the frightening prospect of a major failure on the ageing Caledonian Isles putting it out of service for many months. With no spare vessels in their fleet, CalMac would struggle to maintain a lifeline service. This scenario, he believes, should shape our priorities in tackling those responsible, and he left us in no doubt that he will do all he can support us.
Let us hope our other MSP changes his mind and agrees to meet and confer with an organisation legitimately representing more than a thousand of his constituents on the island.
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.