Glasgow & West Scotland

Ferry services in Argyll and Bute Council savings plans

Firth of Lorn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Argyll and Bute Council has suggested transferring its island ferry services to Transport Scotland

Argyll and Bute Council is to consider handing some lifeline ferry services over to a national organisation to help save money.

It is suggesting four services which are run by the council should be transferred to Transport Scotland.

The idea is contained in its latest consultation on how to save money.

Transport Scotland said Scottish ministers were willing to take over services, "subject to agreement of funding".

Argyll and Bute Council believes it will need to save £9.2m in the next financial year. Transferring the ferries to Transport Scotland may release £1m a year.

The ferry services under consideration for transfer are Easdale to Seil, Lismore to Port Appin, Luing to Seil and Jura to Islay.

The council argues similar services elsewhere are the responsibility of Transport Scotland - not the local authority.

'Opportunities and challenges'

Gary Mulvaney, depute leader of the council, said: "It's simple - the more funding the council has, the more we can do for local people.

"We are looking at all options for increasing funding for Argyll and Bute. Transport Scotland delivers ferry services for other islands - it's been running Western Isles' ferries for a number of years, and has provided £20m-plus for ferries in Orkney and Shetland.

"We obviously need to look at Transport Scotland's role in supporting Argyll and Bute, the area with the highest number of inhabited islands of all of Scotland's councils."

The consultation on possible ways of meeting the £9.2m funding gap will run from 28 October to 16 December. Decisions are likely around February.

Council leader Aileen Morton said: "We've been doing a lot of work to raise awareness of Argyll and Bute's opportunities and challenges among those who could support its future.

"Argyll and Bute needs its council to provide more services than many other councils, for example ferry services. Argyll and Bute, though, has had a bigger cut to its council funding over recent years than most other areas in Scotland.

"We've been promoting Argyll and Bute's cause, therefore, in different ways to try to secure more support for its council services. We want Argyll and Bute to thrive."

Transport Scotland said where ferry services were provided by local councils and regional transport partnerships, these authorities were wholly responsible for the provision and funding of these services.

A spokeswoman said: "The Ferries Plan set out that Scottish ministers were willing to take over services, subject to agreement of funding.

"The Scottish government is committed to finding a funding solution for Argyll and Bute Council from 2020-21 and onwards, as part of the negotiations of a transfer of responsibility of the council's ferry services to Transport Scotland."