Scotsman Letters: Scotland deserves a user-friendly ferry service

There is nothing new about Scotland’s geography. Its main features are a long coastline and a short land border, with a dense fringe of islands off the west coast.

The Scottish Government should be making better use of Ferguson Marine shipyard, reckons reader (Picture: John Devlin)
The Scottish Government should be making better use of Ferguson Marine shipyard, reckons reader (Picture: John Devlin)

Islanders rely on the mainland for their supplies and they wish or need to travel to the mainland for various purposes. Demand for a ferry service is clearly there. It is therefore incomprehensible that Scots are incapable of running a reliable and user-friendly ferry company. The answer to problems with the company, CalMac, was the answer that the ruling SNP turns to in a knee-jerk reaction: nationalise it. Since then, the problem with the ferries serving the islands have grown only worse, with the nationalisation of the company, Ferguson Marine, tasked with building replacement ships for those that are out of service or past their sell-by date. Only about half of the 29 routes currently operate normally.

The SNP, and especially Nicola Sturgeon, like to tell us that we should model ourselves on independent Nordic countries – like Denmark. There, a total of 21 companies operate ferries between Denmark’s islands and between Denmark and other countries. It is often quicker and cheaper to take a ferry than to pay bridge tolls and petrol costs. Why can Denmark operate a successful ferry network but not Scotland? Please don’t anyone say it’s because Denmark is independent and it is all Westminster’s fault – the usual SNP excuse.

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I hope that Scotland’s islanders and others who depend on ferries will remember, when they vote in May, which party has presided over the ferry disaster in Scotland. Similarly, I hope all those who use the crumbling roads in Scotland’s cities remember within whose remit transport is and what the current regime has spent money on – foreign “embassies”, failing services and fat ministerial salaries on a grand scale. The May elections are a time when those hit by these inadequacies can make an impression on those responsible for the services on which we depend.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh

In too deep

The Scottish Government owns a shipbuilding company (Ferguson) on the Clyde. The Scottish Government controls the company (CMAL) which places orders for ships to be built on the Clyde. The Scottish Government owns the company (Caledonian MacBrayne) which operates and sails the ships around Scotland.

Just to be clear, the Scottish Government builds ships, operates ships and places orders for new ships. So what does it do? It orders ships from a Turkish shipbuilder. As someone once said "You could not make it up". Ferguson's don't have room for another hull on the slipway, there are a couple of rusting hulks already parked there and will be for a long time yet.

The SNP Government have form with this sort of crazy logic. We have oil under our sea-bed and gas under our feet but Sturgeon would rather transport these products from the other side of the planet.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire

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Two new CalMac ferries for Islay to be built in Turkey

Enough hot air?

One glimmer of hope in the series of ongoing horrors in Ukraine is that some good may come of it. When it ends, there may be a realisation on the part of many in the West – most notably Germany – of the truth about energy supplies. They have to accept that the almost total reliance on one source for the still absolutely essential oil and gas needed to keep the people of Europe alive for the foreseeable future is a suicidal path to take. Climate change will have to be tackled but the timescale will have to be drastically altered and taken out of the hands of political activists.

The policy of blind abandonment of nuclear power and the exploration and production of fossil fuels – paramount in Scotland – will have to stop and reverse, at least until new and reliable and, critically, uninterrupted alternative sources of renewable power are available. Boast as you will about one thousand, one million, wind farms, but what good are they when the winds stops or is too strong or blowing in the wrong direction?

It may take the SNP/Green coalition in Scotland longer than most to accept this. They have, once again, up to now got it all wrong.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Nobel bravery

After last year’s award to the respected Russian journalist, Dmitry Muratov, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize surely belongs to Marina Ovsyannikova, for her courageous demonstration on Monday night’s State TV “News” programme.

John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Off target

There would be little point in a nuclear attack on Faslane/Coulport (E Campbell, Letters, 15 March) for, like Macavity the Cat, Trident's not there. Ready for action vessels will be nowhere near the base and, of course, neither will the command structure. The prime target for any attack on the UK will, as usual, be London, just as Kiev currently is in Ukraine.

(Dr) A McCormick, Dumfries

Who else?

Despite dreadful world issues, some pettifogging readers still harp on about dumping Boris Johnson as PM. However, they fail to say who, in a position to do so, should take his place. Changing commanders during the heat of battle is not sensible unless his/her successor is available and clearly better.

On a different tack, of several lessons that Vladimir Putin is teaching us, a particularly useful one is the inherent dangers of independence. I hope SNP voters are taking note

Tim Flinn, Haddington, East Lothian

Cut the cash

Surely India's move re trade with Russia must result in immediate withdrawal of all aid, which could then be redirected to rebuilding Ukraine.

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian

Bray old world

Two letters yesterday, 15 March, one from David Millar and one from George Primrose, sum up admirably the shambolic leadership (or lack of it) of the current Holyrood government.

In the early days of the First World War, the German High Command described the British Troops as “lions led by donkeys”. Substitute “the Scottish electorate” for “British troops” and the idea resonates today, 107 years later.

I honestly believe that more people could be persuaded to vote for Independence if they felt that there was a cat in hell's chance of getting a competent, intelligent and transparent government instead of the collection of blinkered nonentities that presides over us today. We really do deserve better.

D Mason, Penicuik, Midlothian

Bible bashing

I watched yesterday’s Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey and thought it was a well-balanced and appropriate event until Lord Sentamu took to the pulpit. In what was a carefully constructed non-denominational programme he preached a Christian sermon which would be irrelevant to more than half the Commonwealth. I know these evangelical bible bashers feel the need to “witness” at any opportunity but it was neither the time nor the place. And what possessed the man to launch three cheers at the end, taking the congregation by surprise and causing widespread confusion? Pure showmanship!I hope this is the last time he is given a prominent public platform.Andy Cowe, Ashkirk, Scottish Borders

Writing on wall

Boris Johnson is doing the only thing he ever did well – spinning. The phrase “taking back control” is centre-stage again. Our government is now taking back control from the tentacles of the dictator of Russia.

While Boris will have an uphill battle (despite his propaganda skills) if the Tories are to take back control of the electoral map in the next election, Labour still look like they need a spin doctor or two if they ever hope to redress the propaganda advantages which the Tories have exploited in the past.

Luckily the off-stage noises coming from Labour can constantly find such glaring failures of substance in Tory policies that even a Labour leader without the sharpness of a Harold Wilson or the capacity to control the narrative of a Tony Blair can impede Johnson' attempt to take back control of political events.

But even without Labour's appropriate criticisms of the government, the writing is on the wall. It is obvious to anyone that there is something distasteful about Boris Johnson trying to make propaganda capital out of the horror of the conflict in Ukraine, and the public can see that Michael Gove's plan to find each Ukrainian family a room by paying the rent of £350 on their behalf is little more than tinkering given that the Home Office maintains inflexible restrictions on Ukrainians coming here. The Tories are at sixes and sevens, some calling for Priti Patel to go, some calling for the Chancellor to stop the rise in National Insurance and lend more money to families facing huge fuel bills.

The problem is that the old Conservative party was linked to the south – by being pro-EU, pro-austerity and small government. But the new Conservatives shifted their base North – and now look to do very badly in London regional elections. They are caught betwixt and between, and can only court the electorate by spinning.

Andrew Vass , Edinburgh

What happened?

I realise I am getting on a bit and my memory is not what it was, but I seem to recall that the Metropolitan Police were investigating breaches of the law on Covid restrictions allegedly committed by our Prime Minister and many of his staff in Downing StreetI believe that these investigations were due to complete long before now. Have I missed something? Can anyone shed any light ?

Graham Hammond, East Calder, West Lothian

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