From Ken Lowe, Seaview:
IN THEIR letters, Geoffrey Flinders (CP, 06-12-13) and P. Dobson (CP, 13-12-13) both make the mistake of comparing IW ferry fares with those of a service to the Isle of Skye, without mentioning the many millions of pounds in subsidies paid every year by the Scottish government to its ferry operators.
Indeed, the company running most of the Western Isles and hebridean services, CalMac, is owned by the Scottish government, as are the vessels it uses.
Subsidies to CalMac cover much of its operating costs as well as the cost of chartering the vessels. These subsidies enable the level of fares to be set far lower than would otherwise be the case and on some routes, fares are matched against the cost of an equivalent road journey, thus treating the ferry routes as an extension of the road network.
I have raised this issue in the past with our MP Andrew Turner, pointing out the iniqui-tous situation in the fact that UK taxpayers are funding the Scottish ferries whereas ours get nothing.
A response from a Department For Transport spokesman was, basically, that many of the Scottish services would not exist without subsidy. However, he was missing the point that the subsidies enable much lower fares to be set, negating cost disadvantages that Scottish island residents and businesses suffer from being on an offshore island.
The economy of the IW is just as dependent on its ferries as those of the Scottish islands.
Why aren’t we treated in the same way?