Jamie Halcro Johnston: Local communities on the Corran Narrows Crossing have been 'failed'
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Another week and another delay to the return of the MV Corran.
This further delay will, sadly, surprise few. But it will be incredibly frustrating for the communities that rely on this service and who, for far too long now, have suffered from an increasing unreliable service or no service at all.
Having used the service in the summer when it was working (albeit diversion signs were still discouraging people from using the ferry and encouraging them to use the road detour instead), I had the opportunity to meet with local residents to hear first-hand the significant impact that the breakdowns and limited services were having on people’s lives, their businesses and the very future of their local communities.
Some were seriously considering leaving the area, unable to live the life they wanted to live or to sustain businesses when restrictions to services meant only a trickle of the normal visitor numbers were able to make it across the Corran Narrows.
One told me the area had become a “no go area” for tourists, with weekly cancellations of accommodation or restaurant bookings becoming the norm. The local shops were seeing a significant drop off in trade, and all coming at what would normally be the busiest time of the year. Local people were angry.
And although local MSP Kate Forbes is right when she says there has been a lack of focus and a planning from the Highland Council, Ms Forbes and the Scottish Government can’t simply wash their hands of the situation.
Until stepping down in late March of this year, Kate Forbes was either the Scottish Government’s finance secretary or a finance minister for nearly five years, a period when the finances of local councils across Scotland were systematically squeezed by the SNP Government in Edinburgh.
And while blaming local councils is not a new tactic from the SNP, it is fairly disingenuous of Ms Forbes to be criticizing councils for not digging deeply into their pockets to fund local ferries when she and her colleagues have been picking those pockets for too many years now.
The simple fact is that local residents and business don’t care one bit who commissions a new ferry or builds a bridge – they just want it done.
So the SNP-led Highland Council and SNP-led Scottish Government must stop passing the buck on who has failed local communities on the Corran Narrows Crossing because the truth of it is they both have.
And so they must come together and provide local residents with some hope that action is going to be taken – urgently – and local communities will not be faced with too many more years of the same reliability issues, cancellations and economic impact.