Argyll and Bute Council is to write to the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure to request urgent action over ferry fare scales.
The move came after it emerged that Transport Scotland has yet to provide ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) with fare scales for all Scottish Government-funded ferry contracts for the summer 2012 timetable.
As a consequence, Calmac is not able to accept any bookings for ferry services beyond March 30 2012 – a situation which the council fears will have a serious effect on the local economy.
The council’s Executive today agreed to write to Keith Brown MSP as a matter of urgency to express Argyll and Bute’s ‘extreme concern’ at the situation.
Councillor Duncan MacIntyre, Argyll and Bute’s spokesperson for transport and infrastructure, said: “We are asking that this issue is investigated as a matter of the highest priority, and action is taken at the earliest possible date to address this matter to prevent any further economic damage to our island communities.
“It goes without saying that our islands and mainland ports are heavily reliant on ferry users both in terms of business and tourism revenue. It is unacceptable to have a situation in which people who are trying to book sailings for spring or summer next year find themselves unable to do so because Transport Scotland has failed to publish the fare scales for government funded ferry contracts.
“It would be a bitter blow for Argyll and Bute if the inability to book ferries resulted in the loss of tourism-related business to other destinations.
“In addition, local haulage companies and suppliers are unable to book vehicles on ferry services, which could result in shortages of essential supplies on island communities if capacity constraints during peak periods lead to difficulties for such vehicles being accommodated at shorter notice.
“This is a very serious situation and I urge the Minister to act on it without delay to prevent significant economic damage to our communities.”
Calmac usually publishes ticket pricing information in its Explore brochure, which is usually published in October each year. The company not yet been able to publish its 2012 brochure because of the lack of fare scales from Transport Scotland.
Even if the issue was resolved immediately, the council understands that it could be as late as January 2012 before Calmac could consider bookings for summer 2012 services.
The Argyll Ferry User Group (FUG) consultative forum, which met earlier this week, has also written to the Scottish Government requesting urgent action on this issue, along with an explanation for how this situation has arisen.