3 Dec 2014

Corran Battle Continues

This is the text of a press release from Free Crossing for Corran, issued today:

The community campaign to secure the future of the Corran crossing is seeking legal counsel to dismiss Highland Council claims that EU ‘State Aid’ rules prevent them from supporting the lifeline ferry service that connects some of the most fragile rural communities in the Highlands and Islands to the rest of the mainland.

This follows high-profile support from MSP John Finnie and former Council leader Dr Michael Foxley, who have both dismissed the authorities claims as a smokescreen.

The campaign is also calling for transparency in Council accounts and a place at the table in government talks to determine the future of the lifeline.

Following the recent Highland Council report and meeting on the current Corran Ferry service and its ever-increasing fares, and other council visits to the area, FC Corran met to respond to accusations from the council of a lack of community interest and claims that ‘State Aid’ prevented any local government financial support for the service.

Convenor, Tony Boyd, said, “The State Aid argument is simply a smokescreen for a council who are unwilling to deal proactively with this service. The EU rules do not apply and we are currently seeking legal advice on this. We are delighted that Mr Finnie has spoken out so categorically on the issue.”

The main obstacle to progress remains a lack of clear information on the true costs of the service, with no real picture on whether the service really runs at a loss, or if it is self-supporting.

Tony Boyd said, “The problem for the community and the campaign is that we are working in an information vacuum. Highland Council have supplied some figures in isolation, but what is needed is a complete audit of the ferry budgets to see the true picture of the finances of the operation, which is the second busiest crossing in Scotland.

“Local councillor Thomas MacLennan requested an audit back in the spring of this year on our behalf, and we are still waiting.”

The FCC group have also drawn up a list of key challenges for Highland Council and await the authority’s response with interest.
  1. Highland Council must provide accurate figures on Profit & Loss accounts and overall budget for the Corran Ferry, and carry out an audit as officially requested several months ago.
  2. Highland Council should publish the legal opinions on which they base their assertions on ‘State Aid’. FCC are seeking their own independent advice. 
  3. Highland Council must work with the community to look at cost savings, without compromising the service, rather than continuing to increase fares. The group welcome the new approach of the HC to have real consultation with the representatives of the group, but remain conscious of several recent ‘tick-the-box’ public engagements. 
  4. Highland Council must ensure that FCC and the community are clearly represented at the planned meeting between Highland Council and the Scottish Government - an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the Government’s stated aim of transparency. 
  5. Highland Council must take clear and committed action to ensure a long term, and sustainable, solution to the Corran Crossing, whether a fixed link or new vessels. 

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