Been out of the office for a couple of days so missed the press copy in the Press and Journal on the 22nd of March headlining that the "Scottish Government will buy two Twin Otters for island - Estimated £4million deal has guaranteed flights for the 1,200 people of Barra"
The article explains that the Scottish Government is buying two planes to run flights to the beach runway on Barra with the estimated cost of £4million.
Apparently the planes will be owned by the Government and airlines would be invited to bid for a subsidy to operate them.
Now I am not up to speed with the set up for transport to and from the Western Isles but this comes in the same day that a private sector ferry operator announces the relaunch of a small ferry service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle and the same week that it was announced the the Zeebrugge to Rosyth link will not be re-establisjhed as a passenger route.
If the government is moving into buying planes for these routes could an argument not be made for the purchase of a passenger ferry for the Northern Ireland route to benefit Argyll? (The SNP government made it clear that subsidising this service was not an option at this time.)
Or how about just buying some places and leasing them to Ryanair for some new routes into Prestwick?
Seriously though, if the governement are buying planes for others to use should it not be questioned as a strategy? Great for Barra and this is not intended to knock them but this unstructured interventionism seems to be politically driven rather than strategically so.
Another recent article has highlighted the benefits of the reduced cost of travel on the ferry "The interim report produced for the Scottish Government found that visitor numbers had grown by 24% after the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff Pilot in October 2008."
But this Road Equivalent has not been applied to other routes. Displacement again?
The need for Barra planes for the local economy and for emergencies may or may not be a necessity but it only seems to flag up again the fragmented nature of the (tourism) transport related issues.
Maybe one of the parties will be writing up a joined up access and transport realted tourism strategy ready for a big launch ahead of the election.
Perhaps we shouldn't hold our breath...