Just days ago, some headline-grabbing local SNP figures were vowing to save the Barra air link with a powerful petition which was to be set up at the heart of our nation’s government. Now, this blog can reveal that the furiously-worded plea to the Scottish Parliament slagging off Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for its plan to axe the link which hardly anyone uses except for officials on mammoth expenses has been watered down into a wishy-washy mess.
After no less wise a head than their former party colleague Andrew Walker pointed out first on this blog that the Scottish Government was powerless to tell the comhairle what to do on an issue like this, some heads finally seem to have been banged together and told to take proper advice and stop the grandstanding. Ouch.
Now the previous blood-red prose demanding Holyrood kicks Sandwick Road’s ass has been replaced with a lukewarm call for some kind of an unexplained dull-as-dishwater and unspecified “review” with no mention of the previous “serious implications”, risk to the “future of all internal flights”, or descriptions of the “appalling move”. See for yourself:
Here’s petitioners Councillors Gordon Murray and Rae Mackenzie’s promised wording which they announced last week:
“To petition the Scottish Parliament that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar maintains its support for the lifeline air services between Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra; the petitioners believing that the Comhairle’s current proposals risk the future of all internal flights within the Outer Hebrides and would severely undermine the transport connections which have been built up between the islands over the last forty years, with serious implications for the local economy and community; asks the petitions committee of the Scottish Parliament to ensure the Comhairle fulfils its air transport Public Service obligations in the Hebrides and to examine the implications for people in all Scotland’s island communities of this appalling move”.
Now here’s the actual comparatively-dreary wording they posted on the petitions website:
“Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to review its national policies on the provision of lifeline air services between Scotland’s islands, consider the impact on local communities by the withdrawal of subsidies which enable such air services and to develop air transport public service obligations in the Hebrides and throughout Scotland”.
Good grief. Not one mention now of the evil comhairle or any “appalling” moves. Why? There was no announcement of a change of stance. Were they not going to tell us? If not, we have all been misled. Who was responsible for the change from the text they published last week? Will we ever be told why?
I wonder what poor Andrew Walker – now languishing in Coventry where he has been banished by the entire local SNP for telling uncomfortable truths – thinks of the incredible change to the petition wording in response to the damning strategic errors he so helpfully pointed out to Messrs Mackenzie and Murray?
Mr Walker says: “What a climbdown! As I have also said, this will go nowhere fast, and an urgent decision is required to ensure some continuation of the Barra to Benbecula route from April (six weeks). Urgent funding and intervention is required from the Scottish Government.”