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ferry fares

Iona Abbey cloisters <em>Picture: David P Howard</em>

Iona Abbey cloisters Picture: David P Howard

The Caledonian Mercury has invited some of those in the election firing-line to send regular bulletins about the personal side of campaigning. Alison Hay is the Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll and Bute.

    This week sees me continuing my “overseas” travel, interspersed with some council business but with ramifications on the campaign.

    Monday 18 April
    What a beautiful Monday morning – where better to be than on a CalMac ferry heading to the Island of Bute, the shortest crossing in Scotland from Colintraive to Rhubodach, time roughly ten minutes.

    I have a date with Bute FM at 10am. They‘re asking all candidates the same question: why should the people of Bute vote for them? Easy question, how long have your listeners got?

    In the evening it was the Bute hustings, and with Argyll and Bute council proposing to put North Bute primary school out to formal consultation the evening looked set to be a bit of a bumpy ride for yours truly – as it turned out to be. The SNP education minister denying he had interfered with the process and me saying he had, entertainment for all.

    Tuesday 19 April
    Education meeting at the council, where the council decides to put 11 schools out to formal consultation – a 12-hour meeting which ended at 10:55pm. Not a good day and all councillors very unhappy to be in this situation, but the education department needs to take its share of the pain of the cuts.

    Wednesday 20 April
    Today I’m stuck at my computer writing answers to questions from the Oban Times, the Argyllshire Advertiser and the Campbeltown Courier. Don’t these journalists realise I’ve got an election to win?

    I just make the deadline with two minutes to spare, raised blood pressure all round. In the evening off to Oban for a visit to Atlantis Leisure, Oban’s swimming and sports facility. I’m there for the opening of the new children’s soft-play area, a great success.

    Thursday 21 April
    Back on the high seas again, this time to Mull and Iona. This evening in Craignure, where Lesley Riddoch will host the Mull hustings, and before that Alan Reid MP, Tony my campaign manager and I have a great day. I meet an old friend on Iona who takes me round and I spend time speaking to the Mull and Iona Community Trust and seeing round their new community and charity shop and centre.

    The hustings evening went better than I feared: the issues discussed were sustaining rural communities and infrastructure, eg roads, health care, fairer ferry fares and inevitably schools.

    Friday 22 April
    Weather continues to be bright and sunny, Argyll and Bute at its best, no midges yet! I caught the 8:45am boat back to Oban and drove home. I have to be at Auchindrain museum today for the opening of the refurbished tearoom and visitor centre.

    The museum is taking down a tattered old saltire flag and replacing it with a new one. The old one is being respectfully folded and cremated. The new tearoom looks fantastic and the museum is now set for a good summer.

    Saturday 23 April
    Went with my husband to Bridge of Orchy to knock on some doors. Bridge of Orchy is tiny and is at the extreme edge of the constituency, and is often forgotten about. I think it important to try and visit every town and village at least once, and the towns more than once, during the election. It’s amazing the number of times people have said to me “You’re the first candidate we’ve seen”. As it’s Easter weekend, I’m having this evening off to visit relatives in Taynuilt.

    Only ten days to go and the pace is hotting up. Next week Oban, Mid-Argyll, hustings in Dunoon on Tuesday evening, across the seas to Islay and Jura with a hustings on Islay on Thursday evening, back to Tarbert, finishing the week back in Dunoon on the Saturday. I’ll write again on Sunday next.

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    libdem1Speaking in Argyll and Bute, Scottish Liberal Democrat Campaign Chair George Lyon slammed the SNP for failing to provide islanders across Scotland with relief from high ferry fares.

    It was confirmed last month that a Scottish Government pilot scheme that cut fare prices significantly in the Western Isles would be extended into the next Parliament.

    The Scottish Liberal Democrats have committed to maintaining investment in essential lifeline transport services for island communities.

    Commenting, Mr Lyon said:

    “Although the extension of the Road Equivalent Tariff scheme was certainly good news for the Western Isles, it offers nothing for people in Orkney, Argyll and Bute or other island communities who will not benefit. This is an electoral bribe from a party desperate to hang on to an island seat.

    “The fact is that the Scottish Government needs to be working to bring fares down for all islanders, not simply those areas that voted SNP at the last election. Whether it is ferries or planes, the basic principle is simple. Transport to and from the Scottish islands needs to be affordable if these communities are to thrive.

    “The Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to protecting essential lifeline services across the Highlands and Islands and will ensure that people in areas like Argyll and Bute receive the help they need, irrespective of how they choose to vote on polling day.”

    Commenting as the SNP publish their 84/94 manifesto achievement document, George Lyon also accused the SNP of having failed Scotland’s voters.

    “They have not dumped student debt, they dropped the first time buyers grant, they let teachers down and they shelved the independence referendum, all promised in their 2007 campaign. What kind of record is that?” Mr Lyon said.

    “This list is a joke. They have even included policies not even started under their Government. It’s shameful that they are trying to take credit for ideas and polices that aren’t even their own. The Scottish public won’t trust the SNP again. Scottish voters want a party who have real solutions for creating jobs, keeping services local and restoring excellence to education.

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    “It is Scottish Liberal Democrats who have those solutions. We have published a costed manifesto that has the right solutions for Scotland and it is Liberal Democrats who have the courage to deliver them.”

    Turning his attention to Labour’s plans for exports, Mr Lyon said:

    “The Labour party are full of grandiose ideas that have absolutely no substance to back them up. The Labour party have come forward with no plan on how they will achieve their export targets.

    “Scottish Liberal Democrats are different. We have real solutions for Scotland.

    “We have published a detailed export action plan for increasing exports in Scotland which includes setting an ambitious target to grow the value of Scottish exports by 50 per cent by 2020.We are the only party who has pledged to double the number of companies engaged in exports.

    “These are solutions that Scottish businesses need and we are the party to deliver them.”