There’s a story in today’s Herald about yet another SNP disaster:
Backfires? What, the fares have gone UP?
But it transpires that in fact the cheaper fares have been a huge success, increasing traffic to remote island communities by up to 80%, exactly as they were designed to do in the hopes of boosting the local economies. So how is that bad, exactly?
Well, duh. More people going somewhere will generally tend to increase traffic. We’re not sure if the Herald is calling for the building of motorways and tower blocks on Mull, so let’s see if we can firm up this rather vague complaint a bit.
(We’ll fix the Herald’s shocking grammar and spelling errors as we go, btw.)
“The Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) was introduced with the intention of boosting remote economies. But now ferry services and island communities are struggling to handle additional traffic – with the total of numbers on one route climbing by more than 80 per cent.
This startling increase was seen on the route between Kilchoan, Highlands, and Tobermory on Mull. Just 3,635 cars made the crossing between October 2014 and July 2015, compared to 6,555 between October last year and July this year.”
Yes, that’s definitely more. It’s 2,920 more, to be precise, spread over nine months, which is an average of just under 11 cars per day. Are we really to believe that 11 additional cars a day is putting the islands’ infrastructure at breaking point? Do we have anything more solid to go on?
“It is thought the introduction of RET – based on the cost of travelling the equivalent distance by road – contributed to the chaos on Saturday when passengers were stranded overnight in Kilchoan after the ferry broke down.”
Having battled through the weasel words (“It is thought”? By who?) to try to establish the precise nature of events, we imagine there would ALWAYS be a significant degree of “chaos” if a ferry broke down and stranded people overnight. These things happen from time to time. We’re not sure an extra 11 cars’-worth of people would be enough to tip the situation into uncontrollable anarchy, though.
Labour, naturally, were on hand to complain about the evil SNP:
“Rhoda Grant, MSP for Highlands and Islands, said: ‘RET is a good thing for islanders, communities and the economy, but you can’t increase passenger numbers without any preparation. We should have been working alongside islanders to prepare for the increase in passenger numbers.’
Hang on – what problems have ACTUALLY OCCURRED here? We’re not told of any family that had to huddle on a park bench for want of a campsite. We don’t hear from anyone savaged by seagulls or foxes due to overflowing bins. There’s no mention of a river of raw sewage raging down the main street as toilet facilities were overwhelmed by as many as 20 extra people being on the island for a night.
Who were the traumatised and shattered victims of this awful tale of horror? Did anything at all actually happen?
“Ms Grant said: ‘Lessons should have been learnt and something should have been put in place before it was rolled out. It should have been done in a way that enabled islanders to benefit from RET while the infrastructure was being installed before opening it up further. If tourists have a bad experience, they are not going to be rushing back.'”
Hmm, we still don’t know. DID any tourists have a bad experience attributable to RET (ie beyond what they’d have had from being stuck anyway)? None are quoted or even obliquely referred to in the article. What lessons should have been learned, and from what past events? What infrastructure actually failed? We imagine the islanders must be pretty furious about all this, right?
They don’t sound all that miffed, frankly. Space in tiny island towns is finite. If you get lots more people visiting them, things will be busier. That’s the price you pay for doing more business. It’s almost as if the two words were in some way related.
And that’s the whole story. The “backfire” of making ferry fares cheaper in order to get more people visiting islands is that more people have visited islands. We’re not given a single example of an actual specific thing actually going wrong as a result of the move, and the policy has been a demonstrable, even spectacular, success.
But this is the Scottish media, and an act of God like a ferry breaking down can never be allowed to pass without being turned into an SNP BAD catastrophe. Oddly, nobody at the Herald wanted to have their name on the byline of this one. We can’t think why.