Letter: Time for council to take control over Oban Bay situation

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Given the Oban Bay Stakeholder’s Group overwhelming endorsement of the proposal to consolidate  Oban as a local authority port (a status it effectively has already), with the longer-term aim of transforming it into a trust port, it is galling to note the continued efforts by CMAL to promote its own undemocratic and self-serving agenda to turn Oban into a nationalised port.  CMAL has put up, unsuccessfully, it is now time for them to shut up.

The council’s approach to this matter, through the Oban Bay Management Group, has been at worst negligent, and at best merely baffling.  Local authorities have a duty to accommodate underlying statutory requirements in their approach to the management of municipal ports (both in local government legislation and in any specific local harbours legislation – which exists for the erstwhile Oban General Harbour Authority area).

Municipal ports should form an integral part of the policy framework of a local authority and be treated in the same way, and be afforded the same priorities within that policy framework as any other service. The local authority also has a statutory duty to address stakeholder requirements and take full account of the commercial viability of port operations for the benefit of the wider community.

Transport Scotland has endorsed the trust port model laid out in the Modernising Trust Ports: a Guide to Good Governance document, which has been widely circulated around the stakeholder group and which is, presumably, familiar to members of the management group.

It offers tried and tested forms of governance and fiducary responsibilities; many of these, such as adoption of a Harbour Management Committee structure and making executive members of harbour boards (ie. the Oban Bay Management Group) properly accountable to the full council for the decisions they make, have been successfully adopted by other Scottish Local Authorities.

Argyll and Bute Council should step up and get on with it – adopt the principal recommendations in this document, from which a baseline can be established to properly assess the viability of turning Oban into a trust port.