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A petition backed by 2,569 people opposing lifeline ferry car park charges reaches Scottish parliament today, June 27.
The petition calls on MSPs to island proof transport infrastructure by banning councils from charging people to park at island lifeline ferry ports such as Fionnphort on Mull.
Petitioners argue the charges are ‘wantonly damaging and discriminatory’ to island communities, where islanders have no choice but to use these car parks for long periods and have to travel to the mainland for many reasons, including medical appointments, or to visit their children boarding at Oban High School.
Shiona Ruhemann of Iona Community Council said: ‘This is a first real test of the Scottish Government’s Islands Act. The political response in Edinburgh to what Argyll and Bute Council are doing to our tiny community, 170 miles and two ferry journeys away, will determine whether that piece of legislation – much heralded by politicians of all sides – is
worth the paper on which it was published.’
Campaigners say new ‘exorbitant’ parking rates are similar to the Central London Congestion Charge and will deter visitors and much needed trade.
The petition was lodged by five community organisations, including Iona Community Council, which is campaigning to stop Argyll and Bute Council applying charges across Mull at Tobermory and Craignure, and at Fionnphort, the only connection to Iona.
Dr Ruhemann added: ‘We want MSPs to hold the leaders and senior officers of Argyll and Bute Council to account for their actions and for their abject failure even to try to understand the car parks, how they’re used, or the communities that use them.
‘The whole idea of an Islands Act is to ensure that island life is understood and supported, not aggressively undermined. We count on the Scottish Parliament to pick up from Argyll and Bute’s deeply embarrassing failure and disregard, and show that the Act has teeth when ‘Relevant Authorities’ inflict harm blindly on Scotland’s islands.’
Moray Finch, general manager of Mull and Iona Community Trust said: ‘Four mainland councillors voted through the charges on 12 June. They admitted there have been 258 objections, about 500 emails directly to each councillor, over 2,500 signatories to the petition, masses of correspondence and media coverage. And not one single voice in that outpouring supports the charges. Not one of the four challenged any information presented to them – it seems they’re being led by officers instead of representing their communities.’
Brian Swinbanks of Tobermory Harbour Association added: ‘Our communities are enraged, not just at the decision but at the tsunami of opposition being ignored by councillors elected to represent us – including some of our own ward councillors. The council will say they presented all objections to councillors, but that’s not true. The four councillors will say they mitigated the impacts but that’s not true either – they didn’t listen, they weren’t informed, and their ill-considered last-minute concessions have appeased no one.’
Councillor Kieron Green, who was one of the four councillors who voted through the charges, said they did listen to concerns and did their best to get ‘the best possible results’ for the communities to mitigate the charges, such as securing residents permits for less than £100 a year.
‘Official charges are never going to be welcomed but they help with the provision of council services and enforcement of car parks,’ he said.