Brian Milligan, a BBC reporter, wrote an interesting article on BBC news yesterday about Calmac and the importance of the (lifeline) ferries for islands in Scotland and Islay in particular. The article is accompanied by a short video and shows the ferry leaving West Loch Tarbert and entering the harbour of Port Ellen. In the video you will see Paul Hathaway from the Islay Brewery and you can catch a glimpse of Norma Munro as well. A quote from Brian Milligan's article:
There is something slightly archaic about a ferry company that, in an age of competitive tendering and profit-making private companies, is owned by the Scottish Executive, and needed Â£31m of public subsidy last year. Running 26 ferry routes with a fleet of ships larger than that of the Royal Navy is a job no other company wants. There is no money to be made here. It is a service to the islands; an economic necessity.
The crew on the ferry acknowledges its role as an economic lifeline to businesses on the island. "If we weren't on service, the island would just die," says Captain John Webb. "The businesses would move out. And the residents would move out." Calmac, as it is known here, tries its hardest to live up to that ideal. The company has recently provided extra ferry services to Islay, and last winter there were only two or three days when its ferries could not make the two-hour crossing from Kennacraig on the Mull of Kintyre.
James Monaghan, who runs the Islay Crab export company, relies on the ferries to send live crabs and scallops to northern Spain. "Cost is a big issue," he says. "We have a job to compete with companies on the mainland. "I think there should be some kind of concession for local businesses." Back on the ferry the Captain and first officer are discussing another controversial, but rather less political issue; which Islay malt tastes the best. The island offers a good life, and good whisky. "You'll no go wrong with Laphroaig," says Murdo. "Tastes like Jeyes fluid to me," replies the captain.