ABP’s announcement that it will donate around £50,000 each year to good causes on Arran if the island’s lifeline ferry service relocates to Troon has been branded a “pitiful bribe” and a “cheap seduction ploy” by two local elected members.
The company, which plans to snatch the ferry service from Ardrossan, said it would create a new Arran Community Fund generating £50,000 a year – or around £1,000 a week – to benefit the local community.
ABP is also in discussions with local stakeholders about providing an electric shuttle bus service direct from the ferry terminal to Troon Station.
In response to ABP’s announcement, Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, told the Herald: “They must be getting desperate, offering a pitiful bribe at this stage.
“How long would they fund the Arran Community Fund for? Like their plan to shuttle-bus passengers to and from Troon Harbour to Troon Railway Station, it would no doubt be short-lived.
“It is also an insult to Ardrossan that ABP appears to have given no thought to the impact on the community of the job losses that would stem from losing the Arran ferry; a situation I am fighting hard to ensure does not arise.”
John Bruce, Councillor for Ardrossan and Arran, told the Herald that he thought ABP’s offer sounded “like a very cheap seduction ploy and a big PR mistake if they believe the Arran community can be bought off, and so cheaply”.
He added: “ABP should do some research and understand that through Participatory Budgeting awards and various Community Benefit and Youth grants, NAC can allocate more than that amount to the island in one day to assist and benefit our local communities.
“Can I suggest to ABP that if they are prepared at this stage to enter into a ‘bidding war’ as to which mainland port gets the Arran Ferry, then they will have to dig much deeper into their ‘contingency fund.’ Come and talk to us about an exclusive island roads budget!”
According to ABP, the Ardrossan ferry service is dogged by weather conditions that frequently exceed the capabilities of the port and result in a significant level of service cancellations.
In 2015 approximately 150 crossings were cancelled causing major issues for the travelling public and tourists trying to visit the island.
The company claims that Troon’s “uniquely sheltered harbour” offers the prospect of a reliable service for islanders, largely unaffected by adverse weather conditions.
It also highlights that Troon offers “improved road and increased rail connections, with access to the upgraded A77/M77 motorway and four trains per hour to Glasgow”.
ABP’s Port Director of Short Sea Ports Andrew Harston said: “Our proposal represents a better deal for the people of Arran and the Scottish Government.”