Labour’s Crichton calls for Harris ferry poll

LABOUR Holyrood candidate, Donald Crichton has called on the Scottish Government to hold and fund a local referendum to allow the people of Harris to decide whether they want the ferry on Sunday or not.

Mr Crichton said: “There should be no Sunday ferry to Tarbert without the people of Harris having a real say and a meaningful vote in deciding whether the sailings should go ahead. After 15 years of sham consultations by CalMac, it is time to stop these charades and let the people decide. There should be a local referendum to allow the people of Harris to decide whether they want the ferry on Sunday or not.”

The Labour candidate for next May’s Holyrood election says he is personally opposed to the introduction of a Sunday sailing but concedes he doesn’t have the right to impose his personal views on the issue upon others. And neither does CalMac nor the Scottish Government, he added.

Calling for all sides to respect the outcome of any such pool, Mr Crichton continued: “A referendum would be simple, quick and inexpensive to organise. It would be cheaper and more meaningful than paying some superannuated consultants. Direct democracy is a well-established practice now in the islands for community land buy-outs, and it is the best way to settle an issue like this where no-one side should be able to impose their views on another.

“That is why am calling upon the Scottish Transport Minister, Keith Brown, to agree to a local referendum and to abide by its verdict. The Scottish Government owns and funds CalMac and pays for all its services so it is obvious that they have the ultimate say.”

He pointed out that the issue of Sunday sailings is a matter of personal conscience and local democracy, not one for party politics. And that is why he is also inviting the local MSP to join with him in a joint approach to the Minister for a local referendum.

Meanwhile, local councillor, Morag Munro expressed concern over the wording of the question to be put before the community should a referendum go ahead.

“When there is a proposal to introduce a service which is contrary to the long-term history, culture, way of life and traditional beliefs of an area, there needs to be a determined demand for change from within. It must not be done on the basis of passive indifference or to satisfy a vocal minority,” stated Mrs Munro, a long time opponent of Sabbath sailings.