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A review of Caledonian MacBraynes services could mean dire consequences for the Dunoon Pier Project.
It was revealed during a meeting of the Dunoon Pier Pressure group that CalMac, are considering, amongst a ream of other measures, a proposal to take the MV Pioneer from the Dunoon/Gourock run.
This proposal sent shivers of apprehension around the meeting which concluded that if it were to happen it could trigger knock-on repercussions, for accessing funding to build a breakwater and linkspan for Dunoon Pier.
The main argument for saving the pier has been its importance as part of an integrated transport link from Cowal to Gourock and beyond.
Any downsizing of the ferry service would diminish the piers importance as part of this link.
It has been stated that CalMac are looking at cost-cutting measures to finance employee pay deals.
However, spokesman for the company, Hugh Dan McLellan said the options being looked at are part of a general review of CalMacs services and that the laying up of the Pioneer should not be construed as a preferred option.
He explained: As part of a wide ranging review of the companys operations we are looking at all the routes and whether they are cost efficient.
The problem with some of the ferries is they are getting older and its hard and expensive to find replacement parts for them when they break down. We need to consider whether it is worth keeping them going.
The subsidy we receive for the Gourock/Dunoon run is for passenger only, but the MV Pioneer is a passenger and car ferry.
I would expect that the worst case would be the replacement of this with a passenger only service, but the decision on any of the measures we are looking at is a long way off.
MSP for Argyll and Bute George Lyon has condemned the move and has declared there should be more, not less, services on the Clyde.
He said: I have written to Lawrie Sinclair, Managing Director of CalMac asking for clarification on their intentions and to ask him to give a firm commitment to the people of Dunoon for a continued car ferry service.
We should not be cutting the number of ferries on the Clyde, we should be renewing and increasing them to provide a quality service for both Gourock/Dunoon and Rothesay/Wemyss Bay. The two services are completely interlinked. The community of Dunoon would find this proposal if it goes ahead completely unacceptable, as it would leave Western Ferries with a monopoly on vehicle traffic.
It would also completely contradict CalMacs previously stated position that Gourock/Dunoon was the most profitable of the two routes on the Clyde (Rothesay/Wemyss Bay and Gourock/Dunoon). And would call into question Argyll and Bute Councils well advanced plans for a new breakwater with two link-spans, one for CalMac and one for Western Ferries at Dunoon Pier. The Scottish Executive has already promised funding to begin this project.
This proposal could blow these plans right out of the water.
The Pier Pressure group meeting highlighted how the perception of the pier as an important transport link would be vital to gaining funding for improvements to the structure.
The Highlands and Islands Partnership Monitoring Committee, is meeting today (Friday) to decide if the Dunoon Pier Project, amongst others submitted by Argyll and Bute Council for European funding are of Strategic Importance to the region.
The Strategic Importance of the Pier hinges on the transport link, otherwise it could be classified as only of local importance, meaning the larger pot of funding available to Strategically important projects would be lost to the pier.
Argyll and Bute Council, and the regions politicians, already have a fight on their hands to convince the monitoring group that the projects submitted, are of a higher priority to the area than fixed links.
Hard lobbying of the Monitoring Group to get these priorities on the list of Strategic Projects has taken place.
At the meeting of the Pier Pressure Group MSP Duncan Hamilton and MEP Neil McCormick stated their intentions to continue the lobbying and underlined their support of the Argyll and Bute projects, which include Port Askaig, Dunoon Pier, Oban Airport and the Salen-Tobermorry Road.
Mr McCormick said: The critical objective is to get the projects on to the Strategic Project list for transitional funding, otherwise they wont get money.
Mr Hamilton said: The priorities are not final and there is still scope for something to happen. We are in no doubt of the importance of getting a shift in priorities for the pier and the other projects.
He also made a commitment to pressing the Scottish Executive on what type of ferries would be using the pier in the future, to give a firm indication on the type of linkspan needed for the structure.
NOT SUCH A LONELY PLANET
TOP tourist book Lonely Planet, written by English authors, has dubbed Scotland as an ugly, dangerous, drug-ravaged land.
The world respected tourist guide trashes towns and cities across the country.
And Dunoon is no exception from this, as the tourist bible warns visitors to the town to, be careful after dark.
The authors have stated that, Scotland has a brand image that advertising agencies would kill for...the reality is somewhat different.
The guides latest edition, which was published last week, also takes swipes at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, East Kilbride and John OGroats.
Lonely Planet has also lashed out at the Scottish lifestyle, saying: Scots take their drinking seriously, spending an average nine per cent of their weekly income on fags and booze.
And when it comes to Scottish nationalism, its probably best to practise your listening skills.
James McMillan of the Tourist Board said: We are obviously very disappointed that the book has chosen to be negative about Dunoon Town Centre.
Locals have worked hard to improve the area for visitors and it is very unfair of the book to rubbish the area.
I in no way feel threatened by Dunoon after dark and this is a terrible slight on the town.
MSP George Lyon said: This is an easy and sensational way to publicise a book and, to be quite frank, the comments in the book are rubbish.
Lonely Planets author in a radio interview admitted that the reason they include comments like this is to gain free publicity and nothing else.
What he fails to understand is the lasting damage stupid remarks such as this can do to the reputation of places like Dunoon.
I have written to the publishers demanding an apology and a retraction for their foolish and damaging remarks.
Representative of Cowal Enterprise Trust Ian McCrae said: Dunoon is one of the safer towns in the country, as it has CCTV.
FIRST TENTATIVE STEPS
THE first steps to saving Dunoon Burgh Hall for public use were taken at a meeting of Cowal Youth Theatre, last week.
The group had invited along interested parties, who had expressed concerns about the halls future, to discuss what the next move should be following Bute Housing Associations offer to sell the building to a community trust.
The Association need an answer to their offer by April and it was agreed a public meeting should be organised to enable people to express their opinions and hopes for the hall, and more significantly to put together a steering group, which will organise and set up a trust for the running of the structure.
It is also hoped the meeting will reveal that many local groups and organisations are interested in using the hall and perhaps will fund-raise for the work needed to be carried out on the building.
It has been suggested that a six-figure sum will be needed to bring the hall up to a reasonable standard.
The public meeting about the Burgh Hall will take place on Wednesday March 6 at 7.30pm in Dunoon Grammar School.
Chairperson for the meeting is Liz Miller, who hopes to invite representatives from Historic Scotland, The Arts Council and people who have experience in the setting up and running of community trusts, to speak at the meeting.
If anyone is interested in offering their help regarding the set up of a steering group they can phone Liz before the meeting on 702913.
YOUNGEST MEMBER SET TO STEP DOWN
SCOTTISH Parliaments youngest MSP is set to stand down at the 2003 elections.
Duncan Hamilton is only 28 and is looking to pursue a legal career.
He will leave the Scottish Nationalist Party and his departure will be seen as a blow to the party, as he was tipped as a future leader.
The Highlands and Islands list member joins a growing number of SNP MSPs who will not be seeking re-election, including Winnie Ewing and Kay Ullrich.
Mr Hamilton said: Being elected as the youngest member of the first Scottish Parliament in 300 years was a great privilege, and something that I have enjoyed hugely.
It has been an honour to serve the people of the Highlands and Islands since 1999 and I am totally committed to speaking up for all the people of this constituency, and representing their many needs for the duration of this Parliament.
He continued: Being elected at the age of 25 was a wonderful experience and one that I will never regret. But I also believe that the best Parliamentarians have real life experience outside politics, and that this is now the right time for me to fulfil my other ambitions.
That is why, after reflection and discussion with my colleagues, family and constituency party, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2003.
SNP Leader John Swinney praised Mr Hamilton, saying that he is a first class Scots Parliamentarian and a strong and skilled voice for the Highlands and Islands, as well as a close friend and colleague.
He is also a young man and I understand his decision to develop an alternative career at this stage in his life. I know from my own career the value of outside experience in building and developing a rounded perspective.
I wish him the very best and know that he will remain active on behalf of the SNP and Scotland outside the Scottish Parliament. I also fully expect him to return as an elected representative at a future stage in his career.
He added: One of the features of the modern SNP is that we have strength in depth, with 42 excellent Parliamentarians in Edinburgh, Westminster and Strasbourg. I know that new talent will be elected, alongside incumbent MSPs, when we are successful in 2003, and take Scotland forward to Independence!
Mr Hamiltons election came as a surprise to everyone, including himself, as the venture was seen as nothing more than an exercise for him to cut his political teeth. But at the age of 25 he found himself elected and set aside his developing ambitions as a lawyer.
AT HOME IN DUNOON
HAVING become a haven for many celebrities, Cowal even boasts a significant link to Hollywood star Julianne Moore.
The forty-year-old actress has revealed that she never felt at home until she visited her mothers home town of Dunoon.
Julianne grew up in America, as the only red head in town, not realising that across the Atlantic there were plenty more like her.
Ann, her mother, moved to America in her early twenties and always reminded her daughter that she was not a true American, but was in fact half Scots, with a family across the ocean. She even held on to her Scots accent.
Julianne made her own pilgrimage to Dunoon when she was in her twenties and met her aunts, saying that for the first time she truly felt at home.
She stated that everybody looked the same as her, with her mothers Celtic looks, and she realised that she really did look Scottish.
But it still took her a long time to come to terms with her looks, as she had always wanted big lips and darker skin, not freckles.
Julianne was born Julie Smith in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her father Peter was a judge in the US Armys Judge Advocate General Corps and her mother had been his childhood sweetheart.
Together the family travelled the world, moving from one army base to another.
Julianne revealed that the constant change in location made her more adaptable and that acting became her way of adjusting to new surroundings.
She married actor John Gould Rubin, but the marriage lasted just a few years, yet she simply says that her twenties were a mess and that it wasnt until her thirties that she started to make any real headway.
She is now with writer-director Bart Freundlich, the father of her four-year-old son Caleb, and in April their second child is due.
Julianne has starred in a list of blockbusters, including The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, The End of the Affair and Body of Evidence.