By Barb Taub, posted in Barb’s Commentary Tuesday 21 September 2021
“A DEMONSTRATION,” SAID THE TEXT. “BRING A POSTER AND WEAR BLACK.”
See, that’s what happens when you seriously annoy people from my generation. We’ve already had experience with protests—we’ve marched for equality, boycotted grapes, and laid down in front of tanks. And we vote.
Arran Ferry Action Group, a grassroots group which includes a significant portion of Arran residents, has been attempting to meet with the Scottish government to share concerns about the ferry situation. When AFAG** heard that Scotland’s recently appointed Transport Minister Graeme Day MSP was coming to the island to meet with a secret group of people about a secret list of things but the results of their meeting would be…wait for it…secret—they knew it was time to act.
**I did not and could not make up this unfortunate acronym.
So when my friend Sharon texted about the upcoming protest, I knew what I had to do. I made my sign, told the Hub to be ready with bail money, and headed out.
As those who have followed the cluster-f**k known as the Scottish Government’s attempts to run the ferries know already, costs for the original £97-million contract for two new vessels due to launch in 2018 have more than doubled—some reports say tripled—while the government has nationalized the bankrupt shipyard. But the unseaworthy vessels are still not expected to be in service before 2022. Or possibly ever.
Meanwhile, island residents have had to book trips to the mainland for medical care and other essentials three weeks in advance. We wanted to ask the minister, “What if you had to book three weeks in advance every time you wanted to leave Edinburgh? And when your departure date finally came round, what if you couldn’t leave after all?”
So even though it was absolutely pounding rain, about 50 of us stood outside and waved our little signs. Only…apparently the minister got word of our terrifying protest (which the media labelled the “old age pensioner (OAP) protest”) and they moved their meeting to a secret location.
The Hub was relieved because he didn’t have to bail me out of jail in case I was moved to chain myself to something. I was relieved not to be arrested, although I think closest thing to a jail our island offers is a reference in my friend Tola’s deed for their cottage—the former Whiting Bay Jail—that says they have to make their spare room available if needed to house desperate criminals/gray-haired protesters.
In the end, we decided to head to Janie’s coffeeshop for cappuccinos and her excellent cheese scones.
The Minister apparently sneaked in a back door, held his secret meetings, and was on the afternoon ferry. Which, amazingly, left on time.
By the time we got home, the rain had stopped and a rainbow appeared. I’m not sure if that’s a metaphor, but I’ll take it!
NOTE: I should add that my opinion of the way the Scottish government has mismanaged the ferries IN NO WAY applies to the hard-working, cheerful, and professional staff of CalMac ferries. I see them as fellow victims of a situation going from bad to worse.
AND …you may be interested to hear that the Arran Ferry Action Group has ordered t-shirts with the WTF design and will be selling them to raise awareness of the issues with the ferry. See Barb’s website for more details about this in the near future.