The problem stems from the decision of the LibLab Executive to decide that Altmark didn't mean that you could give subsidies to essential services, but that you had to put the services out to tender before you could give the subsidy.
This was an individual, nay unique, interpretation of the permission by the EU Court of Justice that you DIDN'T have to put services out to tender to award a subsidy. One that Donald Manford and I fought hard to get the Comhairle to accept. No -- fought hard to get them to understand. The the Executive turned a blind eye in the most perverse manner.
Now, as the report in The Herald makes clear, the whole subsidy issue is up in the air again:-
- The European transport commissioner arrives in Scotland tonight and will begin taking evidence on how the country subsidises its ferry services. His visit comes as fears grow of new threats to the Caledonian MacBrayne network, presented by the European Commission itself.
In essence, the EU may rule that all the subsidies were illegal BECAUSE the service was put out to a tender designed to give the services to the winner - CalMac; whilst if CalMac had been given the subsidy without a tender then it may have been perfectly legal.
I almost despair at the call by Alyn Smith MEP (SNP) for the EU to investigate the subsidy issue to provide "clarity", as being dangerous in the extreme. This is what has opened the whole issue up for debate again, and instead of burying the issue (and blaming Labour!) the SNP seem determined to spend endless hours arguing with the Commission about the finer points of tendering, distracting all and sundry from the real issues of supporting the island communities.
I've given Labour enough kickings on this issue - as they are the root cause - but if the SNP make it even more difficult for the CalMac regime to continue, then they will get an even bigger kicking.