NEIL ALEXANDER –FERRY UPDATE- EXPERT FERRY COMMITTEE RESIGNATION
Written by Archie Fergusson on 04/02/2014
Neil in his Monday afternoon programme told his listeners of the resignation of a member of the Expert Ferry Committee which has been the subject of much controversy in the fact that this group Do not publish agendas of meeting. Do not publish minutes or meetings and in fact up until now it was not made public who was a member of the committee.
A little more of the committee’s activities have now come to light with the publication of Professor Neil Kay Letter of resignation to Mr Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Transport
The letter is published below with permission
As to be shared with his listeners on his DCR Presenters Page Neil’s latest news from the DGFAG http://www.dunooncommunityradio.org/programme-info/presenters/neil-alexander/comment-page-1/#comment-649916
To Mr Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Transport
2nd February 2014
Resignation from Expert Ferry Group
I have to submit my resignation from the Expert Ferry Group on the grounds that the public interest is not served by the existence of this Group. It is now clear that the structure and working practices of the Group are designed to voice and promote producer interests, including that of (some) established operators. The interests of those users and communities dependent on those ferry services are and will be peripheral in such a forum when they should be central. While the title “Expert Ferry Group” may give the impression that this is a collection of independent experts, it would be better described as platform for lobbying and vested interests. What should be in some cases only arms-length relations with government are now institutionalised within the process of government itself.
What makes this worse is that the Group will effectively operate in secret with a mandate to influence government strategy, but with free range for lobbying and assertion with no robust and transparent mechanisms in place to check facts and arguments. It is true that pressure from me and others means that the agenda and some form of minutes will be made public; however this was not the original intention, these concessions have been made unwillingly, and does not alter the fact that actual documents and discussion will remain secret.
As I advised you before accepting your invitation to join the Group, I would have much preferred that you and this government had instead put in place robust governance structures for administering and regulating these essential services under EU law. However, I felt that on balance I might do more good by joining the Group rather than staying out. That was clearly a mistake and if my membership of the Group could be misconstrued by some as representing some attempt at balance, then that is just another reason for me to resign.
My advice in his context is; please dissolve this Group and appoint instead a small task force of independent experts in regulatory economics and EU competition policy to advise you of options here. I have been arguing that case and the case for sound governance structures, including an independent regulator, to Parliament and successive Transport Ministers for years. Had that advice been taken it could at least have reduced the chances of successive expensive debacles in this context, the most recent evidence of which will quite possibly turn out to be the taking of Transport Scotland to court last week over its handling of the Northern Isles ferry contract.
Professor Neil Kay