Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cornwall and the government must do more for Scilly


I lament the fact that the ancient links between Penzance and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly look in jeopardy. There is still little resolution and a firm plan on the sea link, I welcome the fact that people in Penwith are getting together to try to rescue the mess caused by the Conservative-Independent Cornwall Council (the Penzance Seafront Forum). The helicopter link too looks in doubt short sightedly Cornwall Council granted Sainsburys planning permission to turn the existing heliport site into yet another out of town supermarket for Penzance, despite the fact the heliport had not found a new home. Once again big business has taken precedence and blinded the council to the bigger picture. Whoever we blame for the mess we are in, the very real business, tourism and community links between Penzance and Scilly are in grave doubt, we need to take action.

The undynamic Cornwall Council does not look to be doing anything about these links, they seem more than content to attract the helicopter to boost the revenues of their loss making airport at Newquay. Whether flying twice as far and using twice as much fuel is a long term solution to the helicopter remains to be seen, I am very sceptical as many in Penzance are. Cornwall Council's shameful lack of commitment to the Isles of Scilly is more than made up for by their own council which is thinking differently about how to secure links and how to secure a better deals for the people of the islands. They have announced today that they are looking into having link re-designated as a "Public Service Obligation Route", this would mean that the government would take responsibility for the links between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland. Yesterday I blogged about how Cornwall only need look to Scotland for how devolved administration and thinking differently to the Westminster village could make politics work better for the people. Scillonians have realised this truth too, they have investigated sealinks between island communities and the mainland. To their shock and horror, the Scottish do this very well. The example they have given is the Isle of Islay, a similar distance from the mainland as Scilly but whereas the Scillonian III costs £95 return journey, they pay £12 return. They pay £70 to fly to Glasgow and back, currently it is £175 to fly to Newquay and back to St Mary's.

As I said yesterday if it is good enough for Scotland it should be good enough for Cornwall and Scilly. The government needs to step in and subsidise the essential links between Penzance and Scilly. I hope that Cornwall Council does something good for us for once and lobbies government to make this happen and I hope they are joined by our coalition MPs. The link to the Scilly Today story is here. I wish Scillonians and Islanders alike the best of luck with this, I hope for the good of my town and the islands that Westminster sees sense.