THIS week Craig Borland reacts to the news that the paddle steamer Waverley will not be calling at Helensburgh this summer amid ongoing concerns over the safety of the town’s pier.


News that the Waverley won’t be calling at Helensburgh this summer broke shortly after last week’s print edition of the Advertiser went on sale.

But we broke the story on our website straight away last Thursday morning. And the following day we got word that a senior figure within Argyll and Bute Council was concerned that our reporting might put visitors off coming to Helensburgh.

Their exact words: “I would hate to see the local press take a hatchet to local businesses.”

I’m happy to confirm that in terms of hatchet-waving, the council has nothing to worry about.

READ MORE: No Helensburgh Waverley visits will hurt business, says Chamber of Commerce

We report bad things when they happen - because that’s our job. But we take great pride in reporting the positive things too. Helensburgh has an awful lot to be proud of, and we are proud to reflect that in our coverage of the town and the wider area.

At this point I should say that I believe Argyll and Bute’s local councillors and officials work hard to do good things for Helensburgh too – contrary to what some cynical council tax payers might think.

But however the current situation around Helensburgh pier ends up being resolved, right now it’s hard to imagine anyone looking back on this episode in the pier’s story and saying that it was Argyll and Bute Council’s finest hour.

Yes, the council has maritime assets that are better used than Helensburgh pier. Yes, the council makes a contribution towards the Waverley’s own financial situation – which has never exactly been comfortable – by not charging pier dues. And yes, I know that if a council asset isn’t generating revenue for a cash-strapped authority, it is hard to justify spending significant sums on it.

READ MORE: Helensburgh pier may not be fixed for 2020 - and repairs could cost £1million

But I am not the only one to see that Helensburgh’s pier could be so much more than it is. The Helensburgh Seafront Development Project (HSDP) have been shouting from the rooftops for years about the pier’s potential – though until fairly recently, far too few people were listening.

Thankfully, talks have been taking place between the council and HSDP for a few months now in a bid to map out a future for the pier.

The outcome of those talks will, I would guess, be shaped to a very large extent by the findings of the expert structural analysis of the pier, which should have been published by early March.

Whatever those findings are, I hope they don’t have an adverse effect on the commitment to finding a long-term solution for the pier.

Because, as I’ve written in this column before, whatever other reasons there are for people to visit Helensburgh – and, lest anyone at the council or anywhere else be in any doubt about this, I know there are many! – a disused and decaying pier in any seafront town is like a great big missing tooth bang in the middle of the brightest of smiles.