NEARLY a decade has passed since the axe fell on the ferry service linking Helensburgh with Kilcreggan and Gourock.

In January 2012 councillors decided the Helensburgh leg of the route was “unviable”.

Three months later a lone piper played on the pier as the last ferry left.

So the idea, floated (sorry) by no less a body than the Scottish Government’s own transport directorate, that it might be time to think about resurrecting it, is interesting to say the least.

READ MORE: 'We look forward to hearing more' - council on Helensburgh-Gourock ferry plan

It’s not terribly long since we had a Prime Minister who was fond of telling us that “there’s no magic money tree” in the UK’s public finances.

Of course, since then things have changed quite a bit, as governments in both London and Edinburgh have provided unprecedented sums to help people through the pandemic.

Pre-coronavirus, everybody accepted that governments, like families, had no choice but to cut their cloth to fit: if you spend money on one thing, that means you can’t spend it on another. But the sums involved in coping with the pandemic are so eye-wateringly huge that if the normal rules apply in full, the financial consequences – not just for governments, but for every one of us who pays taxes – will surely be utterly horrific for decades to come.

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Where that leaves the prospect of a reborn Helensburgh ferry service, I don’t know.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that there won’t be any such service unless and until there’s a pier in a fit state for a ferry to call at. But nor is Helensburgh’s pier likely to get the repairs it needs without a realistic prospect that it’s going to be used.

Perhaps we really are on the verge of a new era in economics, in which the question of whether something is cost-effective turns out to be less important than whether it is for the public good.

There are lots of reasons why that might be desirable; whether it’s practical is another question altogether.

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