Following a press release published by Capercaillie Cruisers on Tuesday 21st March, Scottish Canals would like record our regret at the company’s decision to cease trading on Scotland’s canals.
Scottish Canals were in active discussions with Capercaillie as part of a wider review of all trading agreements that Scottish Canals has with commercial operators across the canal network. Capercaillie is the last commercial operator we have still to agree a new arrangement with.
Scottish Canals offered to have the negotiations independently facilitated so that we could all come to a mutually agreeable position but Capercaillie rejected this proposal.
As part of our discussion with Capercaillie we also explained to them how much it costs Scottish Canals to support their business and the significant discrepancy between the cost of the services we provide and what Capercaillie actually pays us each year. As a public body it is only right that we charge fair and transparent prices and achieve best value for money wherever possible; this is what we were trying to achieve during our discussions with Capercaillie. However, we made it perfectly clear, both in writing and during any meeting we had with Capercaillie, that these costs were simply a starting point for negotiations and not what we expected them to pay.
Unfortunately, before we were able to agree a reasonable settlement for both parties, Capercaillie has decided to walk away from the negotiating table prematurely and have advised us that they intend to cease trading at the end of this season. Capercaillie has not changed its position, despite numerous attempts by Scottish Canals to resume discussions.
Their decision to leave is regrettable but it is important to note that Capercaillie has been actively trying to sell the business for the past two years and have approached Scottish Canals twice over that period offering to sell it to us. We engaged in a positive dialogue on both occasions but unfortunately the present owners had, in our view, excessive expectations of what their business was worth as they only own three out of the 19 vessels which they currently operate. The other boats are owned by third party operators based in England.
Scottish Canals will do all it can to ensure a hire boat fleet remains on the Lowland Canals and if Capercaillie is determined to leave, we will negotiate a deal with the operators in England so they can continue providing a holiday boat offering on the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals. Under this agreement, we anticipate being able to secure the existing jobs provided by Capercalllie and ensure that the economic impact of Capercaillie’s departure would be minimal.