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The last sea-going paddle steamer, PS Waverley, which was withdrawn from service earlier this year, has been given a £1 million funding boost by the Scottish Government.
The announcement will bring the historic vessel a giant step closer to returning to full service by increasing the total amount raised to £1.9 million, just £400,000 short of the £2.3 million required to replace her boilers.
Following the discovery of structural defects in her boilers in May this year and her subsequent withdrawal from service, campaigners and those whom hold a deep affinity for the vessel started an appeal aimed at returning the 70-year old ship back to regular service.
Within months more than £100,00 was raised by organisations and members of the public but owing to the expense of needing to remove the iconic red, white and black twin funnels – and large sections of decking – the outlook for the ship looked bleak and it was likely to take some time to raise the funds.
Labour MSP Neil Bibby welcomed the funding boost following his appeal at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament earlier this year when he pressed for government support for the Waverley after all summer sailings were cancelled for the first time in 45 years.
Neil Bibby MSP said: ‘This is a much welcome announcement by the Scottish government that puts a secure future for the Waverley within touching distance.
‘I raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions and met with the Culture and Tourism Secretary in the summer to impress on her the importance of the Waverley to the West of Scotland and I am delighted the government has listened.
‘The Waverley is iconic, fondly remembered and instantly recognisable to so many people here in Scotland and around the world.
‘Scotland has a proud maritime heritage that needs cherished and protected.’
Support for the much-cherished Waverley has come from all sides of the political spectrum with Arran’s MSP Kenneth Gibson expressing his delight at the news. Kenneth Gibson MSP said: ‘The Waverley Paddle Steamer has been and should be a regular visitor to Arran, Cumbrae, Largs and throughout the Firth of Clyde. I am delighted that SNP Ministers are supporting this campaign to the tune of £1 million – a giant leap towards reaching its goal. Now the lion’s share of funding has been donated, I have no doubt the remainder will be raised
‘The Waverley has delighted generations of locals and visitors throughout its history and this significant financial commitment will help it sail again. This funding, in addition to the £0.7 million given to North Ayrshire Council for the Coig tourism trail, shows a consistent commitment to North Ayrshire and the Clyde as a tourism destination.
‘In 2020 Scotland’s coasts and waters will be celebrated with a programme of activity designed to inspire more people than ever before to explore and experience our unrivalled shores. I look forward to seeing the Waverley, such a key part of our maritime and cultural history, back in service and able to play a central part in that celebration.’
Paul Semple, Waverley’s general manager, commenting on the announcement said: ‘We are delighted that the Scottish Government has allocated this level of funding towards Waverley recognising the ship’s heritage value and the economic benefit she brings to many coastal communities. This funding together with the donations received from thousands of individuals takes our running appeal total to £1.9 million. However, we urgently need to secure a further £400,000 through donations, corporate funding and grants to ensure we can carry out all the work required to have Waverley back for next summer.
‘Waverley can offer a truly unique coastal cruising experience aboard a real steamship. All involved with Waverley are determined to keep her alive. I would urge those who share in our vision to preserve a piece of the past for future generations to enjoy, to join the Government in helping to return the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world to service.’
While the news was welcomed by all there could also be further good news for PS Waverley later this year when a decision on the £250,000 application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund is expected by November.
If further funding is secured Waverley will return to service for 2020 and the repairs will extend Waverley’s operational life for a further 20-25 years.
Donations to contribute to the repairs can be made to the Boiler Refit Appeal at waverleyexcursions.co.uk or by calling 0141 243 2224 or by texting STEAM £20 to 70085.
PS Waverley pictured near Lochranza. Photo: Stuart Whiston. 01_B10waverley01