Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has called for greater prioritisation of islanders for ferry bookings on the CalMac network.

The islands MSP has been inundated with messages from constituents whose lives have been impacted by the lack of bookable ferry capacity, such as people unable to get to work on the mainland or visit sick relatives.

Under the terms of the current Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract between CalMac and the Scottish Government, CalMac bookings must be dealt with on a first come, first served basis, with no discrimination between one ferry user and another. There is a limited exception for urgent medical appointments.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The current situation is intolerable. The reduction of CalMac’s capacity to 35% because of social distancing rules, while understandable, has meant islanders have often been left simply unable to travel. Most people are not able to plan their lives weeks in advance and are unable to book tickets as a consequence.

“Whether it’s people unable to visit sick relatives, offshore workers unable to get to work or people unable to get away to visit family and friends on the mainland; this has had an impact on every aspect of island life.

“While I am hopeful next week will bring confirmation that social distancing rules on ferries can be dropped from 9 August onwards, there can never be a repeat of this summer. CalMac staff have done their best in trying circumstances. In the future, they need the ability to prioritise people travelling for essential reasons.”

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