Alasdair Allan, MSP for na h-Eileanan an Iar, led a Member’s Debate in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 7th September, calling for a proportion of the seats on CalMac’s boards to be reserved for islanders. There are currently no members on the boards of either Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd or CalMac Ferries Ltd who are resident on islands within the CalMac network. Alasdair Allan MSP is of the view that the allocation of board seats to those living in the islands would promote more community input into the decisions made regarding lifeline ferry services.
Speaking in the chamber, Allan praised the efforts of CalMac staff during what has been a very difficult year, while highlighting the frustrations of local people at being unable to travel to and from the mainland for weeks at a time over the summer months:
“I have to be honest that local residents found it increasingly difficult to accept that they were being denied travel for even essential purposes when tourists seemingly had no difficulty traveling at all. That is because tourists are able to book their travel months in advance. I make that last remark, not to take away from the importance of tourists to the islands in any way but simply to illustrate why a booking system based on the first come first served principle mean that the day to day needs of islanders simply cannot compete.
“We know that CalMac needs more vessels, particularly a better choice of relief vessels, a better booking system, a fares review and better communication with customers.”
Allan went on to state that CalMac might be better managed if board members had to face the travelling public themselves, with a higher level of accountability if board members had to face direct consequences of disrupted or fully-booked services for weeks on end:
“I realise that appointing board members is no simple task and that the criteria used for appointment becomes key here. In communities where so many people have their own professional seafaring experience, as well as the lived experience more generally of living somewhere entirely dependent on a ferry, there are plenty people well qualified.”