Yesterday in the Scottish Parliament, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, once again highlighted the urgent need for more resilience across CalMac’s ferry network as well as establishing islands-based members on CalMac’s boards.
During yesterday afternoon’s Ministerial Statement on Ferguson Marine, Allan noted pressures on existing services to the islands, and the human consequences delays at the shipyard have had on Western Isles communities, asking:
“Can the Cabinet Secretary give an indication of how the new vessels will be utilised to alleviate some of those pressures and problems in my constituency and elsewhere?”
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes responded by reaffirming the need for the vessels currently still under construction at Ferguson marine to be completed as quickly as possible, as they are needed to provide the necessary resilience on the network. The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that a two-vessel service for the Uig triangle route was one of the options being looked at, as well as the MV Loch Frisa allowing for additional services on the Mallaig-Lochboisdale route when she comes into service later this year.
Vessels 801 and 802, currently under construction at Ferguson Marine, are now due to be delivered between March-May 2023 and October-December 2023 respectively.
In a later debate today on Scotland’s ferry services, the Transport Secretary apologised to island communities for the severe disruption to ferry services experienced this winter, as well as the issues with timely communication of disruptions, and said:
“I am acutely aware of the need for the Government, and CalMac, to improve in this regard. And whilst I cannot […] improve our fleet overnight, I am intent that we deliver a better service. And working with our island communities I will explore every possible avenue to do just that.”
Allan intervened in the Minister’s statement to make the point that CalMac and CMAL might be more responsive to communities as organisations if any of their board members actually had to use these ferry services.
The Transport Minister is due to visit the Western Isles next month at Alasdair Allan’s invitation to meet with community representatives and discuss the ferry network.