With islands at crisis point as widespread chaos engulfs ferry services throughout the Inner and Outer Hebrides as a result of over runs in the Calmac dry docking schedule and the breakdown of MV Hebrides, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling for urgent action from Calmac and Scottish Government to ensure lifeline service is restored and a community voice is listened to.
While Scottish Government has committed new funds - with a commitment to order two new ferries for Islay to a design that can fit nearly every harbour on the network along with the delayed ferries being built by Ferguson Port Glasgow - this will not be enough to address the existing renewal needs of the Calmac ferries fleet. To provide short term relief an opportunity exists for Government to purchase MV Pentalina which could enter service immediately to either Arran or Mull and allow redeployment of another ferry to shore up the delivery of services across the network. Government also needs to increase the planned order of the new Islay ferries from the planned two to at least four ferries. This action would go a long way to re-setting the decades of underinvestment in ferries and give island communities genuine confidence that Government will support their economic recovery from the most challenging period in living memory.
Chairman of Transportation Cllr Uisdean Robertson said:
“I wrote on behalf of the Comhairle and our communities to Ministers in December to express our concern that no islanders were appointed to the Board of Calmac. In response I received an assurance from the Minister for Transport that our frustration was understood and our views would be considered. The Minister specifically assured me that the new Chair of David MacBrayne, Erik Ostergaard would make it a priority to ensure that island residents and communities’ views are represented appropriately on the Board. Despite this promise Mr Ostergaard has made no attempt to contact the Comhairle since assuming his new Chairmanship which is entirely consistent with the approach he took in his previous role as Chair of CMAL. It would seem that actions speak louder than words and while lifeline ferry services have been decimated in recent weeks the senior management hunker down in Gourock or in the Chair’s case Copenhagen. We need decisive action from those in leadership positions both in how they work with the communities they serve and with investment in the fleet that is very long overdue.”