Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant who has been fighting on behalf of the Communities and Businesses of the Western and Argyll Isles to get the Scottish Government and its fully owned companies, Calmac and CMAL, to provide the lifeline service that it is supposed to be providing.
Rhoda said, ” I warned of a Summer of Discontent and now it is here.
“We have seen a complete disregard for the communities of the Western Isles and a fudging of the term lifeline service.
“With complete withdrawal of the Lochboisdale – Mallaig ferry link a few weeks back with absolute no consultation with the community and, the delayed start of the Campbeltown to Ardrossan service, and then a ridiculous merry go round of boats on the Uig triangle which highlighted the non-existent resilience provision which should be in place on these routes.
” I have met with Robbie Drummond, Interim MD of Calmac Ferries who confirmed that his fleet is inadequate and underfunded, yet still no support from the Government Minister for Transport or a firm plan to address the problems.”
She added, “People are sick fed up of the buck being passed from SNP ministers to CMAL to Calmac to Transport Scotland and just want a ferry service that is in line with the lifeline provision it is supposed to be.
” The simple fact is that the ferry links have no capacity and the Scottish Government is refusing to do anything about it.
“Worse is that they do not gather data on unmet need, we have no idea of the number of people who wish to travel but cannot.
“This is a fundamental disregard for islanders.
“It also vindicates those on Lewis who fought to have a two ferry solution, but were ignored.”
Mrs Grant added, “We have a situation that a freight ferry on the Stornoway to Ullapool route was already deployed and working well.
“This was then withdrawn without any consultation and the onus placed on the passenger ferry to run once a day for freight.
“This then has the obvious impact of not allowing the MV Loch Seaforth the option to run 3 sailings in the busy times.”
“This is just incompetent management and has been covered up all along the way even to the point of the Transport Minister at the time Humza declaring publicly that he couldn’t find a vessel to carry freight to Stornoway.
“My office found that the MV Clipper Ranger was available that very day”
Rhoda concluded, “Outer Hebrides Tourism who are desperately trying to maintain the tourist sector of the Islands fragile economy have written to me highlighting their concerns because people are cancelling bookings because they cannot travel.
“It is also incredulous to think that islanders cannot have relatives attend funerals, have their businesses put in jeopardy and yet we have nothing from the local MSP or the Minister.”