CalMac ferry debacle needs a judge-led inquiry, not denial – Brian Wilson

The intimation by Caledonian Marine Assets Limited (CMAL) that it plans to expand its headquarters in Port Glasgow and take on 21 more people raises an immediate question – has this bravura the approval of the Scottish government, of which CMAL is a wholly-owned creature?

CalMac's ferries provide a lifeline service for island communities (Picture: John Devlin)

If not, it confirms CMAL is a law to itself. If so, then communities reliant on ferry services which CMAL has helped reduce to chaos have another right to ask what on Earth is going on?

There would be virtual unanimity in these places that CMAL should be scrapped, not digging deeper to secure its own future.

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Even ministers acknowledged the problem by appointing Ernst & Young – they do love big ticket consultants, don’t they? – to report on the whole mess involving CMAL, Transport Scotland (ie civil servants) and Caledonian MacBrayne (the ones at the sharp end). Are CMAL already assuming they are safe?

Who would one ask? The board of CMAL is made up of people with no connection to the communities these ferries serve in line with what is seemingly Scottish government policy to allow the natives nowhere near the quangos that rule their lives. Nobody has been held accountable for the Ferguson’s scandal or any of the other botches to which CMAL was central.

With hundreds of millions of pounds at stake, the only appointment Scottish ministers should authorise is of a High Court judge to lead an inquiry into a debacle which shows absolutely no sign of resolution. That call is backed by, among others, Jim McColl, former chairman of Ferguson’s. Why not by his old patron, Nicola Sturgeon, and the board of CMAL?

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