Scotland needs to sort out the problems with its ferries and fast – Kenny MacAskill MP

I’m fascinated by ferries. I suppose it’s because every summer I spent holidays with grandparents on Lewis.
CalMac ferries are a vital link for island communities (Picture: John Devlin)CalMac ferries are a vital link for island communities (Picture: John Devlin)
CalMac ferries are a vital link for island communities (Picture: John Devlin)

For me, a break doesn’t start unless there’s a sail, no matter how short. It also means I take an interest in the affairs of CalMac even though I don’t live in a community where they’re a lifeline service.

I’m old enough to remember when it was David MacBrayne and cars were lifted in nets and placed on space in the bow. There’s been issues over the years but on the routes I sailed, I welcomed the introduction of car ferries and then ro-ro ships. Similarly the length of the sail was reduced from many hours to being able to run three services a day, if not more.

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I’m also aware how important they are for the communities they serve. I recall once when I’d newly passed my driving test going up to stay with my Granny. A stone spun up and smashed my windscreen just as I was heading to the port.

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Boarding with a cracked screen, I disembarked and made my windswept way to the croft anticipating a quick trip to Stornoway the following day to sort matters. As it was it would be several days before a new windscreen could be brought in by the boat. But that’s life on an island and it’s why the link matters.

That’s why I’m gobsmacked at what’s going on in CalMac at the moment. It’s not as if the difficulty is in one ship and on one service. Instead it seems to be across the board and affecting communities up and down our coasts.

Service failures at sea are being compounded by wider failures on land. How the debacle at Ferguson Marine has been allowed to develop beats me. Why the construction of vital ships should go to yards abroad or repairs to the Mersey staggers me.

There is also the whole structure. Folk have railed against the divide in the railways between track and operators, Network Rail and ScotRail. Why then do we have CMAL and CalMac? This needs sorted and fast.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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