Ferries fiasco Scotland: Island businesses reiterate calls for the Scottish Government to pay compensation
Islanders say their businesses are losing up to half of their income because of a perception the Hebrides are “inaccessible”.
Members of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee say the ongoing ferries fiasco has put people off coming to the islands for their holidays, and this could lead to businesses having to close their doors. The group is now calling on the Scottish Government to pay these businesses compensation for the trade they are losing out on as a result of the ongoing ferry disruption.
The plea comes after First Minister Humza Yousaf said there were better ways to spend the transport budget than paying island businesses compensation.
Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, Joe Reid, from the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, said: “For any tourist-dependent business, it has been awful. The winter is bad for every business, but then there has also been disruption, added costs and time delays.
“It is already July and we have only had a normal ferry service for a few weeks. The early part of the summer was a dead loss because of the disruption and the perception of service disruption.
“There is a perception the Hebrides are inaccessible.”
Mr Reid, who runs a business in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, said the town was “quieter than it should be”, and this was having a knock-on effect on businesses like his.
He said: “Businesses are reporting they are 20 to 50 per cent down and that’s definitely in great part due to the damage done by the whole ferry fiasco. The assumption from people hearing this story is ‘don’t bother going to the Hebrides’.
“We want to desperately get the message out that we are open for business – please come, because the next few months are critical for tourist businesses. If they don’t make money in the next few months, when it comes to winter they will be stuffed.”
Mr Reid is now echoing calls other islanders have made for compensation to be paid. He said: “Businesses don’t like asking for hand-outs, but we need help because for some of the businesses the impact will be life or death.
“Vulnerable businesses need help just like they did in Covid. This is a similar crisis for the Hebrides and the economy and we need help to overcome the negative perception that we are closed or inaccessible.”
This comes after the First Minister appeared to throw cold water on the idea of paying island businesses compensation.
During a visit to Fort William on Monday, Mr Yousaf said he “deeply regrets” the ongoing ferry disruption. He said the Government would “keep an open mind” on paying compensation.
However, he added: “The reason we have not brought forward a compensation scheme is we need to take that from other parts of our transport budget. We are much better using those funds to bolster the network as opposed to looking at a compensation scheme.”
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