Ferries scandal Scotland: SNP ‘doing so badly they need Tory Government to help’ over Calmac, Scottish MP claims

Senior management are to be quizzed over ferry problems at a summit headed by a UK Government minister

The SNP have handled the nation’s ferry network so badly that even the Tories think they can do a better job, a Scottish MP has claimed.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats MP for Orkney and Shetland, criticised the Scottish Government as senior management from CalMac were on Monday questioned over the ferry operator's performance by concerned islanders.

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CalMac chief executive Robbie Drummond and operations director Robert Morrisons answered questions from a range of stakeholders at a roundtable hosted by the UK Government, and chaired by UK Government minister for Scotland, John Lamont.

The SNP have been accused of failing island communities.The SNP have been accused of failing island communities.
The SNP have been accused of failing island communities.

Mr Carmichael told the Scottish Government they should be “embarrassed” at the need for intervention.

He told The Scotsman: “When you are doing so badly that even this Tory government thinks that they can help, then you know something is seriously awry. The SNP-Green Government should be embarrassed that it has come to this.

“People who rely on ferries as a lifeline service are not particularly interested in constitutional wrangling – they just want reliable transport links. The lesson from the ferries fiasco is that our governments need to engage and work with local communities – any effort to do that is welcome.

“Both the Tories and the SNP have been stuck for too long in the mentality that ‘central government knows best’. It is past time that we put more power over our services in the hands of the people who use them.”

Groups to attend the meeting included the Colonsay Lifeline Transport Group, Arran Ferry Action Group, and the Mull and Iona Community Trust.

It follows Scotland’s nationalised ferry service facing a spate of issues including delays and cancellations, with two ferries planned to replace ageing vessels still being built by the state-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow.

The first vessel, Glen Sannox, was meant to set sail in 2018, but has been delayed until May, and the initial cost for both has soared from £97 million to more than £350m.

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It was also confirmed on Friday that a berthing facility at Ardrossan would be closed permanently. The berth has been used by a relief vessel brought in by CalMac to ease pressure on the key Brodick route.

The UK Government has chosen to intervene, explaining that while transport is devolved to the Scottish Government, it has been “monitoring the situation closely”.

Mr Lamont said: "Transport in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Government, and the UK Government respects that. But it would be remiss of me as a Scotland Office minister if I did not heed the growing chorus of voices alarmed that CalMac’s fleet is ageing, and promised new vessels linger on blocks or the dockyard quay.

"It is for the Scottish Government to act to improve the situation for our island communities, but I want to amplify the voices of those I met over the summer."

The Scotland Office said in a statement it would pass information from the meeting to the UK government, including its Islands Forum.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said: “We are listening carefully to concerns raised by islanders and other ferry users and working hard to address these.”



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