Ferries scandal Scotland: Urgent meeting called with CalMac amid Scottish Government 'disappointment'
The call has been made after a third of the population of South Uist gathered over the weekend to protest against CalMac’s decision to cancel all sailings between the island’s Lochboisdale and the mainland until the begining of July. The route’s MV Lord of the Isles is being sent to cover the Islay route while MV Finlaggan goes for her annual overhaul, with no replacement service scheduled for the Hebridean island.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, net zero secretary Mairi McAllan said: “We have expressed our disappointment at CalMac and how the communications have been handled and been very clear that no stone be left unturned in addressing the issues for the Uists.”
The minister insisted all operational matters were CalMac’s responsibility and that she had called on the ferry company to “urgently review” its “route prioritisation matrix”, which is used during period of disruption.
She said any decision made by the ferry company with regards to adjusting routes must “reflect the socio-economic impacts which pertain in particular to fragile communities like South Uist”.
The meeting is due to take place on Tuesday afternoon, she said.
Ms McAllan’s calls come as transport minister Kevin Stewart announced his resignation, citing the impact of the role on his mental health.
CalMac apologised to the island for the month-long cancellation, saying the decision means it would impact the least number of people. But businesses on the island protested claim they have been abandoned.
They said the island would miss the holiday rush when schools break up for summer as no vessel is scheduled to operate from Lochboisdale to Mallaig until the beginning of July.
MSPs Rhoda Grant and Donald Cameron called on Ms McAllan to clarify whether or not the Scottish Government will offer compensation to the island community as “businesses go to the wall” amid the latest ferry cancellations.
Ms McAllan said the Scottish Government had looked at the penalty deductions that were made in relation to failures in the network, adding: “My view is that we should continue to use that money to reinvest in the ferry network.”
For example, she said the £9m cost of the charter of the MV Alfred, which is assisting the Arran route, is partly funded by performance deductions from CalMac of around £1m to £3m a year.
"I think it’s right that money continues to be used for that purpose because we can see how it adds resilience to the network,” she said.
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