Scotland ferries scandal: Transport minister urged to 'urgently' intervene after island food rationing

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth has been urged to “urgently” intervene in the ferries crisis amid reports Scottish islanders are having to ration food.

A group of Scottish Conservative MSPs, including party leader Douglas Ross, have written to Ms Gilruth to demand an emergency summit be held with island MSPs to determine a timeline for the resumption of key ferry routes.

It comes as Ferguson Marine chief executive David Tydeman said he was confident both delayed CalMac ferries would be delivered next year.

He told the BBC Ferguson Marine were "on programme" to deliver Glen Sannox between March and May next year, with the other ferry – Hull 802 – due to be finished by the end of 2023.

SNP's transport minister Jenny Gilruth. Picture: PA

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"We have the opportunity, starting with 802 over the next year, to show we are as good as we were ten years ago," he said.

The claim follows CalMac vessel MV Hebrides being out of action for three days as it received urgent repairs due to issues with its carbon dioxide (CO2) firefighting system.

Routes between Uig on Skye, Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on Harris were among those affected by the breakdown.

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And some island shops have reported shortages of basic items such as bread and milk, while travellers are having to sleep in their cars.

The letter, written by Mr Ross, party transport spokesperson Graham Simpson, and MSPs Rachel Hamilton, Edward Mountain, Donald Cameron, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Russell Findlay, Jamie Greene and Pam Gosal, said the latest disruptions were “nothing new” to islanders.

The Scottish Government faced criticism over a five-year delay on the construction of two new ferries being built at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow. They are thought to be about two-and-a-half times over budget.

The letter said: “Disruptions to ferry services are nothing new to islanders.

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“However, we now have a service that is so unreliable that it cannot even be trusted to supply basic essentials that people need to live in the Hebrides.

“This is unprecedented in modern times. I am sure that you will agree that this situation is unacceptable.

“As MSPs who represent communities that rely on these services, we are shocked that this issue is not being handled by the SNP Government with the urgency it deserves.”

Alternative ferry routes to and from the Western Isles were still operating last week, The Scotsman understands, across the period when the main route between Uig, Lochmaddy and Tarbert was suspended.

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Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, said: “During this latest disruption, we shipped all the food deliveries we were asked to take.

"We prioritise food supplies and nothing was left on the mainland. Any issues with food supplies may have been caused by other reasons, such as supermarket supply chain issues.”

The Government, last week, faced calls to recall Parliament to deliver an emergency statement on the ferry delays impacting islanders.

The letter continued: “We simply cannot stand by whilst islanders suffer from food shortages, people are having to sleep in their cars and local businesses are severely impacted.

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“Our constituents deserve to see action now to deliver a more reliable service.

“As transport minister, it is your responsibility to ensure that ferries run properly between the islands and the mainland.

“As there has been no positive response from the SNP Scottish Government to the calls for Parliament to be recalled to address this matter, we therefore insist that you urgently convene a summit with all MSPs from the affected areas to determine the actions and timelines required for the SNP Government to resume lifeline ferry services and prevent this situation getting this critical again in the future.”

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