Severe CalMac travel restrictions to remain after lockdown ends

Holidaymakers face severe limits on CalMac ferry travel to the islands when lockdown constraints are eased, The Scotsman has learned.

Space on CalMac ferries will remain at just 17 per cent of normal.

Restrictions to ensure physical distancing is likely to keep the west coast operator’s capacity at just 17-18 per cent of normal, even after curbs on driving have been lifted.

This is despite restrictions on accommodation providers, such as hotels, B&Bs and holiday homes, being due to be lifted in phase three of the Scottish Government’s “route map” out of the crisis.

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Ferry constraints could keep those on the islands out of reach.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson told The Scotsman: “We have got restrictions in place on the use of ferry services just now as part of our arrangements to try to reduce the risk of people going to the islands who do not normally reside there and resulting in the transmission of the virus.

“It may be we continue to have a level of restriction on ferry services in the way we have at present if that’s the view of public health officials and island authorities.

“It may be as we move through the phases and ramp up services, we continue to limit who can make use of ferry services to help to reduce the public health risk and manage the very limited capacity on some routes for those who are resident on the islands.

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“Capacity on some of our bigger vessels is going to be down to 17-18 per cent, so they are going to be significantly constrained on the number of passengers they are able to carry.”

Mr Matheson said capacity on NorthLink’s ferries to Orkney and Shetland would be slightly higher because they had cabins.

CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond said: “Capacity across our entire network will be constrained to as little as 17 per cent due to physical distancing measures.

“Therefore, we would strongly encourage anyone planning to travel to the islands to take a responsible approach so we can ensure our limited capacity is available for island residents and those making essential journeys.”

A Western isles Council spokesperson said: “The Comhairle’s approach from the beginning of the pandemic outbreak has been to preserve community safety and protection of life. That remains our view.

“We will continue discussions with Scottish Government and public health on how the phases should proceed.”

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