14 Aug 2022

Recall Parliament for emergency statement on ferry disruption – Lib Dems

Recall Parliament for emergency statement on ferry disruption – Lib Dems

Scottish ministers have been urged to recall Parliament to allow an emergency statement to be made amid further ferry cancellations.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats made the call after key Western Isles routes were hit by service disruption.

The MV Hebrides vessel is out of action for urgent repairs until at least Sunday due to an issue with its CO2 firefighting system.

Services between Uig on Skye, Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on Harris have been cancelled since Tuesday.

Ferry operator CalMac has since announced the MV Isle of Mull will be redeployed to cover the Lochmaddy and Tarbert services.

But that move has come under fire as the reshuffle impacts one of Scotland’s most popular routes, between Oban and Craignure on Mull.

Other key routes, including Mallaig to Lochboisdale on South Uist and Mallaig to Armadale on Skye, have also been disrupted.

Lib Dem economy spokesman Willie Rennie: “Everyone knows the fleet is outdated and prone to breakdowns, but nothing seems to be being done about it.

“If half the transport link to the First Minister’s constituency were removed overnight her constituents would be beating down her door and I’m sure a solution would be found in short order.

“Because this affects island communities, far from the central belt, residents are just expected to grin and bear it, even as their businesses suffer and their family members struggle to get to medical appointments.

“I believe that this is serious enough that the Parliament should be recalled and the minister made to explain why years of underinvestment in our ferry network has been allowed to lead us here.

“Islanders have been clear that if these ferry failures continue, the Scottish Government are risking an ‘island clearances’ as residents will simply find the situation intolerable.”

Island communities have voiced their frustration to MSPs in recent months following repair issues with CalMac’s ageing fleet of vessels.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said ministers have requested investigation into the MV Hebrides fault.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth convened a resilience meeting on Thursday with local politicians and stakeholders to discuss the issue.

The spokesperson said: “CalMac, as the operator, provided an update on the vessel movements to cover for the period of the outage.

“CalMac have added a number of additional sailings to help with essential supplies to the islands and we continue to work with CalMac and CMAL on potential resilience options for the fleet.

“This includes seeking potential second hand tonnage to improve operational resilience on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes.

“The previous charters of MV Arrow and recent purchase of the MV Utne (now MV Loch Frisa) are evidence of this ongoing commitment to improve and support the existing fleet in this way.

“Ministers recognise that having confidence in ferry services can impact upon people’s decision on whether to live and work on the islands, and impacts upon the sustainability of the island communities themselves.

“These human impacts are at the heart of Scottish ministers’ commitment to continued investment in ferry services across Scotland.”

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