Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil has made a plea for the RMT to avert a damaging strike this Friday and to keep talking with Government owned Caledonian MacBrayne and also the Scottish Government to look for a route through the impasse to the benefit of RMT members and islanders.

Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I understand the fears that RMT members have, and hope that dialogue can avert industrial action. I do know that having spoken to the Transport Minister, Derek Mackay that the Government’s door is still open for talks.  We do not want to see a situation on Friday when Government owned Caledonian MacBrayne has its Hebridean boats tied up while the privately run Serco sails to Northern Isles, perhaps even with RMT members amongst their crew.

“I am happy, along with other politicians to meet with the RMT at Westminster if we can be of any assistance to their ends, as I along with other politicians in the Highlands and Islands, want to see CalMac retain this contract but I am struggling to see how this strike helps that end.

“Meanwhile, the economy and events in the islands are being badly hit, such as the Barrathon – the half marathon in Barra, run to help MacMillan Cancer Support and local charities – they were expecting about 300 runners in the half marathon but with 90% due to come from the mainland, the strike is obviously not helping and it has left organisers with a major headache.

“I have also been contacted from many people in Lewis, Harris and Uist who have had their travel plans disrupted and are angry at the economic damage this is doing.  Islanders have also dealt with a winter of bad weather and ferry disruptions however this adds to those difficult experiences and disruption.

“Currently islanders have a lot of sympathy for the situation and, in the main, support CalMac retaining their contract and this goodwill should be further built on by the RMT, however, I struggle to see how this is helping their cause.

“Meanwhile, I am told by some travellers that CalMac have suspended the booking system which is definitely not helping a bad situation as it adds uncertainty of travel to a strike.  People need as much certainty as possible on the days that ferries are in fact sailing.”