Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is writing to Transport Scotland stressing the urgent need for a “fast assessment” of the current issues facing the ferry network to the Hebrides where four ferries are currently out of service.
After months of constant contact with the Scottish Government and CalMac regarding the network, Mr MacNeil is writing to the new Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth MSP, to stress once again the need for prompt action starting with Transport Scotland doing an urgent short-sharp assessment on the current situation which would need to be done within a month maximum. Mr MacNeil is backing calls by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and others for action.
The current disruption to the lifeline network is due to 3 vessels being in dry dock and the critical MV Hebrides being out of action with engine trouble, meaning the islands network is, an important, 4 vessels short.
Commenting Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil said:
“I am writing to Transport Scotland to do a short-sharp assessment of the ferry problems and needs as identified by many people today including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. We need action to bring about change in the Hebridean ferries.
“At the moment there has been a construction delay, as we know, at the Fergusons yard in Greenock. We need more ferries, as has been identified by the Comhairle and others. A logical consequence of what Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling for, is that enquiries must be made with shipyards in Poland and Germany that have built CalMac ferries in the past.
“The Pentalina meantime would look like a stop gap if it is fully seaworthy and there are no problems with it.
“Another obvious issue to be addressed is that the CalMac Board has to have islanders on it and I would suggest that the Council Leader and Transport Chairman be entrusted with these responsibilities. We wouldn’t have other bodies in Scotland without people resident in Scotland on them. To have CalMac ferries serving the island and not have anyone living on the islands on the CalMac Board is a clear and glaring problem! The previous Transport Minister was obviously wrong in his decision and hopefully the current Transport Minister will bring about change, then we might not have 4 ferries out of action at the same time.
“But this is also a time to remind Comhairle nan Eilean Siar that while they demand action on transport from other bodies they must live up to their own responsibilities and reinstate the inter-island flights they chose to cut. That was the greatest piece of vandalism to island transportation in decades and ironically placed extra burdens on ferries, and it was done by the Comhairle. The Comhairle pocketed that transportation money, without a thought or care for islanders, especially those needing hospital appointments. If they lived up to their responsibilities it would add greater weight to their worthy call today.”