Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant queried the funding deal struck by the Government and CMAL for MV Loch Seaforth with the newly appointed Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday (September 6).
The MSP says she “has been fighting to get the Scottish Government to be transparent with regard to the funding and ownership of the MV Loch Seaforth.”
Rhoda Grant’s question to the Minister was: "To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to investigate the financing of the CalMac vessel, MV Loch Seaforth, which is now owned by Lloyds Banking Group, after a lease deal was agreed at a reported cost to the public purse of £53m.“
The Minister responded by saying a “tender process for a lease was undertaken by that Caledonian Maritime Assests Ltd” and he went on to say “Audit Scotland did not raise anything of concern regarding the procurement of the MV Loch Seaforth. The Scottish Government therefore has no plans to investigate the financing of the MV Loch Seaforth.”
Rhoda Grant responded: “That is truly disappointing. It is shocking that the boat will require to be handed back as new in 2022 or have a further lease negotiated.”
Later she said “this truly worrying and damaging deal” will see taxpayers foot a bill of £53m over eight years and end up without a boat.
“The Minister also brushed aside the genuine concerns that have been raised as we come through another shambolic summer season of ferry chaos by saying he wanted recognition for the monies that have been spent since 2007.
“It would be difficult for the communities of the Islands to raise any degree of recognition given that £53m of the spend will be worthless when the vessel goes back to its owners, Lloyds Bank.”
The MSP concluded, “This fight is far from over as funding, late ferry replacement, capacity, lifeline services, tourism and ordinary island life is being treated with no consideration whatsoever by this Government as the ageing threadbare fleet of CMAL fails to cope.
“It is preposterous to contemplate that through all of this CalMac handed £6m back to the Government. Why on earth was this money not used to relieve the suffering of the folk in the Western Isles and Argyll who have been so desperately inconvenienced.”