CalMac Ferries is facing new clamour from the Islands to relocate its management from the Central Belt – and to drop its ideas of increasing ferry fares to choke off summer demands on island routes.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called on the Scottish Government and Cal-Mac to take forward the issue of locating management jobs in the Outer Hebrides. 

The call comes following reports yesterday (Wednesday January 23rd) that Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is considering moving its National HQ to Fort George, near Inverness.

The Comharle’s Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, said: “HES’s serious consideration of a relocation to the Highlands is extremely interesting and could set a model for other agencies and companies to follow.

“We have previously discussed the matter with Government and I think we have made inroads. 

“What we are looking for now is a commitment from Government and Cal-Mac to take this issue forward.

“Even a small proportion of Cal-Mac management posts to the areas which they serve would provide a major economic boost for the Islands whilst I believe it would also improve performance of the company generally.

“In the light of HES’s relocation consideration I will be asking for the matter to be raised at the next meeting of the Islands Strategic Group.”

Earlier in the week, the CalMac Community Board expressed alarm and dismay at potential ferry fare increase proposals without any consultation.

The CalMac Community Board said it was disappointed to hear through the media at its meeting on Friday last week (January 18th) of a proposal to manage capacity issues on west coast and islands ferry services by increasing fares on some routes.

RET has been a huge success in both increasing economic activity and creating jobs but also in starting to address the cost inequalities for ordinary people who live on our islands. Bearing in mind the continuing demographic challenges faced by our island communities, it is surprising to think of damaging that success by curtailing demand by increasing prices rather than addressing the core issue of investment in fleet capacity and resilience.

This increased economic activity has significantly contributed to the Scottish economy and increased the tax revenues from our islands. The Board questions whether such a proposal has been island-proofed against the legislation contained in the Islands Act 2018 - which is designed to prevent further disadvantage to our island communities.

The Community Board has consistently offered to work with Transport Scotland, CalMac and CMAL, not only to explore ways of dealing fairly with the immediate challenges but also to help develop a new long-term ambitious Ferries Plan to help grow our islands and communities to the benefit of all.

Angus Campbell, Chairman of the Community Board added: “The Board is therefore disappointed that a proposal has been made that may have an adverse effect on the communities that are being served by CalMac without any consultation with those communities. 

“The Board recognises that there is a need for urgent action to address the capacity constraints on the ferry network but does not believe that this proposal is an acceptable solution.”