Scouring the world for spare ferries that suit Island communities could be the way to solve the continued crisis involving Hebridean ferries, with no reserve vessels, regular breakdowns and hugely delayed and massively over-budget new vessels.
That’s the view of Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron who says: “This option is definitely worth exploring further.
“Given the SNP Government’s track record in delivering essential transport infrastructure in the West Highlands it’s no wonder that communities here are seeking their own solutions.”
His comments came after Mull & Iona Ferry Committee, a community group on the Isle of Mull, identified a suitable catamaran vessel for sale in Indonesia for £10million.
They say the vessel would be more reliable and practical than CalMac’s 33-year-old MV Isle of Mull which operates from Oban.
They believe Scottish government agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) would save money on the deal.
They cite the scandal of two ferries ordered by CMAL for CalMac’s Arran and the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy routes. So far, they are three years late and more than £100million over budget.
And the Ferry Committee proposal to buy a catamaran for the Craignure-Oban service has received overwhelming support from both Iona and Mull Community Councils, Mull and Iona Community Trust, South West Mull & Iona Development, Viisit Mukk & Iona, North West Mull Community Woodland Company, all four of the local authority councillors and their MSP Michael Russell.
"Together with countless messages of support from individuals across Mull and Iona, this has given us the backing needed to press Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse to make a decision before it's too late....", they say
Scottish Conservative shadow transport secretary Graham Simpson said: “This ferry [in Indonesia] was identified by islanders who got sick of waiting for the Scottish government to provide them with a decent service.
“It seems to represent tremendous value for money, and we know that catamarans are ideal for some Scottish waters – this route being one.
“The SNP government’s record on ferries is appalling. They have forked out tens of millions of pounds from taxpayers on ships that haven't even been built yet.
“So here is a potential opportunity to regain some credibility and one which must be given serious consideration.”