Transport chiefs at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have hit out with what can only be described as a swift and furious response to the latest CalMac Ferries cancellation of the ferry service to Lochbsoidale.
They say: "The South Uist community has suffered more than any other community as CalMac’s shambolic winter maintenance programme has seen vessel after vessel go to dry dock and return much later than scheduled.
"Lochboisdale has been left without a service or with a much-reduced service through Oban. This is sadly nothing new for South Uist which has seen the service delivered on the lifeline route fall far below the level of service that was ever provided by earlier generations of Caledonian MacBrayne.
- In Winter 2019-2020 statistics show that 67 (43%) out of 156 sailings did not operate.
- In Winter 2021-2022 the months of November, December, January, and March together saw only 21 Mallaig-Lochboisdale sailings operate – that is around one quarter (25%) of the timetabled number so a failure rate of 75%.
"When the 2022-23 Winter Drydock programme failed, Calmac opted for the favoured tactic of Gourock Head Office to remove and reduce operations to Lochboisdale.
"It was therefore with a sense of widespread relief when MV Lord of the Isles returned to her station on the Lochboisdale to Mallaig route on Monday 29 May.
"This followed positive meetings with Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Transport in Uist just last week where the community were reassured that the Minister recognised the unacceptable treatment of South Uist in the delivery of lifeline ferry services.
"Despite the commitment from the Minister to work with the community in Uist it would appear Calmac pay no more regard to the Minister than they do the Uist community.
"The operator has now announced that the continued delay in MV Hebridean Isles returning to service following an already long overdue dry docking has led the operator to decide that Lochboisdale should again be left without a service with MV Lord of the Isles to reposition to act as second ferry on the Islay route from Saturday 3 June."
Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure, said: “The proposal to remove MV Lord of the Isles from service will rob Uist of 550 vehicle spaces, severely impacting every sector of the Uist economy at a time that business is trying hard to recover from the damage already visited on our island by the chaotic service provided by Calmac to Lochboisdale in recent months.
"This insult added to injury cannot be allowed to go ahead and I would urgently ask the Transport Minister to step in and show he will not be a bystander to Uist’s suffering.
“The willingness to single out Uist for service reduction again serves to underline how little attention is paid to the Islands Act that lists the parent company of Calmac Ferries as a body with a duty to consider island community impact and not treat any island unevenly to favour others.
"Yet again a decision impacting Uist has been taken without consultation with the Comhairle or the people of Uist. This trend must stop now, it is time that individuals with the interests of Uist at heart are involved in discussions leading to such decisions.”