Incredulous. Furious. Severe consequences. Those words are just part of a verbal volcano erupting across the islands as the callous disregard for island livelihoods displayed by distant administrators in the Central Belt unleashed disbelief and anger.
During today’s First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood today (Thursday June 1), MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, highlighted local fury in South Uist after CalMac announced last night that they would be withdrawing Lochboisdale’s service from June 3-June 30
CalMac have cited MV Hebridean Isles’ delay in being able to leave dry dock, along with MV Finlaggan needing to depart her Islay route for dry dock on 4 June, as the reasons for their decision to withdraw Lochboisdale’s ferry. This decision comes just days after MV Lord of the Isles returned to normal service on the route.
The ferry operators utilise a ‘Route Prioritisation Process’ during periods of unexpected disruption, but this does not take into account the levels of disruption already experienced on each route, only how many passengers would be impacted.
In the Scottish Parliament earlier today, Alasdair Allan questioned the First Minister on what more the Scottish Government would do to challenge CalMac’s decision. Earlier today the Transport Minister met with the South Uist Business Impact Group, along with CalMac, where he committed to taking a thorough look at CalMac’s prioritisation matrix, as well as instructing CalMac to continue investigating all possible alternatives to the full removal of Lochboisdale’s service this month.
Allan said:“CalMac think it is acceptable to remove Lochboisdale’s ferry less than a week after she finally resumed normal service – however, businesses and local people are, understandably, both incredulous and furious. To remove a service in its entirety for a month of the tourist season will have severe consequences, and what little confidence anybody had left in this route will be severely dented.
“I recognise that CalMac are in a very difficult position in terms of the vessels available to them to deploy across the network, particularly during unexpected issues encountered during dry dock, but it is not acceptable for the community of South Uist to bear the brunt of this disruption yet again. The Transport Minister is continuing to push CalMac to explore other viable options and I will update constituents as soon as I hear any news on this front.”
Meanwhile Island MP Angus Brendan MacNeil has come up with a complete plan to reorganise the ferry services and avert the worst of the crisis.