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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.

Mr MacNeil said: “The loss of the Lochboisdale sailing is particularly difficult given the issues over recent months and especially right now as we are in June in the mid-summer period.
“In talks with various people, it has been suggested to me that the Loch Coruisk is moved to the Mull/Oban run together with MV Loch Frisa and MV Isle of Lewis making runs between the Barra runs as well as the MV Isle of Mull, based in Oban, being put on the Lochboisdale run with a stop in Craignure in the way in and out at least five days a week. This could be a possible solution.
“Obviously nothing is ideal, I will ask Calmac to look at the projected passenger numbers and expected traffic.
“There is also the added complication of a very welcome military exercise at Hebrides Range Uist, but this has caused a lot of military vehicles booked to go out through Lochboisdale, after the American military have been exercising in Europe’s largest rocket range.  
“Cancelling the Lochboisdale service might look simple, but there are other solutions.
“Particularly with the good weather, MV Isle of Lewis can be used causing mild disruption for Barra. One of the problems highlighted with MV Isle of Lewis in Craignure is that the pier is too short. Again this highlights the problem we have with Council-run piers and CMAL-owned piers, there is a real need to bring all piers under one umbrella so that the pier can be set for many types of boats and we have this type of resilience which would then make Mull more secure, if the Isle of Mull needs to be shifted and then the Isle of Lewis could serve them in all types of weather as the boat overhangs the pier by about ten metres.
"I am urging Calmac to look at this and come back to us urgently as people are exasperated at current situation.”