The idea that the Scottish Government regards a second Stornoway ferry as a priority is ‘at best laughable, at worst insulting’, according to Ealasaid Macdonald, vice-chair of the Western Isles Labour Party.
“I am delighted to hear that a second ferry on the Stornoway route is now a top priority for the Scottish Government. They'll have to let us know where they plan to find one, as the communities of Uist and Barra can testify, they aren't easy to come by. Surely they are not playing short term politics with our lifeline services - again!” she said.
“The calls from almost every islander, haulier and frequent ferry user was that a two ferry solution was necessary on the Stornoway route. However, the Scottish Government knew better and we have the Loch Seaforth. Our tourism industry provided compelling evidence that capacity would be an issue, although no-one expected us to reach capacity levels quite so quickly.”
Mrs Macdonald said that this summer had seen ‘shambolic ferry services with ferries full and locals not able to get on and off the islands at short notice’.
She said: “And now, there is a widespread fear that there is to be an introduction of booking on as a foot passenger. All of the blame for this lies at the door of the Scottish Government who did not listen to our communities in relation to our lifeline services. This is mirrored across the islands, where none of our communities feel they are well served by the current set up. The idea that a second ferry is now a priority is at best laughable, at worst insulting. When the Loch Seaforth was being commissioned was there even any long term planning in relation to the route? The evidence suggests not. The current state of the ferry services across the islands highlights problems which run deep in the Scottish Government. There is no long term strategic plan in relation to our ferry services.”
Mrs Macdonald added: “So, we are supposed to believe that this is now a priority and they should be congratulated for taking action. Although, as yet no second ferry has been identified and no-one on our islands wants to see another community inconvenienced to try and fix the problems which were of the Scottish Government's making. We are mid-way through July and the damage for this year has been done.
“I sincerely hope that there is a plan in place to ensure that this does not happen again.
“Our islands certainly can't afford it.”