Furious community reaction to CalMac's “board of shame”

The public protest on Lochboisdale pier last yearThe public protest on Lochboisdale pier last year
The public protest on Lochboisdale pier last year
​There has been a furious response to last week’s Gazette revelation that most of the directors of Caledonian MacBrayne, appointed by Scottish Government Ministers, have never visited a port in the Outer Isles.

Community leaders involved in ferry issues over recent years described our revelations about CalMac’s absentee board, headed by Copenhagen-based chairman, Erik Østergaard, and made up of random quango appointees as “obscene” and “disgusting”.

The information, secured through a Freedom of Information request which CalMac initially refused to respond to, has raised fundamental questions about why an islands ferry business is run by people who have absolutely no connection with, or interest in, island communities.

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A statement by CalMac which pointed to the importance attached by it to the Ferry Community Board was dismissed as “a corporate sop” which did nothing to answer the demand for a statutory change in make-up of CalMac governance.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s chair of transportation, Uisdean Robertson, said: “I have very good relations with the Community Board but it is a creation of CalMac with no powers of decision-making. It in no way answers the questions about CalMac governance or local authority involvement.

“At present, we are hanging around here waiting to see what is going to happen with contracts, amalgamations and all the rest of it. There is no input from the islands into these discussions and no role in decision-making about what happens to CalMac or how it is run. It is a complete democratic deficit”.

The chair of Harris Development Company – who has now been elected as a Harris councillor – Kenny Macleod described the revelations about the CalMac board as “scandalous” and asked: “How can these people be considered qualified to be CalMac directors with absolutely no knowledge of the places or the issues we face?

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“The only possible conclusion is that when they meet to discuss the running of CalMac, nobody has a clue what they are talking about because none of them have ever been here. It is beyond belief. At very least, part of their induction should be to visit CalMac ports and sail on CalMac vessels”.

He said the Community Board does good work but its recommendations to Transport Scotland and the CalMac board were “lying on a shelf, gathering dust – they are not interested in the views of the users”.

John Daniel Peteranna of the South Uist Business Impact Group said: “I think it is quite obscene that people who are in control of a service have never taken the time to experience the service or get an insight into what is involved.

“Does this just reflect the pure arrogance with which they operate and are these really the right people to be taking the decisions which affect islanders so severely?”, he asked. “The Community Board are good and filter things down to the community but by the time decisions are taken, in Edinburgh or Gourock, things get twisted to suit whatever narrative is going”.