‘Never been so much anxiety’ over ferries

The chair of Harris Transport Transport Forum, Margaret Morrison, has told a Holyrood committee that she has “never seen such anxiety amongst the population” due to the ferry crisis.

The closure of Uig for six months will create even more havoc for the lifeline services.
The closure of Uig for six months will create even more havoc for the lifeline services.

She told MSPs on the rural affairs committee that visitors tell her they will “not return because of the situation with the ferries which is utterly chaotic” with families “stuck on one island and not able to get to another”.

Ms Morrison said they have reached a “total impasse” with CalMac and the Scottish Government. She added: “I came here in 1987 and I don’t ever remember having those issues with ferries. Yes, they were weather dependent but this has reached an all time critical situation”

Ms Morrison was one of several leaders of community transport groups giving evidence to the committee.

Joe Reade, chair of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, told MSPs: “Scotland has one of the worst public ferry systems in the world in relation to the amount of money that is spent on it”.

Meanwhile, Alex Cross, head of engineering at CalMac has said the ageing fleet’s annual maintenance programme is now so tight there is only time for two weeks’ work on each of the 34 vessels, so not everything can be checked every year.

He said as an example of how fragile the network is, the 33-year-old Lord of the Isles, which normally operates between Mallaig and Lochboisdale, “is getting to the point where it is at an increasing risk of failure.

A Scottish Government spokesman said they recognise confidence in ferries can “impact upon people’s decision on whether to live and work on the islands”.