Call to keep routes in public hands

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One of the first actions of the new Scottish Government should be to ensure that Clyde and Hebridean ferry routes remain in public hands.

The call came from Scotland’s largest union, Unite this week.

With a decision on the tendering process expected at the end of May, Unite urged the new SNP government to stop the handover of the Cal Mac ferry service to Serco and to pledge to put people and communities before profit, by keeping it public.

Commenting Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “We would urge the new Scottish Government to start its new parliamentary term by pledging to keep the Cal Mac ferry service in public hands.

“The ferries serving the islands of Scotland are an economic and social lifeline. Handing it over to Serco will result in commercial decisions trumping public interest.

As we saw when Serco was awarded North Link ferries contract, services will suffer and jobs will be cut in order to satisfy shareholders’ pockets.

“Rather than starting a new term in office by privatising more of Scotland’s transport system, the new Scottish Government’s transport minister should take a stand and pledge to put the long-term future of a vital service ahead of short term profit, by keeping Cal Mac public.”

The contract for the Clyde and Hebridean routes expires in September and the Scottish Government’s transport agency, Transport Scotland, has been running a competitive process to select a provider of the services from 1st October 2016, for a period of up to eight years.

Calmac ferry boss Martin Dorchester was confident the firm’s final bid for the routes, which was submitted earlier this year, would ‘make them a clear winner’ when it came to making the decision.

At the time he said: “CalMac will always put the lifeline ferry services and the needs of the remote communities we serve above any commercial concerns.

“Operating on the west coast is our principal reason to exist.

“Nobody knows these routes better than us and providing 130,000 sailings a year in some of the most challenging waters in Europe is impressive by any standards.

“I believe that our vast knowledge and experience of these routes makes CalMac the best qualified and the only credible operator of them now and in the future.”