Caledonian MacBrayne have been forced to hand back £6m to the Scottish Government – because their performance was so good!
This information was revealed by Western Isles Labour candidate for the next General Election, Alison MacCorquodale, who said islanders would be astonished to learn of the reasons for the claw-back of subsidy, which could have been allocated to service improvements.
The claw-back has been required because CalMac supposedly achieved a 99.5 per cent rate against the targets set by the Scottish Government in the first year of the current contract to operate Hebridean and Clyde services.
According to a statement from CalMac: “Our efficient and effective service delivery over the year resulted in a claw-back return to Transport Scotland of more than £6 million.”
Transport Scotland is part of the Scottish Government.
Talking about the move Ms MacCorquodale said: “This is from an SNP fantasy world in which everything is going so well with CalMac that they can afford to return over £6 million to Edinburgh, rather than spend it on improving services in the islands.”
She added that it was “perverse” to penalise the company on the basis of good performance – and that the criteria against which performance is measured “tells only a fraction of the overall story”.
When bad weather and other factors are stripped out, CalMac reported that 99.5 per cent of their services had run within ten minutes of the scheduled times last year.
On that basis, the contract entitles the Scottish Government to claw-back.
Ms MacCorquodale said: “Nobody in the islands will recognise the logic or justice in this arrangement. It is glaringly obvious that there is a great deal CalMac could do with £6 million to improve services, regardless of
these extremely selective performance targets.”
She explained: “For example, there could have been additional services during the busiest periods of the year, when vehicles were being left behind. We also know that CalMac are in urgent need of a new IT system in order to make
their booking process more accurate and reliable.
She called on the Transport Minister, Michael Matheson, to give an undertaking that there will be no further claw-back in the current year, “regardless of dubious and highly selective statistics”.
Ms MacCorquodale also pointed out that the £6 million claw-back put in perspective this week’s announcement by Mr Matheson that £3.5 million might be available to speed up the repair of CalMac ferries that break-down.
She said: “On the one hand, we have the reality of £6 million being taken away and now we have the possibility – but no certainty - of £3.5 million being handed back.”