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Food-rationed islanders need answers and action on ferries fiasco

A group of Scottish Conservative MSPs are demanding answers – and action – from the Transport Minister on the ferries crisis which has led to food rationing in shops on Scottish islands and people sleeping in their cars.

Party leader Douglas Ross, Shadow Transport Minister Graham Simpson and MSPs representing island communities have today written to Jenny Gilruth demanding a summit on behalf of neglected constituents.

Their letter comes after CalMac was forced to withdraw one of its oldest vessels on safety grounds last week, meaning there were no sailings for three consecutive days between Uig on Skye, Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on Harris.

This led to thwarted travellers having to sleep in their cars and some island shops imposing rationing of basic items such as bread and milk.

It is just the latest example of CalMac’s ageing and unreliable fleet letting down islanders and comes against the backdrop of the two new ferries being built at the nationalised Ferguson Marine yard running five years behind schedule and two-and-a-half times over budget.

The letter from the nine Scottish Conservative MSPs to Ms Gilruth states: “Disruptions to ferry services are nothing new to islanders.

“However, we now have a service that is so unreliable that it cannot even be trusted to supply basic essentials that people need to live in the Hebrides.

“This is unprecedented in modern times. I am sure that you will agree that this situation is unacceptable.

“As MSPs who represent communities that rely on these services, we are shocked that this issue is not being handled by the SNP Government with the urgency it deserves.

“We simply cannot stand by whilst islanders suffer from food shortages, people are forced to sleep in their cars and local businesses are severely impacted. Our constituents deserve to see action taken now to deliver a more reliable service.

“As Transport Minister, it is your responsibility to ensure that ferries run properly between the islands and the mainland.

“As there has been no positive response from the SNP Scottish Government to the calls for parliament to be recalled to address this matter, we therefore insist that you urgently convene a summit with all MSPs from the affected areas to determine the actions and timelines required for the SNP government to resume lifeline ferry services and prevent the situation getting this critical again in the future.”

Notes

 

The nine letter signatories are Douglas Ross, Rachael Hamilton, Graham Simpson, Edward Mountain, Donald Cameron, Jamie Halcro Johnston, Russell Findlay, Jamie Greene and Pam Gosal.

 

A copy of the letter to Jenny Gilruth is attached.

 

A Ferry breakdown has forced some island communities to ration their food supplies. A fault on the MV Hebrides, led to routes between Uig on Skye, Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on Harris being shut down, forcing islanders to ration essentials like milk and bread. (Daily Express, 9 August 2022, link).