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The reality is that Scotland’s ferry service is under tremendous pressure: there is no doubt about that. That pressure disproportionately affects our island communities, businesses, residents and visitors. We have spent a lot of time already in the chamber discussing the political ramifications of who owns what, or who should own what. However, I do not see any value in rehashing those arguments in today’s debate.
I have brought this debate to the chamber because we are fast approaching winter, when the resilience of Scotland’s ferries will be pushed to its very limits. I make no apologies for using parliamentary time to bang on about the ferries again, because, quite frankly, somebody has to. I judge the importance of the issue of connectivity to our islands by the volume of correspondence that I get on it, as do many others across the political spectrum, and the fact that it is the number 1 issue on people’s lips when we visit island communities.
Let me paint a picture of where we are at the moment. As well as giving the statistics that are involved, of which there are many, I will paint a picture of the human aspect to the debate, which is often lost when we talk about funding, strategies and reports. To date, delays and cancellations have accumulated to more than 82,000 since 2007. The numbers in the course of the past 12 years speak for themselves: the number of delays and cancellations in our ferry network has skyrocketed. In 2009-10, there were 1,800 cancellations of services per year across the CalMac Ferries network, all of them regrettable. Last year, the number had risen to more than 4,400, which is an increase of 130 per cent. In 2009-10, the number of delays in the network was 2,000 per year, which was, again, regrettable. However, last year, the number of delays had risen to 5,500, which is an increase of 160 per cent. The reality is that since the Government took office, there have been more than 43,000 cancellations and 39,000 delays.