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Ferries

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

Even if they are related to the weather, that does not excuse the fact that the number of cancellations and delays is increasing.

Moreover, the MV Argyll Flyer, which is on that route, has cost more in breakdown repairs than it cost to purchase—the MV Ali Cat is not far behind in that regard.

As other members said, the Gourock linkspan has been out of action due to a fault, which has had knock-on effects for other services. Therefore, it is easy to understand why people in Dunoon and the Cowal peninsula are so exasperated with the service.

Another example that has been raised with me on several occasions is the issue of overcapacity on the Stornoway to Ullapool service. Many residents on Lewis are forced to plan ahead and book spaces to travel to the mainland due to space being booked up well in advance. Visitors also struggle to book on to the ferry, such is the demand during peak season. A constituent who runs a hotel on the west side of Lewis told me that she regularly has bookings cancelled due to people being unable to get on the ferry, which means a significant loss of income.

Those are merely two examples out of a catalogue of failings.

I turn to remarks made by colleagues in the chamber. A point made by the minister and other members was that we all recognise and thank the staff of the ferry services for their contribution. In my experience, the staff of CalMac, which runs the ferries that I travel on most often, are always highly professional.

Liam Kerr was among others who cited Audit Scotland’s report and said that there is no Scotland-wide long-term strategy. That is the question that the minister should most reflect on.

I listened to Alasdair Allan speak about tunnels, and it is interesting that tunnels are being talked about more and more. However, I was disappointed to hear him question the good faith of members on the Conservative benches when raising the issue of ferries. Several of us represent the Highlands and Islands, several of us represent the west of Scotland and several of us represent the north-east, and we are just as entitled to raise issues about ferries as he is.

I listened in amazement to Kenneth Gibson and the minister, who seemed to blame everyone else—including the Liberal Democrat transport minister, Chris Grayling, and the Labour Party—except the very Government that has run our ferry system for the past 12 years.

We are in the midst of a significant ferry crisis. Our ferry network has been badly let down by an SNP Government. It is aging, inflexible and unreliable, and local people are fed up with excuses. They want real action, and I hope that members support our motion today.