As the member is aware, passenger capacity has increased with the removal of physical distancing on 9 August. We are also actively exploring opportunities for chartering additional vessels and have secured the MV Arrow to enhance the existing fleet that provides lifeline ferry services.
We are also continuing with the procurement of a new vessel for the Islay service, as well as seven new ships under the small vessel replacement programme, and we are progressing work on new vessels for the Gourock to Dunoon and Kilcreggan services.
Our island communities in the west have suffered for a number of years from a lack of capacity and a lack of reliable ferries. This year, the additional challenge of Covid-19 has taken the service to breaking point, with many people unable to travel. That is unacceptable—it damages the economy and blights lives.
The Scottish Government has, so far, failed to increase capacity. What steps is it taking to procure additional capacity over and above that provided by the MV Arrow in the short term to alleviate those communities’ issues?
As I indicated during the members’ business debate on Tuesday evening, work on securing additional second-hand tonnage to alleviate some of the pressures that we face on the network is constant. I can share with the chamber the fact that, as we speak, senior representatives of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd and CalMac Ferries are out of the country, actively assessing a vessel, with a view to purchase. If we get that over the line, it will have a positive cascade effect across the network and, in addition, will create the potential for us to head into the next summer season with a back-up vessel standing by to cover any issues that arise. I am sure that the member will welcome that news.
The Scottish Government has invested in excess of £2.2 billion in the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services, northern isles ferry services and ferry infrastructure since 2007. We have also delivered a number of new routes.
However, I do not hide from the fact that we need to do more. That is why we have a £580 million funding stream to deliver new ferries and harbour infrastructure, which we are in the process of delivering.