South Uist Ferry Cancellations

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8 June 2023.

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The First Minister:

As I said in my first answer, of course we recognise the disruption that is caused not just to businesses but to island communities who depend on those lifeline services. We absolutely recognise that impact and that disruption, which is why we are committed to ensuring, for example, that we have six new vessels in the network by the end of the parliamentary session, and why CalMac has invested £9 million to ensure that the MV Alfred is chartered, in order to bolster that resilience across the network where we can.

When we look at the overall statistics in relation to the scheduled sailings that have taken place, we see that only 1 per cent have been cancelled due to technical issues. However, clearly, that 1 per cent—the almost 2,000 cancellations that take place due to technical issues—has a significant impact on the communities and, in this case, on the community of South Uist.

We have made another promise and commitment. We know that, often, it is the Lochboisdale service that is impacted because of what is called the route prioritisation matrix, which CalMac uses to determine where vessel redeployment has to take place if there is a breakdown. CalMac, which I believe will visit South Uist shortly to have a discussion with the community, has recognised that, often, it is the community of South Uist that is affected. CalMac has promised to review that route prioritisation matrix, and we will of course ensure that Parliament is updated.

We recognise the impact on island communities, which is why I have said that we will look to see what more we can do to support the community, including businesses. We will continue to ensure that we invest in those six new major vessels that will serve Scotland’s ferry network by 2026.