South Uist Ferry Cancellations

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

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The First Minister:

I am happy to repeat for the third time that of course I, and we as a Government, do not just understand but are doing everything that we can alongside CalMac to ensure that there is not that disruption to island communities. So, yes, I recognise what Louise and others have said; I have read many comments from businesses in South Uist that have been impacted and affected.

That is why we have taken measures across our term in government to try to bolster that ferry network: we bought and deployed an additional vessel in the MV Loch Frisa; we chartered the MV Arrow to provide additional resilience and capacity; we commissioned two new vessels for Islay and two new vessels for the Little Minch route; we progressed investment in key ports and harbours; and we confirmed additional revenue funding for the operation of local authority ferry services.

I have already mentioned the fact that CalMac spent £9 million—some of that money is coming from the deductions from CalMac—to charter the MV Alfred, which is adding to the resilience of the network.

Where there are failings—clearly, there has been a failing in this case—we know that it is often the community of South Uist that is affected, because of the prioritisation matrix. I can therefore confirm that that route prioritisation matrix will absolutely be reviewed, so that in the future, if there are those unfortunate occasions when there is a breakdown of a ferry, it is not always that community that is impacted.