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by Louise Wilson
26 June 2023
Ferry disruption caused by government ‘pass-the-parcel’ culture

MSPs said the next Clyde & Hebrides ferry service contract should be awarded directly to CalMac to avoid further disruption

Ferry disruption caused by government ‘pass-the-parcel’ culture

A “pass-the-parcel culture” in the Scottish Government is to blame for the poor ferry service, a Holyrood committee has concluded.

The Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee has backed the creation of Ferries Scotland, a new arm of Transport Scotland, to better streamline decision-making and resolve a culture of “blame-shifting”.

MSPs have also said the next Clyde & Hebrides ferry service contract should be awarded directly to CalMac to avoid further disruption. The current contract is due to end next year.

But the committee warned this must bring improvements to the service and a review of the current tripartite arrangement between Transport Scotland, CMAL (the body which owns the ferries) and CalMac.

Convener Edward Mountain said: “We consider a direct award of the next CHFS3 contract to be the least disruptive option given the proximity to the end of the current contract.

“The report we have published today is extensive but overall, we hope it will have a positive impact on the forthcoming Island Connectivity Plan and help pave the way for a ferry service that is future-proofed, compatible with Scotland’s net zero goals and above all, meets the needs of islanders.”

The report is the conclusion of the committee’s inquiry into creating a sustainable ferry service for Scotland. It was launched last year following significant disruption to the service, as well as the issues with the building of two new vessels.

The committee has urged the Scottish Government to tackle the issue of the ageing fleet, calling it to set out concrete steps on reducing the average vessel age to 15 years.

It also said ferry design should be standardised.

The “churn” in the role of transport minister was also flagged as “unhelpful” by the committee, which took evidence from island communities. Fiona Hyslop took on the role earlier this month. She is the fourth person to take on the role since the Scottish election in May 2021.

Overall, MSPs said there needed to be better leadership from government with long-term strategic thinking and investment to improve the fleet and services.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scottish Ministers welcome receipt of the report and thank the committee for its detailed work. In particular we support the strong emphasis the committee placed on hearing from the communities who use the services and we agree that the voices of ferry users need to be a focus of future ferries policy and investment.

“We will carefully consider the recommendations of the report and respond to the committee in due course.”

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