Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, together with Labour’s prospective pandidate for the islands, Alasdair Morrison, say the three year pilot of the Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry service is a sham as the trial is only being run in winter time when there is a high probability that services will be cancelled due to bad weather.
Having been contacted by a number of constituents about the unreliability of the service, Mrs Grant discussed the situation with the land owner, Stòras Uibhist, and tabled parliamentary questions asking how many times the service had been cancelled since the trial began in November 2013, if there were plans to extend the trial to run during summer months and how much it would cost to run a year round service.
The figures returned show a 49% cancellation rate during the first year of the trial with the figure increasing to 60% in the first two months of the second year. The MSP was also advised that there are no plans to extend the trial into summer months and that the winter pilot service will be evaluated over the full three year pilot period before decisions about the way forward are taken. Mrs Grant was advised that the SNP government has not considered the costs of running a year round service as the trial is ongoing.
Commenting on these figures, Rhoda Grant said: “While we initially welcomed the progress Labour made in pushing for a trial, it has become very clear that it is impossible to accurately evaluate the worth of the pilot, given the number of cancellations that have been experienced. People can’t depend on the service running and it will therefore be underused.”
Labour’s prospective candidate in the islands, Alasdair Morrison, said: “When it comes to ferry services the Scottish Government has form – very poor form. The so-called pilot on Lochboisdale-Mallaig route is an insult to the communities of South Uist. Clearly, the pilot was set up with a view that it would fail. This requires serious political intervention. Currently our islands are lumbered with a politically impotent MP and MSP. They are afraid and unable to stand up to their political masters and fight for what islanders actually need.”
David Stewart, Shadow Minister for Transport and the Islands said: “This is yet another ferry debacle that the minister, Derek Mackay, is presiding over. He must take the needs of the people of South Uist seriously and sanction a year round trial to gauge an accurate level of demand.”