Summit set to deal with Islay ferry disruption
AFTER two weeks of cancellations and ferry trouble on mainland to Islay routes, MSP Michael Russell has called a summit to get to the bottom of the issues.
Islanders were shocked when the regular ferry the MV Hebridean Isles was taken for repair after it hit the pier at Kennacraig on July 23.
Reduced capacity meant vehicles and passengers were often left behind during the busiest two weeks on the island.
Responding to the huge number of concerns raised with him, Mr Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, has announced that he will be hosting a ferry summit on Islay, in collaboration with the Islay Community Council Ferry Committee.
The vessel struck Kennacraig Pier during the evening of Saturday July 23 and had to be taken to dry dock for repairs.
This meant that the service was operated by a single vessel, the MV Finlaggan, from that date until Tuesday August 9.
Mr Russell added: ‘The lack of an effective contingency plan to deal with the situation that occurred on the July 23 was extraordinary but it is not enough for the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to point the finger of blame at the company.
‘At every level there has been a systemic failure to ensure that there are sufficient resources and vessels to provide back up in emergency situations, and there now needs to be a detailed review of the route and its relationship to other routes and the totality of services provided by the company.
‘I have therefore suggested to the Islay Community Council Ferry Committee that we jointly host a summit on the island in October to which we will invite all the key players, including CalMac, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government.
‘The purpose of the summit will be to allow the facts about the disruption to be put on record, for the damage to the island economy and individual businesses to be quantified, and for agreement to be reached on a contingency plan which would ensure that this cannot happen again.’
Islay McEachern, chairwoman of the Islay Community Council Ferry Committee said: ‘As a committee, and on behalf to the island, we have to ensure that there is no repetition of what has taken place too often in recent years.
‘The summit must result in a cast iron commitment from the company, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government to put in place arrangements to ensure this can never happen again.
‘They have to have contingency plans to cope with it, as well as with any other foreseeable emergency and these need to be written in to the new contract for the west coast services which was won by CalMac only a couple of months ago.
‘Islay simply cannot afford to have this situation recurring again and again. The summit is our opportunity to ensure that there is an open transparent and accountable plan in place for the future.’