Between 2014 and 2018 there has been an increase of 27% for foot passengers and 35% for cars on the Stornoway to Ullapool route alone.
Similar increases can be seen on routes throughout Scotland and this has to be welcomed and encouraged for rural economies to grow and thrive.
Unfortunately our seagoing transport network is groaning under the strain, and solutions urgently need to be found to ensure that these lifeline services are fit for purpose.
The community of the Western Isles in particular has been saying for a number of years now that additional vessels and routes are required over the summer, and they were held off with the promises of extra sailings. As yet these have yet to make an appearance and the ramifications are being felt by local people and local businesses.
The Scottish Government’s mismanagement of the Uig and Arran Ferries build is astonishing and it is unclear whether these ferries will ever come into service. They need to stop initiating vanity projects and provide reliable boats that can serve the needs of our communities.
It is time that the Scottish Government stopped kicking this issue into the long grass and provide ferry services that meet demand, both immediate and long term.
Rhoda Grant,is the local MSP for Labour. All list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands are welcome to share their views in The Orkney News
Rhoda, the Western Isles and Clyde Ferries can fight their own battles, as a Shetland resident, my concern is for our ‘Life-Line’ services to the Northern Isles here you are part of the problem rather than the solution. You were part of the Labour & Lib/Dem Coalition Government that laid out the specification, placed the contracts using the prohibitively expensive PFI and then commissioned our current vessels into service with a huge amount of self-congratulatory back-slapping at the time. Also, you and your Liberal colleagues have steadfastly refused to make any contribution to Budget negotiations, unlike the Greens and Independent MSP’s.
For the record perhaps Rhoda and her new ferry buddy Beatric will enlighten us of the following statistics:-
1) On how many sailings were passengers unable to obtain a cabin, divided into northbound sailings and southbound sailings?
2) Where do they suggest we whistle-up a spare ferry or two from – thin air?
3) Are they suggesting new builds?
4) If yes, they will know if they’ve done their homework, that even a new build is unlikely to have any great difference in cabin provision or car-deck space for that matter, for they know damn well that anything much bigger than current Ferries, will simply not be able to ingress/egress the current Aberdeen ‘Old’ Harbour at all states of the tide?
5) Or are they suggesting that for a couple of days in the summer the ferries complete round trips each day?
6) If the answer to 5 is yes how many extra crew will be required to comply with Maritime Law?
7) As round trip sailings are likely to necessitate missing-out Kirkwall, how do they propose to resolve this issue?
8) Have they considered the crucial necessity for our fresh fish exports to arrive on the mainland in order to get to the channel ports to connect with their onward ferries to their European Markets? Mind you if Chump MkII gets his way this could well be academic after a NO DEAL BREXIT.
Finally, I would gently suggest that they take a long hard look at the MV Norrona a nice big ferry where during winter it ploughs its lonely furrow to the Faroe Islands with very, very few passengers and due to its size cannot enter Aberdeen Harbour!!! I also find it quite amazing that Beatrice as a ‘bean counter’ would ever advise that such short term measures are fiscally prudent. My experience of ‘bean counters’ is the complete opposite.
Finally, I do agree that work needs to start now to sit down with all interested party’s to write a provisional specification/s for replacement ferries taking into account the limitations of the present Aberdeen Harbour and the possible opportunities of the New Aberdeen South Harbour, as yet without any Ro-Ro provision in their current specification. Could I further suggest that the services of a world recognised expert on all things ‘FERRIES’, be sought and the great thing is we don’t have very far to go as he, one Dr. Alf Baird is a resident of the Orkney Islands? Could I also suggest that Civil Servants be kept as far away as possible from this consultation as they still live in the age of the ‘Wind Jammer’ and for this exercise to be successful we need some real ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking?