Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll & Bute, Alan Reid, has called on the Scottish Government and CalMac to ensure there will never again be a repeat of the Easter chaos on the ferries which serve Islay and Colonsay. Many sailings to these islands were cancelled over the Easter holiday period because both the Hebridean Isles and the Isle of Arran broke down and the Finlaggan was being used in the Western Isles.
Mr Reid has written to CalMac's Managing Director, Martin Dorchester, asking for an explanation and what CalMac will do to ensure a reliable service in future.
Alan Reid said,
"These cancellations have been a PR disaster for the tourist industry of Islay, Jura and Colonsay. This chaos must never be repeated. The Finlaggan was built to be the main vessel on the Islay route, yet it's been away in the Western Isles apparently acting as a spare vessel there. CalMac have to explain why the Finlaggan is not on the Islay route all the time and why, when the ageing Hebridean Isles and the Isle of Arran broke down, it took several days for the Finlaggan to be brought back to replace them. The chaos could have been even worse if the Hebridean Isles and the Isle of Arran had broken down at the same time, rather than one breaking down a day after the other was back in service.
"The root cause of this chaos is the ageing CalMac fleet. I warned the Scottish Government years ago that the fleet was ageing and that if they didn't act quickly to build modern vessels, breakdowns would be a regular occurrence. Those few vessels that have been built recently have been sent elsewhere, while Islay and Colonsay have been left with elderly ferries. The Finlaggan should be on the Islay route all the time and the Scottish Government must as a matter of urgency speed up its vessel building programme.
"Islay, Jura and Colonsay cannot afford a repeat of this Easter chaos."