Island ferry requests ‘ignored’ by ‘arrogant’ government, says MSP

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The Scottish government has “arrogantly” denied “ignoring” the islanders’ suggestion for better ferries to Mull and Lewis, MSPs heard during a debate in Holyrood.

“Almost two-thirds of the ferry connections to Clyde and the Hebrides have been canceled or changed in the last few days,” Rhoda Grant, Labor MSP for the Highlands and Islands, told the Scottish Parliament. “How on earth can people plan their lives with this level of disruption?”

“The problems are not due to a lack of investment. Indeed, the amount of money that has been wasted by the government is mind-boggling. If it had been spent correctly, the entire fleet would have been replaced.

“The Scottish government and its agencies are showing enormous arrogance towards communities. When communities make suggestions, their ideas are ignored. Because they are using the services, they are in the best position to know what would work, but they are ignored.

“The community of Mull has found a ship for themselves. Research was carried out on how the ferry could be adapted for its use, but this was ignored. Another ferry has been purchased for this route which is of course welcome, but the ferry identified by the community would have been infinitely better.

“When the people of Lewis asked for two small ferries rather than one large, they were ignored. However, if two small ferries had been provided, many of the issues we are currently facing would be resolved. We would have had a spare ferry to cover the dry docking in the winter, whereas a ferry would have been able to cover the weaker demand on the Stornoway-Ullapool route. This ferry, built for the Stornoway route, could have withstood adverse weather conditions on almost any other route.

Transport Minister Graeme Dey MSP replied: “MPs are right to hold ministers to account for the deficiencies in the ferry network for which we are responsible. Likewise, however, they must recognize that the responsibility for inter-island ferries rests with the relevant local authorities.

“There have been improvements lately. We had the purchase of the Utne, as well as measures around school minibuses, the thorny issue of motorhome transport and the enhancement of the role of the community council. This disproves the idea that I or my officials are arrogant when it comes to responding to reasonable suggestions and requests from communities.

“I recognize that there is still a long way to go, but over the past few months we have demonstrated that we absolutely need improvements and, more importantly, that we are taking concrete steps to get there.”

About Kevin Strickland

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