MSPs call for urgent action on ferry chaos

The MV Loch Seaforth.

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MSPs representing Scotland’s west coast island communities are seeking an urgent meeting with Scottish Ministers over the current ferry crisis.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan, Argyll and Bute MSP Jenni Minto and Cunninghame North MSP Kenny Gibson have asked the Scottish Government for discussions on the service to island communities as a matter of urgency.

This comes as the date of return for CalMac’s largest vessel, the MV Loch Seaforth, has been pushed back for the fifth time to the end of May. Island communities have suffered reduced sailings and disrupted timetables as the ferry operator reshuffles its fleet.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: ‘This situation is becoming increasingly intolerable for island communities.

‘CalMac simply does not have enough vessels for there to be proper cover when ships inevitably encounter technical issues. While the delay of the two vessels under construction at Port Glasgow has unfortunately had a big impact, we cannot go on like this or wait until 2023.’

The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry network has been in chaos for the last few months, leaving communities short of supplies and struggling to maintain lifeline connections.

Last week the operator announced that ongoing repairs to the Loch Seaforth had revealed further issues which will require attention before the vessel can return to service.

The vessel was expected to return to the Stornoway-Ullapool route by May 21 at the earliest and this date has now had to be pushed back, with May 28 now being the earliest expected return date.

Plans are being put in place to ensure essential freight continues to be brought to and from the Western Isles.

CalMac Managing Director Robbie Drummond said: ‘This is frustrating news, as we were expecting to see the Loch Seaforth return to service sooner than this.

‘We will continue to work closely with customers to keep them updated of the latest situation and to minimise further disruption.’

CalMac’s second-largest vessel, the MV Isle of Lewis, also suffered technical difficulties over the weekend.