Ferry service risks becoming a ‘driver of depopulation’

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The ferry crisis is now so serious that it risks becoming a ‘driver of depopulation’ in Scotland’s island communities, said an MSP, who claims high school pupils from Iona lost a third of their education due to cancellations.

Speaking during a Scottish Conservative debate at the Scottish Parliament, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron cited examples from his own region of the ‘devastating impact of the chronic unreliability of the ageing ferry fleet’.

Speaking after the debate, he said: ‘The reason this issue is so serious is that islanders are themselves now fearful for the future of their communities and the loss of younger people who simply cannot do without a reliable ferry service.

‘Warnings about the ageing fleet, and the need for replacement vessels, have for years been ignored by SNP ministers until it was too late.

‘In recent days, three out of the four ferry routes to Mull were not operating, while the fourth was unable to take commercial traffic. Meanwhile, it’s been estimated secondary school students from Iona have lost 30 per cent of their education due to ferry cancellations.

‘There are numerous other examples from practically every island community served by CalMac, so it’s no wonder there is such widespread concern that depopulation could accelerate.

‘Unless the Scottish Government start taking this issue seriously, the impact of the ferry crisis will get much worse before it gets better.’