Ferry report welcomed by Highlands MSP

A new report commissioned by the RMT backs the union's view that Clyde and Hebrides ferry services should continue to be run by CalMac Ferries Ltd.
A new report commissioned by the RMT backs the union's view that Clyde and Hebrides ferry services should continue to be run by CalMac Ferries Ltd.

A report commissioned by the RMT union recommending that ferry services on Scotland’s west coast should continue to be run by CalMac has been welcomed by Labour MSP David Stewart.

The union says the report by Jeanette Findlay, who is a senior economics lecturer at Glasgow University, makes “an overwhelming case” for awarding the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) contract to the state-owned CalMac Ferries Ltd.

The report’s publication comes just a few days before both CFL and Serco Caledonian Ferries Ltd submit their final bids to the Scottish Government for the eight-year, £1 billion contract.

Mr Stewart, who is both a Highlands and Islands ‘list’ MSP and Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson, said: “I have campaigned hard to keep CalMac in public hands. This report states, very clearly, the economic case for doing this.

“It is categorically in favour of the 2016-24 contract being awarded to CalMac, in order to preserve and increase the economic benefits of publicly funded services, good employment and training practices already in place.

“Serco have an appalling track record and will cherry-pick the best routes that will make them the most money.”

Ms Findlay’s report says the Serco group of companies has an “extremely troubled history in relation to its public sector contracts; it has no significant experience in the maritime industry and its financial health and business model raise concerns”.

However, it also acknowledges that the company’s operation of the Northlink lifeline ferries linking Orkney and Shetland with the Scottish mainland has, “while not without incident...has been of good standard”.

Mr Stewart continued: “These are lifeline services to our islands and simply should not be cherry-picked. It is essential we keep the contract in public hands to ensure the investment is there to provide our island communities with the vital ferry services they need.

“CalMac is part of our islands’ DNA and it’s future is being jeopardised by this needless tendering process.”

You can read Ms Findlay’s report in full by clicking here.

RMT national secretary Steve Todd added: “Jeanette Findlay’s report is a ringing endorsement of the vital role that CalMac’s near 1,500 employees play in delivering an efficient, affordable and popular lifeline ferry service to Clyde and Hebridean communities.

“The report also justifies the Scottish Government’s decision to invest hundreds of millions to 2022 in new vessels, IT, port and harbour infrastructure, maritime skills and passenger fares on this complex, 26 route network.

“Handing this jewel in the crown to Serco would be a scandalous betrayal of CalMac workers and passengers, not to mention the Scottish taxpayer.”

Meanwhile, the director of Serco’s bid has publicly thanked all those who met the company’s representatives during their tour of west coast communities as part of their bid preparations.

Jonathan Riley of Serco Caledonian Ferries Ltd said: “After almost two years of touring the Clyde and Hebrides islands where we met with local people to discuss what they want from their ferry provider, we are now within weeks of submitting Serco’s final tender response.

“Over the course of the tour, we came across a number of issues and views which saw us appreciate even more, that no two communities are the same.

“I have issued a letter to the people I met during the consultation process, thanking them for the time and effort they made to attend our meetings. It has been a truly inspirational journey. And it is their invaluable input that has shaped our final response.

“Thank you again everyone for your support and I hope that we can put our communities inspired plan into action later this year.”