Rothesay ferry privatisation claims denied

The Scottish Government has denied claims from the RMT union that the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay ferry service is to be privatised.
The Scottish Government has denied claims from the RMT union that the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay ferry service is to be privatised.

THE Scottish Government’s national transport agency has denied it is planning to privatise the Rothesay-Wemyss Bay ferry service - amid threats of strike action if five of the country’s busiest routes are tendered separately to the rest of the network.

A press release from the RMT trade union stated that Bute’s main ferry link with the mainland had been “earmarked for privatisation” by Transport Scotland, along with four other lifeline routes - Ardrossan-Brodick, Oban-Craignure, Largs-Cumbrae and the Pentland Firth route to Orkney.

The union’s general secretary Bob Crow said Caledonian MacBrayne had failed to provide assurances on pensions, working conditions and bargaining rights in the event of the routes being tendered separately

The RMT’s move follows a similar ballot for strike action after private firm Serco won the contract to provide ferry services to and from the Northern Isles, previously operated by CalMac’s sister company Northlink.

Mr Crow said: “The carve up of the Scottish ferries services for private profit continues apace under the SNP administration regardless of the impact on jobs, services and fares and with CalMac routes next on the block we are not going to sit back and wait for another stitch-up.”

The Scottish Government’s draft ferries plan, published last December, makes no specific mention of privatising the five routes in question.

However a 2010 consultation on Scotland’s ferry services, which led to the creation of the draft plan, did identify those five services as ones which “might be potential candidates for market testing on a single route basis”.

Responses to that consultation were relatively evenly split - 46 per cent agreed that the Rothesay service was a correct route to be considered for tendering as a single route, while 54 per cent disagreed.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Claims that we are planning to sell off these routes are simply untrue.

“The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to supporting our island and remote communities and ensuring we deliver on a progressive basis safe and reliable ferry services that meet the needs of users.

“To meet our commitment we are continuing to invest millions in new cutting edge ferries, ports, harbours and associated infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

“That is also why we published in December our draft ferries plan which sought views on how best to deliver ferry services across Scotland.

“We are currently considering and reviewing in detail the 2000 or so responses received, and will publish the final ferries plan, which will provide a clear way ahead for ferry services in Scotland over the next decade in Scotland, by the end of the year.”