Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, believes islanders should have more of a say when it comes to CalMac ferry services.
This summer has seen many of Scotland’s islands struggling at the hands of reduced, cancelled or jam-packed ferry services.
Some islanders were left unable to access the mainland, and delays in essential deliveries led to shortages in many areas.
There are currently no members on the boards of either Caledonian Maritime Assets Lts or CalMac Ferries Ltd who live on any of the islands affected by these problems.
Mr Allan feels this is wrong and that there should be seats reserved on both boards for representatives from island communities.
This would mean that they were more involved in the decision making processes that will ultimately affect them most.
While recognising the hard work of CalMac staff, Mr Allan said that the significant impact this summer’s issues have had on these communities cannot happen again.
He said: “In recent months, islanders in many cases found themselves simply unable to travel to the mainland, whether for work, caring commitments, business, to see family and friends, or even visit seriously ill family members.
“CalMac staff did try their hardest to accommodate individuals like this when MSPs brought cases to their attention – however, it is clear that what we witnessed over the summer can never be repeated.”
Though tourist numbers and social distancing measures have reduced in recent weeks, solving some problems with capacity, concerns remain about the situation.
Mr Allan said: “While the removal of social distancing measures has increased ferry capacity again in recent weeks, and eased some of the pressure on the network, there are further issues which need to be urgently addressed in order to ensure that these lifeline services are able to operate as they should.”
He believes that the addition of these local board members could have a positive impact on the way the service is managed: “CalMac has an outstanding workforce, but its board needs, in my view, to be more grounded in the communities which it serves than it feels like it is at present.
“Seats on both boards reserved for people who are resident in the islands CalMac serves would create a healthy accountability, to ensure the needs of local communities are better taken account of.”
He intends to raise the issue in parliament at a members’ debate on Tuesday, September 7.