The Scottish Government is looking at leasing ferries to help cope with pressures caused by breakdowns around the network.
MSP Alasdair Allan revealed the news at a ferries summit in Benbecula, which he organised to discuss the significant disruption and timetable changes ferry services for Uist have experienced over the course of the last year.
Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse and the managing directors of Calmac and CMAL were in attendance, along with agencies such as Hitrans, HIE and Transport Scotland, community and business representatives, and local councillors.
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The summit discussed issues such as vessel deployment, booking systems, economic growth in Uist and the impact of disruption on local businesses, transport connectivity, tourism’s role in the local economy and updates on current and future investment in services and infrastructure.
Mr Allan said: “This was a very useful and productive meeting. By getting all the key players in the same room we were able to have a comprehensive look at Uist’s ferry services. I would like to thank all those who took the time to attend, especially the Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP, and Uist councillors for their help in organising the summit.
“There was an assurance that the government would investigate any potential vessels for leasing that were viable and fulfilled the objective of providing resilience across the network. The minister agreed, amongst other things, to see what could be done to improve Calmac’s booking system, with Calmac also to review how passengers are kept up to date in the event of cancelled or delayed sailings.
“With the financial constraints the Scottish Government faces as a result a budget cut of nearly £2billion since 2010 by the UK Government, it is important that we make the best possible case that we can for further funding and investment in ferries services. I think the summit has certainly strengthened that case.”