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Iain Maciver: Scottish public transport has gone off the rails and is sinking fast

CalMac's MV Lord of the Isles ferry, pictured in 2015 (Photo: Phil Silverman/Shutterstock)
CalMac's MV Lord of the Isles ferry, pictured in 2015 (Photo: Phil Silverman/Shutterstock)

My glasses have been a bit shoogly since I dropped them in the Co-op by the tomatoes.

Then a burly fellow from Shawbost stood on them. Then I lost them.

At the weekend, I saw someone wearing them on the telly. It was that cove, Nadhim Zahawi, secretary of state for education, saying he didn’t know who invited who to talks – the prime minister or Sue Gray.

Not that I had taken much notice of him before, as there have been other issues more pressing than education recently, but you would think he would buy his own specs.

So, I have had to go in to see an opticologist, or whatever an eye fixer-upper is called nowadays, and plonk my chin on the pad and answer deep and probing questions such as: “Which is clearer? One… or two? One… or two? One… or two? How clear is it about the number of fixed penalty notices the prime minister should have had? One… or two?” I’m joking. She didn’t ask that.

When I get my new glasses, I’ll be excited to see Anneka Rice. Remember her in Challenge Anneka? Challenge is coming back on telly.

Nadhim Zahawi, secretary of state for education and glasses-wearer (Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire)

She always egged on business types to give products and time for good causes. I was always left with that nice warm feeling after Anneka helped needy souls build their community hall or playground.

Our view of proceedings was via a cameraman, running behind trying to keep up. We often got a view of Anneka in a high-vis jacket and big construction boots. Here on Lewis, we call them Arnish boots. Obviously.

What is Jenny Gilruth up to?

Anneka was in front of the camera but didn’t do much work herself. Like Scottish Government ministers who are supposed to be making sure our transport system works. They don’t seem to be doing anything. What is transport minister Jenny Gilruth doing about the state of the west coast ferries?

Each week, lives are seriously disrupted and people are stranded, unable to get to work or to see ill relatives in hospitals, because our ferries are broken. Dodgy rust-bucket MV Lord of the Isles, which plies between Lochboisdale, Barra and Oban, will not be back in service today, as they promised. No relief boat is available.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth (Photo: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson)

She was removed from the Lochboisdale run for a delayed upgrade to vital fire-fighting equipment. Nothing serious, then?

Engineers have since found serious rot in her pipes. That is after last week’s disruption, when North Uist to Skye ferry MV Hebrides was holed when it crashed into Lochmaddy pier. OK, Jenny, maybe that one’s not entirely your fault.

From ScotRail to ScotFail

Someone said a few weeks ago that the Scottish Government could turn ScotRail into a mess like a CalMac on wheels. Loyal nationalists snorted. Yet, now we’re deadlocked in a fixable pay dispute, rail routes have ben slashed and the transport minister is still not involved.

It’s disheartening for ScotRail staff. It’s not their fault

As in the CalMac fiasco, she’s doing nothing but talk. Minister Gilruth has plenty time to fix the railway.

It’s disheartening for ScotRail staff. It’s not their fault. A friend of mine says she met a railway worker so disgruntled by Scottish Government failure to engage constructively about ScotRail that his work-to-rule means he now takes everything literally. Excellent.

My friend ran into Inverness station the other day with her heavy luggage. One train waiting. She asked the grumpy railway worker: “Excuse me. Is this my train?” He replied: “No, madam. It belongs to ScotRail.”

Not impressed, she said: “Hey, don’t be funny. I’m in a hurry. Can I take this train to Aberdeen?” The reply was: “No, madam. It’s far too heavy.”

Is Johnson’s glass half full or half empty?

It’s also heavy when a prime minister who ordered a lockdown is spotted, days later, drinking at Downing Street. His supporters see no evidence of the PM being at a party in a recently released photo.

Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, are you serious? What do you mean the photos don’t prove anything? With that table creaking with that amount of bevvy, it couldn’t have been a… a work event?

The PM is holding up a glass as if he is saying slàinte mhath. Is that what happens at his work events? Actually, maybe it is.

What do people think about that fact that the PM has been pictured apparently at a party that he claims never to have been at, yet, there he, is holding a glass?

An optimist would say: “The glass is half full.” A pessimist says: “The glass is half empty.” An optometrist says: “You two both need new glasses.”


Iain Maciver is a former broadcaster and news reporter from the Outer Hebrides

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