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Holyrood to investigate impact of delayed ferries on island communities

Edward Mountain.
Edward Mountain.

Politicians will examine the impact the delayed launch of two new CalMac ferries is having on island communities as part of an inquiry into the vessels’ £100 million cost over-runs.

The investigation, mounted by Holyrood’s rural economy committee into the vessels earmarked for the Hebridean and Clyde routes, was formally announced last night.

Committee convener, Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, confirmed the inquiry would also look at the Scottish Government’s controversial decision to nationalise the Ferguson shipyard on the Clyde, where the ferries are being built.

The decision to hold the inquiry was made after a Ferguson Marine report into the vessels was published last month.

The review confirmed the first ship, Glen Sannox 801, destined for the Arran route, will not be ready until the last three months of 2021.

The second vessel – known as Hull 802 and bound for the Skye, Harris and North Uist route – will not be ready until July or August in 2022.

Both were originally supposed to be in service by the middle of last year, at a cost of £97m, of which £83m has been paid.

Including the outstanding £15m, a further £32.8m would be spent on the Glen Sannox and £45.9m on Hull 802.

Another £31.6m will be needed for overheads, such as yard running costs and staff.

Mr Mountain said: “As part of the inquiry we shall consider the impact of the repeated delays of the completion of these two vessels on the island communities who are waiting their delivery.

“We shall also consider the related matter of the Scottish Government taking public ownership of Ferguson Marine in October 2019.

“These matters have important implications for the future procurement of maritime vessels to serve the Clyde and Hebrides ferries network.”

Earlier anger over the delays had erupted at Holyrood when MSPs complained of the ageing CalMac fleet following recent disruption.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded on Arran in recent days as weather-related disruption affected the CalMac service to Ardrossan.

Tory transport spokesman Jamie Greene warned that islanders did not have “an abundance of patience when it comes to incompetence or mismanagement”.

In the Holyrood chamber, Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse acknowledged there had been “difficulties” with the two ferries’ contracts.

But he said he was confident that, with new vessels and investment in harbours, ferry services would improve.

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