Ferry Fiasco – Scotsman Article – 19 July 2021


I’m fascinated by ferries. I suppose it’s because every summer I spent holidays with grandparents on Lewis. For me a break doesn’t start unless there’s a sail, no matter how short. It also means I take an interest in the affairs of CalMac even though I don’t live in a community where they’re a lifeline service.

I’m old enough to remember when it was David McBrayne and cars were lifted in nets and placed on space in the bow. There’s been issues over the years but on the routes I sailed I welcomed the introduction of car ferries and then RoRo ships. Similarly the length of the sail was reduced from many hours indeed, to being able to run three services a day, if not more.

I’m also aware how important they are for the communities they serve. I recall once when I’d newly passed my driving test going up to stay with my Granny. A stone span up and smashed my windscreen just as I was heading to the port. Boarding with a cracked screen I disembarked and made my windswept way to the croft anticipating a quick trip to Stornoway the following day to sort matters. As it was it would be several days before a windscreen could be brought in by the boat. But that’s life on an island and its why the link matters.

That’s why I’m gobsmacked at what’s going on in Cal Mac at the moment. It’s not as if the difficulty is in one ship and on one service. Instead it seems to be across the board and affecting communities up and down our coasts.

Service failures at sea are compounded by wider failures on land. How the debacle at Ferguson Marine has been allowed to develop beats me? Why the construction of vital ships should go to yards abroad or repairs to the Mersey staggers me? There’s even the whole structure. Folk have railed against the divide in the railways between track and operators, Scotrail and Network Rail. Why then do we have Cal Mac and CMAL? This needs sorted and fast