CalMac board – where are the islanders?

The Scottish Government have dismissed concerns that the Western Isles has no representation on the boards of either company responsible for delivering lifeline ferry services.

Earlier this week, the association of community councils in Lewis and Harris launched a blistering attack on ministers for the “disastrous and unacceptable” situation communities and businesses are faced with.

“This due to the inadequate ferry service provided by the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, through their subsidiaries Caledonian MacBrayne Asset Limited and Calmac Ferries Ltd.

“CMAL is wholly owned by Scottish ministers. Under the terms of the tender process, CFL is bound to use the vessels of CMAL. While CFL have only two members of their board of directors with island connections, and that connection is with Orkney, it is our understanding that both CFL and CMAL have no representation on their respective boards from the Western Isles.

“The problem is not islands-based; the problem – and solution – lies with the Scottish Government. The dire situation the ferry service is in comes into focus when vessels are juggled about to maintain a service that has clearly been falling apart for years and is deteriorating as we speak.

“Island communities are outraged at the situation they find themselves in, due to a spate of ferry breakdowns which highlights an ageing and fragile fleet. This is a result of years of neglect by the Government elected quangos, who have clearly failed to plan for the future.”

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A spokeswoman for CMAL said the eight-strong board are “all appointed by Scottish ministers.”

She added: “Board positions are open and advertised widely to encourage applications from those with the relevant skills, qualifications, and experience.”

CFL directed Free Press inquiries to Transport Scotland for comment on its eight-strong board.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: ”An understanding of the role of transport in maintaining the economic and social integrity of the Highlands and Islands is a requirement for all board members, but it is essential that they also have the necessary experience for the position.

“Residents of island communities are free to apply to become members of the CalMac and CMAL boards if they wish, but it is not appropriate to limit the candidate pool for board membership by imposing requirements on where candidates can come from.

Article by Michael Russell, and image by Willie Urquhart.