Outer Hebrides Tourism says it is disappointed to have heard nothing back from Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands following its call for him to intervene on the CalMac ferries issue.
“We had an acknowledgement from the MSP’s office on 19th April that we “should expect to receive a response within 20 working days”. That deadline has passed.
“The low priority suggested by such a response window concerned us as much as the critical issue that caused us to write to Mr Yousaf in the first place.
“We have had no response from him but hope he has been using some of this time to come up with a meaningful solution.”
The tourism group want the Minister:
- To personally intervene for the urgent reinstatement of the ‘Lord of the Isles’ to its normal schedule on the Mallaig – Lochboisdale route
- To engage with the group in a meeting in the Outer Hebrides to discuss growing concerns over services
- To look at Calmac’s ageing fleet and its inability to commit publicly to ongoing service reliability
- To understand the general pressure on most Outer Hebrides ferry routes
There are construction delays to two new ferries with nothing else in a build pipeline against a backdrop of traffic and visitor growth to the Outer Hebrides. “No-one is even able to provide a date when the new Uig Triangle ferry will enter service.”
Work is yet to start on the alterations and redevelopment needed for the ferry ports affected.
The group says: “OHT have met with Alasdair Allan, CnES and the Chair of CalMac Community Board and, together with the Scottish Tourism Alliance, met with Transport Scotland to make them fully aware of our position and the impact on the islands’ tourism economy.
“We met with CalMac MD, Robbie Drummond, last week to emphasise the same to him.”
OHT believe that current ferry operational issues are costing the Outer Hebrides up to £6m, equal to about 1% of its GDP for 2018. Additionally, there is already very limited availability on several routes. For example. almost all services between Leverburgh and Berneray are fully booked over the next few days.
There are more than 218,000 visitors to these islands per year, almost 90% of these are from the UK and 85% of them travel by ferry.
The group says that four new vessels (in addition to the ones under construction) or three plus a fixed link across the Sound of Harris, are required to provide a satisfactory service and room for the tourism sector to flourish.
“OHT is in a difficult position as we must raise this issue of significant concern to our tourism businesses but media coverage, and lack of appropriate action from government and CalMac, is seriously impacting peoples’ decisions to visit the islands this summer.
“Notwithstanding, the Outer Hebrides remains a stunning place for tourists to visit and enjoy, however they travel to get here, by air or sea, all year around. ”