‘Total disgrace’ Sturgeon facing pressure as Scottish islands at risk

Scottish Labour leader sets out plans to tackle cost of living crisis

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With multiple islands communities relying heavily on ferry services to secure flows of supplies and transport to the mainland, political rivals have questioned Ms Sturgeon’s handling of the situation. Reports suggest the current situation leaves more isolated areas under “real threat” as ailing ferry services no longer guarantee “basic lifeline services”, according to one community group.

Taking the issue up on social media, MSP member for Scottish Borders Rachel Hamilton blames the SNP.

Writing on Twitter, the Scottish Conservative said: “Influential community groups warn Scotland’s islands are under threat from the SNP failing ferry services.

“Under threat is serious.

“The SNP will blame anyone but themselves.

“What a total disgrace.”

The news was backed up by The Ferries Communities Board, a group addressing the logistical connections to Scottish islands.

Angus Campbell, chairman of the board, told The Times: “The recent extent and duration of mechanical failures on multiple vessels has led to massive disruption right across the network.”

He added: “Without a fit for purpose ferry service, all efforts to sustain and grow the population, encourage new business and provide equality of opportunity will be increasingly damaged — to the detriment of our islands and country.”

In what appears to be an ongoing issue at Ferguson Marine, a publicly owned shipyard, it emerged last week almost 1,000 cables may have to be ripped out and replaced on the Glen Sannox, commissioned for the Arran service, a vessel already four years late.

Adding to the notion of rising costs and wasted money, the Scottish Conservatives added some worrying allegations to their Twitter feed.

It read: “The £200 million wasted by the SNP on ferries that don’t even float could have paid for 9,900 refuse workers.”

Already, Scottish waste workers have complained and threatened industrial action over poor working and pay conditions.

During the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, refuse workers sought a wage increase of 5.89 percent, on top of a £1,062 raise for all employees earning under £25,000.

In terms of the ongoing ferry situation, the recent plea by Ferries Communities Board said it was “essential” more effort was made to increase services to these communities.

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Transport Scotland stressed it acknowledges the need to reduce delays, explaining it had allocated £580million to address the issue.

Though the Ferries Communities Board has acknowledged the challenges posed by recent storms and the pandemic, it highlighted the true effects of the issues on locals.

The group added in a statement: “Unfortunately this is unlikely to be a one-off with such an ageing fleet in our challenging environment.

“This represents a real threat to our islands’ ability to retain and attract people, ensure services are sufficiently reliable and at prices that permit viable communities and thereby avoid depopulation.”

The group called for a number of changes to the way the situation is being dealt with.

It said: “The issue of historic lack of investment has been highlighted and recognised over many years.

“While some progress has recently been made in terms of identifying the first stage of a capital budget for vessels and infrastructure, including ordering two new vessels for Islay and the purchase of new tonnage for Mull, recent events have demonstrated the need to do more and to do it quicker.

“It is essential we step up the efforts to find and purchase new tonnage.

“This should include the sourcing of freight tonnage for appropriate routes thus alleviating pressure and freeing up conventional ferry space for passenger traffic.”

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Transport Scotland responded to this, noting the worry and highlighting the funding the government has committed to dealing with shortages.

A spokesman said: “Ministers recognise that a lack of confidence in ferry services can impact upon people’s decision on whether to live and work on the islands, and impacts upon the sustainability of the island communities themselves.

“These human impacts are at the heart of Scottish Ministers’ commitment to supporting lifeline services through continued investment in ferry services across Scotland.

“Ministers also fully recognise the need to address delays in investment in ferry infrastructure which is why they have committed to the £580 million in the Infrastructure Investment Plan.”

The SNP has been contacted by Express.co.uk for further comment.

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