Over 73,000 Ferry Delays and Cancellations Since 2007

Since October 2007 over 73,000 Scottish ferry sailings have been delayed or cancelled on 29 routes operated by CalMac, according to figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.

A Freedom of Information response has shown that sailings on these routes were delayed 34,124 times and cancelled 39,314 times.

That means, in the space of 12 years, the equivalent to around 117 sailings a week have been delayed or cancelled.

In Oban, there have been 10,546 cancelled or delayed ferry sailings since 2007. The worst affected route was the Oban to Craignure service which saw 4,235 cancelled or delayed sailings since 2007.

On the Rothesay to Wemyss Bay route, there have been 7,484 cancelled or delayed ferry sailings since 2007, and an additional 1,039 cancelled or delayed ferry sailings between Rothesay and Gourock in the 2015/16 year.

There have been thousands of cancellations and delays across other parts of Argyll and Bute since 2007 too. Some of the other affected services include, the Portavadie to Tarbert route which has seen 3,363 cancellations or delays, and the Tayinloan to Gigha route which has seen 3,143 cancellations or delays.

On the Stornoway to Ullapool route, there were 3,452 cancelled or delayed sailings since 2007, with a record number of 361 delays in the most recent year.

These findings came as part of a debate led by the Scottish Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament this week to highlight the chaotic state of Scotland’s ferry network under the SNP which has seen significant decline over the last 12 years.

Local issues were highlighted in the debate by Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron, who has received numerous complaints from residents across the Highlands and Islands Region since his election over two years ago.

Donald Cameron MSP said following the debate:

“Under the SNP Government, local people across the Highlands and Islands have faced a decade of insufficient capacity, delays, and cancellations to vital ferry services.

Ferry services are absolutely vital for people who live in the region and are a lifeline service for our residents, not just to connect the islands with Scotland’s mainland, but also to encourage tourism and boost the local economy.

We’ve known since 2010 that Calmac have needed to order one ferry every year in order to meet current passenger demands, and with an increasingly ageing ferry fleet, we are sleepwalking towards a major ferry crisis.

The SNP need to explain to local residents why they have failed so abjectly to get to grips with this problem.”

Cameron Calls for Long Term Solution Over ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ Chaos

Following the ongoing delay to reopening the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron (pictured on right) said:

“The travel chaos over the last few days following the landslides at the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ has been extremely problematic for both local residents and businesses alike, despite the heroic efforts of those working to make the road safe and get it open.

“While the extreme weather of last week was unusual, landslides closing The Rest are all too familiar to locals from across Argyll who are yet again suffering from severe disruption.

Despite millions being ploughed into landslide mitigation measures, it is abundantly clear that this is having little effect and people are fed up with warm words and empty promises to fix this.

“Argyll deserves a long term, permanent solution to this issue, and it’s high time the SNP Government provided it. To that end, I will be writing to the Transport Secretary and Transport Scotland this week.”

Concern as More than a Fifth of Patients Seeking Mental Health Treatment Not Being Seen Within Target Period

More than one fifth of patients within the NHS Highland area who require mental health treatment are not being seen within the SNP Government’s 18 week target, new figures have revealed.

The statistics, published this month by NHS Scotland’s ISD service, show that between June 2017 and June 2018, 20.3% of patients who have been referred for treatment are not being seen within the 18-week target period.

The information was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who criticised the SNP Government over the “dire statistics”, and asked the Minister for Mental Health what could be done to improve waiting times in the Highlands and Islands.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“Access to quality mental health services is absolutely vital, and in many cases time is of the essence especially in remote and rural parts of Scotland.

The fact that more than a fifth of people who have been referred for mental health treatment in the NHS Highland area are not being seen within the target period is deeply worrying.

The SNP Government urgently needs to sort out this crisis in mental health support sooner rather than later”.

SNP Minister Fails to Provide Cost Update of Delayed CalMac Ferries

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse MSP failed to update Parliament on the likely additional costs that will result from the recent announcement that two new CalMac ferries will be delayed.

In a question to the Minister this morning, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron asked if there would be additional costs as a result of the delayed ferries currently under construction with Ferguson Marine, and if so, how much.

The Minister was unable to provide the figures, noting that he would contact Mr Cameron separately to provide him with an update.

The delay will see one vessel designated for the Brodick to Ardrossan route delayed until 2019, and another vessel designated for the Uig ‘triangle’ delayed until 2020.

Donald Cameron MSP has been contacted by a number of constituents who are worried that the delay will mean worsening capacity issues, and loss of income to rural island economies.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The Scottish Conservatives welcome the investment in new vessels, but the public has a right to know if taxpayers’ money will be required as a result of these lengthy delays, and if so, what those additional costs might be.

In his answer, the Minister was eager to grandstand about the fact the orders were made in the first place. But island communities do not want to hear boasts from the SNP Government. They want to know when these much needed ferries will be ready, and how much it will cost the public purse.”

Cameron Lodges Motion to Celebrate 10 Years of BBC ALBA

A motion celebrating the tenth anniversary of BBC ALBA has been lodged with Scottish Parliament officials by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The motion notes the work of MG ALBA and the BBC, the principle partners of BBC ALBA and the fact that since its inception over £160m has been invested into producing Gaelic language content.

It also acknowledges the work the MG ALBA have done to work with other Gaelic organisations including Bòrd na Gàidhlig, to understand the changing trends in Gaelic culture and to implement these in its content, and also its investment in promoting Gaelic to younger audiences.

It is hoped that the motion will be debated in the Scottish Parliament as part of Members’ business if it attracts cross-party support.

The motion also recognises the recent partnership established by the UK’s four main Celtic broadcasters; S4C of Wales, Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund,TG4 of the Republic of Ireland and BBC ALBA.

The Celtic International Fund aims to “promote co-development and then co-production through Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Irish, and to encourage a broader European and worldwide internationalisation of productions which are originally conceived in those Celtic languages.”

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The recent commitment by BBC ALBA and the other major Celtic broadcasters to invest more in original content is a perfect way to celebrate ten years of this fantastic public service broadcaster.

The fact that BBC ALBA accounts for around 50% of independently-produced hours for audiences in Scotland should be welcomed.

I am encouraged by the optimism shown by MG ALBA, and its continued investment in Gaelic media.

I would encourage all readers to get in touch with their local MSP, and ask them to sign my motion, so that we can properly recognise this landmark achievement.”

To view the motion and see who has signed it, click here

Comment: Response to News that the SNP Government will End Vital New Farmers Grant

Following an announcement from the SNP Government that they will end the New Entrant Capital Grant Scheme on the 31st August, Shadow Environment Secretary Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The Scottish Conservatives are bitterly disappointed to hear that the SNP Government is calling time on the New Entrants Capital Grant Scheme.

At this point in time, we need to do our utmost to encourage more young people into farming and to help the sector grow and prosper as we leave the European Union.

We agree with NFUS that New Entrant funding should be prioritised and it’s clear that the SNP must work to build on the work that the Scheme has already delivered.

The simple fact is that this cut in funding will be a huge blow to those currently planning a future in Scottish farming, and it is vital that the SNP Government commit to providing for the next generation of Scottish farmers and crofters instead of creating new barriers into agriculture.”

“Lets Not Loose Our Loos” Says Donald Cameron MSP in Opposition to Council Toilet Closure Threat

Proposals which could see the closure of up to 29 public toilets have been slammed as “short-sighted” by Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron.

The consultation, which is being held by Highland Council, is considering a “review of current provision, including some rationalisation of 29 existing facilities”, and also the possibility of introducing charges for the most used facilities.

The review is set to go on till the end of October, during which time the Council have stated that no toilets will close.

However, local community groups have been up in arms over the announcement, with one group “Highland Save Our Loos” attracting over 650 members on Facebook (at the time of writing) and launching a petition to prevent the closures.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron announced his backing for the campaign, having heard from various constituents since his election about a lack of facilities in the region.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“I want to put my full support behind the campaign to save public toilets across the Highland region.

Not only are these facilities important for locals, but as one of Scotland’s major tourist hotspots, my biggest concern is that a lack of toilets will put people off re-visiting certain areas in the Highlands, which will have a real impact on the local economy.

It is completely short sighted for Highland Council to consider shelving more than a quarter of their public toilets and I will be writing to the council’s Chief Executive to make my views clear and to ensure that these important amenities are saved. Let’s not lose our loos.”

Cameron Slams SNP Scaremongering over Protected Status Products

Following claims by SNP MSP Alasdair Allan that Britain’s exit from the European Union will put the Protected Geographical Status of certain food and drink products at risk, Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said:

“This is scaremongering of the highest order from the SNP, and quite frankly Alasdair Allan should know better.

The UK Government has stated very clearly that when we leave the European Union, it will establish specific geographical indication (GI) schemes to protect products such as Stornoway Black Pudding, Scotch Lamb and Scotch Whisky to name but a few.

The fact of the matter is that the biggest threat to local businesses in the Western Isles and beyond, is losing access to the UK single market which the SNP want to put at risk by holding another unwanted second independence referendum.”

Credit to Annie Smith and the Stornoway Gazette who originally reported on the issue. 

Joint Call for More Government Action on Crumbling Island Roads

Two local politicians have come together to call for more action from the SNP Government over the problem of potholes and crumbling roads in local islands communities.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron and local Scottish Conservative Councillor Alastair Redman have issued the plea for additional funding following figures released under Freedom of Information by Argyll and Bute Council which show that a significant number of road faults have been raised with the council over several months.

Figures from May show that 106 road faults were raised from Islay, while figures for June show 101 road faults raised.

Argyll and Bute Council had announced an additional £15m worth of investment in roads in the most recent council budget.

However, local residents have raised concerns that this funding may not be enough to combat the growing problem on the islands road networks, which is largely caused in part by heavy haulage associated with the thriving whisky industry on Islay and Jura.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: 

“These figures make it absolutely clear that councils are struggling to fix local roads, which is in large part due to successive budget cuts by the SNP Government.

I saw for myself the condition of the roads on Islay earlier in the year. It is simply unacceptable for them to remain in such a dire state.

That is why the Scottish Conservatives have called on the Government to create a £100m pothole action fund, to help local councils get on top of their roads.”

Local Councillor Alastair Redman said:

“Since my election last May, I have been calling for extra funding to resolve this scourge on the island communities that I represent.

Islay and Jura have a growing whisky industry which is welcome, but this is having a major impact on local roads, with little recognition from the SNP Government.

The SNP need to invest more in improving local roads, otherwise more faults will be raised and this will impact local road users and local businesses.