Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart are supporting a demonstration on Thursday (19th May), held by shipping union RMT and involving CalMac members, outside the Scottish Parliament.
Private operator, Serco, is challenging CalMac for the £1 billion subsidy to run the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network, with concerns about its extremely troubled history in relation to its public sector contracts.
A previous report by Jeanette Findlay, an economics lecturer at Glasgow University, said that CalMac had “operated in an efficient, innovative and strategic way in the conduct of the CHFS contract and has shared with the Scottish Government all the benefits of cost saving.”
Mrs Grant said: “The report, commissioned by RMT, has been hailed by the union as making an overwhelming case for keeping the ferry services in the public sector.
“This evidence should be used to see off the challenge from private operators, Serco. Passengers and islanders have told me they want to keep CalMac and we have to listen.
“The SNP has put off this crucial decision until after the election and we now need to provide the staff and the wider public with an answer.”
Mr Stewart, who has led Scottish Labour’s campaign to keep CalMac in public hands, said it was vital that the CHFS remains in public hands as it is part of the islands’ DNA.
“It is also vital that we show our support for the RMT with only two weeks to go until 31st May, the deadline date by which the winning contract should be announced. That’s why I’ll be attending the demo,” he said today.
“These are lifeline services to our islands and simply should not be cherry-picked. It is essential we keep the contract in public hands to ensure the investment is there to provide our island communities with the vital ferry services they need.
“We’re backing the public service staff instead of private profit.”