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Islanders will be excited to know that an independent report has confirmed that ferry services are of critical importance to island folk and their businesses.

Who would ever have guessed this without the work of the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr)?

Could we have figured out unaided that, for instance, distilleries based on the islands benefit hugely from ferry services taking their products off the islands?

So - as islanders struggle with the consequences of months of disruption past and to come - we are, it cannot be doubted, wonderfully cheered to learn that the social and economic benefits of ferry services across Scotland’s west coast have been highlighted in this independent report.

It was commissioned jointly by CalMac and the Ferries Community Board to better understand the needs of ferry users and island communities, as well as the economic and social value of Argyll, Hebridean and Clyde ferry services.

The report found that for 2019-20, CalMac directly:

  • Generated £227.2 million in turnover, with an aggregate footprint of £350.6 million;
  • Supported 1,513 FTE jobs, with a total of 2,527 across the economy.

The report predicts a possible future of:

  • Growth in freight journeys that would support an additional 10 million bottles of whisky production (roughly half the current output of Islay’s largest distillery), associated with 46 jobs and £1.6 million of earnings. 
  • 429 jobs (including the tourism/whisky jobs estimated separately), with an earnings impact of £11.9 million. 
  • Over 1,000 additional island residents attracted by improved connectivity and quality of life – around 2% of the islands’ current population.

You can find the full report here

Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of CalMac, said: “The report evidences our large socio-economic footprint, quantifies the importance of our service to our communities and the wider Scottish economy, and examines how these impacts can increase and thrive when there is investment in the fleet and infrastructure.

“It also highlights the economic value of ferry services to our communities and the importance of economic growth sustainability when considering investment in future service needs.

“The places we serve are at the very heart of everything we do at CalMac and supporting them is of the highest priority for the organisation.

“The publication of this report is an excellent example of the importance of working with the Community Board, as well as our communities and wider stakeholder groups.”

Angus Campbell, Chair of the Ferries Community Board, said: “Since the inception of the Board, we have campaigned for the public evidencing of the critical value and importance of a fully functioning ferry service for island life.

“This report clearly demonstrates the existing value both in monetary terms but also most importantly, from a community perspective, starts to illustrate the social and defining role that ferries play in Islanders everyday life and life choices.

“As the Ferries Community Board, we would encourage decision makers to use the evidence in this report to accelerate the necessary improvements in ferry provision to the benefit of not only Islanders, but the country as a whole.”