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Protesters totalling one-third of the population of South Uist took part in Sunday's protest about ferry cancellations affecting Lochboisdale services – and if the same scale of protest happened in Edinburgh, something would be done, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said in the Scottish Parliament Chamber yesterday (Tuesday June 6) 

The Highlands and Islands MSP accused the SNP-Green coalition government for taking an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach on island communities following further ferry service withdrawals.

At Topical Questions, Rhoda Grant MSP raised the issues around the peaceful protest which took place in South Uist over the weekend. 

Mrs Grant rebutted claims that poor communication was to blame and insisted that instead the problem was with the lack of ferries – the responsibility for which lies squarely with the Scottish Government.

She then urged the Scottish Government to create a resilience fund from Transport Scotland penalty charges to CalMac Ferries (which amounted to £2.5m last year alone). This could then compensate island businesses for the ongoing disruption.

The Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just transition, Mairi McAllan stated that they were pressing CalMac on their prioritisation matrix – which led to Lochboisdale again being chosen to lose its ferry links for a month – but she was of the view that Scottish Government should continue to use that money in the ferry network.

She then used the £9m charter for the Pentland Ferries vessel MV Alfred as an example of investment, which is currently providing resilience to Isle of Arran services.

In reply, Mrs Grant asserted: “You can buy the boat for £9 million”.

After Topical Questions, Rhoda Grant said: “A third of the South Uist community protested this withdrawal. That number cannot be understated and, to me, highlights their frustration and loss of confidence in our Scottish Government.

“Edinburgh businesses got compensated when they were disrupted by the building of the tram lines. The ferry disruptions have lasted longer and have arguably been tougher on communities. Yet this SNP Government stay firm and refuse compensation. It is unfair and it is unjust and it needs to change before business go to the wall.”