Contact us on 01851 705743 or

The pattern of large ship orders for the Hebridean and Clyde ferries is highlighted by the graphic above, published during April by the BBC.

And the same pattern of neglect and disregard for the Maritime fringes of Scotland is highlighted by the all-out metropolitan assault on our lifestyles and communities outlined by the draconian restrictions planned for Highly Protected Marine Areas.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament's first debate on highly protected marine areas yesterday (Tuesday May 2), Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said:

"It’s no exaggeration to say that the proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas, or HPMAs, have struck fear and anxiety in coastal and island communities. The communication from the Scottish Government about its proposals has been poor. Had it engaged meaningfully with communities before now it is possible that some concerns could have been alleviated.

"Addressing the climate emergency and protecting our vulnerable coastal and island communities is not in doubt but should be led by proportional and evidence-based policy, not imposed by a top-down approach.

"It’s time to stop implying fishermen don’t care about our seas. The fishing sector rely on sustainable catches and benefit from healthy seas. Who better understands that our seas are fragile than our fishermen, who want to ensure there’s a future for the next generation?

"We need a holistic approach to our seas to support all the interested stakeholders and sectors, including how the future conservation of our seas should work. The Scottish Government should rethink this policy now."

On the ferries issues, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur praised the ‘calm professionalism’ of those involved in the rescue of passengers aboard MV Pentalina on Saturday evening and the ‘generosity’ of the local community who looked after them once ashore.

During Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament, he highlighted the impact the loss of MV Pentalina would have on passenger and freight capacity on the Pentland Firth and urged Transport Minister Kevin Stewart to address this by agreeing to increase temporarily the number of sailings on the Stromness-Scrabster route to four a day.

He reminded the Minister that this was the arrangement put in place when the MV Alfred was out of service last year. In response, the Minister said he was keeping the matter ‘under review’ and would be willing to increase the sailings ‘if necessary’.

Mr McArthur also reflected that the MV Pentalina was only brought back onto the Hope-Gill’s Bay route after Ministers chartered MV Alfred to ‘plug gaps’ on the west coast, further underlining the lack of resilience across Scotland’s ferry network.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McArthur said:“All those involved in the rescue mission last Saturday, both at sea and then on shore, deserve enormous credit for their calm professionalism and, in the case of the local community, their generosity. It was good to be able to acknowledge that on the parliamentary record.

“However, Orkney now looks set to be without any ferry provision on the Hope-Gill’s Bay route for what is likely to be a number of weeks just as we enter the busiest time of the year. When the MV Alfred was out of service last year, a fourth return sailing was put on the Stromness-Scrabster route. The Transport Minister must agree to do the same this time round."

In reply, Mr Stewart said the government was investing heavily in ferry services, with six vessels under construction for CalMac. This, of course, ignores the fact that a vast amount of the total is being spent on the two ferries under construction on the Clyde that are five years behind schedule already and nearly as many times over budget. And the fact that there will be no hope from the other new ferries for almost two years even if they are delivered on time and in a serviceable condition. 

In response to a supplementary question from Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, Mr Stewart said the government were monitoring the three services a day now being provided between Scrabster and Stromness in Orkney by Northlink ferry services and would then consider whether a fourth daily service was also needed.

But, he said: “The terms and conditions of the charter (of MV Alfred) are a commercial matter between CalMac and Pentland Ferries. There is no recall clause.”

Meanwhile CalMac said that a successful berthing trial at Port Askaig in Islay has lined MV Alfred up to serve that island while MV Finlaggan is on annual overhaul.

The Alfred was still carrying out trials yesterday (Tuesday 2 May) at Campbeltown and Troon, but the departure of MV Finlaggan for servicing on Thursday has coincided with MV Hebridean Isles being off service with a technical fault, limiting their options.

A spokesperson for CalMac said: “We are currently reviewing our timetable options, with MV Alfred having successfully carried out a berthing trial at Port Askaig but unable to operate to Kennacraig.

“MV Alfred … is unable to operate to Kennacraig, therefore any service to Islay would require using Troon or Campbeltown as the mainland port.

“The vessel will undertake further trials at Campbeltown and Troon on Tuesday (pending availability of pilot) and if successful we could deploy the vessel on a Port Askaig – Campbeltown or Troon service thereafter. Confirmation of Islay services will be published as soon as possible.”

“MV Hebridean Isles remains out of service due to a technical issue with the vessel’s Control System. Further updates will be published regarding the vessel’s date of return to service when available.”