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Island residents are being urged to submit their views to the Scottish Government on the future of ferry services before next Friday’s consultation deadline.

Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has submitted his response and hopes as many others as possible follow suit before the March 8 cut-off point.

A key question under consideration is whether the entire Clyde and Hebrides contract should be awarded direct to CalMac Ferries.

Alasdair Allan said: “CalMac port staff and crew work very hard to deliver as reliable a service as possible across the ferry network despite the numerous challenges involved.

"The resilience of the fleet should see a significant improvement with the addition of the six major vessels currently under construction and due to enter service over the next couple of years.

“However, in my view, there are elements of the current contract itself which should be amended to better reflect the needs of island communities for the coming years, as well as better measuring key performance indicators, for example, so as to drive long-term improvement for islanders, island businesses, and visitors.”

The consultation on the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) contract opened in December after a statement by then Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop that Transport Scotland should consider awarding the contract directly to CalMac, using what is known as a ‘Teckal exemption’.

The Teckal exemption is a provision in public procurement law that allows a public authority to award a contract to a separate entity without going through a competitive bidding process, provided certain requirements are met.

A final decision on whether this is feasible or desirable is expected this summer.

In the meantime, the consultation is asking communities to help shape what changes should be made to ensure the new ferry contract better serves the needs of islanders.

The consultation form can be accessed here.