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Four out of five Caledonian MacBrayne board members appointed by the Scottish Government have never visited a Western Isles port to which the company operates, in their capacity as non-executive directors, it has been revealed.

Two board members never been to any CalMac port in the network while a third, who lives in Northern Ireland, says she has been to ports in Argyll.

No non-executive board member has stepped foot on Arran or South Uist  – among the islands worst affected by the ongoing ferry crisis.

This information emerged following a Freedom of Information request which CalMac initially refused to answer.

The four "absentees" were appointed to their board roles by then Transport Minister, Graeme Day, in November 2021.

The intervening period has seen persistent disruption on the CalMac network and serious economic loss to the islands making the recent revelations all the more shocking.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant said that in the recent General Election campaign, one of the most pressing issues that voters raised on the doorsteps in the Western Isles is the inconsistent and unreliable ferry service.

A consistent and reliable ferry service is not a luxury that islanders want to enjoy but a service that has a huge impact on every day of their lives.

Ms Grant said “It is shocking that the Board of Calmac have such little knowledge of the communities they serve.  It appears to me that the SNP Government treat these island like a colonial outposts to be governed by distant boards who know nothing of the reality of living and working on our islands.

“The economy and wellbeing of the islands and peninsulas are totally dependent on well-run, reliable ferry services.  How can distant officials with no local knowledge do that?

“It seems to me that our islands, home to generations of seafarers, could gather together enough expertise and knowledge to make up the board.  Added to that they would know first-hand what these ferry services mean to our islands.

“It is high time those appointed to the Calmac Board have knowledge of the services they provide.”

Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Tim Eagle has pledged to constantly question SNP ministers over the composition of the Calmac board.

Mr Eagle said: “It is blindingly obvious that the CalMac board has forfeited the confidence of island communities.

“I am not in the least surprised that the reaction to the revelations about the membership of the board, and their lack of familiarity with the island communities whose interests they are supposed to represent, has been so strong.

“However, we must not let it rest here. I can assure islanders that I and the other Scottish Conservative MSPs who represent island communities will take every opportunity we have to question SNP ministers on this issue.

“A complete overhaul of the governance of CalMac is now an urgent priority. I have contacted CalMac to ask for a meeting to discuss the issues being raised by local residents”.

Meanwhile a further “slight delay” to the handover of the first of two ferries being built at Ferguson Marine for CalMac has been announced, with delivery pushed back to the middle of August.

Delivery of the Glen Sannox had last been delayed to the end of July but has now been postponed again to the week beginning August 19.

Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes said any delays are “disappointing” but delivery will take place this summer, while the Conservatives said the delays will hit the tourism economy.

Ferguson Marine’s interim chief executive officer, John Petticrew, outlined the change in a letter to Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee.

The shipyard continues to have trouble with the liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel system for the ferry after facing delays from suppliers.

Both Glen Sannox and its sister ship, Glen Rosa, are designed to run on both traditional marine gas oil and LNG. Both are many years late being finished and around four times over budget.