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25/06/15 15:29

CalMac ferries strike to go ahead tomorrow

One third of services will still be able to run - more talks with RMT planned for Tuesday.

Ministers have received an update on preparations ahead of tomorrow's (Friday) ferries strike.

Ferry operator CalMac has confirmed it will still be operating one third of its services tomorrow, and that nine of 27 routes will sail as normal or to an amended timetable. In total CalMac say it will still be able to carry around 40 per cent of normal passenger capacity across its network.

Passengers are being urged to check the CalMac website for latest service information: https://www.calmac.co.uk/

The routes mainly affected will be those serviced by the company's larger vessels including the Outer Hebrides, Mull, Colonsay, Coll, Tiree and Islay. A number of the smaller routes that attract large numbers of passengers such as Iona will operate as normal.

CalMac and Transport Scotland have also made contact with bus, rail and aviation operators to arrange additional services to help mitigate the impact.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney is this afternoon chairing a third meeting of the Scottish Government's resilience team this week, he said:

"Ministers have been speaking to unions about these matters for several months and have had further dialogue this week. It is therefore extremely disappointing that we find ourselves in this situation. More talks are scheduled in London next week, however that will be of little consolation to those communities who are facing disruption tomorrow, albeit CalMac have done a commendable job in putting on enough services to carry around 40 per cent of normal passenger capacity. I would urge common sense to prevail and for the Islands to be provided with certainty so that they can plan ahead with confidence in future."

Transport Minister Derek Mackay said:

"Action is being taken to support island communities and the travelling public at this time, however disruption tomorrow is inevitable. As Minister for Transport and the Islands I fully appreciate the crucial nature of these lifeline services. I would reiterate that we are determined to develop a tender which provides employment and pension safeguards to the current workforce, and the new procurement panel I have announced should provide further reassurance. To be clear, a fair, affordable and sustainable pension scheme will be written into the new CHFS contract."

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:

"It is deeply regrettable that this strike action is going ahead, especially at such a crucial time for those islands which depend on lifeline ferry services. While tomorrow is a major challenge we must ensure that going forward this matter is resolved. My officials have been in regular contact with the Scottish Tourism Alliance and VisitScotland, both of whom continue to use all their communication channels to relay information, from CalMac, to both the industry and visitors.

"VisitScotland have already put in place plans for additional marketing support to help bolster consumer confidence in visiting the islands. We are open to additional ideas which can be taken forward by the Ministerial Working Group which is due to meet early next month."

Notes to editors

EU law requires the Scottish Government to tender ferry services. The current contract was awarded to CalMac in 2007 following an exercise initiated by the previous administration. Since then, in-depth European Commission State aid investigation has reinforced this legal requirement

Breaking the law would leave Ministers open to a costly legal challenge with the likelihood of substantial fines.

Ministers will always retain control of the ferry services - routes, services, timetables and fares. Vessels and harbours will always remain in public ownership.

A new Independent Procurement Reference Panel was announced on June 24th to ensure fairness, openness and transparency and provide assurance of no discrimination against either bidder. Membership will be drawn from key stakeholder groups, including Local Authorities, Ferry User Groups, Tourism, Economy and Business, Ports and Harbours, Trade Unions, Health, Social Care and Accessibility.

Under procurement rules we cannot compel bidders to guarantee no compulsory redundancies. Bidders can make such a commitment through the tendering process, as happened with the recent ScotRail franchise.