Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out privatising lifeline ferry services to Scotland’s island communities.
The First Minister also made clear her government had no plans at split up the CalMac network, amid concerns about a possible “unbundling” of routes into smaller groups.
Labour’s Kate Clarke asked Sturgeon for the government to “make a commitment to keep ferry services in public ownership”.
The SNP leader told her: “We have no plans whatsoever to privatise public service ferries.
“And contrary to concerns expressed in recent press reports, we have no plans whatsoever to split up the CalMac network.”
Sturgeon said that ensuring ferry services are delivered via public contracts gave them “control over service levels, timetables and fares” on the routes operated by CalMac on the Clyde and Hebrides routes and by Serco NorthLink to the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland.
Clarke, who raised the issue as First Minister’s Questions, said she was pleased Sturgeon “seems to have ruled out privatisation”, as she claimed a lack of investment in ferry services since the SNP came to power in 2007 had resulted in more than 1000 sailings being delayed because of mechanical issues in the past five years.
The First Minister said: “I didn’t seem to rule out privatisation, I did rule out privatisation.
“Let me say it again. We have no plans whatsoever, we will not privatise our public service ferries and equally we have no plans to split up the CalMac network.
“That is the position of the Scottish Government.”
She told MSPs the SNP in government had “invested over £2bn pounds” in ferry services and infrastructure, with spending of £580m earmarked for the next five years.
The First Minister pledged: “We will continue to invest in our ferry network to give people in our islands the service the have every right to expect.”