Vote on calls for compensation fund for islanders affected by ferry cuts

Local businesses estimate a loss of £50,000 per day due to tourism, imports and exports being hit by the cut.

Vote on calls for compensation fund for South Uist islanders affected by ferry cuts STV News

A Labour-led debate will force MSPs to vote on calls for a compensation fund for South Uist islanders impacted by ferry cancellations.

The party will lodge a motion on Wednesday afternoon calling for a ‘resilience fund’ to be launched to support business owners.

Demand for action has been increasing following CalMac’s cancellation of ferries between the mainland port in Mallaig and Lochboisdale, with local businesses estimating a loss of £50,000 per day due to tourism, imports and exports being hit by the cut.

Humza Yousaf said at First Minister’s Questions last week that reimbursement for businesses was “not off the table”.

A third of South Uist’s population turned up to the ferry terminal earlier this month to protest against the service’s cancellation for the month of June.

The government-owned ferry operator cancelled the Lochboisdale route to redeploy the vessel to cover other routes due to breakdowns or maintenance delays.

Michael Marra, the party’s transport spokesman, said: “The ferry crisis is threatening livelihoods and pushing communities to breaking point – but the SNP/Green Government is missing in action.

“They are raking in millions in fines from this chaos while the communities affected are hung out to dry.

“Island communities have been failed time and time again by this disastrous government – the SNP cannot abandon them again.

“Today is a chance for the SNP to do right by islanders for once, by backing Labour’s motion and delivering the support scheme they should have set up months ago.”

Mr Marra said the £4.5m incurred by Calmac in financial penalties, and paid to the Scottish Government, should be compensated to islanders to make up for the disruption they face.

Western Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil also called for the Scottish Government to compensate islanders.

He said the “only other course of action is for businesses to be compensated” for their loss of income after an alternative ferry service failed to materialise.

He added: “Increased demand is placing greater strain on the ferry service with more people travelling in recent years, but that is not a fault the people in Uist should bear with a hit to their back pocket.

“I do hope the Scottish Government will do the right, fair and decent thing and compensate businesses. It would be to their great credit if they did.”