Mick Lynch calls for 'people's Calmac' amid ‘chaotic’ ferry services

The RMT general secretary called on Scottish ministers to ensure lifeline ferry services in the west of Scotland are kept in the public sector.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch blasts ‘chaotic’ ferry services as he calls for ‘people’s Calmac’ PA Media

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch hit out at the “chaotic way” ferry services in Scotland are being run as he called for a “people’s CalMac” to be created.

While the ferry operator is already state owned, Lynch demanded assurances from the Scottish Government that lifeline services on Scotland’s west coast would stay in public hands.

He called for an urgent meeting with new transport minister Fiona Hyslop, as he insisted that CalMac and Cmal (Caledonian Maritime Assets) – the body which owns the ferries and harbour infrastructure – should be brought together into a single organisation.

Providing this “coherent structure” would allow for a service that “responds to need and doesn’t respond to profit”, Lynch said.

Mick Lynch is seeking an urgent meeting with new transport minister Fiona Hyslop.PA Media

With CalMac’s contract for the services due to come to an end in September 2024, Lynch said ministers should not go out to tender, and should instead keep services with the state-owned firm.

The RMT general secretary stressed the need for the service to be “kept in public ownership and in the hands of the community”.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Lynch said: “We want to make sure the Scottish Government doesn’t re-tender, which they could be tempted to do and they haven’t given us any reassurances that they won’t put it out to a private company such as Serco, P&O or whoever.”

Lynch, who was at Holyrood to address a meeting of MSPs, claimed there had been failure by Scottish ministers to “invest properly over many decades” in the CalMac fleet – with the resulting problems of the aging fleet leading to disruption for island communities.

He said this was a “question of competence”, but blamed “ministers and Transport Scotland” rather than the island communities or CalMac crews.

Lynch added: “Many of our people are on these islands and are subject to the chaotic way these services are being run, which causes everyone disruption.

“We’ve got this disjointed approach between CalMac the operator, and Cmal the infrastructure and procurement body, but also Transport Scotland is in the mix and, of course, the politicians are in the mix as well as Government officials.

“We’ve got to have clarity and work our way though that and get a coherent structure which we believe would be a single entity in public ownership that responds to need and doesn’t respond to profit.

“The other way, to put this out to tender, would be a disaster. We have seen this on the railways, we have seen it in many aspects of public provision.

Some island communities have already suffered disruption and route cancellations this year, as CalMac waits for six new ferries to be built to bolster its aging fleet.

Mick Lynch complained of a lack of investment in the ferry fleet ‘over many decades’.PA Media

They include two ferries currently being constructed at at the Ferguson marine shipyard in Port Glasgow, which are years late and are set to cost over three times the original budget.

Lynch said: “The last thing that communities and workers need is for the Scottish Government to launch a bidding war for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry contract which could encourage companies like P&O and Serco to enter a race to the bottom.

“People relying on lifeline ferries need certainty over jobs, training and services.

“And the Scottish Government must work with stakeholders to stave off a full-blown ferry crisis in lifeline communities and to implement a long-term plan for the future of these critically important public services.”

Lynch continued: “We do not believe there is any legal requirement for the Scottish Government to be compelled to re-tender the Clyde and Hebrides ferry contract.

“The Scottish Government needs to commit to a permanently publicly owned people’s CalMac with proper investment and the exclusion of private profit.

“This would allow for successful long-term planning for improved services and resilience with a direct voice for CalMac workers and passengers.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code