21 August 2018
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant who has been fighting on behalf of the Communities and Businesses of the Western Isles to get the Scottish Government to provide the lifeline ferry services that are required has called for transparency in the funding and ownership row surrounding the MV Loch Seaforth.
Rhoda said, " Not only are the communities and businesses of the Western Isles being subjected to the failing attempts to provide life line services, we have recently witnessed debilitating situations with ferries, being damaged while attempting to dock in safe environments, being removed from service without consultation, suffering a major mid-sailing breakdown of the fleets flagship vessel with 345 people on board, without proper answers.
"We are now subject to the revelation that CMAL does not, and appears never to be able to, own the MV Loch Seaforth."
The MSP added, “Is it not bad enough that the communities and businesses of the Western Isles have been treated with utter contempt by the SNP and there totally ineptitude in providing answers to the suffering caused by the lack of a proper “fit for purpose” ferry provision.
"I now understand that the Government through CMAL did not purchase the vessel MV Loch Seaforth but instead have spent millions of taxpayer’s money in leasing the vessel.
"It is suggested that the vessel cost £45 Million to build however there was then a further £7.3M in apparent costs and fees.
"As if this wasn’t enough of a scandal the CMAL, the “asset” arm of this regime then decide to sign a lease deal with Lloyd’s Bank and then sub lease it to Calmac Ferries Ltd, who are actually trying to run the ferry company.
"The SNP Government through CMAL pay a rental for 8 years for the vessel of around £53 Million pounds of taxpayer’s money.
"The SNP Government then sublease the vessel from CMAL to Calmac Ferries Limited for the same amount of time. Are we to believe that we require a Government to have two departments leasing the same ferry from Lloyd’s? Is there further costs being claimed by CMAL to manage this “sublease”?
The MSP continued, “Huge amounts of taxpayer’s money is being used to prop up this deal which I predict is only throwing good money after bad.
"The deal which ends in 2022 requires that the asset, MV Loch Seaforth, be returned to Lloyd’s in an “as new” condition which means that more money will be wasted in restoring a vessel that has seen 8 hard years of service to the requirements of the lease.
"These amounts do not take account of the tens of millions of pounds that was spent on upgrading the harbours to enable the new ferry to berth.
"Upgrades that would not have been required if the government had listened to the community’s request for a two ferry solution.
"What happens after the lease runs out?
" The only two options the Government will then have is to renegotiate a further lease of a vessel that they have in effect fully paid for already or go buy another one!"
She concluded, " There has to be full and immediate investigation into this arrangement.
"We require transparency from the Scottish Government on this deal.”