Sleat Transport Forum is to continue the fight to ensure Skye is properly served by the Mallaig-Armdale ferry service.
Officials for the group say they will strive for a high quality, robust, reliable and efficient service on the route for the summer of 2017 and beyond.
And they are adamant that it was a “flawed decision” to re-deploy the ‘MV Coruisk’ designed specifically for the route, to the Oban-Mull service this summer, which has seen the service on the Sound of Sleat since March has descend into what they described as “chaos”.
Following a meeting with Transport Scotland officials attended by Ian Blackford MP and Kate Forbes MSP, together with Councillor Allan Henderson, (Caol and Mallaig) the Forum expressed disappointment at the inability of the officials to give any indication about the future quality or level of service on the grounds that the new contract awarded in May had not yet been signed between CalMac Ferries Limited and Transport Scotland.
A spokesman for the Forum said: ‘We remain determined to ensure that there will be an efficient and robust service on the route next summer. It has a high level of usage and is vital to the economies of Lochaber, Sleat, Skye and beyond to the Outer Isles. We will continue to strive through our political representatives and the Minister for Transport and Islands to ensure that it continues to grow and give a high quality service as in previous years. We cannot understand why the Scottish Government is unable to conclude a contract which it awarded to CFL on 19th May to a company wholly owned by the Ministers following a ‘fair, open and transparent procurement process’ and we call on the Minister to bring this to a speedy conclusion.
"The Forum has been notified that the Minister was quoted in a response to David Stewart MSP on 17th June 2016 as saying. ‘The Scottish Government remains committed to this service and to the part it can play in supporting the communities and economies of Sleat and Mallaig. On a positive note, the growth in traffic stimulated by the introduction of RET fares indicates that the service has great potential and I will be looking to CalMac for future options which support growth, stability and reliability.’
Plans are now being made by tourism providers and coach operators for the 2017 season and it is vital that decisions are taken without further delay to ensure that the economies of these areas are enabled to grow and flourish.
It is a matter of regret that the decision by the Scottish Government to introduce Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) designed to stimulate the economies of remote and fragile areas, has been nullified by officials of Transport Scotland and CalMac. These officials have effectively removed the means by which the communities of Skye and Lochaber could enjoy the full benefits of RET and the economic stimulus which comes with it. The Forum will continue to campaign at political level until the economic and social objectives behind RET have been achieved for these communities and will continue to press for the provision of a service equal to, or better than, that enjoyed during the twelve years of service provided by the ‘Coruisk’. The return of the vessel for Summer 2017 complemented by appropriate additional vehicle and passenger capacity remains the principal demand of the Forum.
Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber added: "I fully commend Sleat Transport Forum in the way they have represented the community interest in speaking out for a reliable ferry service between Mallaig and Armadale."