Following obediently in the wake of the RMT union’s robust campaign in support of the Scottish Government-owned ferry operator, CalMac, in the tender [now in its closing stages] for the west coast Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services [CHFS] contract, Scottish Labour Leader, Kezia Dugdale is now sloganising: ‘Keep ferry services in public hands’.
Ms Dugdale has attacked the SNP for failing to support the campaign to keep CalMac’s Clyde and Hebrides ferry service in public hands.
In this she could not be more mistaken – or more knowingly misleading.
For Argyll has serially published on the often incomprehensible ways in which the SNP Scottish Government has behaved in ways appearing to be complicit with the RMT [and CalMac] in overt and specific management of the requirements of the tender in matters that push up costs into the future. These developments to the tender could only advantage CalMac and disadvantage a private sector operator, like CalMac’s sole competitor, Serco.
Ms Dugdale travelled by CalMac ferry to Arran today to talk to business leaders on the island and carry out a number of visits. While on the island, the Labour Leader toured a number of local businesses, including Arran Aromatics and the Isle of Arran distillery.
She also criticised SNP MSPs for their failure to sign a Scottish Labour motion backing a campaign organised by the RMT union, whose members are employed by the ferry operator.- hence the Union’s various exercises to compel the Scottish Government to do as it demands. These included
Ms Dugdale said: ‘We need a guarantee from the SNP Government that these vital services will remain in public hands.’ [That has tacitly been delivered in the concessions made to the RMT in additions to the tender specifications.]
‘The ferry industry not only provides valuable jobs for people on the islands, they are a lifeline for local businesses bringing in goods and tourists. [ [CalMac does not operate a local crewing policy. Crews from wherever, sometimes offshore, live aboard the vessels.]
‘CalMac doesn’t just provide a ferry service they also engage with the local communities that they serve and that support for local events is worth thousands of pounds, money that would be at risk if the service was privatised. Over the past two years they’ve also returned just under £4 million to Transport Scotland, which proves this is a profitable route.’ [If the Arran route is profitable – and the return of monies to Transport Scotland does not necessarily demonstrate that – as opposed to demonstrating performance above contract datum, which is not the same thing, no other routes are. It is widely known that no CalMac routes make money.]
Ms Dugdale highlighted a report from the Fraser of Allander Institute which estimated that CalMac‘s support for island tourism enabled 3,247 jobs, worth around £53.4 million in wages. [This is so – but the same would be the case with any operator of the services. It is the service, not the operator, that supports tourist access.]
An economic impact study carried out by the RMT supported the claims that there was an economic benefit to the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service staying in public hands. [Hardly an objective source of such a survey.]
Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson David Stewart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has also exposed the SNP Government’s failure to use European legislation which would prevent the need for the Clyde routes to be put out to tender.
The Scottish Labour leader added: ‘Last November, the SNP voted against Labour’s call to halt the CalMac privatisation process, despite previous promises they would not put the services out to tender.
‘Not one SNP MSP attended the briefing held by the RMT when they published their study in Parliament this week and not one SNP member has signed Labour’s motion. The SNP cannot pretend they are trying to save CalMac services when clearly they are not.
‘It’s not too late to act. The SNP Government could suspend the tender process while they investigate the European situation and they could guarantee the Clyde and Hebrides services will not be privatised.
‘Those who live on Arran and the other islands deserve to know these vital services are safe.’
Ms Dugdale has absolutely no need to fabricate this level of political aeration.
Anyone who has closely followed the moves in this pantomime – and is capable of reading them, can bet their proverbial shirts that CalMac will emerge the victor, with an early post-election announcement.