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Union calls for permanent public ownership of CalMac Ferries

A union has demanded that ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) be taken into public ownership after a tendering deadline passed.

CalMac operates ferries between the Scottish mainland and islands west of Scotland under a tendered contract with the Scottish Government which is due to expire in September 2024.

UK transport union RMT said the deadline for re-tendering the contract had now passed and that it would take at least 18 months to draw up necessary specifications for the contract and launch a tendering process covering the ferry services.

“This also means that at the very least the Scottish Government will now have to make a temporary extension by direct award to the existing contract operated by CalMac,” said RMT.

The subject will be discussed at a meeting with Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) on the evening of June 13th. The discussion will be centred around a report by Professor Jeanette Findlay from the University of Glasgow “Financing and delivery of lifeline ferry services in Scotland,” which was produced on behalf of RMT.

The report recommends that the Scottish government strongly considers the reintegration of CalMac and CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd), a company which owns the ferries, port assets and harbours on Scotland’s West coast. CMAL and CalMac were one company, wholly owned by the Scottish government until they were split in 2006 ahead of an open tender for the ferry services.

Whatever the future commercial structure, the report said that the wider social and economic value of a publicly owned ferry operator must be at the heart of considering the future of the service, with greater involvement of workers, travellers and businesses in the design and delivery of ferry services.

Mick 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 bottom.

“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.”