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CalMac launch ferry legal action

The contract for ferry services to and from the Northern Isles is now subject to a legal bid by CalMac.

CalMac Ferries Limited have raised legal proceedings against the Scottish Government’s decision to appoint Serco as the preferred bidder to provide the Northern Isles Ferry Services.

The state-run ferry operator has previously claimed that they offered a better deal than Serco to win the £345-million tender.

Speaking in Holyrood, islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “We have been formally notified that CalMac Ferries Limited have raised legal proceedings to set aside the decision to appoint Serco Limited as the preferred bidder to provide the Northern Isles Ferry Services.

“Given the ongoing legal proceedings, Scottish Ministers are limited in what we can say at this stage, so as not to prejudice the outcome of those proceedings.

“However, I can confirm that Scottish Ministers remain fully committed to the provision of safe, effective and reliable ferry services to the Northern Isles.

“On behalf of ministers, Transport Scotland are liaising with the current operator, Serco Limited, to make arrangements for the extension of the current contract to maintain continuity of service and to ensure full connectivity to and from the Northern Isles.

“This will mean that the local communities, passengers and businesses who rely on the services, and the staff who work on them, will not be affected by the legal proceedings and services will be run as normal throughout this period.”

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur was horrified to learn of this latest development.

He said: “It is deeply disappointing that CalMac has chosen to go down this route. It is not clear what the basis for the legal challenge is but communities in Orkney and Shetland will be appalled at this latest development.

“Island residents and businesses depend on these lifeline services. The letting of this contract has already been delayed by more than 18 months. Continued uncertainty over the future of the service is the last thing communities in Orkney and Shetland need.

“Ministers must do everything possible to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston slammed the SNP and said this legal action by the government-owned CalMac will lead to more uncertainty and delay for travellers.

He said: “When factored in with the completely unacceptable delays with the two new ferries being built, the delays on reducing fares to Orkney and Shetland and its refusal to meet its pledge on fair funding for inter-island ferries this really is turning into a fiasco.

“People in the islands want assurances that these vital links will be secure and that improvements to the service will start to get underway. But with the SNP in sole charge of transport for more than 12 years, things just keep getting worse.

“This is what happens when you have a nationalist government completely distracted by the constitution.”