7 September 2018
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant raised the question of the truly worrying funding deal struck by the Government and CMAL for the MV Loch Seaforth directly with the newly appointed Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse in the Parliament on Thursday.
The MSP who has been fighting on behalf of the Communities and Businesses of the Western Isles to get the Scottish Government to be transparent with regard to the funding and ownership of the MV Loch Seaforth.
Rhoda asked the Minister, " To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to investigate the financing of the Calmac vessel, MV Loch Seaforth, which is now owned by Lloyds Banking Group, after a lease deal was agreed at a reported cost to the public purse of £53 million."
The Minister responded by saying a “tender process for a lease was undertaken by that Caledonian Maritime Assests Ltd”
He went on to say “Audit Scotland did not raise anything of concern regarding the procurement of the MV Loch Seaforth. "The Scottish Government therefore has no plans to investigate the financing of the MV Loch Seaforth.”
Rhoda responded saying, “That is truly disappointing.
"It is shocking that the boat will require to be handed back as new in 2022 or have a further lease negotiated.”
Following the parliamentary session Rhoda made it clear that the answers given by the minister fell drastically short in their substance.
She said, “Not only is the Minister not interested in investigating this truly worrying and damaging deal which will see taxpayers foot a bill of £53 million pounds over 8 years and end up without a boat.
"The Minister also brushed aside the genuine concerns that have been raised as we come through another shambolic summer season of ferry chaos by saying he wanted recognition for the monies that have been spent since 2007.
"It would be difficult for the communities of the Islands to raise any degree of recognition given that £53
million of the spend will be worthless when the vessel goes back to is owners, Lloyds Bank."
The MSP concluded, “This fight is far from over as funding, late ferry replacement, capacity, lifeline services, tourism and ordinary island life is being treated with no consideration whatsoever by this Government as the ageing threadbare fleet of CMAL fails to cope.
"It is preposterous to contemplate that through all of this CALMAC handed £6 Million pounds back to the Government.
"Why on earth was this money not used to relieve the suffering of the folk in the Western Isles and Argyll who have been so desperately inconvenienced.”