For anyone wishing to analyse the reasons for Robbie Drummond’s departure as chief executive of Caledonian MacBrayne, with immediate effect, the board of the Clyde and Hebrides ferry operator provided much food for thought.

Operational performance of the CalMac fleet, and "dialogue" with and "responsiveness" to communities were outlined by the board as key priorities as it revealed it had undertaken a review to ensure its executive leadership was best placed to achieve these aims. And it declared that Mr Drummond was stepping down “as part of that review”.

The departure of Mr Drummond, who has been at the helm of CalMac since 2018, came as a surprise, even though relations between the ferry operator and island communities have shown signs of significant strain.

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CalMac has suffered operational problems with its ageing fleet. However, while it has been hampered by long delays to the arrival of ferries being built by Ferguson Marine, neither CalMac nor Mr Drummond have responsibility for procurement. It is Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, another company owned by the Scottish Government, which handles the procurement process, and has itself been in focus amid the controversy over the ferries being built by Ferguson Marine.

While not specific about exactly what led to Mr Drummond stepping down, the CalMac board flagged “real challenges over this past year” for the island communities served by the ferry operator and set out plainly what it wants from its executive leadership team.

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Specifically, it wants to “strengthen the focus further on operational performance of an ageing fleet, resilience and enhanced dialogue and responsiveness with the customers and the communities CalMac serves”.

CalMac, revealing these board priorities, said in its statement announcing Mr Drummond’s exit: “As a consequence, the board has reviewed the executive leadership of the organisation to ensure that it is best placed to achieve that during some challenging years ahead. As part of that review, current CEO Robbie Drummond is stepping down with immediate effect.”

And it emphasised its board “takes the responsibility of delivering the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract extremely seriously”.

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The man replacing Mr Drummond at the helm on an interim basis is a former officer in the Royal Marines.

CalMac said that Duncan Mackison, former chief executive of CalMac holding company David MacBrayne Ltd, “has been appointed interim CEO until a permanent successor has been appointed”.

It added that Mr Mackison “has significant experience in leading service transformation and change, working for companies such as G4S, Serco, Buccleuch Group, David MacBrayne and Biffa, with responsibility for annual contract income values up to £400m and staff numbers up to 5,000”.

CalMac warned that the challenges facing the island communities it serves “are likely set to continue until new vessels are introduced to the fleet over the coming years”.

It notes that Mr Mackison has “more than 25 years experience in senior executive roles at MD and CEO level responsible for the delivery of complex outsourced service contracts to government and local government customers in a variety of sectors including transport, defence, property and technology”.

Mr Drummond worked in various senior finance roles across the business services, technology and transport sectors before joining CalMac, working for banking group HBOS, telecoms company Thus, and accountancy firms PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG.