A PARLIAMENTARY vote on providing a multi-million pound fund to compensate islanders hit by disruption to lifeline services due to breakdowns in CalMac's ageing fleet was blocked by the SNP, it has been revealed.

A Labour-led motion called on MSPs to back islanders' pleas for a compensation fund after South Uist residents lodged a public protest after years of frustration at being impacted by major ferry cancellations.

But it has emerged that a move by SNP transport secretary Màiri McAllan effectively wiped away the motion put by Michael Marra, the Scottish Labour's transport spokesman.

The Herald: Michael Marra MSP tweeted that voters backing the SNP ‘only jeopardises Labour support in other nations’

The Herald revealed that Scottish Government-owned CalMac Ferries Ltd amassed nearly £12m in fines for poor performance since it took charge of lifeline services.

And it was hoped that the penalties would be used as a resilience fund to support islanders who have been adversely affected by CalMac disruption and withdrawal of services.

READ MORE: Scrapping CalMac and CMAL a 'non-starter' if SNP wants to be in EU

The motion was put to MSPs after calls from the Lochboisdale Ferry Business Impact Group for a 'resilience fund' to be launched to support islanders who have been consistently hit by cancellations to services through a CalMac route prioritisation matrix which attempts to place ferries in positions to ensure the least impact on the public.

But it has emerged that MSPs were never given the opportunity to directly say 'yay' or 'nay' to the islanders' compensation scheme after Ms McAllan's intervention.

She amended the motion to remove any mention of the resilience fund - and instead asked for recognition that all CalMac penalties are used to improve the resilience of the existing fleet following network failures.

She says the penalties "part-funded" the £9m emergency nine month charter of MV Alfred from Pentland Ferries. The vessel cost the ferry company just £5m more to buy in 2019.

But Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government have so far been unable to say how much has actually been spent on MV Alfred or what other projects the penalties have been spent on.

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The transport secretary's intervention that blocked the vote on the fund was supported by 64 MSPs - all SNP and Green MSPs with 53 against.

SNP supporters of the block included four MSPs covering west of Scotland islands hit by the years of CalMac disruption - Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) MSP Alasdair Allan, Argyll and Bute MSP Jenni Minto and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes and Highlands and Islands Region MSP Emma Roddick. Also backing it was Scottish Green Party Highlands and Islands Region MSP Ariane Burgess.

Demand for action has been increasing following CalMac’s cancellation of ferries between the mainland port in Mallaig and Lochboisdale on South Uist with local businesses estimating a loss of £50,000 per day due to tourism, imports and exports being hit by the cut.

An estimated 500 residents, 200 cars, 40 vans and 20 lorries converged on Lochboisdale - the port which links South Uist to the mainland - on June 4 to protest about the cancellations and CalMac chief executive Robbie Drummond has made a trip to meet islanders to explain the decision.

The Herald: Robbie Drummond

John Daniel Peteranna of the of the Lochboisdale Ferry Business Impact Group, which organised the South Uist protest said: "Thanks to Scottish Labour for putting forward the motion in the parliament, it’s just disappointing that party politics is more important than an island's survival!"

Scottish Labour Highlands and Islands Region MSP Rhoda Grant, who was born in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis added: “I am incredibly disappointed that this SNP-Green Government continue to let island communities down and refuse to compensate them for Government failings. Businesses in Edinburgh were compensated while the trams were being built, therefore so should island businesses affected by the ferries. Its only fair.

“To see the constituency SNP MSPs, Alasdair Allan and Jenni Minto vote this motion down is a betrayal of their constituents. Businesses are going under because of this ongoing fiasco. The reality is that businesses need financial aid from this Government and I will continue to fight for it.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat rural affairs and connectivity spokesman Beatrice Wishart MSP added: “The Scottish Government set out to neuter this debate, and it’s clear they have no real interest in listening to the voices of islanders.

The Herald:

“This is a government content on letting Ferguson's shell out tens of thousands in bonuses to bosses. “If the ferries scandal is proof of anything, it is that the central-belt-centric SNP are spectacularly out of touch.” Motions are seen as a crucial part of the devolved democracy and it is extremely difficult for the government to justify going against the will of Parliament when passing one.

Official records show that the ferry operator has amassed £11.493m in fines since 2007 - when the SNP started to control Scotland's devolved legislature. The penalties were imposed by the Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland.

Some £4.453m of the penalties were imposed in the 18 months between October, 2021 and March 2023 - while the subsidised ferry operator made an after-tax loss of £3.7m in 2021/22.

The penalty charges have previously been kept under wraps by the Scottish Government believing that it was commercially sensitive.

Similar penalties had been made to Transport Scotland by ScotRail when it was run by state-owned Dutch transport firm Abellio with the money reinvested in improvements to the rail network.

The Lochboisdale Ferry Business Impact Group been calling for penalties to be used to benefit businesses across Scotland that have lost services as a result of cancellations.

The group was formed in early 2022 in the wake of a two-week disruption to the South Uist service, caused by the sudden and unexpected removal of MV Lord of the Isles for repair work to her firefighting system.

For a short time Uist was left without a service after North Uist's MV Hebrides struck a pier.

It returned to normal service following repairs to its damaged hull.

The outage was preceded by a three-month period which saw the almost complete removal of the service, during which, the locals say, these repairs could have been implemented.

A study for the group said the major disruption to the community of South Uist resulted in financial and economic losses estimated around £648,000 near the height of the busy season.

It is understood that some £300,000 of the £3.5m of fines that covered a period from April 2021 to May 2022 were the result of issues with the South Uist route.


The MSPs who effectively voted the compensation fund down.


Alasdair Allan
Angela Constance
Angus Robertson
Annabelle Ewing
Ash Regan
Audrey Nicoll
Ben Macpherson
Bill Kidd
Bob Doris
Christina McKelvie
Christine Grahame
Clare Adamson
Clare Haughey
Collette Stevenson
David Torrance
Elena Whitham
Emma Harper
Emma Roddick
Evelyn Tweed
Fergus Ewing
Fiona Hyslop
Fulton MacGregor
George Adam
Gordon MacDonald
Graeme Dey
Ivan McKee
Jackie Dunbar
James Dornan
Jamie Hepburn
Jenni Minto
Jim Fairlie
Joe FitzPatrick
John Mason
John Swinney
Karen Adam
Kate Forbes
Kaukab Stewart
Keith Brown
Kenneth Gibson
Kevin Stewart
Màiri McAllan
Maree Todd
Marie McNair
Michael Matheson
Michelle Thomson
Natalie Don
Paul McLennan
Richard Lochhead
Rona Mackay
Ruth Maguire
Shirley-Anne Somerville
Shona Robison
Siobhian Brown
Stephanie Callaghan
Stuart McMillan
Tom Arthur
Willie Coffey

Scottish Greens

Ariane Burgess
Gillian Mackay
Lorna Slater
Maggie Chapman
Mark Ruskell
Patrick Harvie
Ross Greer