CalMac

29 July 2005
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith and MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Angus MacNeil have today accused the Scottish Executive of doing "as little as they could get away with" in their discussions with the European Commission over the future of Caledonian MacBrayne.
Mr Smith has received a written answer from the European Commission stating that, prior to this weeks talks, only one meeting had taken place on the issue, and only two letters had been received. Mr Smith's question covered ministerial and official levels of communication.

Commenting on the answer Mr Smith said

"Is this the best they can do, is this fighting hard for Scotland and for the will of the Scottish Parliament? I would have expected a serious government to have done a great deal more. They have done as little as they could get away with and achieved nothing with it.

The Commission doesn't appear to even have the Minister's, now the Deputy First Minister, name right. The first of these meetings came only a day after the Parliamentary vote, and was already planned, it is unlikely to have discussed serious alternatives. As for sending two letters, is the Executive short on stamps, I have exchanged at least two letters with the Commission on this subject, that's hardly good enough for a government."

"Mr Stephen assured the Transport Committee that he and his officials were in contact and were discussing the issue, well were they? What were they discussing. Solving Caledonian MacBrayne is not a case of asking the Commission nicely to let you off the hook, it's a case of implementing an alternative.

"As we have seen this week with the ministers humiliating trip to Brussels, the issue of fuel costs for Caledonian MacBrayne and the Northlink tender, the Scottish Executive has no idea what it is doing on ferry policy and island communities will suffer as a result."

Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar added

PQs and Answer below

A Freedom of Information to the Scottish Executive for correspondence and minutes relating to discussions with the European Commission on ferry services in the Clyde and Hebrides has been rejected by the Executive on review. A similar request was rejected by the Commission on the grounds of third party confidentiality.

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1983/05
by Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE)
to the Commission

Subject: Tendering of Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services in the Clyde and Hebrides

Can the Commission state whether it has met with the Scottish Executive since 8 December 2004 to clarify the situation surrounding the tendering of lifeline ferry services operated by Caledonian MacBrayne in the Clyde and Hebrides and to discuss any alternative options, when it met with the Scottish Executive, who the Commission met with from the Scottish Executive and at what level these discussions took place?

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1984/05
Can the European Commission state to what extent it has had discussions with (a) the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union, (b) the United Kingdom Department of Transport at official and ministerial level and (c) the Scotland Office since 8 December 2004 to clarify the situation surrounding the tendering of lifeline ferry services operated by Caledonian MacBrayne in the Clyde and Hebrides?

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1985/05
Can the European Commission detail all correspondence it has had with the Scottish Executive since 8 December 2004 to clarify the situation surrounding the tendering of lifeline ferry services operated by Caledonian MacBrayne in the Clyde and Hebrides?

E-1983/05EN; E-1984/05EN; E-1985/05EN
Answer given by Mr Barrot on behalf of the Commission (12 July 2005)

Since the meeting on 9 December 2004 between the Vice-President of the Commission responsible for transport and Scottish Executive's transport minister, Mr Nicol, the subject to which the Honourable Member refers has not been discussed at any meeting between Commission representatives and representatives from the United Kingdom Government or the Scottish Executive.

However, in two letters dated 27 January and 19 April 2005, the Commission Vice-President responsible for transport answered questions which Mr Nicol had put to him on the subject.