MEP to tackle European Commission on Caledonian MacBrayne

23 February 2005
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith is to meet with the European Commission in Brussels next month (March 14th) to discuss the future of Caledonian MacBrayne and Scotland's lifeline ferry services.

Mr Smith is to meet the senior adviser to the Transport Commissioner as well as officials responsible for handling the Caledonian MacBrayne case at the Brussels level. The meeting will look at alternatives to the tendering process and ways in which the survival of lifeline services to Scotland's islands and remote areas can be guaranteed.

Commenting on the Cal Mac situation Mr Smith said

"I hope to have an open and forthright discussion with the Commission to move the debate on this issue forward. The Executive are insisting the services have to be put out to tender, but they will not release their legal advice or listen to alternative ideas. They are threatening islands with the prospect of the Commission issuing severe punishments if the services are not tendered but across Europe countries have run ferry services similar to Caledonian MacBrayne without facing any such punishment.

The Executive has shown complete disregard for the people who rely on Cal Mac by tendering the Gourock to Dunoon service despite their defeat by the Scottish Parliament in December. I intend to find out directly from the Commission what options we have and what the situation would be if the services are not tendered. The European Commission has no desire to cut off the lifeline services of the Scottish islands. I intend to use my visit to make the case for the islands."

Following the defeat of the Scottish Executive on December 8 2004 Mr Smith has been working with his Highlands and Islands colleagues, Jim Mather and Rob Gibson, as well as SNP Transport spokesperson Fergus Ewing on alternatives to the Executive's plans to put the services out to tender.

ENDS

Note to editors

Alyn Smith MEP will meet with members of the European Commission responsible for Caledonian MacBrayne at 11am on Monday 14th March in Brussels.