SNP To Press European Commission On Calmac

01 September 2005
SNP MEP Alyn Smith and Shadow Transport Minister Fergus Ewing will tomorrow (Friday) meet with the European Commission to clarify the situation facing Caledonian MacBrayne.

Their meeting follows the Transport Minister's announcement in July that the European Commission insists the service must be tendered and that he will bring the issue back to Parliament in September.

Mr Smith said

"The Executive is, as it always is with Europe, all over the place. We have seen the mess they got themselves into with the Ferguson shipyard, now they are in danger of doing exactly the same with Caledonian MacBrayne.

"Caledonian MacBrayne services are of vital importance to the West Coast of Scotland, and tendering these services will put West Coast communities at risk.

"The Commission have never before said a service has to be tendered, I can not believe they have done so now.

"The Executive is using the Commission as an excuse to get rid of CalMac. This is unacceptable and the SNP will fight to make sure CalMac does not go out to a disastrous tender."

Mr Ewing added:

"In the light of the new measures from the European Union, it is clear that there is now a move away from compulsory tendering of lifeline services to remote and island communities.

"There is great potential for the CalMac problem to be settled without tendering services, and potential for huge damage to the services if it is tendered.

"Distinguished academics have submitted evidence to the Transport Committee showing that alternatives to tendering exist, this evidence must be given a proper hearing by the full Parliament.

"The Scottish Executive appears to be set on bringing this to the Parliament this month, before the Committee has even finished its inquiry.

"If Executive Ministers say that they have to act now because of a threat of legal action, then I want to see those threats and I shall be seeking assurances from the Commission that the Parliament will be allowed to complete its work and make a fully informed decision before it considers such actions."

Note to Editors

Alyn Smith and Fergus Ewing will meet the senior member of the Transport Commission cabinet, with responsibility for Caledonian MacBrayne at 4.30 (Brussels time) on Friday 2nd September.