SNP take CalMac ideas to the European Commission

14 March 2005
"Constructive meeting, now up to the Executive to take ideas forward."

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith today took independent transport expert Professor Neil Kay of Strathclyde University to meet with the European Commission to discuss the current position over Caledonian MacBrayne.

Mr Smith organised the meeting to short circuit the 'blame game' currently being employed in Scotland and to take new ideas direct to the Commission for their view. The meeting was given a particular urgency with the announcement by the RMT union of pending strike action on Calmac routes in protest at the Scottish Executive handling of the affair.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Smith said

"I feel more confident having met the Commission that a sensible way can be found to this issue. The meeting was a free and frank exchange of views, so I am limited in the extent to which I can comment upon the Commission view.

"Professor Neil Kay outlined a number of ideas to the Commission, and they listened carefully. These ideas will be fed back to the Scottish Parliament transport Committee, and indeed the Executive so that we can find a sensible way forward. Professor Kay will be submitting his proposals to the current consultation on Clyde and Hebridean ferry services, perhaps the Executive could learn from it."

"One idea I remain myself particularly keen on is the creation of an independent regulator along the lines of OFCOM or OFGEM as the status quo is untidy and I suspect long term unworkable.

Commenting on the decision of RMT members at Caledonian MacBrayne to strike Mr Smith said:

"I deeply regret this decision, and it will only spur us on to find a sensible solution to this business as I hope that strike action is avoidable. I just hope the Executive is going to be as constructive as we are."