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Stòras Uibhist Ltd has had protracted correspondence between Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (local council), local councillors, MPs and the Scottish Government in an attempt to improve the poor ferry service to the port of Lochboisdale.

In 2008 the Minister for Transport (Stewart Stevenson) invited Stòras Uibhist to submit a proposal for the introduction of the Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry service and indicated that there would be up to £1m available to support this service. Stòras Uibhist submitted a proposal that was rejected by the Scottish Government primarily on the grounds that the proposed vessel was not suitable for the route, in a letter from Brian Wither dated December 5th 2008. In a further letter dated October 29 2009 from Colin Grieve the Minister stated that the matter would be considered as part of the Ferry review in early 2010.

However, the ferries review has been ongoing for a long time and has been delayed many times. It does not seem to be any closer to being published and even further from being acted upon. Meanwhile, the residents of South Uist, who have been consulted many times previous to, and since, the ferries review about the ferry service they want are left with an inadequate ferry service that can take 7.5 hours to reach the mainland. It is six years since the STAG Appraisal identified a need for the Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry service and the people of these islands are still waiting for the Scottish Government to deliver on the recommendations of that report.

There is also the matter of the spare vessel in the CalMac fleet with the arrival of the MV Finlggan for the Islay service. When there is an identified need for a ferry service between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, that many surveys have demonstrated will greatly benefit the island community, that is in the sole power of Scottish Ministers to implement, it would be remiss of Scottish Government to delay making a decision while they await the results of another open-ended review process.

Failure to make a decision on the use of this spare vessel will result in a valuable Scottish Government asset being wasted, when it could be used to reduce regional in-equality, boost the tourism sector and local economy and provide social benefits through reduced travel time for the residents of the islands of Eriskay, Benbecula and South Uist.

The ferry operator, wholly-owned by Scottish Government, delivers a service under contract from Scottish Government and cannot vary that service without direction from Scottish Government, which is why it is not a matter for the publicly owned operator, CalMac to decide.

The Outer Hebrides are an important component of the Scottish economy in the tourism, aquaculture, fishing and Defence sectors. Improving the transport links to these islands will boost both the local economy and contribute to overall Scottish GDP growth.