Highlands & Islands

Unions welcome Scottish government ferries contracts plan

Ferry Image copyright Caledonian MacBrayne
Image caption A contract process involving CalMac was the source of a dispute two years ago

Unions have welcomed a Scottish government plan on awarding Scotland's future ferry contracts.

The government intends to award ferry contracts directly to public sector operators in the future, if certain criteria can be met and subject to the views of local communities.

Approval for the plan is to be sought from the European Commission.

Unions clashed with the government and Caledonian MacBrayne during a ferry service tendering process in 2015.

Unite and other unions with members in CalMac's workforce were concerned that a private company winning the contract to operate the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services would lead to job cuts.

CalMac eventually secured the contract.

Davie Graham, of Unite, said unions would work with the government to help it secure exemption from European rules for the contract.

He added: "All the unions have been calling for this.

"It's going to save the taxpayer so much money and gives stability to the workforce."

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said a review of ferry services had led to the government's preference to directly award ferry contracts to an in-house provider, subject to the views of local communities and stakeholders.

He said: "I'm pleased to say that the indications so far are encouraging, but Transport Scotland officials are still working on the potential impact of complex state aid requirements on making such an award.

"If I can satisfy the European Commission, it would be my intention to scrap future tendering processes for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services contract and directly appoint CalMac."

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