Arran Banner letters – week 07, 2022

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Nail on the head


Your correspondent Mr Gilmour (Arran Banner February 11 2022) hits the nail on the head.

It is obvious that the success of Pentland Ferries with the catamarans Pentalina and Alfred, in operating a successful, profitable, subsidy free service to Orkney, is a source of severe embarrassment to CMAL which, far from learning from this, adopts an ostrich like attitude, continuing to ignore this success at huge cost to the taxpayers – us.

Two catamarans similar to the 90-car Alfred could be built for some £20m each with a lead time of about two years.

These could be ordered ‘off the peg’, in contrast to the usual six-year lead time of ships ordered by CMAL, this when there are no hitches.

These vessels are crewed by around 14 as opposed to some 28-30 on CalMac ships. The provision of 11 or 12 catering crew, with the attendant wages cost and live aboard accommodation, on routes of less than one hour is an absolute nonsense.

It is planned to commission the build of two mono-hull ferries for the Islay route.

They will be obsolete before they hit the drawing board and some 40 to 50 years out of date at end of life.

Furthermore, the necessary port works to accommodate them will be seriously expensive but would be unnecessary for catamarans, six of which could be built for the cost of these two mono-hulls. We are not getting value for money.

It must be understood that CMAL is the problem here and not CalMac which does an amazing job under difficult circumstances with obsolete craft.

It is time for this government to disband CMAL, described in its own report as ‘not fit for purpose’ to be replaced by a modern procurement system.

Despite the many recent ferry problems it is distinctly odd that the government’s Ferry Advisory Committee did not meet for over two years and has now, apparently, been disbanded.

It seems that CMAL has had a free hand to continue squandering our money with no moderation and an absence of much-needed advice. It is time for radical change.


J Patrick Maclean,



Bleak outlook


West Coast communities have little real interest whether ferry provision is provided through a public or private mechanism. Their ever-increasing demand is for a reliable service, with appropriate fit-for-purpose vessels and competent crews.

In spite of decades of informed marine and ferry advice from internationally recognised experts and the catastrophic failure verdict of the Mountain Enquiry, nothing alters the entrenched position of Transport Scotland and CMAL: they have the best ferry and infrastructure solutions to resolve matters.

Politicians repeatedly highlight the huge expenditure on vessel replacement and infrastructure (heading toward £1 billion)  but there is no improvement in service.

Rusting, expensive, poorly-designed hulks in Port Glasgow are a constant reminder of a green vanity project rather than the fulfilment of a contract.

There is little  fanfare from the politicians about the close to £90 million repair/maintenance bill for this derelict fleet over the last five years whilst increasing annual operating subsidies are never mentioned.

CalMac, endeavouring to maintain a semblance of a service with a 22-23-year-old average-age fleet, is a convenient whipping boy for service breakdown, however, the incompetence of both TS and CMAL over many years lies at the heart of this public scandal.

Internationally, progressive ferry operators have cut costs, use best-of-class catamarans, endorse public/private models and provide good services.

Scotland’s granny fleet offers little except increasing frustration to its customers, economic and social dislocation, reputational damage to the tourist brand and an increasingly bleak outlook as vessel replacement remains an aspiration.


John Lamont,



Path heroes


May I through your pages say ‘thank you’ to all those volunteers who, before and during lockdown and since then, work on paths and walkways all over the island to make outdoor pursuits easier for everyone.

Some of this number are Gordon Alsopp, Kenny Morrison and the Hendry brothers.

The latter gave us the much-loved Fisherman’s  Boardwalk. Thank you to them and all who work to keep our island beautiful.


Elaine Duncan,


Conspicuous attire


Your article on Changes to the Highway Code in last week’s Banner prompts this comment.

For their own safety, cyclists need to be conspicuous to motorists. Dark clothing, often worn, blends with roadside woodlands and grass embankments and cyclists are not immediately visible.

Serious accidents will be avoided if conspicuous, coloured attire is worn, reinforced with fore and aft lighting.

This requirement demands legal action – not impossible!

John G Webster,