SCOTTISH LABOUR MSP RAISES ALARM AS SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CHARTERS BOAT WITHOUT MEETING OPERATOR
Scottish Labour MSP Katy Clark has expressed concern after it emerged neither the Minister for Transport nor representatives from CMAL or Transport Scotland, met with the operator they were chartering a relief vessel from.
In response to parliamentary questions submitted by Ms Clark, Jenny Gilruth admitted no meetings were held with Pentland Ferries about the MV Alfred joining the CalMac fleet on a nine-month basis despite there being an ongoing investigation into an incident involving the ferry last year.
The MV Alfred was suspended from service in the summer after it crashed into an island off the north coast. The results of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s probe are still pending.
The RMT trade union has claimed the charter breaches its collective bargaining agreement with CalMac due to Pentland Ferries’ reputation as an anti-trade union operator. The MV Pentalina, also owned by the operator, was found to have numerous health and safety “discrepancies” by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in 2021.
Katy Clark, who represents Scottish Labour for West Scotland, commented: “I’m deeply concerned the Scottish Government seems to have blindly signed off on chartering a potentially defective vessel from a notorious anti-trade union operator when there’s still an ongoing investigation into an incident the vessel was involved in last year.
“It’s difficult to understand why this vessel has been chartered when there are still safety concerns. The Scottish Government frequently talks up its ‘fair work framework’, yet it is now wasting taxpayers’ money leasing boats without so much as a phone call.
Denying any involvement in this process and loading responsibility onto CalMac is a cynical use of public ownership. It also speaks to the Scottish Government’s shallow procurement strategy. Other than the overdue ferries sitting at Port Glasgow, the approach seems to be to scour the globe for second-hand vessels and rely on operators with a poor reputation for health and safety.
“The health and safety of passengers and staff should be the top priority when chartering any new tonnage, yet the ongoing investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch seems to have been blithely dismissed out of desperation.
“The Scottish Government need to properly consult with trade unions and island communities on a new strategy, so in the future such mistakes are avoided.”
SCOTTISH LABOUR MSP RAISES ALARM AT “APPALLING” AMBULANCE STATS
Katy Clark has described the ambulance situation in Ayrshire as “appalling” as it emerged that NHS Ayrshire & Arran has recorded the worst response times in Scotland for several weeks running.
Scottish Ambulance Service figures show the median turnaround time in the last three weeks recorded was the worst of any health board. Both University Hospital Crosshouse and University Hospital Ayr have worse turnaround times than the national average.
This month, Ayrshire & Arran has also been the only health board with an average wait of over an hour. For “purple category incidents”, which involve the most critically ill patients, Ayrshire & Arran also had the worst average waiting time in the week commencing 6th March.
Scottish Labour MSP Katy Clark, who represents the West Scotland region, said: “These statistics are appalling but not surprising. I have had several constituents coming forward with horror stories in recent months.
“Phoning an ambulance in distress is not an easy thing to do, which is why people have such faith in our NHS. However, these lengthy waits are becoming the norm, especially in Ayrshire.
“The truth is that paramedics and hospital staff are exhausted, demoralised and absolutely overworked.
“The Scottish Government cannot continue to tread water on this: ministers must urgently ramp up recruitment to meet demand and come forward with a real recovery plan.”
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT MUST PROTECT SHIPBUILDING JOBS
Commenting on news that ferries Glen Sannox (801) and vessel 802 are being delayed again with rising costs, Scottish Labour MSP Katy Clark commented: “The governance, management and financial safeguarding at Ferguson Marine has been appalling.
“Whilst ministers refuse to take responsibility for this debacle and managers hand themselves bonuses, it is islanders, the yard work force and the wider public who are being failed.
“However, the Scottish Government must learn the right lessons. Islanders need a steady pipeline of ferries and the workers need job security. Continuing to outsource ferry contracts abroad will not help in that regard.
“The shipyard needs a continuous chain of work going. It is time the Scottish Government properly provided the investment in facilities needed to develop shipbuilding in Scotland and made a direct award to secure the yard’s future.”
Katy’s question to John Swinney today in the chamber