Argyll and Bute MSP, Michael Russell has welcomed announcements from the Scottish Government including an increase in support for air services made during the “Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities” debate this afternoon in the Scottish Parliament. 


As the constituency MSP who represents most inhabited islands – the islands of Argyll – he noted that those Islands have not been directly represented in discussions that the Minister has had with the Island authorities. Although this was not the Ministers fault Mr Russell explained: “the refusal of the Islands Councils to include the Argyll islands has been the problem and I do hope that even at this late stage the Island Authorities will re-consider this exclusive attitude which lacks both solidarity and generosity.” He went on to add “I hope the Minister will today not only renew the commitment to ensure that Argyll islands are treated the same way in terms of benefiting from positive outcomes from the Islands Bill but also endeavour to bring them in to formal discussions, starting with the new strategic ferries group”.


Mr Russell then outlined the importance of “connectivity – digital and physical” which he said is “key for the future of the islands.”   


“Mobile phone services remain very poor as a result of lack of investment from the providers” he added  and whilst “the rollout of high speed broadband is making progress there is still too much confusion about what will be delivered and when”. 


He praised the SNP Government for completing the implementation of RET which will take place later this month , recalling that he and others had started arguing  for it in the late 1970s, but he also welcomed what he called the “next step  – a review of freight charges to introduce a better structure that enables growth is essential”.   He also strongly criticised Loganair for disruptions to its island services and asked the Minister to ensure that the company honoured its commitments to islands and especially to Islay. 


The consultation on the Future Islands Bill announced by Islands Minister Derek MacKay will run until 23rd December and Mr Russell has encouraged his constituents to make their own representations.


“Islands do need a new vision” he concluded “supported by Government but implemented locally. A vision in which there is a greater degree of island autonomy, where the community is in control of its own destiny and where local organisations and third sector can build capacity and confidence.”

SNP MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell has been in touch with the Scottish Government Transport Minister, Derek MacKay, and with Cal Mac,  to demand action to resolve the present problems that are affecting the Islay and Colonsay ferry routes.

A technical difficulty has led to the service being operated by only a single boat. With no solution in sight there is now an amended and reduced timetable in operation and islanders have been warned that this may continue into next week as well.

in addition the boat to Colonsay was cancelled on Friday – the first day of the Eater Holiday weekend – for weather reasons which are utterly inexplicable to the community on the island. This was the only cancellation on the network on Friday.

Mr Russell said ; “I have been contacted by a number of very angry people on Islay and on Colonsay. Local Businesses are just getting underway and the week after Easter when schools are still on holiday is a crucial time for them. Now there is no certainty about when travellers can get to their destination or get back and that has lead to a large number of cancelled bookings.

Local people are also left in considerable  doubt about essential travel including travel to medical and other appointments on the mainland and goods are being delayed both in bound and out bound.

Cal Mac has not responded to complaints in anything like a sensitive or sensible manner and emails about the situation are going unanswered.

I have asked the Transport Minister to get involved as soon as possible and help sort out what is unacceptable failure by Cal Mac.”