By Bill Heaney
Scottish Liberal Democrats have today revealed that the repair bill for CalMac ferries hit £26.5 million last year, taking the total for the last five years to over £100 million.
The figures, released by CalMac in response to a freedom of information from the party, show that yearly maintenance costs have almost doubled in the last five years as the creaking fleet struggles with a series of mechanical failings which have removed or reduced services on island routes for large parts of the past twelve months.
In 2022/23 the total cost of maintaining and repairing the CalMac fleet was £26,555,000, taking the total since April 2018 to £106,562,000.
The revelation comes after the Scottish Government confirmed that it would use a rarely used political device to order civil servants to release money for work on Hull 802 under construction by Ferguson Marine to carry on despite official analysis indicating that such a measure did not represent value for money.
Calmac ferries – “many vessels are past their best but Scottish Government failures mean that there is no alternative to patching them up and hoping for the best”.
The Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 requires any public expenditure to meet the value for money principles, which means that resources must be used economically, efficiently and effectively.
As a result Economy Secretary Neil Gray was forced to issue written instructions that government break the rules of good finance to get it finished.
LibDem Willie Rennie, pictured left, said: “These figures expose the toll that a decade of poor planning by SNP ministers has had on our creaking ferry fleet.
“It’s clear that many vessels are past their best but Scottish Government failures mean that there is no alternative to patching them up and hoping for the best.
“There should be a pipeline of new boats ready to launch to take up the slack. Sadly we are now on our sixth transport minister since work on the two ferries at Ferguson Marine began.
“At this point further delays and cost overruns would surprise absolutely no one. Ministers are signing a blank cheque with no guarantee of when new boats will arrive.”