AN Island community group has launched a plan for a possible community takeover of ferry services from CalMac. 

The Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) is set to undertake a feasibility study looking into community ownership due to the disruption to Scotland’s west coast ferry network in recent years. 

The study will look into whether services could be run by the communities themselves as opposed to the current system which it referred to as a “monopoly run by CalMac and CMAL”. 

The group has prepared for an independent consultant to look into whether or not such an idea is feasible and the form it might take. 

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Chairman of MIFC Joe Reade said: “Rather than doing the same thing over and over and crossing our fingers for a different result, we need to ask ourselves if there might be a better way of running our ferry service and putting control and accountability in the hands of the communities these lifeline ferries serve.”

The MIFC initiative comes hot on the heels of Project Neptune, the Transport Scotland funded study which assessed options for re-structuring the companies and agencies delivering west-coast ferry services. 

One of the options assessed is known as “unbundling” whereby routes would be tendered individually rather than putting the entire network out as one package. 

The First Minister has previously insisted there are no plans to unbundle routes.

Reade added: “This government espouses community empowerment and has been world-leading in advocating for communities through ground-breaking legislation like the Islands Act. 

“Community-owned ferry companies can only enhance that progress, and I am sure that the government will recognise that.”

The group will present their findings to communities to gather their views on whether it can go ahead with taking services to Mull and Iona from Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator CalMac. 

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We share the aims of the committee, and of the wider Mull and Iona communities, for sustainable and effective ferry services and while we do not recognise some of the criticisms made here, we look forward to continuing our constructive engagement with the committee on future services and vessel replacements. 

“Scottish ministers have been clear on multiple occasions, including the Transport Minister’s recent update on to Parliament on Project Neptune, that we will not consider splitting up the network or privatisation of any of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services routes.”

A CMAL spokesperson said: “CMAL is committed to delivering a safe and effective ferry service to the communities it serves. 

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“Decision making is informed by extensive community engagement, forecasting and future proofing, as well as environmental and funding considerations. 

“We have a professional team of engineers, ship designers and naval architects who have extensive experience of the scope and limitations in delivering complex engineering solutions suitable for the operating conditions in Scotland.”