COMPENSATION for islanders enduring ferry cancellations are “not off the table”, Humza Yousaf said in a fierce clash with Douglas Ross.

The First Minister told MSPs he would “keep an open mind” on making payments to residents of South Uist as Scottish Tory leader Ross said there was an “urgent and critical” need for help from businesses and islanders.

A third of the population of South Uist turned out for a protest earlier this week after CalMac bosses cancelled sailings to the island for the remainder of June.

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It comes as the FM said he was “disturbed” by reports that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC) monitored the social media posts of bereaved families.

During First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) on Thursday, Ross said that SNP failures were “driving people away” from island communities, and that compensation should be extended not only to businesses but all who have been impacted.

“The failure of Humza Yousaf’s party to build a working ferry network is causing chaos,” Ross told the chamber.

The National:

“The SNP’s failure to deliver a working ferry network is ruining lives, damaging businesses, costing jobs and driving islanders to despair.

“Why shouldn’t everyone affected be compensated for the SNP’s mistakes?”

Yousaf said ministers are aware of the “degree of disruption that has taken place to the community” following the cancellation of the Lochboisdale route.

“We will look at what we can do to support business,” the FM added.

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While he said compensation had been considered in the past, the First Minister said payments had not been made because penalties paid by CalMac for disruption are currently used to try to boost the “resilience” of the ferry network.

Some of the £9 million spent chartering the MV Alfred as a relief vessel came from these “performance deductions”, Yousaf said.

But regarding compensation, he added: “I will continue to listen to the calls for how we can support business.

“It is not off the table because we know the community in South Uist do often get affected when there is ferry disruption.

The National: The Arran CalMac ferry, Caledonian Isles pictured departing Brodick on Arran...Photograph by Colin Mearns.29 November 2022.For The Herald Magazine, see story by Mark Smith.

“I will continue to keep an open mind on that question.”

The FM said the system used by CalMac, a “route prioritisation matrix”, to determine which ferries are taken off to serve other communities has often affected South Uist, which will now be reviewed.

Yousaf said this means when there are those “unfortunate occasions where there is a breakdown of a ferry”, in future it will not always be South Uist that loses out.

Elsewhere, it was revealed earlier this week that NHS GGC had paid a private firm to undertake “social listening” on specific people.

Louise Slorance was one of the names on the list. Her husband Andrew died at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QUEH) in 2020 after contracting Covid-19 and Aspergillus while receiving cancer treatment.

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The fungal infection has been linked to construction issues and an inquiry has been established to investigate the links to patient deaths.

In 2017, 10-year-old Milly Main died at the flagship hospital after contracting an infection while in a cancer ward.

In a statement, NHSGGC confirmed Slorance has now been removed from the “social listening” system.

During FMQs, Yousaf said the decision to remove the family from the list was the “right action”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar again called for the under-fire NHS GGC board to be sacked.

“What the leadership of this health board is doing is disturbing and is just the latest in a litany of shameful incidents that has seen the leadership of this health board intimidate whistle-blowers, engage in a cover-up and frustrate the efforts of grieving families who are looking for justice,” Sarwar told the chamber.

“First Minister, you don’t have to wait for an inquiry to know that spying on the families of dead patients is wrong – you just need to look for your conscience.

“So why won’t he finally do the right thing and sack the rotten leadership of this failing health board so we can get a fresh start and justice for these families?”

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Slorance, who was in the gallery for FMQs, told Labour beforehand that “empty words won’t cut it”, as she called for the NHSGGC leadership to be sacked.

In response, the First Minister said he took the words of Slorance “with the utmost seriousness” and paid condolences to the family over the death of Mr Slorance – a Scottish Government employee who worked with Mr Yousaf during his time as transport minister.

The FM said that it was the right decision to remove Slorance from the monitoring list.

“I understand they’re reviewing their media monitoring and communications processes, but they should absolutely at the heart of it have patients, particularly those who have been bereaved and those who have raised concerns about these particular issues,” the FM said.