‘IT’S not a Unionist plot to say CalMac ferries aren’t good enough” was a great comment article from Michael MacLeod.

Heartfelt opinion from someone who lives and works within the problem, and like so many Western Scots, his emotional investment in CalMac is clear enough.

No matter what transpires from this self-made mess, the ending must ensure that CalMac must not fail.

The necessity for CalMac’s fleet renewal is a permanent thing. It’s part and parcel of any transport company that the vehicles wear out and it is a business fundamental to have a permanently funded and continuously updated plan for the supply of vehicles. Such are the tools of the trade and even White Van Man with his Black+Decker drills and saws knows he must keep the tools going to get work and feed his family.

So very basic, it is not up for discussion, yet I clearly recall from more than 10 or even 15 years ago warnings from knowledgeable folk giving alarm that CMal’s (CalMac) fleet renewal planning was giving concern and that future events (meaning today!) could be trouble and strife. Here we are.

Possibly decisions put off to the last minute are not for the best. Surprised?

Like millions of we Scots, I too travel on CalMac ferries. I love the boats and it gives me great pleasure to walk around each noting that all the boats are good – as in GOOD! There may well be occasional glitches but as we know and are truthfully told, the problems are from age and overwork.

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With my professional eye, I feel such a sense of homecoming and rightness all around when again I have that couple of hours on board. Then to get a rare trip on the Finlaggan is a treat indeed, she is beautiful, she is ours – Scotland’s.

Let’s think and acknowledge:

Fleet renewal is a permanent and continuous event.

Transport Scotland through the agency of CMal is in charge of fleet renewal.

The Scottish Government is in charge of Transport Scotland.

The Scottish Government appoints board members to CMal.

My personal thoughts on Ferguson Marine: a complete and factual storied timeline leading up to today is not available. Sadly, life in the UK is such that the recent BBC documentary on the matter and the BBC in general cannot be trusted either as that corporation has become nothing but a political tool of Westminster.

In the last two decades at least, each time a ferry build contract went abroad, there was always a clamour of “Why not Scotland? Scotland is the best shipbuilder in the world”. Making this a handy and politicised spear to poke the emotions of Scots in the pub which was effective and held truth. “Why not Scotland?” Is Scotland so bad?

You can see the temptation to get the ships back home. What a poke in the eye that would be to shut up Labour plus nascent scum Tories. CalMac ferries made in Scotland from girders. Simultaneously, bad news came along that the shipyard in Port Glasgow was finally giving up. Such a great history and an area not deserving of such a blow after years of hammering down from Thatcherite fallout.

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For the Scottish Government, it was two plus two equals five. Let’s push significant CMal work to Ferguson and get something good. A win for Scottish Government party politics, a win for Port Glasgow and a win for Scotland.

There is a well-established Scottish superman who can make this work – Jim McColl. And I, too, was excited when I found he was a prime mover in this enterprise.

CMal is Scottish Government and CMal will not say “No”. (I understand CalMac were not happy though.)

Time passes, then in late 2019, after very bad news had become known, Jim McColl said the existing work should be scrapped. Start again (perhaps go abroad?). Despite all the angst, Jim McColl’s word should have been listened to. His track record speaks for itself (unlike some in the Government) and just because we had an unfolding disaster that was no reason to not act with him. When the general shouts “retreat”, you don’t shout “get stuffed”.

Doubling down with vigour, we are now where we are and there is no going back.

It’s proof engaging industry into somewhat narrow political ambition is a fraught business.

Going forward? Some Islanders are much affected, but it will be temporary, surely? The ferry services will become more robust and most certainly CalMac is using what is to hand as well as it can. I refuse to consider people are being lightly discarded or unfairly put upon. Every normal person within Scotland understands a likely political, very well intentioned plan has foundered.

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All of us across Scotland will pay for this and for Islanders my thoughts go to you often.

Let us also remember that Ferguson in Port Glasgow remains on a knife edge and if the company ceases to exist there will be significant loss throughout Inverclyde. Another wave of unemployment and the closing of small business. Just as Mary is in despair with her bed and breakfast in Uist, Mr Wang and his Inverclyde takeaway is in jeopardy too.

There are no winners on the islands nor on the Clyde and who can claim the axe of national failure should hit him or her and not me?

I have read remarks in The National that people are too emotional about CalMac and what it means to Scotland. As if that was something unwelcome, not fit for a practical modern life.

This Scot is emotional. I look with love across the Clyde at Rothesay. I love the sunset on Scottish hills. Arran’s mountain skyline makes me buzz every day. Blue sky and whitecaps on the river, bubbles in my Irn-Bru. Deer in the garden, anger at the damage – I think they’re great though and recognise them as life itself. Rain on the window – again. Painful midges, running inside.

That Red Funnel and Yellow Lion – every day. Cups of bad coffee from the friendliest people, the stuff of life itself. Since birth – CalMac in various guises has been around. (I’m old.)

Emotional? You bet I am.

The demise of CalMac? Demolish St Giles’ first or burn down Kelvingrove.

Folk better work out what is important. Folk better work out what makes life itself.

Nicholas Durant