Ministers under fire over ferry ‘chaos’ as CalMac boss removed from post

Wednesday, 3 April 2024 18:59

By Neil Pooran, PA Scotland Political Correspondent

Passengers onboard a CalMac ferry. Image: PA

Opposition parties say there is “chaos” in Scotland’s ferry services after the chief executive of CalMac was removed from the post amid ongoing challenges with its fleet.

The company, which is the UK’s largest ferry operator, announced on Wednesday that Robbie Drummond is leaving the role with immediate effect.

Scottish Government ministers had been told last week that the state-owned company’s board was reviewing its senior leadership.

In recent years the ageing nature of CalMac’s ferry fleet has led to delays and disruption on its routes around the west coast of Scotland.

These problems have been compounded by ongoing delays to two ferries being built at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow.

Last week, the chief executive of the state-owned shipyard, David Tydeman, was sacked by its board.

The two ferries, which will ultimately serve routes in the west of Scotland with CalMac, are some six years late and will cost around three times the original price of £97 million.

Ministers are also due to make a decision this summer on awarding the ferry services contract for the west coast, something which would have a material impact on CalMac as a going concern.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said Mr Drummond had been made a “scapegoat” and he called on Scottish Wellbeing Economy Secretary Mairi McAllan to provide answers.

He said: “Mairi McAllan – as the SNP minister responsible – is presiding over utter chaos in Scotland’s ferry network.

“Not a single ministerial resignation has been offered over this scandal yet now the head of both CalMac and Ferguson Marine have been fired in the space of two weeks.

“The minister needs to urgently explain – not least to betrayed islanders – what is going on here and why she believes sacking CalMac’s top boss is a good idea.”

On Wednesday last week, Ms McAllan answered MSPs’ questions about the situation at Ferguson Marine, but Mr Drummond’s position was not discussed.

Duncan Mackison, former chief executive of CalMac’s holding company David MacBrayne Ltd, has been appointed interim boss until a permanent successor to Mr Drummond is found.

The Scottish Government said there are regular discussions with the chair of CalMac’s board about the company’s performance.

A spokesman said: “We thank Robbie Drummond for his contribution to CalMac and wish him well for the future.

“Decisions relating to the chief executive are for the chair to make, in consultation with the board.

“We welcome the chair’s decision to appoint an interim CEO immediately and his intention to recruit a permanent managing director who can take the business forward in the best interests of the communities that rely on it, and in a way that maximises the benefits of the significant investment we continue to make in ferry services.”

More from North East Scotland News