An open letter to Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth  

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

This is the MV Community of Harris

We have been repeatedly hit by an out- of- control ferry service

We are sinking fast and need immediate assistance.


Dear Ms Gilruth,

A Mayday call is the most urgent one there can be in the maritime world.  It means that there is grave and imminent danger to life.  No seafarer would send this message unless in danger.

All vessels hearing a Mayday call, and in a position to assist, are obliged to take appropriate action.  We are sending this to you in order to give you that opportunity to do something urgently to save our community.  

It is no exaggeration to say that this is the state we are in.  We have been hit by one disruption after another to our lifeline ferry service.  As I type this, we have just heard that the MV Hebrides has been taken off service for the third time due to issues with its firefighting system – and that within the space of a number of weeks.  It is barely credible that this should be happening, and to a vessel that was in for annual maintenance only a few months ago.

When a Mayday call is heard an urgent response is required.  Everything else needs to be put to the side, in order to do whatever is needed to prevent a loss of life.  We are imploring you to come and meet with us and set out how you are going to save us from the demise that your department, Transport Scotland, CMAL and CalMac between them have inflicted onto our community.  

Urgent action is needed to provide us with a ferry service that we can depend on.  If that means the people responsible for the current debacle are left red- faced then too bad.  For too long those with a vested interest in ignoring the wishes of the island communities and sticking with an outdated and inefficient design and operational system have been allowed to squander £Millions of our (taxpayers) money, and all to the detriment of the communities they are meant to be serving.  

The word “Over” at the end of the message requires a reply to confirm that the message has been heard and that appropriate action is being taken.  I trust that for you this will mean you agreeing to meet with us to hear the truth and not what those with vested interests are saying, and providing us with what we need to be able to save our community from the severe danger it is currently in.

Every cancelled sailing adds more fuel to the funeral pyre and pushes many businesses and residents closer to the edge for packing up and leaving.  What a sad indictment on our Scottish Government that sets itself as the saviour of Scotland, that it is the cause of the demise of fragile communities through showing no care or concern for them or their needs.  No amount of platitudes or promises can cover over the many years of neglect that are causing the severe injuries we are experiencing.  The only remedy is immediate and direct action to save our communities by providing the necessary vessels and funding to allow us to carry on living here.

I don’t want to list here the many issues and examples of damage that we are being told about on a daily basis, preferring to share these with you face to face as that will allow a better understanding of the situation.  The list would stretch to a number of pages!

We would very much like to work with you in finding workable solutions but if that cannot happen then we will need to look at what other steps we can take to get the current embarrassment of a ferry service changed to one that those using it can depend on.  We have spent too many years working on building our community to allow a government that does not care to undo all the hard work and success that has been achieved.

I look forward to hearing from you in a matter of days with proposals to meet and also actions that are being taken to provide the long overdue additional capacity.

Kenny MacLeod


Harris Development Ltd

22 thoughts on “MAYDAY, MAYDAY!

  1. Good luck to Kenny McLeod and the community of Harris, I hope the appeal succeeds in getting the response that the emergency absolutely demands.

    Even if it means Scottish Government ministers returning from their holidays …

    Liked by 13 people

  2. It would be interesting to know whether the very recent major refurbishment of the terminal in Tarbert is compatible with the introduction of a Fast Cat ferry should one be available. The same question of course applies to the Uig terminal at the Skye end of the crossing. If the answer is “yes” then why not lease a crewed Cat as a low-risk experiment to see if this type of vessel works better for Harris ?

    Liked by 14 people

    1. Not far off the mark Geoff. Medium-speed catamarans designed for and proven on high sea-state operations have been offered to the Scottish Government numerous times over the past decade and longer. They keep on refusing them. The Scottish Government and its ‘agencies’ prefer to spend £50 million (or more) on each prototype monohull ferries rather than £15 million for the same capacity/speed catamaran – that’s a big difference. And as the catamarans are not so long or deep draft as CalMac monohulls, they can use existing piers, whereas CMAL prefers to spend up to an added £30 million or more for each new pier modification just to handle a new bigger monohull. The explanation? It does all seem rather pathological, as is the reason why some Scots vote against their own liberation.

      Liked by 18 people

      1. “The explanation?”

        Well all that money has to go somewhere.

        Perhaps the relationship of the bloated “agencies” and contractors has become somewhat cosy, of course I’m not suggesting any wrongdoing however it might be interesting to look into it.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Another Ministerial waste of space.

    The dogs in the street, and the island communities know that their lifeline services are utterly appalling.

    But that is the hallmark of governance under Nicola Sturgeon’s watch.

    Watching communities die through the non provision lifeline services is what this is about. It’s utter wanton negligence.

    Transport Scotland should procure a replacement ferry. The world has ferries, they can be hired, it may cost money, but that is what you do in extremis. This government however doesn’t, its holidays it seem are much more important.

    Recently had reason to have minister asked about the unsafeness of a substantial section of the A82. An accident blackspot, gravely below current standards and hugely overcapacity, the response from the minister did not address any of the issues. Dodged them in fact

    Liar, liar, liar you may say to yourself. But the standard of response, the inaction whilst people are dying, whilst our communities suffer, where the accident statistics get fudged, or is it disembled, is where its at.

    Or what of the Rest and be Thankful. When if ever is that going to be addressed. Or is a local SNP councilors firm going to get another decade of ineffective repairs east a local SNP councilors firm is getting repeat work undertaking Heath Robinson repairs that do not address the real issue of a wholly inadequate road needing replaced.

    Mayday day I hear you cry. But like Boris Johnson this Hollywood Disnae Land ignores International convention.

    Mind you, with the current predilection of the SG under Sturgeon and the wokes, maybe the Harris Community could put out a gayday call for transport. It is that grim.

    Liked by 19 people

  4. A ship is referred to as “She” so your Mayday is Transphobic. Try sending the message from They/Them and sign it Stonewall Gold Star ranked Company.
    Assistance from the Scottish Government will only be rendered to vessels flying the intersex pride flag.

    Liked by 16 people

  5. Sadly with The NUSNP TransCult Government you are guaranteed every assistance short of actual help!

    Kenny, I think we would all like to know if you get a response from them.

    Liked by 11 people

  6. This situation has obviously arisen as the first minister is devoting 100 (possibly 200)% of scotland’s resources to independence.

    People outside EH1 should give a little slack before the masterplan is revealed.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I read your distress call, loud and clear, Kenny, despite myself, I involuntarily thought, “don’t hold your breath!”. That’s how bad things have become for me vis-a-vis this administration and all its works. Please pardon my unhelpful negativity.

    Liked by 12 people

  8. This is just intolerable.

    I know words like intolerable or unacceptable are just words, but Jesus H, there are solutions to these problems banging at the door trying to get in.

    Suppose you “are” in charge of a duff “Government” with an unfortunate tendency for tying it’s own shoelaces together, if you wanted to stop the rot and start turning stuff around, pick something easy. Surely to God, it’s not that difficult to provide an Island with a damned ferry. In terms of nuts to crack, these are at the easy end of the spectrum.

    I read a headline yesterday that Sturgeon might resign if she lost at the Supreme Court, and I couldn’t believe the pure joy I felt at the prospect. What a lift it gave me… briefly. A light at the end of the tunnel! Sadly it Angus MacNeil’s speculation. No offence to Angus, (don’t kill the eagles), but I don’t think he’s got “Vietnam” level security clearance to know what Sturgeon is thinking.

    Eight years of this interminable shite. I don’t know how much more I can take.

    It feels like a twist on a Cassandra syndrome, where “everything” is shite, but nobody is doing anything about it. You scream and scream, but nobody listens. It’s life in a butterfly killing jar.

    You can only tread water for so long.

    How do we get rid of these deadbeats? Serious question. Winter is just around the corner, fuel poverty is about to go ballistic, how many burst pipes are we talking here? People dying from hypothermia and other people thinking they’re the lucky ones because at least the suffering is over.

    Next time I hear some politico saying we don’t have the levers to fix this I’m going to explode. We DO have the levers to fix this. It’s the big red lever with “Independence” marked on it.

    Sorry to sound so glum and disillusioned, but another Friday, another week in purgatory…

    Liked by 14 people

  9. Having a background of many years in manufacturing, my experience tells me that having large amounts of capital invested in non-operational kit [i.e. read non-income earning] is simply vetoed by accountants. If there is a service loss due to breakdown, then, as far as accountants are concerned, so be it. Any Secty/Minister of any Govt who acts not in accordance with the depts. accountants will simply be officially [and unofficially] treated with disdain, contempt as well as innumerable ‘leaks’ to whichever media who happen to be owned by or are in the pay of political opposition. PS. The co. I worked for was involved in manufacture of diagnostic equipment used in Hospitals.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. A number of countries do not allow ferries over a certain age to operate on their domestic routes. Usually the maximum age allowed is 25 years (e.g. in Greece, Japan etc). If such a law were passed here it would mean that perhaps as many as half of Scotland’s ferries today would be illegal.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Asking that one in an official question to the FM may well prove to be a difficult question for the Civil Servants who write the answers. These people NEVER answer a direct question with a direct answer.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a sensible reply from this Scottish Government. Some time ago I sent a detailed letter raising questions based on the Independent Members Report on the Scottish Ministers Ferry Industry Advisory Group. What I got back was a BBC-type answer of the “We are right, you are wrong, so get lost” variety. It was Civil Service speak which did not address the majority of questions I raised.
    I used to think we had an advantage in Scotland because we had MSPs and Ministers that were local and could be addressed directly by the individual. However, they are just as distant as Westminster MPs and Ministers. They do not think they are accountable to the peasants.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Civil Servants ALWAYS write replies to correspondence. Add to that, if any MSP/MP goes away from what they write, then the MXP/MP is on their own – and that also applies to any other subject of any matter of correspondence. Sadly, Civil Servants are total experts in answering a question by saying nothing.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Re comment from alfbaird. Get campaigning! Having a legal duty not to allow any ferry over 25 years old [or some such other figure but 25 yrs is a good start] is an excellent approach to renewal/fleet turnover.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Get campaigning!”

      Some of us have been trying to get real change in ferries (and maritime/trade) policy for the past 30 years and more, but there is a colonial mindset to overcome, which is why I mentioned that the problem may be pathological. Colonies are always under-developed and run by mediocre meritocracies after all, and Scotland has all the symptoms, an ageing and obsolete ferries fleet being one.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. This also elicits the question “If all ferries over 25 years old were banned today, how many replacements would be needed tomorrow?”


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