MINISTERS should consider scrapping Port Glasgow-based ferry and port owner CMAL to create a new ferries agency and give beleaguered operator CalMac a longer contract to continue lifeline services, a Holyrood committee has decalred.

The Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee wants to bring an end to the current system for managing Scotland's lifeline services which it says 'is not working'.

But the committee says state-owned CalMac should still benefit from a direct award of an extended ten-year contract on the west coast of Scotland.

Meanwhile, consideration should be given to CMAL and Transport Scotland being merged to create a new Ferries Scotland agency which 'could streamline decision-taking and improve the understanding and importance of ferry services'.

The committee supports a move to increase the length of CalMac contract from eight to ten years to 'ensure continuity of service and avoid disruption' with the current contract due to expire in September next year.

But it has also said it would be caveated on the Scottish Government, as the owners of CalMac, ensuring it delivers 'real improvements for communities'.

The committee's support of CalMac comes after the company received £10.5m in poor performance fines in six-and-a-half years.

Greenock Telegraph:

Two lifeline vessels MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802 are still languishing in the now state-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard, with delivery more than five years late.

The Competition and Markets Authority has previously warned about the 'potential risks' of state control over the way ferries are operated, run and paid for in Scotland.

Edward Mountain, Convener of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee said: "We are saying the tripartite arrangement doesn't work and the Scottish Government has to review it.

"While we have some reservations about CalMac being given the ferries award for the next contract, we are only a year away from that whole process, and the fact is when the last contract was given there was only one other bidder and it was not competent.

Greenock Telegraph:

"To give stability and improvement in service, we need to sort out thd tripartite arrangement, give the award to CalMac but make sure that they understand that with it has to come a massive service improvement."

The report said the the future of CMAL should be considered adding: "The status quo is unacceptable. In this context, an evaluation of the improvements made to procurement processes for vessels by CMAL should take place.

"There is widespread agreement that the current tripartite arrangement for managing Scottish Government-funded ferries is not working effectively for the Clyde and Hebrides and is not adequately serving ferry-dependent communities. Change is needed."

Greenock Telegraph:

The report says Scotland's ferry services need leadership in the form of long-term strategic-thinking and investment if they are to reach an acceptable standard for the people of Scotland.

CMAL said it wants to see the details of the report before commenting.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scottish Ministers welcome receipt of the report and thank the committee for its detailed work. In particular we support the strong emphasis the committee placed on hearing from the communities who use the services and we agree that the voices of ferry users need to be a focus of future ferries policy and investment.

"We will carefully consider the recommendations of the report and respond to the committee in due course.”