Scottish Ferries update – Ferry Law Review emerging findings

Circular No: NP/222/17


Our Ref: S2/1/2/3

21st December 2017

Dear Colleagues

Scottish Ferries update – Ferry Law Review emerging findings

Further to circular No.0164/17 of 12th October 2017, the Scottish Government has published its ‘emerging findings’ from the ongoing Ferry Law Review.

This was announced by the Transport & Islands Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP in a ministerial statement to MSPs yesterday. A copy of the emerging findings is attached and can be downloaded from the Transport Scotland website here:

The existing terms and conditions of all members on CalMac, Serco NorthLink and Argyll Ferries are not immediately affected by this report.

The main points from the interim report are:

•    Serco NorthLink’s existing contract will be extended for 18 months, from April 2018 to October 2019. The Scottish Government has imposed a deadline of Spring 2018 for a decision whether they need to tender the next NIFS contract.

•    The Scottish Government believes that it can persuade the European Commission of the case to directly award all future contracts for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) to the in-house operator (David MacBrayne).

•    The Scottish Government favours direct award of all Scottish ferry contracts to an in-house operator.

•    A decision has been made that a public contract for Gourock-Dunoon town centre ferry services including vehicle carrying specifications cannot be directly awarded to the public sector. As a result, the Scottish Government will re-start the tender process for this contract in the New Year and it will require the operator to carry vehicles as well as foot passengers.

Whilst we have made progress in moving the Scottish Government towards a position of supporting permanent public ownership and operation of lifeline ferry contracts, these findings are disappointing, particularly the relatively short time frame imposed on the decision over applying a Teckal exemption in the Northern Isles.

The Nationalise NorthLink campaign is up and running and your union will take the campaign message to Orkney and Shetland early in the New Year. Only the public sector can offer security and stability for publicly subsidised lifeline ferry services to and from the mainland and Serco NorthLink’s record is one of higher subsidy for declining passenger and vehicle numbers. Subsidised passenger fares through the Road Equivalent Tariff scheme will also be introduced on NIFS routes early next year (excluding freight customers).

Your union is arranging public meetings on Orkney and Shetland, including with the Transport and Islands Minister to make the case for direct award of the next NIFS contract to a subsidiary of David MacBrayne.

The union’s Nationalise NorthLink petition remains live and members, particularly those with friends and family on the NorthLink network are encouraged to sign it:

It was notable in yesterday’s debate on the statement that the Minister refused to include the inter-island ferry services in the Ferry Law Review, despite their significance to the communities and economy of the Northern Isles, including our members on Orkney Ferries who are currently in dispute with the local authority employer.

Argyll Ferries members will be updated on the content of the tender documents for the next contract as soon as they are published. You will be fully consulted over your union’s responses and demands.

I would be grateful if you could bring the content of this circular to all members in your Branch and you will be updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely


Mick Cash
General Secretary