Physical distancing rules on Caledonian MacBrayne ferries: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

1. What is the medical and scientific justification for the maintenance of this rule on CalMac ferries, given that other forms of transport in Scotland cannot enforce the same restrictions? Your website confirms this as follows : “You should also adhere to physical distancing whilst on public transport, at stations, terminals and stops. When staying 1 metre apart may not be possible, you should wear a face covering, unless exempt, keep the time you spend with others as short as possible and avoid physical contact.” (my emphasis)

2. What involvement, if any, has the RMT union had in having the 1 metre social distancing rule kept rigidly in place on CalMac ferries? What is the Government’s position on the RMT stance as expressed in their letter to Nicola Sturgeon of 12th July, 2021?

3. The Scottish Government opted to make pre-testing for Covid-19 prior to travel to the Scottish islands a “voluntary scheme”. Please explain why you did not make pre-testing compulsory which might, then, have allowed for easing of the 1 metre rule on ferries.


In her statement to the Scottish Parliament on 3 August 2021, the Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, confirmed Scotland will move to Level 0 on 9 August. This will mark the end of most legal restrictions in Scotland but some baseline measures will remain. However, in response to your initial request.

1. Latest Scottish Government information on restrictions and supporting evidence is available via the following link:
Coronavirus in Scotland - (

Further information on customer updates and travel advice on CalMac Ferries Ltd. services is available via the following link:
Latest Travel Guidelines | FAQs | Covid-19 | CalMac Ferries

2. As well as considering clinical advice, SG consulted with unions, including RMT, stakeholders and delivery partners to support the development of clear and effective guidance for physical distancing on public transport.

3. The current position is that these tests are voluntary, to keep it in line with other testing programmes, as none are mandatory, with clear guidance that if you are asked to take a test, it is important that you take it to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Pre departure testing is also a voluntary scheme and you do not need evidence of a negative test to travel to a Scottish island. However, we would encourage everyone to participate in order to reduce the risk of inadvertently carry coronavirus into one of our 93 island communities.

This consideration was separate to any wider decision on physical distancing on ferries and there is no suggestion that mandatory testing would have allowed this to have been reduced at an earlier stage.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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