CalMac goes bi-lingual

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CalMac, the UK’s largest ferry and harbour operator, is adding to its support for Gaelic speakers by offering a bi-lingual English and Gaelic customer care service.

As a pilot project over the summer CalMac created a new customer care centre in Stornoway, bringing six new jobs to the town. It has now confirmed this as a permanent fixture with staff there enhancing the Gaelic face of the company.

Previously, assistance from a Gaelic speaker was only available to Gaelic-speaking customers telephoning or visiting port offices in Gaelic-speaking areas, but now anyone who would like to make an enquiry in Gaelic can be transferred to a native speaker to deal with their booking.

The Stornoway team will also be steadily transforming CalMac’s social media channels into a bi-lingual offering as well.

There are around 60,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland, and the majority of people living in the Western Isles are able to speak Gaelic.

‘We are committed to looking at ways of spreading jobs more evenly across our area of operations and I’m delighted to confirm that the summer pilot we ran in Stornoway will now be a permanent fixture in the town,’ said managing director Robbie Drummond.

‘Given the prevalence of the Gaelic language in the Western Isles it was a natural step to make this the centre of our new bi-lingual customer service offering.

‘This is something we have been keen to introduce for some time and this new centre now gives us the capacity to support this.’

CalMac has long history of support for the Gaelic language, including as the principal commercial supporter of the Royal National Mòd.

Shona MacLennan, chief executive, Bord na Gaidhlig, welcomed the news: ‘We always welcome new developments which contribute to the National Gaelic Language Plan’s aim that more people use Gaelic more often in more situations.

‘By locating those jobs in a Gaelic speaking community this will bring important economic benefits to the Western Isles.’

CalMac currently employs around 1,700 people from Campbeltown in the south to Stornoway in the north, 60 per cent of them living and working in fragile coastal or island communities.

Last year the company carried more than 5.6 million passengers on its fleet of 33 vessels across 28 routes to island and remote mainland destinations.

CalMac’s award-winning customer service team handles more than 300,000 calls and 44,000 emails every year.