Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Ferry services to Scottish islands at ‘all-time critical situation’, MSPs told

CalMac’s ageing fleet is leading to problems across the ferry network (John Linton/PA)
CalMac’s ageing fleet is leading to problems across the ferry network (John Linton/PA)

Disrupted and unreliable ferry services have caused an “all-time critical situation”, representatives of Scotland’s island communities have told MSPs.

The community representatives vented their fury over poor ferry provision and the “appalling” impact it has on island life.

The Scottish Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee is conducting an inquiry into ferry services and heard from a number of groups on Tuesday morning.

CalMac’s ageing fleet of vessels have caused problems across the ferry network as they are withdrawn for maintenance or repairs.

Sam Bourne, chairman of the Arran Ferry Action Group, said unreliable ferries had led to difficulties for people who have medical appointments on the mainland.

He said: “It really can’t be overstated how many and varied the impacts are.”

Delays with the two new vessels being built at Ferguson Marine are “disastrous”, he said, causing knock-on effects for the rest of the ferry fleet.

Garry MacLean, of the Islay Community Council Ferry Committee, noted that the MV Hebridean Isles was currently out of service due to an engine problem.

There are nine whisky distilleries on Islay, he said, and ferries are needed to provide supplies.

He said: “If any cog breaks down, it has a disproportionate impact on everyone else. For us it seems to be the ferries most often.”

Margaret Morrison, chair of the Harris Transport Forum, said islanders were at an “impasse” with CalMac.

She said: “I have never seen such anxiety amongst the population.”

Ms Morrison continued: “This has reached an all-time critical situation.”

“And I feel that the Western Isles are really at the point of almost extinction of our businesses. Our morale is so low.”

She added: “I cannot stress just how dreadful we’re all feeling about the situation with the ferries in Harris.”

Joe Reade, chair of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, said the ferry service was so unreliable it had become a “guessing game”.

He said: “It all adds to the cost of life, it deteriorates the quality of life.

“It’s really appalling.”

Problems with ferry links are causing depopulation as islanders choose to move to the mainland, he said.

Mr Reade criticised the “bizarre and artificial” separation of the ferry owners, Cmal (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd), and the operators, CalMac.

He said the ferries serving Scotland’s islands are too large and suggested a greater number of smaller vessels would be more appropriate, saying: “We don’t need these behemoths.”

The two Ferguson Marine ferries would have been too expensive even if they had been delivered on time, he said.