Shops, businesses and residents of an island community are facing ‘massive losses’ due to ongoing ferry issues, a prominent campaigner has warned.
Barb Toab, of the Arran Ferry Action Group, said islanders felt “ignored and disappointed” as she claimed nearly 27 per cent of crossings had been cancelled, while new ferries had been long delayed.
MSPs in the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee are currently investigating why two new ships are well behind schedule and over budget.
Ms Toab, who has lived in Arran for six years, said the cancellations were the result of mechanical breakdowns and an “incredibly aged” fleet.
She told STV News: “We got past the frustration. We feel like we’ve been abused and ignored by the very people who are supposed to have our best interests at heart.
The campaigner said Arran residents had to travel to the mainland days before the events to ensure they could attend, making travel even more expensive during the cost of living crisis.
“We were promised essential ferries so that we could conduct our lives and business here and we were disappointed,” she said.
“It impacted every person on the island. Last winter, essentials of our lives — fuel, food, supplies to keep stores open and restaurants — didn’t happen.
“We’ve had weeks of empty grocery store shelves.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon rejected a suggestion that the awarding of the ultimately disastrous ferry contract to the nationalized Ferguson Marine in 2015 was a case of “jobs for the boys”.
The two ships under construction at Port Glasgow shipyard are now due for delivery in 2023 and early 2024, at a potential cost of over £300million, three times the original £97million contract.
Sturgeon expressed ‘deep regret’ for the delays and cost overruns, but insisted Ferguson would have closed had it not been taken over by the Scottish government.
Ms Toab said: ‘The jobs they save [in shipbuilding] don’t count on the massive losses that island communities have faced.
“It’s not [operator] Calmac’s fault. They worked miracles with a ridiculously outdated fleet. The problem lies squarely with Holyrood.