Islanders have won a vital sea battle after claiming they had been left marooned because CalMac had turned their lifeline ferry into a “cruise ship.”
Locals and politicians raised the issue with the company and Transport Scotland over why hordes of non-landing coach passengers had swamped the MV Loch Nevis – leaving few spaces for visitors and residents wanting to get off on Eigg, home to 109 people.
The problem mainly affected Monday sailings to the island, which together with Canna, Muck and Rum is part of the Small Isles. Locals had set up a market because visitors had time to get off and spend a few hours on the island that day,
The Small Isles Community Council said the non-landing cruises “only benefit CalMac”.
But now, CalMac has said the non-landing sailings will be restricted to Wednesdays.
Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse welcomed the decision and said:”Tourism is vital to Eigg and the other Small Isles, so therefore, in line with requests to cease these cruises on Mondays, all other non-landing cruises have been scheduled on Wednesdays, when the vessel does not berth at Eigg.
“This will hopefully increase tourism to Eigg on Mondays and because of the timetabled stopover of two hours and 20 minutes, increase tourism to Canna on Wednesdays as well.”
CalMac runs a daily lifeline service to the Small Isles from Mallaig.
Maggie Fyffe for the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust – which owns the isle – said: “Monday is the only day that people can spend any length of time on Eigg.
“These non-landing passengers effectively turned our lifeline ferry into a cruise ship.
“The only people this was benefiting was CalMac. People here lost business. We are glad this has now been resolved and it will boost not just the makers’ market, but other businesses here, such as bike hire and the tearooms.”
Ms Forbes MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “I raised this issue with CalMac because I am aware of how frustrating it is for locals.
“Coach parties are not contributing to the local island economies if they don’t land, but they are also using space that could be used for locals.”
CalMac’s Director of Operations, Robert Morrison said:”As soon as this was highlighted to us by islanders as an issue, we raised it with tour operators to try and find a compromise that would work for everyone.
“With their agreement to avoid Monday sailings I’m pleased that we have been able to come up with a solution to suit the needs of all our customers.”