Urgent improvements are being demanded by politicians after ferry operator CalMac cancelled a lifeline route.
CalMac announced that the MV Lord of the Isles will be temporarily withdrawn from service on May 17 to allow for repairs.
This means that the Mallaig-Lochboisdale, South Uist service will be suspended for an estimated eight days and all sailings will be cancelled.
Shortest time possible
Fiona Galbraith, area operations manager for the Hebrides, said: “Every effort will be made to complete this work in the shortest time possible to ensure the disruption of service to our community is minimised.
“I fully understand the impact this will have on our community during this period and would like to reassure everyone that these works are necessary to provide resilience and reliability to MV Lord of the Isles going forward.”
Alasdair Allan, MSP for for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, called in parliament for the transport minister to press CalMac for urgent improvements to ferry services from Lochboisdale.
He said: “South Uist far too often draws the short straw when one of CalMac’s aging vessels succumbs to another technical issue.
No ferry service in March
“Islanders have already experienced severe disruption in recent months, with Lochboisdale, for example, ending up without a ferry service for almost the entirety of the month of March.
“It is my hope that a plan to meaningfully improve South Uist’s ferry service can be identified and enacted sooner rather than later, as the current situation cannot go on like this indefinitely.”
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSPs Jamie Halcro Johnston and Donald Cameron reacted angrily to the news.
Mr Halcro Johnston, said: “It is incredibly worrying that just as the tourism season gets into full swing this crucial crossing is suspended with less than a week’s notice.
“This is further evidence, if any were needed, that the ferry crisis is far from over and that our island communities stand to face even more months of disruption while the vital tourism and hospitality sector pays the price.”
Mr Cameron added: “This is the inevitable outcome of the neglect of CalMac’s ageing fleet and the botched contract for replacement ferries, and blame for this lies fairly and squarely with the SNP Government.”