Skye ferry campaigners have warned the “chaotic” ferry service between Mallaig and Armadale could have a devastating impact on local businesses next year.
And they are calling for a pledge to be made now that the MV Coruisk – which was transferred to Argyll and Bute earlier this year – will return for the start of next summer.
It was replaced with MV Lochinvar and MV Loch Bhrusda, which are unable to operate at low tide.
Business owners on Skye and the mainland claim the move has left them struggling to survive.
Sleat Transport Forum pointed out that tourism providers and coach operators were now making plans for the 2017 season, and said locals feared the current ferry service would put them off including the Mallaig to Armadale crossing in their itineraries.
Following a meeting between the forum and Transport Scotland, a forum spokesman said the service on the Sound of Sleat had “descended into chaos”.
He said: “Plans are now being made by tourism providers and coach operators for the 2017 season and it is vital that decisions are taken without further delay to ensure that the economies of these areas are enabled to grow and flourish.”
Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford said: “We must now make sure that we have a service for 2017 that is fit for purpose which means the return of the Coruisk or a similar vessel designed to operate from link span facilities, as well as an appropriate secondary vessel to make sure there is sufficient capacity in place to meet demand.”
Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes said: “CalMac and Transport Scotland have a responsibility to the west coast communities to engage constructively and to ensure that we don’t repeat the debacle of an unreliable service on a very popular route.
“I have written to Humza Yousaf, the Minister for Transport and Islands, to this effect.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Transport Scotland welcomed the opportunity to meet with Sleat Transport Forum. Our officials will take the issues raised back for further consideration and consultation.”