Call: Residents are lobbying for a new route Pic: © STV
Islanders will gather at a public meeting in Daliburgh on Friday evening to show support for a new direct service from Lochboisdale to Mallaig.
The shorter voyage could provide a daily service and reduce by half the time of the present seven-hour journey from Oban.
Islanders say it would create a vital economic boost, support the tourism and fish-farming sectors, and help counter the high 7.6% unemployment rate in the islands by regenerating the economy.
They point out the present service only operates four days a week and claim it is the worst lifeline ferry service in Scotland.
On Wednesday, the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee decided to take no further action and closed a petition from islanders. The committee said the issue should be raised through the Scottish Government’s Scottish Ferries Review.
The draft version of the review claims there is no great demand for the service and does not identify it for future strategic improvement. A Lochboisdale-Mallaig “Missing Link” campaign wants the Scottish Government to recognise the necessity of a shorter service.
Islanders believe the Scottish Government is ignoring the strong community desire to make Mallaig the main destination port.
Local resident Stephen Macaulay said: “Our voices do not seem to be heard by our elected representatives as we continue to be ignored. We cannot hide our outrage at the seemingly unfair treatment of our island communities in the ongoing ferry issue.”
He urged all islanders and local businesses to show their backing and add their name to a supporters’ list “so we can make as strong a case as possible to the Minister for improving our ferry service.”
He says the shorter route would make it cheaper to bring in supplies to the island like crofting, house building and business imports as well as help fishermen and salmon farmers get to their markets easier and faster.
Ronnie Stewart, who runs the Uist Bunkhouse, is convinced it would boost tourism and sustain jobs. He believes there is a pent-up demand from tourists who avoid Uist because of the seven-hour ferry journey. Slashing the time in half would see increased visitors and more tourists using B&Bs and local visitor facilities as well as sustaining employment.
It is maintained the Mallaig route would help arrest the decline and depopulation of the community between Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay and boost its economic regeneration and encourage former residents to return to live on the island.
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Islanders hit out at Scottish Government over ferry link