IT was a favourite port of call of the Waverley on countless summer trips "doon the Watter".

Now hundreds of campaigners have turned out to join a "sit-in" at a popular island pier in an effort to save the structure to make Millport a stop-off point for the iconic paddle-steamer Waverley once again.

A Save Millport Pier campaign on Facebook has gathered more than 5,000 signatures in just two weeks, more than three three times the island of Great Cumbrae's population of 1,400.

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Campaigners said the move was to draw attention to the the community's concerns about the deterioration of the wooden pier amid fears over its long-term future.

Another famous Scots vessel, The Vital Spark, also visited the pier on Saturday and its restorers and posted on Facebook that it "supports this cause".

North Ayrshire Council said it has no immediate plans to demolish the structure.

There are concerns the structure will inevitably face demolition if funds are not invested in protecting it from the sea.

Resident and campaigner John McNeilly said: "Since a decision in 2014 to plan for its demolition there has been no ongoing maintenance and North Ayrshire Council is now so concerned about its safety that it has been completely closed, with notices recently having gone up prohibiting any boats from tying up against it."

He said it has had a "stay of execution" since 2014 because of subsequent plans for improved flood defences for the town, but "the only proposal in respect of its fate that islanders are aware of is to demolish it and replace it with a rock armour breakwater".

A public consultation in relation to the council’s Flood Defences and Coastal Protection plan showed that for the majority of responders the only acceptable solution is for an off-shore breakwater linking the small outlying islets the Eileans, Spoig and Leug with the retention of a working pier facility.

Mr McNeilly said: "Islanders feel that this is the only option that guarantees a socio-economic benefit for Millport.

"The other options would destroy future marine tourism growth opportunities which have been recognised as offering huge potential for the future prosperity of the island."

Alex Gallagher, council economy convener, said: “We are slightly bemused by the timing of this.

"There is no current plan to demolish Millport Pier. There is no money allocated in our capital budget for this to happen.

“There was a Cabinet paper in 2014 that recommended the demolition of the pier but the current situation is that any decision on the future of the pier is contingent on the final design of the Millport Flood Protection Scheme which is currently in process.

"We are still going through the consultation process before we determine what the next course of action will be.

"Once we have a preferred option it will need to be passed by Cabinet and then be subject to Scottish Government approval.”

“It is an unfortunate fact that the current pier structure is not viable in the long run and is at risk from storms and even the normal winter weather we are subject to in Scotland but, I reiterate, there is no imminent intention to demolish Millport pier.”

The Waverley stopped visiting the Millport pier in 2014 and while it still stops at the Keppel pier on the island, Mr McNeilly said the out of town stop-off point lacks the atmosphere for the arrival and departure of famous paddle-steamer.