FERRY experts insist the solution to better vessel procurement for Scotland can be found in the north of the country.

The privately-owned Pentland Ferries, set up by Andrew Banks in 1997, operates a service between Gills Bay in Caithness and St Margaret’s Hope in Orkney – with no government subsidy. In contrast to the mono-haul ferries used mostly on the network, Pentland runs a steel, medium-speed catamaran, the Pentalina, which maritime professor Alf Baird said makes it extremely manoeuvrable.

While the catamaran is smaller than the mono-haul which sails between Scrabster and Stromness, it is cancelled less frequently than bigger vessels.

Professor Baird said: “What we find here is that it’s a much more reliable vessel, with a cancellation rate of probably less than one per cent over a year, as opposed to 6% for major CalMac boats, so it is a massive difference in reliability.”

As well as being cheaper to build, its 12-strong crew live locally, meaning Pentland does not have to pay subsistence costs for crew who stay on board.