BUSINESSES that only just limped through lockdown are facing being finished off by the country’s ferries fiasco, islanders are saying.

This week came further issues for the MV Lochnevis and MV Finlaggan, bringing more cancellations.

Rob McKinnon, chief executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said while the return of the MV Loch Seaforth was welcome, the islands have been hit hard by regular under-provision and he has written a letter to Transport Minister Graeme Dey calling for action.

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He said: “With a month-long 20% reduction in capacity, the damage is not limited to the tourism sector, with empty supermarket shelves, chaos for hauliers and islanders being unable to travel.

“CalMac have had no option but to prioritise island traffic and freight, meaning tourism is particularly badly hit with space for visitors reduced by 30-40%.”

HeraldScotland: MV Loch Seaforth leaving James Watt Dock, Greenock, after complex engine repair at Dales Marine. Picture: George Munro.MV Loch Seaforth leaving James Watt Dock, Greenock, after complex engine repair at Dales Marine. Picture: George Munro.

He said tourism “has the potential to bring £2-3 million of vital revenue to the island economy”, adding: “Instead, we have endured an additional financial hit to a sector that has already been devastated by the impacts of the Covid pandemic, as accommodation businesses that have just emerged from lockdown are once again not only facing a wave of cancellations, but have been forced to refund thousands of pounds through no fault of their own.

“It has undermined the ability of small businesses across the islands to get going and generate revenue which is crucial to their survival and ultimate recovery. As one business commented, ‘those businesses who got through the Covid lockdown will be finished off by the ferry chaos’.”

READ MORE: CalMac’s biggest customer calls for complete ferries overhaul

He said the ferry failure has “resulted in unprecedented anger and frustration across the industry”, and calls for the “overhaul the management structure for ferries within the Scottish Government”.

As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gives many of the islands the go-ahead to move to the next level, life should have been looking more like normal. Instead they are still struggling with the weight of ferry-related cancellations.

Why the Scottish Government has not moved to help the islands by insisting on funding a replacement vessel, still under consideration, is unfathomable.

A troubling verdict on Covid and Brexit should curtail Tory strutting on the global stage, Business Editor Ian McConnell suggests in his Called to Account column, as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s makes its always important contribution to help aid recovery. “And it is worrying indeed that the OECD concludes the UK could suffer the biggest loss on this front among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations,” he writes.

A pensions expert has posed tough questions for Scotland’s fund managers, Business Correspondent Mark Williamson reveals in his Tuesday column.

He says one pensions giant has asked awkward questions of Scotland’s much-vaunted fund management industry as the Government proposes to make changes to the regulatory regime that could impact millions who are unaware of them.

Music promoter Geoff Ellis has blasted the Scottish Government’s approach to handling the pandemic while calling for a firm date when Scotland can drop social distancing measures, reports Business Correspondent Kristy Dorsey.

However, the DF Concerts chief also said he is “supremely confident” that Glasgow’s TRNSMT festival will go ahead in September.