LINKED by lifeline ferry services and at the mercy of the stormy Atlantic, they are among Scotland’s most remote communities.

Now a Western Isles MP has suggested a way to permanently connect Scotland’s islands to the mainland and each other – by building tunnels.

Angus MacNeil said links under the Sound of Barra, Sound of Kerrera off Oban and between Mull and the mainland would get rid of five ageing CalMac ferries alone.

And he insisted a tunnel between the Isle of Harris and Skye was also “not out of the question.”

The SNP veteran has pointed to the success of the Faroe Islands in creating a transport network which includes 17 land tunnels and two subsea tunnels – with another almost complete and construction on a further tunnel due to start soon.

The system, which will include the world’s first subsea roundabout, will virtually eradicate the need for ferry services, he said.

Mr MacNeil has now written to Transport Secretary Michael Matheson suggesting the Scottish Government visit the Faroes to learn from its experience and see the new 11.2 km subsea tunnel.

He said: “The transport network in the Faroes is the kind of system we should aspire to follow in the Scottish islands.

“The Sound of Barra, Sound of Kerrera and a link from Mull are all prime examples of what could be done and a tunnel from Harris to Skye is also not out of the question.

“Infrastructure of this kind would have huge economic and social benefits to all parts of the islands and would remove travel disruption due to weather conditions or issues associated with capacity.”

Mr MacNeil, who is chair of the Commons International Trade Committee, said the new Faroes tunnel will see travel distances slashed.

A drive from the capital of Tórshavn to the towns of Runavík and Strendur will be reduced from 64 minutes to just 16, he said.

In order to increase safety, no inclination in the tunnel is steeper than 5 per cent and the lowest point is 187 meters below the water’s surface.

It comes after Western Isles Council previously put forward ambitious proposals to build a network of bridges and causeways between islands.

The plans were among 11 priority projects listed as part of a proposed “Islands Deal” aimed at mirroring similar investment in Scotland’s cities.

Suggested schemes included building fixed links over the Sound of Harris and the Sound of Barra, connecting Harris to North Uist and South Uist to Barra.

This would allow drivers to travel the full 175-mile stretch of the island chain for the first time – creating one of Scotland’s most spectacular road trips.

Tourism chiefs hailed the potential boost to visitor numbers, but experts warned of the large costs associated with such a project.

It is understood full details around an Islands Deal will be unveiled later this year.

A Western Isles Council spokesman said its long-term aspirations “would include improved fixed links between our Islands including causeways and/or tunnels”.

He added: “However these would require major investment and there are many other improvements in the areas of connectivity, housing, tourism, energy infrastructure and transportation that we would wish to see developed more immediately.”

Officials previously said earlier plans for a 15-mile tunnel between North Uist and Skye - connecting the Outer Hebrides to the mainland - had “dropped out as a priority”.

Six years ago a sub postmaster in Lochboisdale, South Uist, surprised islanders by placing a fundraising bottle on her counter to raise £450m for a tunnel to Skye.

Anne MacLellan initially raised £75, meaning she only had another £449,999,925 to go to realise her dream.

The 47-year-old said at the time: “If other countries like Sweden, Denmark and the Faroe Islands can have such tunnels and bridges, why can’t we?

“We need to look forward not backwards, be a progressive country.

“The ferry service here is not meeting our needs - people can’t get on them when they want and often they don’t run, or there are not enough of them in the summer.”

“How much in subsidy does CalMac get over 30 years? When you add it up a tunnel is not such a daft idea. And it would mean 24 hour access.”