FOR more than half a century, through good days and bad, it has served as a lifeline for one of Scotland’s most visited islands.

Craignure Pier on Mull has weathered the worst of west coast storms, up to 10 ferries a day and the weight of an astonishing annual 600,000 passengers.

Now a new dossier of correspondence reveals that it has withstood it all with only the most basic of maintenance.

Neglect, say campaigners, means the 1964 concrete and timber jetty is now more than showing its age and earlier this year the structure had to be closed after a piece broke away.

Locals and visitors alike are worried and so is Caledonian MacBrayne, the state-owned company whose ferry service from Oban docks at Craignure.

After this spring’s problems a local group, the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, used Freedom of Information laws to find out just how bad the situation was. It discovered the jetty, owned by Argyll and Bute Council, has lighting that is so bad ferries sometimes had to be cancelled.

Ferry committee chairwoman Elizabeth Ferguson said the revelations had been shocking.

She said: “An email of 28/12/15 states: “The lack of lighting, especially at the pump shed/linkspan is causing us serious issues. We had a near miss this morning. Can you please have these addressed as soon as possible?”

Another concerning email from CalMac in 2015 states: “Pump shed roof leaking, water dripping into light fittings. Please deal with as a matter of urgency.”

Fifteen months later CalMac raises the leaking roof problem again, emailing the council to say: “As has been advised for some time now, the pump shed roof leaks into a light fitting, which can be seen smoking inside. This has potential for causing a fire. Can you address ASAP.

In October 2015, another email from CalMac reveals: “The guys are having great difficulty in seeing the heaving lines being thrown during the hours of darkness. The pierhead LED was swapped for sodium, we have repeatedly asked for it to be changed back, but it has never been done.”

Mrs Ferguson said: “In the weekly checklists submitted by CalMac between January 2012 and December 2018, lighting faults have been reported on 319 weeks out of 364. In other words, over that seven-year period, the pier lighting was only reported fault-free for just 45 weeks.

“Poor lighting at Craignure pier is repeatedly cited by CalMac as one of the reasons for cancellations in hours of darkness and inclement weather, yet the evidence of the weekly checklist and the email correspondence is that not only is the lighting system very poor, but repairs take a long time to be completed.”

Mrs Ferguson added: “The port weekly checklists from 2012 to December 2018 report a fender fault of one kind or another for 345 weeks out of 364, ie for only 19 weeks out of seven years did the weekly checklists report that there were no fender faults. Improvements seem to be completely absent. Upgrade of Craignure street lights and pier lighting to LED has been promised for several years, but has yet to materialise.

“The water supply has been leaking without a permanent fix for five years.”

Craignure Pier is not alone in facing questions over whether it is fit for purpose. Argyll & Bute Council has long faced criticism for the state of infrastructure along a coastline that is longer than France’s.

It has a multi-million-pound linkspan in Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula that has no car ferry to service. Its pier at Helensburgh has lost its once regular Clyde ferries and needs £1 million worth of repairs.

Over the years there has been a pattern of problems, such as the specially built jetty extension at Bruichladdich that often could not handle the fuel tanker needed for Islay’s whisky distilleries.

Islanders and coastal communities are angry, not least because piers make money. CalMac’s Oban-Craignure Service is its second busiest. The emails obtained under FoI, including CalMac’s weekly port reports, show Argyll & Bute spent only £204,757 on pier repairs and maintenance, over seven years while it received more than £7 million in fees over the same period.

Billy McClymont, chairman of Mull Community Council, speaking after the April closure, said: “The pier takes in almost £1.5m a year. It’s the golden goose and it’s a real slap in the teeth that they have spent nothing on the pier.”

Mr McClymont said the community council was set to join Coll, Colonsay and Tiree, in a new Confederation of Islands being planned to fight for a bigger political voice for islanders, as they claim they have been ignored for years by the council and the Scottish Government.

This comes despite good news for the island. A new ferry is needed to handle a 40 per cent increase in the route’s traffic as a result of the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff in 2015.

But Craignure is not big enough for bigger ships. A recent Scottish Transport Analysis Guide appraisal stated that the north and south berths at the pier were too short for larger ferries.

Meanwhile, CalMac has its own headaches, including an ageing fleet, with many past their lifespans and more than 25 years old.