Tens of thousands of state-owned island ferry services have been cancelled or delayed since the SNP came to power and ministers are letting down communities, they were warned yesterday.

During a Holyrood debate about the resilience of Scotland’s ferry network yesterday, Tory Transport spokesman Jamie Greene warned there is “tremendous pressure” on a service which will be “pushed to its very limits” by the winter weather.

He said there had been 43,000 ferry cancellations and 39,000 delays since 2007.

Taking aim at Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s promise to present Parliament with a detailed plan by the end of October for a revised timetable and costings of new vessels, he said: “Not only has it not materialised, but no reason has been given for its absence. Connectivity to our islands is arguably the number one thing on people’s lips when you visit an island community.

“When the weather becomes an issue, our vessels and our docks are not geared up for these weather events.

“An ageing fleet means that those vessels need more maintenance than newer vessels.”

Islands minister Paul Wheelhouse said he is “far from complacent in respect of further improving the reliability and punctuality of Scotland-supported ferry services”, and he detailed several grants and funds made available to ferry companies.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “The Scottish Government’s budget for 2019–20 ensures continued support for subsidised ferry services across Scotland’s islands. We remain committed to improving service quality and reliability.”

He said that between January and September, CalMac’s reliability rose by 0.5 percentage points compared to last year, with 97% of ferries running as intended.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “Just 873 out of 130,184 sailings (0.67%) were affected by technical issues in the last year.

“While the hard work and dedication of the staff and crew of CalMac and North Link are key in delivering these reliability improvements, the continued support of the Scottish Government has also been a factor.”

Labour’s Colin Smyth said more than half of CalMac ferries are at least 20 years old, with more than a quarter over 30 years.

“This not only impacts on reliability but has caused maintenance costs to sky-rocket by more than 150% over the last 10 years,” he said.

“More vessels are being withdrawn for longer, for extra maintenance. “Every year more and more money is needed to mitigate the needs of a fleet that is too old and simply not fit for purpose.”

He insisted money could have been saved “with a more proactive approach to vessel replacement”, as he argued for a long-term strategy to be put in place to “deliver the comprehensive strategic plan for our fleet setting out a regular programme of replacement”.

This, he insisted, would benefit the shipbuilding industry as well as the communities which rely on the ferry network.

Liberal Democrat Orkney MSP Liam McArthur also spoke about “growing concerns about a lack of resilience in Scotland’s ferry network as a result of an ageing fleet”.

He said: “The internal ferry services in Orkney already fall well below the minimum standards set out in the Government’s own national ferry plan, in terms of cost, frequency [and] accessibility.”