Campaigners have renewed calls for a radical revamp of lifeline services, including the building of tunnels, between Scotland’s islands as hundreds face days of chaos due to ferry cancellations.

CalMac said there has been “severe weather-related disruption” since the new year, with gusts of up to 60mph sweeping the coast. 

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded on Arran in recent days, which led to frustrated locals blaming “incompetence and mismanagement”  and demanding new boats to bring the ageing fleet up to scratch. 

Forecasters have now warned a powerful 80mph Atlantic storm will sweep Scotland today, causing power cuts, continued ferry cancellations and transport chaos.

Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has called for a network of tunnels to be considered as a replacement for ferry services in parts of Scotland, pointing to similar schemes in the Faroe Islands.

He argued such infrastructure would be “transformational” for the communities he represents, and said weather-related disruption highlighted existing problems.

Norwegian consultancy firm Norconsult, which produced a memo on the issue after speaking to Mr MacNeil, said a single-tube tunnel between Skye and the Western Isles would cost between £250 million and £500m.

The company, which has been involved in numerous subsea projects in Norway and the Faroe Islands, told The Herald it would “welcome a request for further studies on this interesting project” from the Scottish Government.

Supporters point to local enthusiasm for the idea, citing surveys carried out on social media, which indicated the vast majority backed a tunnel under the Minch.

Meanwhile, Gavin Fulton, chairman of the Arran Ferry Action Group, said people on the island were living with disruption almost every week.

He said new boats were required, but also pointed to wider problems with Ardrossan and Brodick harbours.

CalMac said it managed to get 154 out of 217 cars off Arran on Sunday.
Ferry services are expected to be the worst hit by stormy conditions today.

Yesterday, as the winds picked up, CalMac began cancelling west coast services. 

Robert Morrison, CalMac’s director of operations, said: “There has been severe weather-related disruption since the new year, with gusts of up to 60mph impacting on our ability to deliver services to Arran and elsewhere. In such conditions ships’ masters will take a decision on whether it is safe to sail or not based on wind speed and direction, sea swell and tidal conditions combined with their experience of sailing in west coast waters.

“As the weather cleared on January 3 we laid on four extra sailings from Brodick to the mainland the maximum we could, to clear the backlog of traffic which we succeeded in doing by the 1520 sailing.

“Disruption continued on January 5 across the network with sailings suspended from Brodick to Ardrossan due to weather.

“To try and keep passengers moving we laid on an additional shuttle service from Lochranza to Tarbert succeeding in moving around half the cars that were booked to sail.

“Unfortunately, it is a reality of island life that in mid-winter there is always a likelihood that some sailings will be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions impacting on passengers ability to travel and we strive to do all we can to manage this effectively.”

Flights are set to be disrupted while the A1 in East Lothian will be closed from 5am as Scotland is braced for severe gales. Power companies Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and SP Energy Networks said they have placed their teams on standby to repair any damage to electricity lines caused by bad weather.