OF all the images from the virus crisis, the shots of eerily deserted tourist hotspots are up there with stripped supermarket shelves and commuters in face masks as signs of the grim times.

We cannot know what effects will linger from the experience of the past few months and those to come. It could be that the disruption caused by the coronavirus will turn out to be a relative blip and life will return to normal, including regular travel abroad. Soon enough, the crowds could be back.

It is not guaranteed, though. Travel, even at the best of times, is becoming more trouble than it is worth. Holidays abroad are increasingly spent recovering from the trip there and steeling oneself for the journey back. Hell is the modern airport.

Given this, and increased awareness of climate change, more people will want to holiday close to home. Those who come from further afield will expect as eco-friendly a holiday as possible once they get here.

Scotland is ideally placed to do well out of these changes. Or it would be if we had a transport system that was not a national embarrassment.

The latest snafu is the cancellation of sailings between Brodick and Ardrossan. This is the busiest route in the CalMac network, serving 841,000 passengers. It is a flagship service in every sense, essential to Arran residents, businesses, and the wider tourist industry.

There cannot be many Scots families who have not spent holidays on Arran. It is a fantastic island, the kind of place most countries would love to have a ferry ride away. The tourist board punts it as “Scotland in miniature” but a better tag might be “Like Vancouver Island, but closer”.

READ MORE: Further ferry delays feared

Not only do Scots make good use of it, we recommend it, and indeed the rest of Scotland, wherever we go in the world. You’ll have a great time, we tell people. To that we should add “as long as you go at the right time”.

As far as travelling to Arran goes, now is not the best of times. It emerged this week that due to a fault with the mooring equipment ships can no longer berth safely in bad weather. According to CalMac the repairs could take up to six weeks, which runs right into the peak Easter holiday period.

Why will it take so long? Because CalMac needs to source spare parts. If the parts were so essential one might imagine they would be held in stock, but that is to assume a level of efficiency that is proving beyond the service operators and their ultimate bosses, the Scottish Government.

The latest problems take place against the backdrop of spiralling costs and lengthy delays in the delivery of two new ferries. Vessels that should have cost £97 million are now priced at more than double that, and they will not be in operation till 2022 at least.

Gavin Fulton, chair of Arran Ferry Action Group, has described the situation as “a shambles”. He told The Herald’s reporter Martin Williams that patients on the island were having to spend up to five days on the mainland just to get to a hospital appointment and back.

“Things are going from bad to worse for us and there is no contingency plan,” he added. “There is no word of chartering a boat, or to buy one abroad. It is a case of waiting 18 months for a new ferry and we have to put up with it.”

Mr Fulton is not alone in his despair. Another essential route, at the Rest and Be Thankful, is prone to closure due to landslips, forcing drivers on a 60-mile detour. It was announced recently that more millions are to be spent on repairs rather than a reroute of the A83. Iain Jurgensen of the Argyll and The Isles Tourism Co-operative said it was “staggering and irresponsible” to keep spending public money on patching the problem rather than sorting it out once and for all.

READ MORE: Anger as services halted

It is not just rural areas that are suffering from the lack of a joined up transport system in Scotland. Rail travel between two of the country’s biggest cities is expensive, unreliable and overcrowded. Bus services across the country vary wildly in price and efficiency. In Glasgow the subway does not operate on a Sunday evening. Too often the only way to ensure getting somewhere on time is to go by car, and even then good luck with the potholes.

Of course there have been successes, chief among them the Queensferry Crossing. Leaving aside recent closures due to snow and ice the bridge was delivered with only a slight delay, again due to weather, and under budget, something of a miracle for large projects.

Yet the Queensferry Crossing aside, Scotland’s transport is too often in reverse or going nowhere fast.

Part of the problem is that the subject has become politicised, alongside much else in Scottish life. Take the recent Queensferry Crossing closures. Instead of having a rational discussion about them, the row became another proxy war over Scottish independence. Criticising Scotland’s transport, like questioning educational attainment or NHS waiting times, is seen as “talking Scotland down”.

It would be funny if it was not so ridiculous. When you travel to another country you don’t give two toots of a horn who built what road and when, or who runs the ferry service.

READ MORE: Time to end monopoly of ownership

All the traveller wants is a reliable service that will take them where they want to go at a reasonable cost both to themselves and the planet. That is what Scots desire as well, and it is not too much to ask.

Transport is such an obvious building block for any successful country it should be above political bickering. Even given the problems of geography, it should not be beyond our ability to build a national transport infrastructure that works for all the people most of the time.

Since nothing broadens the mind on transport like using the system, here’s a suggestion. If more of our MPs and MSPs were to venture outside the Central Belt they could see the problems for themselves. Perhaps, once this latest spell of disruption is over, some of them could try commuting from Arran for a spell, or venture beyond the Rest and Be Thankful.

Don’t forget to send us a postcard if and when you arrive.