GUY Stenhouse ("Scotland’s ferry arrangements are not fit for purpose", The Herald, November 9) he is entirely correct regarding the actions, or inactions, of the Scottish Government conveniently sidelined by the mask that is Covid.

I suggest that the ferry fiasco has the potential to be by far the most costly, as it will continue well into the future, as lessons are not being learned. It is my understanding that the people of Arran, Mull and the Minch triangle have been requesting two smaller vessels, preferably catamarans, rather than ever-larger monohulls which, as pointed out by Mr Stenhouse, could cross the Atlantic but are problematic when attempting to berth safely in poor conditions. Island societies have known this from experience gained over generations but their requests are ignored. Vast sums of money are to be spent on these three routes upgrading harbours and piers to accept these larger heavier vessels which are totally unsuitable.

Dr Alf Baird produced a paper making a comparison with the CMAL monohull Finlaggan operating on the Islay route, and the catamaran Pentalina operated by Pentland Ferries until last November when replaced by the larger catamaran Alfred. Both the Finlaggan and Petalina were of similar capacity, the difference being that the initial cost and the operating costs of Pentalina were variously between 30 and 40 per cent of Finlaggan. This paper many be found online and makes fascinating reading.

The reason that high costs will continue into the future is that lessons learned in the Pentland Firth are being ignored. The next vessel proposed for the Islay run is yet another monohull. On the CMAL website is the six-page Q&A regarding the matter. The answer to the question “Has a catamaran been considered?” is “Given the operational requirements a catamaran is not feasible”, there being no explanation given for this statement. It might be helpful if CMAL were to explain why a new-build could not be made suitable. I have been unable to get this information under FOI.

It is obvious, despite the success of Pentland Ferries operating an unsubsidised service with catamarans in the Pentland Firth, a notorious stretch of water, that CMAL has a closed mind on this subject.

The time has come for the Government to clip its wings and respond to experts in the field of design and procurement thereby giving islanders the service they require and deserve.

J Patrick Maclean, Oban.

WHAT a splendid article by Guy Stenhouse. The Pentland and Western companies have shown for years what can be achieved by properly-run businesses. Without government subsidies.

I do have a little sympathy for Calmac, as it is directly in the firing line and usually receives all the flak. What really concerns me are the faceless wonders who run CMAL behind the scenes.

Despite recent protestations about how wonderfully experienced its board members are, it seems they are incapable of learning from past mistakes. They persist in the belief that bigger is better, and that they need to build floating hotels for the crew to stay overnight on board. Surely accommodation could be found on shore? They seem to have no regard to the effect wind has on high-sided vessels, nor on how piers should be constructed to minimise wind effects.

I have been travelling to and from Arran for more than70 years and nothing has happened yet to guarantee a regular service in poor weather.

Of course, the Scottish Government is the real culprit, as it is ultimately in charge, but, hey-ho, it wisnae me: a big boy did it and ran away.

John NE Rankin, Whiting Bay, Arran.