A major technical failure with CalMac's largest ferry has left it out of action until the end of April, prompting renewed calls for serious reforms of the service to Scotland's island communities.

Western Isles council also believes that CalMac should compensate island businesses affected by the disruption.

CalMac apologised to customers for the "major failure" of the port engine with MV Loch Seaforth.

The vessel will require substantial repairs, for which she has been removed from service and will be taken to a repair yard with access to an engineering workshop as soon as possible.

In the latest of a number of issues which have affected the service, which is crucial for island businesses, many of which were looking forward to the easing of lockdown.

It is expected that the vessel, which was built in Germany and cost £42 million, will be out of service until at least the end of April, to allow the engine issue to be thoroughly investigated and repaired.

As a result, MV Isle of Lewis has been deployed as a replacement service, picking up the day service for passengers and freight on the Ullapool to Stornoway route. 

The overnight freight service has been suspended until further notice.

A statement from CalMac read: "We appreciate the importance of the passenger and freight service on this route and apologise for the inconvenience this amended timetable may cause."

It has prompted renewed calls from Western Isles council for serious improvement to be made to the service, which they have branded "unacceptably poor".

HeraldScotland:

The Comhairle is asking all prospective parliamentary candidates to outline their plans for improvements  in the ferry services to the islands.

It follows the request last week to commit to reinstating the TRS ferry discounts which other islands continue to enjoy.

Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure, Cllr Uisdean Robertson said: “The failure of Calmac to provide an adequate ferry service to our islands is continuing to put our communities at a disadvantage.

READ MORE: Western Isles council rejects proposals to reduce CalMac service warning of 'calamitous impact'

"This is unacceptable and not enough has been done to address the problem.

"The poor service and inadequate ferry provision has seriously affected our islands over the last few months particularly in Barra and South Uist where the service has been unacceptable."

He added: "Today many island businesses have been negatively affected and been asked to travel to Tarbert to make their way to Skye.

"It seems only fair that Calmac compensate these companies for the additional costs that they no choice but to pay as a result of this service problem.”