BUSINESSES and residents of Arran have collaborated in an emotional video plea for government action to end the 'ferry fiasco' which is "threatening the very sustainability of our island".

The Arran Recovery Group says that Covid-19 restrictions and the "non-resilient" ferry service has cost the island £58m in lost tourist revenue.

But they say that numbers only tell part of the story - and a video appeal has been produced from business people, farmers and ordinary residents all desperate for the issues to be resolved.

It comes as a catamaran owned by Orkney-based Pentland Ferries began sea trials ahead of its potential deployment across the CalMac ferry network.

Arran's two-vessel service was cut in half for nearly seven weeks, after one of the biggest ferries in the ageing CalMac fleet broke down.

READ MORE: Deloitte gets caught up in row over 'lost' £25m for Scotland's lifeline ferries

MV Isle of Arran was drafted in after Mv Loch Seaforth which runs the Ullapool to Stornoway route was found to have major engine problems.

According to the Arran Recovery Group, the shifting of the ferry for the start of the summer tourist season cost the island £3m of the lost revenue.

Among those participating is David Livingstone, distillery manager at Isle of Arran Distillers who said: "This current ferry fiasco, is having a huge impact on a business here on the island from getting supplies on and off to visitors coming to the visitor centres."

Tom Tracey, chairman of the Arran Recovery Group said: "This emotive film demonstrates the impact of ferry disruption to Arran’s community, threatening the very sustainability of our island."

Businesses have who have become increasingly concerned about the reliability of the fleet available to CalMac have supported the campaign to put pressure on government for action.

The Isle of Arran ferry itself broke down shortly after being deployed to Ullapool, and to be removed from the route.

The 38-year-old vessel developed stabiliser problems, resulting in a shutdown on freight services for over three days last week and was transferred to operate on the "more sheltered" Islay run.

When it was moved to Ullapool, there was criticism when it emerged the ferry only had space for four lorries.

Bed and breakfast owner Rob Cowieson said: "Without a ferry service, we don't have a business, and that means 1000s of pounds of lost income every month."

MV Pentalina sailed into Brodick earlier this week for a trial berthing

Ann Turner-Swan of Catacol Cottages went on: "We have had two groups of guests cancel their holidays, due to their ferry bookings being axed. Why would people chance their precious holiday to an unpredictable ferry service, they won't."

Colin Syme of Arran Castaways self catering accommodation added: "We as island communities are left struggling to deal with our own lives, let alone create businesses, which bring money to this country in tourism.

"I work on Arran, I help create jobs on Arran, I bring people to Arran for tourism. It is very very difficult to survive."

The issues come off the back of the country's ferry building fiasco with two lifeline vessels being built at nationalised Ferguson Marine, owner of the last civilian Clyde shipyard. They were due to be in service in early 2018, are now up to nearly five years behind schedule and their is now over double the original £97m contract.

The first of the ferries the MV Glen Sannox is now destined for the Arran to Ardrossan route - one of Scotland's busiest ferry crossings - between April 2022 and June, 2022.

Ferguson Marine, led by tycoon Jim McColl went into administration in August, 2019 following a dispute with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) - the taxpayer-funded company which buys and leases publicly owned CalMac's ships on behalf of the Scottish government - over the construction of the ferries under the fixed price contract.

The Scottish Government then pushed ahead to take full control of of the shipyard company as it went under with blame attached to soaring costs of the ferry contract.

Pentalina's potential arrival came after the RMT union raised concern last week over its safety.

The RMT said the Pentalina had been laid up in Kirkwall since November, and raised concern over the appropriateness of the vessel's structure for the CalMac network.

However, Pentland Ferries hit back, saying the catamaran had been reissued with a full passenger safety certificate in March of this year.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We acknowledge customers’ frustrations during periods of disruption and remain committed to supporting vital lifeline services. We fully recognise the key role ferry services play in supporting the economic, social and cultural development of island and remote mainland communities.

“We have to date committed additional financial support of up to £1 billion pounds to the transport sector, including ferries, in order that we can continue to run services for those that most need it to access essential services and maintaining social connections during the pandemic. 

“We are working with CMAL, CalMac and others to develop investment programmes for major vessels and small vessels. This work will look to deliver improvements, building on the substantial investment which has been made across these services in recent years. The investment programme for the next five years was set out in the Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan and is supported by a commitment of at least £580 million.

“The MV Pentalina is currently undertaking berthing trials at a number of ports on the west coast to assist with assessing its potential suitability for these routes. Should the trials be completed successfully, CalMac will consult with relevant communities to discuss proposed timetables and deployment options and seek a commercial agreement with Pentland Ferries before deployment on the network.”

Robbie Drummond, managing directorof CalMac, said: “Clearly, the loss of the Loch Seaforth had a substantial impact on our customers, and I would like to reiterate my sincere and heartfelt apology for the disruption this incident and the knock-on effects it caused. Since the MV Loch Seaforth returned to service at the end of May, two vessels have been running successfully on the Ardrossan-Brodick route although the requirement to operate under physical distancing means capacities are heavily restricted as they are right across our network.

“In the meantime, we are taking full accountability for the Loch Seaforth incident and will implement all findings from the independent report we commissioned which will mitigate against this type of incident happening again.

“We are currently investigating the chartering of the MV Pentalina in order to help with resilience across the network, and these investigations have included community engagement with Arran residents and businesses to discuss potential deployments. The vessel is this week completing berthing trials to assess her suitability and I look forward to being able to report on these soon.”