MOTORHOMES, campervans and caravans are to be banned from standby queues for CalMac sailings around Scotland.

State-owned ferry operator CalMac has confirmed that the decision has been taken following discussions with the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency and island stakeholder groups.

CalMac said the change is being introduced with "immediate effect to prioritise passengers who may need accommodation and to ensure that deck space and capacity is used more efficiently".

The ferry operator said: "It is intended as a permanent change – however, it will continue to be reviewed and feedback will be welcomed."

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It comes after the Herald revealed a Scots ferry travel lottery for local residents getting on and off islands as it emerged some routes have little or no space for cars for over three weeks.

The Herald:

Islanders had made demands for extra sailings as the lifeline ferry network struggles to cope with demand exacerbated initially by Covid restrictions remaining in place and breakdowns to the ageing ferry fleet.

Research by the Herald on July 21 revealed that the worst hit service provided by CalMac was Mallaig on the Highlands' west coast to Lochboisdale on South Uist which typically provides one crossing a day. There was no availability to book in a car online till August 13.

CalMac said island residents who travel with a motorhome, campervan or caravan will be exempt from the decision and will continue to be allowed to use the standby queue, if they have proof of residence.

Island residency will be confirmed at the point of booking or point of application to join the standby queue and would-be passengers will be asked to provide a proof of address from a utility bill or similar.

The board of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), the taxpayer-funded company which owns and procures ferries had agreed that all caravan and motor homes at their remote ports would be barred from March 31.

But because at that point hotels, bed and breakfasts and caravan and camp sites were closed CMAL agreed to allow the practice of parking up at ports to continue.

Standby queues are available on all bookable CalMac routes and give any passenger without a ticket the chance to board if there are spaces left once all booked passengers have been processed.

Finlay MacRae, head of operations for CalMac, said: "To prioritise customers without alternative accommodation and to optimise deck space at the end of loading, motorhomes, campervans and vehicles towing caravans will no longer be given a standby or waitlist position on all bookable routes - either at the reservation stage or on the day of sailing.

"Restricting larger vehicles in standby lanes will allow us to make the best use of any remaining space for smaller vehicles, whose occupants may not have alternative options available for accommodation. It will also remove the issue of larger vehicles filling up standby lanes, and smaller vehicles having to be pulled out of car lanes if that is all that can be shipped at the end of the loading process."