The Scottish Conservatives have accused the SNP of a “shocking betrayal of Scotland’s island communities”, as figures showed that in 2023 cancellations of CalMac ferry sailings due to technical faults reached a 13-year high.

The figures, obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through a freedom of information request, show that 3,215 CalMac ferry sailings were cancelled due to technical problems in the first nine months of 2023.

The Conservatives point out this is more than every full calendar year since 2010, which is as far back as the freedom of information figures go.

In that year, the Government-owned ferry operator cancelled just 217 sailings because of technical problems.

They said that if cancellations in the first nine months of 2023 were to continue at the same rate for the rest of the year, then the total number of cancellations caused by technical faults would be 1,875% higher than it was in 2010.

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Scottish Conservative transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said: “These appalling figures are a mind-blowing illustration of the SNP’s mismanagement of Scotland’s ferry fleet.

“An increase in cancellations of almost 2,000% is hard to get your head around but it highlights the Nationalists’ shocking betrayal of Scotland’s island communities.

“SNP incompetence has saddled CalMac with an ageing, unreliable fleet, depriving our islands of lifeline services on an increasingly regular basis.

“John Swinney’s fingerprints are all over this appalling scandal. The SNP Government he was a senior member of, and now leads, have been preoccupied with their independence obsession, allowing this crisis to worsen year upon year.”

The party added that island communities are still waiting for two new ferries, Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa, to enter service, six years late and hundreds of millions of pounds over budget.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Whilst every cancellation has an impact on passengers and communities, 3215 sailings is just 2.4% of the 135,469 operated sailings in that period.

“CalMac are operating more sailings and serving more routes than ever before as we strive to provide the best ferry services for our island communities.

“We recognise the impact that delays and disruption have regrettably had on our island communities and this Government is committed to investing in our ferry services. That is why delivering six new major vessels to serve Scotland’s ferry network by 2026 is a priority.

“Regrettably, there are communities who have been more impacted than others, and ministers fully recognise the need to improve confidence in services.

“That is why we are committed to ensuring our ferry service is fit for the future by continuing to work with operators and CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd) to improve reliability and resilience across our network.”

Duncan Mackison, interim CEO of CalMac, said: “We continue to work hard to prevent technical problems, through our complex vessel overhaul and maintenance programme, and look forward to strengthening our fleet with the addition of two large vessels this year, a further 4 large vessels in 2025 and up to 10 small vessels to be introduced over the next five years. This will have a significant impact on the stability and resilience of our network. 

“We recognise the challenges associated with providing a lifeline ferry service on our island communities, and our teams work tirelessly to minimise disruption as much as possible. 

“In 2010 we operated significantly different levels of service, which makes drawing comparisons about the number of cancellations related to technical issues in 2023 very difficult. We remain committed to enhanced engagement and improved service delivery for island communities."