MOTORHOMES, campervans and caravans have been 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.

But while the decision was welcomed by many, others took to social media to criticise the move and some even believed it was a gag.

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."

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.

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.

The move is aimed at closing a loophole that was being exploited by some passengers.

CalMac retains a small number of turn up and go tickets on pressured routes for islanders who have to travel at short notice.

But there have been reports of motorhomes parking in the standby queues at ferry terminals overnight.

Some took to social media to question the move.

Ryan Farquhar said: "So basically the ferry service isn’t meeting demands, and rather than invest a bit of money the wealthy executives have decided to not improve it and play on the emotions of the islanders to make it sound like they’re doing a good thing."

Another said: "Discriminating by where you're from and what vehicle you drive surely isnt a good thing for a company to do. Its totally about money, a local can stay in the reserve queue even though they could go home and wait for the next sailing."

Gemma Queen added: "I’ve never understood the 'us and them' attitude. If the islands and the ferries to access them belong to the islanders then surely the mainland and the ferries to access it belong to the mainlanders?

"Why would islanders have any more right to access the mainland than mainlanders would to access the islands? People use the ferries for all sorts of reasons in both directions, the only priority I can really see would be an islander having to access a mainland medical facility in which case they should absolutely gain a priority space on the ferry in both directions.

READ MORE: Islanders' fury over Scots ferry travel 'lottery' with no space for cars for more than three weeks on one route

"The real problem is lack of space on the ferries and that can only be solved by increasing the number of vessels or frequency of sailings. That’s something we should all be pushing for, a better service for everyone."

Some thought it was a joke.

Ian Brown said: "Got to be April fools Day in August ...???"
John Kilpatrick contacted CalMac to check if it wasa true saying that he he found a notice on Facebook which purported to be an official Calmac policy notice. "But I can see nothing on Calmac pages. Is this factual, or a naughty hoax," he said.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan welcomed the move, saying: “The ‘turn-up-and-go’ capacity on ferries, while limited, is aimed primarily at helping islanders, since they more often need to travel at short notice while visitors tend to book far in advance.

“I have been receiving reports of motorhomes parking in the standby queues at ports overnight, exploiting the fact they are able to sleep in their vehicles and queue ahead of everyone else.


“This isn’t what the turn-up-and-go tickets are supposed to be for, and I am glad to see this particular loophole closed.”

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.

READ MORE: CalMac ban campervans and caravans from ferry queues

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.

The move follows the First Minister’s announcement that Scotland has moved beyond Level 0 and that that official physical distancing guidelines have been lifted as of August 9. This means that the number of passengers that can be carried on board ferries would return to normal levels. Ferries had been operating at around 30% of normal capacity.

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."