Most of us ferry anoraks will be at least a little excited about a new ferry service being established between Kintyre and Ayrshire.

There is something about the idea of two communities being linked for the first time by something as substantial as a car ferry that is fascinating.

This week's confirmation that the CalMac ferry Isle of Arran will ply the route between Campbeltown and Ardrossan, with an additional stop at Brodick on a Saturday, is welcome.

It may only run three times a week throughout the summer, but there is a commitment to three seasons of operation that should allow the business to grow sufficiently for it to continue.

It may not be a lifeline service, but there is no town in Scotland that needs a ferry service more than Campbeltown. Sitting at the end of the end of the Kintyre Peninsula, it has been crying out for inclusion in Scotland’s ferry route network.

In the days of the Clyde steamers in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, Campbeltown was a regular port of call linking the community to ports up the Clyde such as Wemyss Bay and Gourock.

From 1936 to 1939  the old Arran steamer Glen Sannox sailed between Ardrossan, Whiting Bay and Campbeltown in  the height of the summer season. But apart from an unsuccessful attempt by a private company to establish a cargo service in 1948 and the occasional excursions from Troon and Ayr,  this will be  the first time since the Second World War that there will be a regular link across the Clyde from Campbeltown to Ayrshire. It will also be the first time that Campbeltown acts as a car ferry terminal for a service to another part of Scotland.

In 1970 the town was linked to Red Bay in Northern Ireland when Western Ferries introduced a car ferry service which ran on a summer-only basis until 1973. The Northern Ireland link was re-established in 1997 with a service to Ballycastle, which cost the public purse £8m to establish.

CalMac had wanted to run it but in 1996 the then Tory Secretary of State Michael Forsyth was determined it should be a private sector operation. So much so that he ordered CalMac to sell its ferry Claymore to Sea Containers at a “reasonable”  price.

This turned out to be £750,000 despite it having just gone through a £250,000 refit which was described by Labour as "a scandalous subsidy by the taxpayer to the private sector". But it got worse. It transpired that the Claymore had been sold not to Sea Containers but to a flag of convenience company, Blue Grove, then resold to a leasing company, ING Lease, at considerable profit. ING then leased the ferry back to Sea Containers.

Sea Containers Ltd was a Bermuda-registered company which expanded from supplying eased cargo containers to various shipping companies, as well as diversifying into luxury hotels and even railway services  including the Venice-Simplon Orient Express and the Great North Eastern Railway franchise from London to Edinburgh.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2006 but nine years earlier its subsidiary, the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company, began a summer service sailing on the  Campbeltown to Ballycastle run.

While it won plaudits for the quality of the service, the Kintyre business community  was  outraged in June 1998 when it was discoveredthat the service was being suspended for a fortnight so the Claymore could be leased for the Isle of Man TT races. It was subsequently confirmed that the Scottish Office had not demanded any minimum level of service. Then, in September 1999,  following the third summer season, Sea Containers said they were withdrawing - a major body blow for Kintyre.

There have been repeated attempts since to resurrect the service. At least two firms were interested in tendering to operate an 11-month service when Peter Hain, the then Northern Ireland Secretary, announced in October 2006 that he was withdrawing the £300,000 that Northern Ireland had been due to contribute for five years to the £1m a year annual subsidy. This action was viewed by some as a stick to beat Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party into power sharing, as the ferry had cross-party support.

So, it's time Campbeltown hosted a ferry service that lasted more than three years. Colin Craig is to be congratulated for the success of Kintyre Express, established in 2011 as a fast passenger service to Ballycastle, but only a car ferry will have a major economic and social  impact.

Everybody is hoping it will work this time for Campbeltown, even the islanders of South Uist despite being incensed that the Isle of Arran vessel will be used. This 30 year-old ferry had been identified by islanders as the most likely vessel to allow a link to Mallaig be restored.

The islanders have been campaigning for a decade for the restoration of this route to the mainland. South Uist and Barra are served by the same ferry to Oban. The trip to South Uist can take almost seven hours if it goes to Barra first. Most islanders, as well as public and private bodie, believe a three-and-a-half hour service to Mallaig would herald a new dawn for the island, now that the upgrade of the  road to Fort William has finally been completed after decades. And, of course, there is a direct rail link from Mallaig to Glasgow.

It would also conform to the accepted thinking that car ferries should operate across as short a stretch of sea as practical. But the Scottish Government insists introducing this service would require an additional vessel at a cost of between £20m and £40m, with running costs of between £3 and £4m per annum. Over the lifetime of the extra vessel this would amount to more than £100m of public funding.

But would it really be as difficult or as expensive as this? When the Clyde and Hebrides routes were last put out to tender for the new contract beginning in October 2007, CalMac offered to provide a service between Mallaig, Barra and South Uist using existing vessels, as well as continuing the link to Oban.

At that time ministers rejected this on the grounds that it would lead to a reduction in service elsewhere or the need for a new vessel. But it was never spelt out where or how serious the service reduction would be.

Stòras Uibhist, the community landowner which owns most of South Uist, Eriskay and part of Benbecula, submitted a Freedom of Information request in December 2012 asking for details of Scottish Government correspondence and meetings regarding the Lochboisdale-Mallaig proposal. There was no response.

Following a formal request to Scottish Government to review their failure to respond to the FOI request, as they are bound to by law, the government finally responded on the same day the Campbeltown to Ardrossan service was announced. Apparently it  would not be in the public interest to release the information Stòras Uibhist sought. Why exactly the public interest would not be served on this count is far from clear. The Information Commissioner may yet take a different view.

There are, however, signs that ministers are having a rethink. They don’t like unrest in the Western Isles, which are represented both at Holyrood and Westminster by the SNP.

As well as the small matter of the referendum, 2014 will see CalMac’s routes going back out to tender, so considerable thought is already being given to it. The Scottish Government issued a statement this week regarding the campaign for a  Locboisdale to Mallaig service. It said: “While this is not affordable at this time, we have said that this issue will be given consideration at the time of deciding on the specification for the next Clyde and Hebrides contract, and the Scottish Government remains committed to that end."

So the people of South Uist might win their Mallaig service yet. After such a long fight, they deserve to win.