ISLANDS businesses have been blighted by the abject failure of the Scottish ferry service delivered by CalMac and should receive meaningful compensation.

Cancelled ferries means cancelled holidays, loss of revenue, no income for tourism firms, and no knock-on gain for other service providers. The Scottish islands are at risk of becoming a holiday destination that people avoid, say business leaders.

Outer Hebrides Tourism is a community interest company set up to develop, promote and sustain the industry, which it says generates £75 million in economic value for the islands, sustains 1,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and is one of the key growth sectors in the economy of the islands.

There are usually around 218,000 visitors a year, 1,000 accommodation providers directly supported by tourism, and hundreds of other businesses whose livelihoods depend on the visitor economy. This summer’s figures don’t look good.

“This year, as Covid recovery continues, we have gone from ferry crisis to ferry crisis in peak season and as a result the biggest private sector of the island economy is suffering from loss of revenue – impacting jobs and business sustainability,” the OHT executive committee says. 

HeraldScotland: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon faced calls this week to recall the Scottish Parliament from recess amid the deepening ferries crisis. Picture: Getty Images.First Minister Nicola Sturgeon faced calls this week to recall the Scottish Parliament from recess amid the deepening ferries crisis. Picture: Getty Images.

The islands are facing “a perilous economic situation with potentially irreversible” social impact.

“We have had visitors cancel their holidays, leaving accommodation and activities providers with late cancellations, no fresh food in supermarkets, restaurant struggling to get supplies, visitors sleeping in cars, visitors rerouted to ferries hundreds of miles north and south which are full and spending days trying to get off, and on, islands, causing extra cost, and the list goes on.

“The Outer Hebrides is in real risk of being a destination visitors may avoid because of ferry unreliability. Indeed, we are seeing a drop in visitor numbers already.”

The body is "dismayed and angry that there is no end to the deepening ferry crisis which is causing extremely serious issues for both tourism and our wider community".

Sarah MacLean, OHT chief executive, adds: “This crisis is having a devastating effect on our tourism businesses and communities.

“While the Scottish Government must now invest in CalMac to improve fleet resilience both in the short and long term, we call on them to compensate our local businesses and invest in rebuilding confidence in the Outer Hebrides as a visitor destination after the negative economic impact of this summer’s ferry fiasco and indeed this winter’s disruption.”

Deputy business editor Scott Wright says in his column this week that the profits reaped by corporate giants across sectors while households struggle are incongruous.

“If we were to gauge the state of the economy purely on recent results from UK-listed companies such as Shell, BP, Centrica, Weir, Diageo and NatWest, we would be forgiven for thinking that it is in rude health,” he writes. “Many companies have returned to making the kind of profits that they were before the Covid pandemic struck.”

The Bank of England upped the interest rate, confirmed recession ahead, and warned of inflation rampaging to 13 per cent.

Business correspondent Kristy Dorsey delves into how we got here in her deep analysis.

“Having failed to move on interest rates for most of last year when prices for food and fuel started rising, the Bank of England is now chasing its tail to stymie an inflationary surge of a magnitude unseen in the UK for more than five decades,” she writes.