The Scottish Government says are taking steps to make sure the depleted Arran ferry service will have enough capacity to cope during the busy Easter holidays.

Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson raised the delays to repairs of MV Caledonian Isles in a series of questions at the Scottish Parliament.

They came after CalMac announced that the MV Caledonian Isles, the main vessel for the Ardrossan-Brodick ferry service, would be out of service for approximately 16 weeks. 

Mr Gibson asked the Scottish Government "what action it will take to ensure optimum ferry capacity to and from Arran in light of reports that repairs to the MV Caledonian Isles are not expected to conclude before mid-June".

Jim Fairlie MSP, recently appointed as Scotland's minister for connectivity, said: "The delay regarding the MV Caledonian Isles is regrettable and I recognise the frustration felt by communities as a result.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Transport spoke with CalMac’s Chief Executive yesterday to convey her concern and make clear that everything must be done to address capacity and provide assurances for the Arran community and others across the network, particularly as we look towards the Easter break and beyond.

“The MV Isle of Arran is operating out of Ardrossan and there continues to be additional sailings via the island’s secondary route Claonaig to Lochranza.

"No capacity issues are being reported at this time."

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: MSP Kenneth Gibson

Mr Gibson replied: “I know [Mr Farlie] is fully aware of the impact that numerous cancellations due to weather, mechanical breakdown and fender repairs have had on Arran and Ardrossan, together with Peel Ports’ permanent closure of Ardrossan's Irish birth and subsequent removal of the MV Alfred by CalMac. 

“Ardrossan to Brodick is CalMac’s busiest route, yet it's being serviced by the 40-year-old MV Isle of Arran alone.

“With Easter on the horizon, the loss of the MV Caledonian Isles couldn't have come at a worse time for Arran’s economy. Right now, islanders need certainty. 

“So what reassurance can the Minister provide both Arranachs and prospective visitors that the capacity, which he said is not a problem at the moment, won't be a problem during the Easter holidays?”

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 Mr Fairlie replied: "The Cabinet Secretary for Transport met with the Isle of Arran Ferry Committee last week and she thanks Mr Gibson for his part in organising this. 

“At this meeting, she agreed to impress on CalMac the need for capacity to be in place for the Easter holidays, which she has done so this week, and it's something she will continue to do. 

“And we are pushing CalMac to ensure that it has a robust contingency plan in place to ensure that they maximise the capacity with available vessels and can clearly communicate that the island remains open for business across that period.”

Mr Gibson then asked: "Can the Minister confirm that the appalling service Arran has endured in recent months will be considered?

“Also, whether the increased risk of cancellations and diversions as a result of the issues at Ardrossan Harbour will be factored into vessel deployment decisions, with ways found to expedite the MV Glen Sannox entering service on the ferry network at the earliest possible opportunity?"

The Minister answered: "Those plans and timing for introducing the MV Glen Sannox into service will be kept under review as we progress through the build completion, handover and operation trials process.”

CalMac are expected to publish timetable changes by Monday, March 4. 

Mr Gibson said later: “With communities in Ardrossan and Arran still reeling from Peel Ports’ sudden closure of the Irish berth and the Easter holidays fast approaching, this news could not have come at a worse time. 

“Easter is an important time for tourism businesses either side of the Firth of Clyde. 

“The loss of the MV Caledonian Isles has caused deep concern in Arran and Ardrossan-Brodick is CalMac’s busiest route and I was pleased the Scottish Government clarified that more capacity will be in place for the Easter holidays.”