ISLANDERS on Mull and Iona are urging the First Minister to visit them and get to grips with the “complete shambles” surrounding their lifeline ferry network.

They have also rapped the Scottish Government-owned ferry procurement agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) as “obstructive, arrogant and incompetent”.

The invitation from the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) comes after Transport Minister Graeme Dey refused to sanction the purchase of a new ferry for Mull, despite a “summer of chaos” across the ageing network.

MIFC wants CMAL to publish its own report into the potential purchase of a catamaran that a team of naval architects at Strathclyde University found would instantly become one of the safest vessels in the CalMac fleet.

READ MORE: Island residents deserve decent ferry services, not pie-in-the-sky projects

In an account of the saga on their website, the committee alleges a catalogue of failings by CMAL and their CEO in the handling of the potential purchase.

Among the list of early problems, is CMAL’s inability to correctly interpret vessel drawings, and failing to respond to requests for dimensions of piers so that terminal-fit could be assessed.

They also detail what they say is CMAL’s poor handling of commercial negotiations with the seller.

MIFC chair, Joe Reade, said: “We believe it is now time for the First Minister to come to Mull and Iona to hear directly from islanders, and get to grips with the complete shambles engulfing Scotland’s lifeline ferry network. Politicians and officials in Edinburgh seem to be looking the other way, whilst we desperately try to tell them what the problems are, and how to fix them.

“It’s a slow moving car crash. The system is bordering on the dysfunctional. There is an ideal vessel available on the market right now, but CMAL seems to be too arrogant and incompetent to take advantage of the opportunity.

“But even worse than that, they seem to be deliberately obstructing this much-needed vessel, in the most shocking and scandalous manner that shows only contempt for islanders.”

He added: “CMAL wanted the seller to spend tens of thousands of pounds entirely speculatively, without any formal confirmation that it was a serious buyer.

“That’s simply not how international vessel sales work, and CMAL should know that.”

Transport Scotland has acknowledged that the CMAL fleet is ageing, which is why it is planning to invest at least £580 million over the next five years.

A spokesperson said: “We can assure the members of the ferry committee and local community that the decision against pursuing the vessel has not been taken lightly.

“There has been a lack of confidence in the vessel’s suitability from the outset of this process, but we are confident that CMAL has given it the appropriate level of due consideration given the strong feelings from the community on the issue.

“We are actively exploring opportunities for chartering additional tonnage and looking at other credible, affordable and viable options to improve resilience. We would urge the committee to continue to work Transport Scotland, Calmac and CMAL as we progress the MV Isle of Mull Replacement Programme.”