THE provision of ferries for Scotland’s island communities is “well below” reasonable levels, hundreds of respondents to a Holyrood consultation have said.

A total of 394 responses were received to the Transport Committee’s call for views on the ferry service this year.

A summary of the responses was published on Wednesday, saying views on the level of provision were effectively unanimous.

Reliability of ferry sailings emerged as a key theme, with many saying the service should be resilient enough to cope with extreme weather events and faults on the vessels.

Calmac’s ageing fleet of ferries has led to disruption as they are taken out of service for maintenance and repairs.

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Respondents to the call for views were self-selecting, with 357 coming from members of the public.

The committee’s report said: “There is effective unanimity amongst respondents, regardless of who they are or where they are located, that current levels of ferry service provision fall well below what they considered reasonable.

“Particular concern focuses on the growth in short notice service cancellations and the impact this is having on many aspects of life in island and remote rural communities.

“It should be noted that many respondents praise the efforts of frontline ferry staff, who often work in challenging conditions and with ageing vessels and infrastructure.”

In June, a group of island community representatives spoke to the committee and vented their anger over unreliable ferry services.

Margaret Morrison, chair of the Harris Transport Forum, said it had “reached an all-time critical situation”.