A FURIOUS councillor is urging CalMac to charter a boat from Largs Yacht Haven to avoid Cumbrae residents being stranded on the island and missing vital medical appointments.

Independent councillor Ian Murdoch put forward the suggestion after the MV Catriona recently developed a technical fault which left the island with no ferry service for around 12 hours.

He says a ferry needs to be on-site quicker to make sure residents don’t miss job interviews, family visits or hospital trips.

Murdoch said: “CalMac need to have a replacement vessel on site in a short period of time in such situations - we need to stop all this waiting around for hours and hours.

“It's no use and the thing that worries me is that people are missing out on potential lifesaving hospital appointments.

"I have raised this at various meetings with CalMac. We must to have a replacement on offer, even if we have a fast boat chartered at Largs Yacht Haven.

“This could run to Millport and then take people onwards to Largs Pier for essential journeys.”

The councillor says his suggestion doesn’t dismiss the need for two similar ferries on the crossing during the summer season – with that cut back to one during winter.

He explained: "For longer term, we need two ferries of similar large size on the route with interchangeable parts.

“If one breaks down in winter, a second can be deployed from elsewhere.

"I think there now needs to be an emergency contingency plan for situations so we have a service which is fit for purpose."

Conservative councillor Todd Ferguson insists a passenger-only service is a must going forward.

He said: “It is an interesting idea from Councillor Murdoch, however, my concerns are how do you define what is deemed as a vital or essential journey?

“I’m sure that everyone would say that they have a ‘vital’ reason to use any replacement service. We all know that the only solution is to get a proper fit for purpose ferry service that islanders can rely upon.

“We really need to provide a passenger-only vessel. It is absolutely ridiculous that as an island which relies so heavily on links to the mainland that we only have one way on and off. That needs to change urgently.”

A CalMac spokeswoman said: “We are very sorry for the disruption caused to lifeline services between Cumbrae and the mainland, and what this has meant to people who have needed to travel.

“We are aware that any loss of service at all is extremely difficult for our customers.

“Chartering other vessels is an option we will continue to look at, taking into account factors such as availability and berthing suitability.”