AN estimated 500 people, 200 cars, 40 vans and 20 lorries converged on Lochboisdale in a protest over CalMac’s decision to cancel almost every ferry service in June due to ongoing issues with its ageing fleet.

The port links South Uist to the mainland with a demonstration taking place on Sunday as residents voiced their frustration.

The Herald reports that issues were exacerbated over the weekend when CalMac blocked motorhomes from going to and from North Uist from Saturday morning due to an issue with MV Hebrides’ mezzanine deck.

One resident, Jamie MacIntyre, said: “Are you compensating the campsites for loss of earnings? How was this decided? I don’t recall a community consultation.

“Have you been in contact with those with motorhomes already in Uist and told them they have no means of leaving given the dire situation in Lochboisdale?”

By 1pm on Sunday, CalMac told users the issue with the decks had been resolved but that some who were disrupted would continue to be affected into Monday “whilst we re-instate” their use.

John Daniel Peteranna of the of the Lochboisdale Ferry Business Impact Group, which organised the South Uist protest, said the response showed people were 100% behind the campaign for action.

It was organised with a circular stating: "It is time for us to make a stand".

It said that the demonstration of community feeling would be a "show of solidarity against the constant abuse of our ferry service and our community".

It added: "There are many people who have been doing all they can in their power to improve the ferry situation for Uist, with zero progress. In fact, things have got worse."

Peteranna said: "This shows the strength of feeling that is here that it is totally unfair to prioritise others above Uist."

READ MORE: Alister Jack accused of 'totally inaccurate' deposit return claim

"I think there should be a management change at CalMac. The transport minister cannot control them and they are not listening to the customers. Our confidence in CalMac is zero.

"The attitude seems to be that we will do what we want, what suits us as a company best and stuff everyone else."

He said the group had met with transport minister Kevin Stewart seeking solutions but said that so far there were none.

"People are leaving the island," he said. "The atmosphere is awful. People are depressed - the government think we are expendable.

"CalMac effectively decide which islands survive and which don't.

"All they can come up with is the risk matrix said to decide on which ferry goes where. It relates to the least disruption over passenger numbers. If they are using passenger numbers that is a problem because we keep getting cuts to our ferry so the numbers will be poor."

It came as the start of a complete shut down of services to and from Lochboisdale began on Saturday.

MV Lord of the Isles was taken from the South Uist service to cover as a relief service to and from Islay as MV Finlaggan left for an overdue service.

Disruption to the Lochboisdale route earlier this year led to claims that it was having a worse economic impact on the islands than the Covid lockdowns.

On the motorhomes ban, operations director for CalMac Robert Morrison said: “This was an extremely difficult decision and I understand that this will be disruptive for the local community and for customers who had planned to use this route.

"I apologise for the affect that this cancellation will have and can assure customers that we are working hard to get vessels back in service.”

Scottish transport minister Kevin Stewart said he spoke directly to the chairman of CalMac's parent company David MacBrayne Erik Østergaard - the former head of ferry fiasco owners CMAL - to "express my disappointment at how the communications have been handled".

READ MORE: Visitors are being sold false picture of our islands

He said: "It is important that communities are fully engaged when further disruption comes so soon after just having services restored.

"I have been very clear with CalMac that they must continue to explore all avenues as I am fully aware from my recent visit the direct impact the loss of service is having on the community.”