Further delays in the construction of the new ferry for the Tarbert-Uig-Lochmaddy services have angered Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Council’s  Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, has responded to an update from Minister for Energy and Islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, about the further slippage in delivery dates for two ferries ordered from Ferguson Marine Engineering.

This “confirms what we already knew - the new ferries ordered in 2015 on a commitment they would be in place to provide desperately needed capacity on our ferry services in 2018 would in fact be at least two years late.

“Ferguson Marine must tell their client, but more importantly our island communities, exactly when these ferries will be in service.

“Scottish Government must demand this information, not only through their ownership of CMAL, but on the basis of the massive loans which they have given this shipyard.

“Everyone involved must work together. This is not an issue for political point scoring but for everyone to get together with a common aim of getting these ferries completed as quickly as possible and to establish a plan for overcoming the risks which an ever-ageing ferry fleet poses to our lifeline ferry services.”

Earlier in week Mr Wheelhouse admitted that the most recent targets for the delivery of the boats, which are being built on the Clyde, will be missed.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Rural Affairs Committee, Mr Wheelhouse said the Hull 802 vessel, earmarked for routes from Uig, would not be ready by its most recent spring 2020 deadline.

He also said the other dual fuel vessel – the Glen Sannox – destined for the Ardrossan to Brodick route, will not be ready this summer as previously hoped.

Earlier Mr Wheelhouse told MSPs: “The on-going delay to the delivery of the vessels is of great concern to ministers and is, clearly, hugely frustrating to stakeholders.

“That is particularly so for the communities who will benefit from their eventual deployment and for the operator, CalMac Ferries.

“Although, from a contractual perspective, management of the contract is for Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, Scottish ministers are closely monitoring the situation regarding delivery of the new ferries.”

Jamie Greene, a Conservative MSP, speaking in a debate in early April said: “The vessels concerned are already 13 and 19 months, respectively, behind schedule.

“The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee has heard that their delayed entry to the CalMac fleet is adding considerable pressure to that fleet, especially as we move into the busy summer period. Notwithstanding the dispute between the Government and the shipbuilder, many people are unclear about what is causing the delay in delivery of the vessels.”

He asked what is being done to address any issues that are causing delay.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “We have presence on the site from CMAL, which is the body that commissioned the vessels from FMEL on behalf of the Scottish ministers, and from Luke Van Beek, who is an independent adviser who is providing updates on the yard’s performance in delivery of the contract.”