MV Pentalina should be trialled for use now rather than waiting to be possible relief in the winter period, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil has been in constant contact with Transport Scotland and Caledonian MacBrayne suggesting the use of the MV Pentalina to ease the strain on the ageing and limited fleet serving the Western Isles.

In response to his correspondence, Transport Scotland has now agreed to ask CalMac to look specifically at the feasibility of using this vessel on the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service network.

CalMac, in correspondence with Mr MacNeil, say they are currently undertaking the 2021/22 overhaul programme including the use of relief vessels with the aim of resolving some of the weather reliability concerns across the most exposed routes.

They say that the deployment of MV Pentalina for short term relief for Winter 2021/22 as well as 2022/23 will be discussed if operational challenges can be overcome.

The broader review for Winter 2022/23 will commence afterwards.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is good that Transport Scotland are moving to this position where MV Pentalina is being discussed and looked at.

“I think we now just need to know which ports it can go in and out of, which are the ports where there are little bits of learning to be done.

“It is best for this to be done in a non-pressurised situation. Maybe a trial soon for a week or two down the West Coast of Scotland visiting various ports might be useful and instructive.”