Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed confirmation from the Transport Minister that the introduction of booking-windows will be considered on the Calmac network.

After months of pressure from Mr MacNeil on Calmac and the Scottish Government to act on this proposal, the Transport Minister has stated in a letter to him this week that she is open to considering options.

She accepted that the current policy of ‘first come, first served’ offers much more opportunity for those who are able to book further in advance.

In a letter to Mr MacNeil she stated: “The current booking policy of “first come, first served” clearly offers more opportunity for those who are able to book further in advance. I am open to considering options on this in the future and my officials are actively engaging with CFL, who are exploring potential options and impacts of booking windows.”

Ms Gilruth stated that the intention was to include a review of booking policy in the upcoming Islands Connectivity Plan, which will be subject to an Island Communities Impact Assessment.

Mr MacNeil said: “I am very glad to have confirmation from the Transport Minister that consideration will be given to introducing booking windows.

“I have suggested that, regardless of where people come from, there be a staggered release of space on car decks. 70% in the beginning, then 20% the month before and the last 10% in the week before the sailing. This gives different types of travellers, regardless of where people live, the ability to make these bookings. It gives businesses and people who need to travel at short notice or attend hospital, the hope of being able to travel.

“We cannot have a situation where the winter weather is blocking island travel and the success of summer island tourism is also blocking island travel. Given the rising demand over the last couple of years, the only way to achieve this is to introduce booking-windows.”