MAIRI McAllan has recommitted ministers to talks with South Uist businesses affected by summer sailing cuts - including the topic of compensation.

Standing in for transport minister Kevin Stewart who resigned the position today, net zero and just transition secretary Màiri McAllan recommitteed ministers to having conversations with businesses on South Uist affected by the CalMac disruption.

Reports suggest up to one third of the island’s 2,000 people turned out for a demonstration as the last ferry until June 30 left the harbour at Lochboisdale this week.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant asked if the Government will compensate businesses on South Uist which face losses as a result of the cancelled service, to which McAllan said the penalty deductions paid by CalMac as a result of disruption should be reinvested in the ferry network to improve it.

Pressed by Conservative Donald Cameron on the issue of compensation, the minister said it would not be off the table.

“It would be wrong of me to be as candid as I have about how much we understand the frustration of island communities and then to close myself off to having discussions about anything that communities would be calling for,” she said.

“So I re-commit ministers to having those conversations.

“I do believe that what islanders want most of all is for the Scottish Government and for CalMac to focus on improving the service in the here and now and for the future, so that reliability on that service is not something that communities have to worry about on a daily basis.”

READ MORE: CalMac: Ferry routes to Islay and South Uist impacted

While McAllan expressed the Government’s disappointment at the decision by CalMac – which has relocated the MV Lord of the Isles elsewhere due to issues on the network – and admitted islanders have “lost confidence” in the state-owned operator, Labour's Grant said anger extends to ministers.

“This is not a problem with (communications), it’s a problem due to the lack of ferries,” Grant said.

“The blame for the lack of ferries sits squarely at the door of her Government.

“She must stop passing the buck, because South Uist has lost confidence not in CalMac, but in the Scottish Government.”

McAllan said: “Operational matters on the running of the ferry network, they are for CalMac, so it is only right that I reflect that in this Parliament.

“But I will not prevaricate on the point that pressure in our ferry network is as acute as it has been.

“Ministers empathise deeply with communities who have been affected – we understand their frustration.

“For our part, for what we are responsible for, we’re working in the here and now to press CalMac on the prioritisation matrix… on communications… and on ensuring that disruption is as minimal as possible.”

The Government is continuing its efforts to procure further vessels for the network, the minister added.

READ MORE: CalMac: Day trippers advised not to travel to Mull

CalMac chief executive Robbie Drummond said: “We are extremely sorry to the community of South Uist for the disruption caused by the cancellation of Lochboisdale services, we understand just how much the ferry service is depended upon by locals and by visitors.

“Cancelling sailings is always a last resort and is a very difficult decision, but with major vessels elsewhere in the fleet being off service and with a lack of resources available to us, it was the only option available on this occasion.

“When we face disruption we have to prioritise sailings to ensure that all communities across the network have access to lifeline ferry services.

“Additional sailings have been arranged across the Sound of Barra and the Little Minch so that customers can still access South Uist during this cancellation.

“We will reopen the Lochboisdale service as soon as we possibly can once MV Hebridean Isles has returned to service. Once again, I apologise for this unavoidable cancellation.”