PEOPLE could be driven away from living on Scotland's islands by "inflation-busting" ferry fare increases.

North Ayrshire councillor Todd Ferguson, who lives in Millport, says Transport Scotland's announcement of a 9 per cent fares increase is the 'latest slap in the face for hard pressed and frustrated island communities' such as Cumbrae and Arran".

Councillor Ferguson, who represents the North Coast ward for the Conservatives, continued: "Hiking prices by almost 9 per cent will only serve to drive more people off of our islands, which will in turn have a damaging effect on island services and economies.

"Many families already taking the difficult decision to move to the mainland due to record cancellations and mechanical issues.

 "When the Scottish Government should be making island communities an attractive option they are instead choosing to hammer them at every opportunity."

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Todd Ferguson: Ferry fare increases concernsTodd Ferguson: Ferry fare increases concerns (Image: Conservatives)

It is understood that the decision will recoup the costs of freezing fares in the immediate period of post-Covid recovery.

A CalMac spokesperson said: "Transport Scotland has confirmed that CalMac fares will rise in line with inflation in May 2023 at a rate of 8.7 per cent across all routes and fare types.

"The new fares will be introduced at the start of the summer timetable period."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have made significant investment in recent years to ensure that ferry fares are affordable, with fare freezes and the introduction of RET.

"We know that this increase will be challenging for some as inflationary pressures continue on households, businesses and public services, but it comes against the backdrop of a real terms reduction in the total block grant from the UK Government.”

West Scotland MSP Jamie Greene has renewed his calls for a new ticketing system for Cumbrae after sharing the results of an island-wide survey, in which one islander said their ferry costs had almost tripled as a result of the ticketing system.

Last week, the Scottish Government confirmed a new ticketing offering was being developed for Cumbrae.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: MSP Jamie Greene carried out survey on islandMSP Jamie Greene carried out survey on island (Image: Jamie Greene)

The local MSP's survey revealed that more than half of islanders had previously used season tickets, with more choosing to buy the discounted multi-journey tickets.

Mr Greene said: “What was most striking was that over half of islanders use the ferry principally for work and education. That’s a significant proportion of people whose careers or education have been impacted by the removal of the season ticket."

Another 38 per cent of respondents said their main use of the ferry was to attend medical appoinments.

Mr Greene added: “One islander who works on the mainland told me that their ferry costs had increased from £460 to £1,330 a year because of the new system.

“That is a sign of a broken system."

Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said: "I have already engaged directly with the Cumbrae ferry committee on a number of the issues that it has raised. Clearly the community has previously been given assurances that the issue will be addressed, and I am keen that that happens. 

"Transport Scotland officials will continue to consider the options for doing so with CalMac."