A CAMPAIGN of opposition against the prospect of Sunday ferry sailings to Lewis is gaining pace as Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), the ferry operator, prepares to discuss the controversial issue this week.
A petition organised by the Lord's Day Observation Society (LDOS) has been signed by 3,760 residents of Lewis and Harris. It has been sent to CalMac officials, who will debate the matter at a board meeting in Fort William on Wednesday.
Representatives of the branch have met Alasdair Allan, the Western Isles MSP, and are awaiting a meeting with Stewart Stevenson, the transport secretary, to discuss the issue.
Reverend Andrew Coghill, vice-chairman of the Lewis branch of the LDOS, said: "The number of people who signed the protest petition has been very encouraging given the limited time available to us."
He said a number of names were taken off the petition as the people did not live on the island, but the support showed the strength of feeling against Sunday sailings.
"There is no doubt in our minds that, if a Sunday ferry service was introduced, it would lead to demands for other facilities to be opened and erode a way of life that has had positive benefits for our community over the generations.
"Sunday is a precious element of our Christian heritage. Our Sabbath has contributed to a safe, peaceful environment, free from secular pressures, and is appreciated by locals and visitors, churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike."
The strictly Sabbatarian island of Lewis has so far resisted Sunday ferries, although a seven-day service to the neighbouring island of Harris began last year.
The issue was put back on the agenda in September when CalMac, which operates the crossing from Stornoway to Ullapool, received a number of letters pressing for a seven-day link. Supporters say an extended service would bring social and economic benefits to the island and that Sunday travel should be a matter of individual choice.
The ferry company has insisted it has no plans to introduce Sunday sailings to Lewis, but said it would consider any requests to do so.