A storm of protest over a steep rise in cancelled ferry sailings has prompted islanders to pay out £1,000 for weather data from the Met Office.
The Isle of Mull ferry committee is embroiled in a dispute with ferry operator CalMac over increased cancellations on the Oban to Craignure route.
When CalMac chief executive Martin Dorchester pointed to worsening weather trends, committee members decided to challenge his claim. Committee members went to the Met Office, seeking evidence they claim the ferry company had failed to provide.
Incensed at the cost of cancellations to the island’s economy, the group claims the Met Office data proves the weather is not to blame for an upsurge in cancelled sailings.
Neal Goldsmith, chairman of the ferry committee, said data shows winter 2004-5 was similar weatherwise to last year, but added: “There were only ten cancellations then, whereas last year the same kind of weather prompted 108.
“We are proving the weather trend is not to blame by buying wind data from the Met Office.
“It tells us two things, it tells us how frequently high winds have occurred over a number of hours and how bad each wind has been and it also tells us where they are coming from.
“Mr Dorchester said there was worsening weather and the wind was coming from a different direction, but according to our analysis that is not the case.
“We bought wind data for the past 11 years for Dunstaffnage weather station. The wind goes up and down a lot but the cancellations just keep going up.”
Ben Wilson, a member of the ferry committee who runs a marine services business, said: “It is so clear that the ferry is not running on days that it used to and the Met Office data backs that up. The cancellations aren’t related to the weather getting worse, there is no connection to the weather.”
A CalMac spokesman said: “We have little to add to our lengthy formal response to the Mull and Iona ferry committee which gives a comprehensive explanation of the challenges we are facing in dealing with changing weather conditions and the Master’s right, enshrined in law, to cancel sailings if he or she considers it unsafe to do so.
“We see little benefit in carrying out an historical analysis of weather conditions which can only ever tell part of the story.”