Ferry operator CalMac accompanied an unprecedented Easter ‘stay at home’ message with news that 66 parties of would-be travellers have been refused ferry transport in the past two weeks.

The company has also extended its lifeline service timetable until at least April 30, according to an announcement made on Friday (10 April).

Government advice not to travel unnecessarily spurred CalMac to implement an ‘essential travel only’ policy late in March.

From 27 March they have been seeking evidence of island residency or key worker status for all customers on all sailings.

Commercial customers have been made aware that they are expected to provide evidence to their drivers that they are carrying essential goods or providing essential services as defined by the Scottish Government.

CalMac has also published essential travel guidance on its website and placed posters at ports and on vessels about essential travel and self-isolation.

The moves followed widespread concern about people seeking ‘isolation holidays’ in the islands, with an influx of motorhomes just before the Coronavirus lockdown was announced.

This weekend CalMac reported that a total of 66 parties of travellers have been refused passage on ferries under the new restrictions.

But the company has now powers to make checks on passengers, beyond asking them why they are travelling when they turn up to board. A spokesman for CalMac said: “We need to take people on trust when they tell us their reason for travel.”

Director of operations Robert Morrison said: “We have to stress to (non-essential travellers) in the strongest terms not to, they will not be allowed to travel. Government advice is only to go outside for food, health reasons or work, but only if you cannot work from home.

“Only essential travellers are currently being allowed to board which includes food and medical supplies, utilities workers, transport and the emergency services.”

CalMac is currently working to an emergency lifeline timetable that has seen overall traffic drop by more the 95%. This timetable has now been extended to 30 April.