FERRY campaigners who slammed a government decision to keep lightweight boats on the Gourock-Dunoon route as a 'disgraceful betrayal' are now demanding answers directly from the minister responsible.

They fear that Transport Scotland will ultimately scrap the vital commuter service which is currently covered by the MV Argyll Flyer, pictured, and MV Ali Cat.

The weather-prone vessels were described by previous cabinet members as 'not fit for purpose' — prior to an official study which concluded that vehicle-carrying ferries would be profitable.

Members of the Dunoon Gourock Ferry Action Group have now written to energy and connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse branding a subsequent Audit Scotland report as 'nothing short of a scandal'.

The campaigners say that Transport Scotland's arguments for resisting the reinstatement of vehicle-carrying ferries on the town centres route are now 'totally discredited'.

In the letter to Mr Wheelhouse, chairwoman Susanna Rice disputes figures arrived at in the Audit Scotland document of £30m per ferry for a two-vessel service.

Mrs Rice writes: "Before publication, this report was seen by Transport Scotland, Cal Mac, CMAL and 'advisers' including Mr G Ross, managing director of Western Ferries.

"All would have been fully aware that the figure of £13m expenditure at Gourock with regard to the service was several times more than justified.

"The figure of £30m each for vehicle/passenger ferries was likewise three or four times more than would be the case."

Mrs Rice adds: "We consider that the Rural Affairs and Connectivity Committee of the Scottish Parliament has been misled."

The campaigners say their estimate of around £7.5 million for each of two new 220 passenger and 40 car capacity ships is more accurate than the Audit Scotland figures.

They argue that such vessels would provide a return to the taxpayer as well as a reliable service for all users.

Mrs Rice tells Mr Wheelhouse: "We will continue to vigorously pursue these issues by every means at our disposal."

The Telegraph contacted Mr Wheelhouse directly more than a week ago for answers to the points made by the ferry action group but he is yet to respond.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We remain committed to the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service and the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands stressed this point to the members of the Dunoon Gourock Ferry Action Group when he met them in person in April.

"As we made clear when the service was transferred to CalMac Ferries Ltd, we have committed to providing a passenger-only service, in line with the current timetable arrangements.

"This is the best option, securing the employment of staff, crew and the future of the service itself. It also reflects the value for money issues around the service raised by Audit Scotland.

"We have also committed to further consideration of future vessel and service requirements to ensure we are best placed to deliver a safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable ferry service into the future."