We were sent the following series of articles by Francesco Sindico at Strathclyde University, who is part of an “Island Insights” project. One is from Shetland.
We were sent the following series of articles by Francesco Sindico at Strathclyde University, who is part of an “Island Insights” project. One is from Shetland.
On behalf of both the Community Council and the independent Tiree Transport Forum our Convenor recently sent the following letter:
Tiree Community Council and Tiree Transport Forum have asked me to write to you.
Both bodies are concerned about the consequences of Loganair’s pivot away from
their SAAB 340 fleet to the ATR 42 as the airline sought to develop scale and a wider
footprint before Covid-19 struck. The ATR is unable to land at Tiree airport.
As you know, pre-pandemic, the Scottish Government’s two Twin Otter DHC6-400s
occasionally struggled to maintain the busy Glasgow, Barra, Tiree and Campeltown
rotations. The availability of the SAABs allowed Loganair to task these planes on an
emergency basis if one of the Twin Otters were taken out of the schedule. This has
not been infrequent on the Tiree run.
Obviously, passenger numbers have been heavily impacted by Covid and you must
have more pressing matters in your in-tray at the moment.
However, adding or replacing plane capacity is an expensive and complex task with a
long lead time. We wondered if the programme to phase out the SAABs has slipped
because of the pandemic, and how Transport Scotland intends to replace the
capacity that the SAAB fleet has given Loganair in the past.
Dr John Holliday, Convenor, Tiree Community Council on behalf of the community
council and the Tiree Transport Forum
We have now received the following reply:
Thank you for your e-mail of 18 November 2020 about Loganair’s fleet replacement plans. I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times.
My understanding is that, while Loganair’s plan to phase out their Saab 340s and replace them with ATRs has been delayed due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still their intention to complete their fleet replacement programme. As you note, the Saab 340 is sometimes used on the Tiree-Glasgow service and the ATR cannot be used due to its weight. Two of the assessment criteria as part of the tender process for the PSO contract are relevant here – ‘maintenance and back-up arrangements’ and ‘proposals for non-availability of aircraft’. The ‘maintenance and back-up arrangements’ criteria recognises that the aircraft normally used on the routes will be out of service at various times in order for routine maintenance to be undertaken. This includes each aircraft’s annual heavy maintenance check which takes several weeks. Loganair confirmed as part of their bid that they own a Twin Otter aircraft, in addition to the two they lease from HIAL, that will be used in the delivery of services from Glasgow to Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra.
In relation to ‘proposals for non-availability of aircraft’, Loganair’s bid set out a clear, multi-layered approach offering a high degree of resilience which provided us with assurance that they could continue to provide the services even if the normal aircraft used on them were unavailable. This included use of their own Twin Otter aircraft as well calling on other aircraft in their fleet should that be necessary. At the extreme, the leasing in of further aircraft would be considered.
There is no requirement within our contract for Loganair to use specific aircraft types for the provision of services. This is deliberate so that it gives an airline the maximum flexibility to ensure that services are provided. Loganair is, however, contractually required to provide the services as per the specification. Should they fail to do so then we would take action under the contract to address the situation.
You will be aware that Covid-19 has led to a significant drop in passenger numbers across the air network and including the Glasgow-Tiree service. As a result of this, the number of weekly rotations has been reduced to take account of this lower demand. It is neither economically nor environmentally desirable for an airline to be flying empty planes. We expect, however, that this reduction in frequency will be a short term measure. We expect demand to pick up again next year as the Covid-19 situation is resolved and travel restrictions are lifted. In the longer term, we are committed to the provision of the current specification during this contract period and I look forward to continuing to engage with you and your colleagues on the Community Council and Transport Forum, both in terms of ensuring that services are currently operating as they should in meeting the needs of the community as well as considering further refinements to the specification for the next contract period.
Should you have any further queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Argyll and Bute Council have announced that the by-elections to community councils across the local authority area, postponed in the spring due to COVID-19, will now go ahead. The elections themselves will take place on November 5th, with nominations opening on Wednesday 9th September (coincidentally, the same day as our next meeting) and close on the 24th September.
What does this mean?
There are eight elected places on the Tiree Community Council. These are public elected offices, which all persons on the electoral roll for the island of Tiree may nominate to and vote for. At the last election, four people were elected (John Holliday, Phyl Meyer, Alison Clark and Gerard McGoogan).
Elected members are allowed to co-opt to fill vacancies temporarily, as well as invite others to participate on a non-voting “advisory” capacity to bring in needed skills/perspectives. TCC had brought two others in by these methods, and was working towards further co-options – but if a by-election is held any spots filled by co-option are offered up for election again.
For these reasons, this by-election will be for the four places on TCC not already filled by elected members. Previously co-opted members may of course stand for election.
How does it work and how do you put yourself forward?
Because this is a public role, there are formal procedures that have to be followed if you wish to be considered to join the community council.
Why should people stand?
Community Council is a vital layer of representation, with responsibility and rights to play a key role on matters such as planning policy and consultation, as well as identifying the needs and wishes of the local community and making representation to other bodies and levels of Government, etc. A strong, healthy community council can make a real difference in raising matters of concern to residents and driving forward positive changes and improvements to services, as well as supporting and promoting local culture, tourism and economy. On Tiree, we are fortunate to have organisations such as the Tiree Community Development Trust to take forward much of the practical development of work to build our community resources – it’s a huge help to them for us to be here to support good communication and representation of what people feel are priorities, and what they need, etc.
The recent pandemic has shone a powerful light on how important this function can be – TCC members played a big role in making representation to Calmac, MSPs, government ministers and others about the effect lockdown restrictions could have on our community and local economy.
Why should I stand? What could I contribute?
Many people don’t tend to think of themselves as being “political” or having the skills or expertise they think is needed to play a useful role on something like a community council – but the truth is that one of the biggest needs is for the community council to have a real breadth of voices on it, with a range of backgrounds and experiences, so that when the rest of the community look at who is supposed to be representing them what they see is reasonable reflective of themselves. The most important thing is that you have a real wish to see good done in your local community for all who call it home, and that you are willing to look at the information, ask questions and work with others to ensure that a fair reflection of the views of the community is heard, and where needed a fair decision reached on what we say or do about something.
As has been mentioned above, we can bring in additional people with expertise, skills, etc if we feel there are gaps in those which would be useful to fill – but don’t underestimate the value of the contribution you could make! A lot of what we deal with is just a matter of looking at the facts, looking at any existing rules or policies and applying a bit of common sense as to what will be good for people here on the island.
How much time does it involve? What work would I need to do?
There isn’t too much of a fixed expectation on this – it does vary. As you can imagine the existing members were all quite a bit busier with TCC business during the last several months with COVID-19 than we expected we would be!
The main expectation is that you be willing to participate in most meetings (it’s fine if you occasionally can’t make some!) – which we currently tend to hold monthly, with a gap usually in the summer and sometimes around Xmas or New Year. Since COVID-19 came along these have all been taking place as online video/phone conference calls, and this has proven to work well and be more convenient and accessible for many of us. At some point physical meetings are likely to resume, but we are keen to keep the digital option going as it is very helpful for some, especially those with care responsibilities or mobility/energy impairments.
Between meetings, there is usually a background level of emails that come in and are circulated to the members, such as the regular planning application lists and other news items and consultation requests from the Council. These can usually be dealt with in a very flexible way, as and when you can find the time, and the members can agree between themselves how tasks are split up. So for example if there was a particular task you didn’t feel able or willing to contribute to, you could say so. There might be something else you were especially keen on, and others might then bow out of that task – and so on. Ultimately this is a volunteer position, and it is always up to you – we are very keen as a group to help each other to not take on too much, and understanding of the occasional need to take a break, etc. If you are concerned about this – please do speak to one or more of the existing members.
What support and training are provided?
Argyll and Bute Council can offer induction training and guidance to newly elected councillors, and the existing members are all very keen to provide any support needed for anyone that joins us. There are often opportunities available to council members to take part in further training sessions, and to attend meetings on particular subjects where we might have a role to contribute. Being an active community councillor can be a great way of gaining transferable skills and knowledge for a current or future career, while doing something useful for your local community.
I’m not sure I could manage / accessibility:
If you are interested but are concerned about taking part in connection with caring responsibilities, or a health condition, physical, mental or sensory impairment – please get in touch to discuss. There are all sorts of things that could be done to make reasonable adjustments to ensure you have the option to be involved and take part fully – elected office should be open to everyone.
Where can I get more information?
The nomination pack is attached below, which contains some information, and there is an excellent website run nationally to support Community Councils which has a set of pages about what a community council is and what it involves for members:
We hope to see a good number of candidates come forward – Tiree has been complimented recently for the extent to which our Community Council has been organised and working, and it would be a great endorsement of how active and engaged we are as a community to see a contested election!
Contested election! That sounds scary!
Please don’t be put off by this possibility – it’s not that scary really! Your name goes on the ballot papers that go to everyone and they vote – if you are especially keen to be elected you can choose to campaign if you wish – but this can be as simple as asking for friends to vote for you, maybe doing a social media post – or nothing at all and leave it up to people who already know you if that’s what you prefer. Nobody will be dragging you on stage or putting you on TV or anything like that! The role is a form of public elected office so a democratic process is just part and parcel of that.
Getting in touch to ask questions, or for help with the process:
The current members are also keen to offer any assistance we can – if you would find it helpful to talk to one or more of us informally about what is involved, please contact us either by e-mail (you can reach the Secretary, Phyl Meyer, at firstname.lastname@example.org), via our Facebook page, or directly.
Nomination Form only 5 Nov 2020 – this is the only bit you need to print if completing a nomination form – or you can ask for one via Rona at the Council office.
There is also a series of documents on the Argyll and Bute Council website, including training resources about being a CC member, and if you’d like to delve into the more technical documentation, you can also find the “Scheme of Establishment” which defines the rules and the default constitution of the TCC here: https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/council-and-government/community-councils – it is definitely not necessary to familiarise yourself with all of this to put yourself forward however!
The lockdown has seen a boom in volunteering and in participating in the Community Council public meetings, with around sixty people joining in by Zoom. We now want to appoint another two community councillors to take us up to full strength. It is no secret that the council has plenty of men of a certain vintage. We have recently been strongly encouraged to become more diverse, to bring in a younger generation, particularly women, as well as crofters and members of the fishing community. We would particularly, therefore, welcome expressions of interest from these groups.
If you feel that you have skills that you can bring to the council, we would of course also be interested in hearing from you whoever you are – though there is a requirement that you be a permanent Tiree resident who is on the electoral roll at a Tiree address, and only those aged 16 and above may be formally co-opted as members).
Please contact us within the next week. If you want to chat this through, contact John Holliday, Phyl or any of the other community councillors.
Calmac have released an updated set of information following recent easing of lockdown restrictions, which includes greatly increased maximum passenger numbers and also extension of the booking period to 30 days.
More information here: https://www.calmac.co.uk/covid19/calmac-latest-update-09-july-2020
We are hopeful that this, combined with an expected additional sailing to be added soon on Saturdays (EDIT: Now confirmed, starting July 18th), will substantially ease the difficulties many islanders have been experiencing with getting booked to travel – although capacity is still far short of what we’d usually expect this time of year pre-COVID-19 of course.
At the moment we have not heard if the provision for picking up tickets on the day of travel at the pier office, as mentioned in our article in this week’s An Tirisdeach, has changed – we are not sure if it would still operating on the basis of 20% given the increased capacity. (EDIT: WE have now had confirmation that this is still in place, for passenger capacity only, and will be reviewed on basis of demand as things move forward)
Islanders may wish to consider, however, that given the increased passenger allowance the availability of unbooked space on the car deck is likely to be much lower – whereas with 86 passengers maximum it was very unlikely for the car deck to be fully utilised so those getting tickets on the day could generally be confident of also getting space for a vehicle – with the new higher passenger numbers it is now very much possible for the car deck to be fully booked in advance, so getting booked on in advance remains the preferred option. (EDIT 14th July: We’re told by Calmac that, thus far, there have not been capacity demand issues relating to this, but things may busy up as word spreads about increased capacity so best to book soon if you need to)
The situation with regards to easing of lockdown, how it will affect Tiree and ferry capacity remains rapid-moving and it has been challenging for TCC to pull together a summary without it immediately going out of date. We have been continuing to engage and make enquiries throughout the past week, including a Zoom call meeting with Michael Russell MSP and various conversations with CalMac and other officials. We have also been following various news reports, and of course the most recent updates issued by the First Minister.
Here is the situation as we currently understand it – please note that this is an attempt to usefully summarise current information, may become out of date at any point, and you should always check the latest updates when making any plans:
1) Currently family and friend visits involving travel to or from Tiree and staying overnight can effectively only be made by ferry under the provisions of an “extended household” – i.e. a single person or a person with children under 18 can form an “extended household” with one other household, and travel would be permitted in either direction for this purpose. This is because currently the restriction is that such visits must be outdoors, and not overnight – so unless you have another means of travel that can facilitate a day-trip, you can’t do it within the guidelines.
2) From 29th of June second home owners are allowed to visit “for the purposes of conducting essential repairs or checks”. Staying overnight is only meant to be for as long as repairs take. However it is “expected” that full use of second homes which do not have “shared facilities” can resume from 3rd July. Reference: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-second-homes-guidance/
3) From 3rd of July self catering holiday homes/caravans which are “self-contained” and do not include use of “shared facilities” can re-open, and visitors can come to Tiree to make use of them.
4) From 15th of July the rest of holiday lets and accommodations are expected to be able to open (i.e. B&Bs and hotels, or self-catering with shared facilities)
5) There currently seems to be a lack of clarity on if overnight stays for visits will be permissible in general after July 10th, when indoor visits are to be allowed for two households, other than under the “extended household” provision.
In terms of ferry capacity and policy:
The latest update on timetables and bookings from CalMac: https://www.calmac.co.uk/covid19/calmac-latest-update-26-june-2020
This states that there will be a four-a-week service from July 1st to July 14th, and that bookings for this period will open at 9am on June 30th. We also understand that due to incoming construction freight there is expected to be an additional sailing on Sunday 5th and 12th July. Bookings are currently expected to open on a two week cycle thereafter, with an updated timetable to come for the period July 15th into October. This would appear to raise possible issues for people wishing to travel in one direction during one such period, while not being able to book a return trip in a following period.
Following our representations on this issue, we have previously been assured by our constituency representative Michael Russell MSP (and similar assurances have been sought on our behalf by regional representative John Finnie MSP), that the intention is for there to be some provision for a priority system for islanders, so that those wishing to travel will not simply find that all spaces are already booked up due to bookings made prior to these new arrangements (or prior even to the pandemic). UPDATE (June 28th): This does not appear to have been done for the booking window which is now opening up. We are yet to receive any explanation why.
As of today however we are still unclear as to if and how this will happen. Options could include those with existing bookings having to re-book, while residents also have the opportunity to book – and it’d just be a case of scrambling to get in first and being lucky. Another option would be for some sort of division of available spaces, with some reserved for islanders to have a chance to book first.
We continue to make a call for this to be resolved and to that end recently released an open letter to Robert Morrison, Managing Director at Calmac:
To be absolutely clear, as previously, TCC are not calling for tourists to be barred from coming – rather that the needs of residents have to be considered and a fair provision made to give those of us who wish to the opportunity to safely take advantage of the easing lockdown restrictions.
Until we get clarity on what provisions if any for priority booking will be available we can only suggest that if islanders have a need to travel between July 1st and 15th they be prepared to seek to arrange a booking promptly as soon as Calmac opens them up, starting at 9am on June 30th!
UPDATE (June 28th): It appears to now be clear that existing bookings are being allocated to available capacity on the basis of earliest booked first – with no capacity being kept aside for residents/on the day bookings/etc. Some boats are being reported as already fully booked, before the option to place new bookings has even opened.
With regards to flights, Loganair are now operating a timetable of one flight a day, shared with Barra, until July 15th. Thereafter the flight will be shared with Campbeltown. A new timetable is expected from August 3rd.
UPDATE (July 1st): We received the following response from Robert Morrison at Calmac:
Thank you for your E mail of 25th June.
We are facing a number of challenges in managing the varying phases of lockdown and facing competing priorities with regards to islander view, tourism views, commercial views. At the same time working very closely with Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government in order to ensure our service offering mirrors Scot Gov expectations.
With regards to your specific questions I can confirm as follows,
1/Historic bookings will where possible be honoured first and additional space available will then be opened up to allow booking. The space will be based on Commercial block bookings for essential supplies, remaining space will be 80% advance booking and 20 % for on the day.
2/ We will allow 80% of the vessel space to be made available for advance booking and will retain 20% for on-the- day. This will provide for the kind of bookings that cannot be accounted for in advance. A good example here being patient hospital transfers etc. This space will be usable for local Islanders also. It should also be noted that some of pre-booked travel being honoured will also include local Islander bookings.
3/ Our Contract operates on a first come first served basis and we have been asked to open bookings in a similar way. In other words allow space to be made available on an equivalent way. I can appreciate your points around islanders looking to travel and I can only say that the best method is to ensure a booking is made. We will move to booking for foot passengers and vehicles. Whilst there will be opportunity to secure some space on the day the best and safest means will be to secure the advance booking. Tickets will be available to book on a rolling 14day basis so providing the return travel is within the same rolling 14 day window it should be possible to book the return.
Finally, we will continue to do our best to help to manage impact on the islands and whilst we are clearly very challenged by the impacts of the 2 M social distancing, we will continue to support the communities as much as possible.
I hope this info is of help.
Calmac Ferries Ltd
It has been an interesting few weeks for Tiree Community Council. We have seen a bit of discussion within the island, off-island and especially here on our website, concerned with the news about the limited capacity that will be available on the MV Clansman on the Oban-Coll-Tiree route due to necessary social distancing measures being imposed onboard. The exact number talked about eventually settled, for now, on 86 passengers – which of course we share with Coll.
Tiree Community Council have spent a lot of our time between our now monthly online Zoom meetings speaking to people wherever it is safe to do so, getting a feel for what the public wishes us to represent on Tiree’s behalf. We have also spent a lot of energy gathering information, and speaking to key people in CalMac and the Scottish Government.
As you are likely aware we wrote a letter (published on our website) to Michael Matheson MSP, The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, calling on him to listen to the particular problems that Tiree could face if all existing bookings on the ferry were to remain in place, greatly exceeding the expected capacity. We have as yet to receive a formal response from Mr Matheson, however our MSP, Michael Russell, assures us that our letter has been well received, and that he has discussed our letter with the Minister Since then, new changes have been announced, and we immediately saw new potential issues with the policy, and have therefore just met with Michael Russell MSP to discuss how the new policy will work for Tiree – which cannot currently be visited for single day trip by ferry. We maintain regular contact with CalMac officials.
There have been one or two characterisations of our letter as implying “No tourists welcome on Tiree” – this is simply not accurate. Central to our decisions has been our overriding determination to place islanders at the heart of the matter. This means that we are encouraging Transport Scotland to give CalMac the necessary consents to “introduce a managed booking system that will satisfy fairly the competing demands of essential services and goods, islanders, family, visitors, and also the competing demands of Coll and Tiree”. We made it clear in our letter – and copied our request to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance – that the island’s businesses need further financial help to tide them through the year: they simply cannot trade their way out of this crisis in the way mainland companies are now able to.
Notwithstanding these efforts, there has been some recent negative, and in some cases hurtful comments regarding the competence, impartiality, and democratic awareness of the current Community Council – allegations which we totally refute. Each voluntary member of the Community Council is keenly aware of their obligations regarding high standards of selflessness, impartiality, and governance. We believe that we maintain these standards, and that it is not reasonable to expect as some have demanded that we log and account for every phone call, e-mail, message or conversation that each of us has in order to prove it. We have done everything we can, and our role requires us to exercise our sound judgement. Should any member of the public disagree with our conduct that is of course their right, and there is a formal complaints procedure available. Alternatively, there will of course be elections taking place at some point to form the next community council which would allow anybody the opportunity to put their own name forward and work for the Tiree community.
To the many members of the community who have contacted us, or commented, to offer their support to the work that we do and have done here – thank you.
In amongst all the recent focus on the details of whose rights are more important and how to prioritise travel between island residents, their families, second home owners and tourists we should not lose sight of the fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic which continues to cause illness and death. Keeping the people of our community healthy and safe must surely be the first priority of Tiree Community Council, and we hope that we can all work together to this end.
We will now continue to focus our efforts and energies forward, as the situation continues to develop quickly – a new statement concerning the latest things we have learned including at our recent meeting with Michael Russell will be published shortly, and updated at our next meeting – taking place at 7pm on Wednesday July 1st
At the request of several concerned members of the local community we sent the following letter to the Chair of the Health and Social Care Partnership for Argyll and Bute:
I write on behalf of the Tiree Community Council in connection with concerns expressed to us by a number of residents regarding the fact that two staff (senior social workers, we are told) have on two occasions now travelled from the mainland to the island, spending significant time in the care home over a couple of days, apparently for the purpose of carrying out meetings with other staff, dealing with paperwork and such. There is great concern being expressed at the risk that this poses in terms of possible transmission of COVID-19 to the island, and particularly to the home place of some of our most at-risk residents, and why these staff meetings and paperwork could not be accomplished via electronic means, telephone, web conference and such in order to avoid that risk.
A previous attempt to query this matter following complaints being made to us about it resulted in a response that seemed to rest solely on an assertion that this was a matter for managers to decide, but we were left without any satisfactory explanation as to why the work could not have been delivered in an alternative, remote, way, A new wave of complaints has now come to us following a further visit. We realise there may well be very good reasons why this work absolutely had to be carried out in person, but the people contacting us seem to be firmly of the impression that it wasn’t about providing key worker support to care residents that couldn’t have been provided locally or remotely, but rather about administrative staffing matters.
Many of us here on the island have had to adapt to working fully remotely, unable to travel back and forth, and have done so knowing that this helps keep our community (which faces particular challenges and risks compared to the mainland) safe – so you will understand the concern about this when there is a question of it being truly essential, and given the current climate of well-justified fear for the well-being of our older family members this has led to understandably strong feelings on the subject being expressed to us.
We would be grateful if you could look into this and help either find an explanation that would reassure our community, or prompt a review of the necessity of what seems a risky activity which may be avoidable.
Phyl Meyer, Secretary
Tiree Community Council
We have received the following response from Kieron Green, Policy Lead for Health and Social Care:
“Careful consideration is given before mainland based Health and Social Care Partnership staff travel to islands, including Tiree, to conduct essential work. All appropriate precautions are then taken in terms of physical distancing, accommodation and minimising interactions on the island when not working. Additionally for further assurance, and as the individuals involved are entering a care environment, they are being tested on a weekly basis for COVID-19.”
“Travel in this instance has been necessary due to the requirement to maintain the safe operation of Health and Social Care Partnership facilities, ensure high levels of care quality for residents and users of services, and give staff appropriate levels of management supervision and support. It has not been possible to facilitate this on a remote basis due to the nature of the work involved, including the need to directly observe the environment which care is provided in.”
Councillor, Oban North and Lorn