Category Archives: Tourism

Outcome of our recent survey on Tiree’s timetable out of lockdown

Earlier today we sent the following letter to Argyll and Bute Council following our rapid-response survey announced on Friday:

Choice of Level for Tiree

Dear Robin and Pippa,

Following our useful meeting on Friday, Tiree Community Council wanted to gauge the opinion of the community on this matter as best we could in 36 hours. We therefore set up an online poll using SurveyMonkey.

We laid out our understanding of the situation laid out by the Scottish Government, and asked respondents to choose:

  • For Tiree to remain in Level 3, which would allow travel to and from the island, subject to restrictions on indoor meetings, or
  • For Tiree to move to Level 2, which would keep travel restrictions in place for an additional 3 weeks but allow for indoor meetings amongst island residents

Although we used the labels ‘Level 3’ and ‘Level 2’ for ease of reference, we acknowledge that those labels are not quite accurate, that the new arrangements proposed in the new route map are different. This was noted on the web post promoting the survey.

The survey was put together at great speed and using only our own resources. There are obvious methodological weaknesses: for example, a bias towards those using social media and the possibility that respondents could make inaccurate declarations of their place of residence.

However, we are confident it broadly represents the spread and balance of opinion in our community.

Summary:

  • 322 responses, including 273 residents, approximately 50% of the electoral roll
  • Of the residents, 41% want to remain in Level 3 with travel restrictions lifted, while 59% want to move to Level 2 with travel restrictions maintained
  • Even the majority of resident owners of tourism businesses want to move to Level 2 with travel restrictions maintained, albeit the split is more evenly balanced in this group

Many thanks for asking our opinion,

Dr John Holliday, on behalf of Tiree Community Council

You will note that we refer to the fact that what seems to be the likely options on offer to us do not correspond exactly to the former “Level 2” and “Level 3” – but rather that we used those labels as a way of simplifying the survey for people by using familiar terms – it seems we are now moving away from the previous versions of the Levels/Tiers with this new timetable, so the old versions of those levels/tiers do not really apply and things are still very subject to change.

The web post explaining the survey made this clear, although we understand some may (with the benefit of time and hindsight) feel things could have been worded better. All that can be said is that we did the best we could within the speed we felt we had to act and with which the survey was put together – and felt it best to prioritise a simple, intuitive approach.

We are given to understand that there may be further opportunity for (hopefully more thorough, less rushed) consultation on this soon. The results of this survey may not therefore be the final conclusion reached on this issue and we will continue to do our best to engage the community to ensure a representative position is taken going forward.

On a positive note – for the survey to have achieved 322 responses, of which 273 are from island residents (representing about half of the entire electoral roll on the island) in the space of just over 2 days is a remarkable response, of which we should all be proud. Thank you for participating if you were able to.

Thanks to some excellent work by TCC councillor Iona Campbell, please see below a write-up of the full results of the survey.

Result of Urgent Public Consultation on the Isle of Tiree copy

Urgent consultation survey – Tiree route out of lockdown

We have been asked on very short notice for our views in relation to the announcement First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made regarding the planned timetable for easing of restrictions out of lockdown for Scotland – specifically regarding the mention of there being options for islands like ours which have been under slightly more eased restrictions.

We have not been given much clarity on what possible range of options may be available but as best we can determine it seems likely to be a straight choice between two main options.

Background:

According to the timetable for easing restrictions, there is an expectation that we will be allowed to travel freely within Local Authority areas for non-essential purposes (rather than the “stay at home” restrictions operating on the mainland). There will then be a general shift on April 26th which can broadly be thought of as the mainland of Scotland returning to what was called “level 3” – for the most part. At that point up to 6 people from up to 3 households will be allowed to meet outdoors, and up to 4 people from 2 households can socialise indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant. These are similar to the restrictions Tiree is currently under . However the key difference is that travel will from that point be allowed across mainland Scotland, not just within your Local Authority area – and tourist accommodation will be allowed to resume general operation – i.e. people will be allowed to travel and stay overnight, as long as it is using tourist accommodation.

Because island communities like Tiree have been relatively safer with lower or zero case levels, there is an option (we assume from April 26th) for islands like ours to drop from current restriction level (level 3) to what will be the new level 2 equivalent. We assume this to mean something similar to the restrictions which are expected to come in no earlier than May 17th – at which point up to 4 people from 2 households can socialise indoors in a private home.

However: The Scottish Government concern is that if people were able to travel freely to and from islands like ours, we would be under disproportionate risk if we were to be operating under greater easing of restrictions from the earlier date. They are therefore considering that if islands like ours were to continue to be treated separately from the mainland, and move to lower restrictions on April 26th, it would need to be accompanied by a continuation of travel restrictions to and from those islands until the later May 17th date. Note: we are unclear if this would also imply us not being able to travel within the local authority area from April 2nd

We are therefore being consulted about a choice on how we would prefer to be treated.

Again we must emphasise that this has been a fast moving issue and there is not a lot of clarity on exactly what options would be considered, there may be some sort of middle ground possible – but as best we can tell this boils down to choosing between two options:

Option A: Tiree would remain in “Level 3”, and would align with the new eased restrictions for mainland Scotland as of April 2nd, and then on April 26th. Tourists would be allowed to travel to and from the island as of the 26th, and residents would be allowed to travel off the island within Scotland (Note: not necessarily cross border travel to England or elsewhere)  and return, but all under level 3 restrictions – e.g. no indoor visits, accommodation only in hotels/tourist accommodation instead of staying with family, etc.

Option B: Tiree would move to the new “Level 2” equivalent earlier – possibly from April 26th, or possibly even April 2nd (we aren’t sure on this point!) – meaning lesser restrictions within the island community (indoor visits would be allowed, etc) – however travel to and from mainland Scotland would NOT be allowed for visitors or residents until the later easing of restrictions on May 17th – i.e. these further eased restrictions would only be available to us within Tiree itself until that later date.

Short-term Survey consultation:

We have set up a simple short survey poll to canvass opinion from the community, in addition to reaching out directly to consult with Tiree based business owners and operators. We have been asked to feed in a view by Monday 22nd – three days from the posting of this survey – so please respond quickly! You can complete the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PGWG6PD

If you have only one device but multiple people wishing to express a vote, drop us an e-mail or comment on the page instead as the survey only lets you vote once per device.

Some factors that the TCC members have considered in our own discussion of this:

  • Option A allows an earlier resumption of tourism visits and therefore trade for island based tourism business – with resulting economic benefit
  • Option A allows earlier travel off island for residents – albeit with pretty high restrictions still in effect – which could allow for some family contact (outdoors or limited in public places such as cafés etc). Alternatively family could come here, but they would need to stay in tourist accommodation, and the same restrictions would apply.
  • Option A allows for earlier access to things like travel off-island for shopping for things not available on-island – although note that this will not be practical for most people on Tiree from April 2nd as tourist accommodation for non-essential use does not resume until April 26th.
  • We are only talking about a period expected to be 3-5 weeks. Is it worth adding another layer of restrictions/complexity for the island compared to the mainland for such a short time rather than just being treated the same as the mainland?
  • Option A would have a greater/earlier risk impact on staff who work in service/retail that will be in contact with visitors coming here from the mainland.
  • Option B allows greater freedoms within the island community – but not for travel to and from the island. So those with family and friends here could see more of each other under that option, but not for family elsewhere.
  • Option B is technically the safer option for those who live here with regards to the pandemic – but vaccination levels are increasing steadily, and with the retention of higher restriction level for longer under Option A this safety factor as not as dominant as it was earlier in the pandemic
  • However – if the planned easing of restrictions does not go well and there is a resurgence in cases, or new variants of the virus, etc, remaining more secluded may mean the island could avoid as severe a return to lockdown and some of that risk.

What do you think?

Feel free to register and comment on this post below with your view as well as completing the survey on the two expected options. Please be mindful of our policy on comments

Statement from the estate Factor about use of Tiree beaches

Following discussion of the issue of multiple reports of quantities of material described as “industrial” in some cases being removed from Tiree beaches, and also complaints about potentially dangerous/damaging driving on beaches – it was suggested by TCC at our January 2021 meeting that it would be helpful for everyone to have a clearer sense of what is and is not considered acceptable. There is a general recognition of a need to strike a balance between supporting responsible use for the benefit of traditional industry, tourism and amenity purposes, and potential risks of long-term damage or dangers to the island and people.

The Argyll Estate’s Factor, Hugh Nicol, has subsequently issued the following statement:

Argyll Estates Shorelines on Tiree

 

Argyll Estates has ownership of an extent of shorelines all around Argyllshire including Tiree, Kintyre, Cowal, Lismore, Mull and other parts of Argyll.  This ownership is from the high to the low water mark.

Argyll Estates holds these coasts in trust and welcomes general public use.  No restrictions are imposed by Argyll Estates to responsible access.  As a result, Argyll has remained a county where restrictions on coastline access is virtually nil unless a neighbouring landowner presents a barrier.  This open access is prevalent on Tiree and, together with the beautiful sandy beaches, is one aspect of what makes the Island so special.

A license has been granted on a temporary basis for an operator on Tiree to carry out trials on seaweed fertiliser production.  The fee is nominal.  This has a limit on extraction, is limited to washed up seaweed and the license has specific rules on disturbance to people and nature.  This is necessarily an exclusive commercial license but it does not exclude anyone else on Tiree taking washed up seaweed for their own personal use.

Two local watersports businesses also operate commercially from Argyll Estates shorelines with our approval.  Both operate responsibly and there is no fee.

Should a vehicle park on a beach where there is no safe or appropriate land parking area, if the access route is suitable and no risk is taken to pedestrians or animals, Argyll Estates have no objection to this being exercised responsibly.  Vehicles should not ordinarily use beaches and should travel at crawl speed and no further than necessary.  This includes for launching of boats and the like.  Public safety is always paramount and reckless or dangerous behaviour is always covered by Road Traffic and Careless Driving laws and regulations.  Argyll Estates would expect no motorised vehicle to exceed 5-10 mph at most.

Sand and Gravel custom and practice on Argyll Estates shorelines has permitted farmers and crofters (including common graziers) to take a free ‘de minimus’ amount for their own agricultural use.  To date, in all areas other than Tiree, this has been respected with no issues brought to our attention.  In Tiree it is alleged that large scale extraction, sometimes described as “industrial scale quarrying”, has occurred.  No tangible usable evidence for a prosecution has been presented for this but the number of anonymous voices reporting the matter has given weight to the likelihood that removal by a few has exceeded the de minimus and reasonable personal agricultural use rules.  Without tangible evidence, no action against alleged infringements can be taken.

A good definition of “de minimus” is; “‘too small to be meaningful and of negligible impact’.

On Tiree, there remains many individuals who qualify and the vast majority have always, and still do, stoutly respect the unwritten code permitting responsible use that has existed for centuries.  As an unwritten oral tradition, as was once more common in Gaelic society, the lack of historic written evidence can be an issue.  However, for the avoidance of doubt, Argyll Estates confirms that the permission exists and it has our approval when responsibly exercised.  Argyll Estates recognises the marginal nature of agriculture on Tiree.  We also recognise the benefits it provides which greatly outweighing the collection of and amount of aggregate for legitimate use which is “too small to be meaningful and of negligible impact” on our shorelines.

The permission does not grant carte blanch removal.  Where there is an agricultural requirement for large quantities of aggregates, this should be purchased lawfully.  Tiree has a legitimate licensed source which was specifically created following comment in the past that there was not such a source locally so all sand and gravel had to be taken from the beach.  Off Island sources are of course also available and if demand increases, economies of scale improve.

Nor does the permission allow removal for private use other than directly agricultural.  The road and substructure for a new or refurbished property belonging to a friend or relation of a farmer or crofter is not permitted.  Nor is large scale extraction for bunds or other structural or landscaping use.

Were a resident of Tiree to visit the beach and take a small amount of sand for their private garden use, Argyll Estates, while not expressly granting permission, would be very unlikely to pursue this.

The de minimus allowance is given on trust that it will be used responsibly and should only be used for the crofter or farmers own agricultural use.  Sale of sand and gravel taken without permission would be considered as theft and the purchase of illegally taken goods is also a criminal offence; specifically known in Scots law as “reset”.  Sale or gifting of aggregates removed under this de minimus rule is specifically excluded other than where one farmer or crofter assists another with their de minimus sand and gravel collection for no monetary return.

In the past few years, and with most again this past year, Argyll Estates has engaged with a variety of individuals and we have specifically contacted the following organisations:

  • Argyll & Bute Council
  • Tiree Community Council
  • Tiree Community Development Trust including the Ranger Service
  • Police Scotland
  • Crown Estates Scotland
  • NatureScot (SNH)
  • RSPB
  • Contractors operating in Tiree

While most are sympathetic, it is clear to Argyll Estates that without the people of Tiree assisting and speaking up when necessary, the alleged abuse of the permission by a few can and will continue.  Understandably, no organisation wished to jump in and take on this matter particularly when there is no firm evidence and all individuals reporting an incident wish to remain anonymous.  Most of those in a position to take leadership, while clear and vocal ‘in camera’, in public take a different tack.  Positively however, I do see a stronger confidence forming amongst all involved or interested in this matter.

My hope is that with this matter discussed openly and with “guidelines” set out for this previously unwritten matter relying on responsibility and trust, there is now a better basis to proceed without varying or terminating this ancient tradition.  If there are any who did not understand the gift we share and did not realise that nature itself dictates that it is not an unrestricted and endless entitlement, I hope that this note has helped to clarify matters.  Tiree is an Island community that needs everyone involved to work constructively, respectfully, openly and honestly together.  Without it, more than this valuable tradition may fall apart.

 

Hugh Nicol

Factor, Argyll Estates, 19 January 2021

Downloadable version: Argyll Estates Shorelines on Tiree

Ferry capacity and latest guidance – June 26th update

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.

Reference: https://www.gov.scot/news/further-route-map-detail-announced/

 

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:

Letter Robert Morrison 24.6.20

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:

Dear John,

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.

Regards,

Robert Morrison
Operations Director
Calmac Ferries Ltd

Regarding ferry capacity and tourism during COVID-19

EDIT NOTE: This post and much of the information in it, and the comments made to the post, have now been overtaken by changing events – and much may be obsolete. Please bear this in mind, and we’d encourage comments to be referred to more recent posts rather than continuing discussion here.

Below follows a copy of a letter (emphasis added here to highlight the key points) that the members of the Tiree Community Council agreed to send regarding the situation with ferry capacity and the implications of a potential resumption of tourism to the island this year and, in particular, the impact this could have on islander travel and family visitation. The letter was based on our most recent understanding of expected ferry capacity and restrictions to date (14th June 2020). Note: these could have seen the maximum safe passenger capacity of the Clansman technically as low as 65 for individual travellers, but the latest figure published by CalMac is 86, allowing for some travelling together. The current discussion is to try to move as close as possible to a Winter timetable, but that it is unlikely to be increased to a full summer timetable due to staffing issues and ongoing restrictions and safeguards.

Michael Matheson, MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity
14 June 2020

Dear Cabinet Secretary,

Although Tiree Community Council has been unable to hold a physical public
meeting for two months, our June Zoom public meeting attracted 44 households,
and we believe that, given these constraints, we are able present the views and
feelings of islanders in a broad sense.

It seems clear from the most recent CalMac estimates that there will be severe
capacity constraints on the Oban-Coll-Tiree ferry this summer, even after the
introduction of the winter timetable with four boats a week.
On the one hand social distancing guidelines will reduce the maximum passenger
capacity, while crewing constraints will effectively halve the number of ferries. On
the other hand, there are historic bookings for this summer already accepted by
CalMac – many voided but not cancelled – and a large pent-up demand from
islanders who want to re-unite with their families. While families on the mainland
have been able to see each other to some extent under the Phase 1 easing, this
opportunity has not been extended to Tiree due to the continued emergency travel
restrictions on the ferry.

The most pressing problem we see is that islanders and their families will find it very
difficult to get a ferry booking bookings in the peak season of July and August. This is
due to both historic bookings, and increased demand from new visitors wanting a “staycation”. This could result in islanders and their families effectively being unable
to meet, while having to watch as tourists travel to and from the island.

Our sense is that the large majority of islanders supported the restrictions placed on
ferry travel to date. Indeed, there are many who want to see this continue through
the summer, given that the proportion of elderly in the community is higher than the
Scottish average; that the 653 people on Tiree now welcome over 30,000 visitors a
year; and the fact that infectious disease spreads particularly rapidly in a small
population.

However, tourism is one of the four pillars of the island’s economy, and the likely
reduced ferry capacity must severely impact these businesses’ chance of survival
through the winter. We join others in urgently calling for another round of funding
to support island businesses who are unable to trade their way out of this crisis
because of ferry restrictions that are no fault of their own. We are aware of a letter
to ministers on the same matter from many members of the Tiree business
community.

We recognise that you and other members of the Scottish Government have some
hard choices to make. We would like you to consider cancelling historic CalMac
bookings on the Oban-Coll-Tiree route until demand eases, possibly September. This
would allow everyone to make a fresh start. We also support the temporary
annulment of the contract requirement to honour bookings on a first-come-first-
served basis, and replace this with a managed system to satisfy fairly the competing
demands of essential services and goods, islanders, family and visitors, and also to
adjudicate between the competing demand of Coll and Tiree.

If you live on an island, you live with travel restriction. But what we want to see is a
managed system that is fair to all the competing demands, placing islanders at the
heart of the matter.

Yours sincerely,

Dr John Holliday, Convenor, on behalf of Tiree Community Council
doc.holliday@tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk
cc. Kate Forbes, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance
Michael Russell, MSP

 

UPDATES:

18/06/2020: We have updated the information for max passenger numbers and expected timetable changes at the top of this page due to further information from CalMac.

On Thursday 11th June a group of tourism business owners contacted 34 tourism related businesses on the island asking them to support an appeal to the Scottish Government for further financial support for their businesses over the winter months should the ferry service and capacities were to be restricted over the remainder of the tourist season.

They received 21 endorsements from businesses in the leisure, accommodation, catering , retail and craft sectors. The letter was sent to Mike Russell (SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute),  Fergus Ewing (Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy) and Paul Wheelhouse (Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands)’

This effort was provided with facilitation support by TCC to ensure the voice of businesses was being heard, but sent out in the name of the businesses involved only – is not therefore our letter to share, and we understand the signatories were not asked if it was OK for it to be published openly.

17/06/2020: Here follows an excerpt from First Ministers Questions at Scottish Parliament on 17th June:

  • 5. Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): 

    To ask the First Minister whether she will provide an update for island residents who wish to book ferry tickets. (S5F-04228)

  • The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): 

    We are working with ferry operators to identify measures to ensure passenger and crew safety when travelling, while observing 2m distancing on vessels. Capacity will obviously be reduced by the measures, but we are putting in place plans to manage that. That work includes consideration of how the booking systems of CalMac Ferries and NorthLink Ferries might be used to help to manage demand. Further details will be available in the transport transition plan and from the operators, as we move through the phases of easing lockdown.

  • Dr Allan: 

    As the First Minister is aware, many islanders have not seen family members on the mainland since March. They have strongly supported the travel restrictions, but are now anxious to know that they will, whenever it is considered safe to change the current travel advice about ferries, have the opportunity to book what will be a very limited supply of ferry tickets, perhaps on a priority basis. Can the Government take steps to avoid new pressures on reduced services and capacity meaning that islanders do not get to see their families until after any tourist season is over?

  • The First Minister: 

    I fully understand how important it is that islanders be able to access the lifeline ferry services on which, of course, they depend for getting to and from the mainland—in particular, to see their families. They rightly want to enjoy the same freedoms that others will be able to start enjoying as we ease out of lockdown. Like all aspects of the situation, that requires careful consideration to make sure that people can move safely and without risk to themselves and others.

    There are practical considerations about safety that mean that capacity will be reduced by the measures that must be in place, which must be managed to ensure that islanders are not disadvantaged. That is a key consideration that CalMac, Transport Scotland and the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, are looking at.

    Crucially, there is, and will continue to be, on-going engagement with island communities to determine the best way forward. The involvement of people who actually live on our islands, including Alasdair Allan and his constituents, is absolutely key.

Scottish Government looking for ideas of how to overcome the challenges of COVID-19

The First Minister announced a website set up by Scottish Government seeking input on a “framework for decision making” in response to COVID-19. Individual members of the public and community groups and organisations can submit ideas.

This includes proposed changes and options about:

  • staying at home
  • visiting other households
  • resuming care and support for those most affected by the current restrictions
  • businesses that have been subject to restrictions or closure
  • allowing pupils to return to school

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon emphasised the need for transparency when she launched the framework and invited the people of Scotland to engage in this conversation to help us take the next steps to navigate to a new normal.

Our first public meeting of the Community Council since this situation began was held on May 6th, and the deadline is on May 11th so there is little time left for TCC to develop a full response to this on behalf of the community – but we are looking at doing what we can. However we’d encourage anyone with thoughts to submit these as an individual:

The site can be found here: https://www.ideas.gov.scot/covid-19-a-framework-for-decision-making

Updated advice leaflet for safe use of Tiree’s roads

The TCC has recently undertaken to update the excellent “Tiree: Welcome to the Island’s Roads” advice leaflet aimed at informing road users, especially visitors to the island, how best to stay safe and keep others safe when using our predominantly single-track roads.

The main changes relate to updating the guidance in relation to cycling, as there was some feedback that this needed amending, as well as updating to reflect improved official guidance and law regarding cyclist safety.

With thanks to the various people who volunteered their time to give input to this, the final draft will be going to our February meeting for sign-off before being published. Comments are welcome to the usual addresses.

Tiree Driving_Brochure 2020 Final Draft

Image of a green landscape - caption "consultation"

Transient Visitor Levy consultation – a Tourist Tax for Tiree?

A consultation is currently open on the subject of giving Councils the power to implement a “Transient Visitor Levy” – i.e. a nominal charge/tax to be paid by visitors to an area for the purposes of tourism, etc, which could then be used to supplement finances to pay for local services and/or development of amenities. The measure is, among other things, intended as a possible way to address the fact that short term holiday lets result in additional load to civic services such as rubbish collection, water, sewerage etc while often not directly (or proportionately) contributing towards the funding of those services, but can also be used as a way to fund other development and improvements.

The TCC briefly discussed it at our meeting last night but there was insufficient time for a detailed analysis, although points that were made included the suggestion that provided such a scheme were implemented in a way which was not overly burdensome administratively to those operating holiday lets it could be of particular benefit to island communities such as Tiree by raising very useful additional funds.

The consultation closes on December 2nd – which means we will not be able to discuss it further at a future meeting before the deadline – therefore we are inviting members of the community to either submit their own responses in an individual capacity, or to e-mail our new Secretary with your views, and we will aim to submit a consolidated response on behalf of the Community Council that covers the input we receive.

The consultation can be found here:
https://consult.gov.scot/local-government-and-communities/visitor-levy/