Many times over the years, Tiree Community Council has discussed the difficulties islanders face getting a ferry slot during busy periods.
Mull have been working to convince the Scottish Government and CalMac to find a way to give islanders fair access to ferry space, when so much of it is booked months in advance by visitors.
The ‘Samso System’ is modelled on arrangements used on the Danish island of Samso that ensure island residents get equal access to ferry space. The Samso ferry company reserves car deck space on every sailing that can only be pre-sold to island residents (or other essential regular users from the mainland like GPs and delivery drivers). They adjust the amount of space reserved for islanders on each sailing, using past carrying data as a guide. This increases the likelihood that islanders will be able to buy a vehicle ticket on the sailing of their choice, and helps to make ticket availability more equal, regardless of whether you have booked your ticket months in advance for a holiday, or days in advance for a shopping trip.
More than 700 respondents from Mull and Iona completed an online survey about this, with an overwhelming 95% in support. Coll have also canvassed islanders on the proposal and found a similar level of support.
Mull and Iona Ferry Committee have now met Jenny Gilruth, the Minister of Transport in the Scottish Government. She and Transport Scotland have committed to implementing some kind of prioritisation system on a trial basis next summer. The trial will be on at least one route – Craignure-Oban – but they are open to running on others. Tiree and Coll need to decide whether to apply to be part of this pilot.
We will discuss this at our September public meeting. Let us know what you think.