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

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

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
cc. Kate Forbes, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance
Michael Russell, MSP



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.

44 thoughts on “Regarding ferry capacity and tourism during COVID-19

  1. Annine MacLean

    Our family, who have to come from Northern Ireland, are booked on the15 July ferry. Should this booking be honoured as we are both elderly and my husband is in the shielding category?

    1. AdminTCC Post author

      Hi Annine, it depends on where we’ve got to with the easing of lockdown by that point, which depends on how well we’ve controlled the outbreak here by then – but the point we are raising in the letter is that if all the tourism bookings are by that point allowed to go ahead we’re looking at a massive over-booking of the ferry capacity that will be available.

      1. Ian G

        Hi Annine. Also, there is actually no ferry Oban-Tiree that matches your family booking on 15th July. I think this is CalMac’s major problem, as many of the existing pre-booked journeys do not match the current emergency lifeline, or the proposed modified winter timetable. I believe current advise from government is that those in the shielded category will remain so until 30th July. Whatever the Oban-Tiree schedule ends up being, the social distancing requirements on the Clansman are going to mean vastly reduced capacity, and so what TCC Admin says above is correct, that there is a far better chance of islanders, family and friends being able to travel if we revert to an even playing field.

    2. Robert Trythall

      TCC letters to states :_
      even after the introduction of the winter timetable with four boats a week.

      Tiree’s winter service is 5 services /week

      Has TCC made a mistake or has CalMac advised TCC that Tiree will have be a 4 service t/table on intro of Phase 3 ?

      1. AdminTCC Post author

        Hi Robert,

        That was indeed incorrectly worded, what was meant to be referred to was the “move towards a winter timetable” of four boats a week – which is what CalMac have said is currently being proposed.

        1. Robert Trythall

          What has got lost in this ‘ debate has been the ferry reality that Tiree is being offered for this summer ,and the foreseeable future.

          Currently that will be 4 sailings /week and maximum 4X86 = 344 passengers/week

          To those who attended TCC’s May Zoom meeting will be aware that CalMac advised Tiree ‘s passenger capacity ie the Clansman would be reduced to possibly below 100/sailing with a move to a Winter service . I assumed ‘move’ meant from 7/8 down to possibly 5 services a week but certainly not less than 5!!

          At the June meeting Tiree’s CalMac Community Board representative reported on how CalMac was calculating capacity. It was a job in progress. I made the specific point that major European ferry companies had adopted the POD principle ie a family to self -distance,as opposed to each individual in the family to self distance from each other. Adopting the POD principle other European ferries Co’s are achieving 50% capacity(basis 2m social distancing) , and 70 % ( basis 1m )

          Subsequently at SG’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (10 June ) Robbie Drummond ( CEO CalMac ) submitted in evidence:-

          Quote : Implementing physical distancing of 2 metres throughout our operations will reduce the capacity of our fleet on average to 17% of normal passenger capacity and 91% of car deck capacity. Reducing physical distancing to 1 metre would double the passenger capacity. Unquote

          CalMac subsequently advised TCC the Clansman would be reduced to 65 passengers. When I sighted CalMac’s report to the CalMac Community Board it stated 86 pax,and the service reduced to 4/week . I asked Robbie D for clarification, as 86 Pax was well below the 17% . RD rightly pointed out to me that 17 % was a fleet basis, not individual ferry, but indicated the POD principle had now been embraced . This explained the increase from 65 to 86 , but his explanation of CalMac’s application of the POD principle was bizarre:-

          Quote :When determining our capacity, we assumed that 33% of our passengers would travel in pairs, where there is no need to physically distance. The remainder of passengers would need to distance. This may seem a conservative assumption, but it is accurate when we look at the data in our reservation system. Looking at the Coll/Tiree service, our system currently shows 94% of passengers traveling on their own. This number looks at reservations only and excludes Commercial Vehicles, a category that normally travels solo as well.  We will keep this assumption under review, and we will change it if the make-up of passengers travelling under the current circumstances is different Unquote

          Please study his statement as it explains why Tiree is being offered a draconian reduction in capacity when self evidently with 65 PODS( I assume that was the original calculation) then up to 250 pax, at least, could ,possibly be accommodated .

          RD also advised quote ‘ In order to manage our new capacity, we will make all routes bookable. Our booking system is not agile enough to adapt to changes in travel behaviour in real time.’unquote

          My conclusion
          (1) Capacity has been calculated on a wrong premise , latent increased capacity exists.
          (2) CalMac’s reservation system is not fit for purpose .

          A peripheral issue is that Tiree in being offered only 4 services/week .This is the biggest reduction (50%) in weekly summer sailings of any route in the CalMac network.

          To put this in further perspective, Mull ,via the Lochaline– Fishnish route, is being offered twice the capacity on a daily basis than Tiree is being offered on a weekly basis.

          I have asked TCC to convene a meeting of TTF to discuss ferry issues.

  2. Ian Bald

    My concern, it makes no reference to a balanced island economy, which relies on income from visitors each year. This message to CalMac is ‘no island residents, thank you’.
    Whatever Scottish govt’s. recommendations might be to open up the islands, Tiree is saying no, not for us.
    Visitors can chose to go elsewhere & may well continue to do that in 2021. CalMac also needs visitors to the islands on their ferries. Their financial stability has taken a tremendous hit due to 2020’s disaster.

    1. AdminTCC Post author

      Hi Ian,

      The point here is that even if the gates are thrown open to tourists upon the start of phase 3 of the reduction of lockdown, there will never be sufficient numbers possible to salvage the tourist season this year for the vast majority of the businesses which rely on it. So the financial support is essential, either way. The argument is then being made that it isn’t worth it effectively blocking islanders from travel for that period, or for familiy visits to happen here, etc, just to get an amount of tourism that won’t save the economy anyway. The priority must be support for affected businesses to continue and where needed be extended, and to ensure that islanders get at least some of the opportunities to see family and loved ones once restrictions allow it.

      1. Stewart Carr

        I have an interest in an island holiday home and therefore an interest in the resumption of tourist traffic as quickly as possible. However, as the island is now my home, I like many others on the island, wish to travel to and from the mainland with minimum restriction.

        The response posted to Ian Bald, dated 15 June 2020, seems to me to indicate that the current tourist seasonis being written off by the council as worthless with scant regard to what could be salvaged and that whatever could be salvaged would have no tangible benefit on the island’s damaged tourist economy. As a consequence, the response argues, there is no value to be had in blocking islanders and their families from ferry travel.

        This, I believe, is more than a little wide of the mark for the reasons I have outlined below. As written, the response seems to imply to the reader, with no knowledge of the council’s internal discussions, an ill-considered assessment of the consequences for a major pillar of the whole island’s economy and by association the island itself.

        I think no one would argue that the 2020 tourist season has been very badly damaged. However, even a trickle of tourists will bring some income to some hard hit tourist dependent businesses. This may go some way towards fixed costs (loans, maintenance etc.) and in so doing potentially keep some, if not all, affected businesses afloat long enough until matters improve. I suspect, for some owners, the holiday rental market provides a large proportion of, or even the entire annual household income. This is not something to be written off without careful consideration. There IS value in what can be salvaged from the remainder of the tourist season.

        I note in the letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, the island population of 653 and last year’s visitor numbers of 30,000 are juxtaposed in the same sentence. Perhaps not intended, but it does appear to give the impression of overwhelming visitor numbers when considering restricted ferry booking numbers. However, there are factors which apply which, when considered demonstrate that the use of 30,000 figure is inappropriate in the context of that letter. First, I believe this figure is “per annum” whereas the remainder of the season (end of September) is not far away and only a fraction of a year. Phase 3 arrives mid July 2020 at the earliest and therefore the length of the remainder of the season is really only 2.5 months. On a simple pro-rata basis, it would seem we could expect visitors to number 30,000 x (2.5/12) = 6250. This however is still not correct.

        The current number of ferries per week is 3, possibly rising to 4 and then 5 under the winter timetable. From the Councils own preface to the letter, each boat will carry 86 passengers (just uprated from 65) per passage – 2 passages per sailing. That is 2x3x86 = 516 passenger trips per week i.e. 79% of the island population per week.

        Using these numbers it is possible to estimate a more accurate number of visitors. 516 trips x 2.5 months x 4 weeks = 5160 passenger trips, over the remainder of the season. However each traveller uses 2 trips and so in actual fact the maximum number of visitors over the remainder of the season cannot exceed 5160/2 = 2580 visitors. Consequently, the figures which should have been juxtaposed on the letter are 653 islanders and 2580 visitors. Less than 10% of the stated 30,000. Suddenly the numbers are not so overwhelming nor potentially misleading. I think this should be corrected in the letter.

        Looking first at the 79% figure, it seems unlikely that we would have a passenger turnover of this magnitude of trips from islanders and their families alone – personally I think the turnover would be much less but I will concede this is subjective. Consequently, if the council can present any statistics in regard to the likely demand I would welcome the opportunity to see them.

        If a number of passengers from a particular group (islanders and families), equal in number to 79% of the island population, does not use the boat EVERY WEEK from the day travel is again allowed, then Calmac, which is already under the financial cosh, will probably sail with empty seats and the island tourist industry and indeed the island economy itself, will receive no tourist income – at all! If the sailing numbers rise, then this effect becomes worse. To whose benefit is this?

        Has the council considered the ripple effects on the services the island enjoys if the travel restrictions remain in place for a protracted period? Visitors to the island contribute to the justification of the large subsidies to Calmac and Loganair. With visitors, having no island links and dissuaded from ferry use, someone sooner or later will ask why the taxpayer is footing a large subsidy bill for just 653 people. With no tourist visits, island income drops dramatically, job losses follow and people will leave the island in search of work elsewhere. Justification for schools, medical practices and the like will come under scrutiny. How is this in the island’s best interest?

        What consideration been given to the potential damage to the islands commercial image as a place of relaxing beauty with welcoming friendly folk, if it felt by outsiders that they are not welcome here? I would say that reputational damage is already occurring and that really needs to stop if we are to secure the best possible outcome for the island’s future. In my opinion the implications of a policy which seeks to place the tourist sector’s needs entirely second to the travelling needs of the islanders, are far reaching and consequently makes this a very big issue indeed. Surely there must be a better way than taking the approach which seems to be adopted at present.

        I note that the council is advocating (and canvassing for) government support for the tourist industry on the island in order to address the difficulties the policy being pursued in the letter will cause. However, The Scottish and UK governments have already ploughed huge sums of money into the economy in order to support it during the COVID-19 outbreak. Unemployment is starting to rise steeply and the UK is facing the greatest recession since the Great Depression. Does the council really believe money will be easily forthcoming for small businesses in such a small community? I have to say, I am most sceptical and therefore believe the tactic to be unrealistic.

        Despite the arguments I have put, I have not forgotten the needs of those with families who quite rightly should have some form of privileged access to the ferry. Surly it is possible to find a compromise which delivers something to everyone. Could I propose something along the lines of a reserved allocation of bookings for the island community, perhaps in the ratio of 653/2580 = 25% which are held aside for Islanders to book for themselves and their families, but which could be released to the general public, say a week before a sailing. This prevents the bookings by visitors of all seats well in advance of their journey, allows islanders to make bookings only a week in advance of their travel plans, minimises the number of empty seats on the ferry and means that visitors can use seats not used by islanders and their families thereby maximising visitor income and guarantees nobody turns up at the ferry terminal without knowing they have a place on the boat. What’s not to like?

        Could I also propose that greater effort is put to pressurising the licencing authorities to bring ferry passenger transport into line with other forms of public passenger transport and perhaps a review of the use of the ferry car deck policy involving a proper assessment of the actual risks which apply. And I mean a proper assessment of the risks pertaining to the way the ferries on individual Calmac routes operate. It seems to me, Calmac do a sterling job in the safe manner in which they operate and would do well in an honest assessment.

        I think such an approach would appear reasonable to most reasonable people. It addresses the clear needs of island folk and their families while allowing visitors numbers to be maximised to bring some much needed capital here. Common sense really, where everyone benefits in a proportionate manner.

        Doubtless there will be discussion over 25% but at least the principle could be acceptable to all with an adjustment of the percentage, if desired, arrived at by consensus.

  3. Wendy Gladwell

    While I recognize the need to reduce ferry numbers etc I do not see the need for tourists to flock the island. There is nothing open at present for them. I understand that business will be down but everywhere is the same regards hospitality business. I’m a 2nd home owner who never lets the house out. I also have my daughter and grandchildren one of which was newborn when I last seen him at Xmas. I don’t understand why we can’t just have the ferry for islanders, family visitors and 2nd home owners for the foreseeable future. At this rate my grandson will be walking before we see him. I’m booked on for July 18th for 3 weeks but looks like that will be getting cancelled yet again. Please 🙏 think about which bookings you cancel. My daughter has no family on island and needs her mum’s help and support with the children so she can have a break.

    1. Ian Bald

      Seems a strong point, Wendy. We’re in a not too dissimilar situation.
      It seems that where we are now in Scotland with the virus, the risks have diminished considerably. The virus also, like others as far as I understand, will always be around – OK a vaccine will be available.

      In the meantime, people travelling to Tiree could have themselves tested, if islanders would feel safer. Everything is about ‘risk assessment’, even stepping out the door is a risk!

  4. Robert Trythall

    I note you state the foll:
    these would see the maximum safe passenger capacity of the Clansman at 65, with the number of sailings seeming unlikely to be increased to a full summer timetable. due to staffing issues and ongoing restrictions and safeguards.

    As CalMac briefed TCC ( May ) and Scottish Govt ( 10 June ) that passenger capacity would be reduced to 17/18% ergo approx 107/113 passengers for the Clansman please ask your source to clarify these figures.

    These figs do not accord with car carrying estimates ( ie reduced to 90% ) ie approx 80 . Also given to SG (10 June ). As it implies that car capacity incl driver is reduced to 65 cars with no additional car passenger and no foot passenger capacity

    Clarification is urgently required

    1. AdminTCC Post author

      Hello Robert,

      The 65 figure came more recent communications we received from CalMac on June 11th – they are still saying it is under discussion but that is the most recent estimate available to us at the time of writing.


  5. Stewart Carr

    I would like to ask why the council considers it has a mandate for this letter. I contest the assertion made in the first paragraph of the letter, that the online presence of 44 households at the last meeting, allows the council to claim that it believes “we are able present the views and feelings of islanders in a broad sense.”
    The June 2020 meeting, referred to in the Council’s letter was indeed well attended online. I and my partner were amongst the number. My recollection of events is that from the pool of households connected online, only a few persons who were not council members actually tendered their views about the various issues on the agenda. I would estimate, conservatively, that those persons who did voice any opinions would jointly represent about 1 to 2% of the island population. Therefore on a purely numerical basis, I fail to see (a) how online connection numbers can in any way be considered to demonstrate any particular viewpoint and (b) the limited number of speakers can in any way be considered representative of the opinions of the island community. Consequently, I consider the council’s claimed belief to be invalid.
    In my opinion, those who spoke on behalf of the business owners on the island were equal in numbers to those with alternative agendas. I saw no overwhelming opinion or even a general leaning in favour of preferential ferry travel during the course of the meeting.
    Further, no poll of those attending was taken. Nor was there any mention of other efforts to establish the views of the community. I therefore see no proper democratic process at work here nor do I see compliance with the requirements of the Scottish Government publication: Community Councils: Model Scheme for Establishment: Section 3 which outlines the role and responsibilities of community councils. I quote:-
    “It is essential that these views (the views and concerns of local people in the council’s area) be demonstrated to be accurately representative of the community. Accordingly, the community council will have in place, in consultation with the local authority, recognised consultative mechanisms to validate their views and devise strategies to secure greater involvement by all sectors of the community.”
    The council has not, in my opinion, demonstrated that it has reasonably established what the true views of the island community are on this matter, and in failing to do so, has failed in its remit to be accurately representative of the community.
    Could the council provide its justification for the letter and demonstrate how it has met its obligations as outlined above?

    1. AdminTCC Post author

      Hello Stewart,

      We considered very carefully what we should do regarding this matter, and felt the situation began developing quickly. We felt under time pressure to act quickly lest we miss the chance to have an impact entirely. In response to your question we offer the following points:

      – The members outlined the direction they were thinking on this during the meeting, and the implications. When given the opportunity to object to this we did not feel there was overall opposition from the members present, and the voiced contributions during the meeting were also added to by several text based comments in the meeting chat, where there was support expressed.
      – Numerous further opinions were gathered via direct conversations members of the CC had with other members of the community separately to the meeting
      – Time was limited, as was capacity to create and conduct a more thorough survey. The CC members are all volunteers who are all dealing with their own lives and the challenges all of us are facing right now, as well as our jobs and childcare in some cases
      – by arranging meetings by Zoom we are already doing a lot better than many CCs across the country in facilitating opportunities to participate, and we have always been available to contact by anyone via our website, Facebook page, and our publicly posted e-mail addresses. Indeed we have had communications through those channels in support of the position we have taken here.

      – Regarding the Community Council scheme rules – the Council has issued an acknowledgement that CCs will struggle under the current circumstances to gather views as easily as would normally be expected:
      To quote from the email we were sent by the Local Council Governance Officer two weeks ago:

      “4.       Urgent Decisions – We appreciate that regular meeting patterns are disrupted given the current government restrictions in place for public meetings arising from the Coronavirus pandemic hence face to face meetings business meetings involving your communities cannot take place.  Where an urgent decision is required, and where you have measures in place to conduct consultation with the wider community, virtual meetings or consensus views reached by email will permit a representative response to be submitted.”

       – while we would have liked to have been able to gather views in a more comprehensive manner and did consider doing more towards that, we felt we had enough of a sense of where people’s priorities were to act and as said above felt the need to do so had become urgent compared to how long we felt it would take to carry out such action. That is a judgement call we had to make in the same way that other elected representatives (Local Council members, MSPs, MPs, etc) have to from time to time  – i.e. use our best judgement at times on what is in the interests of the people we were elected to represent based on what we know at the time. None of the members of the TCC, all of whom have links in the community of various kinds and some of whom are regularly in contact with a great many people, have as yet found any reason to think there is a significant group opposed to this position – far less anything coming anywhere near a majority.

      If we do start getting a lot of contacts and views from people in opposition to the position we have taken above, we would of course take that into consideration in forming any future representations we make on this subject. If you’d like to get in touch with us directly to explain your concerns with the position and ask for us to consider alternatives we’d welcome that, and the same goes for anyone else in the community.

  6. Stewart Carr

    Many thanks for the quick response. While it provides much background information it does not really address the democratic issues which I have raised and indeed gives cause for further doubts regarding the council’s mandate and now also its processes in this matter.

    My first question following your response would be how many texts did the council receive during the meeting, my second would be what was the balance of the opinions expressed in those texts and my third would be why, if such texts were to be used to inform council policy, were the attendees at the last meeting not informed that such texts were arriving and that they would be so used? Such information may have prompted greater levels of correspondence at the time. The communications which are referred to later in the response, were they slightly weighted in one direction or heavily weighted? Did the islanders that approached have tourism related businesses or did they have no business interest in tourism or even an aversion to tourism? Was there any attempt to ensure balance in the information gathering process? The apparent lack of transparency and due process is greatly concerning.

    The response gives no hard numbers. Terms like “several texts”, “Numerous further opinions” and “communications” are undefined and not appropriate to this discussion. If the numbers were 5 or 6 then they hardly affect the percentages proffered in my previous communication. If they were in the hundreds and weighted in favour of one option, my original question would have been entirely answered. Since no detail has been forthcoming, I can only assume the numbers are small and not demonstrably, and accurately, representative of the community.

    If time was limited, why did the council not canvas the largest attendance they had had in some months (years?). It would have been open, transparent and would have added to the other input sources described. I note the council had 11 days between the meeting and the date of the letter. Given that the council was about to set the needs of families against the needs of local businesses, a fairly major issue I think all can agree, could the council not have posted notices around the island (or even on the council web site), inviting comment by email? It is this lack of due process that I am questioning. So far, I have received no clear answer.

    I am surprised at the suggestion that the council acted on a “sense”. Given the legitimacy doubts I have raised, the undisclosed balance of opinion, the undisclosed number of communications and the unknown nature of the personal interests of those approached, it is not impossible that the “sense” referred to could easily have attained an unintended bias. A “sense” is simply not demonstrable or transparent and given the potential for unintended distortion, is not democratically acceptable.

    Notwithstanding the guidance provided by the Local Council Governance Officer, the obligations incumbent on the council remain in force and action by intuition, potentially affecting people’s livelihoods, is simply not justifiable.

    The invitation to get in touch is appreciated. I think however this matter is best dealt with on an open forum where it is transparent and people can see the arguments and make up their own minds as to what is as it should be, and what is not.

    In conclusion, I remain deeply concerned that my question has not been answered and that other matters of a related nature have come to light. I therefore ask again. Could the council provide its justification for the letter and demonstrate how it has met its obligations as outlined in my previous correspondence?

    1. Yvonne Lancaster

      In our opinion, as business owners on the island, Stewart is correct in his dissection of what appears to be TCC’s clear subversion of the democratic process clearly outlined and what could be seen by external onlookers as the promotion of undemocratic and possibly personal agendas and views proffered as an island view. As business owners we were never contacted at any point by TCC in regard to this matter, and through conversations with other business owners, we are not alone in this. TCC has a clear and defined remit to ensure the democratic process laid down is adhered to. It is imperative that the letter issued is rescinded and an apology is issued for their actions. This possibly brings into question the competence of TCC in its current form which in turn may be harmful to the island’s standing. We would ask that TCC fully answer, without rhetoric, all of Stewart’s questions.

      1. Ian G

        I find Yvonne Lancaster’s arrogant, snide comments extremely offensive. I certainly do not need, nor will I accept any lecture from Yvonne Lancaster on my record of public service in Tiree, my competence as a current and past Councillor, or my democratic obligations and responsibilities. Before making any demands and/or posting rash and insulting remarks, Yvonne Lancaster should perhaps consider what efforts she has made to make Tiree Community Council aware of her particular problems and issues? Also, before indulging in any further bouts of gratuitous insults, Yvonne Lancaster might also question herself as to what she herself has done to improve the lives of those in our community, by helping us through a pandemic that is still taking lives Nationwide. If, as I suspect, the answer is nothing, then I would urge her to think of any constructive ways that she can help this community, and even her Community Council, before issuing a full apology to the Tiree community for her previous disrespectful and highly offensive remarks.

        1. Iona Larg

          Dear Ian,

          Can I please, respectfully request, that you remove your reply to Yvonne Lancaster? You cite her comment as arrogant , disrespectful and offensive but in my opinion it is nothing in comparison to what you have written.
          Tensions are high for many of us at the moment and there are many pressing issues that have to be discussed, TCC has created a platform for people to enter into those discussions in a democratic way.
          I can see that TCC process has been called into question and that as a committee you may find this offensive. However, as a democratically elected body, who are in position to represent the views of the people within this community , I do not think it is a role that should expect to go unchallenged . After all, the very act of being a democratic body should encourage process to be challenged, if there is perceived reason to do so.
          The role of the TCC is to represent those who live in this community, not just the majority, not those who have been on the island the longest , not those who are perceived to contribute the most, not those who are the most ‘local’ or who have the same beliefs and views as this council .
          As you know Ian , I have disagreed with the position taken by the community council probably more than I have agreed with it; and I also know, from personal experience, the hideousness of being pitched against the majority and the impact that can have. Surprisingly , I still believe in local council democracy despite its challenges.
          I do not believe that resorting to personal insults should ever have a place in this process , it undermines the position of the TCC and I can only imagine has been extremely hurtful to Ms Lancaster. Why you have chosen to respond in such an inappropriate manner is astounding.
          As a co opted Councillor, of great experience and value to many within the community, I urge you to reconsider your reply.
          Regards, Iona

          1. Ian Bald

            Just to clarify Iona, assume you refer to another ‘Ian’ & not myself!

            A lot of ‘replies’ flying around, with many different interests being expressed. So, thank you again TCC, for your listening ear, patience/wisdom plus all you are doing.
            Ian (BALD)

        2. Sian Milne

          Dear Councillor, Following Stewarts comments and questions about how TCC reached their position on the ‘most pressing problem’ I am still waiting to see some evidence of this collection and assessment of this majority viewpoint of the Tiree community as represented by TCC. I am not referring to a retrospective survey in the coming weeks or gathering opinion now in this forum, but the methodology used at the time, when writing this letter on behalf on the community. Im still waiting for some clear feedback on this. It does seem to me that the only mandate is that from the 21 businesses (of which Yvonne’s business is one) but which was then not prioritised in TCC s own representation to Scottish Government.

          Perhaps as a councillor can give some guidance to which people are allow to give feedback to TCC without this kind of hurtful response? Do they have to have lived here for a certain period of time (how long?), performed community service (how much?) or not be a woman (why didn’t you respond in this manner to Stewart, is perplexing)… How does all this lead to an inclusive and happy community (which we all want) where EVERYONE should be treated equally? As a democratic body you should be encouraging engagement not attacking someone who does not share your viewpoint.

          Thank you for all the work the TCC does normally and I appreciate many of you give up your free time to do so and its commendable. However it’s crucial on matters such as these (which could impact the way tourism is viewed on Tiree) TCC needs to have a watertight process in gathering community views and then representing ‘the most pressing issue’ (which is not mine) at Government level. I cannot support or condone this response because Yvonne has made some observations about the methodology of TCC and is seeking clarification, particularly from a Councillor, it’s quite shocking Thank you Sian

        3. Yvonne Lancaster

          Dear TCC. Thank you for the taking the time to reply. It feels slightly bizarre to be singled out amongst a number of similar calls, and even more bizarre to be juxtaposed against the Tiree Community. As a permanent resident of Tiree I AM Tiree Community and my voice is one of many that the TCC have pledged to represent without bias. As a female running a business, I am a minority voice. On the one hand the TCC ask for views from the whole community and seek to ensure all sections of the community are part of the debate, yet on the other, the TCC make a direct attempt to chastise women in the community, like me, for speaking up. I was one of the signatories on the letter from local businesses to the TCC. That open letter represents my “particular problems and issues” perfectly clearly. Therefore, I can only read this reply from the TCC as an attempt to side-line the conversation in order not to answer the original questions. So, I politely ask you once again, in support of Stewart’s original request, that TCC answer the questions posed in my original reply. Many thanks.

    2. Sian Milne

      I share Stewart Carrs views and would like to support his request for a more detailed response on how the TCC reached their position on ‘sense’. It seems clear that the only formal mandate is the one received by the 21 business owners who asked TCC to kindly represent them. The contents of this letter from TCC, should have only contained information about business support for the unique situation Tiree businesses find themselves in (now further restricted over mainland businesses who can start to trade again) and nothing else. I would also ask that this letter is rescinded and a new letter issued by the TCC representing solely the issue that Tiree businesses now face with no other conflicting speculation. Thank you

  7. Robert Trythall

    I agree in the main with Stewart’s comments .

    As you suggest I will contact TCC directly on this issue as I do not indulge in blog ping- pong

    1. Iona Larg

      Dear TCC , regarding your statement :” 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”
      As a signatory of the letter , I can confirm that I knew it was an open letter – the statement was included in the email to which the letter was attached and distributed to all of the businesses . Can I ask TCC how they came to the “understanding” that the signatories were not aware it was an open letter ? I was well aware from the email that it was an open letter- It was clearly stated and I can also confirm that I have not been contacted by TCC to ask if I thought otherwise . Please confirm how the TCC have come to this ‘understanding’ .
      In addition to the above , I do hope to see a full and clear response by TCC to the important and relevant issues raised by Stewart Carr .

      1. Ian Bald

        I have attended the two (zoom) TCC meetings and was very encouraged. Key off island contributors were involved (benefit of zoom) in the agenda, good discussions, informative and they were wisely chaired.
        Even though I’m not permanently on the island, West Hynish has been my family home all my life. Looking back over the years, we have I would say a good TCC serving the community. Voluntarily giving of their time, providing a strong credible voice on behalf of island people on or off), particularly touching base with external key service providers and government.

        This web site’s ‘Comment facility’, is an important part of good liaison and communications. At times people will disagree, question decisions, approve or not etc. I do trust TCC does not feel too disheartened at times! Seeing the various comments as a check/confirmation that TCC is on course, for the benefit of all.

  8. Stewart Carr

    First, thank you for displaying sound leadership and inviting contributions from the island community. However, I am not sure not that all Islanders will regularly visit Facebook or visit the Council website. Those that do the latter could easily miss the small side panel on the side of the relevant web page – I did myself. In order to raise as much awareness as possible, could I suggest that a notice is also posted in the Community Shop, Coop, Bank and Scarinish Post office? It would demonstrate a real commitment on the part of the council to ensure a proper democratic process.

    If there is a resource difficulty, I will be happy to print and deliver the notices if you provide me with whatever text you wish displayed.

  9. Janette Hannah

    I’d like to thank each and every member on the community council who took the time to help mainland islanders to get home first before tourists to see there families who we haven’t seen in such a long time… you are all doing a great job which my family and I are very grateful for .

    Thank you

  10. Mairi Lyndsey Campbell

    I totally agree with Janette’s comment, I am 100% behind the community council that the ferries should be prioritised to mainland locals for them to see their families on the island first before they open it up to tourists, if it was just opened up to everyone then mainland locals would not be guaranteed to get on due to the limited capacity numbers allowed. I do totally understand why businesses need the tourists but i think it is only fair that you let islanders see their families first during these circumstances. I didn’t join the zoom meeting but I was in contact by phone with the community council and I know quite few other mainland locals that were in contact with them to about our concerns in being able to travel home to see family that we haven’t seen in such a long time. I am totally grateful to the community council for taking their time to help mainland islanders, it is much appreciated!

  11. Ian & Fiona MacLeod

    As former business owners we know how important tourism is to the economy on Tiree, with the reduced number of ferries and the travel restrictions we would not have survived, it would be like having three consecutive winters.
    Because of the restrictions on passenger numbers, more ferries not less are required.
    Why not have some form of testing at ferry terminal, because the island needs tourists and we should welcome them.

  12. Ian Bald

    I’m not surprised to see you confirm that, Ian.
    Off island people have been following this; messages on Twitter, concluding Tiree does not welcome visitors.
    All down the years, I have never come across that before. (neither of course the virus). It’s sad & I feel needs some positive marketing in the current climate, to adjust this perception.

  13. Alison Campbell

    As a Tiree resident and business owner (Rockvale Guest House) I would like to thank Tiree Community Council for all that they do.

    I have no doubt that the majority of Tiree residents would rather have the opportunity to travel on the ferry once lockdown eases or indeed have their own family visit them here than have the space on ferry taken by holidaymakers.

    I do not feel that tourists are unwelcome it is just a fact that the ferry has limited capacity and locals needs have to be put first. As with many decisions it was never going to be possible to please a population of over 600+ with various interests/businesses.

    I am glad that Tiree was able to give a representation of islanders wishes through the Community council.

    It is worth remembering we are still in the midst of a world wide pandemic. Life has changed in so many ways and will continue to do so.

  14. Rosaleen Campbell

    Although I wasn’t part of the zoom meeting I have been in contact with TCC by phone to voice my concerns regarding islanders being able to travel to/ from Tiree to see their families.
    I completely understand that it is extremely important for businesses on the island to be able to try and salvage what is left of the tourist season. However there are many comments on Facebook from residents ( some of which in my opinion are extremely hurtful) that show there are also people who are completely against ANYONE travelling to the island. There are also people on the island that don’t have an opinion either way so that’s 4 groups of people with different options!
    1. Islanders who desperately want to see their family on the island/ mainland.
    2. Business owners who want see tourists.
    3. Residents who are opposed to ANYONE travelling to the island.
    4. Those who have no opinion either way.
    Considering all the different opinions the Tiree residents have I certainly wouldn’t want to be on
    TCC at the moment but as they put at the end of their letter “placing islanders at the heart of the matter” is the important issue. While all of the above people are residents, I think being able to see your grandmother/grandfather/mum/dad/son/daughter/ grandchildren is at the moment the MOST important issue.

  15. Vincent Jackson

    We were hoping to visit Tiree this summer, as we do each year, but I am starting to feel a growing hostility towards tourists which would be a big reason for us not to come to Tiree. I sincerely hope the tourism industry isn’t irrevocably damaged by this stance. Whilst it seems outwardly that concerns centre around islanders/families vs tourism I think there is also an element of fear at play here. I completely understand the fear felt by many regarding life, and the economy, beginning to make roads back to normality – I feel it myself. Having gone through such an unprecedented and unnerving experience (as we all have in all parts of the country) it is difficult to make the transition back to seeing family and friends and interacting with businesses. But, with assessment of risk and sensible precautions these elements of society ALL need to resume. In order for this to happen there needs to be a willingness to think outside the box, there will of course be practical issues to negotiate in the running of CalMac services going forward but being more creative and ‘can do’ in approaching these conundrums will benefit all concerned.

  16. Janice Campbell

    I ageee that the TCC have accurately grasped the “sense” of the concerns and priorities the majority of the community have in the current situation, and appreciate the work they are doing on our behalf.

    Regarding the comments made by Mr Carr quoted below:

    “Has the council considered the ripple effects on the services the island enjoys if the travel restrictions remain in place for a protracted period? Visitors to the island contribute to the justification of the large subsidies to Calmac and Loganair. With visitors, having no island links and dissuaded from ferry use, someone sooner or later will ask why the taxpayer is footing a large subsidy bill for just 653 people. With no tourist visits, island income drops dramatically, job losses follow and people will leave the island in search of work elsewhere. Justification for schools, medical practices and the like will come under scrutiny. How is this in the island’s best interest?”

    These comments and this general attitude is extremely disrespectful and insulting to Tiree and its community. The transport services serving Tiree are “lifeline services”, justified by the community’s need and entitlement to be connected to the mainland. Tourism here is welcome and it provides a vital income for many, but to suggest that this island is defined by this, and that without it its people would be considered so invalid and its way of life so insignificant, is offensive.

  17. Dot Sim

    During this unprecedented time we are all suffering in some way, whether it be from:-
    – not seeing anyone – people who are alone and shielding
    – fear of illness – those who are anxious and vulnerable
    – not seeing our families and friends – most of us
    – exhaustion from overwork – health professionals, carers, key workers, teachers, parents etc
    -loss of income – most businesses

    There are no easy solutions that will please all, and I apologise if I’ve missed anyone out, but most people, including TCC are trying to do their best, so let’s all just at least try to be kind to each other, and put our energies into finding constructive solutions to our almost unique situation.

  18. AdminTCC Post author

    At the request of the author we are posting the following letter we received by e-mail here:

    To whom it may concern,

    I am writing to thank the Community Council for their recent letter in relation to ferry capacity, and in particular to thank them for putting residents at the heart of the matter.

    This a difficult issue, and trying to balance the needs of businesses with the needs of our permanent population is not a task I envy them.

    I think it is particularly worth noting that as a community we elect our community council to speak on our behalf. They are given that mandate, as councils are across the country. We may not always agree with what is said on our behalf but the mandate in a democracy does lie with our elected representatives. In this case those representatives are volunteers who give their time for nothing and often take a hefty amount of criticism for doing so.

    I am aware, as indeed most of us are, that it is important to reopen our economy, be it the country economy or the island economy. Few would disagree. Steps are being taken to do that – here as elsewhere. As a resident and business owner who was not in fact consulted personally about either letter, I am far better disposed to gradual easing, and a focus on what the community here requires to keep them safe as we re-open, than lobbying to increase ferry capacity in an effort to jump start a season which is already lost.

    More capacity on ferries will no doubt happen as things continue to ease. It remains the case that capacity will be reduced for sometime yet and the better half of the season is gone.

    Adding additional funding over the backend of the year and into next, for the worst affected island businesses, would be a drop in the ocean of the ever increasing covid response costs. Getting that funding, in recognition of our short season, would be a battle worth fighting and I was pleased to see it raised in the TCC letter.

    It is frustrating to watch, yet again, energies that could be aligned and additive, instead being directed at sniping about procedure and undermining our elected representatives.

    I don’t always agree with everything they say, but on this occasion I am more than happy to lend the community council my support, and to thank them once again for giving up their time – freely as many others have been doing in the past weeks – to try and keep our community safe.

    Rhoda Meek

  19. AdminTCC Post author

    At the request of the author we are posting this other letter we have received by e-mail:

    To Tiree Community Council
    As a resident and business owner on Tiree, I am writing to thank the Community Council for
    their recent letter in relation to ferry capacity, and in particular to thank them for
    putting residents at the heart of the matter.
    I understand that they have received criticism for the letter and have been accused of being
    undemocratic. It is always difficult to put forward a view that will please everyone but I
    believe the community council have taken a fair approach, representing not just those who
    speak loudly at meetings but also those who contact or speak to councillors directly. Not
    everyone feels confident of speaking out at meetings even if they are via zoom. The
    community council is elected to represent the community and make representations on our
    behalf. As an elected body they have a democratic mandate. It is not possible to take a
    public poll on every issue and I do believe that in the past when they did take a public poll
    they were criticised for this.
    I agree that given the limited ferry capacity over the next few months that consideration
    needs to be given to island residents being able to leave the island to visit family and family
    to visit them. I fully appreciate the importance of the tourism sector to Tiree’s economy but it
    is just one sector, presumably the fishing businesses and crofting businesses as well as the
    building firms to name but a few also need access to space on the ferry. Asking for current
    bookings to be cancelled and an open system seems a very sensible approach.
    Balancing the demands of the various parts of Tiree’s community cannot be easy but it is
    important that residents do not feel marginalised.
    My entire income comes from Tourism related businesses (Tiree Chocolates and holiday
    lettings) so I know full well how hard the sector has been hit. I have run these successful
    businesses for 15 years and worked in the tourism sector on Tiree before that. I cannot
    comment on the letter sent on behalf of businesses as I have not seen it and was not
    contacted for my views or support. It is my view that there is little that can be salvaged from
    this year’s season given the obvious ferry capacity issues and feel that seeking additional
    financial support for the tourist sector is again a sensible approach.

    I would like to thank the Community Council for the work that they do and all the volunteer
    time they give for the community, especially in these difficult times.
    Kind regards
    Jo Vale

  20. Catriona MacLennan

    I am indeed glad to read the most recent posts which are constructive, supportive and kind. It is very disheartening to read the earlier ones in particular from Stewart and Yvonne which are very negative, insulting and pedantic. I would like to point out that women in business are actually in the majority on this island and not the minority. TCC have my full support and please try and be nice and respectful to our island volunteers. Our ferry & air services are our lifeline, no matter the number on our island, and during this Pandemic it has been so noticeable how true this is. Keeping us all safe, fed and providing an exceptional service to our Community. The sustainability of our island are the people that live here and from that everything grows, being so rude certainly does not help for a happy community.
    Catriona MacLennan

  21. Angus John MacKechnie

    I have just had brought to my attention the replies to this letter and I am disgusted by some of the comments that have been sent to the community council complaining about the content of the letter.
    We are extremely lucky to have such a good hard working group of VOLUNTEERS who dedicate their time to serve this community! I am a local who’s business heavily relies on the tourism industry but feel that the health and lives of the elderly and the vulnerable outweigh the income that I could have had this season! As someone who is a key worker and is in first contact with these tourists, I’m put in a difficult position to then be able to mix with my own family members who are shielding, elderly & in vulnerable categories.

    We have now been informed that our children are lucky enough to all be going back to school full time in August. If we have an outbreak of COVID due to an influx of tourists this could have a detrimental effect on this going ahead!
    There are so many other factors to consider when you start to open up the island to tourists.
    I fully understand there is a fine balance between opening up the economy and protecting the health of island residents so therefore feel that the criticism towards the Tiree Community Council has been very unfair especially under the current circumstances.

  22. Jacqui Bennett

    I fully agree with Rhoda and Jo, above.

    I can’t word it better, myself. But I will say thank you to our *volunteer* community council. I know they work many more hours than just the zoom meetings, and I thank them all for their time, thought, and effort.

    Personally, I would very much like to know that those of us wanting to get off island for a while, or have family up, can have some sort of reassurance that this will happen. I’m not saying “ban all tourists”, I know they are an important part of the island economy (along with crofting, fishing, and other business). I’m just asking for some space to allow us to do what they will soon be able to do on the mainland, and actually be physically close to family again.

  23. John Campbell


    I would like to thank you all for the valuable voluntary work you carry out on behalf of the island, especially during these exceptionally challenging times and fully support you on this unprecedented matter. Additionally, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Ian Gillies and Dr John Holliday for their valued and tireless contribution to the Tiree community from as far back as I can remember.

    TCC’s efforts to support islanders reunite with family as a priority as lockdown begins to ease is greatly appreciated not just by myself but many others.

    As a ‘mainland islander’ I also have concerns about visiting family on Tiree due to the risk of transmitting the virus and like many others will be extremely cautious taking all precautions on future visits home.

    Balancing the impact Covid may have on the health of the local community if in transmission on the island; the need to reunite families, support the island economy and with the island having a number of different views on a way forward is a great challenge and I would like to commend you all on the job you’re doing.

    It is really encouraging to see the level of support TCC are receiving from residents, mainland Tirisdich and also from many local business owners including Alison, Rhoda, Catriona, Jo and AJ.

    Hope everyone at home on Tiree is well and staying safe.



  24. Duncan Castling

    As an ever evolving Tiree business since 2006 we are happy to fully support the unenviable work of the TCC volunteers. Their time and commitment to our community is something we should treasure in the most difficult circumstances we are in. For anyone to whinge about trivialities there is an answer. Volunteer and do something for the Tiree you claim as your own. Put up or shut up? Duncan (mainly) and Polly (please don’t)

  25. Karl Balevullin

    TCC & Island Community, Day 97 .

    The Island is taking tentative steps to a perceived form of “ normal “… but the fact remains that nothing will return to normal until we feel our families and friends, all are safe again.

    While I completely understand the Tiree based business community’s need “with haste” to catch what is left of the years Visitor foot fall.

    Prior to putting the drawbridge down, haste should be tempered with a week or two’s initial priority for Island families / off island families to reconnect with their loved ones… this would also help with the inevitable acceptance (by all who have been on the island throughout the entire lock down) of visitors to our safe Isle( shops etc )

    If I am learning anything from this experience it is that any time shared with family, friends and folk in general is a priceless blessing… COV has not gone away, it’s waiting in the shadows…

    Good luck to pleasing all the people all of the time.

    Thanks to all.



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