It has been an interesting few weeks for Tiree Community Council. We have seen a bit of discussion within the island, off-island and especially here on our website, concerned with the news about the limited capacity that will be available on the MV Clansman on the Oban-Coll-Tiree route due to necessary social distancing measures being imposed onboard. The exact number talked about eventually settled, for now, on 86 passengers – which of course we share with Coll.
Tiree Community Council have spent a lot of our time between our now monthly online Zoom meetings speaking to people wherever it is safe to do so, getting a feel for what the public wishes us to represent on Tiree’s behalf. We have also spent a lot of energy gathering information, and speaking to key people in CalMac and the Scottish Government.
As you are likely aware we wrote a letter (published on our website) to Michael Matheson MSP, The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, calling on him to listen to the particular problems that Tiree could face if all existing bookings on the ferry were to remain in place, greatly exceeding the expected capacity. We have as yet to receive a formal response from Mr Matheson, however our MSP, Michael Russell, assures us that our letter has been well received, and that he has discussed our letter with the Minister Since then, new changes have been announced, and we immediately saw new potential issues with the policy, and have therefore just met with Michael Russell MSP to discuss how the new policy will work for Tiree – which cannot currently be visited for single day trip by ferry. We maintain regular contact with CalMac officials.
There have been one or two characterisations of our letter as implying “No tourists welcome on Tiree” – this is simply not accurate. Central to our decisions has been our overriding determination to place islanders at the heart of the matter. This means that we are encouraging Transport Scotland to give CalMac the necessary consents to “introduce a managed booking system that will satisfy fairly the competing demands of essential services and goods, islanders, family, visitors, and also the competing demands of Coll and Tiree”. We made it clear in our letter – and copied our request to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance – that the island’s businesses need further financial help to tide them through the year: they simply cannot trade their way out of this crisis in the way mainland companies are now able to.
Notwithstanding these efforts, there has been some recent negative, and in some cases hurtful comments regarding the competence, impartiality, and democratic awareness of the current Community Council – allegations which we totally refute. Each voluntary member of the Community Council is keenly aware of their obligations regarding high standards of selflessness, impartiality, and governance. We believe that we maintain these standards, and that it is not reasonable to expect as some have demanded that we log and account for every phone call, e-mail, message or conversation that each of us has in order to prove it. We have done everything we can, and our role requires us to exercise our sound judgement. Should any member of the public disagree with our conduct that is of course their right, and there is a formal complaints procedure available. Alternatively, there will of course be elections taking place at some point to form the next community council which would allow anybody the opportunity to put their own name forward and work for the Tiree community.
To the many members of the community who have contacted us, or commented, to offer their support to the work that we do and have done here – thank you.
In amongst all the recent focus on the details of whose rights are more important and how to prioritise travel between island residents, their families, second home owners and tourists we should not lose sight of the fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic which continues to cause illness and death. Keeping the people of our community healthy and safe must surely be the first priority of Tiree Community Council, and we hope that we can all work together to this end.
We will now continue to focus our efforts and energies forward, as the situation continues to develop quickly – a new statement concerning the latest things we have learned including at our recent meeting with Michael Russell will be published shortly, and updated at our next meeting – taking place at 7pm on Wednesday July 1st