Category Archives: Community Announcements

Tiree Community Council – June Meeting

Bicycling on Tiree, ferry cancellations and proposals for a new Marine Protected Area around Tiree were three subjects debated at the last meeting of Tiree Community Council before the summer break.

The Community Council recently received a letter from a bicyclist. Tiree’s single-track roads – built for the horse and cart and now used by everyone from crofters hauling seaweed or moving cattle, to joggers, fire engines, cyclists and campervans, including those who are here on holiday and those who call the island their home – usually work pretty well. But we do hear from time to time about incidents, and it seems that some cyclists and some car drivers occasionally rub each other up the wrong way on Tiree roads.

The spotlight fell on the current leaflet about bicycling on Tiree, and the accompanying notice board on the side of the Coop. This advises cyclists to dismount if approached by a car.

This advice was driven by safety: Tiree’s roads look inviting, but they can be hazardous when busy, and in an accident, it’s obvious who is going to come off worse. Councillors felt some guidance was still needed, but that it should be in accordance with the Highway Code.

We will update the material to reflect the fact that all road users on Tiree have an equal right to use the public highway. As a first step, we decided to contact the local policeman and Police Scotland’s Divisional Local Road Safety Partnership Rep to get the most up-to-date advice. In the meantime, we will take down the notice at the Coop. I would be interested in your comments on this issue.

The meeting also discussed the proposal to establish a Marine Protected Area in the Sea of the Hebrides. This extends north to Skye, west to the Uists and south as far as Islay.

This MPA is designed to protect basking sharks, minke whales, productive areas of the sea where two bodies of water meet and mix (so-called ‘fronts’), and something called the Inner Hebrides Carbonate Production Area – in other words, seabed with lots of shells – that generates the shell sand that creates the island’s machair. A proposal to gives the seas around Tiree.

Special status has been in the pipeline since 2014 and is supported by conservation groups such as the Marine Conservation Society. It is not clear at the moment what restrictions this designation might place on island businesses, particularly fishermen. There is a public meeting about this on Tiree on 19 July, and again, I welcome your views.

Earlier in the day, Tiree Transport Forum and members of Community Council had met Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of CalMac, and Robert Morrison, Head of Service Delivery Operations for the company. This was in response to growing dissatisfaction in island communities who felt that their ferries were getting less reliable, with an increasing number of cancellations due to weather and mechanical breakdowns. An in-depth analysis by the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee showed that the Mull ferry cancellation rate was thirty times greater in the winter of 2014/15 that in the winter of 1999/2000 – despite the weather being comparable. The pair disputed these figures, but did admit that the cancellation rate was higher on the Oban-Coll-Tiree route than on other routes in the network. Part of this was due to the fact that the ferries were getting older – the Clansman is twenty-one years old – because the Scottish Government has invested too little in the fleet and the two latest replacement vessels were now held up by mysterious delays at the Fergusson Marine shipyard on the Clyde. But they made the fair points that health-and safety regulations are now much stricter; that there had been a number of serious berthing incidents such as last year’s damage to the Hebridean Isles at the Gott Bay pier; and that their nonstop schedule now meant that ferry sailings could no longer be put on hold for six hours.

We were told that the old scenario where a skipper would ‘give it a go’ is a thing of the past, and the occasional cancellation was the price we would have to pay for journeys that were safer for passengers, crew and cargo. An idea to reserve some tickets for local passengers is unlikely to come to anything, as CalMac’s contract with the Scottish Government means that every passenger applying to purchase a ticket has to be treated equally. We made the point forcefully that lifeline deliveries on a cancelled sailing should be given absolute priority for the next boat. We also argued that many Tiree passengers would prefer that decisions to cancel sailings were not made too far in advance.

We have been promised a by-election to allow us to recruit more community councillors. When this comes round, do please consider putting your hat into the ring. It’s the island flagship and we badly need more crewmembers! The Community Council has applied to Argyll and Bute Council to lease the public toilets in Scarinish and organise their cleaning at no cost to the council. Despite this seemingly attractive offer, the council has not been able to come to a decision as we go to press. We had also applied to Argyll and Bute for an increase in our grant from £400 to £600 a year to allow community councillors to travel to the mainland to attend meetings. This request has been turned down under pressure from larger community councils on the mainland.

Although there will be no public meetings over the summer, your community council remains alive and well. If you have any issues you would like our help with, please contact me.

Future Fuel Provision on Tiree

In April The Trust were approached by MacLennan Motors to say that, as part of Catriona and Harry’s retirement plan, they would aim to stop selling Diesel and Unleaded fuel in 2020.

They fully understand the importance of this service to the island and our economy and they wanted to ensure that if another private supplier does not materialise, the Trust might be able to explore the idea of a community owned service.

After an initial discussion with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and given the timescale involved, HIE offered to pay for a feasibility study to explore whether a community owned fuel service could work on Tiree.

We would like to emphasise that this is purely a research exercise at this stage and the Trust would not want to compete with any private local business that may see this as a viable business opportunity.

The feasibility study went out to tender last week and work will commence over July and August. MacLennan Motors are aware of this study taking place.

Scottish Government Islands Plan Consultation Event

This is Tiree’s chance to have our say on what we want included in the Islands’ Plan and Island Communities Impact Assessments. For those who can’t make it there’s a link below to the consultation online.

The Islands’ Plan and Island Communities Impact Assessments are being brought into force as part of the Islands Act 2018 and are due to be in place by the end of 2019. These 2 items are designed to improve outcomes for all islands’. Progress will be reviewed against targets for the next 5 years at least.

These consultation events are designed to provide Scottish Government with details of what works on islands, the issues which islanders want to be addressed and how outcomes can be improved. There will be 4 people coming to run the event on Tiree, 2 from Scottish Government, including the Islands’ Team lead, and 2 from Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG) who are helping to frame the Islands’ Plan.

The consultation events are designed to be open to the public and to capture the views of all island residents. The events follow a structure so the results from each can be compared and categorised. For once, it’s not the usual “be talked at” type of consultation. The events are interactive and build on participants’ responses to questions on specific areas. They are held in a world-cafe type format where, after an introduction, people discuss, agree and rank their responses to a number of set questions, the top issues from each table are shared with the whole room, discussed and during the process the major agreed issues, possible solutions and requests come to the fore. This allows a wide range of views to be heard and discussed. The process takes about 2 hours.

The Islands’ team are aware that there has been criticism that there has been a fair bit of consultation in the past, with sometimes no feedback. For that reason, each island’s issues arising from the events will be summarised at the end of the event. A report of each event will be emailed to participants shortly afterwards and each island’s report will form part of the Islands’ Plan documentation. These reports will also form a basis for monitoring the Islands Plan’s progress each year. Pictures and some details from events already held on other islands are on the Islands’ Team Facebook page Scottish Islands Team.

The Scottish Government explain: The Scottish Government is running these sessions because they want to understand what works really well on your island, but also the challenges the island community is facing. They’d like to hear from you because this is an historic moment in Scottish Policy, one in which island communities have the opportunity to shape their own future by feeding into the National Islands’ Plan. Your information will be used to shape the National Islands’ Plan so that it responds truly to the wishes, desires and concerns of island communities. Scottish Government and the team supporting the consultation will organise a session that will allow them to develop a sense of the vision and challenges stemming from your island and will get back in touch after the face to face event to be sure that they captured properly the views of those who participated.

Please contact Ann MacDonald or Tiree Trust if you have any queries about the event or would like more information. Consultation link: https://www.gov.scot/publications/ national-islands-plan-islandscommunities- impact-assessmentguidance- consultation/

Milton Harbour Development Update

Contractor George Leslie Ltd arrived on site to begin a major renovation of Milton harbour in April this year.

The works are scheduled to take around 16 weeks and will include an extension to the north and south, raising the height by 1.2m, a new stub pier to give protection from the swell and a new shed on the pier.

We are grateful to Marine Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and The Windfall Fund for committing funds to the development and to the Duke of Argyll for gifting the pier to the Trust.

Spared or Saved?

A&B Council announced on the 3rd of May that an interim contract had been agreed for Coll, Colonsay and Tiree air services,whilst ‘an update on the four-year contract will be provided in due course, once the outcome of the second procurement process has been fully assessed.’

What does this mean? No cessation, but a reduction in the current service, to Wednesdays-only, till 15 October. We have to remember that there was no award under the original tender (Nov 2018) which meant that with no action/ reappraisal the air service Tiree to/from Oban would cease as of 15th May 2019 . Consequently A&BC decided on a second procurement process ie a re-tender to close on 8th May 2019.

The tender was discussed at the recent joint TCC/TCDT meeting with Fergus Murray Head of Economic Development and Strategic Transport at Argyll and Bute Council. He was reluctant to report the outcome of the tender for commercial reasons, by virtue of this interim contract, TCC feels it is reasonable to assume there may be a positive outcome for services continuing after October 2019.

But what kind of service? We have to assume it will be reduced, but to what extent is an unknown. We discussed opportunities for the service, including the possibility that Friday’s Coll Scholar Service could be extended to Tiree, and marketed as an Air Taxi service comparable to rural services in eg NZ. He advised that was for Tiree to take up with whoever was running the service,assuming there would be a positive outcome to the current procurement process.

Hopefully by the next edition of AnT we will have the outcome of A&BC’s second procurement exercise.

Your Phone Box Needs You!

The project to restore our island telephone boxes is ready to start, and all we need is a little help… Tiree Community Council have coopted John Patience to coordinate the project, and we are now looking for volunteers who are interested in being involved in restoring the telephone box nearest to them, or one which they are particularly fond of.

We hope that if enough people are interested, each community will be able to take charge of their own box. We will need leaders, painters, planners, DIYers, dreamers, teamakers and bakers… in short anyone is welcome!

The Community Council Coordinator will work with each team to coordinate replacement parts and paint, to give professional help with electrics, doors and joinery, and provide general guidance and help as it is needed.

Each team will restore its box using a guide that has been drawn up after an extensive audit of the Tiree telephone boxes. Once the repairs are complete, it gets really fun! It will be up to each team to decide:

• What colour the box is

• How it is decorated

• Whether or not it has a theme, a task or a role

• What it does/offers/represents

What about a beach box, a library, a coffee stop, a museum, a mini gallery… The options are endless!

We really hope that this project will not only showcase the incredible skills and enthusiasm of our community, but also that it will ensure that the telephone boxes remain part of our landscape for the foreseeable future.

How do I get involved? Email johnpatience tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk and tell him which box you would like to be involved in helping with. If there is a group of you ready and willing to get involved, so much the better!

Then what? Once we have enough interest, we will hold a meeting for the teams and go through what needs to be done. What about doors, and glass, and electrics, and…? We have written up an action plan for each box, with guidance, and we will make sure that you have help and advice when you need it. We are planning to get professional help for some of the tasks. We won’t leave you stuck!

Who’s paying for this? We are working on raising the funds needed to pay for the items needed to do the repairs.

I don’t want to do any repair work, but I’d like to contribute financially Fantastic! We need that type of help too! Please feel free to email John with any pledges. We anticipate needing to raise £10,000 to complete this project and every little helps.

Tell me more! Sure thing – check out the Tiree Community Council website for the entire project document: www.tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk

Tiree Community Council -April Meeting

A new plan to renovate Tree’s phone boxes; ferry reliability (again); and the effectiveness of the new EE mast at Garraphail were all discussed at length at this month’s Community Council meeting.

John Patience presented a plan that he and Rhoda Meek had developed to do up the eleven K6 telephone boxes that the community council had bought two years ago. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, the project has had a break and the boxes have aged rather ungracefully in the meantime.

John and Rhoda have now re-visited every box, photographed and assessed it, and worked out what repair work is needed and how much it might cost. Their idea is to take the work to the box, rather than uprooting them all to a central workshop. The power supply will be isolated, new hardwood glazing beads fitted and the doors repaired on the island, and the paint stripped and new panelling installed inside. Their central idea is for each township to ‘adopt’ their phone box, providing a local ‘champion’ who will coordinate most of the work locally.

Each township will then decide the box’s colour scheme and what the box then becomes used for: a defibrillator site, (mini) pop-up restaurant or …. Each box will have a panel designed by An Iodhlann with details of the township’s history and culture. The costs? Around £1,000 for each box.

The council thanked John and Rhoda for their impressive report and agreed to continue with the project. Possibly when it is completed, they may be passed to another organisation to look after in the longer term.

There was a detailed discussion about ferry reliability. There has been a good deal of talk about cancellations on the ferry service, and we heard last month from island hauliers what a headache these are causing. Now the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee have produced a report that shows that cancellations on the Oban-Craignure run have risen in the last three winters, and that the Oban-Coll-Tiree route is even worse. They bought weather data from the last twenty years and it appears to show that cancellations were thirty times higher in 2014/5 than they were in the comparably stormy winter of 1999/2000.

The discussion recognised that the ships’ captains and management have a difficult job – none of us take as many risks as we used to, the vessels are older and less reliable, and the same fleet is being asked to do more sailings. We will write our own report for our representative Stewart MacLennan to take to the Calmac Community Board meeting at the end of the month.

The air tender results should be known at the beginning of May. We have been having some useful discussions with Scottish Government politicians and officials to see if we could present a petition to the Scottish Parliament, and we will prepare ourselves in case we get bad news on this front.

Gerard McGoogan has done some interesting research on the new EE mast at Garraphail. We have had conflicting accounts about its effectiveness, and it turns out that it was not working to full capacity yet. Some parts of the island were getting a great signal, but it was still poor in others. There seem to have been issues with relays from the mast on Ben Gott, but some of this may be a simple commercial calculation. We have a new contact with the company and will press to get the very best service for the most number of people before the summer.

The state of the public toilets was yet again brought up. It was felt that Argyll and Bute and the community council needs to get on top of this problem once and for all. We have applied to take them over as community toilets, but our paperwork appears to have gone into a black hole. This will be our number one priority this month.

Dr John Holliday was in the chair, Ian Gillies and Alison Clark were in attendance. Robert Trythall sent his apologies. John Patience has agreed to join the community council under the ‘Skills and Knowledge’ arrangement to supervise the telephone box project.

The next meeting will be on 8 May, both to avoid the bank holiday, but also timed to be after the opening of the Argyll Air Service tender documents.

COMMUNITY COUNCIL BY-ELECTION

Argyll and Bute Council has agreed to hold a by-election for Tiree Community Council now that our numbers have fallen to two elected and two co-opted members. We are not allowed to hold a meeting if there are less than three councillors present. A date has not been set, and the European elections may (or may not!) affect matters. But do get in touch with me if you are interested. It is absolutely crucial that we have a strong council on the island.

Tiree – Coll – Oban Flights To Be Grounded

The island’s air service to Oban is to stop on 16 May.

Argyll and Bute Council, having cut the subsidy it proposes to pay to an operator, has failed to find an airline willing to take the route on at the lower price. Flights to Coll, Colonsay and Islay will also stop. Teachers trying to maintain the link between Tiree and Oban High Schools, patients accessing the Oban hospital, animals on Coll being treated by Coll and Tiree Vets, Tiree companies running their business on other islands and the mainland, and politicians trying to keep in touch with their constituents on Tiree are likely to feel the pinch.

The Argyll Air Service was set up in 2008. Argyll and Bute spent over £8 million on Connel airport to prepare for the new service, as well as building new runways on Coll and Colonsay. They have invested hugely in this enterprise. In addition, the Council has offered a subsidy to any airline willing to run the service, a subsidy that used to be £720,000 a year, which works out at £220 per passenger carried. Other subsidised routes, like those to the Western Isles, work out at around £125 per passenger. One problem is that our service is under-used, with a seat take-up of only 40%. Most passengers are patients going to hospital and health and council workers making day trips.

Argyll and Bute Council are feeling the pinch. They are the second largest local authority in Scotland by area after Highland, and have a hugely spread-out population to serve, including 23 inhabited islands. This must be the main reason that capital spending by Argyll and Bute Council on their residents is the lowest in Scotland. You don’t need me to tell you that! As part of their cuts this year, they have reduced the air service subsidy to just over £512,000 a year – still a lot of money, but not enough to attract an operator within the budget allowed. Fuel prices have also gone up recently, and there is no guarantee that they won’t rise again soon. After a heap of lobbying from Tiree, Coll and Colonsay Community Councils and our MSP Mike Russell, the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee did agree to try again – but with no increase in subsidy.

We have made the point that this second tender must change – otherwise the risk is that we simply get the same result. But EU competition rules means this is a slow business, and even if there is a better response the second time we are looking at the late summer at the earliest before flights could re-start. And there is a significant risk that the Argyll Air Service will be wound up completely – leaving Tiree worse off than islands in the Western Isles, Orkney or Shetland. Tiree Community Council has written three times to the Council and our MSP. We have now lobbied John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, as the new link between Oban and Tiree High Schools must be threatened if the planes are grounded. This is the final paragraph of our most recent letter:

‘Tiree Community Council and the Tiree Transport Forum place the utmost importance on the continuation of the Argyll Air Service. The island is well served with an air link to Glasgow, but Argyll and Bute councillors must not forget that Tiree is part of Argyll and Bute Council, and that our regional centres are Oban and Lochgilphead. Other island groups in Scotland have similar or better air services. We do appreciate the problems in the service as it stands (see our previous correspondence) and we accept that there may be timetable and fare changes in a new successful tender. What we cannot accept is the loss of this service.’

The full text of TCC’s submission is on the website.

Tiree May Lose It

Cast your memory back to the summer, and the August Consultation regarding Argyll Air Services from Oban to Coll, Tiree ,and Colonsay which are subsidised by Argyll and Bute Council (A&BC)

A&BC decided in Feb 2018 to reduce its subsidy to £512,207pa for the new tender period ie 2019-2022. This was a reduction from £720,756 pa from the previous tender period.

Argyll Air Services were put out to tender in Sept 2018. When the tender closed two months later (Nov), only one submission was received. It was rejected, being deemed non-compliant. This sole bid was from the current service provider, HebAIR.

TCC /TTF has not been informed as to the reason(s) HebAIR bid was rejected ,but can only assume the reduced subsidy was a significant factor. In the interim period A&BC has considered options to move forward. After intense lobbying, jointly from Coll,Colonsay and Tiree Community Councils, the Policy and Resources Committee(PAR), at its most recent meeting decided to retender the tender, but under EU tender rules, any resulting positive tender award can only re-commence services from 28 June 2019.

It is unclear, at this stage, what the re-tender will specify , but Tiree has to anticipate that air services to Oban may cease as of 15 May 2019. TCC/TTF has submitted the letter below to all parties ,including Mike Russell MSP ,and hopes for a positive outcome from this re- tender to ensure a prompt re-commencement of Oban air services.

To all parties: Argyll Air Services. We were obviously relieved to hear last week that the Policy and Resources Committee (PAR)decided to re-tender for the Argyll Air Service. We do appreciate the considerable sums that Argyll and Bute Council have spent over the last decade, both on the PSO itself and the running of three airports. We on Tiree place an extremely high value on this service for the reasons set out in our joint letter to the PAR Committee. Clearly, it would be a major step backwards if an island group such as the Inner Hebrides did not have an air service connecting it to its regional hub. We are committed to restoring the service as soon as possible after it lapses on 15 May 2019. Our concern now, however, is that simply sending out exactly the same tender documents to the same airlines will result in the same answer: no compliant submissions to the tender.

Our feeling now is that Argyll and Bute Council should introduce additional flexibility into the second tender document to allow any potential operator to make a value for money bid, based upon their own operating and cost centre criteria. This would maximise the chances of retaining a renewed Argyll Air Service within the financial constraints agreed by the Council for the next three years. As part of this flexibility, one proposal that you might want to consider is switching the Oban-Tiree service to a commercial basis route. On this basis, Oban-Tiree would come out of the PSO and operate in much the same way that Hebridean Air Services currently operates the Oban-Islay route. Our understanding is that passenger figures and profiles are broadly similar on the Tiree and Islay routes.

We have to say that we have been disappointed over the last two weeks by the lack of information and consultation that our community’s representatives have received from elected Council members and officials. We do understand the principles of commercial confidentiality, but we do not think we should be receiving almost all of our news from the media. We would certainly be interested to see a copy of the new tender document. Please come back to us if you would like to discuss this further

Thank you for your work on this project,

Yours sincerely, John MacCaskill, Chair, Tiree Transport Forum Dr John Holliday, Convenor

Tiree Trust News Bites

• George Leslie Civil Engineering Contractors has won the tender for the Milton Harbour redevelopment. The competitive tender process was carried out under strict guidelines from funders and we expect the work, which includes an extension, raising the height and erecting a shed, to begin in early April.

• Unfortunately, we have not been able to apply to LEADER for the match funding required for the Beach Access Car Parks project. The Rural Tourism Infrastructure (RTI) Fund has awarded us 70% of the costs and we now have around 8 weeks to secure the match funding or we will lose the RTI grant. We are now considering all options including a crowdfunding campaign.

• Willie MacKinnon, the Trust’s Youth Worker, has started a new Sci-Fi after school club on a Monday.

• Ishbel Campbell, our Gaelic Development Officer, has been running weekly Gaelic classes for beginners which have

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