Category Archives: Community Announcements

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

Community Council News

At a well attended meeting on Wed 5th Dec the main topics discussed were ;-Tiree High School, Marine Litter, Linkspan replacement, CalMac’s Winter 2019-20 time table consultation and the update of ongoing TCC matters.

At the outset, TCC advised that it would be meeting with Tiree’s County Councillors, in January, to discuss Council budget issues, prior to Feb’s A&BC’s Council Budget meeting. Tiree High School;- Will Wright, chairman of the Parents’ Council gave a detailed briefing of current issues at the school. This was followed by a lengthy general discussion, with many parents offering input. TCC advised that it would assist the Parent’s Council as required, and would attend,as an observer, the forthcoming PC meeting with various educational bodies.

Transport issues:-

are a TCC perennial! TCC still has an on-going dialogue with Loganair on wheelchair access, but the main transport topic was CalMac’s Consultation on the Winter 2019-2020 time table. The Transport Forum,having assessed the options, was divided on maintaining the current status quo, or requesting closer alignment with the Summer timetable. TCC’s meeting reflected this division,but was advised that Transport Scotland’s cost-neutral requirement of any table change would probably dictate no change.

The Transport Forum has requested that any future discussion on CalMac time-tabling, should be a genuine consultation, and not a tick-the- box exercise.

LinkSpan Replacement:-

The comprehensive public presentations by CMAL and CalMac were briefly discussed. Feb- March 2020 has been decided for the work period. Both presentations are on the TCC website, and includes a list of Qs TCC has asked CalMac to clarify by our Feb meeting. ( http:// www.tireecommunitycouncil.co. uk/tiree-linkspancmal-andcalmac- presentations/ )

Public toilets:-

re Community Ownership of Scarinish public toilet, A&BC’s initial response was favourable. TCC awaits further input from A&BC.

Marine Litter:-

TCC had received two detailed correspondences, one of which had been copied into Mike Russell MSP. Steph Cope gave a detailed presentation with particular reference to Scottish Govt policy, and initiatives . TCC is taking this issue further via MR By this time,eyes were drooping, so we rattled through the last couple of agenda items agreeing to seek clarification from A&BC on specifics re implementation of the Islands Bill, and advising the meeting that following the passing of the Crown Estate Bill, kelp harvesting would be subject to a Scottish Govt Regulatory Review, ie kicked into touch.

Councillors Willy Angus Maclean, Robert Trythall and Ian Gillies attended. Apologies were received from Alison Clark, and Dr John Holliday.

Linkspan Replacement

Tiree has lacked information as to the Alternative Transport / Freight Arrangements during the linkspan replacement period, however the Press and Journal quoted a CMAL source advising a ‘pallet carrier’ would be chartered-in for the period.

A pallet carrier is a ship with side hoists /ramps to load and discharge pallets, using forklifts. The irony here is that CalMac has a perfect pallet carrier in the LoTI! TCC understands from CMAL that the LoTI is not an option,as her hoists and ramps are no longer operable. CalMAC has been asked for full details, as with 15 months lead-time surely this can be rectified?

TCC has already identified the following issues to be addressed. It is not exhaustive. Any additional issues you feel need to be addressed please advise TCC, alternatively raise them directly with the CMAL-CalMac Team at their public meeting on the 4th Dec.

(1) How many sailings /week are being considered

(2) Can the pallet carrier carry private cars (obviously it is possible)

(3) Transporting fuel…is it an issue?

(4) Implications for public utilities eg BT, SSE and NHS

(5) Implication for crofters ie feed and fertiliser supply.

(6) Any livestock movements possible ie in trailers?

(7) Palletisation of goods where / when and how.

(8) Utilisation of mobile cranes to ‘palletise’ the Clansman.

(9) Utilisation of mobile cranes to LO-LO vehicles on/off the Clansman.

(10) Funeral Arrangements.

(11) Freight groupage arrangements.

Also explore the possibility of CalMac offering a car hire package ex Oban, ie ‘X days hire for price of car by ferry, with pickup/ drop off Oban pier.

 

Tiree Community Council News

It was another long meeting, but there was plenty to talk about: the linkspan closure, an upgrade to the airport embarkation equipment, and a green light to discuss the pros and cons of taking the Scarinish public toilets into community ownership. The month had been full of meetings to report back on.

We had met Kevin Hobbs, the chief executive of CMAL, the company that owns the ferry fleet and the Tiree pier on behalf of the Scottish government. It was a chance to hear from the horse’s mouth about the shipyard delays on the Clyde, which mean the two new ferries are seriously behind schedule.

The Tiree linkspan is being replaced in February/March 2020, and we have to be prepared for the fact that we won’t be able to get cars or lorries on or off the ferry at the Gott Bay pier for four weeks. There is an important meeting on Tuesday 4th December 4-7.30 pm in An Talla, where CalMac and CMAL staff will do their best to answer our questions. The Tiree Transport Forum will make sure the engineers are aware of the big dates in the Tiree calendar so they can work round them.

We also met Michael Bratcher, who oversees air services within Transport Scotland. The contract for the flights between Tiree and Glasgow is up for renewal next year, and airlines will again be bidding. Passenger numbers are reassuringly up, and it looks as though services will continue much the way they are. Something Michael particularly likes is the ‘flight banking’ system that Tiree operates. This means that a few flights can be cut in the winter months and then used at the times of year of our choice when it’s busy. One piece of news is that a new and heavier SAAB is coming into operation, one that the Tiree runways cannot cope with. So the only planes coming to Tiree from next year will be the Twin Otter and the Kingair ambulance plane.

I also met our three local Argyll and Bute councillors last week. They had flown out from Oban to the island for the day, and were delighted with the convenience of the flight. When I pointed out that the Council had agreed to cut the subsidy of this service drastically, they were absolutely sure that the Oban- Tiree flights would be safe. Let’s hope they’re proved right!

While they were there, I took the opportunity to ask them for a bigger grant for Tiree Community Council to allow us to get to mainland meetings. They absolutely supported this. Let’s hope they’re successful!

There has been a problem over the last year with access to the Twin Otter for people who need help to get into the aircraft. The Stairclimber equipment to lift passengers up the steps is not powerful enough. The community council has been lobbying HIAL, who run the Tiree airport, as well as Loganair, to get a more powerful version, and we are delighted that HIAL have now done precisely that.

Another issue we have been chewing away at for over a year is the block of land next to Pier View in Scarinish. This was provisionally sold by HIE to MacLeod Construction, but has now come back on the market.

Finally: toilets. Every year the council cuts come closer. What has sharpened our interest recently has been the closure by Highland Council – apparently the UK’s ‘largest provider of public toilets’ – of most of their councilrun toilets in a bid to save £500,000 a year. Argyll and Bute councillors discuss the same cut every year too. We have taken the view that the Scarinish toilets, which everyone agrees are completely essential, are vulnerable, and we would be better to open a dialogue now to see if the council would consider passing them into community ownership. Community toilets are becoming more common – there are good examples in Biggar, Arisaig and the Kyle of Lochalsh. Things are at an early stage, but we have started the ball rolling. Now we will wait to see what sort of deal the council will make the community.

Councillors Dr John Holliday, Robert Trythall and Ian Gillies attended. Apologies were received from Willie Angus MacLean and Alison Clark.

Tiree Community Development Trust News

Tiree Trust Logo

The Milton Harbour Project has been out to tender. We hope to announce the result in the next edition of An Tirisdeach and the proposed start date for the work is 1st April 2019.

The Trust has been conditionally awarded £131k from Visit Scotland’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund towards upgrading beach access car parks and extending the car park at The Business Centre. This forms around 70% of the costs required and an application to LEADER is ongoing to make up the funding package. Funding has also been secured from SNH, The Windfall Fund and Tiree Community Business.

Youth Worker Willie MacKinnon attended a Duke of Edinburgh training session in Inveraray and Lochgilphead along with Lydia Macajova, in preparation for leading a group of Tiree children to gain a Silver Award.

A visit from Fergus Murray, Head of Economic Development for Argyll & Bute Council, was delayed in early November for the second time and is now likely to be rescheduled in the new year.

At the time of writing a meeting was due to take place on Wednesday 14th November with crofters who participate in the Croft Camping Scheme to review the scheme.

The Trust recently welcomed Ishbel Campbell as the new Gaelic Development Officer. Ishbel will work part time (17.5 hours per week) continuing the fantastic work that Donna MacLean carried out during her time with the Trust including regular Gaelic Bookbug, Stradagan and School Gaelic Club sessions. Ishbel has also started weekly Gaelic classes for adults –if anyone is interested in beginner or intermediate classes please contact Ishbel for more information.

After completing a Gaelic course through Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Ishbel then completed a post graduate diploma (Gaelic Immersion for Teachers) via Strathclyde University and currently works part time as a primary teacher at the school on Tiree.

Tiree Linkspan

On Monday 29th Oct Community Council, and Tiree Transport Forum, met Kevin Hobbs, CEO, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), and Richie Morgan CMAL’s Health, Safety and Environmental Manager.

We had a very constructive meeting addressing many ferry issues,including an over view of CMAL’s role in ferry and port facility provision.

The main discussion concentrated on Tiree’s linkspan replacement. Kevin Hobbs has requested we publish this statement:-

“We are planning a project to replace the linkspans at Tiree and Coll Ferry Terminals. Funding is in place and our engineering team are finalising tender evaluations for the works, with a view to appointing a contractor in the near future. It is our intention to issue a formal update once a contractor is appointed and to consult with the communities in Tiree & Coll at meetings in December 2018, which we are in the process of arranging.

At the meetings CMAL & CalMac will discuss the timing of the construction project, the details of the replacement process and the alternative ferry services to be in place during the works.

While the programme has not been finalised, we anticipate that removal of the existing linkspan at Tiree and installation of a newly fabricated replacement will take place in spring 2020, and that the project will take around three to four weeks to complete. If we can reduce that timescale, we will, but it will depend upon various factors, such as prevailing weather and repair works that may need to be undertaken once the existing linkspan is removed.

We know that timing is critical to minimise disruption to the island and its connectivity. CMAL and CalMac are working together to ensure that the alternative ferry services can be maintained throughout the construction period.”

Community Council News

Ferries, this year’s Armistice Day service at the War Memorial, and seaweed harvesting were some of the subjects discussed at this month’s community council meeting.

This had been delayed by a week to accommodate an important session of the Tiree Transport Forum with senior CalMac management earlier in the day. There has been a lot of frustration with the company over the last six months, with the prolonged absence of the Clansman and complaints about the booking system, centred around the weekend of the 10k. David Gibson (Director of Service Delivery for the whole company), Robert Morrison (Head of Operations North) and Finlay MacRae (Area Operations Manager North) acknowledged that the DOS-based system running ticketing was over twenty years old. An attempt several years ago to replace it had ended in failure, and a new £20 million request for its replacement was on the desks of ministers in Edinburgh. A new system was at least two years off, and in the meantime, they recommended using the website to get information about sailings.

David has instigated a new integrated control centre, so that ferry disruptions can be handled centrally, and he promised the company would be quicker at getting a work-around for problems in future. Everyone acknowledged that the fleet, with an average age of over twenty years, was struggling to keep pace with demand, particularly after Road Equivalent Tariff boosted numbers of tourists visiting the islands.

The Tiree ferry linkspan is due to be replaced in the autumn of 2019. This will mean a month when no vehicles will be able to access the boat. This will present a serious challenge; fortunately, Coll will be going through the same process six months earlier, giving us a chance to learn from that exercise.

Another issue that came up was the uncertain ownership of the car park at the pier head. There have been issues over long term parking there, but no one seems to know which body has title to the ground, and no one is currently managing it.

Our annual request for a change for the Barra boat in summer from Wednesday back to Thursday is just not possible at the moment, although the launching of the two new ferries currently on the slipway at the moment might free up timetables eventually. These vessels, known as 801 and 802, are seriously behind schedule and over budget; we will be lucky to see them before winter service 2019-2020 and late summer service 2020 respectively.

Another issue, which Alan Millar brought up, was the November 11th service at the War Memorial. Since the 1920s, this has taken place on the Saturday afternoon. This year marks the centenary of Armistice Day, with the 11th falling on the Sunday itself. We discussed whether to change the service to the Sunday afternoon for this year only. Alan will discuss the matter with the leadership of both churches.

Phones boxes came up for discussion, too. An ambitious project by the community council to buy and renovate all but one of the public phone boxes on the island has ground to a halt after an enthusiastic start last year.

By good fortune, one of those attending the meeting had bought and renovated a phone box for his wife’s birthday. He knew from first hand how difficult and expensive it could be. One suggestion was to move all the boxes from their current locations, use the best parts from all of them to repair one or two that could then be positioned in the most useful places, selling some of the spare parts left over to finance the project. A group will meet soon to look at the problem afresh.

I took advantage of a recent visit to the Coll Homecoming to chat to some members of their Community Council. Their issues are the dreadful state of their roads, and the desire of many islanders for a door-to-door recyclables collection. Some of the ferry timetable changes they were seeking were diametrically opposed to ours.

Marine Scotland has sent Marine Bioplolymers, the company seeking permission to trawl for kelp around Tiree, back to the drawing board, to apply again area by area. We will keep a close eye on the situation.

Dr John Holliday, Robert Trythall, Ian Gillies and Alison Clark were in attendance. William Angus MacLean sent his apologies. Sadly, Andy Wright has stepped down from the council.

1 2 3 26