Category Archives: Tiree Community Council

Improved Ferry Service For Tiree

As An Tirisdeach goes to press this week, news is emerging of significant changes to the previously published CalMac draft timetable that was proposed for Oban-Coll-Tiree in 2016.

 

An Tirisdeach has spoken exclusively this morning to Community Councillor’s John MacCaskill, and Ian Gillies, who jointly look after transportation issues on Tiree Community Council. AnTirisdeach have also obtained a copy of the finalised summer 2016 timetable. Here is what John and Ian had to say to An Tirisdeach.

Q. Does the 2016 timetable make any improvements to the capacity problems that we have during the summer?

A. “Yes it certainly does. The timetable will have a peak period 25th June – 27th August and also an off-peak period. During the peak summer season period an additional MV Clansman sailing will operate on Saturdays, leaving Oban at 15.30 hrs and sailing directly to Tiree with an arrival time of 18.40. This will be a massive boost to clearing the weekend congestion that we have been seeing over the peak summer weekends. Also the Clansman will operate on Sundays and Mondays, rather than the LOTI, and this gives us additional capacity on those days”.

Q. There was a lot of anger on Tiree & Coll that the `Barra Link’ on a Thursday was proposed to be cancelled?

A. “We most certainly understood the public’s frustration with the loss of the Barra link, and we have managed to negotiate reinstatement. It will now operate on a Wednesday rather than a Thursday”.

Q. What about an early Friday departure from Oban to allow people to get away for the weekend? This was previously cancelled.

A. “Again, we have managed to convince Transport Scotland of the importance of this to Tiree. The early Oban Friday departure at 06.15 hrs will now operate during the off-peak period, and will leave Oban at 07.15 hrs during the peak summer period”.

Q. This looks like an excellent outcome for Tiree, but did the public have any say in the negotiations you had with Transport Scotland?

A. “We have both spoken about our strategy at every Community Council meeting, but most importantly, the public helped us by giving us their views in writing, on our online survey, and at Community Council meetings. The Tiree Transport Forum also gave us strong support and guidance on our key objectives. This all provided a compelling and coherent community backed set of proposals to take to Transport Scotland and the Transport Minister, and we are more than delighted that the Minister agreed with our arguments”.

Q. So what next? Does this achieve everything that we want for Tiree?

A. “Along with the improved Glasgow-Tiree air service, and the Oban-Tiree air service, we believe that these improvements to our ferry service in 2016 are more in line with what we expect for a modern transport infrastructure. Longer term, we will face problems of an ageing fleet and so vessel replacement will move up our agenda. In the meantime, this is truly a big day for the Tiree Community and for those who travel to our island, particularly with regards to the known travel restrictions we’ve all had to endure for many a year over the peak summer period. We should all look forward to the social and economic benefits that will come our way from next summer, following these important improvements and the sound judgement of the Transport Minister”.

Your Community’s Council

There was another good turnout for the last meeting of the Community Council on the 4th of November in An Talla.

We welcomed our two new members: Iona Campbell from Baugh, and Sam Bouchnak from Scarinish, who was the only applicant to put himself forward when we put out a public appeal last month.

One of the main topics was a detailed report on the possible ferry timetable for next summer. There has been some hard bargaining between John MacCaskill and Ian Gillies on the one side for the Tiree Transport Forum, with Cal-Mac and Transport Scotland on the other. Tiree’s argument has been that the island was being given less ferry space than other islands, and that we had had no increase in sailings when RET flooded the Tiree route a few years ago. The draft timetable now has all morning boats leaving Oban at 7.15am; the Tuesday sailing restored to 2.45pm; the Barra connection moved to the Wednesday; and for two boats to come out on Saturdays during the summer season, leaving Oban at 7am and 3.30pm. There are some extra fuel costs that will need the approval of the Scottish Government, and it’s by no means a done deal yet. The Council formally voted to back the proposal.

We also talked about the forthcoming Islands Bill, which is up for consultation. We can all see that Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles are well organised when it comes to lobbying Edinburgh. Scotland’s other scattered islands are easily forgotten, especially the 23 inhabited islands within Argyll and Bute. During last year’s referendum Edinburgh grew nervous that Shetland would declare independence by itself, and the moment is right for Scotland’s islands to push for more resources. Ian Gillies is leading the fight for the ‘forgotten islands’.

Some members of the Community Council met with Stokes Memorials regarding Dr Buchanan’s monument. We all walked up to the remains of the monument itself and then down to the quarry to inspect the broken pieces. Stokes are now going to price up an amended scheme to use the existing granite to re-build a shorter pillar, as well as a scheme to make a cast-iron structure. We’ll take these plans back to a Council meeting for a decision, in tandem with Professor Donald Meek who has led the project, and then look for funding.

We had a private Councillors’ meeting a fortnight ago to thrash out new procedures. We agreed it had been so useful that we will hold one every month, in-between public Council meetings. These private meetings are closed to the public, but we do have to report back to the next open meeting in general terms what we have been discussing. The public meetings remain the place where all major decisions will be made.

We discussed our planning procedure too. We will only become involved at the stage when the project reaches the public planning list, if we think the project will affect most islanders, or if it’s a really groundbreaking building. Our job then will be to find out what people think, possibly by calling a meeting or having an on-line questionnaire, and then sending these opinions to the Council planning department. Most building projects won’t involve us at all. Our role is to reflect your opinions. We did agree that islanders could write to us with their thoughts and we would keep their identities confidential if they requested this. Enormous projects, like another wind farm, will definitely involve us from the start.

The Council is planning £9 million pounds worth of cuts this year, with the same again next. They have distributed questionnaires (available at the Crossapol office and on-line at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/forms/planning-our-future-public-consultation) to ask where we would like the cuts to fall. Some people thought we should fill these in, to show what services we valued most, but quite a few others said we should have nothing to do with it – Tiree was a community on the edge, and any cuts were completely unacceptable. The Council have agreed in principle to send an official and a Councillor out to hold a public meeting on the island about this, and we will let you know when that is. We will need a huge turnout at that.

We agreed to take over the organising of the War Memorial service from next year. We also agreed that we would write to the local Housing Associations to ask if we could encourage a family of refugees to come and live in one of their unused properties on the island.

Rosemary Omand, Alison Kennedy, Dr John Holliday, Iona Campbell and Donnie Campbell were in attendance.

Have Your Say On The Tiree Public Roads Network

On a recent visit to inspect the Tiree Public Roads Network, Mr. Jim Smith, Argyll and Bute District Council’s Head of Roads and Amenities advised a Tiree Community Council representative, I quote

“ There are no identified safety issues with the Tiree Public Roads Network that warrant any significant road repairs on the island”.

Do you agree with Mr. Smith’s rather shocking assessment of the Tiree roads?

Mr. Smith is willing to defend this statement by attending the next Tiree Community Council Meeting at An Talla on the evening of Wednesday 03rd June 2015 (8.00pm).

The Tiree Community Council urges the public to show up in numbers at our June Meeting to firstly listen to Mr. Smith’s assessment on the Tiree roads and then have your say on what you consider to be the condition of the islands Public Roads Network.

£1.2 Million Down the Drain

Like many of you, Tiree Community Councillors are unhappy – to say the least – at the state of the island’s roads only a few months after Argyll and Bute spent £1.2 million improving them.

Having completed my own survey of the Tiree road network I was amazed to see potholes, flooded cattle grids, poor passing place signage in some areas, bumpy, badly – finished passing places and other serious faults.

road_edgeThe most significant of these are the badly formed road edges which are now crumbling away and could result in safety concerns, particularly in the summer months when cyclists move in to allow cars to pass. We were told that this improvement programme would ensure that the roads would be serviceable for the next fifteen years. The way things are going they will be lucky to survive another winter!

The Tiree Community Council has passed on a 14 point document outlining faults to the head of roads at Argyll and Bute. This is backed up by photographs – all of which make it clear that the so-called improvements are inadequate for a modern road system. Now we are seeking to meet road officials because we believe the whole exercise has been a botch-up and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

potholeThe Council’s reaction to the points raised after our survey was, quite simply, to brush off every single one of our complaints as nonsense. We have also been told that there is no more money in the pot for Tiree’s roads. The purse is empty and there will be no more ‘improvements’ for a very long time to come.

Please feel free to send us your own thoughts on the road programme and if you think it has indeed been £1.2 million down the drain! We’d like to hear from you! You can contact us at alisonk@tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk or www.tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk

Contact Tiree Community Council

Contact Details for Tiree Community Council

Chairman Dr John Holliday (doc.holliday{@}tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk),

Vice Chairman John MacCaskill (john{@}tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk),

Secretary Alison Kennedy (alisonk{@}tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk),

Treasurer Rosemary Omand (rmo{@}tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk),

Ian Gillies (ian{@}tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk),

Donnie Campbell (donnie{@}tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk)

Frazer MacInnes (fraztiree{@}hotmail.com)

Angus John MacKechnie (angusjohn{@}hotmail.co.uk)

If you want to write to us, address your letter to:

The Secretary, Tiree Community Council, The Island Centre, Crossapol, Isle of Tiree, PA77 6UP. Or post you letter at the Island Centre in the Council’s mailbox, which will be available soon.

Secretary Alison Kennedy’s telephone number is 01879 220019.

Watch out for the bright yellow posters!

Meetings of the Council, which will take place regularly at least once a month, will be advertised at the usual venues, the Co-op, Rural Centre, Bank, Post Office, Business Centre, and the Surgery. If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to e-mail, write or call to find out more. The new Council’s information website should be up and running within 1-2 weeks.

Alison Kennedy – Secretary

Tiree Broadband Link Approved

bt_broadbandTiree is about to enter the high speed digital age!

Fears that the island would lose the planned fibre optic cable that would bring high speed broadband have at last been lifted. The licence to lay the sub sea cable from Calgary in Mull to Scarinish was granted to BT this week by Marine Scotland after a new route was submitted, and it is hoped that work on the cable will begin almost immediately.

A spokesman for Highlands and Islands Enterprise told Tiree Community Council, “I am pleased to inform you that BT has now been successful in securing a licence from Marine Scotland to allow them to proceed with the laying of this important fibre link. We expect work to start on the route very soon.”

Shock news that the high speed broadband link was being threatened by objections from Glasgow-based scallop dredgers came two weeks ago. However, it was made very clear to Marine Scotland, the government licencing agency, that if Tiree lost this cable the island could suffer serious damage to its social and economic development. In a letter to the agency, and to Scottish ministers and MSP’s, Tiree Community Council pointed out that if the link was cancelled the adverse effects on the island’s business, tourism and education would be disastrous.

Last night a spokesman for Tiree Community Council said, “This is great news. Tiree’s voice has been heard and the island can now look forward to being part of the age of high speed broadband. This link will bring huge benefits to the island in the future. We will be able to compete on a level playing field with other areas in attracting people and businesses to come to Tiree. We cannot overestimate the importance of this to the island, and we are delighted that the licence has been granted.”

Threat To Tiree Sub Sea Fibre Optic Cable Link

                  The adverse effects of this on the island’s economy, which is currently estimated at £5m – £6m per year, would be rapid and debilitating

We were dismayed to learn yesterday that despite the fact that work on the West Coast subsea cable broadband network has already begun, the licence for the cable from Mull to Tiree has not yet been granted. It would appear also that the plan to lay this stretch of cable may now indeed be in jeopardy.  There is no doubt in our minds that the result of a decision to scrap the Tiree cable would result in disastrous and irreversible damage to this island’s social and economic development. It would also create a very real threat to its sustainability, which is already under pressure due to population decline.

This news has caused grave concern amongst the people of Tiree and hence our decision, reached today at a meeting of Tiree community councillors, to convey to you their feelings on what is undoubtedly a crucial matter for the island. This letter has the full support of the Tiree community, including our fishermen*, and has also the unanimous backing of our eight newly – elected councillors, who are listed below.

We are well aware that alternatives to this fibre optic cable link would leave Tiree far short of the speeds and capacity which will be enjoyed soon by other  remote areas.  Effectively, the island would languish in a digital ‘ backwater’, unable to compete on a level playing field with other regions in terms of economic development. It is our view that should Tiree be excluded from the West Coast cable network it would be seriously disadvantaged and would, unquestionably, be consigned to a ‘third world’ position in the new digital age.  There would exist a yawning digital divide and an unjust imbalance between the island and the rest of the county which would be detrimental to Tiree in almost every aspect of social and economic life.

The adverse effects of this on the island’s economy, which is currently estimated at £5m – £6m per year, would be rapid and debilitating. There is every possibility that local entrepreneurs would migrate to areas with faster, more sophisticated digital connections and it would be virtually impossible for the island to replace such people.

Distance learning facilities both in our school and for under-graduates and post-graduates would be hampered by the continued sluggish transfer of data and would certainly impair the life chances of young Tiree people eager to study, learn, stay on the island and contribute to its community.

The island’s tourist industry, on which a large number of livelihoods depend, would be put at serious risk. Many visitors to Tiree are persistently dismayed at our dismal broadband speeds and the frustrating unreliability of the service and should a future Tiree fare less well than other islands in the digital stakes, many of these people may choose to holiday elsewhere. High speed internet connectivity is as much a part of leisure now as a fish supper or a sandy beach.

Granted, the island is a community in crisis with a declining number of souls, but it is not some isolated wasteland content to be ignored. Tiree has much potential and would make very good use of high speed broadband.  The island is host to a substantial number of highly talented, computer competent and skilled people for whom high speed digital connectivity would open up a host of opportunities. These people are perfectly capable of bringing to the island healthy economic benefits which they are simply unable to develop at the moment.  However, were Tiree to be denied the fibre optic cable, the number of economically inactive people may increase and digitally dependent businesses will move away.

Finally, in the event that Tiree was denied a high speed broadband system, we would be concerned about the future of our air services.  As you will be aware, data transfers in airline information and security matters becomes more complex by the day. A high speed broadband delivery will ensure future information capacity is secured along with passenger safety. Tiree has six flights per week from Glasgow, with seven in the summer months. It also receives another four flights per week from Oban.  Currently, the Glasgow service is so busy that it is almost impossible to find a seat a week to ten days ahead.  It is surely inconceivable that busy air links such as these should continue to depend upon an unreliable ‘slow lane’ broadband service.

 

We know that this failure to grant the subsea licence to the Tiree fibre optic cable is rooted in an ongoing dispute involving a small interest group of fisherman operating outwith our region.  We are as aware as others of the economic pressures on the fishing industry. However, we are confident that the Scottish Government will recognise that in the balance between, on the one hand, some occasional inconvenience to a few dredger vessels and, on the other, the economic and social development of an entire Inner Hebridean island, the scales ought to weigh decisively in favour of the latter.

Should, however, the decision go against the Tiree fibre optic cable, we fully anticipate that the island community would feel it had no option but to fight, with whatever means it is able, to overturn such a decision and regain its right to enter the high speed digital age along with other rural and island communities on Scotland’s west coast.

 

JOHN HOLLIDAY, IAN GILLIES, JOHN P MACCASKILL, FRAZER MACINNES, ROSEMARY OMAND, DONALD M CAMPBELL, ANGUS JOHN MACKECHNIE, ALISON KENNEDY.

*The spokesman for the fishermen on the Isle of Tiree is MR NEIL MACPHAIL. He may be contacted on 01879 220675

 

This letter was sent to: Alex Paterson, CEO of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Mike Neilson, Scottish Government director responsible for the subsea digital network at Marine Scotland, Malcolm Rose of Marine Scotland, Mike Russell, MSP, Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism and Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minster and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities.

 

        

REPLIES

 

MALCOLM ROSE, Marine Scotland, who is dealing with the cablelicence.

 

MARINE (SCOTLAND) ACT 2010, PART 4 MARINE LICENSING

 

FKB/Z305 BT TSO: Subsea Cable Installation, Tiree to Mull

 

Thank you for your letter dated July 29th 2014 in support of the the application for subsea cable installation.  I spoke to Ian Gillies on July 28th and explained that Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MS-LOT) have an open application from BT for this cable.  There has been an objection from some fishing interests due to the lack of burial on the route and the potential safety hazards caused by this.  MS-LOT asked BT to review their survey data to see if a better route could be found with more burial.I have just spoken to BT who have told me they are currently finalising the details of their new route with their survey company and they will be providing it to MS-LOT for us to review within the next week or so.  BT also assured me that providing MS-LOT are able to make a determination and issue a marine licence it is still their intention to lay this cable.  They have adjusted their schedule for all the cable laying operations to have this route laid last to allow the maximum amount of time for resolving the issues with this application.MS-LOT are happy to include Mr Neil MacPhail in consultation on this new route when BT submit it to us.  No decision on the granting or refusing of this licence has been made yet and won’t be until this process is complete.  If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

 

 

MIKE RUSSELL, MSP,

 

I would be grateful if you could inform your fellow community councillors, and the wider community, that I am in entire agreement regarding the absolute necessity of securing the cable link to Tiree.

 

I am very keen to ensure that high speed broadband reaches the whole of my constituency and am working to secure that aim, both to places like Tiree  that have received a commitment from BT / HIE within the current project and to others ( like my own home community in Glendaruel ) that are presently without any such commitment.

I have therefore copied your letter to the Deputy First Minister who has responsibility for infrastructure and to Richard Lochhead , because of the fishing issue.   I will let you know when I get a response.

 

Regards as ever

 

Michael
JOHN SWINNEY

 

Thank you for your letter. I will pass this on to the relevant Minister in the Scottish Government who will be able to respond to your concerns. I appreciate the seriousness of the issues you raise.

 

Thank you for writing to me.

 

Yours sincerely

John Swinney

MSP for Perthshire North
ALEX PATERSON CEO HIE

 

HIE is as keen as you are for the cable to be completed this year as planned. We fully appreciate the benefits that improved broadband can bring to the island.

 

BT is working closely with fishing interests and Marine Scotland to identify the best possible route for the cable. As soon as a mutually acceptable route is agreed and a marine licence issued, BT intends to lay the cable as part of the current laying programme.

 

Regards

 

Alex

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