Tag Archives: government

Speaking Out For Argyll and Bute’s Island Communities

Roddie McCuishArgyll and Bute councillors are continuing to speak out on behalf of the area’s islands communities and are pressing to become more involved in a national campaign for more recognition of the unique needs and status of Scottish islands.

Argyll and Bute Council leader, Roddy McCuish, was joined by Islay’s Councillor Robin Currie at the Our Islands, Our Future conference in Orkney on Thursday 19th September. The conference was part of a campaign for greater powers for Scotland’s islands launched by the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney local authorities.

At the conference, both Councillor McCuish and Councillor Currie made a robust case for Argyll and Bute Council to be involved in the campaign’s steering group and in future discussions. Their attendance at the conference followed an initial motion in June this year from Councillor Currie and his Mull colleague Councillor Mary-Jean Devon. The two isles councillors were supported by fellow elected members in their call for discussions with the three councils so that Argyll and Bute’s 23 inhabited islands could be included in a strong campaign for greater powers.

Speaking after the Orkney conference, Argyll and Bute Council leader Roddy McCuish said:

“We are extremely supportive of what our fellow councils are doing and there is certainly a robust case for Argyll and Bute Council, with its 23 inhabited isles, to be around the table in discussions about our islands and their future. There is strength in numbers. It was a very important conference and I am pleased that my colleague Councillor Currie was able to join me there. There is widespread support across the council chamber for a stronger voice for Argyll and Bute’s islands which have very specific and sometimes complex needs, and we hope that people are beginning to listen.”

Transport Minister Shows Surprising Lack of Knowledge of Island Ferry Services

“This is no way to run a country”

Tobermory, Kerrera, and Tarbert ferry ports are set for new year facelifts thanks to a £2.7 million funding boost.Transport minister Keith Brown said:

“This funding comes as part of a package of £205 million investment in ‘shovel ready’ schemes by the Scottish Government across the country. Our ferry ports play a crucial role in supporting the delivery of ferry services across Scotland and are key economic drivers for some of our key industries like tourism and food and drink. We have already directly committed £26 million to maintaining and improving ports and harbour infrastructure since 2007, and have set out a further £73 million in our recently published ferries plan for improvements to port infrastructure over the next decade.”

He added:

“Vital maintenance work to the port at Tobermory – one of the key ferry hubs serving routes to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra – can start. The £600,000 of work at Tobermory harbour, including new concrete and steelwork installed to the slipway walls as well as re-pointing of the masonry, will support local jobs during construction.”

Now, forgive me if I’ve got this wrong, but didn’t Mr Brown – the man who removed RET from commercial vehicles to Coll, Tiree & the Western Isles; the man who ignored the independent report on the damage that this action could cause to fragile island economies – just say that Tobermory is ‘one of the key ferry hubs serving routes to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra’ ???? It seems unbelievable but true, that the Transport Minister for the Scottish Government does not realise that CalMac ferries from Oban bound for Coll & Tiree, Castlebay & Lochboisdale, used to call in at Tobermory – but have not done so for a long, long time!

In 1999 a Labour / Liberal coalition government was formed on 7th May following the first ever Scottish Parliamentary Election, with Donald Dewar elected as First Minister. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Scottish Parliament on 1st July. Elsewhere in 1999 the Euro was established; the Columbine High School massacre occurred in Colorado; Slobodan Miloševi? agreed to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo; the Khmer Rouge was officially disbanded in Cambodia; and Médecins Sans Frontières won the Nobel Peace Prize. One thing that DID NOT happen in 1999 was the ferry to Tiree calling at Tobermory, which Mr Brown describes as one of the key ferry hubs serving routes to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra.

In 2000 Donald Dewar died and was succeeded as First Minister and Scottish Labour leader by Henry McLeish. Elsewhere in 2000 Dr. Harold Shipman wass found guilty of murdering 15 patients and sentenced to life imprisonment; the billionth living person in India was born; and the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Florida presidential recount, effectively giving the state, and therefore the Presidency, to George W. Bush. One thing that DID NOT happen in 2000 was the ferry to Tiree calling at Tobermory.

The Tiree ferry did not call at Tobermory in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005. In 2006 ‘Transport Scotland’ began operation as an agency of the Scottish Executive, but still the Tiree sailing did not stop in Tobermory. When Keith Brown was appointed Minister for Transport in 2010 the ferry to Tiree did not call at Tobermory, nor did it in 2011 when the Draft Ferries Plan was produced. In fact, the last time the ferry from Oban to Coll & Tiree did stop at the ‘key ferry hub of Tobermory’ was 1998, the year that Frank Sinatra died; Google was founded; the Good Friday Agreement was signed; and Bill Clinton was impeached over the Monica Lewinsky affair.

The Editor contacted Keith Bown for comment, even providing him with a draft of this article. Mr Brown did not reply in person, instead An Tirisdeach received the following statement from the Transport Scotland Press Office:-

“The role that Tobermory has played, and continues to play, as an important port in the network of services in the Clyde and Hebrides should not be lost in all of this. That is why the Scottish Government has provided the significant funds for the maintenance and upgrade of the ferry port at Tobermory. The reference as worded, which was an administrative oversight on the part of the officials has been edited on Transport Scotland’s news page to accurately reflect the ferry port’s current role in serving local communities.”

Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll & Bute, was happy to reply to The Editor. He said:- “While I am always pleased to see work being carried out to improve harbours, it is extremely worrying that the Scottish Transport Minister and his civil servant advisers aren’t aware ferries no longer sail from Tobermory to Coll, Tiree, the Uists and Barra. Sailings now only go to Kilchoan. It’s very concerning that millions of pounds of public money are being spent by a Minister who lacks a basic knowledge of his brief.

“This is no way to run a country. What I think has gone wrong is that the present Scottish Government is putting all its efforts into campaigning in the Independence Referendum and not paying enough attention to the difficult job of running the country.”

Leak shows council looking at Eventide closure

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“The Eventide Home could close as the Council thrashes around seeking huge savings at a meeting this week.”

That was the stark warning given by Dr Holliday as he spoke to a packed Windfall Fund meeting at An Talla last Saturday.

The 1960’s Dorran building is nearly at the end of its life and the Care Commission want a big modernisation programme – something Argyll and Bute Council has been reluctant to look at. The new Tory/Liberal/Independent coalition leading the Council decides on Thursday what to do with their six loss-making old people homes.

Giving the contract to run the Tiree Home to a private company is on the agenda, but leaks within the Council suggest the nuclear option is being strongly considered – total closure, with the possible transfer of residents to other facilities.

Dr Catherine Todd told An Tirisdeach, “Although most people prefer to be cared for in their own homes, there are very definitely situations when the Eventide Home is absolutely invaluable. Closure would be a huge loss. It would be a tragedy.”

There are currently six residents in the Home, well down on the figure a few years ago. However, Tigh an Rudha also cooks meals on wheels, gives invaluable respite for families, and provides much of the care for the medical beds in the Continuing Care Unit. Dr Holliday said, “If you close an old people’s home in Oban, there is another one just down the road. If you close the Eventide Home on Tiree, you separate families at a crucial stage in their lives. It would be unthinkable.”

The Trust, in conjunction with a number of islanders, had already begun the process of putting together a package to build a new Home. More recently, the Council had encouraged local people to take over the running of the service and the situation is being closely monitored in the Trust office.

The latest news has put a bomb under the process. “I was concerned before,” Dr Holliday told An Tirisdeach. “Now we have a full scale emergency. I call on the island to stand ready to defend the Scarinish Home and the medical Unit. They are cornerstones of life on Tiree.”

A meeting has been called on Thursday 10th February at 7.30pm in An Talla to push on with the project, and if necessary to plan for the defence of what we have, all Welcome.

Alan Reid MP’s Flying Visit to Tiree

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Mr. Alan Reid MP flew over for the day to Tiree on Wednesday 23rd September to hold a Surgery at the Council Offices.

Despite posters and advertising in the An Tirisdeach, it was a quiet morning and it would have been easy to think Tiree had no issues to raise with their Westminster MP. Also, due to Tiree’s extreme weather at the beginning of the week, the Modern Studies schedule was scuppered and Mr. Reid’s visit to Tiree High School was cancelled.

“The issue on everyone’s lips”

This gave Mr. Reid plenty time to be interviewed by An Tirisdeach before heading off for a late lunch at the Cobbled Cow, and then on to Ruaig to look at the turbine site as well as the two new builds at Caoles which have generated so much verbal indignation.

Our interview began with Mr. Reid stating that the “issue on everyone’s lips” was the camper vans that have increased due to the new RET system introduced this year. Although tourism is important to the economy of island life, it is argued that the camper vans add nothing to the economy and are frequently seen as detrimental to a fragile environment.
Andrew Montgomery, factor of Argyll Estates has had his own negative experiences with some of the drivers of camper vans who are insensitive to island life, and he is not alone as Mr. Reid stated: “the comments I have had from people have been mostly negative.” However, as the summer season is now over this is an issue that will come to the fore again next summer.

“Ill thought out regulations”

Mr. Reid’s opposition to the Draft Crofting Reform Bill has been well documented, he simply stated “ The proposed regulations are ill thought out and it will be extra red tape to no good purpose. The Scottish Government has to agree a sensible way forward with crofters that will give crofting a sustainable future. That is not apparent in the current Draft Bill.”

Inevitably the state of Cal-Mac ferries was discussed and Mr. Reid added to previous comments: “I receive regular and justified complaints that the winter sailings to Tiree & Coll are too few. I cannot stress enough the importance of building a fleet that would be reliable. The money has to be found.”

“It’s a disgrace that the firestation lacks basic facilities”

The plight of our firefighters also came up. “It is a disgrace that the fire station lacks basic facilities. It must be a priority to install them. Firefighters risk their lives to protect the local community, the least one can do is provide them with decent facilities. I will be keeping an eye on how this progresses.” The unregulated shenanigans of the bankers and the thorny subject of MP’s expenses also came up, but lack of space in this issue means these subjects will have to wait until issue 452.

Alan Reid M.P. Writes for An Tirisdeach

Water is one of life’s essentials which we tend to take for granted. It always comes as a shock when we turn on the tap and find the pipe is empty.
The recent disruption in the supply to 75 houses on Tiree showed that Scottish Water’s procedures for coping with a fault in the island’s water supply were not up to the job. I have written to their Chief Executive asking for an explanation of why the fault occurred and why their contingency plan wasn’t up to the job. I have asked them what their revised plans are should disruption to the island’s supply happen again in the future. I will let your readers know Scottish Water’s response.
My home is on the Cowal peninsula, so when the ferries go off, there is always an alternative route to connect the rest of the world to us. However, for islanders this is not the case and reliable ferry services are essential. The disruption to services at the end of May because of a mechanical failure on the Clansman highlighted the absence of back-up vessels. With an ageing CalMac fleet, there is clearly a risk that mechanical failures will become a more regular occurrence. Since the new agency Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL for short) took over responsibility from CalMac for commissioning new vessels, the ordering of new vessels seems to have dried up. I have written to Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson about this and urged the Scottish Government to invest in a modern fleet for CalMac.
Following concerns raised with me by fishermen about the siting of the planned offshore windfarms in prime fishing grounds, I wrote to the Crown Estate. I’ve received a reply from Ian Pritchard, their Head of Offshore Operations. In his reply, Mr Pritchard says that there is still to be a great deal of consultation and data gathering before any final decision is take and writes, “I would anticipate site boundary changes and/or mitigation measures to be adopted as a result.”
Two controversial proposals out for consultation are the Draft Crofting Reform Bill and the Council’s proposals for Care of Elderly. I would be interested in hearing people’s views on these or any other subjects.
I will be visiting Tiree later on in the summer as part of my annual constituency tour.
If anyone would like to see me during my visit, please contact my office.
I am always interested in hearing from constituents and can be contacted at my constituency office, 95 Alexandra Parade, Dunoon PA23 8AL, Tel 01369- 704840, Fax 01369-701212, email reida@parliament.uk
Alan Reid MP 20 July 2009