Tag Archives: councellor

Minister for Children & Early Years Visits Tiree High School

minister_childrenMr Adam Ingram MSP, Minister for Children and Early Years, visited Tiree High School this week.
Accompanying the minister were Cllr Isobel Strong, Argyll & Bute Council’s spokesperson for Education, Mr Robert Grant, Head of Service for Secondary Education in Argyll & Bute and Miss Alison Coull, Deputy Director, Qualifications, Assessment and Skills.
The group were given a tour of the school where they were able to meet some members of staff but few pupils as the visit coincided with the end of the day for pupils. Three members of the Parent Council also met with Mr Ingram and were able to voice their views on some matters relevant to the school.
S2 pupils worked on an interdisciplinary task last term, the culmination of which was an island tour which proved very popular with tourists last June. Mr Ingram and his group were given as much of the tour as time allowed before plane time and they were highly entertained and impressed by the pupils’ knowledge and presentation skills. Mr Ingram indicated that this had been the first time he had visited a 3 – 18 school and had been impressed at the initiatives that were being taken forward especially in the field of Curriculum for Excellence. He also felt he had been able to grasp some of the particular issues which are unique to a remote island school and its community.
(Adam Imgrams MSP pictured with High School pupils Siobhan Kyle Jordan MacArthur Kyle Munn Huch MacKinnon Sean MacCallum)

Cal-Mac Chaos?

g_chalmersI’m sure that following the events of Friday 29th to Sunday 31st May there must have been a few raised eyebrows when I was quoted in the Oban Times as commending Calmac Route Manager Ian Fox for his efforts following the breakdown of the Clansman.

I must say that on Saturday morning at 6.30am in Craignure, with a cup final ticket in my pocket, I was far from happy to be told that the first sailings from either side had been cancelled; I mean a cup-final is pretty time-sensitive – after all, 56,000 people are hardly going to wait for me to get to Hampden.I had to do some serious rearranging, but I finally made it with two minutes to spare.

I arrived back in Mull on the Sunday and started to get stories about the various inconveniences visited upon travellers throughout Saturday and Sunday with many more cancellations, and it became apparent there would also be disruption to other islands which would filter through to me later. I therefore asked Ian Fox for a full detailed timeline and the rationale behind what had been done to secure services to the islands. The very next day Ian obliged with an email that ran to 4 pages and gave a full picture of the scale of the disruption and how decisions were arrived at to provide services to Tiree, Coll, Castlebay, and Mull.

It is obvious that Mr Fox and his Masters and their crews worked extremely hard to try and maintain services while what had seemed a routine repair originally expected to take 6 hours ran into two days. Some points were made in the Email which are worth passing on.

Replacement vessels are not easy to locate for these routes. Early on Saturday enquiries with regional manager at Islay about the availability of MV Isle of Arran showed this vessel fully booked for every sailing on Saturday up to 8.20 pm. It then sailed to Oban and performed an improbable overnight return journey to Lochboisdale. Required rest periods meant a further reshuffle and further disruption.

I am sure your readers do not need me to tell them about the delays on the Coll and Tiree services. What is clear is that there is much to be praised about the way the local staff and management performed, but there are nevertheless questions about how this situation can arise.

Why is it so difficult to get replacements if one vessel breaks down and why is the result so seemingly chaotic? In truth there are a variety of contributing factors, never forgetting that vessels DO break down and staff DO need to rest. Not all vessels can get into all piers. Even if there was another vessel in the fleet it would be running a regular route rather than lying idle waiting for a breakdown, so unless you have an entire crew and vessel to spare at any time (dream on!) there will always be a reshuffle and the attendant cancellations and delays- it’s just inherent in the system.

At Ferry Consultations over the Spring I have heard it said that Calmac’s fleet needs a capital investment of some £30m to start to address the ageing state of the fleet. Lead times on new build ships are several years. Even if three new ships were ordered now, they wouldn’t come into service till 2013 or later. None of this makes particularly happy reading but I am glad the Government is trying to establish a long-term ferry strategy to identify and work to resolve these types of problems before the system breaks down entirely.

I can be reached on 01688 302 689 or by email on gordon.chalmers@argyll-ukbute.gov.

Argyll & Bute have the worst roads in Scotland

g_chalmers

The simple fact is Argyll & Bute have the worst roads in Scotland, and Oban Lorn and the Isles the worst roads in Argyll..
“Councillor, when are you going to do something about our roads”
This is one of the questions I’m asked with alarming frequency. My colleagues and I dread those words. Although, my colleagues and I constantly battle for better roads and will continue to do so on our constituents behalf.

While nothing can fully excuse the chronic underfunding of our roads network, it has to be seen in context. Our biggest spending department is Social Services. As with any council it is wide ranging; from schools, the elderly and the vulnerable. These areas are scrutinised by outside agencies. Any council seen to be failing will face sanctions from the government. However, there is no such direct scrutiny for roads (although public transport is monitored by various bodies). Therefore, year on year underfunding has led to a situation where restrictions and closures loom. We are not the only council in this predicament – we simply have less flexibility than most because of our geography.

Tiree has an extra “streetscene” operative newly recruited to the post. Currently, priorities for ditching work are Balevullin, Cornaigbeg & Cornaigmore. As well as the chicane at Crossapol due to be resurfaced in the next month or so. In my next article for An Tirisdeach I will explain what a “streetscene” operative means.

I am due to be over in June with my team mates from Tobermory Golf Club for our biennial visit, when I hope to meet up with many old friends (and opponents). See you then.

I can be reached on 01688 302 689 or by email on gordon.chalmers@argyll-ukbute.gov.

Gordon Chalmers