Flights and sailings to islands such as Coll and Tiree are described as lifeline services. Transport Scovtland states, There are several Highlands and Islands air routes which would not be commercially viable without support, so Transport Scotland help to make these routes successful. We use public service obligations (PSOs), which are obligations imposed on a carrier to provide a set level of service on a particular route in order to ensure that the service satisfies fixed standards of continuity, regularity, capacity and pricing.
A week ago a national newspaper reported that Scotland’s biggest ferry operator CalMac has come under fire for wasting fuel and damaging the environment running a full service of empty ferries during the Covid-19 pandemic – a day after promoting its green credentials. During the first lockdown there was certainly a much reduced service. This past week it haas been reported that CalMac is reviewing the need to run a full service of empty ferries during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there is another perspective. For many islands the ferries are a vital lifeline service. Not all trafic is seen in passenger numbers for commercial vehicles are often shipped unacompanied.
What is sometimes forgotten is that for islands such as Coll and Tiree the ferry service is literally a lifeline. Islands are no longer self-sufficient and have come to rely on the ferry for the importation and exportation of all kinds of freight including food. If the local shop has run out of something that you need you cannot simply pop round the corner to the next store.
Thursday’s sailing from the Mainland Ferry Terminal of Oban was on an alert due to an adverse forecast of high winds. Normally it would have made at least one stop at the Isle of Coll, but it was sailing direct to Tiree with no guarantee of berthing. The ferry departed Oban on time, sailed up the Sound of Mull and proceeded south down the Passage of Tiree. The vessel made to enter Gott Bay, but she had no sooner made the manouvre than the skipper made the decision not to attempt a berthing. Thus the ‘MV Lord of the Isles’ swung round and headed back to Oban
This year the ferry has been a LIFEline service in a very specific way. The Covid19 vaccine arrives on the island by ferry. Today, Thursday, those in in the 70-75 age group were being vaccinated – thankfully the vaccine arrived on Tuesday’s ferry. This was fortuitous, as the weather is set to deteriorate over the next few days with winds gusting to over 60mph. There may well not be another sailing to Tiree until Monday at the earliest. It is a good thing we have done the week’s shoppingI Outbound the ferry was due to carry ‘bloods’ and other specimens for testing on the Mainland.
I suppose unless you live on one of the Hebridean islands you cannot fully appreciate just how vital the ferry is to daily life – to things that you take for granted if living on the Mainland. This is simply a fact of island life. How we appreciate living on Tiree and are thankful for the provision of both the daily flight service and the ferry service five times a week in the winter (weather permitting). We are grateful too for an excellent Medical practice who have been able to go ahead with vaccinations. (We have to declare a vested interest – having been vaccinated today.)
For several days now we have had sunshine on Tiree. During this time much of Scotland has been under a blanket of snow, experienced freezing conditions and had several days of related travel disruption. Although we have had sunshine there has been a real nip to the wind from the east, but the temperature has been higher than on the Mainland. Last night the temperature in Braemar was -23C° (the UK’s lowest in 25 years) . On Tiree the temperature fell to 1°
What a pleasureit has been to look out across the water to snow capped mountains on neighbouring islands and on the more distant Mainland. This has been a pleasure that many have commented on.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’