Thursday, 30 March 2006

Sunday Sailings

<![CDATA[ It's all over the news today that Caledonian MacBrayne's have decided to institute sailings between Leverburgh and Berneray on Sundays. Two Harris councillors went on air this morning, spitting fire at the ferry company for going round the backs of local opinion. One councillor stated that 2 out of 3 local people were opposed, as put down in a petition which was presented to Calmac. Nonetheless, the company weighed up pros and cons of a Sunday service. Pros include social and economic benefits, such as the possibility for Uisteachs to visit relatives in hospital in Stornoway. It would also enable Leodhsachs and Hearachs to attend events in the Uists on Saturday, making it possible to return on Sunday and return to work as normal on Monday.

North Uist, to which Berneray is linked, already has a Sunday sailing across the Minch to Skye. Although there is opposition in North Uist to a ferry on Sundays to Harris, it is nothing as compared to the ferocity of opposition across the water in Harris. The reason is that, if the Sound of Harris ferry does start to sail on Sundays, it will lead to a Sunday service on the Stornoway to Ullapool link. This would end the Lewis / Harris sabbath as we know it. Listening to a phone poll on local radio this morning, the majority (from Lewis) were opposed to Sunday sailings.

Calmac has been accused of treating the local population with contempt by ignoring the above mentioned petition. Nonetheless, the company can actually implement timetables within its remit of providing lifeline services, at frequencies that it decides on the basis of need and the physical practicalities of the waters it has to ply. It consults with the local councils on timetables as a matter of course. I should point out that Calmac decided on the Sound of Harris Sunday service following a request to do so from a North Uist councillor.

There is an unfortunate coincidence, in that the decision by Calmac appears to have been made 24 hours before Comhairle nan Eilean Siar were due to debate their policy stance on Sunday working and sailings. Oops.

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