Community launches bid to move into Ar­gyll and Bute

The Oban Times - - Front Page - KATIE CARABINE reporter@oban­

AT A TIME when ma­jor po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions are about to be made, Strath­fil­lan Community Coun­cil is facing one of its own.

Its mem­bers are con­sid­er­ing ask­ing the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to al­low them to trans­fer from Stir­ling Coun­cil to Ar­gyll and Bute.

Coun­cil­lor Roddy McCuish (Oban South and the Isles) has de­scribed this as ‘fan­tas­tic news’ and said: ‘We’d wel­come them with open arms.’

The move has been suggested as a so­lu­tion to prob­lems the community cur­rently faces in re­la­tion to pub­lic trans­port.

David Gal­lant, trans­port spokesman for Oban Community Coun­cil, was recorded in the draft min­utes from the Strath­fil­lan meeting in May as telling those present he had met Strath­clyde Part­ner­ship for Trans­port (SPT) and Strath­clyde Con­ces­sion­ary Travel Joint Scheme Com­mit­tee, and it had come to his at­ten­tion that el­derly and dis­abled peo­ple in Tyn­drum and Cri­an­larich do not ben­e­fit from the same cheaper travel as those in Bridge of Orchy.

SPT told Mr Gal­lant that res­i­dents of the two vil­lages would only be able to ac­cess the same ben­e­fits if the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment trans­ferred the area from Stir­ling to Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil.

Aside from travel costs, there could also be health and ed­u­ca­tion ben­e­fits to the switch.

As part of Ar­gyll and Bute, res­i­dents would be re­ferred to Oban’s Lorn and the Isles Hos­pi­tal or the Royal Alexan­dra Hos­pi­tal in Pais­ley for treat­ment, both of which are far eas­ier to ac­cess by train than the Forth Val­ley Royal Hos­pi­tal at Lar­bert, which they use now, and would utilise con­ces­sion­ary fares.

Vice- chair­man Alan Smailes said: ‘ We have been push­ing NHS Forth Val­ley for the op­tion to travel to Oban hos­pi­tal. If we could have better ac­cess to ser­vices in the west, it would be much eas­ier for our community.’

Also, if Strath­fil­lan chil­dren were able to at­tend Oban High School as op­posed to McLaren High in Cal­lan­der, not only would this make it eas­ier for them to at­tend af­ter-school ac­tiv­i­ties, it would bring about changes to the train sched­ule be­tween Oban and Glas­gow, whereby trains bring­ing pupils back to Dal­mally would con­tinue onto Glas­gow, stop­ping in Tyn­drum and Cri­an­larich. This would mean an ex­tra daily ser­vice in each di­rec­tion, which would ben­e­fit the community.

Mr Gal­lant told The Oban Times that Strath­fil­lan Community Coun­cil­lors are ‘ quite keen on change. It’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion that’s grown over a num­ber of years.’

To make this trans­fer, the community coun­cil would first have to carry out a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion within the community. If the pub­lic were be­hind the idea, Stir­ling and Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cils would have to agree to the trans­fer but the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment would make the de­ci­sion.

Stir­ling Coun­cil­lor Aly­cia Hayes (Trossachs and Teith) was not in favour of mov­ing to Ar­gyll and Bute, say­ing: ‘I don’t be­lieve we would have to re­draw the bound­aries, though I can un­der­stand why this op­tion has been given by SPT. The Boundary Com­mis­sion would then have to re­draw all other bound­aries as it is based on pop­u­la­tion num­bers. I don’t think this will hap­pen.’

Community coun­cil­lor Isla Craig raised con­cerns over ed­u­ca­tional dif­fer­ences be­tween the coun­cil ar­eas, high­light­ing the case of Killin Pri­mary, where there is a shared head­ship.

Ms Hayes suggested a cross boundary agree­ment, whereby there could be an ex­change of sub­sidy to per­mit SPT to ex­tend that sub­sidy to two sta­tions in the Strath­fil­lan area.

As there is al­ready some sort of sys­tem like this in place, whereby Bridge of Orchy pupils, from Ar­gyll and Bute, go to McLaren High, it was suggested such a cross-boundary agree­ment would be better than a fixed-boundary change.

The community coun­cil agreed to ap­proach Stir­ling Coun­cil and to con­tact the lo­cal trans­port author­ity re­gard­ing the con­ces­sion­ary agree­ment.

Speak­ing about this at an Oban Community Coun­cil meeting on May 30, Mr Gal­lant said: ‘Stir­ling coun­cil­lors were not in favour. Seem­ingly, they didn’t want to lose Tyn­drum and Cri­an­larich, but Strath­fil­lan Community Coun­cil­lors were in favour.’

At time of go­ing to press Mr Smailes, told The Oban Times there had been no fur­ther de­vel­op­ments, say­ing: ‘ We have dis­cussed this in the past but al­ways came back to the same con­clu­sion – better the devil you know. No mat­ter which coun­cil area we are in, we’d al­ways be at the limit of their bound­aries.

‘David cer­tainly put for­ward a com­pelling ar­gu­ment re­gard­ing trans­port, health and ed­u­ca­tion is­sues. We need more time to dis­cuss all the is­sues in greater depth be­fore we could put for­ward an ar­gu­ment for or against such a pro­posal.’

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