CalMac de­ci­sion has a sting in the tale

The Oban Times - - Letters - An­gus Camp­bell, Gar­ry­na­monie, Isle of South Uist.

Sir, The sting in the CalMac tale is still a very long way off but, even­tu­ally, it will hap­pen.

Mean­time, how­ever, CalMac has re­tained the priv­i­lege of serv­ing our is­lands for the next eight years and, im­me­di­ately, the do-good­ers at West­ern Isles Coun­cil are ask­ing the ship­ping com­pany to re­lo­cate its ad­min­is­tra­tion out to the is­lands.

If only mat­ters were as sim­ple as that. The first and most se­ri­ous as­pect of the whole sce­nario is that the roads in the West High­lands and, in par­tic­u­lar, in the isles, are not fit for pur­pose. The Road Equiv­a­lent Tar­iff (RET) un­leash­ing an over­spill of ve­hi­cles onto al­ready strug­gling lo­cal sin­gle-track roads is a trav­esty.

For in­stance, in South Uist, Ben­bec­ula and North Uist, the dual road im­prove­ment pro­gramme that be­gan in 1982/83 is still only ap­prox­i­mately half done, 33 years later.

The rest of the is­lands, along with long stretches of West High­land roads, are also 40- odd years out of date and a mas­sive roads project is of the essence.

I’m only won­der­ing if the silent ma­jor­ity are think­ing what I am. That is, with so many thou­sands of folk com­ing off fer­ries and onto sin­gle-track roads we, the res­i­dents, will be at least a day late and a dol­lar short in get­ting on with our own lives and/or for­ever be stuck in a pass­ing place.

So CalMac, via the Scot­tish Gov- ern­ment, got the con­tract but – and it’s a very big but – where is the com­mon sense? I’d say roads first and then, maybe, the gal­li­vant­ing can start.

And here is some­thing to think about: CalMac was first in­tro­duced as a so­cial and life­line ser­vice for the isles first and fore­most. But to­day that is not the case.

The sting in the tale is that, even­tu­ally, the re­sult of all this free-for-all and RET, apart from the fact that it’s not re­ally for us is­landers to be­gin with, is that it will cause the demise of the isles, their peo­ple and cul­ture.

That is the price we are go­ing to pay. We will have sold our souls. The ser­vice that was first of all in­tended for the is­lands and their in­dige­nous folk will kill the very peo­ple it in­tended to help.

The road to hell is paved with good in­ten­tions.

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