Community launches bid to move into Argyll and Bute
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.’