The vital election for the next Community Council is on 26 April; nominations for the eight places up for grabs have to be in by 22 March. The age limit for councillors is now 16. As most of the current councillors are standing down, we need a good number of new people to stand. It is hard work at times, and you need to be quite thick-skinned. But it can be incredibly satisfying. If more than eight stand, there will be an election, an uncomfortable thing in a small community, but it does make the Council stronger. If less than four people stand, the Council will no longer exist.
The latest version of Tiree Community Council has been operating since September 2014, following an initiative by John MacCaskill. As our four-year-long tour of duty winds down, and with elections for a new Council due, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look back at what we have achieved. I think it is quite a lot: a second daily flight to Glasgow; a second Saturday sailing from Oban in the summer; keeping the Oban flights; making sure Tiree got the fire-optic cable when the project was under threat; getting cover for the Tiree policeman when he is away; clearing several abandoned trailers; and setting up a Tiree Flag Competition. Possibly more important is the fact that the Council has fought hard to get the island’s voice heard loud and clear – all the way from Scottish Government ministers to Argyll and Bute Council officials.
Fourteen people have served on the Council at various times: Dr John Holliday (convenor), John MacCaskill (vice-convenor), Alison Kennedy and Ian Gillies (secretaries), Rosemary Omand (treasurer), Donnie Campbell, Jessie Gray, Angus John MacKechnie, Frazer MacInnes, Rhoda Meek, Aisling Milne and Paul le Roux, with Iona Campbell and Calen MacNeil coopted as youth representatives. All these people truly deserve our thanks. We have met in public once a month, with breaks at New Year and in July.
The Tiree Trust has financially supported the Council, to help with basic things like travel and our email system; Trust employees Shari MacKinnon and Louise Reid have taken our minutes. We thank them for that fundamental support. We set up a website and Facebook. We developed a Planning and Complaints procedure. We met the Islands and Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, both in the Edinburgh Parliament and on Tiree; Coll Community Council three times; Michael Russell MSP several times, as well as Rhoda Grant and Jean Urquhart MSPs; Councillors Roddy McCuish and Jamie McGrigor; and Sally Loudon, the Chief Executive of Argyll and Bute. We held several meetings with the Tiree Trust and took part in the Charrette process. We have run Tiree Transport Forum as a sub-committee of the Council. We invited Jim Smith, the Council head of Amenities and Roads; the head teacher; the local manager of Scottish and Southern Energy; the ranger Stephanie Cope; and Dr Felicity Brand to talk to public meetings.
We have tackled the following issues, with varying degrees of success:
- Abandoned trailers in Crossapol and Gott: we lobbied for their removal, being (eventually) successful
- Phone boxes: we first lobbied for these to be repaired, and then we set up a project to buy them all except one, and renovate them for a variety of uses. This project continues
- Mobile phone coverage: we lobbied Vodafone to improve their service after a poor spell
- Pier: we lobbied CMAL and CalMac to ease parking pressure at the pier, caused by insufficient markings and management at the pier car park. We have been involved in plans for the new pier head
- Ferry timetable: we lobbied for an improved ferry timetable, notably succeeding to get the second sailing on a Saturday afternoon in summer. We lobbied for better facilities for disabled passengers on the ferry
- Withdrawal of Hebridean Air Services: we acted quickly to lobby against Argyll and Bute Council withdrawing their support for this service
- Glasgow flights: we lobbied successfully to get an evening flight incorporated into the timetable
- Airport security: we lobbied unsuccessfully against the removal of this, with all the knock-on effects on travel
- Roads: we fought hard to get passing places signed, cattle traps drained, and excess grit removed. All we achieved was a handful of passing place signs
- Scarinish harbour sewage: we lobbied successfully to stop raw sewage leaking into the harbour
- Council Cuts: we negotiated with Argyll and Bute Council and Tiree Community Business to prevent the loss of the Tiree Service Point
- Litter around the Tank Farm: we lobbied to get old fencing and an electrical box tidied away from a corner of Pier View
- Pier View: we lobbied Highlands and Islands Enterprise after they awarded an area of land at Pier View to MacLeod Construction rather than to community groups
- Toilets: we have an ongoing request with Argyll and Bute to investigate the possibility of a community buy-out of the Scarinish public toilets
- Beach Hut: we conducted a poll of islanders about the controversial planning application to build a hut on Balevullin beach, and presented this to the Planning Committee
- Dr Buchanan’s Monument: we spent time attempting to organise repair of this damaged landmark, but eventually handed the project over to the Trust
- EE mast: we lobbied successfully for EE to include commercial 4G services on the new Garraphail emergency services mast
- Responded to the crofting grants housing consultation, resulting in a substantial increase in grant aid for new croft houses
- Responded fully to the Islands Bill consultation, now making its way through parliament.
- Ran a number of online public surveys to gain an understanding of the public’s wishes on air and sea transportation matters
- Remembrance Day: we have taken over organising this service. We have lobbied to get the railings about the War Memorial replaced. This is about to happen
- Tiree Flag Competition: the competition for this will run in April
- Rubbish: we lobbied without success for the re-instatement of the bins outside the Gott dump
- Fibre-optic cable: we lobbied for this project to be saved after the Clyde fishermen had complained about the Mull-Tiree cable
- Chapel of Rest: we set up a study to look into this. We passed the project over to the Trust, which decided not to proceed
- The Mayor of Vancouver: we wrote to the present Mayor of Vancouver about a celebration of the first Mayor of Vancouver, Malcolm MacLean of Tiree
- School Library: we lobbied hard against this closure, and then in favour of a public library for the island
- Bank: we lobbied for an ATM “hole-in-the-wall” machine without success, and have expressed concern about recent unscheduled bank closures
- Police cover: we met Chief Superintendent Hazel Hendren, who agreed with our request to provide cover for the Tiree policeman when he goes off the island
- Kilkenneth Chapel: we successfully lobbied Historic Environment to re-fence the chapel at Kilkenneth
- Tiree and Coll Councillor: we lobbied Humza Yousaf for a return of our own dedicated Tiree and Coll District Councillor. Coll, however, are less keen on the idea
- New GP contract and NHS24: we lobbied the Cabinet Secretary for Health about the harm the new contract will do to the Baugh surgery, and have written to the Health and Social Care Partnership about the imposition of NHS24 on the practice. We are still waiting for a reply
Nomination forms for the next community council can be obtained from Rona at the Service Point in Crossapol or from the website www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/elections. If you have any problems, phone 01546 604331/4401. You need to be 16 years or older (although some parts of the form mistakenly say 18), and be on the Tiree Electoral Register. You also have to be proposed and seconded by people also on the Register. You can submit the form to Rona or to the Returning Officer, Kilmory, Lochgilphead, PA31 8RT.
Good luck! Tiree really needs a strong Community Council.
Dr John Holliday