'S e comharra math a th' ann gu bheil soithichean an luchd-turais air ais, tha Murray MacLeòid ag ràdh

Tha na soithichean mòra luchd-turais air tilleadh ma-thà, comharra soilleir gu bheil gnìomhachas a tha gu math cudromach dhan Ghàidhealtachd air an t-slighe air ais agus a bha – mus tàinig Covid co-dhiù – a’ fàs gu mòr.

Thainig an Island Sky a-steach a Shealltainn aig deireadh an sheachdain sa chaidh
Thainig an Island Sky a-steach a Shealltainn aig deireadh an sheachdain sa chaidh

[English-language version below]

Ged dha feadhainn, chan e smuain ro chàilear a tha ann a bhith mu na ceudan no fiù ‘s na mìltean son làithean aig muir – gu h-àraid às dèidh na bliadhna a dh’fhalbh – tha e coltach gu bheil na companaidhean fhathast a’ faighinn iarrrtais mhòire.

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Ach, tha an àbhaist a bha ann ro Chovid fhathast slighe air falbh; air fàire, ‘s dòcha, ach pios às fhathast.

Coltach ris an ‘Island Sky’ a thàinig ris a’ chidhe ann an Sealltainn aig deireadh na seachdaine sa chaidh – a’ chiad tè a thàinig a-steach do chidhe sam bith ann an Alba bhon Mhàirt sa chaidh – chan fhaod na soithichean ach an darna leth no nas lugha a ghiùlan agus feumaidh iadsan a thig air tìr riaghailtean gu math teann a leantainn.

Tha seo a’ ciallachadh dha na gnìomhachasan a bha an dòchas sgillinn no dhà a chosnadh bho na seòladairean seo, agus na soithichean a’ nochdadh mar sheann charaid le airgead mòr na phocaid, chan eil am buannachd ach beag.

A thuilleadh air an sin, chan fhaod ach soithichean Breatanach a thighinn. ‘S beag a tha fhios cuin a bhios e ceadaichte dhan fheadhainn bho thall-thairis a thighinn. Chan eil e a’ coimhead coltach, leis na tha a' tachairt air feadh an t-saoghail a thaobh a’ ghalair, gun tachair e sa chiad ghreis.

Tha an gnìomhachas seo air a bhith ag iarraidh soilleireachadh, gu h-àraid agus e air a bhith ceadaichte dha soithichean an luchd-turais a bhith a’ dol mun cuairt calaidhean Shasannach bhon Chèitean.

Dh’adhbhraich sin suidheachadh gu math nàire na bu thràithe sa mhìos, nuair a chaidh casg a chur air soitheach bho thighinn a-steach a’ Ghrainaig agus na riaghealtan eadar-dhealaichte ann an Alba na bha iad ann an Sasainn.

Thuirt a’ bhuidheann a tha a’ riochdachadh gnìomhachas soithichean an luchd-turais gun robh an suidheachadh seo “gun sgot” agus iad ag ràdh gun robh e ceart gu leòr dha daoine a bhith a’ siubhail à Sasainn a dh’Alba ann an càr, trèan no fiù ‘s air itealan.

Agus carson, aig an aon àm, nach deach mòran a ràdh nuair a chaidh na mìltean de dh’Albannaich sios a Lunnainn son partaidh mòr timcheall geama ball-coise, tòrr aca nach robh dol faisg air pairc Wembley? Carson a bha sin iomchaidh ach chan fhaodadh Breatannaich eile, a thurchar a bhith air soitheach, cas a chur air tìr ann an Grianaig? Cha robh sin cothromach.

‘S dòcha gum faod cuid dhen choire a chur air a’ chompanaidh leis nach do thuig iad ceart gun robh riaghltean Nicola is Boris diofraichte, ach cò againn dha-rìribh as urrainn a ràdh gu bheil iad a’ tuigsinn na cùis' gu mionaideach leis a h-uile riaghailt bheag a tha ann. Cha robh agus chan eil moran soillearachadh ann, chan ann a mhàin eadar Alba is Sasainn, ach eadar diofar sgìrean.

Chan eil sinn idir fhathast a-mach às an staing uabhasach a tha seo – dh’fhaodadh e greis eile a thoirt – ach le barrachd is barrachd air am banachdach fhaighinn dà uair, bu chòir earbsa a choireigin a bhith againn gum faigh sinn air ais chun na h-àbhaist ann an ùine nach bi fada.

Dhaibh-san anns na coimhearsnachdan beaga a tha an urra ri leithid soithichean an luchd-turais agus luchd-turais eile airson beò-shlàint, chan urrainn dha a thighinn luath gu leòr.

Fios bhon neach-deasachaidh:

Tapa leibh airson an aithris a tha seo a leughadh. Tha sinn an eismeil ur taic nas motha na bha riamh agus buaidh a’ Choronbhirus air buaidh a thoirt air luchd sanasachd. Mur eil sibh air a dhèanamh mar-tha, ma se ur toil, nach beachdaich sibh taic a chumail ri ar obair-naidheachd earbsach, a tha sinn a’ dearbhadh a tha fìor, le bhith toirt a-mach ballrachd digiteach.

Cruise ships are able to dock at Scottish ports once again, signalling the first tentative steps back for an industry of increasing importance to some coastal communities and which, prior to Covid at least, was growing rapidly.

While the notion of being cooped up with hundreds if not thousands of others for days at sea in close proximity may seem counter-intuitive to some of us, especially given the experience of the last year, it appears that there is no let-up in demand among the cruise-going fraternity, with operators reporting that interest remains brisk.

However, pre-Covid normality for the industry is some way off. Just like the “Island Sky” which docked in Shetland at the end of last week – the first to do so in any port in Scotland since March last year – ships are running at a capacity of around 50 per cent or less and those stepping onto shore have to remain in their Covid bubbles.

It all means that for the coastal ports who hope to make a small penny or two from these leisurely sailors, with the appearance of the behemoth ships over the horizon like the welcome return of a long-lost generous friend, the economic benefit is still limited.

Furthermore, right now, only UK ships are allowed to call in at Scottish ports and there is no certainty of when foreign operators will once again be welcomed back. With the spread of variants and many countries way behind us in their vaccination programme, it doesn’t look as if it’s going to be any time soon.

The industry has long called for clarity, especially as cruise ships were allowed to operate in England back in May, which resulted in the rather unedifying spectacle earlier this month of the MSC Virtuosa being banned from entering Greenock on account of the rules in Scotland being different and more stringent than in England.

Perhaps you can blame the company for not being vigilant enough in understanding the different pronouncements and nuances from Sturgeon and Johnson, but really which one of us has been able to truly follow all the constant Covid rule changes?

It felt at times more a confusing hokey-cokey double act, with one determined to be seen to be different to the other, and a public desperate for clarity and consistency.

The Scottish Passenger Agents Association described the situation with the cruise ship in Greenock, sitting pariah-like at the mouth of the Clyde, as “ludicrous” and rightly pointed out that anyone could travel from England by train, car or even plane for that matter – and to the thousands of Scots fans who poured into central London for a party, with barely a whimper of condemnation.

We may not be fully out of the pandemic yet – by any means – and we are still witnessing localised outbreaks, but the progress of double vaccination should give us some confidence of a return to normality. For those in small communities who depend on the likes of cruise ship visitors and other tourists for their livelihood, it can’t come quick enough.

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