Smaoinich fhèin na bhiodh aig na tha sin de dh’oifigearan is de luchd-comhairleachaidh ri ràdh mu dheidhinn – gum biodh iad às an chiall a dhol am measg na tha sin de dh’eileanaich fiadhaich a’ brunndalaich mu aiseagan gun sgur. Cùm air falbh, ’s e a’ chomhairle a bhiodh aca.
Tha fios gun can gach duine aca nach eil an iomall idir a-mach às an t-sealladh aca agus tha leisgeulan gu leòr air a thighinn son seirbheis nan aiseagan.
Ach, tha fhios nach eil càil nas fheàrr na rudan fhaicinn le do shùilean fhèin son a thuigsinn ceart, fiù ‘s ged nach biodh ann ach airson ùine bheag ann an tìm.
Tha cuimhne mhath agam a dhol a dh’aithris air coinneamh phoblach ann am Bagh a’ Chaisteil agus iad a’ beachdachadh air sguir a sgèith euslaintich bho Bharraigh a-null a Bheinn na Faoghla. Bha iad ag iarraidh an cur a Ghlaschu, no air an aiseag a-nall a dh’Uibhist.
Là na coinneimh agus bha i robach, geamhraideil: gèiltean, is frasan trom is droch fhairge.
Bha aig fear dhe na h-oifigearan a bha tighinn a’ mhìneachadh am poileasaidh ri sgèith a-steach a’ Bheinn na Fhaoghla agus a dhol a-null air an aiseag e fhèin.
Chan eil fhios am faca mi riamh duine air an robh uimhir a chur na mara agus mun àm a bha a’ choinneimh phoblach ann nas fhaide air an oidhche sin fhè in, bha an truaghan fhathast cho geal ri taibhse.
Thuirt Barrach a choireigin bhon làr: “Chan eil e idir ceart a bhith toirt air boireannaich trom agus seann daoine a bhith dol a-null air an aiseag dhan ospadal.”
Cha chualas an còrr mu na molaidhean ’s chan eil e duilich tuigse carson.
Gun càil a’ choltas g’ eil crìoch a’ tighinn air butarrais eagalach CalMac, is cinnteach g’ eil an t-àm ann (ro fhada a bhith ann, son an fhìrinn innse) daoine a chur an sàs a thuigeas a’ bhuaidh a tha seo a’ toirt air na h-eileanan, an eaconamaidh agus an èiginn a tha e ag adhbharachadh.
’S ann le Riaghaltas na h-Alba a tha CalMac agus a’ buidheann a tha os cionn a bhith fastadh nan aiseagan, CMAL.
Seach gu feum CalMac obrachadh le na soithichean a tha aca – aosta is a’ tuiteam às a chèile – ’s dòcha nach bu chòir cus coire a chur orra-san. Agus gu deimhinne cha bu chòir a chur air an luchd-obrach bhochd a dh’fheumas dèiligeadh ri fearg an luchd-siubhail bho là gu là.
’S ann shuas an staidhre a tha cùisean ceàrr, aig an ìre às àirde dhen riaghaltas, agus cha ghabh ach dà rud a bhith fìor: chan eil dragh gu leòr aca, no chan eil sgot aca ciamar a thèid a chur ceart. Chan eil mi fhèin buileach cinnteach dè as miosa.
Ach, nam faiceadh iad len sùilean fhèin an trioblaid a tha iad air adhbharachadh, ’s dòcha gun tuigeadh iad nas fheàrr agus, gu deimhinne, cha bhiodh iad cho deònach an cùlaibh a chur ris.
The prevailing mood in Scottish politics right now seems to be to expect the unexpected, with revelations surrounding Sturgeon, Murrell, party finances, etc, emerging by the day. We have been forced to revisit our sense of disbelief as the seemingly impregnable SNP hegemony continues headlong on its course of self-destruction.
So, not much comes as a shock now, but still it’s probably safe to assume that we won’t see Humza Yousaf and his new Transport Minister, Kevin Sewart, heading to the islands any time soon. You can just imagine the horrified reaction of the Spads (‘special advisors’ to us minions outside the political clique) at such a prospect. Best to stay away from all these disgruntled natives and their constant harrumphing over ferries, they’d no doubt strongly advise.
They will, of course, reject any notion of their lack of action being a case of out of sight, out of mind and offer the usual platitudes of listening and apologies, and hope that will be enough. But nothing beats real first-hand, lived experience, even if just for the merest moments in time. Back when reporters were able to spend more time out and about meeting real people, I was dispatched to cover a public meeting in Castlebay over a proposal to remove medical flights between Barra and Benbecula, with alternatives being patients flying to Glasgow or travelling by ferry over to the hospital in Uist.
The day came with a Hebridean winter’s bite: gales, rain and high seas. One of the officials charged to explain the proposed change of policy had to fly into Benbecula and travel across the Sound to Barra himself. The poor fellow had a horrendous time. As the small ferry was thrown about on the sea, crashing into thundering waves, he was clinging fast to the side, feeding the seagulls, as we like to say in these parts, with his projectile vomiting. There were a few knowing, wry smiles. By the time of the meeting later that evening, he was still visibly green around the gills.
As one audience member remarked: “It’s really not fair to be asking pregnant women and the elderly to make that crossing when going to hospital.” The proposal never went any further and you can well imagine why. There was lived experience to report back.
As the CalMac ferry network continues to lurch from farce to despair, it’s long past time for some of that lived experience to be brought into the equation, so that at least there can be an understanding of the debilitating effect of a failing lifeline service on island economies.
The Scottish Government owns CalMac Ferries and its procurement agency CMAL. With the operator having to make the best of a fleet well past its sell-by date, maybe they can be spared the worst of the blame – and it’s certainly unfair on their front-line staff to be having to incur the wrath of the travelling public for something over which they have absolutely no control.
The problem lies much further up the food chain, right to the top of government, and only one of the following scenarios can be true: either they don’t care enough to deal with it properly, or no longer have any idea as to how. It’s debatable as to which is worse. But a little bit more of that lived experience, a comprehension as to how the islands are suffering from a broken transport system, might at least bring some much-needed urgency to bear.