Tha feum air guth aonaichte air aiseagan, tha Murray MacLeòid ag ràdh

Nuair a chuir Mata Wright tadhal sa mhionaid mu dheireadh dha Ross County agus iad a’ cluiche an aghaidh Rangers Disathairne ’s a chaidh, cha robh càil a dh’fhios aige gun robh e a’ dol a tharraing aire gu cuspair a tha gu math nas fharsainge na dè tha tachairt air pàirc ball-coise.

Mata Wright as dèidh dha an tadhal a chur dha Ross County. (Dealbh: Craig Williamson/SNS Group)
Mata Wright as dèidh dha an tadhal a chur dha Ross County. (Dealbh: Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

[English-language version below]

A’ bruidhinn ri Sky Sports às dèidh a’ gheama, bhruidhinn manaidsear an sgioba Malky MacAoidh mu cho cruaidh ‘s a tha e air a bhith ag obair agus an taic a bha e a’ faighinn bho theaghlach, bhon, mar chuideigin bho Leòdhas, bha aige ri tric a’ siubhal air an aiseag agus dà uair a thìde an uair sin air an rathad airson a thighinn gu acadamaidh òigridh an sgioba ann an Inbhir Pheofharain.

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‘S beag a tha dh’fhios ciamar a bha e a’ faighinn air cluiche às dèidh sin, ach tha a h-uile coltas a-nis gun robh e soirbheachail agus gum math a b’fhiach an saothair.

Ach, dha eileanaich bho Shealltainn sìos a dh’Eilean Arainn, chan eil seo neònach.

Tha na h-aiseagan mar phàirt mhòr de ar beatha, na tha e a' ciallachadh a bhith nad eileanach. Chan eil na h-uairean a thìde a dh’fheumar caitheamh aig muir, glè thric ann an droch thìde, ach nam prìs airson na buannachdan ann a bhith a' fuireach ann an coimhearsnachdan cho taitneach.

Chan eil e cus a ràdh gu bheil na h-aiseagan a’ cumail beatha ris na h-eileanan. Às aonais seirbheis cheart anns an urrainn do sheòrsa air choireigin de dh’earbsa a bhith, bhiodh e an ìre mhath do-dhèanta beatha cheart a dhèanamh sna h-eileanan.

Sin as coireach gu bheil e cho duilich gabhail ris nach eil an luchd-poileataigs a’ faighinn grèim cheart air a' mhasladh de sheirbheis a tha aig CalMac an-dràsta. Tha e a’ faireachdainn suarach dha-rìribh agus ‘s beag an t-ìongnadh, ged a bhiodh an smuain ann nach eil eileanaich idir cudromach an taca ri sluagh mòr nam bailtean mòra.

Ach, tha comharran ann gun tig rudeigin a dhèanamh mu dheidhinn. Dh’iarr Sam Bourne, cathraiche comataidh aiseagan Eilean Arainn, agus fear a bhiodh a’ dealbhadh shoithichean e fhèin, air na h-eileanan gu lèir a thighinn còmhla gus coimhead air na duilgheasan mòra a bhios a’ ruith air feadh an lìonra bho thuath gu deas.

Mar a thuirt e fhèin, gabhaidh eileanach sam bith ri seirbheisean gan cur dheth air sgàth droch thìde, ach nuair a chuireas tu sin ri soithichean a tha air a dhol fada seachad air an là a bha còir aca falbh, nuair a tha cidhichean a’ tuiteam às a’ chèile agus thu an teas mheadhan pandemic, tha thu air d’ fhàgail le “stoirm” de throimh-chèile.

Tha e a’ dèanamh ciall dha na h-eileanan a tha CalMac a’ frithealadh a thighinn còmhla airson feuchainn ri dèiligeadh ri seo. ‘S iongnatach ri linn poileataigs gum bi Riaghaltas na h-Alba air a shon, ach cha bu chòir dha sin stad a chur air. Aig a’ char as lugha, cha bhi e cho furasta gun feart a thoirt dha guth aonaichte a tha a’ tighinn bho na h-eileanan gu lèir.

Tha an suidheachadh an-dràsta far a bheil trì buidhnean os cionn na seirbheise – CalMac fhein, CMAL (leis a bheil na puirt agus a bhios a’ toirt nan aiseagan a-mach air mall) agus Còmhdhail na h-Alba (Riaghaltas na h-Alba) – a’ fàgail g’ eil e ro fhurasta dhaibh coire a chur air a chèile.

Ged nach biodh ann ach gum faigheadh buidheann ùr aiseagan nan eilean air beagan a bharrachd de sholas a chur air dè tha a' tachairt aig àrd-ìre ‘s math a b’ fhiach e. Tha cruaidh fheum air rudeigin, bhon nach fhuirich fearg nan eilean sàmhach ro fhada.

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.

When 19-year-old Matthew Wright scored the dramatic equaliser for Ross County FC against league champions Rangers last Saturday, he wasn’t to know that he was going to draw attention to an issue which goes beyond the sporting realm and goes to the heart of what it means to be, like himself, an islander.

Speaking to Sky Sports afterwards, his manager Malky MacKay spoke of the youngster’s resilience, his hard work and dedication and support of his family as, being from the Isle of Lewis, Wright had to make regular ferry journeys – and a two-hour road crossing on the other side – to attend the club’s academy in Dingwall. How he was able to compete without being too exhausted is a mystery.

But for islanders, from Shetland all the way down to Arran, this is not so remarkable. The ferries are our lifeblood, part of our essence, the countless hours spent bobbing about on the ocean – and too often swaying from side to side, hoping breakfast won’t make a re-appearance – is a willing sacrifice for living in some of the most spectacular parts of the UK.

When the service is described, as it often is, as a lifeline, it is no hyperbole. Without a reliable, regular service, living on the islands would become impossible.

That’s why the current refusal by political masters to get to grips with the shambles that is CalMac – despite numerous pleas – is unfathomable and fosters a sense of betrayal in these communities.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that islanders are just not that important when weighed against the population bias of the Central Belt.

But there are signs it won’t be taken lying down. Sam Bourne, a naval architect who chairs the Arran Ferry Group, recently called for communities served by CalMac to present a united front as the problems are so endemic throughout the network.

As he alluded to, cancellations through bad weather are just part of living on an island, but when you combine that with vessels well past their design lives, ageing infrastructure at the ports, new ferries years late and a global pandemic, you are left with a ‘perfect storm’ of disruption.

It certainly makes sense, in a climate of inaction, for all the islands and the ports served by CalMac to come together to try and address this systemic failure.

It’s unlikely, due to political considerations, that this will in any way be facilitated by the Scottish government but that should not prevent it happening. At the very least, a collective voice will be harder to ignore.

The current tripartite operation for overseeing the service – CalMac Ferries, CMAL (which owns the ports and ferries and leases them to CalMac), Transport Scotland, and the Scottish Government – means responsibility is too easily shifted from one to the other, with the end result of inertia.

Even if a collective island forum on ferries does nothing else but help bring much-needed accountability to the decision-making process, it will have served a useful purpose.

As young Matthew Wright showed, islanders are known for their patience and fortitude, but it can only go so far.

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