Another plea has gone to Councillor Angus Campbell. Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, over why the Council decided that Barra and Vatersay's views on the future of Western Island Air Services were not required.
This follows furious protests from councillors covering the Barra and Vatersay about a consultation process on island air services which did not include a meeting any further south than Balivanich.
Barra Councillor Donald Manford, one of four members for Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eiriosgaigh agus Uibhist a Deas, who is Vice-Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee, as well as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, said in early August: “I see the community of Barra and Vatersay are to all practical purposes” excluded from the drop-in events on "our air services. This community would be most grateful to have an explanation of why that is.”
Councillor Donnie Steele, who stays in Garryhallie, South Uist, said this was an “abysmal decision to completely ignore the communities of Barra and Vatersay in this.” Councillor David Blaney from Askernish South Uist said he totally agreed with criticism of the planned consultation events on inter island air services held in the Western Isles on Wednesday 17th and Thursday 18th August. And the fourth councillor Ronnie Mackinnon said: "Surely they will realise that they have got it wrong, what are they going to consult on in Stornoway, they have all the air services that they need. They should change the Stornoway venue to Barra, it's the southern isles that have the problems with the lack of flights."
Barra lost its air links to the rest of the Islands in CnES cutbacks several years ago and people flying between Stornoway and Castlebay now travel via Glasgow. CnES said earlier that the consultation events presented the public with an opportunity to have their say on how these services are run.
Guy Adams, who runs the Isle of Barra Beach Hotel with his family, was one of the local businesspeople to join the protest at the time, sending off a letter to the Council protesting and “fully expecting them to quickly acknowledge this mistake, apologise to the community and put things right with a community meeting on Barra/Vatersay.
“ Unfortunately,” he says, “this has not happened, indeed I have not even received an email acknowledging my concern and interest; I have run into a solid wall of silence. Now I accept that the Western Isles Council should not feel obliged to answer me, but common courtesy would suggest that at the very least they would acknowledge my interest even if they have no intention of taking any notice or regard of the Barra/Vatersay communities' concerns, let alone my comments.
“Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that I am aware that our Councillor, Donald Manford also raised this most important issue with the same people and has received no assurance that the communities of Barra and Vatersay will be consulted on the same terms as the other Western Isles citizens.
“It seems that unlike the other island communities who were given the opportunity to discuss these important services in an open public meeting, the Council has apparently decided that our Community Councils would represent us. This seems to have come as a surprise to all the Community Council Members in that they appear to have been unaware of this and at time of writing had not been contacted.
“As I understand it, this whole democratic exercise is being done by commissioned (paid) consultants to get the views on the Island Air Services of at least a selected part of the Western Isles population.
“This seems unnecessarily expensive as surely the democratically elected Councillors are, or at least should be, aware of their electorates' views on this subject?
“All the islands including the southern islands are totally dependent on the service provided by both air and sea. In addition to the mainland air services, many of us on Barra and Vatersay feel very keenly the current lack of inter-island air services as we have yet to understand or accept the arbitrary way the Council closed down the southern inter-island air service between Barra and Benbecula three years ago.
“Perhaps it is time that the Scottish Government are requested by the Council to take back responsibility for the routing decisions and the funding of these key inter-island air transport services?
“This should ensure that funding designed to be used to keep communities connected is used just for that purpose rather than being hived off for use elsewhere. The Western Isles Council does have a precedent for this in the fact that in the past it successfully asked the Scottish Government to take back responsibility for the inter-island ferry services. That decision was both necessary and logical so, why keep under Council auspices air services when the Council has no expertise, no independent funding nor apparently the wish or ability to develop and grow our badly-needed future air services,” Mr Adams asks.