Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil has written to Council Leader Angus Campbell, that he looks urgently into reversing, due to new emerging health issues, the damaging decisions taken by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to axe inter island flights.
Mr MacNeil is urging in the first instance to restore the service from Stornoway to Benbecula to five days a week, with two services each day and then to ensure that the smaller communities and more distant from the main services are also treated fairly by restoring the Barra to Benbecula link. The Comhairle is the only body in the Islands that receives public money from the Government for Air Transport services.
Mr MacNeil said:
“With the Comhairle not only damaging their own reputation and esteem amongst islanders, surely in their quieter moments they are regretting savagely axing the inter island flights which has been the biggest blow to island transportation in 40 years.
“The idea that flight three days a week between Benbecula and Stornoway is adequate would not even be considered by the most aloof civil servant in Edinburgh which make the Comhairle’s position all the more ridiculous. Therefore, I would urge the Comhairle to get the Stornoway Benbecula service up to five days as soon as possible and follow suit with the Benbecula Barra service. Everybody deserves a right to fairness regardless of where they live in the islands.
“I have been spoken to by a cancer patient in Barra, Margaret Currie, who tells me that blood she might need for transfusion might not arrive on Barra within its ambient temperature, due to the time taken to transport it, which means that in a weakened state, Mrs Currie, due to decisions by the Comhairle, would have to travel for blood. Now I know that the Comhairle didn’t mean this to happen and probably didn’t consider it would happen, which is exactly the point. This was a hasty and ill-judged decision by the Comhairle based on one voting round with only a few weeks’ notice.
“At the moment, blood which requires complex screening processes can only come three days a week. Further, I will be writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil MSP, to perhaps build a link for blood with Glasgow, as there are real difficulties for patients and medical staff now that the inter island transport links have been broken by the Comhairle. “
Cllr Donald Manford of Barra added:
“In light of this, the Comhairle who received money for transportation and have walked from the responsibility, have to think again.
“Health and social issues seemed to have been of little concern in the bean counting exercise.”