Residents on a small Hebridean island have raised fears that ferry tickets are continuing to be sold to outsiders to travel there after Boxing Day – with no vetting process.
Coll, with its population of 220, is 13 miles long and three miles wide. The island moves into Level 3 on Boxing Day. It has been “Covid free”, and with only one doctor, that is the way locals want it to stay.
CalMac, who operate the ferry from Oban to the island, said it is the responsibility of passengers to ensure they adhere to movement restrictions – for essential travel only.
Councillor Roddy McCuish, who represents the Oban South and the Isles ward, said that CalMac is only following Scottish Government guidance.
He said: “All they have to do is ask the person if their journey is necessary. They have no powers to deny anyone, no powers to ask for any covid test results.
“Mull is full of strangers, go into any supermarket in Oban and it is packed with people. People will still head up here.
“The Scottish Government hasn’t given CalMac any powers, all CalMac are doing is following guidance.
“People from Coll are concerned because Coll has only one doctor, an outbreak on Coll would be an absolute disaster when they have been Covid-free.”
Julian Senior of Coll Community Council said: “It is all rather difficult. What do we do if people are wilful enough to flout the law?
“Our only doctor Celine O’Neil has worked tirelessly to keep the island Covd free so that there isn’t an outbreak, the last thing she needs is people coming, even from Oban.
“When Scottish Water had workers on the island they stayed on site. When the company was building our new ferry linkspan they had their own accommodation at the pier.
“The people we trust are trying as hard as they can to keep the island Covid free.
“As far as I am concerned, if anybody is making plans to travel if it is not for an essential purpose, then it is completely wrong.”
Robert Morrison, operations director for CalMac said: “We are advising all customers to ensure that they are aware of the Scottish Government guidance on travel restrictions before seeking to travel by ferry. A link to that guidance is brought up whenever anybody tries to book. It is for customers to be responsible for following the relevant restrictions that apply to them when booking or travelling.
“We will continually engage and inform customers during this period to remind them of the guidelines in place.
“If customers already have a booking but decide they do not need to travel, they can cancel their reservation and we will waive the £10 refund administration fee for travel dates up to January 31 2021.”
Transport Scotland said enforcement is a matter for police.
A spokesman said: “From Boxing Day permissible categories of activity and travel will vary between tier three and four across Scotland. We continue to rely upon our operators to help us to communicate and reinforce Scottish Ministers’ policy, and upon individual travellers making responsible judgements.
“If it is apparent that people are travelling from outwith the local area, staff will promote the need for them to be familiar with the guidance on travelling within tiers and through different local authority areas.
“Transport operators are not expected to enforce restrictions but are helping to raise awareness and publicise the rules and approach. Enforcement is a matter for Police Scotland.”