Detour to Glasgow for Barra business

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Officials from Stornoway travelling to Barra on business may now be taking a 300 mile detour to Glasgow due to cuts in inter-island flights.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar insist that no official or council member has flown to Barra from Stornoway via a flight to Glasgow, but say there were three trips by officers from Barra via Glasgow to Stornoway.

The council do say this option could be considered if it was found to be better value for money than travelling by ferry and car.

The Health Board refused to provide details of travel by their staff or board members other than through a Freedom of Information request which has now been submitted by the Gazette.

It is understood that officials attending a recent public meeting on Barra told the 90 people present that they had travelled from Stornoway through Glasgow to get to Barra.

The flights between Benbecula and Barra were cut this time last year and were largely used by council and health board officials on business.

The issue of officials travelling on the Barra-Glasgow flight was raised at a recent public meeting in Castlebay on the new St Brendan’s Hospital development where there is concern from the community that capacity on the Barra-Glasgow flight is being used up by officials on business.

There is concern that patients going for hospital appointments in Glasgow are often forced to take the ferry from Barra to Eriskay and then travel to Benbecula to catch a flight as there is no space left on the Barra-Glasgow flight.

Local councillor Donald Manford said officials had been asked about their journey to Barra at the meeting and they had said they had travelled from Stornoway by plane via Glasgow.

Following this, he says, Leader of the Comhairle Angus Campbell instructed the Comhairle’s Chief Executive to investigate if any council officials had travelled that way.

Cllr Manford says that ironic as it may be, travel through Glasgow may be a more efficient way for officials to travel giving better value for money in terms of officers’ time and could also aid the case for additional flights between Barra and Glasgow.

He says that new powers for communities in future could mean places like Barra could gain direct funding for services themselves instead of having to go through the council.

“The way I see it,” he said, “If that comes to be, the islands will never have been in an stronger position and we can move forward together and the Comhairle will just have to learn to come and join us or risk being left behind.”