MSP keen to explore options for athletes

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Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan is calling for financial assistance for island athletes who are hit hard in the pocket during their sporting seasons due to regular trips across the Minch.

This week he has confirmed he has written to Aileen Campbell, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health and Sport, to discuss any possible assistance.

The move comes on the back of plea by Western Isles Councillor Gordon Murray to CalMac Chief Executive Martin Dorchester in which Murray urged the ferry operator to lend a hand.

“It is great that Caledonian Macbrayne is supporting such worthy causes as the National Mod,” began Councillor Murray, “but I have asked that they consider the many sports clubs and organisations that travel to the mainland on the ferry.

“As clubs and organisations become more and more successful, costs rise and I would like to ask Caledonian Macbrayne to reconsider their policy decision and look at helping these organisations compete on the mainland stage.”

But a spokesperson for CalMac revealed to the Gazette that the operator have ‘no leeway to offer reductions’ with prices set by the Scottish Government.

A spokesperson said: “CalMac would not be in a position to offer any discounted fares. Fares are sent by the Scottish Government and the company does not have leeway to offer reductions.

“As a company CalMac is committed to supporting community events in the areas we serve and if any club is organising an event that is likely to draw more visitors to the islands that is something we would consider supporting on a one off basis and we a have an application process in place for this purpose.”

SNP commitment

Alasdair Allan highlights the implementation of RET and the increase in the Air Discount Scheme as evidence of the SNP Government’s commitment to investing in travel to and from the isles but he is keen to explore assistance for athletes.

He said: “We need to ensure island competitors are allowed to reach their sporting potential and that sports groups are able to reach competitions on the mainland without undue financial burden.

“I have previously taken up with Calmac the issue of island sports groups being charged commercial rates due to the size of their minibuses.

“I have now written to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health and Sport, Aileen Campbell, to ask what can be done to stop this kind of anomaly and also what more can be done to help island sports groups with the cost of travel.

“This is also something I will raise with Calmac when I next meet them as I believe it is something they should have a role in.”