FERRY company Caledonian Macbrayne is sailing into another Sunday controversy after confirming the start of a new service for Harris.
But the move has angered campaigners fighting to keep the Western Isles’ Sabbath traditions.
At present a “repositioning” ferry leaves Tarbert, without passengers, on Sunday mornings to enable it to provide a service between Lochmaddy and Uig in Skye.
Since 2006, a Sunday passenger ferry has operated between Berneray in North Uist to Leverburgh in Harris – a move that provoked much criticism from campaigners.
The islands’ Sunday way of life was further eroded in 2009 when CalMac ran its first scheduled sailing between Lewis and Ullapool.
CalMac said the new Harris service follows representations by some Harris residents and a consultation with the community.
A spokesman for the company said: “In addition to providing indirect access between Skye from Harris on a Sunday, it reduces the need for ferry travellers to travel across the Sound of Harris from Leverburgh to Berneray and also provides a useful back-up to that service, which is prone to tidal, as well as weather, disruptions.”
The spokesman said the services will be available to book in the next few days.
Rev Greg MacDonald, chairman of the Harris branch of the Lord’s Day Observance Society, called on the Scottish Government to block the sailings pending a “professional and accountable” consultation.
He said: “Despite written assurances, as recently as this summer, that they had no such plans, CalMac are once again hoping to sneak in their Sabbath-breaking policies without having to be held to account over it.”
He added: “Five years back, in Leverburgh, they sailed their vessel despite earlier insisting that they would impose no such sailing without the support of the local authority.
“In the case of the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry they preferred to hide behind a pathetically contrived legal opinion, quoting Equalities legislation.
“Now, for the Tarbert crossing, the plan is clearly to slip it quietly into the timetable and hope no-one notices.”
Harris councillor Morag Munro also accused CalMac of a “lack of transparency and no proper consultation”.
However, the CalMac spokesman said: “The consultation began in October last year and ran to August this year, so there is no question that adequate notice about the possibility of this was given.”
Originally posted here:
Sabbath being ‘undermined by stealth’ as Calmac starts new service