Islanders face 400-mile round trip for bottled gas

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RESIDENTS on a remote Scottish island face a 400-mile round trip to get bottled gas – because the new ferry is unable to carry cylinders.

For years, those living on Barra Island in the Outer Hebrides have relied on supplies brought by daily ferry from the mainland.

The current vessel, MV Clansman, is set to move to another route and another ferry, MV Isle of Lewis, will take over at the end of the month.

But is has been revealed that the new ship has no open deck for cargo – and will not be able to carry gas bottles.

Caledonian MacBrayne, who operate the ferries, claim that gas supplies are “secure” because residents can still make a 400-mile round trip to Mallaig to restock.

CalMac claim the gas supplies are "secure"
CalMac claim the gas supplies are “secure”

The ferry operator has also promised to schedule a weekly boat to Oban, where locals will be able to pick up more bottles.

However, due to a tight schedule, those who made the trip would also have to stay the night.

Peter Nicholson, from Barra Island Stores, supplies customers and tourists with domestic gas which can be used for heating and cooking.

He also provides gas to the island’s school, emergency services, lifeboats and hotels.

He said: “We now have a daily sailing on a vessel that cannot carry bottled gas.

“This presents our business with a huge problem and the people of Barra too. How do we get gas to the island?”

Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, condemned the suggestion that residents could get their gas supplies from Oban.

She said: “The length of the sailings means it is impossible for people to get from Barra to Oban and back in the same day.

“The boat leaves Oban at 7:15am, gets into Barra at 2:15pm and then gets back to Oban at 9:30pm.

“While I welcome CalMac having listened to the community’s concerns, what they have proposed will still not resolve the issue.”

Helen Mcclymont, a hotelier in Barra, said that the community was currently blissfully unaware of the situation.

She said: “Right now the people of Barra are on the whole unaware of the problems we are facing and I feel I have no option but to ask for outside help.”

A CalMac spokesman said: “Bottled gas supplies to Barra when the new summer timetable is introduced at the end of the month are secure.

“Gas is readily available on a daily basis from wholesale suppliers on South Uist and from Mallaig. Gas can also still be brought to the island directly from Oban on an extra Wednesday sailing that has been laid on.”

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