Coronavirus: Call for daytrips to Arran to be banned

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Shiskine Golf Club on July 24, 2018, Isle of Arran, ScotlandImage source, Getty Images

Community leaders on the Isle of Arran have suggested that day trips to the island should be banned while Scotland is recovering from the coronavirus.

The Arran Recovery Group (ARG) wants only tourists staying multiple nights allowed on the ferry.

Social distancing will limit capacity to about 20% on certain services; as a result the ARG want "no day visitors" during the initial recovery phase.

The group warned that social distancing could "imperil" the island's economy.

The only way to get onto the island is by ferry, and the local economy is heavily reliant on tourism, which supports more than 1,500 jobs.

The ARG thinks if ferry operator CalMac places restrictions on ferry travel to allow only essential workers, commercial traffic, locals, those visiting family, and tourists intending to stay for more than one night, then 50% of the 2019 passenger levels could be safely carried to the island.

However, CalMac says that with social distancing measures capacity on its ships will only be 20%.

The ARG said accommodation businesses on the island already have some bookings that were made before the lockdown which could allow occupancy levels to come close to previous years while maintaining social distancing.

Image source, PA Media

The chairman of the Arran Economic Group, Tom Tracey, said tourism "is the lifeblood of Arran".

He continued: "We need to ensure that there is capacity - safe capacity - on the ferry to allow our businesses to operate."

'Urgent action' required

Linda Johnston, the co-founder of the island's biggest accommodation provider, Auchrannie Resort, has written to the Scottish government to outline the "catastrophic damage" that will be caused unless urgent action is taken.

Ms Johnston said: "It is now clear that the Scottish government sees the islands exiting lockdown and moving through the phases of the route map behind the rest of Scotland, and that ferry capacity to the islands is expected to be below 20%.

"Both of these present an unprecedented threat and clearly leave the islands at a disadvantage to the rest of Scotland and the UK. Clearly there is currently no plan for the islands."

CalMac's managing director Robbie Drummond said: "We have great sympathy with the position of island businesses - particularly those which rely on tourism and we have been working with tourism representatives across our network to discuss how we can help them rebuild after Covid.

"At all stages of the Covid response, CalMac has followed government guidelines on essential ferry travel and physical distancing.

"As it stands the physical distancing rules of 2m dictate that we can only carry around 18% of our usual passenger numbers with the car deck restricted to 91% on our large ferries and our turnaround times will also be longer due to physically distanced queues and cleaning regimes on board.

"Our smaller ferries where passengers can remain in cars will operate close to their normal capacities."

Mr Drummond added: "We are exploring all options and discussing future timetable options with Transport Scotland.

"However, the decision on who can travel and physical distancing on board our ferries remains a matter of government policy."