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Communities on Ardnamurchan appreciate that living in such remote rural areas comes at an extra cost when compared to elsewhere, but they are fed up with governments paying what local people see as just lip service to supporting them.
That is what local Highland councillors were told when the future of the Corran Ferry service was being discussed at last week’s meeting of Highland Council’s Lochaber Area Committee.
Held in the Sunart Centre at Strontian, the meeting spent well over an hour discussing the vital lifeline ferry service.
HITRANS (Highland and Islands Transport Partnership) is currently working to deliver a Scottish Government Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) looking at the future options for crossing the Corran Narrows.
This includes the possibility of constructing either a bridge or a tunnel as an eventual possible alternative to the current ferry service.
However, ahead of councillors discussing progress made to the Corran Ferry service, the meeting heard from Joanne Matheson on behalf of Acharacle Community Council.
Representatives of five community councils on the Ardnamurchan peninsula were present for the discussion.
Ms Matheson said people living on Ardnamurchan appreciated that, due to the remoteness of the area, they could not expect services to be right on their doorstep.
‘We accepted that rural living is more expensive than urban living and the double whammy is the distance from services which means an increased cost to access those services – we understand that,’ she said.
‘But the Scottish and UK governments have continually claimed they want to support rural communities, yet time and time again we see them supporting measures that go completely against that declaration.
‘There are approximately 1,500 people living in the areas represented by our five community councils. Already this year we have seen a three per cent increase in our council tax bills.
‘People on Ardgour and elsewhere already have to pay more to access things like GP and dental appointments because it means travelling to Fort William and using the ferry.
‘And in terms of employment, there are difficulties for young people trying to access jobs in Fort William because of transport issues.
‘And while for us living here it might just be a rise of 7p on ferry fares, but it is yet another 7p rise on top of all the other rises.’
Ms Matheson went on to highlight how last year the combined efforts of the five community councils led to the reversal of plans to keep the Dail Mhor care home at Strontian closed.
She added: ‘We now have a good working relationship with NHS Highland as a result and we are looking to do the same with you [Highland Council] over the Corran ferry.
‘We understand the budget process the council has to undergo and that there are difficult issues for the council to address, but this is impacting on communities.’
Committee chair Andrew Baxter (Fort William and Ardnamurchan) said the most important thing was the appeal from the community councils for the council to work with them on the ferry issue.
‘A lot of money and time has already gone on consultants’ reports which have then been either left to gather dust on shelves or just dismissed,’ he said.
‘These are the five most successful community councils when it comes to getting change for this area – you just have to look out of the window and see what they achieved with the new school.’
Committee members agreed to take up the offer from the community councils to work closely with Highland Council in future years on this issue.