Shared ‘Lone ranger’ role makes no sense

Ardura Forest on Mull will be bought by Mull and Iona Community Trust.

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Oban’s new ‘lone’ ranger will spend half the working week sitting on a ferry if council plans to share out the job with the rest of the Lorn area and its neighbouring islands go ahead.

Talks on the new ranger roles being brought in by Argyll and Bute Council to cope with this summer’s expected staycation surge are still ongoing but news of the Oban, Lorn and Isles (OLI) area being allocated just one of those posts has already reached Mull.

Although the vast majority of visitors to Argyll and Bute respect the people and places
they visit, challenges with littering, bad parking and dirty campers happen.

A single ranger for the whole of the OLI area ‘makes no sense’ says Mull and Iona Trust chief executive Moray Finch who has already messaged the council asking if its existing ranger service can put in a bid in for a share of the job’s funding to look after itself.

Neighbouring Highland Council has included £300,000 for 10 seasonal rangers as part of a £1.5m visitor management strategy – Argyll and Bute is investing £830,000 in its staycation strategy with a cut of that funding wardens to promote responsible camping.

Neil Hutton from Visit Mull and Iona told this month’s online meeting of Mull Community Council that there had been talks with Argyll and Bute Council and they had been told one ranger had been allocated to the whole of Oban, Lorn and The Isles.

‘I don’t think we’ll see an awful lot of them,’ he said.

Andrena Duffin also said the community council, along with other relevant bodies including Mull and Iona Community Trust, had been in talks with the local authority.

‘The allocation is under discussion as is chemical waste disposal and various other things relevant to the issues we experienced with campervans last year,’ she said.

Mr Finch told the meeting: ‘We have got a message in to the council to see whether it’s possible for us to bid for a proportion of the resource of that one full-time equivalent as a seasonal ranger.

‘Plainly if that resource based in Oban is going to cover Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree they are going to spend at least half of the week sitting on a ferry so it makes no sense for that person to be based on the mainland.’

Mr Finch said the trust was now waiting to hear back.

Oban south and the Isles Councillor Jamie McGrigor asked community councillors what people would expect the warden’s job to be on Mull.

Mr Finch replied there had been a Mull and Iona ranger service for 22 years to help resolve access problems, issues with inappropriate camping and litter behaviour, and it was ‘precisely the role’ that Argyll and Bute was creating ‘in a knee-jerk reaction’ to the problems experienced last year.

Community council convenor Billy McClymont said a lot of time would be wasted on travel if the allocated ranger was based in Oban and he supported ‘carving off’ some of the allocated funding to add to Mull’s ranger roles.

Councillor McGrigor, who is following up the idea with council officials, added: ‘One person for the whole of the area is going to be very stretched. It would be better to contribute to a Mull ranger.’

‘That would be fantastic,’ said Mr McClymont.

Tiree Community Council convenor Dr John Holliday also said splitting one ranger post  between Oban and the islands would not go far or make much of a difference because of time spent on the boat.

Like Mull, Tiree has its own ranger, Dr Holliday added: ‘Last summer was busy, we had a lot of new faces and our ranger did a fantastic job. We didn’t have any problems like other places but we are bracing ourselves for a busy time ahead after a quiet winter and some new money from the council to expand our ranger service would be nice.’

Over on Coll, the community council’s Julian Senior said members had ‘not heard a word’ from Argyll and Bute about the ranger idea but it would seem ‘bizarre’ to have to share.

‘We don’t have a ranger or a police officer here. We are more of a self-regulating island. We have arrangements and recommendations for visitors coming here, we don’t have any bother,’ he said, adding if there was trouble – the culprits would be on the next boat to leave.

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said the ranger jobs complementing the work of its current wardens will be advertised on soon.

‘What we also highlighted to MICT is that funding is available from other sources, such as NatureScot’s Better Places and Green Recovery Fund, which is targeted at supporting rural tourism. The council can’t do everything on its own, but by working together we can ensure the best possible outcome for Argyll and Bute,’ added the spokesperson.