Small Isles school ferry to remain on a weekly basis for now

Highland Council headquarters In Inverness. NO F19 council HQ
Highland Council headquarters In Inverness. NO F19 council HQ

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The Small Isles ferry which transports island pupils to Mallaig High School is to remain operating on a weekly basis for now, according to The Highland Council.

A fortnightly rotation had been the permanent arrangement for a number of years and was temporarily changed to a weekly rotation in October while in-school learning for pupils was restricted due to Covid-19.

But after the council recently notified parents of a return to the fortnightly sailing schedule, both local MSP Kate Forbes and Fort William and Ardnamurchan SNP councillor Niall McLean urged the local authority to retain weekly crossings for the youngsters from Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna.

This week, the council confirmed to the Lochaber Times that the Small Isles ferry for pupils staying in the secondary school’s residence would remain weekly as ‘a precautionary measure’ due to rises in Covid-19 cases in Fort William and Lochaber area.

The council said no timescale had been decided upon for the length of time the weekly sailing schedule would remain in place.

Giving her reaction on Tuesday, Ms Forbes told us: ‘I welcome Highland Council’s decision to temporarily revert to the weekly boat service, and I am particularly pleased they recognise it is important for young people to have the support of their families during this immensely difficult time with Covid.

‘Going on the feedback I have received from the Small Isles communities, the weekly pattern appears to have served them well.

‘I understand that longer-term frequency of sailings remains under review by the council, and I hope they will continue to listen to the well-founded concerns of the families involved before making a final decision.’

Councillor McLean told us: ‘I am pleased the weekly crossings will be maintained for now, but would also hope for these to be a permanent fixture. Weekly crossings will have a huge positive impact on the pupils, parents and family life.’