CalMac have moved to reassure islanders after alarm about the potential for a sudden influx of visitors, now that some lockdown restrictions have been lifted in parts of the UK.
A rush of social media commentary, ranging from the nervous to the hostile, followed an incident last week when the Guardian newspaper inaccurately portrayed Isle of Lewis beaches as ‘open for business’ because travel restrictions were relaxed in England.
And temperatures were turned up further today (Sunday 17 May) at news that author Neil Gaiman has travelled 11,000 miles from Auckland, New Zealand to the Isle of Skye to ‘isolate’ at one of his homes.
But west coast ferry operator CalMac has moved to calm concerns in the Western Isles and other island locations served by their ferries.
CalMac's director of operations, Robert Morrison, said: “CalMac is implementing strict controls as implemented by the Scottish Government. We are actively turning people away who are not able to produce the evidence required of island residency or key worker status, and we have posters around our entire network making it clear under what circumstances you can travel.
“However, it is important to note that we do not have police or civic powers. If even stricter measures are required then this is a matter of Government policy and would require a political solution. We all have a part to play in this because the existing guidelines are clear.”
Last week the ferry company published statistics showing that 145 parties have been refused travel on CalMac vessels since lockdown started on 26 March.
The numbers include six refusals to travel at Stornoway ferry terminal, and one on the Sound of Harris route. Other would-be travellers have been advised not to attempt travel when calling CalMac’s customer service centre or ferry offices.
Passenger and vehicle numbers are reported to be down by 95% across the whole network.
And CalMac took to Twitter over the weekend to specifically explain the presence of some motorhomes in Tarbert. "Engineers will attend Tarbert to carry out essential repairs onboard the MV Hebrides on Saturday 16th May until Monday 18th May. Engineers will require motorhomes during this maintenance and these will be present at Tarbert Port."