Camper van drivers were accused of living in “Never, Never land” when they arrive off the ferry taking them to a Scottish island.
Andrew Montgomery, the Duke of Argyll’s estate factor, claimed the owners of the vans and other types of motor homes, break the law by selflessly driving over valuable grazing land. He told a public meeting on the Isle of Tiree:
“When the drivers arrive here they end up in a Never, Never land and think they can do what they like. They will have to be educated that Tiree is part of the rest of Britain and they should respect the same laws as they do back home.”
The meeting, attended by about 80 local crofters and other residents, heard how the van owners damage the land and shoreline dunes by driving over unfenced areas to get to the beaches. John Bowler, chairman of the local Access group set up to protect the fabric of the island, accused the van drivers of emptying their toilets on open ground. He said:
“We don’t want to ban the vans, but we must find a balance to stop the damage being done to the island. To allow unlimited access to the island is unsustainable as the increased traffic has already impacted on natural environment, water, sewage, waste and transport systems.”
He said there had been a 154 per cent increase in the number of vans to the islands, including Barra, Coll and the Uists, this summer because the ferry fares had been halved by the introduction of the Road Equivalent Scheme.
The small camp sites had been full along with two local parking areas. The meeting voted overwhelmingly, with only three people against, to introduce a scheme to restrict the vans arriving to those that prebooked an overnight parking site. The scheme would allow locals to provide parking for a small fee and enable the van drivers to empty their toilets in their sceptic tanks. The drivers would not be allowed to travel on the ferries when booking with Caledonian MacBrayne unless they had prebooked a site.
Councillor Mary Jean Devon, of Argyll and Bute Council, told the meeting that other islands, Colonsay and Iona, had schemes to restrict vehicle numbers to safeguard the fabric there. Alison Spence, Tiree’s full time Access officer, told the meeting that she counted 20 camper vans parked at one of the island’s beaches that day, but could not say how many more were elsewhere on the 12-mile-long by five-mile-broad island.
The meeting also agreed to hold a postal vote of local residents on the scheme to “manage” the flow of camper vans to the island – population 800 – and which is owned by the Argyll Estates.