Further to a meeting with Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, and Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, in July, the Comhairle wrote to the Minister on 11 August expressing its concerns and those of its communities about the significant increase in campervans and motorhomes travelling to the Western Isles since the easing of lockdown and the health and environmental concerns and complaints from communities about ‘wild camping’ or ‘roadside camping’.
While the Comhairle’s message to campervan and motorhome visitors has, from the outset, been not to visit the Western Isles unless they have a booking at an official camp site, given that facilities and services at camp sites are not open, it is apparent that this is being largely ignored with resultant adverse impacts on the local environment.
The Comhairle reiterated that message in their letter to the Minister and asked that CalMac agree to post the following advisory notice on their website, on behalf of the Comhairle:
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar requests that during the Covid-19 pandemic, visitors in caravans, motorhomes and campervans pre-book with official campsites on the Western Isles, before travelling. This is the message coming from our local communities and which has our full support to protect the health of visitors and our local communities, so that numbers can be properly managed and waste can be disposed of safely, without detriment to the local environment. This applies to all routes to and visitor destinations within the Western Isles.
The Comhairle is pleased to note that CalMac have agreed to display the message on their website. Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee, welcomed the publication of the advisory note and stated that “any restriction on the numbers of campervans and motorhomes to the Western Isles during these unprecedented times, that can be brought about, represents a responsible approach which does not impact adversely on the local environment and public health, while still in the local economic interest”.