How does Arran recover from COVID-19?

Council grass cutting resumed this week in Brodick with the magnificent backdrop of Goatfell and the Arran mountains.

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A plan to ease Arran out of lockdown could see businesses opening to islanders first and ahead of any visitors coming from the mainland.

This Arran for Arran approach could give businesses the chance for a ‘soft’ opening as it is widely accepted that residents on the island, which has a significant elderly population, have a genuine anxiety of an uncontrolled influx of visitors.

Some businesses are already tentatively opening their doors, including bakers Wooleys, Sliddery Supplies and The Parlour for takeaways. However with tourism contributing £69 million directly and indirectly to the Arran economy, if the island remains closed, 80 per cent of this could be lost and many businesses could collapse.

What is of most concern is daytrippers flocking to the island. However, it emerged this week that capacity on the MV  Caledonian Isles could be as low as 17 per cent meaning that only 170 passengers would be allowed on each sailing, although this has not been confirmed by CalMac.

It is amid all this uncertainty that a bid is now being made to give residents a say in an island-wide online survey which has been produced for people to record their views on a wide range of topics including, just when and how, the island should open up to visitors.

It comes following the welcome news that there has been no COVID-19 cases recorded on Arran for more than five weeks.

The survey has been produced by representatives from Arran Economic Group, Arran Community Council, Arran Community for Voluntary Service, Arran Health and Social Care Partnership, Arran Eco Savvy, and VisitArran have been meeting online to discuss how best to move forward.

In a statement the group said: ‘Arran is an extremely resilient and caring island environment and the community is to be congratulated for adhering to the medical guidelines, and handling the situation in such a way as to minimise risk to others. However, following the Scottish Government’s route map out of the crisis, some restrictions on Arran will/can be lifted, and a level of normality will slowly return.

‘For Arran this is a careful balance between community, environment and economy, especially if we are to open the island up to others.

‘As islanders we want to enjoy the safety and beauty that Arran offers, and others will wish to do likewise. Indeed, Arran has a reputation for providing a welcoming environment for everyone, but any island-to-island, or mainland-to-island interaction needs to be managed, positively, responsibly and without division. It is vital that we appreciate and respect there will be differing views.

‘To this end, some key island organisations are collaborating on a proposed plan to take Arran forward and through the route map, taking account of the needs of the community, economy and environment, all of which help to make our island the special place it is. Whilst Government agencies will be able to provide input and support as necessary, it is absolutely key that they respond to the Arran residents’ definition of what is required.

‘Ultimately, if this plan is to reflect the strength of feeling on Arran, the group can do nothing without feedback from you, the islanders.

‘Everyone can play a central role in this planning process by taking part in the survey, and any further developments will be fed back to the community through the agencies involved and, of course, the Arran Banner,’ the statement added.

Paper copies of the survey are also being distributed and these can be handed into Bay Kitchen & Stores in Whiting Bay, A&C Cameron in Blackwaterfoot, Pirnmill Stores, or any branch of the Co-op. This can also be done also via volunteers through the community hub if that is easier – 01770 600532.

The survey is now live on the Discover Arran website but only for a limited time as it is hoped to compile the survey results after Monday, June 1. Have your say at: www.discoverarran.com