I have no doubt that today I was driven on the worst road I have ever experienced.
That is not a criticism of Martin from the Isle of Kerrera Development Trust who was driving me in what I am sure he would admit was a pretty beaten up old Discovery but rather an indication of the extraordinary situation that pertains on the island.
The main ferry, which can carry a vehicle and is now run by Cal Mac, goes to the south end of the island where part of the population live. There is also a small passenger ferry that operates between the centre of Oban and the Marina at the north end of the island where the rest of the people are. This is operated by the marina itself.
But there is no proper road that joins the two places - instead there is only the roughest of tracks which is flooded in places, deeply rutted, littered with rocks and outcrops of stone, hemmed in by undergrowth and , in one section, entirely invisible. It is , in fact, scarcely passable, and only in a very rugged , ultimately disposable, four by four.
Some years ago I convened a meeting in Oban between the Council and the Kerrera community at which it was agreed that the Scottish Government would be approached to provide a new ferry and new slipways and the Council would be asked to take responsibility for upgrading the road so that the island (which is in an ideal position , just off Oban ) could move forward.
The Scottish Government did as it was asked but despite a view from many that the Council indicated that day that it would also play ball, it has refused ever since to accept that it came to any agreement. Very reluctantly it eventually produced drawings for a new road but it has steadfastly refused to put any resource into the project.
This creates two problems. It not only means that the road hasn’t happened but it also means that other potential funders won’t come to the table, because it is a local authority responsibility to provide roads in communities and if they aren’t at least taking the lead then it is very hard to get others to participate.
That is the conundrum that needs resolved and today I took the Minister for Ferries and Islands , Paul Wheelhouse , to see the situation for himself. It was a particularly striking , not to say penetrating, experience as the rain never let up.
We did see some some of the many positives of the place, including the old school which has just been bought from the Council by the community. We also had a very constructive meeting with some members of the Development Trust and a great lunch hosted by the marina. Earlier officials from the Scottish Government Islands Unit had held a focus group with island residents to get their input to the ideas for the national “Islands plan ” which is currently in preparation.
I think that with a bit of good will from everyone we could get some movement on the road issue which would unlock the potential of what is a special wee place, with a really enthusiastic community and some fine local enterprises.
And that is what I have come away hoping to do - once I get over the experience of traveling “the road” twice in one day !