Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 11:39 UK

War of words over Sunday sailings

MV Hebrides
MV Hebrides - which runs on the route to Harris and North Uist - is launched in Port Glasgow in 2000

Plans to provide Sunday sailings from Lewis and Harris to the mainland are dividing opinion on the Western Isles.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has been advised it might be unlawful to refuse to run a service on the Sabbath because of the views of one section of the community.

Here the BBC Scotland news website gives a snapshot of the opposing views.

LORD'S DAY OBSERVANCE SOCIETY

Reverend Dr Iain D Campbell, of the Free Church at Back and chairman of the Lord's Day Observance Society (LDOS), wants Sundays to be kept "special".

"I really don't understand the position that CalMac is arguing that by not providing this service they are discriminating on religious grounds.

"I think LDOS are the ones who are pushing a religious argument.

"Sunday has been a major element of community life up until now.

"So I am coming on religious grounds to say let's keep Sunday special, let's learn from our continental neighbours in Europe that Sunday should be different and quiet."

PRO-SUNDAY SAILINGS CAMPAIGNER

Hugh MacLeod said that not having sailings on a Sunday was stifling the islands.

"We are absolutely losing out in many areas - for commercial reasons and for personal and family reasons."

In commercial and tourism terms, he said people were being put off taking weekend and week-long breaks because they cannot leave on a Sunday.

"People have to leave earlier than they would have done otherwise, quite often on a Friday or Saturday, so that affects the hotels and B&Bs.

"From a personal point of view, we have people with connections to here, people who have moved away and, if not wanting to move back, then certainly would come back more frequently."

ISLANDS' COUNCIL

The leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Angus Campbell, warned of the local authority's previous opposition to such a service.

"Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will meet with CalMac Ferries Ltd in the near future to discuss a range of issues, including Sunday sailings.

"The comhairle considered the issue of Sunday sailings last year and in 2006 and is opposed to the introduction of such a service for Lewis and Harris."

CALEDONIAN MACBRAYNE

CalMac chairman Peter Timms said it had been weighing up its lawful obligations in providing services and legal advice it could be in breach of the Equality Act 2006..

"Although this is not a formal legal challenge we cannot ignore the underlying claim that we may be operating unlawfully.

"We have sought legal advice and it appears we are likely to be in breach of the 2006 Act.

"As a result the CalMac board are now considering the implications of this. We are keen to consult with community representatives about how to operate within the terms of the legislation and no decision will be taken until the implications for operations have been fully investigated."



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