Respond, Reset, Restart - Arran Group calls for immediate action to stave off economic disaster




Arran has long prided itself on being Scotland in miniature. It is now suffering like the rest of the country, and whilst actual cases of C-19 have been thankfully low the effect of the pandemic on the island has been massive. Tourism, local industry, opportunities for young people have all been impacted. The present is bad enough. The future could be bleak for years unless a proper plan for sustained recovery is implemented that will help sustain the 1500 jobs from a total of approximately 2000 jobs and £69m value that tourism contributes to the local economy GDP of approximately £100m.

A range of groups that have long cooperated for the benefit of Arran have come together as The Arran Recovery Group (ARG) (see note to editors) to agree a programme of recovery that seeks to balance the four main strands of island life – health and wellbeing, community, environment and economic development.   At the heart of everything is a commitment to safety for our people, for our visitors and for the wider Arran community.

It is clear that Arran accommodation businesses are holding high levels of pre-bookings from mid-July and would be able to achieve occupancy levels approaching previous years, even with social distancing in place.  

The ferry is the only lifeline for Arran, and ARG is calling on Caledonian MacBrayne to ensure that social distancing does not kill capacity and imperil the economic recovery. A solution can be found that would safely allow 50% of the 2019 passenger levels to be restored this summer.  To help manage reduced capacity ARG is suggesting that there should be no day visitors allowed on the ferry during the initial recovery phases, with priority being given to essential workers, commercial traffic, local people and those visiting family, tourists who intend to stay on Arran for more than one night. 

ARG is also working closely with local and national politicians and is calling for an Island Survival Plan to ensure Arran has a future.

The chair of the Arran Economic Group Tom Tracey said,  ‘Tourism across Scotland is being impacted by Corvid 19 and the industry is the lifeblood of Arran. What we are asking for is the same chance of survival as everyone else in Scotland and the UK. We need to ensure that there is capacity – safe capacity – on the ferry to allow our businesses to operate. We believe that the plan as has been outlined contravenes the spirit and legal framework of the Islands Bill and needs to be addressed urgently by the Government before businesses start closing permanently. At this point nothing is inevitable. Arran leads the Islands in highlighting the problem. We have the attention and support of our MP, MSP, Ministers, Council Leaders and senior Civil Servants. Our collective task is to find a path through this. This can be done, with a little external help and the folks on Arran doing  what they always do. Work together for the benefit of the community, environment and economy.’


One of the leading island businesses, and a real Arran success story, is the world-famous Auchrannie Resort. Linda Johnston, Co-founder and Managing Director has written to the Scottish Government to outline the catastrophic damage that will be caused unless urgent action is taken at the highest level. 

She said, ‘It is now clear that the Scottish Government sees the Islands exiting lockdown and moving through the phases of the Scottish Government Route map behind the rest of Scotland and that ferry capacity to the islands is expected to be below 20%.  Both of these present an unprecedented threat and clearly leave the islands at a disadvantage to the rest of Scotland and the UK.  Clearly there is currently no plan for the Islands.

Most businesses on Arran have been closed since March and whilst workers have been supported, many businesses have received little or nothing from the Government and are faced with mounting debt to cover substantial fixed costs.   

The Arran Recovery Group is calling for urgent intervention at the highest level to provide clarity on ferry capacities, timescales for Island re-opening, and details of how Island businesses and employees will be financially supported to allow them to survive the pandemic and provide the future that the island of Arran and its community desperately need.  



Notes to editors:

For more information please contact

Tom Tracey, Chair, Arran Recovery Group

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  • Arran Recovery Group consists of leaders within the following organisations: Health and Social Care Partnership, Community Council, Visit Arran, Auchrannie, Taste of Arran, Eco Savvy, Arran Development Trust, North Ayrshire Council support, Local Councillor, Head of Arran High School, ACVS, Arran Ferry Committee, Arran Economic Group.
  • Arran is an acclaimed tourism destination which is held as an exemplar to operators and Destination Management Organisations worldwide.  The island economy is highly dependent on tourism which contributes £69m PA and supports 1,516 jobs. 
  • Auchrannie Resort is Employee Owned and a Real Living Wage employer.  Prior to the crisis, the resort directly attracted c45,000 overnight visitors PA, 25% of Arran's total overnight visitors. A Team of 151-200 (13% of local tourism workforce) & year-round occupancy of 90%.  It is a major provider of indoor leisure facilities to island population (4.5k) & visitors (439k).




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