Controversial proposals to charge £9 a day at lifeline ferry car parks on Mull andIona were passed by councillors  by four votes to three yesterday (Wednesday).

A large delegation of islanders who travelled long distances to be at the Argyll and Bute Council committee meeting in Oban, found they were banned from addressing councillors before the vote.

Shiona Ruhemann, Convener of Iona Community Council, who got up at 5am in order tocatch two ferries to get to the meeting said afterwards there had been no proper consultation and a lack of representation of all the objections in the council agenda papers.

She said: "They were suggesting the traffic orders came from a community demand, but there was massive opposition to this and we were gagged, we weren't allowed to speak.Traffic is going to become chaos as a result of this."

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Independent Councillor Mary-Jean Devon, from Mull, putting forward an unsuccessful amendment against the motion, because it could cause long term damage to the islands said: "This Traffic Regulation Order has had hundreds of objections, my inbox has had over 400 emails about this, this has been in national newspapers and on television, the community is speaking loud and clear and we have had not one letter of support for this."

She added: "It is clear from the numerous representations received that the local community feel that the concerns theyhave raised have been ignored. The TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) has the potential to do long term damage to islands' economy and the community agree that any TRO should have an island impact assessment.

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SNP Councillors Julie MacKenzie and Jim Lynch agreed with Councillor Devon and said the council should have carried out an Islands Impact Assessment, as would become routine after the Scottish Government's National Islands Plan goes live in October.

Ms MacKenzie said: "The current approach of the TRO is ill conceived and punitive, no-one is listening to the people of Mull and Iona. It fails to realise the impact this can have to damage the communities of Mull and Iona.

Councillor Lynch said  the council had "missed a golden opportunity" to be the first place in Scotland to carry out an Islands Impact Assessment and warned the Scottish Government may yet order such a move.

Councillor Lynch said: "Mark my works we are going to be sitting here in six months' time looking at this again and there's going to be mayhem and madness."

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Jim Smith, the council's Traffic and Development Manager, claimed the communities had been properly consulted. Giving the reason for the proposals he quoted safety concerns from the emergency services, that large vehicles had parked too near each other causing potential fire risk, during the annual Mull Music Festival; to assist traffic management and to raise cash for the council's reduced budget.

Councillor Elaine Robertson, chair of the Oban, Lorn and the Isles Committee, put forward the successful motion, which aimed to address some of the issues raised by islanders.Although a standard £9 a day charge remains for visitors, the motion included reductions for longer stay parking and reducing annual resident parking charges by 20%.

Islanders had used an earlier public question time to try and hammer home their widespread concerns, in a farsical scenario where councillors were advised by officials that they should not respond to anything said by the public on the matter,due to legal advice.

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Speaker after speaker told how Traffic Regulation Orders, hindering large vehicles from accessing the harbour car park at Tobermory, and charging at council car parks in Fionnphort,Craignure and Tobermory, that are currently free, would harm the island economies. They told how islanders, visitors and businesses would suffer if the move went ahead.

Elizabeth Ferguson, Chair of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee accused the council of repeatedly failing to communicate and listen to the views of islanders and said: "It feels like it's more of a battle that is going on rather than a productive engagement."

Visitors to Iona have to leave their cars at the ferry port car park at Fionnphort on Mull as vehicle access to the island is restricted. Mhairi Killin, Chair of Iona Business Forum, spoke of how parking charges would affect the number of visitors travelling to the island.

She said: "I represent businesses who are concerned about the reducing number of coach tours coming to Iona, we have seen the numbers fall.The business coming to Iona is becoming more and more dependent on the independent traveller."