A “CIVIL war” has been stirred up as one woman in the Inner Hebrides was accused of racism over a campaign to restrict tourism to Scottish residents.

As the tourism industry prepares to begin re-opening from tomorrow, islanders are concerned about the impact visitors will have on small communities.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Tourism "civil war" rowCamley's Cartoon: Tourism "civil war" row

With an indication that a full re-opening could happen on July 15, one petition launched on Colonsay by resident Jen MacNeill has received some 2,500 signatures.

It calls on the Scottish and UK governments to provide “a designated route map” out of lockdown and provide financial assistance to encourage the tourism industry to open in a controlled way.

It also asks each individual island to decide the best route out of lockdown.

But Ms McNeill says she has been subjected to online abuse and accused of being racist and antiEnglish as she has separately called for Scottish tourism to be restricted to Scottish residents only as the nation was “a low-risk area”.

And she says her petition has helped stir up “civil wars” on the islands with what she describes as wealth pitted against health – and islanders pitted against each other.

She said: “Some of the larger islands will not be able to survive the economic impact of holding off tourism for another two, three, four months. That has been made abundantly clear through correspondence around my petition.

“If the island chooses to remain open to tourism they must find a compromise.

“They must find the balance between health and wealth.

“Here is my suggestion: Only allow travel from low-risk areas, ie, only allow tourism from Scotland.

“The safe area is Scotland. We are OK here.”

She acknowledged: “My petition has exposed ugly inter-island divisions. My suggestion could go some way to bridge that gap.”

She also called for her home island, with its small population and limited medical facilities, to remain closed to tourists until September, when visitor numbers would be lower.

While many signatories of the petition echoed her fears, Mull businessman Joe Reade, who runs the Island bakery in Tobermory, commented: “Of course every island has different concerns and priorities and what is right for Colonsay might not be right for Mull.

“However, it is not a straightforward issue of economy versus health and that is what the premise of the petition is. It is much more intertwined than that.

“There is not a single business person on Mull who is putting their own wealth ahead of community health, everybody is very aware and thinking of the community.”

And Paula Smalley, who runs a guest house on the isle of Coll, said she understands the fears of many islanders about the prospect of visitors bringing the virus in and added: “I understand why people are nervous and I wish it was as simple as health or wealth but it is not. If I don’t open, my business is not going to be here next year and the thought of not working fills me with horror. It’s not just my business, it’s our future on Coll.”

Tourists to Orkney are to be given warning letters amid fears that the islands could open up to Covid-19 with the easing of lockdown.

The letter has been produced by Orkney Islands Council and NHS Orkney ahead of the expected relaxation of travel restrictions in mid-July.

It will be handed to passengers using NorthLink Ferries, Pentland Ferries and airline Loganair.

OIC leader James Stockan said: “We are asking those travelling here to do everything they can to prevent any further cases of Covid-19.” Meghan McEwen, who chairs NHS Orkney, said: “There still remains a risk of a spike in Covid-19 cases. The letter provides information and advice on how to keep you and our communities and health services safe.”

Meanwhile, ferry passengers have been urged to wear face coverings aboard CalMac vessels while the transport giant begins to increase services as Scotland gradually emerges from the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown. Face coverings are mandatory when travelling on enclosed areas inside a ferry, and on other forms of public transport.

CalMac’s director of operations, Robert Morrison, has urged the public to stick to the rules when travelling aboard the firm’s vessels, and help reduce the spread of the lethal virus.

“Wearing a face covering on an enclosed area of a ferry is now mandatory with a few exceptions for medical or physical conditions,” he said. The ferry operator’s website crashed on Tuesday within minutes after “thousands” of people tried to book ferry tickets.

The huge demand came with the easing of travel restrictions after three months of lockdown measures.

The chairman of the Arran Ferry Action wrote to CalMac Ferries earlier this week warning that a 13-day ‘rolling window’ booking procedure, where return journeys would prove difficult, will “prove disastrous” for accommodation providers. Gavin Fulton said guests lucky enough to book their journey to Arran 13 days in advance will not risk committing to travel without knowing for sure they can leave the island at the end of their stay.

He said return journeys “simply must be bookable”. Islanders also sought guarantees from CalMac that people with medical appointments can travel to the mainland with guaranteed spaces reserved.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are grateful to all our island communities for their support and resilience during these difficult times. We know the restrictions and other measures put in place to protect communities from the impact of Coronavirus (Covid19) have been difficult for everyone, but they are necessary to save lives.

“To allow us to move out of lockdown it is critical that we keep transmission of the virus as low as possible. As we hopefully suppress the virus further, we will continue to consider any measures that might be necessary to protect against the risk of further cases of the virus.

“At all times the Scottish Government’s actions have been guided by the best and most up to date scientific advice.”

CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond said: “I have huge sympathy with the situation on our islands where there are competing demands between islanders and those businesses which rely on tourism for the reduced capacity we have available due to Covid19.”