The Glasgow Underground, aka the Clockwork Orange, is the third oldest subway line in the world behind London’s Underground and Budapest’s Metro. It is also fiercely popular in Glasgow, in part due to its sheer simplicity – one train goes clockwise around the numerous stops and the other goes anti-clockwise. Dead easy.

I wonder, and have wondered for a while, if there isn’t a way to take this concept wider, and to a higher altitude.

Let’s start with a little bit of local topgraphy.

Scotland consists of 790+ islands, the vast majority of which are not reachable by foot, car or underground. That leaves flying or ferry, unless one wishes to swim to Stromness.

So what are the options?

Well, one can currently fly from Islay to Glasgow, Colonsay or Oban; from Barra to Benbecula, Kirkwall or Glasgow; from Stornoway to Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow or Benbecula; Sumburgh (Shetland) to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Fair Isle, Foula, Glasgow, Inverness, Kirkwall, Lerwick, OutSkerries or Papa Stour and Dundee to, well, London, Jersey, Belfast or Birmingham apparently.

The list goes on and on, there are after all 38 airports in Scotland, all sending planes hither and thither across the nation throughout each week in a myriad of directions.

My question is – why do we send planes criss-crossing each other across Scotland when, taking Glasgow’s underground as an example, the most efficient way to service all stops is to go round in a circle? Is there not a way to have two domestic routes for Scotland, one clockwise and one anti-clockwise?

For example, a route could be: Edinburgh – Glasgow – Islay – Tiree – Stornoway – Kirkwall – Sumburgh – Aberdeen – Edinburgh. You could mix up some stops every other round trip, Benbecula instead of Stornoway for example, or Dundee instead of Aberdeen. You could even bring into play Fife airport or build one on Mull to really spread the Scottish pound. Moving the ideas into overdrive, there could be a Government-sponsored cycle scheme at the more rural airports so that tourists can hit the ground pedalling when they touch down, spending their Euros and Dollars more easily in our farthest flung parts. I also can’t imagine anyone minding having to go via Scotland’s beautiful West (or East) Coast to get to where they’re going, particularly if it includes the world’s most popular airport for landing – Barra.

The opportunities are endless but there must be a quicker, more convenient way of mixing rural Scotland with the nation’s cities to aid business and tourism. An improved boarding system that would make flying on these flights more like catching the train would make it more workable too; pre-cleared passengers standing by the runway in a bus shelter at Tingwall waiting to hop on before the Scottish Flyer takes off again. Why not?

The other option is ferry of course. Many of them may now sail on Sundays but it’s not the most modern and convenient way to travel for would-be tourists or business people, as romantic and other worldly as they are for the rest of us. Even the excellent suggestion in The Herald yesterday, to give every Scot a free ferry ride a year, would struggle to get travel off the ground. How many of us have looked at Harris or Jura or Orkney and longed to travel there but balked at the driving distance and logistical nightmare of boarding ferries? It can’t just be me, and this free ticket won’t boost passenger numbers for those flying into Scotland from afar.

Nonetheless, we have two fine options on the table – to use our ferries more, including giving each Scot a free ferry ride each year or to rejig how we fly domestically and bringing our highlands and islands closer to the relatively richer central belt.

Which would you choose?