An award-winning community social enterprise is under threat from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar because the local authority is insisting on demolishing its premises.

Bùth Bharraigh, a local producer co-operative, visitor information provider and community hub in Castlebay, is under orders from the local authority to move from its current location in the former Co-op building  – but directors of the Bùth claim the new site would put them out of business as it is not located where newly arrived tourists can find it.

They say the unit they are being offered half a mile away is much smaller, more expensive and is not a good location for tourist information. They would have to reduce the amount of services they provide and stock held.

They also say the Comhairle has refused to engage with them, ignored pleas for a meeting, ignored lawyers’ letters on behalf of Bùth Bharraigh, ignored a Freedom of Information inquiry probing the legality of the demolition plan, and failed so far to publicise comments in response to an asset transfer request for their building, which closed on November 22.

Bùth Bharraigh directors are growing increasingly concerned ahead of a meeting of the Sustainable Development Committee at the Comhairle today (December 4) where their fate will be discussed. A report is to be given to the committee by the Head of Economic Development and Planning but was not made publicly available on the Comhairle website ahead of the meeting.

Also, the item will be taken in private – a move which raised concerns still further, as Bùth Bharraigh has not even been informed by the Comhairle that it is on the agenda.

According to the agenda, the item was to be in private because of “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (other than the Comhairle)”.

Director Sarah Maclean said: “Nobody has been in touch with us from the council. They didn’t tell us it was going to be discussed and they didn’t the last time, either. That’s twice now they haven’t informed us that we’ll be a topic of discussion.

“Taking the item in secret is deliberate so that we can’t find out what they’re up to, frankly. I think it’s so that it will be a done deal until it is too late.”

Three years ago, the community of Barra wrote to Comhairle chief executive Malcolm Burr and the then council leader Angus Campbell to try to save the building. 

In that letter, dated December 5, 2016, they said: “We are writing to confirm that we, the people of Barra, do not want the old Co-op building in Castlebay demolished.” There were 137 signatories.

The debate about whether to demolish the building goes back to 2012 when it was lying vacant and suffered storm damage. However, since 2013 it has been occupied by Buth Bharraigh who have architects plans and costings to refurbish and renovate it. Bùth Bharraigh believe demolition would contravene council strategies and programmes aimed at tourism, creating employment opportunities and encouraging social enterprise.

In the 2016 letter, the community also said: “We have tried since 2014, without success, to make CnES officials understand that residents now want to keep the building.”

Five years on, the message has still not got through to the Comhairle.

After a meeting with Malcolm Burr in May 2017 at which the directors laid out the case for the Bùth remaining in its place.

In its current central location in the old Co-op building, Bùth Bharraigh fulfils multiple functions.

As well as acting as a route to market for around 80 local producers, Bùth Bharraigh serves as a visitor information centre, laundrette – laundry contracts include social care – as well as bike hire, Hebridean Way pit stop and community hub cafe with free WiFi.

They won the title of UK Social Enterprise of the Year in the 2016 Rural Business Awards and were highly commended in the category of Rural Enterprise in the 2017 Scottish Rural Awards, winning the Scottish Rural Parliament Innovators Award for Business 2015/16 and reaching the finals in numerous other awards including Scottish Social Enterprise of the Year, Community Ownership Awards (Scotland) and the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards, as an Independent Retailer. Bùth Bharraigh Ltd is also an Accredited Living Wage Employer.

Residents of Barra who are keen to keep Bùth Bharraigh in its current home gathered for a picture at the weekend, to show their support for their community social enterprise.

Sarah said afterwards: “They were shocked at the fact that Malcolm Burr just didn’t get back to us and they want the building to continue. Regardless of what the council says, most of the people on the island do think the shop is a good thing and doing an important job, but not everybody is going to write a letter or jump up and down about it.”

She also stated the Comhairle were onto their third supposed reason about why the Bùth had to vacate the building.

Their first reason, she said, was that the building was not structurally sound. However, a structural survey proved that the frame was “structurally sound” and drew up plans for a complete renovation in the future. Complete renovation quotes had come in at around £400,000. If allowed to remain, Bùth Bharraigh hopes to raise some of that through crowd funding.

The Comhairle’s second reason, she stated, was that it did not have community support. 

“Then when we disproved that, they said it was about road safety – but a Police Scotland report showed there has never been an accident outside the shop."

With the issue due to be discussed at the Sustainable Development Committee, Sarah expressed concern about what might be in the report due to the content of the previous one which went to the Comhairle’s meeting in September.

Since this meeting, Bùth Bharraigh has hired lawyers to fight its corner and the legal firm sent its second letter to the Comhairle last Friday. The Comhairle has not yet replied to the first lawyer’s letter sent in September and has also failed to answer a Freedom of Information inquiry about the legality of the Comhairle’s process, within the set timescale. 

Sarah said: “They should be working with us to get the best outcome for Barra and our business. We’re a successful community business and we’re under constant threat. We haven’t been able to develop and barriers have been put in our way. We’ve been held back. We have even won Rural Social Enterprise of the Year – and that was a UK award – and it just doesn’t make a bit of difference.

“They will be putting producers’ takings and jobs at risk if they force us to move. 

“We’re open when the ferry comes in and we’ve taken on the tourist information and we don’t get any money for that. That is a big service that we provide and if we move half a mile it’s going to be so difficult for visitors to get accommodation and information on arrival.

“The big thing for me is the frustration that the council don’t recognise what a great thing we are doing. Plus, it’s the frustration that they just don’t get back to us. We asked them for a meeting recently and it was just ignored.”

In their original lease application, Sarah said they asked for a “20 year lease with an option to buy” and were then given a five year lease by the Comhairle in 2013. Problems began afterwards. 

She said: “In these premises, we have been trading and established our business over the past six years. If we moved, we’d have to reduce the amount of stock we carry and we couldn’t do the laundrette. We would probably have to shut the Wifi cafe. But the location is the biggest thing.”

Turnover has been around £750,000 over the past six years but Sarah said the Comhairle’s attitude remains dismissive. “The council have never taken us seriously. We’ve always just been a bunch of women in Barra with a wee project but we’ve grown from strength to strength and we’ll continue to do so if we stay in the same spot.”

Bùth Bharraigh is due to hold its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, December 12, amending its Articles of Association to ensure it will fully comply with the conditions for an asset transfer, should that be approved.

Pupils from Harris and Uist will continue the National Gaelic Schools Debate in the Scottish Parliament this week (Thursday 5 December.)

The debate will, for the first time, take place on the floor of the debating chamber to mark the twentieth anniversary of both the debating competition and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

The four semi-finalists who will battle it out to progress to Holyrood are:
• Inverness Royal Academy B
• Sgoil Lionaclait, Uist
• Bishopbriggs Academy A
• Sir E Scott School, Isle of Harris

The final will be broadcast live on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.

Presiding Officer, Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP said: “Gaelic matters. It is part of who we are and part of Scotland's rich cultural identity.

“The humour, insight and linguistic skill displayed by young people in this competition year after year, convincingly demonstrates that the language continues to flourish.

“It gives me immense pleasure that the final will be held on the floor of Holyrood’s debating chamber, marking this, our joint twentieth anniversary.”
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Emergency services were called on in the early hours of yesterday (Sunday December 1st) after reports that a person was missing following a road accident.

Police called for assistance from Stornoway Coastguard operations centre at about 2am on Sunday, with Bragar, Miavaig, South Lochs, Breasclete, Ness and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Teams joining police officers and fire teams to carry out the search.

The person was apparently missing following an accident near to Ballantrushal on the west side of Lewis. The search was co-ordinated in the surrounding area.

Search and rescue helicopter R948 was scrambled at 3.25am and assisted with the search from the air. All teams were stood down at 6am and police are carrying out further enquiries.

The picture shows R948 taking off early yesterday morning (Jason Spinks).

This report has been updated to include further information from Stornoway Coastguard.

A massive oil drilling platform has become a temporary seamark in the middle of the Minch as it awaits clearance to complete a five-month journey around the world.

The Ocean GreatWhite completed virtually a full circuit of Lewis and Harris over Christmas, on the last leg of a journey that has brought her from Singapore via Las Palmas, under tow by the offshore supply vessel Alp Defender.

She gave the west coast of Lewis a wide berth and rounded Ness late on Saturday (December 29th), moving into her current position yesterday afternoon (Sunday December 30th). She’s now anchored within viewing distance of residents of Point and Lochs and close to the Stornoway Ullapool ferry route.

A team of explosives experts have been called to Rodel in south Harris after reports of suspected ordnance on the shore just below the former Rodel Hotel.
Coastguard volunteers were asked to check the reported silver cylinder, spotted above high water mark on the shoreline around 12.30pm on Sunday (December 30th).
The incident is being co-ordinated by police and the Explosives Ordnance Department are sending a team from Glasgow, who are due to deal with the object tomorrow (Tuesday January 1st).

People joining the mv Loch Seaforth for the Iolaire commemoration sailing in Stornoway Harbour tomorrow have been warned that they must remember to be on time, to bring their tickets and fill the tickets in properly.

A total of 250 free places on the ferry were made available to view the centenary commemoration of the Iolaire tragedy from the sea beyond the Beasts of Holm, with priority given to people with mobility issues who would have no other way of gaining access to take part.

NHS Western Isles Nurse Director Chris Anne Campbell has taken retirement following almost 40 years of service to the National Health Service.

“I am proud of our health services,” Chris Anne said. “It has some challenges, but I’m very proud to have been involved in so many things which have brought the service forward.”

A gasp of astonishment was the universal reaction from people crammed into An Lanntair’s Gallery on Saturday afternoon (December 29th) for the launch of Margaret Ferguson’s amazing artistic tour-de-force, Iolaire 100.

More than 100 paintings – all dedicated to and derived from the Iolaire disaster and almost all being portraits of victims from across Lewis and Harris – form the show.

These are the product of more than three years of work – and are a feat of inspiration that few could hope to match.

The timetable relating to Iolaire Remembrance in Carloway District, on January 1st 2019 is:

2am – The Carloway Free Church bell will be rung to mark the approximate time that the Iolaire grounded.

The first event on Tuesday January 1st 2019 to make the centenary of the HMY Iolaire disaster takes place in Tarbert.

It may be the cup that cheers, but it seems tea is no longer the beverage of choice for travellers with ferry operator, CalMac.
Latest figures released by the company show that over the summer season it sold more than twice as many cups of coffee than the more traditional choice of hot drink.

A special, Community Iolaire Commemoration Service will be held at 11am on Tuesday 1st January 2019 in Bernera Church of Scotland, Great Bernera. 

At the conclusion of this service wreaths will be laid at Breacleit War Memorial.

The centenary of the Iolaire tragedy is being commemorated with a series of exhibitions, musical compositions and memorial services. 

The Sandwick Hall exhibition tells the story of the disaster with specific references to the local areas of Point through to Sandwick and Stornoway.  The exhibition will be open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 2pm until 5pm and Thursdays from 2pm until 8pm. Pictured above, by Chris Murray, the Beasts of Holm, site of the disaster.

On December 28th 1918, the new Parliamentary constituency of the Western Isles returned its first Member of Parliament.

Former Labour MP and Government minister Brian Wilson tells www.welovestornoway.com about this largely forgotten centenary

The past year has provided a steady flow of centenary commemorations, all related to the closing stages of the First World War and, in the case of Lewis and Harris, its terrible immediate aftermath.

Less attention has been paid to events which were unfolding at home, far removed from theatres of war.

A search was launched in Tarbert yesterday (Thursday December 27th) for the defibrillator from outside the CalMac offices in the port, which had vanished from its storage box.

A big appeal was made on social media for its return…and it was later located in the nearby car park.

Highlands & Islands (including Moray) MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart, re-launched his social media campaign in relation to driving this winter called SNOW.

 
A 56-year-old man was arrested in Stornoway town centre in the early hours of Christmas Day (Tuesday December 25th) and spent part of his Christmas morning in custody.
 
The man was charged with being drunk and disorderly and with possession of a class B drug, and was kept in custody until sober. He was released after receiving a recorded police warning over his behaviour.
 

NHS boards in Scotland should be banned from buying fax machines and a date should be made for them to be phased out entirely, says a Highlands and Islands MSP.

David Stewart, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, previously asked health boards in Scotland how many had fax machines and was shocked to discover that more than 1,200 were still in use across the country.

The Department of Health in England has now banned the buying of machines and said their use should be phased out by 2020.

New Year's Day Church Service - Order of Service
(Commencing at noon) 
 
1. Psalm 
2. Prayer 
3. Bible Reading 

A search for a missing person continued through much of today Wednesday December 26th) in Stornoway, according to Western Isles Police.

The search began at 6.41am, when a report came in to police of the person missing. Additional crews were called to assist from the Coastguard service at 9.45am and from Fire Scotland at 10.45am.

The main B895 road at Coll was closed for a time following a two-vehicle accident this afternoon (Wednesday December 26th) at around 2.30pm.

Eye-witnesses said there was fuel spilled at the site, which meant the road had to be closed between Back and Tong.

Police, fire and ambulance crews attended the accident and some of those involved were taken to hospital by ambulance as a precautionary measure.

Police said the road has now (4.50pm) completely re-opened.

Nearly 25,000 1kg salmon escaped from a fish-farm off Barra in November, according to a report submitted to Marine Scotland this month (December 2018).

New and ‘robust’ equipment installed by Marine Harvest at the Hellisay sea site was not up to the battering the site took from storms during November, and the fish escaped from torn netting in a single cage.

The company said they had reported the weather conditions and the potential for escape on November 11th, and when staff were able to access the site safely their inventory confirmed that 24,572 salmon, each weighing approximately 1.1kg, had escaped from one cage.

There was an early Christmas present for one Stornoway family as baby Florence Macmillan made her arrival at lunchtime on Christmas Eve.

A first child for mum, musician Jane Hepburn Macmillan, who works for the Harris Tweed Authority and dad, joiner Kevin Macmillan, Florence had been expected to arrive on Boxing Day.

She’s already made her first stage appearances as a bump affectionately known as ‘baby HepMac’, with Jane continuing her performances right up to December, when she was on stage with Colin Macleod at An Lanntair and as one of the musicians in the Dileab concert at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais. Mum, dad and baby HepMac have also featured in a video blog throughout Jane’s pregnancy.

The main B895 road at Coll is currently closed following a two-vehicle accident.
 
Police and ambulance crews are at the scene of the accident, which happened at about 2.30pm.
 
Police will update as soon as the road re-opens.
Police were active in Stornoway over the busy pre-Christmas weekend, and a number of people were charged with offences.
 
At 5.30pm on Friday (December 21st) police were called to Perceval Road in the town, where a 19-year-old man was arrested and taken into custody. He was charged with breach of the peace, vandalism, police assault and possession of a class B drug and was kept in custody until sober. A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Stornoway’s Salvation Army is gearing up to serve Christmas dinner for up to 50 people tomorrow (December 25th) with an open invitation to anyone to come and join them. 

The annual dinner served by members of the Stornoway corps is aimed at making sure nobody has to be alone or hungry on Christmas day, with families and anyone who has no plans for Christmas lunch urged to come and share the company. A spokesman encouraged people who are undecided: 

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The weekend’s fine, still weather proved just perfect for some pre-Christmas activity in Stornoway town centre and out on the waters of the harbour.

On Saturday (December 22nd) a crowd of runners in Santa suits took to the streets of Stornoway for the annual Santa run.

Meanwhile Western Isles skiffs and rowers gathered for a festive row in the harbour on the calm waters of Stornoway harbour.

[gallery ID=126]

Christmas is going with a swing for the over 60s in Point and Sandwick thanks to donations totalling £3,100 from Point and Sandwick Trust.

The community wind farm charity gave festive grants to three friendship groups for the over 60s so they could put on Christmas parties without having to worry about the cost.

Tarbert will be in festive mood tomorrow (Saturday December 22nd) as Santa leads his parade through the village on his way to his grotto.

The annual Santa parade starts at 4pm at Tigh mo Sheannar and there’ll be a merry band of fantastical companions accompanying the great man, as he’s pulled around the streets on his sleigh by members of the volunteer Coastguard Rescue Teams.

Police Scotland have released more details about a report of dangerous driving in Stornoway, in a bid to find the person or people responsible.

A silver Skoda Octavia car was reported stolen in the Newvalley area in the early hours of Tuesday morning (December 18th).

On Friday, 14th December, North Tolsta Historical Society declared their new premises at the Schoolhouse open with a special Iolaire Commemoration Exhibition.

The building was full to capacity with schoolchildren, parents, grandparents and friends eager to see the refurbished schoolhouse.

On behalf of the Comann Eachdraidh, Murdo Morrison, The Anchorage, and Iain Angie Murray, son of Domhnall (Brus) Murray, presented each child with a boxed Iolaire Pin Brooch.

The family of a Barra RNLI lifeboatman have pledged to make 2019 the year that he and his crewmates get the recognition they deserve, 40 years after a shout where the whole crew nearly lost their lives.

Lifelong RNLI supporter and fundraiser Christine Macintyre has just (December 11th) received a promise from the RNLI that the crew of the 1970s lifeboat R A Colby Cubbin No.3 will be recognised, with a plaque on the future lifeboat station due to be built in Castlebay.

But she still believes that individual RNLI medals should be awarded to every man in the crew of eight, in recognition of exceptional service on the night of November 18th 1979.

Labour in the Western Isles has slammed the SNP government for again cutting the cash available to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to provide vital services.

Alison MacCorquodale, the Labour Party’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Western Isles, said:  "On a direct comparison, the Comhairle will be £400,000 worse off next year than at present.

"However, the situation is worse than that since there is a further £2m of the Comhairle's allocation which is ring-fenced for SNP priorities which do not accord with the most urgent needs facing the Western Isles".

Stornoway police are asking for public help in tracing two men who were seen to smash windows at a home using a ladder last night (Wednesday December 19th).

A resident of Cearn Flodaidh was at home at 7.30pm when two panes of glass in his back door and two ground floor windows were smashed with a ladder, which was being carried by two men wearing dark clothes and with their hoods up.

Barra schoolgirl Catriona O’Carroll will be flying the flag for Scotland from January 2019, after being selected for the national Under-14s team.

Catriona, of Earsary, who has just celebrated her 12thbirthday, will be attending training at the Toryglen football training centre, across the road from Hampden Park in Glasgow, from the end of January onwards. She’ll also travel for international matches – fixtures will be published in January.

CalMac has joined 40 organisations from across the UK to pledge to take action to tackle the challenges of climate change.

The company has signed up to the Prince of Wales’ ‘Waste to Wealth Commitment’ organised by his responsible business network, Business in the Community.

Leaders from business, government, academia and civil society joined the Prince at the initiative’s launch in London. The pledge is designed to help tackle the challenges of climate change by committing to actions to prevent the destruction of natural habitats. The target is to double the nation’s resource productivity by using them more efficiently and to reduce avoidable waste by 2030.

The 2018 Crofting Census will be issued on Monday 7 January 2019.

The Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 stipulates all crofting tenants and owner-occupier crofters have a legal obligation to complete and return their census form to the Crofting Commission.

Rod Mackenzie, Convener, said: “Last year saw a 14% decrease in the number of forms returned whereas in previous years the percentage was increasing.

A petition seeking escort expenses when patients travel for life-changing medical treatment looks set to burst through its 1,500-signature target, less than a week after being launched.

A consortium of Western Isles patient support groups, including organisations from Lewis to Barra, got together to launch the petition, which calls on NHS Western Isles to review their policy on patient escort travel expenses.

The petition on change.org opened on Friday (December 14th) and is gathering pace, with signatories added by the minute. An initial target of 1,000 signatures was passed on Tuesday (December 18th) and a new target of 1,500 signatures now looks highly likely to be reached later today.

The Pairc Trust are celebrating a Christmas bonus for their community-owned estate, after picking up the keys to the old care unit in Gravir yesterday (Tuesday December 18th).

Exchange of contracts yesterday meant that not only are the Trust ‘in for Christmas’ at the property, but that renovation work can start and be completed next year, allowing two families to take up tenancy in the building by Christmas 2019.

Police activity in Lewis has led to the arrest of three people for drugs offences this week.

At 10.25pm on Sunday (16th December) a 37-year-old man was searched in Stornoway under the the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. He was found to be in possession of a class A drugs in sufficient quantity for supply to others, and of a large amount of cash. 

Primary school children are being offered ‘sport and elf’ activities on Christmas Eve, while the grown-ups finish preparing for Santa’s arrival.

On Monday December 24th there are activities at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais from 10am, with morning sessions in sports and water confidence for P1 and P2 children (10am to 11.30am) and P 3 and P4 children (11.15am to 12.45pm).

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan recently visited the Stornoway delivery office to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post and to pass on early Season’s Greetings to its dedicated, hardworking staff.

The islands MSP was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager Andrew MacDonald and was introduced to the local posties, who will be pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail across the Western Isles in the forthcoming busy Christmas period.

Early bird tickets for Hebridean Celtic Festival 2019 have sold out, it was announced today (Tuesday December 18th).

The tickets for HebCelt 2019, set for July 17th to 20th, were available in limited numbers at last year’s prices of £93 for a weekend pass and £30 for children.

Larger coaches are being brought into to improve journeys for Inverness-Ullapool passengers


  • Changes to 961 service provide more seats for passengers
  • 61-seat coaches replace 49 seaters
  • Vehicles replaced following customer and stakeholder feedback
  • Service improvements in place from Monday (17th December)

A pile of Santa suits is gathered at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais awaiting the runners setting out on Saturday’s (December 22nd) annual Santa run in Stornoway town centre.

The suits in sizes large and small are available to runners and walkers who’ll be making the streets festive and raising money for the Lewis branch of Cancer Research UK at the same time.

Travellers wishing to head to the mainland from Barra were being urged to ‘travel today if possible’ (Tuesday December 18th) by CalMac, with continued weather disruption on the ferries forecast.

Today’s ferry from Castlebay to Oban was retimed to midday, arriving Oban at 1700.

The Darkest Dawn author Malcolm Macdonald’s book signing event in Point yesterday afternoon (Monday December 17th) was a great success, with staff from Buth an Rubha having to rush out to get extra copies to keep up with demand.

People who had bought the book on the Iolaire tragedy queued for the author's signature and commemorative inscriptions as it emerged that publishers Acair are looking at doing a third print run in January, because of demand.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is asking constituents to name and shame companies who charge excess delivery charges to the islands.

Working with cross party colleagues in the House of Commons, Mr MacNeil is seeking assistance from the people of the islands to compile a list to be presented to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has announced this year’s winner of the annual school competition to design his official Christmas Card.

The winner was chosen from among hundreds of different entries from primary schools across the Western Isles.

Stornoway’s drugs detection dog Jaxx was with police officers on Friday (December 14th) when a drugs warrant was executed at an address on the outskirts of Stornoway.

The work of the police team led to arrest of a man aged 34, and he was charged with possession of drugs.

The man is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

 

Befriending Lewis celebrated a true milestone on Saturday (December 15th) as small-change donations completed a mile of pennies collected for the group.

The charity, which tackles loneliness and isolation by providing group activities and one-to-one befriending support, set out to make a mile of donated pennies in July this year.

The oil tanker Sarnia Liberty returned to Stornoway harbour today (Sunday December 16th) after losing steering in heavy seas just off Stornoway.

The 80-metre-long vessel was leaving port just before 1am, after discharging her load of fuel oil, when she contacted Stornoway Coastguard to say she had difficulty with her steering mechanism and was not able to go to sea.

Local charity Falmadair (Gaelic for tiller) is holding a raffle to raise funds for equipment and running costs for the four traditional sailing skiffs based in Stornoway.

Falmadair was originally set up to work with Comunn Eachdraidh Nis to look after the Sgoth Niseach Jubilee after her first renovation in the late 1970s.

Jubilee SY233 was built in 1934 by John Finlay Macleod, the man who swam ashore with the rope from the stricken Iolaire on the morning of 1st January 1919. The 1970’s renovations were carried out by his son, John Murdo Macleod. Sadly, John Murdo passed away recently at the age of 96. He has left a legacy of beautiful boats and passed on his skills and inspiration to many people during his time as a teacher.

The community group leading the development of the 40km coastal path from Stornoway all the way round the peninsula of Point holds their AGM today (Tuesday, December 18) at 2pm.

The meeting, in the offices of Point and Sandwick Trust at the Old School in Knock, is an opportunity for the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path group, a registered charity, to review the start of the £1million project as the first phase nears completion.

Demand for the latest and most comprehensive book on the Iolaire tragedy is so high that another reprint is being planned.

And 'The Darkest Dawn' author Malcolm Macdonald will be doing a book signing event in Point at 3pm tomorrow (Monday December 17).

A great exuberance of music and song; sombre two-minute silence; a heart-rending list of villages and victims and a line-up of talented performers ranging from Primary School pupils to those for whom that is an all-too distant memory…

That was the formula for the Dìleab concert, hosted by The Nicolson Institute and the Comhairle nan Eiean Siar Department of Education, Sport & Children’s Services, which took place last night (Friday, 14th December 2018) at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais.

David MacBrayne, parent company of CalMac Ferries, has reported another year of increasing passenger numbers as the total for the group broke through the 5.5 million barrier in 2017/18.

The transport and harbour operator’s continuing carrying growth is helping deliver social and economic benefits for the communities it serves, the company says.

The first cross country race in the Stornoway Running and Athletics Club season is tomorrow (Saturday December 15th) with a massive field of 255 entries.

Saturday's race one in the Lewis and Harris cross country series is sponsored by I A & C Maciver and Woody’s Express Parcels and will be photographed by Iain James sports photographers.

SRAC officials described the entry level as ‘outstanding’.

A Harris councillor says the reprieve for mobile library services in the Western Isles is ‘just the start’ of a long battle to protect services against budget cuts.

Councillors voted 16/12 in favour of an amendment tabled by Councillor John Mitchell at the full meeting of the Comhairle on Wednesday night (December 12th) in which he suggested keeping the mobile library service and buying new vans to maintain its future. Council officers had instead recommended replacing mobile library services with ‘community hubs’, manned by volunteers and offering a range of services.

Weather warnings have been issued for much of mainland Scotland ahead of heavy snow and blizzards this weekend (Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th December).

Strong south-south-easterly winds mean cancellations to the Stornoway Ullapool ferry today (Friday December 14th) with a very high risk of more disruption tomorrow.

Tonight’s 5.30pm sailing from Ullapool has been cancelled, as has the freight sailing from Stornoway at 10.30pm tonight.

Strong winds mean ferry cancellations for Barra today (Friday December 14th) with the services between Castlebay and Oban cancelled for the day.

The Sound of Barra (Ardmhor to Eriskay) ferry is suspended for the morning, with a review due at 1pm on the resumption of services.

The forecast today is for strong gale force south-easterly winds, gusting up to 53mph this afternoon, and for gusts up to storm force 10 tomorrow (Saturday).

Patients receiving life-changing diagnoses and treatments should be treated with more compassion by the Western Isles Health Board, according to a group of patient support organisations.

A petition is being launched today (Friday December 14th) by the group, pleading for better understanding and a smoother system when patients ask for help with travel costs for escorts travelling with them to mainland appointments.

Scottish government budget proposals mean more cash for Island health services – but less for industrial development across the Highlands and Islands.

And the entire plan depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. 

The draft budget announcement says health services in the islands will receive a £2.7m boost next year.  

Stormy weather and ferry cancellations are affecting tonight’s Iolaire memorial concert in Stornoway.

Castlebay School from Barra has had to pull out of the event, tweeting: “So disappointed we won’t make it, hope it all goes well.”

Cleascro Road in Lochs is currently closed, Highland & Islands Police Division have announced.

At 15.10 today (Thursday 13 December) police said the Cleascro Road between Cameron Terrace and Achmore is currently closed following a road traffic incident involving a lorry tipping over.

The closure will be in place until appropriate recovery can be arranged.

Do you have any old jars of coins or pennies rattling about in a drawer? Why not donate them to the Befriending Lewis mile of pennies fundraiser!

They only need 8000 more coins to reach the target of one mile and will be in Iceland in Stornoway on Saturday. If you cannot make it down to Iceland on Saturday why not drop of your bags of spare coins to them at their office at Third Sector Hebrides, 30 Francis Street.

Weather warnings have been issued for much of mainland Scotland ahead of heavy snow and blizzards this weekend (Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th December).

Although the islands look set to avoid the worst of the winter weather, there could be disruption to flights as well as to mainland travel services on trains and buses. 

The first acts for next year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival have been confirmed as the event has been shortlisted for another leading award.

Tide Lines, Talisk and FARA will be part of the line-up for the 2019 HebCelt which will be held from 17-20 July in Stornoway.

Tide Lines, who are appearing in two sold-out shows in Stornoway last night (12 December) and are due in Tarbert tonight, will be returning to HebCelt for the third successive year, this time as headliners on the Thursday evening, two years after making their festival debut.

 

Two kindly giraffes are looking for a new home with children who will love them, just in time for Christmas.

The hand-carved rocking giraffes are the handiwork of Lochs woodworker Richard Swift and will soon be completed with Harris Tweed saddles, manes and tails, ready to set off to their new homes.

Richard’s put the beautiful toys up as raffle prizes, with tickets going on sale from tomorrow (Thursday December 13th). The raffle’s part of his fundraising venture, the Wallace and Gromit Foundation, and will be raising funds for terminally-ill children through the charity Elizabeth’s Footprint.

Footballers will gather in force on Saturday night (December 15th) for the annual Lewis and Harris Football Association awards night.

LHFA player of the year awards and league medals will be presented at the home of 2019 league champions Point FC, Ionad Stoodie in Garrabost, with the evening’s guest speaker Sgire an Rubha councillor and former player Alasdair Macleod. 

Two kindly giraffes are looking for a new home with children who will love them, just in time for Christmas.

The hand-carved rocking giraffes are the handiwork of Lochs-based woodworker Richard Swift and will soon be completed with Harris Tweed saddles, manes and tails, ready to set off to their new homes.

Volunteers and co-ordinators at the Eilean Siar Foodbank last night (Tuesday December 11th) completed the mammoth collection and packing of food boxes for people at risk of going hungry at Christmas.

Leverburgh lifeboat was called out by Stornoway Coastguard yesterday (Tuesday December 11th) afternoon, after reports that a fishing vessel was in trouble off Bernera.

The skipper of the fishing boat Ceol na Mara, working alone off Bernera, called for help at 2.43pm when the propeller of his vessel was fouled by rope, leaving him unable to make any progress.

A remembrance row for the Iolaire is to be held on 2nd January departing Cuddy Point at 12 noon. The Western Isles St Ayles Skiffs will head to the Beasts of Holm, where they expect to arrive by 2pm to release small paper boats with a light and the name of one of the men lost in each of them. Spectators are welcome, a good view point will be from the Iolaire Monument, please wrap up warm.

The group of skiffs is made up from various island groups: Florence (Row-Flo), Fir-chlis (Westside rowers), Yackydoola (An Eathar), Blue Moon (Staran) and Madadh Ruadh (Stornoway rowers). For more information contact Rosemary Macritchie - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Anna Mackenzie - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

A wreath is to be taken down to the wreck of the Iolaire on New Year’s Day 2019 as a ‘humble and respectful tribute’ to the men who lost their lives when the ship sank 100 years ago.

Former Royal Navy diver Chris Murray has secured permission from the Scottish Commemorations Panel and from local organisations including coastguard, police and Stornoway Port Authority to make his dive soon after the close of the memorial service on January 1st.

Chris has dived at the wreck site on numerous occasions and his photographs and filmed record underwater are the only images of the wreck as it now is, 100 years after the tragedy.

Harris Football Club is to return to competitions in the 2019 season, competing for the first time since 2014.

A social media announcement on Saturday (December 8th) heralded the senior team’s intention to take its place in the Lewis and Harris League and cup competitions after a five-year absence.

The club, first established in 1920, has been resigned to occasional appearances in friendly matches and as part of the Eilean an Fhraoich cup competition, but struggled to achieve good results with so little playing time as a team. Their last appearance was in June when they beat Ness 4-3 in the second leg of the Eilean an Fhraoich cup, still losing 4-10 on aggregate. That team are pictured below at Rally Park in Tarbert.

Stornoway Rugby Club junior teams were away on the mainland at the weekend (Saturday December 8th), with the under 14s and under 16s travelling to Invergordon to take on Ross Sutherland.

The U14’s had a cracking game, full of action, winning 65-21 against Ross Sutherland. U16’s had a couple of players missing and were caught cold, going 17-0 down within the first 10 minutes. A further three tries and a conversion from Ross Sutherland left the half time score at 34-0, but a much-improved performance in the second half at least kept the scoreline there.

An adventurer walking the whole coast of the UK has appealed for help from the people of Lewis and Harris, after stepping off the ferry in Stornoway on Wednesday (December 5th).

An adventurer walking the whole coast of the UK has appealed for help from the people of Lewis and Harris, after stepping off the ferry in Stornoway on Wednesday (December 5th).

Chris Lewis, an ex-serviceman who has been through challenges since leaving the armed forces, has been trekking the length and breadth of the UK since summer 2017. He’s raising funds for the armed forces charity SSAFA and is accompanied on his walk by his dog, Jet.

He’s decided to remain in the Western Isles for the whole winter, to ensure he covers every inch of the coast, but after suffering a mouth infection and having a tooth removed, Chris has realised that he’s going to need help to make sure he gets through winter safely.

On Sunday (December 8th) he set off from Stornoway to walk up towards Ness, at the same time putting out a plea to islanders to help with the logistics of his island winter.

Chris said: “Good people of Stornoway, I need your help. I cannot physically carry the amount of food needed for our next leg and want to walk every inch of this coast so I’m looking for anyone who may be able to assist with drop offs at chosen points along the route, where I can cut in off the coast and meet you on a road to re-supply.”

He’s asking for people to contact him via his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chriswalksuk/or via his website chriswalks.com if they can help.

Apart from the logistics, Chris is setting his sights on a memorable visit to the islands. He’s already walked the coasts of Barra and the Uists, and now intends to visit every cove and bay in Lewis and Harris.

He said: “It’s always been on my mind that I’ve wanted to be in the Outer Hebrides and here it is – yeah we’re going to be here through the winter and it’s going to be hard work, but it’s all been hard work!

“All of a sudden here I am arriving in Stornoway to go and see what I think will be possibly some of the most beautiful places in the United Kingdom. I cannot tell you how happy I am.”

 

Our picture shows Chris and Jet in Barra earlier this year.

 

Winter weather couldn’t spoil the spectacle of the Christmas lights switch-on in Stornoway on Friday evening (December 7th) – especially as the town centre gained two new landmarks.

Police, the RNLI lifeboat crew, Barra fire crews and Coastguard Rescue Team volunteers worked together to trace a man missing in the Northbay area of Barra on Saturday evening (December 8th).

Police called for assistance from other services after the man, described as ‘high risk’, was reported missing from an address in Northbay.

A ground-floor flat was left with a smashed glass door pane in the early hours of Sunday morning (December 9th).

Stornoway police were called to the address on Plantation Road soon after midnight to reports that the main entrance to the flat had its window broken.

Cooking is the 'Number One' cause of Scotland’s 5,000 accidental house fires a year.

The elderly are most at risk – in 2016/17, 52 per cent of house fire deaths were of people aged 60 and over.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) say many of the most serious fires leading to injury or death result from people cooking while under the influence of alcohol, or when they are over-tired.

Lewis and Harris residents young and old are smiling bright as NHSWI Dental Centre announces the end of its patient registration waiting list.

Meanwhile, the first new dental practice to establish in Lewis in 30 years gears up to open its doors; and national inspection results reveal island school pupils’ teeth in excellent condition.

Air traffic control centralisation need not be in Inverness, MSP Rhoda Grant told MSPs on Thursday (December 6th).

At General Questions  in the Scottish Parliament, the Highlands & Islands Regional Labour MSP questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, in relation to the centralisation programme being proposed for Air Traffic Control.

Rhoda said “ I asked the Cabinet Secretary if the proposal to centralise Air Traffic Control  was island-proofed, if an impact assessment had been carried out and if he would reverse this decision, which was to base the HIAL Central Air Traffic Control System in Inverness.

Following the successful launch of the Islands Athlete Travel Award Scheme in March 2018 up to eight élite athletes from the Outer Hebrides are again set to benefit from the continuation of the pilot scheme designed to support travel costs in the islands.

The aim of this scheme is to help the élite athletes of the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland to gain better access to competitive and developmental opportunities available on the mainland.

Eight individuals could benefit in the Outer Hebrides with £1,500 available per person this year.

The ‘Clann an Là Dè’ (Yesterday’s Children) older people’s group from Shawbost, Lewis, had a good natter with Karen Peteranna, NHS Western Isles Health Improvement Practitioner, recently about opportunities for physical activity and the challenges to being physically active.

Physical active can have many benefits to your health, improve your sleep, help maintain a healthy weight and manage stress. 

 
Scottish and Southern Electricity Network engineers are working on two faults caused by gales today (Friday December 7th), with around 150 customers currently without power in Lewis and Harris.
 
A power pole has come down at Gravir in South Lochs, leaving a handful of homes without electricity. That fault was reported at 8.15am and power is expected to be restored about 5pm tonight.
 
In Harris, 147 customers in the Bays are still without power after overhead lines came down. Engineers are on site and power is expected to be restored by 2.30pm.
 
SSEN apologised for inconvenience to the customers affected.
 
 
The big Christmas lights switch-on in Stornoway town centre is set to go ahead tonight (Friday December 7th), despite the rough weather, with an amended programme to help keep everyone dry.
 
Organisers said the Christmas switch-on had gone to ‘plan B’, with all the events going ahead within the Town Hall, plus added activities indoors.
 
 
 
Not to be outdone by the luxury trees at the Harris Tweed Authority and at the Isle of Harris Distillers, Lewis Tyre Services has created their own characterful version of the definitive Christmas tree.
 
The tyre tree with a smile on its face is the artistic work of Lewis Tyre Services employee Mark Macpherson, who was easily persuaded to pose with his creation.
 
That might be the winner of this year’s challenge!
 
 
There are ferry cancellations and power cuts today (Friday December 7th) as stormy winds sweep across the islands.
 
High tide this morning coincided with the strongest winds and police called on Coastguard teams to help them close the Braighe from 8.30am. A convoy system was operated before and after the closure, with sweepers removing debris from the carriageway. Western Isles police said the road is now (10am) fully open, and Coastguards said there is some spray, but winds are diminishing.
 
 The Isle of Barra is on a short-term lockdown as storm winds sweep across from the Atlantic, with transport services suspended this morning (Friday December 7th).
 
Ferry services have been cancelled between Ardmhor and Eriskay, with a review due at 1pm, and there is no sailing between Castlebay and Oban.
 
MacNeil Coaches have suspended all public bus services on the grounds of safety, with a review at lunchtime in the hope of running the 13.20 service, weather permitting. All school buses have also been suspended.
 
However, flights from Glasgow to Barra are currently expected to depart as scheduled.
 
Barra is experiencing wind speeds gusting over 70mph this morning, with the forecast showing continued gales, diminishing in strength through the day.
 
A Met Office weather warning and a SEPA flood warning are in place for the remainder of the day, and SSEN are on storm alert in case of any power supply issues. 
 
 
Engineers from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) headed for the Bays of Harris this morning (Friday December 7th) to find the source of a power cut which has hit homes in the area.
 
147 properties in Lickisto, Finsbay, Manish and Rodel are without power, reporting the loss just after 7.30am this morning as winds built in strength.
 
SSEN said an engineering team were due at the site around 10am to identify the problem, and hoped to have power restored by 11.30am. They apologised to customers affected by the outage.
 

New research from Citizens Advice Scotland has found that 1 in 4 people who responded to their survey from the Western Isles say they can’t afford to eat balanced meals and are worried about food running out before there is money to buy more.

The 'Bringing Food to the Table' report from Citizens Advice Scotland is based on survey responses from 2,651 people across Scotland, with more than 200 responses from the Western Isles area.

People filled in an online survey or a paper version in their local Citizens Advice Bureau, in September and October this year.

There are plans for action to improve road safety in Assaye Place, Stornoway – a long running issue of concern for local residents.

Councillors at this week’s meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agreed that a Traffic Regulation Order should be implemented that would prevent vehicular access to Assaye Place from Willowglen Road, except for local access, for a trial period of eight months.

Trading standards officials at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are advising residents not to respond to a scam Euromillions Commonwealth Lottery letter currently in circulation in  the islands.

The letter “notifies” the recipients that they have won £490,000 in a Dublin lottery, the letter has an Australian address and a Gold Coast 2018 logo on the top right hand corner.

A severe weather warning from the Met Office was updated this morning (Thursday December 6th) and now predicts a ‘high likelihood of lower impacts’ in the Western Isles area tomorrow, Friday.

The updated yellow ‘be aware’ warning predicts strongest winds from about 5am until midnight tomorrow, with possible impacts including transport disruption, short-term power interruptions and spray or waves affecting coastal routes.

The chief forecaster said: “A deep depression will move eastwards across northern Scotland on Friday bringing widespread gales. Inland gusts of 50-60 mph are likely quite widely, with gusts of 70-80 mph in exposed locations across northwest Scotland. Heavy rainfall may be an additional hazard across parts of northern and western Scotland.”

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With the big Christmas switch-on coming up in Stornoway on Friday (December 7th) some people further afield have been trying to show how it’s done with creative takes on the Christmas tree.

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One of Stornoway’s landmark buildings for young people is under threat of closure, with supporters launching an appeal today (Tuesday December 4th) to ‘Heal our Hall’.

The unassuming building of the Scout and Guide Hall on Keith Street has provided decades of activity and safe space for young people in the Scout and Guide movements and beyond. Up to 220 youngsters still use the hall every week, but its physical condition is fast deteriorating and needs urgent refurbishment.

Primary school children in Gaelic Medium Education will be treated to the extraordinary tale of Seocan agus am Bogsa-ciùil (Seocan and the Accordion) from tomorrow (Wednesday December 5th) as the Gaelic language pantomime tours the Western Isles.

Fèisean nan Gàidheal brought the live stage performance to Castlebay Community School yesterday, and will be at Sir E Scott School in Tarbert tomorrow morning (Wednesday) to give pupils from Harris primary schools the chance to watch the fantastic story of how a boy called Seocan tries to earn some money for Christmas with the help of a Highland genie and a less-than-giant giant called Murdanaidh Mòr.

 The Isle of Harris learnt with sadness yesterday (Monday December 3rd) of the death of one of Harris Tweed industry’s great supporters, Maureen Mackay of the Luskentyre Harris Tweed Company.

Maureen came to Harris on holiday from her home in Rugby, Warwickshire and met her husband, the celebrated tweed weaver Donald John Mackay, during her visit. Their marriage provided tremendous support to both and helped the expansion of Donald John’s business to reach royalty and international fame.

The first taste of winter brought casualties this morning (Tuesday December 4th) as temperatures fell to as low as -5ºc in Lewis.

A 51-year-old woman who slipped and fell on icy pavements on Seaforth Road was discovered by Coastguard officers heading to work this morning.

 

The Met Office yellow 'be aware' warning of very strong winds on Friday was updated at 9.55am today (Wednesday) and now predicts gales affecting the whole of the Western Isles.

The Chief Forecaster said: "A weather system will move eastwards across the north of the UK on Friday bringing widespread gales. Inland gusts of 60-70 mph are possible across north Wales, northern England, northern Ireland and all of Scotland, with gusts of 80 mph in exposed locations in northern Scotland. There remains some uncertainty in the track of this system and where the strongest winds will occur. Heavy rainfall may be an additional hazard across parts of northern and western Scotland."

CalMac has advised that Friday's (7th December) sailing from Castlebay to Oban and return has been brought forward to tomorrow (Thursday 6th December) due to the forecast wind conditions on Friday.

The new timetable for Thursday is:

Depart Castlebay 1100
Arrive Oban 1600

Depart Oban 1700
Arrive Castlebay 2200

Sailing times are approximate and foot passengers are asked to ensure they check in 30 minutes before sailing. (Updated Wednesday 5th December at 4pm.)

Loganair have also made plans for possible travel disruption on Friday, offering booked passengers on all flights that day the opportunity to adjust travel plans without charge. Passengers who wish to change their plans can re-book on an alternative flight between now and Friday 14th December with no change fee or difference in fare payable, as long as there is a seat available.

Robert Currie from Scottish Salmon presents Uist and Barra Foodbank volunteers Katie Walker and Gavin Elliott with new scales

The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) has supported the Uist and Barra Foodbank, based on the Isle of Benbecula, with two new sets of scales, following its latest round of Community Fund awards.

Uist and Barra Foodbank make an emergency 3-day supply of food and toiletries available to those in need, as well as offering advice to explore issues and suggest possible solutions.  The Foodbank also works with partner organisations to help users grow their own fruit and vegetables, which can aid good mental health.

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has pledged his support to the crofters who will be facing EDF Energy in the Scottish Land Court next week.

He said: “It’s an easy call, to be honest. Let’s see, local folk or a multinational corporation? It’s no contest, really.”

The four crofting townships of Sandwick North Street; Melbost and Branahuie; Sandwick East Street and Lower Sandwick; and Aignish are making final preparations with their lawyers ahead of the Land Court’s first hearing in their case, being held in Stornoway on December 12 and 13. 

Bus services across Lewis and Harris are being reviewed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar with a view to reducing their costs.

And users are being asked to say what they think from today (Monday December 3).

The Council says:  "In recognition of the need to find nearly £10m of savings over the next four years the Comhairle agreed a service redesign programme as part of the 2018/19 Budget in February 2018.

Top piper Stuart Liddell is to do a recital in Stornoway this week.

This is part of a two-day visit which was organised by the Lewis and Harris Piping Society and funded in collaboration with the newly formed Lewis & Harris Youth Pipe Band (LHYPB) and the established Lewis Pipe Band (LPB).

Stuart will entertain the audience with a piping recital at 8pm on Friday 7th which will also feature performances from some of the island’s talented youth players. This event will now take place in the Garry Room of the Caladh Inn - not the eSgoil building. 

This event has now been cancelled.

 

 

A stalwart of the Gaelic music and culture scene has been rewarded for decades of hard work with a place in the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

Peigi Maclennan, now living in Newton but originally from Breasclete, was inducted into the Hall of Fame during the annual award ceremony for the MG Alba Scottish Traditional Music Awards (Na Trads) at Perth Concert Hall on Friday (November 30th).

Court for drink-driver

A 49-year-old man is to appear in court from custody on Tuesday (December 4th) following the court holiday tomorrow, Monday.

Stornoway police were called to a location in Point after receiving information regarding the man’s driving and arrested and charged him with drink driving.

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A unique collaboration between Harris Tweed Hebrides and Pakistan’s leading fashion designer has created a stunning couture collection that was showcased last night (Friday) at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.

Hassan Sheheryar Yasin - known as the designer HSY - was invited by UK Medical Aid to Pakistan to design a collection using the iconic fabric as the centre-piece for their annual fundraising dinner which is being held outside London for the first time. 

[gallery ID=114]

A unique collaboration between Harris Tweed Hebrides and Pakistan’s leading fashion designer has created a stunning couture collection that was showcased last night (Friday) at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.

Hassan Sheheryar Yasin - known as the designer HSY - was invited by UK Medical Aid to Pakistan to design a collection using the iconic fabric as the centre-piece for their annual fundraising dinner which is being held outside London for the first time. 

[gallery ID=113]

Influence in Cromwell Street brought Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for the Western Isles, to their counter to publicise Small Business Saturday UK today (Saturday December 1).

This is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to 'shop local' and support small businesses in their communities.

Twenty years of support for children and young people in the Western Isles were celebrated on St Andrew’s Day (yesterday, Friday November 30th) with a birthday party for Action for Children Eilean Siar.

The offices in Bayhead were buzzing with staff, supporters, family and friends as the national charity marked two decades working in the islands with a cake, speeches and colourful displays showing how far they have come.

Army Reserves winter Highland tour

If you've ever wondered who the Army Reserves are and what they do, Sgt Tommy Stewart has some facts, figures and further information about their next 'Look at Life' event on the 18th of January:

"Christmas is over, the days are short, grey and cold with nothing to look forward to until Easter time, or so you thought! The Army Reserves are in town offering you a wide variety of roles and jobs that can all be undertaken in your spare time, while at the same time helping you gain vital spare cash for your summer holidays.

Some of you may have heard the phrase “Voluntary Army Reservist”, but just who are the Army Reserves and what do they do? And how do they affect me? These are questions I will get to shortly, but first I must dispel some myths about the Army Reserves.

Mrs Kay (Katherine Mary) Mackay has been awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours list for services to Charitable Fundraising.

Mrs Mackay is Chair of the Isle of Lewis Local Committee of Cancer Research UK and has dedicated more than 35 years to fundraising for Cancer Research UK.

Ullapool Harbour is to benefit from additional funding from the Scottish Government for a fully accessible toilet and changing facility which will be installed following the extensive renovation of a disused building at the harbour.

The new Changing Places development is being part-funded from the third round of allocations from the Ferries Accessibility Fund. The award of over £43,000 is being made on a match-funding basis.

 

Further ice warnings affecting Eilean Siar and the Highlands have been issued by the Met Office: Yellow warning: Ice between Thursday 28th 15:00 and Friday 29th December 12:00

Icy patches are expected to develop on Thursday night and Friday morning on some untreated roads and pavementss, as well as where showers continue to fall washing off treatment. Some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces are possible.

Showers of rain, sleet and snow are expected on Thursday night before largely dying out on Friday morning. The extent of ice will vary across the area with inland areas most prone whilst coastal areas exposed to the northerly winds are less likely to be affected. 1 or 2 cm of snow may accumulate above about 100 m.

Seafish, the Seafood industry body, is urging Western Isles commercial fishermen to apply for a funded place on a locally-run training course run by the Western Isles Sea Fisheries Training Association to help improve safety at sea.

The funding for free training, which is available to all commercial fishermen to refresh and advance safety knowledge and skills, is available until 31 March 2018, when current funding is due to end. It can be used to attend a wide range of locally held safety courses; from basic training and safety refreshers, to more advanced courses such as navigation, engineering and stability awareness and a Skipper qualification.

The call from Seafish comes as the industry reflects on a ten-year period that saw over 3,300 accidents involving UK fishing vessels, with over 500 fishermen suffering serious injury and almost 100 losing their lives.


The Lewis Pipe Band will be hosting their annual traditional Burns Night Supper on Saturday 27th January 2018: An evening to celebrate the life of Scottish Bàrd Robert Burns with food, drink and dance!

The night, to be held the Caladh Inn, starts at 6.30pm with a traditional three course Scottish meal, which will be followed by a ceilidh with entertainment that will ensure your feet are tapping all night long.

Tickets cost £25 per person and will be available from band members and the Caladh Inn reception from 8th January 2018.
For more information, please visit the Burns Night event page on Facebook

The Met Office have issues a Yellow (be aware) warning for ice between 15:00 today, 27th December, and 12:00 Thursday 28th December for Eilean Siar and the Highlands.

Icy patches are expected on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Icy patches are expected to develop on untreated surfaces, pavements and where showers wash off treatment. Some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces may occur.

Showers of rain, sleet and snow are expected on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with snow most likely inland away from immediate coastal areas and over hills. The extent of ice will vary across the area with inland areas most prone whilst coastal areas exposed to the northerly winds are less likely to be affected. 1 or 2 cm of snow may accumulate above about 100 m, with perhaps 5 cm or more locally over the higher ground of North Highland. Temporary deposits may also occur at lower levels, mainly late in the night.

 

Drugs with a 'street' value of £30,000 have been seized in the Highlands and Islands throughout December as targeted action continues to take place across the region.

Under Operation RAM 26 search warrants were enforced resulting in 18 drugs seizures and the recovery of £7,000 in cash. Five people appeared from custody in relation to these warrants and enquiries into a number of cases are ongoing. And 54 searches were also carried out on people in the street or in vehicles which resulted in further recoveries.

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Sutherland, who leads Operation RAM, said: "Over the last few weeks we have used information supplied to us by concerned members of the public to target those involved in the sale and supply of illegal drugs across the Highlands and Islands, directly leading to the results we are sharing today.

Flybe will soon offer early morning departures from Stornoway on Monday and Tuesday mornings on flights operated on its behalf by Eastern Airways to Glasgow.

With effect from Monday 8th January, 2018, flights will depart at 0740 and arrive at 0845, which is 40 minutes earlier than at present.  This is in order to better align capacity with customer demand.
 
To facilitate these schedule changes, an extra northbound flight has been added to the current Sunday schedule with the aircraft departing Glasgow at 1755, arriving Stornoway 1900.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil raised concerns with the Minister of State for Transport Legislation and Maritime, John Hayes MP in October about delays in the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) process of tasking Lifeboats following a distress call.

]Mr MacNeil subsequently met with the Maritime Minister John Hayes MP and Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive, MCA who have now followed up on this meeting with a letter confirming what steps have been taken since the tragic loss of the fishing vessel Louisa.

There was a special Christmas gift to Bethesda Care Home and Hospice from Maybury Gardens in North Street, Sandwick, this week.

A cheque for £2000 was handed over by Irene Smith and Alison Carty, of Maybury Gardens to Anne Macleod and Catherine Gomez from Bethesda Care Home and Hospice.

Ferry operator CalMac has premiered a new innovative on-board safety video to try and better educate passengers on what to do in an emergency.

The three-minute film uses allegory and imagery of the scenery, occupations and wildlife across the west coast to bring its safety message to life. All the actors were local residents from Arran.

‘The message behind our safety announcement is a serious one, it is about giving passengers the information they need in the unlikely event of an emergency,’ said CalMac’s director of Health, Safety, Quality and Environment, Louis de Wolff.

If you, your family, friends or homecoming students are planning some holiday get-togethers and have found yourselves wondering what's on and where's open in Lewis and Harris over the festive season, then look no further! Our dynamic, searchable What's Happening calendar of events is updated daily. Click on the category links below for related listings for the next two weeks, or on the selection of individual events for more information. 

Music and Dance

There's a wealth of live music and entertainment scheduled for the holiday period, and there's sure to be something to suit lovers of every music genre.

The Edge O'the World has a Wee Winter Shindig on the 27th (tickets required - limited numbers available), live accoustic music with Felix Saunders on the 28th and their monthly House and Electro set with Frazer and Del on 29th - all until 2pm.

On Thursday the 28th we have the usual Open Mic night at McNeill's and the Crown's weekly trad music session. In Harris, Spanish will be playing Hotel Hebrides.

It's An Lanntair's annual end of year extravaganza with Willie Campbell and friends on Saturday the 30th, Rock Island Line rock the year out at the Rangers Club and Kroftwerk play at Hotel Hebrides in Tarbert. 

Era Stornoway has 12 party nights to choose from right through to new year and beyond, and will be open until 3am for most of them! 

The Sea Angling Club will be host to a variety of events: it's EDM night on the 29th, Pandejo on the 30th and Strange Brew welcome in 2018 on New Year's day.

For more family orientated fun, there's a Family Ceilidh with Hò-rò at An Lanntair on Wednesday the 27th, and a Pre-Hogmanay Family Ceilidh at Barvas and Brue Community Centre on Saturday the 30th.

Don't forget, many venues offer free soft drinks for your designated driver - ask at the bar!

Cinema  

There are lots of great films showing at An Lanntair over the next few days, classic Christmas animation The Star, Batman and Wonder Woman recruit a team of metahumans to save the world in Justice League, and for something more grown up there's Murder on the Orient Express directed by Kenneth Branagh who also stars as Hercule Poirot.

There are also art exhibitions in the main gallery and bar area of the Arts Centre - which will be open for a trial period on the last Sunday of every month until March -  and an Open Gallery at Talla na Mara.

If there's anything you'd like to add to the calendar, it's completely free of charge - just email a poster or details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll do the rest!  Do feel free to share any of the events online.

All the best for the New Year from everyone at welovestornoway.com.

A petition is available throughout the Western Isles for people to sign in protest against the Royal Bank of Scotland’s plans to close its branch in Castlebay, Isle of Barra – and reduce opening hours at its branch in Lochboisdale.

The newly announced plans for a revised service in Lochboisdale and Castlebay are ‘ill-conceived and not thought through,’ says Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

He is calling for people to sign the petition and make your views known to Government – it is available from SNP councilors throughout the Islands or from the MP’s constituency office in Bayhead, Stornoway.

Lewis community groups which combat social isolation by putting on events and good craic for their senior citizens have enjoyed Christmas parties thanks to donations from Point and Sandwick Trust.

Point and Sandwick, the charity behind the community-owned wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag just outside Stornoway, donated nearly £2,000 to two community groups to help with the festivities.

Cairdean Og Allt nan Gall, one of the biggest and longest-running groups for the elderly on Lewis, received £1,000 towards the party in the Caladh Inn on December 5, attended by more than 40.

Confusion at the Royal Bank of Scotland about the provision of banking services on Barra was laid bare in a letter to Alasdair Allan MSP made public yesterday (Monday December 18th).

In the letter. the RBS CEO, Personal and Business Banking, Mr Les Matheson said he was “sorry to learn of your disappointment at our decision to close the Castlebay, Isle of Barra branch.”

Quite how RBS expected a joyful welcome for the closure of the Island’s only bank is not explained.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar advise that there are a number of planned changes to island Refuse and Recycling Collection points during the festive period from Christmas Day (Monday, December 25th) to Monday, January 1st, 2018.
“Collection times may vary and the revised day of collection may be before the usual day of collection,” advise the local authority, adding: “Householders are requested to present their wheeled bins at the kerbside by 8am on the revised collection day."
In Lewis, for Residual and Organic collections (black bins), there will be no refuse collection in the Inner Point area on December 25th. Instead there will be a collection for Inner Point (Aiginish, Garrabost, Bayble Upper & Lower, Eagleton, Swordale, Knock, Seaview Knock) on Saturday, December 23rd.


Cutting bills: From left to right, Poverty Action Group chair Angus McCormack, TIG chair Donald Nicholson and TIG director Stewart Wilson at the launch of TIGSWITCH.

The first dedicated energy switching site for customers in the Western Isles has been launched by Tighean Innse Gall, who are working to eradicate fuel poverty and improve housing conditions.
TIGSWITCH.COM is the first switching site in the UK which takes into account the unique situation for gas customers in Stornoway, where they cannot switch supplier away from Scottish Gas due to the structure of the local network.
For these customers, the website displays an obvious message, warning them they will be unable to switch gas supplier, saving a lot of time and confusion down the line. When it comes to electricity though, the website will research all the available suppliers and tariffs and could save customers hundreds of pounds.

Roddy Macdonald and Flybe Country Manager Scotland, David Patterson

Stornoway paramedic, coastguard and life-saving charity champion, Roddy Macdonald has been honoured as Stornoway’s first ever Flybe Community Hero.
The award ceremony took place yesterday (Thursday, December 14th) at Stornoway Airport and was attended by Roddy’s friends and family.
Roddy was nominated for the Community Hero Award by Christine Schofield who highlighted the positive work Roddy has to put in to island life saying: “Roddy could be described as a leader, a teacher, a mentor, a counsellor, a friend and a father but most of all a role model to those on Stornoway.”
He is a familiar sight to those on the Isle of Lewis, working as a paramedic, supporting the vital First Responder Community and training local people in essential lifesaving skills, all on top of his dedication to the coastguard which he has served for the last 30 years.

The Outer Hebrides Chief Officer’s Group for Public Protection (COG) met this week following the tragic incident at The Nicolson Institute on Tuesday which saw the passing of S4 pupil, 15 year old Anton Michael.
In a statement issued today members of the COG - which comprises of senior officers from health, education and social work to co-ordinate public protection – said that they wish to convey their heartfelt sympathies to the family of Anton Michael at this safe time, and ask that the family's privacy be respected as they come to terms with their loss.
“The exceptional work done by staff from all agencies, especially school staff, is greatly appreciated by all,” continues the statement. “The staff were met with very difficult circumstances, but did everything humanly possible to save Anton.


Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat

A call upon the UK Government to reinstate the west coast tug has been issued by Comhairle Leader Cllr Roddie Mackay and Islands MSP Alasdair Allan as yesterday (Thursday, December 14th) saw both Stornoway RNLI lifeboat and Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat launch to the aid of a stricken cargo vessel in trouble off Harris.
“Lifeboats from Leverburgh and Stornoway have had to assist the freight ship until the ETV from Orkney arrives more than 12 hours later,” said Cllr Mackay. “It is unacceptable.”
Both volunteer RNLI crews at Leverburgh and Stornoway launched at 6pm last night in response to a ‘Pan-Pan’ call – one level down from a full distress Mayday – from the 54 metre cargo ship ‘Fame’ in difficulties after losing propulsion power west of Scarp, on the west side of Harris.

Point pupils in the new strips with PST director Sonja Macleod (left), principal teacher Anne Macphail and PST general manager Donald John MacSween

Point school pupils have been given an edge in future sports competitions after community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust kitted them out, head to toe, in new strips.

The Trust sponsored two full sets of the strips for Sgoil an Rubha after its principal teacher, Anne Macphail, told PST general manager Donald John MacSween they were in need.
The school’s supply of strips had dwindled over the years to the point where they no longer had a full set — and those they did have were not in the best condition. Parents had begun to ask questions about why Sgoil an Rubha did not have strips, when so many other schools did, and the Parent Council had begun looking into where they could find the money for some.


Islands MP Angus MacNeil delivered a speech on Amendment 7 during yesterday evening's parliamentary debate

UK MPs will now have a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels after a parliamentary debate – in which Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil delivered a speech – voted 309 to 305 on Amendment 7 yesterday.
The amendment now passed will ensure that MPs have a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck.
“The actions of this Tory Government is akin to setting sail on the Titanic and refusing to take a lifeboat,” said Mr MacNeil. “This is a Laurel and Hardy Brexit – it is a fine mess and all due to vanity.”

Options for getting a polycrub in the Western Isles have just got a lot better as Shetland community company nortenergy teams up with Western Isles construction company AMK.
“I am delighted that we have come to this agreement with Alec John and Jayne of AMK,” said nortenergy Chair Drew Ratter.
“They are now stocking materials for the polycrubs, and their staff have been trained in kit assembly and erection. Anybody looking for a polycrub anywhere in the Outer Hebrides should get in touch with AMK to make their arrangements.”

A link up between Lewis and Finland is aiming to develop a unique, energy initiative which will utilise clean energy and reduce household bills.
Lews Castle College UHI and Tighean Innse Gall have linked up with the University of Oulu in Finland to promote the use of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems.
“Our project aims to address fuel poverty in our islands and areas with a similar climate by using some of the heat used in people’s homes to generate electricity,” said Dr Alasdair Macleod, Lead Researcher in Energy Engineering at Lews Castle College UHI.

Be on your guard in both the actual and virtual worlds this Christmas as Police Scotland reminds communities against the risk of online fraud over the festive season.
There has unfortunately been a number of incidents targeting individuals and businesses online with scams in the Highlands and Islands alone.
And as the festive period means a higher number of transactions being completed online, some unscrupulous groups and individuals will actively seek out opportunities to put these frauds into action.

A confidential 24-hour telephone helpline service has been set up to help pupils and staff of The Nicolson Institute following the passing of S4 pupil Anton Michael.
Anyone affected by the Anton’s passing is urged to contact the helpline on 01851 705600 for support.
Support is also being offered with two counsellors now based within the school until the end of term and available to pupils and staff.

Stornoway Golf Course was a busy place on Sunday as over 100 families and friends enjoyed some winter sledging fun

The question ‘Should all sport taking place in the Castle Grounds be treated in the same way by the Stornoway Trust?’ was answered by over 740 voices in an online survey open for only four days.
More than 75% of survey responses were in favour of all sports being given the same standing in Lews Castle Grounds.
And community landowner, the Stornoway Trust, is now in negotiation with Stornoway Golf Club to open the golf course to family play on a Sunday.

 
A special Beatles album to be personalised by Sir Paul McCartney raised more than £3300 at auction today (Wednesday) to aid the families of two Scottish island teenagers caught up in the Manchester bomb attack.
 
Sir Paul was moved by the plight of schoolgirls Laura MacIntyre and Eilidh MacLeod from Barra in the Outer Hebrides who were both attending their first big pop concert.
 
Eilidh, 14, a keen piper, was one of 22 people killed in the attack at Manchester Arena. Laura, 15, has bravely returned to the island's Castlebay Community School after spending many weeks in hospital being treated for serious, and initially, life-threatening injuries.
 

Comann Eachdraidh Loch Rog an Ear and the Breasclete Community Association invite you to the unveiling of a memorial commemorating the tragic loss of 3 lighthouse keepers of the Flannan Isles in 1900.  The ceremony will take place on Friday 15th December at 2pm on the Breasclete shoreline of Loch Roag, and will be followed by a reception at the community centre to mark the opening of an exhibition based on the tragedy.  Everyone is welcome.

The contract for the development of 10 new homes for affordable rent at Cleascro Road, Leurbost was awarded today to Calmax Construction.  Preparatory works are underway with a view to the building works commencing in January 2018 and keys being handed over to new tenants in November 2018.  The total cost of the project is £1.52m of which just over £1m will be funded by Scottish Government Grant. The Comhairle are contributing £24k to the project demonstrating their commitment to developing homes in the rural areas. HHP will provide the remainder of the funding.

Pupils and staff at The Nicolson Institute face news today of the death of S4 pupil Anton Michael yesterday (Tuesday, December 12th).
The tragic incident occurred at the secondary school in Stornoway yesterday afternoon as it was reported that a 15 year old boy had been found injured within the school building.
Emergency services were called to the scene at around 2.30pm and Mr Michael was conveyed to Western Isles Hospital where he later passed away.

The Scottish Salmon Company has announced Sgoil na Pairc as a winner of its winter show competition in partnership with the National Theatre of Scotland.

The school has been awarded a funding package to help plan and produce their end of term show ‘A Fairy Tale Adventure’. The prize includes a special one-day winter workshop with the National Theatre of Scotland plus £500 towards props and costumes.

A theatre practitioner from the National Theatre of Scotland visited the school visited Sgoil na Pairc on Friday 8 December and offered the children help and advice on how to develop a script and how to design their set and staging.

Western Isles Hospital Theatre Department has been praised for good standards of cleanliness, positive leadership in infection prevention, and good compliance with waste management.
NHS Western Isles has welcomed the latest Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) Inspection Report, which praises the Department for a good standard of cleanliness throughout, positive leadership in infection prevention and control and good compliance with the management of waste and sharps.
The HEI, part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, published its report today (Tuesday, December 12th ) which relates to an unannounced inspection visit to the Hospital’s Theatre Department on October 3rd and 4th this year.

‘Very positive’ with a ‘lively discussion’ was the description of how the first meeting of the independent Caledonian MacBrayne Community Board went recently.
Set up to provide an insight into the issues affecting island and rural communities for ferry operator CalMac, the Board met for the first time last month.
Board Chairman Angus Campbell, former Comhairle Leader, said: “The first meeting was very positive with a lively discussion about the purpose of the Board and a universal commitment to make sure it was as effective as possible.”


Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron

It has been revealed that over 700 hospital appointments in the Western Isles have been broken in 2016/17.
Information obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show that there were 713 instances where a referral had been made where the patient “did not attend”, meaning that hundreds of appointments that could have gone to others were wasted.
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, said: “These figures are very concerning, particularly in light of the fact that so many people have not been treated after they were referred by a GP within 18 weeks.


Dr Allan with Francesca and her winning design for the MSP's official Christmas Card this year

Selected from among hundreds of entries, the winner of the design for Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan’s Christmas Card this year is announced as Sgoil Tholastaidh Primary 7 pupil Francesca Greenstock.
Dr Allan is delighted to announce Francesca as the winner of the annual schools competition to design his official Christmas Card – which will be sent out to over a thousand people and organisations locally and nationally.
There were hundreds of different entries from primary schools across the Islands, and runner-up in the Christmas Card competition was Calum MacLeod from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath.


The islands' fishing industry has benefited from Revolving Loan Fund support

Comhairle councillors have agreed to a transfer of £141,000 to the authority’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).
The Sustainable Development Committee agreed to transfer the funds, which were earmarked for the Global Guarantee, to the RLF which provides loans and micro-loads to local businesses.
Administered by the Comhairle’s Business Gateway team, and with the total value of the fund currently standing at in excess of £1.2million, the RLF also encompasses the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Investment Scheme (OHFIS) – enabling the council to provide support to the fisheries sector also.

Comainn Eachdraidh and other community organisations are invited to attend the Heritage Network Conference, due to be held at Sgoil Lionacleit, Benbecula, next month.
Taking place on January 17th, 18th, and 19th, the theme of the 2018 Conference will be ‘Building a Heritage Strategy for the Outer Hebrides’, and will include a comprehensive piece of work mapping the heritage sector.
The work includes analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing heritage organisations and prioritisations of project ideas.
And speakers at the Heritage Network Conference include Alison Boyle, The Highland Museum of Childhood; and Lorna Cruickshank of Highland Council who will discuss the level of support and resource shared between Highland Council and independent museums in the area.


Santa was escorted to the Stornoway Christmas Lights Switch-On by members of the Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team on Friday night

Coastguard Rescue Teams around the Western Isles were kept busy as Storm Caroline brought in the winter weather.
On Wednesday (December 6th), members of Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team assisted Western Isles Police in monitoring the Braighe causeway in Lewis during the period over high tide as waves were overtopping the sea wall.
The islands’ Coastguard Teams were out again on Friday (December 8th) as Barra Coastguard Rescue Team were tasked at 0928 hours to prepare the helicopter landing site at Saint Brendan’s Hospital for the Coastguard Helicopter R199 to carry out a medical evacuation.

Evening bus services to and from Stornoway 

All services are scheduled to operate this evening, Friday 8th December, but may be subject to disruption or cancellation at short notice due to the ongoing wintry conditions and a high risk of snow and ice. Passengers are advised to contact bus operators directly using the contact phone numbers within the current public bus timetables. Timetables are available on the Comhairle website. 

Community-owned wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust have, along with Tesco and the Western Isles Lottery, stepped into the breach left by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s withdrawal of funds to ensure that Stornoway can have Christmas lights after all this year.

The Comhairle’s decision to pull the plug on funding completely this year, after a number of years of reducing their grant to Stornoway Amenity Trust for the festivities, had been met with dismay — but the community rallied round and the switching on ceremony will take place tonight (Friday, December 8), between 7pm and 8pm.

As ever, the event will take place in the town’s civic square. There will be some speeches and prizes will be awarded for shop window displays and the like, ahead of the official switching on.  New Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles, Donald Martin, will be presiding.

Vandals have seriously damaged the Lady Matheson Monument in Lews Castle Grounds.

According to Western Isles Police, the incident involved a red aerosol spray and occurred between the morning of Monday December 4th at 9am and 11am the following day.

Funding for the two local Sports Councils through devolving £13,000 to the Lewis and Harris Sports Council and £8,500 to the Uist and Barra Sports Council has been agreed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee.

The Sports Councils operate a grant aid programme for their memberships.

The Sports Councils also work with the Western Isles Development Trust to distribute the £60,000 fund donated by Transocean following the oil rig incident near Dalbeg in 2016.

Funding for the two local Sports Councils through devolving £8,500 to the Uist and Barra Sports Council  and £13,000 to the Lewis and Harris Sports Council has been agreed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee.

The Sports Councils operate a grant aid programme for their memberships.

The Sports Councils also work with the Western Isles Development Trust to distribute the £60,000 fund donated by Transocean following the oil rig incident near Dalbeg in 2016.

All the schools in the Western Isles were closed yesterday  (Thursday December 7) because of the high winds from Storm Caroline, apart from e-Sgoil!!  But one class from Sir E Scott School tuned into their Religious Moral & Philosophical Studies (RMPS) class from the comfort of their homes.

Representatives of Neuro Hebrides were stunned last night (Wednesday December 6) to receive £5483.15 as a donation from the annual Charity 999 Football Game organisers, which brings together Stornoway-based police and fire service personnel every year in fund-raising rivalry.

In a departure from usual practice, those involved with the group – which had just held one of its regular meetings – had no idea how much has been raised until the 999 organisers unveiled the giant cheque. They said they were “speechless” when the total was read out and promised they would make very good use of the donation which is far bigger than others received so far.

The police team won the match held on Saturday October 14th on the all-weather pitch on Smith Avenue and the organisers thanked local businesses for their continued support for the game that enabled such suns to be raised for a good cause.

 The team at the new Iceland store in Cromwell Street take a moment out from last-minute preparations for opening at 8am today (Thursday December 7th)

One of Scotland’s most successful and enduring bands, Deacon Blue, will headline the multi-award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival next year as part of a tour to mark their 30-year career.

The band, known for a string of best-selling songs including ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Dignity’, ‘Wages Day’ and ‘Fergus Sings the Blues’ in the 1980s, have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with new albums bringing their music to another generation of fans.

Their 2018 ‘To Be Here Someday’ tour will celebrate their entire back catalogue, which now spans four decades.

 

#stormcaroline impact!

** Met Office yellow 'be aware' warning issued for snow and ice in the Western isles from 16:00 Thursday until 23:59 Thursday and 00:05 Friday 8th and 18:00 Sat 9th

**All council services, including buses, are expected to be running as normal tomorrow, Friday, but travel disruption is likely and local conditions will vary. The public are advised to travel with care.

++All schools and nurseries in Lewis, Harris and Uist are closed to pupils TODAY (Thursday 7th December)  but expected to be open tomorrow (Friday 8th December), local decisions will be made in the morning. 

**Loganair from Glasgow - due at 11.30 - arrived at 13.38.  First flight of day arrived from Inverness at 14.39

++Flights to and from Stornoway and Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh and Benbecula earlier this morning were cancelled.  See www.hial.co.uk/stornoway-airport/

**The flight to and from Aberdeen has been cancelled.

++ Ferries cancelled today on Leverburgh to Berneray route

**Sailings cancelled on Eriskay-Barra route

++Ferries cancelled to Arran, Coll & Tiree, the Small Isles and Mallaig to Armadale

**All ferries from Stornoway to Ullapool are cancelled on Thursday and Friday.   The freight ferry on Saturday morning is also cancelled.  Further services remain under review.

Martin's Memorial Church, Stornoway, invite you to enjoy the second year of their beautiful Christmas Nativity, this Friday 8th December, between 7pm and 9.30pm.

Free tea, coffee and warm mince pies will be available, along with crafts, games and toys for the children. Everyone welcome!

A long-time Stornoway tree has a new job to do this Christmas as it takes pride of place as the town’s official Christmas Tree in Perceval Square.

Stornoway Amenity Trust, together with Stornoway Trust, were asked by Mrs Annie Mary Macleod of Sand Street to cut down a spruce tree which was threatening to fall on her home.

A mother who lost her young daughter to a rare and tragic illness is preparing to walk non-stop from South Harris to Ness to help raise money for other critically ill children.

Exactly two years after five-year-old Elizabeth Spencer’s life support machine was switched off, grieving mum Natalia Spencer, now living in Stornoway, will walk 80-miles from St Clement’s Church, Rodel, to the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse as part of her ongoing Elizabeth’s Footprint campaign.

Natalia, 42, plans to complete the journey in 24-hours, departing from Rodel at midday on Saturday, December 9th and arriving in Ness around lunchtime on Sunday December 10th.

More than 1,000 people a day are continuing to sign the on-line petition against the Royal Bank of Scotland’s attempt to undermine the Isle of  Barra’s economy and wellbeing as a community by closing its only bank branch.

At 5am today (Wednesday December 6) the total passed 7,500.

And protests continued in the Scottish Parliament.

A report published by Citizens Advice Scotland has shed light on the ‘postcode penalty’ which sees island residents pay up to four time as much for delivery than consumers elsewhere in the UK.
With a debate set to be heard in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow (December 6th), the Consumer Futures Unit (CFU) of Citizens Advice Scotland is publishing research which shows that people in northern Scotland pay a ‘postcode penalty’ of up to 50% in surcharges imposed by delivery companies.
The new report – ‘Postcode Penalty: Delivering Solutions’ – sheds light on the issue as CFU hope to work with the Scottish Government and local authorities to identify ‘suitable trial projects’ aimed at reducing costs in 2018.


The Leanne Fund committee members and Tea in the Tent organisers Nicola Libby and Cat Campbell are delighted by its success

Posh frocks and wellies helped raise more than £4,000 for The Leanne Fund this summer as island ladies enjoyed Tea in the Tent.
The event, held on Lews Castle Green in June, saw all enjoy a vintage tea party in a marquee, followed by a hog-roast barbecue and dance.
Guests were treated to an array of tasty sweet and savoury courses, along with musical entertainment from Rosie Sullivan, Eleanor Nicolson, Iain ‘Spanish’ MacKay and Catch 22 throughout the afternoon and on into the evening.


Could Sunday golfing at Stornoway Golf Course become a reality in the future... 

The issue over a ban on playing golf at Stornoway Golf Course on a Sunday has been raised again as Stornoway Trust member Callum Iain Macmillan seeks islanders’ opinion via an online survey.
Under a historic clause in the Golf Club lease with community landlords the Stornoway Trust, teeing off on the Sabbath is banned at the local club.
But Trustee Mr Macmillan believes the ban to be unfair, and that ‘all sport should be encouraged, not restricted’.

Get set for strong winds this week as Storm Caroline is expected to bring gales and gusts to the islands on Thursday (December 7th).
A Yellow Wind Warning has been issued by the Met Office today for between 8am and 11.55pm on Thursday.
Gusts of 60-70mph are expected quite widely in northern Scotland, with gusts to 80mph possible near north facing mainland coasts and across the Isles.
“Road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected, with longer journey times and cancellations possible,” warns the Met Office.
“Some short term loss of power and other services is possible,” the warning continues. “It is likely that some coastal routes, sea fronts, and coastal communities will be affected by spray and/or large waves.”
To keep up to date with Met Office forecasts, visit www.metoffice.gov.uk 

Time for some festive fun this Friday as Stornoway’s Santa Dash kicks off the town’s Christmas Lights Switch-On this weekend.
As part of Stornoway’s Christmas Lights Switch-On event, a half-mile Santa Dash will take place at 6.30pm on Friday, December 8th, to get everyone warmed up for the festive celebrations.
Open to all ages and levels of fitness, participants can run or walk the route and are asked to wear festive or Christmas attire.

A new Gaelic language pantomime will be visiting Lewis and Harris schools this week as part of a fifteen-day national tour. 'Anna Bheag a’ Chòta Dheirg', a re-imagining of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy-tale, features Calum MacDonald, MJ Deans and Ellen MacDonald. It is the tenth successive year that Fèisean nan Gàidheal has produced and toured a Gaelic language pantomime for children in Gaelic-medium education.

The pantomime, supported by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Creative Scotland and HIE, was written and directed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Drama Officer Angus Macleod.

Angus said: “The play updates the traditional Little Red Riding Hood story and gives it a martial arts twist. The three experienced actors bring lots of fun and energy to their roles and the audience interaction will make this an engaging and enjoyable experience for children and adults alike.”

Community Upgrades will benefit this week from another £3,883 - the proceeds of the Lottery for the month of November.
This is the third pay-out since the launch of the island lottery in August, bringing the total raised so far to £11,575. And the lottery team emphasis that this could be so much more if everybody joined in by supporting from as little as just £1 a week.
The aim of setting up the Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery was to improve the aesthetics, amenities and events throughout the Western Isles.


Uist & Barra 'Making a Difference' Youth Engagement Conference, supported by LEADER 2007-2013 Programme. Photo: Outer Hebrides LEADER LAG

The Outer Hebrides LEADER 2014-2020 Programme is delighted to announce the launch of their unique fund, specifically designed to support Young People.
Being delivered in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean siar and the Bridge Community Centre, the LEADER Youth Fund is available to provide funding to projects aimed at supporting young people and yuth initiatives.
What is unique about this fund is that all decisions on applications are fundamentally decided upon by young people, through LEADER’s newly established Youth Local Action Group (Youth LAG).

Capturing the spirit of the landscape, history and culture of Islay, Gaelic publishers Acair is proud to launch its latest title – ‘Òrain Ìleach: Òrain Ghàidhlig à Ìle’ (Gaelic Songs of Islay).
Edited by Lynn MacDonald, the book features a wide range of classic Gaelic songs from Islay, some which are very well know, and some which have been heard by very few.
‘Òrain Ìleach’ was released at a celebratory event at Islay House in Bridgend, Islay, on Saturday November 25th, with a variety of renowned Gaelic singers performing – including Mod Loch Abar 2017 gold medallist Alisdair Currie and Coisir Og Ile – alongside Islay Gaelic Choir.


The Western Isles is better protected with 100 AEDs available throughout the island chain

The Western Isles are one of the best protected communities in the UK in terms of life-saving training and equipment thanks to a collaboration between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and charity Lucky2bhere.
The 100th automated external defibrillator (AED) on the islands was presented last week to the management of The Cabarfiedh Hotel in Stornoway – the result of the proactive approach taken by the local authority and Lucky2bhere which has provided more concentrated access to AED, and comprehensive Emergency Life Support Training (ELS), than anywhere else in the UK.
Comhairle Councillor Angus Morrison has been instrumental in the campaign both as a Councillor and a Volunteer Trainer and Co-ordinator at Lucky2bhere.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is encouraging people in the Western Isles to shop locally tomorrow (Saturday) and support the local economy this Small Business Saturday (2nd December).[He is pictured above with  Louis MacIver of Tech Mobile, Stornoway.]

Small Business Saturday boosted takings for small shops by £717m last year in Scotland, and with research showing that money spent locally is more likely to stay in the local economy, a key aim of this campaign is to encourage lasting, year-round support for small businesses.

There are 1,175 small businesses in the Western Isles, employing 5,410 workers.

The owner of a fishing vessel was fined a total of £4000 at Stornoway Sheriff Court for failing to secure the safe operations of his vessel in a prosecution brought by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency. 

Austen Campbell, owner of the fishing vessel ‘Ocean Spirit (SY2)’ pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, in that he failed to secure the safe operation of the vessel.

He was fined £4000.

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil welcomed today’s rapid U-turn by the Royal Bank over ripping out the ATM in Castlebay as part of its plan to close the branch, the only bank on the island.

But he is now calling for a rethink of the whole scheme as it affects Barra.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “From the correspondence the RBS has sent me they had suggested that a local alternative ATM could be in Portree, Tobermory or indeed Oban. That is the equivalent of telling the people of Dover that they can go to Paris to access a cash machine.

The successful Nicolson Debate team - John Alasdair Bain and Calum Maclennan

The Nicolson Institute topped the National Gaelic School Debate competition this week, scooping the winning spot from Lochaber High School.
The final of the 2017 National Gaelic Schools Debate took place at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, November 29th and a very lively debate was heard with Clare Frances MacNeil and Iain Gillies from Lochaber High School going up against John Alasdair Bain and Calum Maclennan from The Nicolson Institute A.
And it was the gentlemen from The Nicolson who came out victorious to bring the national silverware across the Minch.
The committee would like to thank organisations who helped fund and support this year’s Debate: The Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Skills Development Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Glasgow City Council, Highland Council, and Comunn na Gàidhlig.

Debra Vickers has earned the right to use the historic Queen's Nurse title

A Western Isles nurse is among a group of 20 to have been awarded the title of Queen’s Nurse – marking the first time the honour has been made in Scotland for almost 50 years.
Debra Vickers, NHS Western Isles Nurse Consultant for Cardiology, was selected earlier this year to take part in a nine-month development programme run by the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS).
Each of the community nurses were nominated by their managers for providing high quality, compassionate nursing care.

The Castlebay Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland is listed to close next summer, at the peak of the tourist season, leaving Isles of Barra and Vatersay without a bank branch or a cash machine.

It is one of 62 branches set to be closed by the Royal Bank across Scotland.  The bank announced this morning that the branch would close on 14 June 2018.

Protests have come from the UK Government as Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said:  “I am very disappointed to hear of the plans by the Royal Bank of Scotland to close so many of their branches across Scotland. This is a serious issue for the communities they serve.   While usage of branches may have dropped, they are still a lifeline for many people, especially in rural areas.  I'll be seeking a meeting with the senior leadership of RBS to discuss these closures as a matter of urgency."

RBS says: "Since 2012 we have seen the way in which people use Royal Bank of Scotland Castlebay branch change dramatically, with now 86% of customers already banking in other ways locally. Transactions in Castlebay branch have reduced by 43% since 2012 with now only 11 customers visiting the branch on a weekly basis."

Sir Paul McCartney has come to the aid of the families of two Barra teenagers caught up in the Manchester bomb attack in a gesture that has been described as both "amazing and brilliant" and "poignant" by the parents.

The ex-Beatle was moved by the plight of schoolgirls Laura MacIntyre and Eilidh MacLeod who were both attending their first big pop concert.

Eilidh, 14, a keen piper, was one of 22 people killed in the attack at Manchester Arena. Laura, 15, has returned to the island's Castlebay Community School after spending many weeks in hospital being treated for serious, and initially, life-threatening injuries.

Sir Paul McCartney has come to the aid of the families of two Barra teenagers caught up in the Manchester bomb attack in a gesture that has been described as both "amazing and brilliant" and "poignant" by the parents.

The ex-Beatle was moved by the plight of schoolgirls Laura MacIntyre and Eilidh MacLeod who were both attending their first big pop concert.

Eilidh, 14, a keen piper, was one of 22 people killed in the attack at Manchester Arena. Laura, 15, has returned to the island's Castlebay Community School after spending many weeks in hospital being treated for serious, and initially, life-threatening injuries.

A new lifeboat is on the way for Leverburgh RNLI Lifeboat Station, which was established just five years ago, initially for a trial period of one year.

Following a successful year of training and familiarisation for the new volunteer crew, the station became permanent in the Spring of 2013.

The station is currently home to RNLB The Royal Thames, one of the RNLI’s Mersey Class Lifeboats. While the Royal Thames has served Leverburgh and her previous stations well, the boat is reaching the end of its working life.

Highlands &Islands (Including Moray) MSP and long time road safety campaigner, David Stewart, welcomes the UK Governments announcement that learner drivers will be allowed to learn to drive on motorways.

"It makes total sense and something I have been campaigning for over almost seven years as part of a form of graduated licence, said David Stewart.

"Expecting new drivers to suddenly be able to drive on a motorway when they never trained to do so is just a recipe for disaster."

Ice is expected to form on untreated roads and pavements on New Year's morning across the Western Isles and in the Highlands.

There is an official Yellow 'Be Prepared" warning of ice from the UK Met Office.

Difficult driving conditions and slippery pavements are possible.

An Associated Press photograph of the fireworks display at the Sky Tower in Auckland

 

Spar is recalling its Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich Filler due to an incorrectly extended ‘use by’ date, the Food Standards Agency has reported this evening (Friday).

This recall affects its Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich Filler 220g as the product has been incorrectly labelled with a ‘use by’ date of 17.01.  It should have been dated 02.01.

No other Spar products are known to be affected.  The FSA advice to consumers is that if you have bought the product do not eat it. Instead, customers can return it to the store for a full refund.

Point of sale notices will be displayed in all retail stores that are selling the product. These notices explain to customers why the product is being recalled and tell them what to do if they have bought the product.

EVENTS newspaper is one of two Western Isles titles in the running to scoop the Community Newspaper of the Year award at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards.
EVENTS has been shortlisted alongside Ness community newspaper Fios and Black Isle based publication Chatterbox.
The winner of the Community Newspaper of the Year category will be announced on Friday, February 3rd, during the Highlands and Islands Press Ball and Media Awards, held at the Kingsmill Hotel, Inverness.
Lewis-based news blogger Katie Laing has also been shortlisted in the Highlands and Islands Media awards, in the Best Use of Digital Media award category.

President of Stornoway Historical Society Sandy Matheson has paid tribute to Stornoway resident Ian Mitchell, who sadly passed away yesterday (December 29th).

The funeral of the late Ian Mitchell is on Tuesday January 3 and will take place from the Free Church Seminary on Francis Street.  The service starts at 11am.  There is a Monday evening service at the Free Church Seminary at 9am.  (Details are here - http://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/funeralnotices/5657-funeral-of-the-late-ian-m-mitchell)

“The sad and unexpected death of Ian Mitchell leaves a gap in the life and times of our community,” said Sandy.

“In addition to his full and useful life, he was a splendid and secret contributor to many charities and local organisations,” he continued.

Plans are underway for the next Lewis and Harris 40th Reunion, due to take place on the weekend of 14 April 2017. Various events are planned, including a formal meal, family fun afternoon, informal casual get-together and a fellowship. It promises to be a weekend of catching up with great company, fantastic food and lots of entertainment. All those who started school in 1982 are encouraged to come along if at all possible. In the meantime, you can join the ‘2017 Reunion’ Facebook group, keep an eye out for updates on the website at www.2017reunion.com or email the organising committee using This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Registration for the first ever Scottish Youth Theatre National Ensemble has recently opened, and there will be auditions held in Stornoway in January 2017!

Scottish Youth Theatre are offering young people aged 16 - 25 who live work, study or have family who live in Scotland, the opportunity to challenge and develop their theatrical skills by collaborating with some of the most influential theatre-makers working in Scotland today.

They aim to develop participants as theatre-makers, and, in addition to performance, members will explore writing, directing  and production.

The Ensemble will evolve with total input from the members . Development weekends will occur throughout the year and throughout Scotland and there will be a performance in Summer 2017. Members can also attain a higher level qualification.

Scottish Youth Theatre want the National Ensemble to be something young artists aspire to, an additional level of stretch for those who are keen to broaden their artistic, social and geographic horizons and connect with like minded people.

Young artists don’t have to be intent on entering the industry, as confident creative individuals Scottish Youth Theatre knows they will carry their Ensemble experience with them in whatever direction they choose to travel.

Only 20 places are available and entry is based purely on ability and commitment.

Click here for more information and to register. 

The second round of awards from the Ferries Accessibility Fund will see around £180,000 spent on projects to further improve accessibility on Scotland’s ferries, Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf has announced.

The successful bidders are Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Serco Northlink Ferries, Scrabster Harbour Trust, Shetland Islands Council and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd.

Harris Tweed has been given a new global platform through a unique collaboration between the British Fashion Council and Google to “bring to life the creativity, heritage and craftsmanship of British fashion”.

The digital site, British Fashion, aims to bring new talent into the industry by creating  “a single destination to educate and inspire future generations of young fashion creatives, designers and students”.

It has already been viewed by tens of thousands of fashionistas in more than 30 countries and reported on by scores of leading publications including Vogue, Elle and Drapers.

Megan Shaw, 23, is one young person indebted to Western Isles Foyer for their help and support at a crucial point in her life.  Megan, from Lewis, has been involved with Foyer since she was 18 and been in supported accommodation for the last four years.  She is now ready to move on to her own permanent tenancy with Hebridean Housing Partnership in the New Year.
Megan started a job with Who Cares Scotland in August and previously won the Saltire Young Volunteer of the Year award in recognition of her volunteering contribution with Alzheimer Scotland.
“I was actually really chuffed,” she admitted.  “I’m rather proud, to be honest.”
It’s a far cry from when she first came to Foyer, fresh out of the care system and lacking any confidence whatsoever.  But they were there for her every step of the way, even physically helping her move in on the day she took up her tenancy with them.
“It was really good.  I came to Foyer every day for support.  They helped me with budgeting, cooking and cleaning and how to make a home nice.  They helped me start to change.”
Megan successfully completed two college courses at Lews Castle College and is now working with Who Cares Scotland as a participation assistant, a job for which she is qualified due to her own experiences of care.  “I’m reaching out to young people that are in care or are care experienced and allowing them to have a voice.  Some of them don’t feel they have a voice because of all the stigma around being in care.”

Angus McCormack, chairman of Point and Sandwick Trust, presenting the cheque to Foyer Project Leader Rebecca Mahony, (centre), and support worker Anna Campbell.

A charity which helps homeless young islanders can look forward to a brighter New Year thanks to Point and Sandwick Trust, which recently handed over a cheque for £15,000.
The donation is the first half of the £30,000 which Western Isles Foyer will get every year from the wind farm charity.
Foyer helps people in the Outer Hebrides who are aged between 16 and 25 and “homeless, in housing need or otherwise significantly socially disadvantaged”.

The annual Dementia dip at Gress Beach went ahead with a lucky break in the weather on Boxing Day  – after earlier fears that the event would have to be called off, the sun even came out for a bit.

The Donald Stewart Memorial Trust award for 2016 has been won by Amy McClements from Parkend, near Stornoway. 

The Trust decided unanimously that this year’s award be made to Amy, who completed her 6th year in The Nicolson Institute, Stornoway in June and is currently studying at Glasgow University. 

The Trustees were highly impressed by Amy’s commitment to her studies and how she managed to make time to support and represent causes both within school and also at community level.  They were also impressed with her extraordinary work ethic and time management skills ensuring she met the demands of her studies, holding down three part-time jobs whilst at the same time making time for extraordinary voluntary work.

Among Amy’s many achievements in school were her excellent academic attainment, gaining an impressive 4 A passes and one C pass at Higher level in S5, being selected as the school’s Vice Captain by both pupils and staff and becoming President of Interact.

Highlands & Islands (including Moray) MSP, Rhoda Grant is relaunching her 2015 campaign to encourage people with epilepsy in the Highlands and Islands to put ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact details on their mobile phones. 

Then, if they have a seizure outdoors the emergency services, or even a member of the public, can get in touch with the named family member, or friend, for medical details and thereafter tailored treatment is given.

To further assist emergency personnel, Rhoda Grant also developed a pilot initiative just over a year ago offering free ICEberg (In Case of Emergency be empowered, ring a guardian) wristbands to anyone with epilepsy.

The weather forecasts for the next couple of days predict a period of calm weather - but it is expected to get more windy again on Thursday afternoon, with winds from 35mph to 50 mph overnight into Friday.

Meanwhile CalMac ferries are returning to normal throughout the Outer Hebrides, except in relation to Barra where the disruption affecting ferries from Oban continues.  A range of services from Mallaig are also still cancelled or disrupted.

Marking the end of the disruption to air services, today's first flight from Glasgow to Stornoway landed 20 minutes earlier than scheduled.

 

 

A new widely-supported bid to encourage extensive regeneration of Stornoway town is under way, according to the Stornoway Regeneration Group (SRG).
It is looking to create a strategic plan to enable a range of improvements that cover not only the town centre but also the long-overlooked Newton area, which is the major industrial and commercial powerhouse for the whole Isle of Lewis.
The project is to look at a whole range of familiar planning themes – relocation of the gas and oil depots, traffic and parking improvements, additional town centre living space and student accommodation, and further heritage enhancements.

Although the gales and squally, wintry showers are now beginning to ease, please be aware of the likelihood of some ice forming through the evening as temperatures fall, says the UK Met Office.

And the Loganair service from Edinburgh to Stornoway was predicted to be almost three hours three hours late this afternoon/evening.

But Shetland was worst hit.  At 15:30, the airline have decided to cancel operations to Sumburgh for the rest of today as exceptionally strong winds caused damage to the construction works to upgrade the terminal building.   The risk of further damage in continuing high winds is present and so for safety reasons, Loganair have cancelled flights to and from Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The advert of Storm Conor today has meant the shutdown of the ferry routes between Berneray and Leverburgh, and also Eriskay and Barra because of the high winds.

For travellers between Harris and Uist there will be a direct sailing from Tarbert to Lochmaddy at 12:00 and a sailing from Lochmaddy to Tarbert via Uig at 13:55. If you plan to use this service as an alternative, please check-in no later than 45 minutes before departure.

CalMac Ferries say they will continue to provide regular updates regarding travel information based on up to date weather forecasts being received, and where possible review options for alternative travel arrangements.

Here's a selection of the Christmas boards created by local schools in a competition for the Stornoway Amenity Trust.  Because of the impact of Storm Barbara, the boards were unable to be displayed around the town centre as planned but the Trust found a safe place for them alongside Matheson Road on Christmas Eve.  The winners will be announced by the Trust next week.

Disruption to CalMac routes across the network continues, as Storm Barbara tracks its way across Scotland's west coast, but there has been resumption of services in many areas today (Saturday December 24), says the company.

Customers are still advised to regularly check the company's website, social media and app for on-going updates - some of the services which have resumed are operating on a revised timetable to fit around weather windows, while others are as per published schedules. Details of what to expect on each and every route is available on all of the above channels.

With services running today to Lewis, Harris and North Uist, much of the Western Isles, which saw all services cancelled yesterday (Friday December 23), has some re-established connectivity, and the picture is similar further south in the network.

Na Saboteurs - BBC ALBA – Saturday 25 December 6.30 – 6.45pm  (Also Tuesday 27 December at 5.40pm)

Zoë Mustian, Daniel Macleod (top row) with Fiona Mackenzie, Michael Hines, Catriona Lexy Campbell


Teatime on Christmas Day has a very youthful Lewis flavour for viewers of BBC ALBA.

Na Saboteurs, a 15-minute film, is about two children, each with their own problems and both with plans to resolve them.

Magaidh, a 10-year-old girl, is unhappy at the prospect of her father, Pol, having the local teacher, Ms Lorna Dunlop, over for dinner.  They both miss her mother, but Pol has perhaps moved on a little more than his daughter.

A Yellow Warning for high winds remains in force for Lewis and Harris - the UK Met Office says "strong westerly winds will continue across northern Scotland for a time on Saturday before slowly easing during the afternoon and, for Shetland, the evening.

"Gusts of 55-65 mph are expected widely, with occasional gusts of 70 mph across more exposed parts of the Scottish mainland and 80 mph across Shetland. Further disruption to travel is possible."

By 7.30am today (Saturday) Loganair continued to predict that flights would be on schedule, but they have extended their free rebooking deal to cover Boxing Day.  They say: ""We have a limited schedule of 24 flights planned on Boxing Day, Monday 26 December, and note that Storm Connor is now expected to cause high winds and heavy rainfall.   

"Although it is likely that flights will be able to proceed as planned, we have extended our re-booking policy to offer you additional peace of mind around your travel plans.    If you hold a reservation to travel on 26 December yet wish to travel later, you can now change your booking to any flight with available seats within the next seven days."

As for today on the ferries…

Barbara makes a welcome exit, but other unpleasant weather visitors are still likely this Christmas!

Storm Barbara is now long gone, having taken up residence in the Norwegian Sea overnight. The highest recorded wind speeds in the Isles (at Met Office sites) were 70mph in Stornoway and 75mph in South Uist - considerably lower than predicted by various met models in the days leading up to the storm. This was a fortunate, as if the winds had been any stronger, much greater disruption would have been likely.

In Barbara’s wake, however, frequent squally wintry showers of hail, sleet and snow have followed through overnight. Another bout of heavy rain and severe gales is likely tomorrow, Christmas Day, in association with the next named storm, #StormConor. A Met Office “Be Aware” yellow warning remains in operation for our region.

On Boxing Day, we will again see a switch back to much colder conditions, with perhaps the accumulation of some snow in places, and a biting, raw wind. Thunder and lightning are also possible again.

@eddy_weather 

Storm Barbara had a major impact on travel on and off the Islands today - with more cancellations expected tomorrow.

There are no morning ferry sailings from Lewis and Harris - and the remaining Sound of Harris and Ullapool sailings are subject to review.

ALL POWER SUPPLIES REPORTED RESTORED AT 15.45

A full-scale power-cut is believed to have hit the Western Isles about 2pm this afternoon.

Scottish and Southern Supply Networks report the entire Islands are affected at present.

Reports of lost supply were flooding into the power company's control centre a few minutes ago.

The company has special engineers in place across the network to cope with the impact of the storm.

At this time, the exact cause of the breakdown is not known.

(This report is being produced via our office battery back-up and mobile based emergency upload!)

 

 

The Santa Run, which was scheduled for 10:30am on Saturday 24th December, has been cancelled based on the latest Met Office forecast for stormy weather . It will now take place on Sat 31st December at 10.30am, says a new statement from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

All sport and leisure facilities in the Western Isles are expected to be open tomorrow (Saturday 24th December).

The bus services throughout the Western Isles are expected to resume normal service on Saturday as well, depending on local conditions.  Stornoway bus station will also be open.

Intending passengers may wish to check with their local operators before travelling to ensure that the service is running. As Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th December are local public holidays, there will be no buses running on those days.

Police Scotland Highland and Islands Division are reminding road users in the area of the dangers and consequences of drink and drug driving during the national Festive Drink/Drug drive campaign.

This campaign will run throughout the festive period and aims to reduce the number of people committing such offences and detecting those who do, in order to reduce the number of casualties on the roads.

Divisional Road Policing Inspector, Gus Stewart said:  "During this period I would urge people to plan their travel ahead of their festivities beginning so that the need or temptation to drive whilst under the influence is removed.

Trusadh – Mod Week 2016 / Trusadh -  Seachdain a’ Mhòid 2016
BBC ALBA – Monday 26 December 9.00 – 10.00pm

Following more than three years in the planning, endless meetings and no fewer than 25 fundraisers, the Royal National Mod, Scotland’s premier Gaelic festival of language, arts and culture, was back in Stornoway in October 2016.

But with an estimated 8000 attending, how does an event of this scale all come together?

With the well-forecast arrival of Storm Barbara, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries are experiencing widespread disruption across the 200-mile network today.

Winds gusting up to 90 miles per hour are expected later today across the Western Isles, and gale force conditions will be experienced elsewhere.

Many travellers have heeded advice to explore festive journey options in light of the predicted conditions and did travel yesterday (Thursday December 22) instead. A total of 98.3 per cent of sailings ran on the Clyde, 100 per cent in both the Southern and Inner Hebrides, 69 per cent for the Small Isles, Skye and Raasay area and 83 per cent for the Outer Hebrides.

Kenny 'There You Go' Macleod has died suddenly, aged 63.

The much-loved former Isles FM presenter, who came from Grimshader in Lochs, passed away at his home in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Kenny, who became famous throughout the islands for his 'There You Go' catchphrase, used to present the Stornoway station's 'Duisg' breakfast programme.

According to a detailed forecast at 5am today from www.xcweather.co.uk, the winds today (Friday December 23) are expected to be much less strong than feared.  Gusts of up to 60 mph are predicted compared to 69 mph predicted last night - and 90mph forecast earlier in the week.  However, the forecast for Saturday is now worse than before, particularly later in the day.

Stornoway's An Lanntair arts centre currently intends to open its doors as normal tomorrow (Friday 23rd December) …although the town's sport centre is closed.

An Lanntair's galleries, cinema and café bar will be open for customers and audiences from 10am till late.

The centre says: "We will continue to monitor the Met Office updates closely and will advise customers immediately if there are any changes to this plan.

Today saw the first day of a three day Craft market at Stornoway Town Hall, which will also be open this Friday, 23rd and Saturday, 24th December. The market provides a showcase for local crafts, art, baking and miscellaneous artifacts.

The multi-agency Emergency Planning Group for the Western Isles, WIEPCG, met today at 12pm to discuss the severe weather forecast for the Islands on Friday 23rd December 2016.

Flood Advice

SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) has indicated that the coastal flood risk is low from Friday to Saturday - “From Thursday onwards, high winds are expected to bring large waves to exposed coastline in the North and West (including the Northern and Western Isles). Minimal impacts such as isolated instances of wave and spray overtopping are likely during the periods of high tide.”

Emelin Collier, NHSWI Head of Planning & Development, Gordon Jamieson, NHSWI Chief Executive, and Valerie Russell, Action for Children Eilean Siar’s Children’s Service Manager

New equipment was recently purchased by NHS Western Isles for Action for Children/Hillcrest in Stornoway, to improve facilities for children and young people receiving care in the service’s respite accommodation.

An automatic adjustable specialist bed and a modern lightweight hoist have been provided to replace older equipment and enable staff to care more effectively for children and young people with complex health needs. The adjustable nature of the bed will also ensure a more comfortable respite stay.

With hours left until Storm Barbara hits the Western Isles, the Met Office has issued three separate weather warnings for the area. 

Two are yellow 'Be Aware' warnings, while the third is the more serious amber 'Be Prepared' warning. 

Malcolm, Murdo and Angus.

Smokefree Hebrides was delighted to receive a surprise Christmas visit from three of their successful quitters.

Malcolm Campbell (Stornoway), Murdo Fraser (Aignish), and Angus Campbell (Stornoway), arrived at the Smokefree Hebrides offices at Laxdale Court, to offer their thanks for the support received on their quit smoking journey.  

All three men have now been quit for several years and are overjoyed by this.

The Broken Ravens will be returning to An Lanntair on Friday, 6th January, where they will be joined by local bands Dedrok and The Howling Lords for an evening of rock. 

This follows a run of U.S. dates supporting Puddle of Mudd and gigs at world famous venues such as Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Strip. Their debut, self-titled EP will be coming out on February 10th.

The Ravens will be making this a night to remember, with more visuals, and a free raffle of band goodies and US souvenirs, as a small token of their thanks for the support they have at home.

For more information visit www.lanntair.com or call 01851 708480

Ímar, a five-piece band based in Glasgow, feature current and former members of Mànran, RURA, Talisk, Barrule, Cara, Mabon and The Lowground

 

Dougie MacLean, one of Scotland’s most revered singer songwriters, is making a return to the Hebridean Celtic Festival next year, more than two decades after he helped launch the event which has become one of Scotland’s most successful music festivals.

MacLean, pictured below, who appeared at the first HebCelt in 1996 and is in the festival’s Hall of Fame, will take his solo show to Stornoway in 2017.

He will be joined at the event by Skerryvore - just announced as 'Live Act of the Year' at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards - and who have a new single and album to be launched in the new year.

Last week's Scottish Budget delivered a new series of cuts to the economy of the Western Isles, confirming once more that the SNP government has again set its course to simply pass on Tory austerity, claims the Western Isles Labour party.

Further cuts to local authority grants with no whimper of complaint from local SNP politicians confirms that SNP centralisation is continuing, to the cost of all who live on the islands, they say.

A 3% council tax rise will do little to off-set the continued cuts to the Comhairle’s budgets. The Western Isles has the lowest rates and smallest revenue from council tax of all Scotland's local authorities.

An Lanntair have just announced Grinneas nan Eilean, The Islands Open Exhibition, returns in 2017 and for the first time will be held in high summer.

For Island Artists and makers, the exhibition runs from 17th June to 29th July. 

Open to both amatuer and professional artists the usual rules apply: artists have to be either from – or resident in – the Western Isles and the submission deadline is the 10th June 2017, giving plenty of time to get creative and submit an entry.

Entry forms will be available in due course from An Lanntair.

 

There will be a Watchnight Service on Saturday evening at St Columba's Church, Lewis Street, starting at 11.15pm until Midnight.

And there's hot chocolate and mince pies afterwards in the Hall.  

Also a Family Service on Christmas Day, Sunday, at 11am.  All welcome!

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have issued advice for the coming days, with Storm Barbara getting ever closer.

Anyone looking to change a booking on a Flybe flight with Loganair on 23rd or 24th December, for which they already hold a reservation to travel, are asked to check seat availability on their desired alternative on preceding days at www.flybe.com, then to give Loganair a call on 0344 800 2855 with a booking reference.

Ferry services are very likely to be disrupted on Friday 23rd and possibly Saturday 24th December.

The arrival of the UK’s second named storm of the winter has been well-publicised by meteorologists and is due to make landfall on Scotland’s west coast late Thursday/early Friday (December 22/23).

Named Storm Barbara, the deep depression weather system is expected to bring damaging, high winds with it and an amber ‘be aware’ warning has been issued by the Met Office.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne is advising customers to pay close attention to weather forecasts and to plan accordingly where possible.

The message about the opening of e-Sgoil goes out from the event in Francis Street, Stornoway yesterday (Tuesday December 20th)

Council convener Councillor Norman A Macdonald welcomes guests from across the education world in the Islands and Scotland as a whole.

A record number of promising and talented filmmakers have submitted entries to FilmG – the national Gaelic short film competition – and they can now be viewed on-line at www.filmg.co.uk
This is the ninth year of MG ALBA’s competition - and more young filmmakers and school groups are going it alone, without the help of FilmG tutors, than ever before.
Overall, there are 105 entries, including 56 film entries in the Youth section and 25 in the Open category.  Voting for films is now open until February – before the winners are announced at FilmG’s awards ceremony, at The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on February 17, 2017.   

The team at Veggie Box - who run the fruit and vegetable stall in Perceval Square - are warning about changes to their schedule which may be forced by the coming Storm Barbara, expected at the end of the week.

They say "As most of you will have seen the forecast for the next few days you will know it's not looking particularly great. We will be in the Square on Thursday but Friday is questionable.

"Those of you that have ordered our veg deliveries will done on the Thursday and Friday as requested.  

Loganair has pledged to aid passengers facing Christmas flight concerns around the impact of storms with free rebooking to earlier flights where seats are available.

They say:" The team at Loganair - Scotland's Airline - understands that journeys around Christmas assume an especial importance for you and every single one of our customers. 

"We therefore keep a watchful eye on anything that could cause disruption to your journey and the specialised Met Office aviation weather forecasts for Friday 23 and Saturday 24 December are suggesting that some particularly strong winds could prevail throughout Scotland.   If the forecasts materialise, it may cause disruption to our flights.

Around 650 homes in the Western Isles are without electricity, according to Scottish & Southern Electricity. 

Outages have been reported in Marig, Rhenigidale, Scaladale, Balallan, Laxay, Grimsay and Uig. 

A team of engineers is en-route to the fault, which has been located. 

The Leanne Fund is ending what has been a very exciting year with the launch of a brand new website.

The charity, which launched a development project in 2016 with the expansion of services from the Highlands and Islands to Grampian; the recruitment of its first employee; and the opening of an office base, is closing the year with another step forward.

The website – www.theleannefund.co.uk - has been completely redesigned making it easy to navigate and find out more about the range of services provided by the charity and also about volunteering and fundraising opportunities.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan has today welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s Health and Social Care Delivery Plan, which confirms that the Western Isles is likely to retain its own health board under any immediate changes to NHS structures in Scotland.

The plan sets out a series of key actions for government and local health and care services to deliver better patient care and better population health.

The Government has been examining the number, structure and regulation of health boards, as well as their relationship with local authorities.

Alasdair Allan commented: “I have had a number of enquiries in the islands about this subject and have raised them with ministers. The prevailing view of people in the Western Isles, which I conveyed to the Government, is that they greatly value the Western Isles having their own NHS Board and would not wish to see it amalgamated into any other health board area.

'It takes 3 to shift a stone' is a weight loss competition being launched in February 2017 to help you to lose weight and keep it off.

We all know that faddy diets and yo-yo dieting is not recommended as a sensible long-lasting way in keeping lost weight off.

By taking part in 'It takes 3 to shift a stone' you will be encouraged to achieve a sensible gradual weight loss - you may lose 1 stone in just 3 months by losing an average 1-2lb per week and keep it off.  This gradual weight loss is far easier to achieve and maintain than losing a lot of weight in a short time.

The Met Office has in the last hour issued a severe weather warning for Friday. 

The Amber 'Be Prepared' warning is in place from 12noon on Friday until 6am on Saturday. 

A spell of very strong south to southwesterly winds is expected to develop on Friday. Gusts of 80 mph are likely quite widely, with westerly winds gusting to 90 mph likely across parts of western and northern Scotland later on Friday and overnight into Saturday. Winds will then ease on Saturday morning.

Three community groups which help the elderly live more connected, fulfilling and happy lives have been given money by Point and Sandwick Trust, the charity behind the biggest community wind farm in the UK, located just outside Stornoway.

Point and Sandwick Trust, who make an annual profit of around £500,000 from their three turbines at Beinn Ghrideag, have committed to supporting six big projects throughout the Outer Hebrides, with sizeable cheques recently given to the likes of Bethesda Care Home and Hospice.

However, they have also vowed to do their bit for organisations at a more local level, and recently gave £500 to several community groups for the elderly.

Passenger ferry services between Stornoway and Ullapool are cancelled for today (Tuesday) because of the rising storm although the overnight service did sail.

On the Sound of Harris ferry, all services are cancelled today with threat of more disruption tomorrow (Wednesday)

The morning sailings between Tarbert and Uig on Skye are cancelled.  The 18:15 scheduled sailing from Uig - Tarbert will now sail via Lochmaddy and have an arrival time in Tarbert of approximately 22:00.

The Bhraighe causeway from Stornoway Airport to Point was closed due to weather and the rising tide which peaked at 11.40am.  Large objects were reported to have been blown on to the road. Wind speeds exceeded 70mph - severe gale force 9.

The Braighe has now re-opened.

(Report last updated at 3pm)

 

NHS Western Isles is reminding individuals to ensure they are getting enough Vitamin D, especially during the winter season.

Vitamin D is important for pregnant and breastfeeding women and for young children - and is available free of charge for these groups.  Adults are also recommended to take a single daily Vitamin D supplement, whilst for older adults, a single daily Vitamin D supplement with added calcium may be recommended to protect against Osteoporosis.

The Met Office has issued a yellow 'Be Aware' wind warning for the Western Isles. 

The warning is in place from 6am on Wednesday to 6pm on Thursday.

Cold and blustery westerly winds are expected to bring heavy and frequent wintry showers across northern and western Scotland on Wednesday and Thursday. 

CalMac is warning anyone planning to travel by ferry this week and into the holiday period that strong winds are forecast in many parts of its network, leading to possible disruption of ferry services.

Already, a 'Be Aware' caution is in place for Stornoway-Ullapool sailings tomorrow (Tuesday) due to a forecast of high winds.

Operations Director Drew Collier said: “Weather forecasts for the west of Scotland are predicting a stormy week for many especially as we near the weekend when people will be travelling for Christmas. We will review sailings on a case by case basis but would advise anyone planning to travel by ferry to take this into account when planning journeys in the next few days." 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is to write to the Scottish Government and to Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP, registering strong concern in regard to the removal of the Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Comhairle will also reiterate its policy position around the need to focus economic development effort on island areas and on the most disadvantaged communities.

After the warmest December fortnight on record in Stornoway, island meteorologist Eddie Graham is predicting a stark change in the Isles’ weather fortunes during the run-up to Christmas and over the festive period.

Writing on his Hebridean Weather Blog, according to Eddie the average daily high temperature in Stornoway over past two weeks has reached a record +12C -  a value more akin with early October than mid-December.

However, all set to change during the coming week – as a very strong west or south-westerly wind establishes itself from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards. Torrential rain, severe gales, hail squalls, sleet and even some (brief) snow are likely between now and Christmas, as the weather becomes extremely disturbed and reverts to a more familiar seasonal pattern. Snow may lie (briefly) on Wednesday night and into Thursday (the winter solstice), and there is a risk of thunder and lightning too.

Stormy weather is not unusual around Christmas, and the worst storms in living memory have all occurred during the months of December, January or February.

@eddy_weather, 19/12/2016

Stornoway’s professional panto is back at An Lanntair from 18th to 21st of January for another year – and while much of this unique version of Snow White will already have been performed at the Deco Theatre in Northampton throughout December, there are major local changes.
As in previous years, there are teams of local dancers completing and complementing the professional cast.
But joining Nick Cochrane (known for his role in Coronation Street as Andy McDonald) who leads the cast as Muddles, are Kim Taylforth from Bad Girls as the wicked Queen; David McClelland from the Gadget show; and David Rumelle – a top pantomime dame – as Mother Moppy.

The mystery of the new traffic layout in Church Street, Stornoway, has been resolved – which may be of interest to those who read our original report on welovestornoway.com – which had more than 6,000 hits this week!
What has happened is simply that turning right out of Kenneth Street on to Church Street has been banned and that prevents any traffic accessing Church Street from that end as the other two streets are both one-way in the outward direction.
This explains why there are two road signs indicating No Right Turn on either side of the junction on Kenneth Street – but there aren’t any No Entry signs on Church Street once vehicles reach the junction itself.

The Hebridean Housing Partnership has announced the appointment of a new Director of Finance & Corporate Services.

Mr Iain Macmillan, HHP’s Chairman said he was delighted to welcome Donald Macleod as the Partnership’s new Director of Finance & Corporate Services.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has recently employed 17 modern apprentices who will work in various departments within the organisation. All apprentices will be fully supported by the Comhairle and training delivered through e-Sgoil.

Comhairle Leader, Cllr Angus Campbell, said: “The Comhairle is wholly committed to helping young people in to work and supporting employment and growth. I am delighted that we have taken on so many young people and I wish them every success in their training and I hope that they enjoy the work and their future careers.”

With the Christmas party season now in full flow, police in the Highlands are encouraging anyone attending festivities to stay in control and know their limits when it comes to alcohol. 

Work parties, festive drinks and family celebrations are all part of the Christmas fun but sadly alcohol-related incidents such as domestic abuse, assault, vandalism and antisocial behaviour increase during the festive period. 

A 19-metre wave miles off the Outer Hebrides has been recorded as the highest-ever detected by a buoy.

Initially recorded in the North Atlantic on February 4 2013, the wave has now been analysed by an expert committee of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and marked as a new world record.

It followed the passage of a very strong cold front, which produced winds of more than 50mph in the area between the UK and Iceland.

The winning team. left to right: Mrs Muriel MacKenzie (RME teacher), Lia MacDoanld, Jessica MacDonald, Calina MacKenzie, Shannah MacKay, Leah MacKay, Ellie MacIver and Mr Richard Fraser (RME teacher)

The Nicolson Institute held its third annual Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) final on Tuesday 6th December. 

As part of the Religious and Moral Education course all S5 pupils were involved with YPI (Youth and Philanthropy Initiative) this year. 

The finals featured seven teams whittled down from an initial 25 participating groups.  Each group had to choose a local charity and compete against one another to win a £3000 prize.  The competition was judged by Councillor Catriona Stewart (Chair of Education), Councillor Zena Stewart (former Depute Rector) and Mr Donald MacLeod (Senior Education Officer).

A major row has erupted between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and a Glasgow-based company dealing in insulation and heating.
Union Technical Services of City Wall House, Eastwood Avenue, Glasgow, describes itself as certified in proving loft insulation, room-in-roof insulation, cavity wall Insulation, under-floor insulation, boiler replacements and internal wall insulation.
Director Michael Sweeney says the company draws on “knowledge from previous schemes and hands-on construction experience to ensure targets are met and quality is at the forefront of delivery.”

Iain Macaulay

The new chair of Comunn na Gàidhlig is Iain Macaulay, former Director of Social Work at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

Mr Macaulay takes over from Kenneth 'Coinneach Mor' Maciver, who has been in the post since 2012.

He is a native of North Uist. 

Comunn na Gàidhlig was founded in 1984 by the Scottish Office to co-ordinate new developments in Gaelic language policy.

It has charitable status, and has offices in Stornoway, Inverness, Glasgow, and additional staff based in Uist, Skye, Islay, Edinburgh and Lochaber.

A Lewis-based company has been shortlisted for the Scottish Enterprise Life Science Awards 2017.

The awards, which will be held on 2 February in Edinburgh, recognise the success and achievements of Scotland’s internationally renowned life sciences sector in areas including innovation, export and international trade, investment, community engagement and collaboration.

BASF Pharma (Callanish) Ltd in Breasclete has been shortlisted for the export and international trade category in the awards. The company manufactures omega-3 products for the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement industries. It employs 74 people at the facility and is part of the world leading chemicals company BASF.

CNES Trading Standards, Police Scotland and Tighean Innse Gall have received numerous complaints over the last fortnight regarding door to door sellers who are described as pushy and who claim to be working for the government .

Trading Standards now advise Consumers in the islands  to think carefully before entering into any agreement to receive a 'free' boiler replacement.

In a statement last night (Tuesday December 14) Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) said they were thrilled to announce that they have raised the £11,400 necessary for a trial of Sunday opening of ISL sports centre on the Isle of Lewis.

It stated: "The 1550-plus members of FiSH look forward to the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) accepting this money in the same manner that partial funding from the local swim club was accepted for a successful trial of additional early morning hours. FiSH hopes for the same level of community engagement shown to the swim club and looks forward to working with the council on moving forward with the provision of this much in demand service

No entry or not?

A baffling new traffic layout has appeared at the junction of Church Street and Kenneth Street.

Straight across for Kenneth Street traffic

The priority at the junction has been changed to give Kenneth Street traffic the right of way across the junction.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus MacNeil together with leading figures from the Western Isles fishing industry - Duncan MacInnes, Secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association and Donald J Maclean, Managing Director Barratlantic - yesterday (Tuesday December 13) met UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill MP to discuss the crew shortage crisis impacting on the West Coast fishing industry.

Following the meeting Mr MacNeil said: “Fishermen and fishing industry representatives felt it was a constructive meeting.

“Mr Goodwill said they will look at the details of a scheme which was run in the past under the former Immigration Minister, Damian Green, which enabled non-EEA fisherman to come in. They are looking at details towards a working solution so it was a cooperative meeting.

NHS 24 is urging people in the Western Isles to look after their health this winter with a few simple steps that can help to avoid illness and take the pressure off busy NHSScotland services over the festive holidays.

The advice is being shared as part of the national 'Be Healthwise' campaign launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison MSP.  The Minister was joined by a group of health and medical staff at the New Victoria Hospital in Glasgow to highlight to the public, the importance of looking after their own and their families’ health.

The 'Be Healthwise' campaign is fronted by Dr Owl and advises people that stocking up on over the counter medicines, checking any repeat prescriptions and ordering only what is needed to cover the holidays can help to avoid or deal with the most common winter ailments.  It's also a good idea to know GP surgery and local pharmacy opening hours over the festive break.

A vintage tea fundraiser (illustrated above by the group themselves)  held recently by the NHS Western Isles ‘Sèimh’ group raised a fantastic £1543.55.
The event, held in the Caberfeidh Hotel in Stornoway on Saturday 12th November, saw more than 100 people attending the event.  A raffle was also held with all prizes having been kindly donated by local shops, companies and ‘Sèimh’ family members.
Since the event a further £700 has also been donated to the group by other local organisations.

NHS Western Isles recently received a SiMBA (Simpson’s Memory Box Appeal) cuddle cot, camera and printer to help bereaved parents gather timeless and precious memories of their baby.
During a visit from SiMBA for a Bereavement Care and Memory Making Study Day, Heather Lawrence, a SiMBA parent representative, officially handed over a Cuddle Cot and photography equipment to the Western Isles Hospital Maternity Unit. The donation was made possible through donations to SiMBA in the name of Heather’s daughter Aeryn, who was stillborn in April this year.

There will be no trial period opening of Lewis Sports Centre on a Sunday, the Comhairle have confirmed.

A crowdfunding campaign organised by local group 'Families into Sport for Health' today reached its target of £11,400 to pay for a year-long trial.

One anonymous backer pledged £1,500 to push the amount past its target with just hours to spare.

The crowdfunding campaign was backed by the National Secular Society. 

However, speaking to www.welovestornoway.com, the Comhairle - who own and operate the Sports Centre - have in the last hour stated that there will be no trial opening. 

Donald Mackenzie, Western Isles Generation Manager at SSEN (right) and Alasdair Allan MSP (left) on a tour of the Battery Point Power Station

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan met with engineers and staff at the Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) depot in Stornoway on Monday to hear about the work they are doing to upgrade the electricity network across the Western Isles.

During Mr Allan’s time at the depot he was updated on the £3m SSEN is investing in upgrading the electricity network across the Western Isles to help improve security of supply.

Museum nan Eilean Lews Castle are hosting a Christmas Family Fun Day this Saturday 17th of December from 1pm till 4pm. They promise there will be lots to do including Christmas themed crafts, arts, games and prizes for all ages.  All welcome - £2 a child for all activities.

Scottish Youth Theatre National Ensemble is inviting 16 – 25 year olds from across the islands to register for an open audition at Bayhead Bridge Centre, Stornoway on Saturday 21st January. 

In a bid to ensure they select the best Scotland has to offer, they will also be holding auditions in Inverness, Oban, Dumfries, Stranraer, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

There will be no participation fee with entry based purely on the performer’s ability and commitment.

In a boost for local charities, Lewis Builders Ltd have raised funds through the sale of redundant items from the old Ardseileach site on the Willowglen Road out of Stornoway.

The construction company are currently building a care home and two cluster units of supported accommodation for adults with learning disabilities, having demolished the old buildings.

They raised £1,000 from the sales and have decided to match the amount by donating an additional £1,000 and splitting it between Alzheimer Scotland (Lewis & Harris branch) and Bethesda Hospice.

Left to right - John Angus Mackay, Provost George Adam, Dame Evelyn Glennie (Outstanding Contribution to Arts and Humanities), and Professor Alan Riach. 

John Angus Mackay was the recipient of the Scottish Saltire Society’s ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award in Aberdeen last week. 

Mr Mackay received his award for his ‘Outstanding Contribution to Public Life’.

A native of Siadar, on the West Side of Lewis, John Angus Mackay began his career with the Highlands and Islands Development Board, before moving on to become CEO of Comunn na Gaidhlig, and Chair of the BBC’s Gaelic Advisory Committee.

Fishing industry leaders will tomorrow meet with UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill MP to discuss crew shortages. 

This meeting follows on from the meeting of 4th November when Angus MacNeil MP met with Mr Goodwill together with Argyll and Bute MP, Brendan O’Hara and Margaret Ritchie MP South Down, Northern Ireland, both of whom also represent fishing communities.  

At this meeting, the Minister agreed to meet with fishing industry leaders before the end of the year.

There was a great atmosphere – and relatively warm, calm weather – as Stornoway’s Christmas event got under way just after 6pm last night (Friday, December 9)
It all began with the “Christmas Dash” which involved a carefully supervised mini-race in which young people and adults dressed up as Christmas characters for a mile-long run from the Lazy Corner on South Beach Quay/Cromwell Street Quay to the Spar Roundabout and back.  It started later than timetabled…but was enthusiastically pursued by those involved.

 

At the request of the Convener, the interim CEO called a special meeting of the Crofting Commission on Friday 9 December 2016.  The Commissioners present reaffirmed the importance of working together effectively in the final months of their terms.  

The Board also discussed the status of the meeting held in Brora in September and how to move forward.  

The Board decided that there was one meeting in Brora which took place in two valid parts - the meeting previously referred to as a special meeting being a continuation of the scheduled Board meeting.  Any consequences from this will be considered at their Board meeting on Wednesday 14 December 2016.

This year’s Lewis Branch of Cancer Research Santa Run 2016 takes place on Saturday 24th December, starting at 10.30am. 

The Run/walk starts at the Town Hall in Stornoway and finishes at the Smith Avenue Running Track, a distance of about two miles. 

Join in the fun and raise money for a great local cause, say the organisers! 

Internationally-acclaimed legends The Waterboys are the first headliners to be announced for the 2017 Hebridean Celtic Festival as the island event looks to build on this year’s record-breaking success.

HebCelt has also confirmed the festival, to be held from 19-22 July, will feature singer songwriter and former X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan, as well as Tide Lines, a Scottish band with strong traditional influences who launched earlier this year.  Further leading acts will also be announced before Christmas.

It will be a third appearance at HebCelt for The Waterboys formed in 1983 by Mike Scott. Their first visit, in 2003, set a record for the biggest ever gig in the islands, and their return in 2012 was a huge sell-out success.

An Accounts Commission report into local government finance has revealed that the Western Isles receives amongst the highest funding per head of population.

Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “The reason the Islands have a high level of funding per head of population in Scotland is because we have a low population but a high level of need. Sparsity of population, geographic remoteness, a low Council Tax base and a high number of older people all contribute to high costs and a need for a greater allocation per head of population from the Scottish Government.

"These factors mean it is essential for our communities that no more cuts are imposed upon the Islands revenue settlement”.  

Stornoway Amenity Trust Christmas Lights Switching On Ceremony

Friday 9th December 6.30-9 pm, Perceval Civic Square

6.20pm Christmas Dash 

The Christmas Dash (dress up as any Christmas character!) wil