Flags, speeches and a hubbub of activity at Stornoway Town Hall today marked the opening of the new Who Cares? Scotland hub and office, named "Ar Cridhe" in Gaelic which translates to "Our Heart" 

Young islanders joined politicians and officials to open the doors on a new home for island youth, with a promise of activities that they choose and which help them to realise their potential.

As part of that process, the colours and décor of the new space were chosen by young people themselves, and a flag was raised immediately across the road, designed by young people and featuring flowers to represent blossoming potential, heart shape petals for love, footsteps to represent the care journey and a green sky and blue grass for their world sometimes being turned upside down.

The Western Isles National Care Day has been organised by Alison Frizzell, Advocacy and Participation Worker for Who Cares? and Rachel Macdonald, Care Experienced Support Worker for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. The opening was scheduled for today which is Care Day across Scotland. Organised by Who Cares? Scotland, Care Day raises awareness and understanding of care, and celebrates the talents of care-experienced young people and their friends.

Alasdair Allan, MSP, and Comhairle Chief Executive, Malcolm Burr gave welcome speeches to celebrate this new centre.

Alasdair Allan said: 'Scotland has promised to young people that it is a place they can grow up loved, cared for and respected, but young carers don't necessarily get that, which is why this new hub is so important'

Tom Boyd of Who Cares? Scotland said the hub, supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, reflects the importance of creating spaces that young people feel they can shape. It is planned as a place where they can develop skills and confidence and build a sense of belonging and ownership.

It gives a home base for groups such as Young Islanders, secondary-age care-experienced young islanders. Also using the hub will be the Kickin’ Club, and the Transitions Group, which supports young people in the summer break between Primary into Secondary School.

Traffic on Matheson Road was disrupted this morning (Friday 21 February) after a high load on a lorry brought down a large tree branch across the carriageway.

Police were alerted at 9.30am after the branch fell, bringing traffic to a stop. Emergency services were quickly on-scene and police worked with the traffic warden to control traffic, while council workers removed the branch from the carriageway.

Police said the work was completed quickly and the road was fully-re-opened by 10am. No vehicles or property were damaged and no-one was injured.

A man is to appear in court this afternoon (Friday 21 February) after failing a breath-test while driving in Stornoway last night.

Police were called to Cromwell Street by concerned members of the public and stopped the driver, a 59-year-old man, who was tested at the roadside for alcohol and found to be driving while drunk.

He was taken to Stornoway police station and has been kept in custody to appear in court later today.

Coastguard teams worked together to bring three patients for urgent hospital treatment, as gale force winds battered Barra and Uist yesterday evening.

Stornoway Coastguard helicopter R948 was tasked at 4pm yesterday (Thursday 20 February) to pick up one very poorly patient from Barra and another from Benbecula airport, transferring them to Western Isles Hospital for further treatment.

The Barra Coastguard Rescue Team manned the landing site on Borve machair at 4.05pm for the first evacuation, of a patient from St Brendan’s Hospital in Barra. R948 then called at Benbecula to uplift the second patient before returning to Stornoway.

The Barra team were called out again just after midnight this morning (Friday) to prepare the landing site, as rescue helicopter R199 was called from Prestwick to bring another patient to Glasgow for urgent treatment.

Stornoway Coastguard said winds at the time of both incidents were force 7 to 8.

The picture shows Coastguard helicopter R948 at Borve machair yesterday afternoon with other emergency services during the uplift (HM Coastguard Western Isles Skye and Lochaber).

Flight-change offer for Monday

Loganair has once again issued an offer to make free-of-charge flight changes for passengers who are planning to travel on Monday (24 February).

In a statement just issued today (Friday 21) they said that passengers booked to travel to or from Barra, Benbecula or Stornoway, among other airports, could make adjustments to their travel plans without charge.

The statement said: “In view of the high winds forecast and potential for travel disruption, we are offering customers travelling on Loganair flights to/from Barra, Benbecula (and) Stornoway the opportunity to adjust travel plans without charge.

“If you are booked to travel on 24th February, you can choose to re-book on an alternative flight between now and 2nd March on a first-come, first-served basis.

“If you choose to remain with your original travel plans, please rest assured that we will do everything that we safely can to fly you to your intended destination as close to the scheduled time as possible.”

Drivers warned of Braighe 

Police in the Western Isles have advised drivers planning to use the Braighe road to be aware of high tide times during the period of the strongest winds.

A statement from Highlands and Islands police division said that they are monitoring the high tides and weather conditions over the next few days at the Braighe.

High tide during the strongest forecast winds on Saturday morning is at 6.20am and Saturday evening at 6.47pm. Motorists are advised to make travel arrangements to avoid these times.

Storm impact builds again

Weather warnings were issued by the Met Office this morning (Friday 21) with updated information for Saturday’s predicted gales and a new warning for the Western Isles on Monday (24 February).

The updated warning for Saturday (22 February) gives likely impacts including travel disruption, power interruptions and coastal spray between 6am and 10pm tomorrow.

The warning is for strong, gusty winds accompanied by heavy, squally showers, with parts of northern and western Scotland expected to see gusts of 65-75mph. Showers of rain, hail and sleet could fall as snow at higher levels.

The new warning of high winds issued by the Met Office for Monday covers the Western Isles between 9am and 9pm.

The Met Office warning says: “A spell of very strong westerly winds is likely to push from the Atlantic during early Monday. Many areas are likely to see gusts of 50-60mph, with some more exposed parts of western Scotland seeing gusts up to 70mph.”

Ferry cancellations

Increased wind speeds have led to another day of disruption across the west coast ferry routes today (Friday 21 February), with 27 of CalMac’s 28 routes facing some level of disruption.

Morning services between Stornoway and Ullapool were cancelled, with sailings expected to run to schedule this afternoon, but remaining subject to disruption. The freight service tonight is on yellow alert and CalMac says there is a ‘high risk’ of disruption to the service tomorrow (Saturday).

In Barra, there is no service today between Castlebay and Oban, and services between Ardmhor and Eriskay were cancelled this morning, with all later services due to run but subject to cancellation or disruption at short notice. Sailings to and from Lochboisdale have also been cancelled for the day today.

Services between Tarbert, Uig and Lochmaddy are subject to a revised timetable, running late this morning and combining some services. The 4pm from Tarbert to Uig has been cancelled and an additional service has been planned for 6.35pm from Tarbert to Lochmaddy.

Early services across the Sound of Harris were cancelled with service resumption due from 11.10am, although all services remain liable to disruption.

 

Stornoway’s iconic bakery business, Stag Bakeries, is asking for the support of devoted customers as it pits its products against the best in the business once again.

Stag is entering the Scottish Baker of the Year Competition for 2020, after winning three awards, including Wholesale Baker of the Year, in the 2019 awards.

The bakery can enter up to 10 of its products for consideration in the various categories of award and intends to include its legendary plain loaf once again. The loaf was last year named Best Bread in Scotland and is clearly a customer favourite – when a technical fault stopped production in August the resulting plain loaf drought was labelled “a disaster” by devoted customers.

One award that general manager Kathryn Graham dearly wants to see come to the islands is the Customer Choice Award for best baker. Voting opened for that category on 12 February and is available online at https://bakeroftheyear.scot/vote/2020/stag-bakeries-ltd

Kathryn said: “Stag Bakeries would love the support of our fantastic customers near and far to be named Scotland's top bakery. This would mean the world to all the team at Stag and would also be a fantastic achievement for the Western Isles.

“In the product categories, we have also entered products from our bread to our cakes and biscuits, and we hope to build on the amazing success of our plain loaf which currently holds title of Best Bread in Scotland.”

Only one vote per customer is allowed and voting closes on Friday 13 March. For the individual bakery products entered, judging by a panel of independent expert judges is in Dunfermline on Wednesday 25 March and the award winners will be announced at a lunch on Friday 8 May. Judging is in three regions, with bronze, silver and gold awards in each category and regional winners shortlisted for the national prizes.

Pictures show the Stornoway premises of Stag Bakeries and the famous plain loaf, Best Bread in Scotland 2019 (Stag Bakeries).