Another weekend and another group from Stornoway Running and Athletics Club are away on the mainland for an athletics event.
They were yesterday running the gauntlet of Highland weather, pictured.
The official Highland forecast says rain and hill snow is expected to arrive from the south-west later on Saturday, the area gradually drifting northwards through Saturday night, Sunday and into Monday.
In some places this will be accompanied by gales, which will generate blizzard conditions. The largest accumulations will be confined to above 400 metres, where 20-30 cm of snow could build up, but more temporary accumulations of 2-5, locally 10 cm are possible down to around 250 metres. Some uncertainty remains over precisely where the focus of the heaviest snow will be, and uncertainty also increases in the details of various areas of snow later into the weekend and early next week.
This competition is in the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. This is the Commonwealth Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, in Dalmarnock. Built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, these venues hosted the badminton and track cycling events. Situated opposite Celtic Park, the complex is also the headquarters of Sportscotland and Scottish Cycling.
The final travelling group was thinned out due to sporting injuries.
 
U20
Sian Macdonald 60m & 200m
Ewan Macleod 200m, 400m & 800m
Ewan Murray 60m, 200m and Long jump

U15
Hannah Maclean 60m & 200m
Kaitlin Macdonald 200m & Long Jump
 
U13
Jess Muir 60m & 200m
Noah Morrison 60m & 200m

Development can go ahead around Stornoway Airport, following a decision by Scotland’s highest court.

A Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd spokesman said: “It has always been our intention to develop this land, not for profit, but to create affordable, high-quality homes that would benefit local people.

“From the outset we have believed that our position was the correct one and we are thankful the Court of Session has agreed with us.

“It has been a long process to reach where have arrived at today and the decision confirms the whole of the airport is free of crofting rights and we are now free to proceed with our plans.”

The HIAL appeal was heard in late January at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland’s highest civil appeal court.  This followed a ruling from the Scottish Land Court Thursday February 7th last year in favour of Melbost and Branahuie Grazings Committee and against HIAL over land at Stornoway Airport.

HIAL claimed crofting rights at Stornoway Airport had been extinguished when the land was requisitioned during World War Two to enable an RAF station to be built. 

HIAL was to sell some of the ground to a developer to build 94 new homes but the grazings committee of Melbost and Branahuie objected.

The ruling lasdt year from the Land Court, said: “Notwithstanding that possession of the land in question was acquired by the Air Ministry in or around 1941 and notwithstanding that the landowners were paid compensation based on the permanent loss or restriction of the ability to use that land, the land remains subject to crofting tenure because, for aught yet seen, (i) compulsory purchases were not used to acquire it and (ii) the formalities which would otherwise be required for its release have never been completed.”

The judgement also said that, having assessed all the submissions and other documents, “it seems to us unlikely that any formal process of compulsory acquisition was undergone…”

However, the Court of Session stated that it disagreed this week. Lord Carloway’s judgement said crofters received compensation eight decades ago for giving up the crofting rights.

“From a practical viewpoint, since the arrangements have already been implemented, in so far as the payment and receipt of compensation is concerned, it is difficult to conceive any reason for withholding approval 80 years on.”

 

 

Scottish Apprenticeship Week welcomes local employers, young people, parents/carers, colleges and training providers to venues in Stornoway, Harris and Uist next week (2-6 March) to show that apprenticeships work for businesses, individuals and the economy.

The annual campaign is committed to supporting more Modern Apprenticeships as well as Foundation and Graduate Level Apprenticeships. Apprenticeship week is co-ordinated by Skills Development Scotland (SDS). The campaign aims to encourage more employers to take on apprentices.

This year’s campaign theme is Talent Without Limits. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of the successes of apprentices who have chosen to get a job, get paid and get qualified to develop their careers.

Comhairle Leader, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “Research indicates that there is demand from young people for opportunities to study and work on the islands. As a Comhairle we are very supportive of providing opportunities for young people to pursue positive destinations within the islands and in doing so, slowing population decline and strengthening the islands’ economy.

“We would like to invite all local employers, school pupils, parents/carers, colleges and training providers as well as interested members of the public to participate in the Scottish Apprenticeship Week events.”

Drop-in sessions for the exchange of ideas and information are as follows:

Monday 2 March

  • Stornoway - An Awards ceremony will be held in the Town Hall between 11am - 2pm to mark the achievements of past apprentices and employability participants.

Tuesday 3 March

  • Stornoway – To celebrate the achievements of women into the STEM industries. Western Isles Women in Construction and Planning are hosting a STEM event. This will see pupils from Sir E Scott School and The Nicolson Institute taking part in site visits hosted by the group.
  • Uist – The following Apprenticeship Information drop-in sessions will be held in Sgoil Lionacleit 10am - 12:30pm and 1pm - 3pm in the school theatre. This will give Pupils, Parents and local Business’s interested in undertaking an Apprenticeship Route or host an Apprenticeship the opportunity to come along and get further information.

Wednesday 4 March

  • Stornoway - Careers Event will be held in the Town Hall, 10am until 4pm. This is open to school pupils, local industry and the general public. This is a great opportunity for all to come along, talk to local employers and discuss current and future opportunities.

Thursday 5 March

  • Harris - Careers Event held in Sir E Scott school hall 1.15pm until 4pm. This is open to school pupils, local industry and the general public. This is a great opportunity for all to come along, talk to local employers and discuss current and future opportunities.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information or visit https://www.facebook.com/cnesapprenticeships/

 

The Tenants Forum is hosting a Free Soup and Sandwich Lunch in the Library Cafeteria tomorrow (Saturday 29 February) between 12noon and 2pm.

Alasdair Mackenzie, Chair of the Western Isles Housing Association Community Forum says: "The premise behind the idea is to try new ways to engage with tenants and encourage them to get actively involved in social housing by representing their communities. 
 
"I may add that the Forum is receiving no funding for this event. Forum members with the relevant food hygiene certificates are providing the soup and sandwiches, and the library space is free as we are non-profit making."
 
The Tenants Forum looks forward to meeting tenants and encouraging them to get involved with their communities.
 

A Benbecula designer and her business partner's designs have made it all the way to London.

Ciorstaidh Monk, a native Gaelic speaker from Benbecula, and Ruth Mitchell run luxury sleepwear company, Solàs. The pair were chosen by online banking app, Tide, to appear in a tube advert.

Ciorstaidh explained: "Our small business bank, Tide has been really supportive. They came up to Glasgow last year and interviewed us for their Member Spotlight blog, and threw opportunities our way whenever they could.

"They asked if they could feature us in their London Underground campaign, and we said yes - not realising how much attention it would get!

"We were in 48 stations throughout the London rail network. We received daily messages from friends who would spot us on their morning commute and got a lot of interest from the general public.

"Winter months can be slow for a small business and this gave us a much needed boost!"

The pair say they are inspired by their Scottish backgrounds, especially Benbecula machair.  They met while studying textiles in college and, after going their separate ways, merged their skills to create Solàs.

Western Isles police have issued a public appeal for information after two incidents of vandalism overnight last night, which they are considering as linked.

Between 10.30pm yesterday (Thursday 27 February) and 1.55am today a window was smashed at an address in the Cearns in Stornoway, and a vehicle was also damaged between the same times on Benadrove Road.

Police say if anyone saw or heard anything connected with these incidents, or knows how they may have occurred, they should contact them using the non-emergency number 101 and quoting incident number NH253/20.

Tarbert will be the location for a big party tomorrow evening (Saturday 29 February) as the Isle of Harris distillery says farewell to one of its longest serving staff members.

Kate Preston was one of the original ‘Tarbert ten’ who set up the distillery and visitor centre in 2015. Since her appointment, she’s shaped a role to fit her many talents – as catering manager, visitor host and general problem-solver.

But today is her last day at the distillery before she heads off over the sea to Skye, where she’s stepping up to a new role as general manager of the Hebridean Inn at Harrapool in Broadford Bay.

Kate said: “It’s sad for me to be leaving because I was one of the company when it started and I have built the canteen into something really exciting. But it’s a step up for me and the right time to be moving and it means that one of the younger team members can hopefully step up into my role.”

The role is a big one to fill, according to Kate’s colleague, guest host Sandra Fraser, who said: “We are actively searching for the right person, but it’s a hard role to fill. Kate was one of the Tarbert ten and she has shaped the role, so whoever takes it will be faced with an exciting challenge.

“It’s sad to lose one of the original team but it’s exciting for her and she is only across the water from us, I’m sure she’ll be back to visit!”

Meanwhile the team will be in party mode tomorrow night, with a send-off planned to start at the distillery itself and very likely to progress around other locations in Tarbert.

And Kate will be leaving with a toast in Harris Gin from her distillery colleagues, who said: “Here’s to our South African Hearach, thank you for everything!”

Pictures show Kate in her role as visitor host during a tour, and hard at work in the Isle of Harris Distillery canteen.

Islands MSP Alasdair Allan has been asked to look into issues which might specifically affect the Western Isles in the event of an epidemic of the virus COVID-19.

He’s written to the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, asking for assurances on the continuity of supplies of food and medicines to the Islands if there should be an outbreak of coronavirus in Scotland.

Dr Allan was responding to concerns raised by constituents, who had asked whether issues around food and medicine supplies, and especially around travel to and from the Islands, had been considered in the emergency planning.

He wrote to Mr Swinney on Wednesday (26 February), saying: “I am writing on behalf of several constituents who have contacted me to ask what measures are in place to ensure the continuity of supply for food and medicines to island communities in the event of a viral outbreak in Scotland?

“As you will be aware, the recent media coverage of the spread of the Coronavirus, with the 'highly likely’ event of a case in Scotland, has led those in island communities to raise a concern about potential risks to supply lines and island resilience.”

One of those who has raised the issue is Ruth Davey of Stornoway, who wrote to Dr Allan on Tuesday. She said: “What plans do the Scottish Government have to contain the virus, in particular here on the island, with regards to ensuring the continuation of food supplies and people coming in from the mainland?

“I know that maybe this is not something we all want to talk about but I’d like any details there are if the coronavirus becomes pandemic, which is not out of the question now as the experts are saying we are on the brink of it. I think we need positive advice now from you and the government. We can do the hand washing but that’s not stopping it.”

NHS Western Isles last week published a statement from the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, who praised NHS staff for the work they were doing to prepare for a possible outbreak.

Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “Although we have yet to see a positive case in Scotland the NHS has been preparing for the possibility ever since the beginning of this outbreak.

“It is vital that people continue to follow the guidance given. Don’t attend your GP practice or Emergency Department in person. If you have symptoms within 14 days of travelling to the affected areas, phone your GP or NHS 24 (111) immediately for urgent health advice.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern, and in response, the four UK Chief Medical Officers changed the UK risk level from low to moderate.

This does not mean that the risk to individuals has increased, and it does not mean that any additional precautions are necessary. The change reflects the need for governments and the health service to escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak.

The latest numbers of test results are published at 2pm each day on the Scottish Government website here.  As of yesterday (27 February), 470 tests had been carried out in Scotland and all had tested negative.

Everything the Innovation Centre at Lews Castle College UHI was set up to achieve – helping would-be inventors and entrepreneurs turn their good ideas into marketable products – can be seen in the students who are using its facilities to make their mark on the world.

None more so than Lewis man Alick Maclean – a 40-year-old engineering student from Ranish, Lochs, who won two awards at the University of the Highlands and Islands Business Competition earlier this month (February) in Inverness.

Alick, who is in the final year of his BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering degree, won the Best Engineer Award and Best Design Award for a new design concept of boat trailer. His trailer uses components thought to have never been used before in trailers, to make it much easier to load and unload boats from the trailers without the need for so much manpower.

He had designed the trailer for his third year project and made a model of it using the 3D printer at the Innovation Centre – a machine funded by the centre’s £20,000 expansion grant from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, which levered in further investment from LEADER.

Congratulating Alick on his double win, Point and Sandwick Trust said they were delighted to have been able to support islanders in making the most of their good ideas.  Andrew Mackenzie, a Point and Sandwick Trust board member and also Alick’s lecturer in renewable engineering at Lews Castle College, said: “Alick showed that with a great original idea, support from Lews Castle College staff, hard work and access to the Innovation Centre, award-winning performance can be achieved.

“All this was only possible with help from Point and Sandwick Trust who invested a significant amount in the Innovation Centre and saw the potential for young people to follow their dreams and achieve real results that are of such quality that they win awards. This means that ‘innovation’ is not the preserve of young people on the mainland. With PST’s belief and new technologies, local young people are being enabled to achieve excellence.”

Dr Chris Macleod, founder of the Innovation Centre, added: “Alick is an excellent student and has won several prizes for this idea while he has been at college. He is a good example of how anyone, regardless of age, can retrain for an exciting new career in engineering and technology.”

Alick is one of around 30 current users of the Innovation Centre’s facilities. The centre, which was significantly expanded in 2018 thanks to Point and Sandwick Trust’s investment, acts as a hub for high technology development, advice, expertise and training for college students, businesses, charities, schools, local people and entrepreneurs.

In addition to the large-scale plastic 3D printer which Alick used for creating the model of his trailer concept, the Innovation Centre recently purchased two large metal printers as a result of the investment from Point and Sandwick Trust and LEADER.

These machines can create movable metal components and could be used to make a whole range of pieces, including parts for Harris Tweed looms.

Chris said: “We have now seen a number of innovative and entrepreneurial ideas go on to the next stage of their development. It is a great boon for the local community and wouldn’t have been possible without our founding sponsors, Point and Sandwick Trust. Their initial faith in the concept also allowed us to unlock further funding from agencies like Western Isles LEADER.

“Alick’s project also demonstrates that to develop a concept in the Innovation Centre, the idea doesn’t have to be at the cutting edge of high technology. We also support many other types of enterprise, including traditional industries.”

He added: “What I particularly like about Point and Sandwick Trust’s approach to development and support is their forward vision. They are happy to support ‘left field’ ideas which don’t necessarily follow government agendas or traditional modes of thinking, but look to the future, treating each application on its individual merits. For example, they recognise that high-technology is the key to success in the modern world and, due to its great human resource, the Western Isles can flourish in the area – provided that it is given key support to grow.”

Alick said it was “fantastic” to win – twice – at the awards. His name was the first one read out for a prize – the design award – and Alick thought: “Great – I’ve won something. I’ll just sit down now and relax.” Then a few minutes later my name was called out again. “I was completely shocked. I thought, ‘what? Are you sure this isn’t a mistake?”

Alick’s design is for a new concept of boat trailer which should work for various sizes of boats and shapes of hull. The next steps will be checking patents and finding the money to build a prototype  – “to check it’s a workable idea rather than a nice idea” and then fine-tuning.

The idea was a case of necessity being the mother of invention as Alick was fed up struggling to get his own boat – a 16ft used for fishing – on and off a trailer and into the sea. He was having to drive the tractor into the sea “up to its belly” and described the process as “awkward and difficult”. He explained: “If it’s a shallow shore, you can’t get enough depth without having to reverse right out into it, till the boat is almost floating and even then you’ve got to get your shoulder against it. If you had a big heavy boat, it must be an absolute nightmare.”

Although it was designed for his third year project, Alick had been thinking about his new design concept as a potential product for market from early on, after encouragement from his lecturers. His development is on hold until after May as he is working for his final exams. But from then on, it will be full steam ahead.

“I’m really excited about it,” he said, “and the support and the encouragement I’ve had from all the guys at the Innovation Centre and all the guys in the engineering department has been amazing. They’re so encouraging. They just want to see things developing, especially locally, and all of them are experts in their own rights, in their own fields.”

Alick had done a year of engineering at the Glasgow Nautical College after school before going to sea for a year as part of cadetship training. Due to personal circumstances he left engineering and had no plans to return until relatively recently. He admitted that, due to a lack of confidence from his time at sea, it was only in the third year of his degree – and after good results – that he started to “believe that I knew engineering”. It had taken, he said, “years of rebuilding”.

Alick is the second Lews Castle College student to hit the headlines for their accomplishments with the help of the Innovation Centre.

Matthew Murray made the news last summer after his undergraduate paper about a new engine concept for supersonic jets was published in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal.

And, similarly to Alick, Matthew had ‘not seen himself as academic’ until he began to see success in engineering with the help of the college and the Innovation Centre.

Alick Maclean and Dr Christopher Macleod with Innovation Centre facilities. Picture by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos

Daytime bus services between Eriskay and Balivanich will be cancelled on Monday 2 March.

The services, operated by DA Travel, will cease due to a family bereavement.

 

Crofting Commission jobs should be moved to the Islands, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

In the Scottish Parliament this week he raised the prospect of jobs with the Crofting Commission being relocated to the Western Isles.

All staff employed by the Crofting Commission are currently based in Inverness. However, historically the Commission had staff spread across the crofting counties.

Alasdair Allan said later: “There would a huge number of benefits to relocating Crofting Commission jobs to the Western Isles.

“As well as the direct economic benefit more jobs would bring, the links between the Commission and the communities it represents would be strengthened if it had staff employed in the islands. It would also make it easier for the Commission to recruit people with knowledge and experience of crofting.

“I am grateful to Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, for agreeing to explore this further.”

 

An appeal has gone to Kate Forbes MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance; Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity; and Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, for action to cut costs for young people using ferry crossings. 

The independent CalMac Community Board representing users of ferries across the Clyde and Hebrides Ferries Services network told the Ministers: "We were pleased to note the very positive proposal to provide free bus travel for young people under 19.

"We are also supportive of the intention to encourage more young people to use public transport whilst opening up the opportunity for young people in all areas to have equality of access regardless of their geography or financial status.

"This also brings into focus the position for young people for whom the ferry trip is their connecting bus trip, their way of accessing services and we believe all young people of the same age should be afforded the same rights and opportunities for free travel.

"The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 sets out the principle of island proofing new legislation and we would contend that a process of an Islands Community assessment would show the requirement to provide equality of opportunity. We also understand that positive outcomes of these assessments would be applied retrospectively but it would be a really positive signal to our young people to incorporate the extended provision in the budget process. We would therefore urge you to do just that and make a huge statement of commitment to our young people.

"The agenda for fairer fares for our youth is not a new one for the Community Board. As part of the Year of Young People 2018 we proposed a revision of the fares charged to minibuses taking young people to extracurricular activities between and off our Islands.

"This would remove the anomaly of such minibuses being charged significantly higher rates than an equivalent length motorhome and actively encourage educational and sports travel for island pupils. The Community Board worked hard to have this initiative accepted as good practice by CalMac, the David MacBrayne board, local authorities, elected representatives and, we believed, Transport Scotland. We demonstrated no cost to the public purse and reluctantly accepted the use of a pilot on two routes to prove the case.

"Almost 20 months on we still have not even got the introduction of a pilot through the bureaucracy of approval within the CHFS2 contract. You will understand therefore how positively we welcome the speed of introduction of your proposals but underline our hope that island youngsters receive the equal benefits and opportunities by extending the scheme to include ferry crossings.

"As a Board we will do all we can do to positively support such initiatives and are happy to do what we can to shape or facilitate proposals," said Angus Campbell who chairs the independent CalMac Community Board.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar welcomed the call from the CalMac Community Board for Scottish Ministers to extend moves to introduce free bus travel for under 19s to ferry travel.

Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, said: “This would be a very welcome move which would ensure that Island under 19s are not discriminated against in travel. Ferries are the equivalent of buses on the mainland and it would be only right that Island young people have the same travel opportunities as their counterparts on the mainland. It would be in line with Island Proofing which aims to ensure Island communities are not adversely impacted by legislation.

“It would also assist in retaining young people in the Islands if they can travel more easily to sporting and cultural events on the mainland. Free travel for Under 19s would enable more regular competition in sporting contests in particular which has been a long term aspiration for Island sports groups.

“Such a move is also consistent with the new National Transport Strategy’s aspirations, one of which is to promote equality and provide an inclusive, accessible and equitable transport system for all.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said: “The only commitment given by the Scottish Government is to examine the possibility of free bus travel for 18s and under.

“But should this policy come to fruition, and I very much hope it does, it must be island-proofed and no community should be left disadvantaged."

Comment from CnES and MSP added after orginal publication.

 

Four major infrastructure projects have been recommended for approval at Stage 2 of successful applications to the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF). This is now the seventh year of successful applications made to the Fund by the Comhairle’s Economic Development Officers.

A refurbishment of the former Knock school, Aros an Rubha, will transform the building into a vibrant community hub providing services, employment and volunteering opportunities - as well as being a centre which promotes the language, culture and heritage of the area.

Solar na Mara in Carloway will see refurbishment of: the community centre; former schoolhouse; the creation of a community kitchen; sports changing-room facilities; office accommodation; and refurbishment of the annex building into a community shop and laundry.

In Great Bernera, a marina hub will transform the neglected and underused harbour at Kirkibost through remediation work and development of shoreline areas. The onshore development involves site consolidation, along with demolition and infrastructure upgrading for future economic and leisure activity.

The Stornoway Regeneration Programme - Phase 2 (Newton Gateway) will provide enabling works to transform vacant and derelict land in the Newton Industrial area of Stornoway, facilitating further private sector investment and small and medium business growth, and delivering on a Commercial Corridor in the Town.

Significant funding of £2.5m towards projects totaling £7m in Lewis will safeguard and create new jobs, transform vacant and derelict land and buildings add create new infrastructure in the respective communities. Applications by officers from the Comhairle’s Economic Development service have secured money consistently from the RCGF over seven consecutive years. Total project costs are over £35m and £10.5m has been secured from the Fund.

The Comhairle’s Chairman of Sustainable Communities, Donald Crichton said: “This is an excellent result again for the communities of the Western Isles. The RCGF, together with significant funding from Highlands and Islands’ Enterprise, local and external funders, will see significant facilities created that will sustain communities and drive growth in these areas.”

HIE’s Area Manager for Innse Gall, Rachel Mackenzie said: “We are delighted with CnES’s continued success in obtaining support from the Scottish Government through the Regional Capital Grant Fund. The range of projects supported demonstrate how important this fund is to our economy and HIE are delighted to be working in partnership with CnES on many of these successful RCGF projects.”

The best of produce from near and far 28/02/2020

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or call 07771645238 to place your order, free delivery within the Town, Broadbay, Point Area. 

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Aubergine

 

£1.65

 

Butternut Squash   

 

£2.40

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.95

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£2.40

 

Cabbage (Red UK)

 

£2.60

 

Cauliflower

 

£1.85

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.30

 

Fennel

 

£1.40

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Turmeric (200g)

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.95

 

Dirty Carrots

 

£1.95

 

Ginger

 

£6.00

 

Horseradish

 

£12.00

 

Kale

 

£6.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£2.95

 

Golden Wonder

 

£1.25

 

Kerr’s Pink

 

£1.25

 

Roosters

 

£1.25

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

White Turnip

 

£3.35

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Cucumber

 

£1.15

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£3.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.15

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.10

 

Gala Apples

 

5 for £1.50

 

Washington Red Delicious

 

3 for £1.80

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Clementine’s

 

5 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.90

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.90

 

Blood Oranges

 

4 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Pomegranates

 

£1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Green Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Rhubarb

 

£6.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

The Outer Hebrides Food Tourism Strategy is one of 21 projects awarded funding to promote locally-sourced food and drink. The projects will share £95,550 from the Connect Local Regional Food Fund. Rural Affairs Minister, Mairi Gougeon, announced the funding on a visit to IJ Mellis Cheesemonger in Edinburgh.

Christina Morrison of Outer Hebrides Tourism said: "We established a food trail - Eat Drink Hebrides - three years ago to help promote local food on the islands. This funding will allow us to take the next step in strengthening this network and grow on the profile of local food to better meet visitor needs.

"We wish to maximize the opportunities for our visitors to engage with our food by improving the information available to them, creating events for them to sample local produce and looking into the market for opportunities of food & drink experiences on the islands, some of which may already be weaved into our culture.

"We also aim to strengthen the network of food producers and outlets on the islands by linking buyers and suppliers and to improve on the understanding on visitors needs and wants."

Ms Gougeon said: "I have been hugely impressed by the standard and range of food and drink initiatives across Scotland.

"Innovative projects like these not only help local economies grow, they also promote the importance of locally produced food and drink and the environmental benefits of sourcing produce close to home."

The team behind plans for an ambitious new St Kilda visitor centre in Uig has admitted that scaling back plans could be the only way to get the delayed project off the ground – 10 years after the idea was first publicly aired.

Speaking ahead of a documentary to be broadcast on BBC Alba next Tuesday (3 March) chairman and director of Ionad Hiort Ltd Iain Buchanan reportedly said: "I believe passionately in the concept designs for the St Kilda Centre, but I also realise this project was never going to be straightforward."

The planning team believe that a phased approach could make it easier to attract funding for the project at a difficult time.

Norwegian architects Reiulf Ramstad have been engaged to work up designs for the centre, working with Skye and Glasgow-based Dualchas architects. They’ve come up with a phased approach which could allow some aspects of the proposed visitor centre to be built initially, with more following at future dates.

In-principle planning permission for a first phase visitor centre was granted by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in June last year. At that time Iain Buchanan said: “This is an important milestone which has involved a great deal of preparatory work. It will give confidence to potential funders with whom discussions are continuing. We should know by late autumn whether our first round of funding applications are successful.”

The first phase offers a ‘remote access’ visitor experience with a year-round research centre, toilets, parking and improved road access. It is anticipated that the next planning phase will include walkways, trails and viewpoints to explore the external environment.

But plans for continued development including construction in 2017 and official opening in 2018 have since stalled. A community consultation carried out among residents of Uig has not been published and there’s been no further report on progress since June 2019.

Ionad Hiort was initially scheduled to open to the public at a site called Geodha Sgoilt, Mangersta, in 2018. The site was gifted by Uig and Hamnaway Estate in 2012 and passed into the ownership of the St Kilda Centre in 2015.

The plan for the centre was first proposed in 2010, when agencies including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Visit Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland promoted a competition to identify a location for a St Kilda Centre.

The Mangersta site was chosen over two alternative proposed sites in Harris and North Uist. It is intended that, through the project, visitors will be able to experience the drama of St Kilda without physically visiting the famous archipelago, which lies over 50 miles to the southwest.

The BBC Alba documentary on the story of the development so far is to be shown at 9pm on Tuesday 3 March.

The picture shows the design for the project proposed by Oslo-based architects Reiulf Ramstad.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this morning (Thursday 27 February) approved a budget for Council spending in 2020-2021, including a Council Tax rise of 4.84%, which, for 9 in every 10 households on our islands will be no more than £1.01 a week.

Amendments for a standstill and a 2% rise were defeated.

Council Leader Roddie Mackay said: "Despite the suggestion that austerity is behind us it remains the case that since 2010 the Comhairle has seen a funding reduction of 14%, the biggest of any council in Scotland, amounting to £16m.

"The new monies announced yesterday, thanks to an agreement with the Green Party, mean that we will have nearly £0.3m less cash to spend on our core services (an improvement of some £0.7m on the original settlement)."

This decision by the SNP and the Greens in Edinburgh was made only minutes before the start of the CnES Policy and Resources committee yesterday (Wednesday 26 February).

Councillor Mackay said: "The Comhairle strives to deliver the best services it can for our communities, educating our children; looking after the vulnerable; keeping our roads safe; and recycling our waste.

"We will continue to do our best to work with the Scottish Government and our communities to minimise the effect on services and offset the impact on our economy.

"Our transformation programme seeks to tackle the reduction in core funding not just by cutting but by redesigning services, empowering our communities, and growing alternative income, both revenue and capital.

"There is no doubt that with reductions in funding of this scale we will still see service reductions which is inevitably reflected in the choices before us. However, we must not lose sight of the progress we have made through initiatives such as eSgoil, the Islands Act, Gaelic – all supported through partnership working. And there is the prospect of announcement of a Growth Deal for the Islands in the next financial year.

"The Comhairle has a long tradition of supporting Health and Social Care and 2020/21 is no exception. I am proposing that we increase the Cùram is Slàinte nan Eilean Siar Budget by passing on in full the additional monies in the settlement.

"I am, however, concerned about the present deficit in the IJB which is one of the reasons why it is important that we protect reserves as much as we can.

"Our available capital funding has also reduced by some £1.4m and, if funding continues at this level, we will have a £5m shortfall in our 2018-23 Programme. I am therefore recommending - there is no alternative - that we undertake an urgent review of the programme for us to consider at the next series of meetings.

"The two biggest projects in our programme, the Lewis Residential Care Development and Castlebay Campus are flagship projects that show what can be delivered through partnership working. However, we must not lose sight of the need for investment our roads and infrastructure.

"This is a difficult budget for all councils but, thanks to our prudent planning and strategic use of balances in this and previous years, we are able to plan our savings in a measured way.

"Nonetheless I am recommending that we use the additional flexibility that the Scottish Government has given us to raise Council Tax by 4.84%, which, for 9 in every 10 households on our islands will be no more than £1.01 a week.

"There remains a risk we may need to revisit our budget following the Scottish Government and UK budget approvals in early March but in the meantime this budget represents a reasonable and responsible continuation of the journey we started in 2018 and I recommend that we continue to work together to implement these recommendations."

The amendment by SNP Councillors to have a freeze on the Council Tax was lost by 19-5; and a separate amendment for a 2% rise was lost 16-8.

SNP Group Leader Gordon Murray said they were 'hugely disappointed' that other councillors had not supported the Group's amendment which proposed that the Comhairle use Reserve funds to fill the funding gap.

Following the meeting Mr Murray said: “I am hugely disappointed that our amendment to give our communities respite by freezing the council tax and making absolutely no cuts to our services was defeated.

“We tried to give money to help dental services in Uist and Bethesda Hospice. There is an undoubtedly strong moral argument that if we have the money we should be putting it to services and not banking it, but all other councillors voted against.”

Comments by SNP added after original publication of the article

The 2020 Western Isles Young Musician of the Year competition is just one week away, on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 March.

And the organising committee say that this year’s competition has expanded to create equality across musical genres, with new categories and awards planned.

Committee chairman Gavin Woods said: “We have experimented over the last few years and found that some instruments can be judged against each other, while others don’t work so well when you compare them to each other.

“So this year we will have three competitions – Young Classical Musician, Young Singer of the Year and, new for this year, Young Piper of the Year. We hope next year to introduce a further competition, for Young Traditional Musician of the Year.”

An ensemble competition for small groups of up to six players will be judged at primary, junior (S1-S3) and senior (S4-S6) level and there’ll be a classical competition for primary pupils only.

There’s also a composition prize for youngsters who have composed their own music, similarly judged at primary, junior and senior age groups.

The timetable for the competition is intensive, with the ensemble competition to be judged on Friday 6 March from 7pm at the Nicolson Institute.

On Saturday 7 March piping will be judged at the Nicolson and the rest of the competitions at Stornoway Primary School, before a grand final in the ballroom of Lews Castle on Saturday night. It’s open to the public for an admission price of £5 on the door.

Last year’s winner of the overall title Western Isles Young Musician of the Year was tuba-player Calum Poustie. The committee have been supporting his fundraising for a new tuba, at a cost of nearly £7,000, by applying to the EMI music fund for a contribution towards the cost.

Gavin Woods said: “Western Isles Young Musician of the Year has been working in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Rotary Club of Stornoway to provide a platform for talented young musicians across the Western Isles.

“Our association with Rotary means that winners of the senior singer competition and the young musician of the year are eligible to go forward to the Rotary national final – Ceitlin Mackenzie competed there in 2018 and Calum Poustie in 2019, both in Perth.

“That competition gives them more experience of playing in the public eye and allows them to take part with other young musicians from beyond their own area, so they can judge themselves against a wider standard.”

Wintry Conditions are set to persist for several days in Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra, with frequent sleet and snow showers and temperatures falling close to zero at night.

At 5am this morning (Thursday 27 February) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar gritters were deployed, doing a full run on all roads in Lewis and Harris and treating priority 1 and 2 roads in Uist and Barra.

Police said there had been no incidents this morning, with drivers seeming to be conscious of the conditions and driving accordingly.

An overnight Met Office weather warning of snow and ice for the Western Isles has now expired.

Pictures show North Tolsta this morning (Leigh Minion) and a view of the Harris Hills taken from Newmarket (Morris K Macleod).

SIAN is the self-titled debut album from three of Scotland’s great Gaelic singers - Eilidh Cormack, Ceitlin Lilidh and Ellen MacDonald.

Since the band’s 2016 inception, the young all-female vocal group SIAN have established themselves in venues across Scotland and now present their first record, a celebration of female Gaelic bards.

Originally formed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal for Blas festival, SIAN burst on to the traditional music scene with their unique Gaelic vocal harmonies. With accolades between the three vocalists including MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards Gaelic Singer of the Year, Gold Medal winners at The Royal National Mòd and on-screen plaudits for appearances on 2018’s film The Outlaw King and BBC Alba’s series Bannan, the band are renowned as one to watch.

Since forming, SIAN have performed at The SSE Hydro, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and many other venues across Scotland. Having firmly established themselves on the Scottish traditional music scene, SIAN have gone on to collaborate with many other artists and bands such as Niteworks (with audiences being familiar with the trio’s vocals on their single Air Fàir an Là) – but have now decided the time has come to record material all of their own.

Ceitlin Lilidh was brought up in Ness on the Isle of Lewis. Her vocals also star on Netflix’s Outlaw King, and Skipinnish’s album The Seventh Wave. As a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, winner of the Mòd Traditional Gold Medal and with a Danny Kyle award under her belt, Ceitlin has a wealth of experience performing all over the world as an ambassador for Gaelic song.

Eilidh Cormack, from the Isle of Skye, won the Ladies’ Gold Medal at the Royal National Mòd on her first attempt at the age of 18 and was hailed Gaelic Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in 2018. Hailing from a family of well-known singers, she has been performing from an early age, both in concerts and at festivals such as Celtic Connections, Ligonier Highland Games in the US and Belladrum's Tartan Heart Festival. She contributed to music for The Bard's Tale IV, an Xbox game released September 2018.

Ellen MacDonald has collaborated with many groups over the years following her graduation from the Traditional Music Course at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye. Hailing from Inverness but with strong connections to North Uist, she has grown up collecting a wealth of Gaelic song. 

As a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, winner of the Traditional Gold Medal at the Royal National Mòd and with a Danny Kyle award under her belt, Ceitlin Lilidh has a wealth of experience performing all over the world as an ambassador to Gaelic song. She has performed nationally and internationally at renowned festivals including Celtic Colours, Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Milwaukee Irish Fest and Celtic Connections.

Eilidh said: "We all have our individual repertoires as solo singers so there is a wide variety of songs, styles and influences on the album, and each one of us brings something different to the overall sound."

Joining SIAN is one of Scotland’s most sought-after guitarists Innes White, 2017’s BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year Charlie Stewart and legendary Scottish-Icelandic percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir.

Self-titled SIAN was recorded in June of 2019 in GloWorm Studios and is due to be self-released on 6 March 2020. The album was produced by Donald Shaw (of Capercaillie fame and Creative Producer for Europe’s largest winter musical festival Celtic Connections).

TRACK LISTINGS

    * A-nochd A’ Chiad Oidhche ’n Fhoghair
    * Ach a Dhòmhnaill Òig Ghaolaich
    * Na Gamhna Geala
    * Tha ’n Crodh Laoigh Air Aodann Corrabheinn
    * Chan Eil Mi Gun Nì Air M’ Aire
    * Bha Mo Leannan Ann
    * Thàinig An Gille Dubh Raoir don Bhaile Seo
    * Bi Falbh on Uinneig
    * An t-Seann Chladh Thall
    * Teann Null, Fuirich Thall
    * Air Fàir an Là
    * Sheòl am Bàta

LAUNCH TOUR DATES

  • March 7: Eden Court, Inverness
  • March 8: Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow
  • March 10: Berneray Community Hall, North Uist
  • March 11: An Lanntair, Stornoway
  • March 12: SEALL at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (An Talla Mhòr)

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar receive an additional £729,000 in the next year from the Scottish Government next financial year, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

The amended Scottish Budget will also see the Scottish Government begin free bus travel for those aged 18 and under from January 2021.

Police will benefit from a total uplift of £60 million in the next financial year, with £13m of additional investment in frontline services and a further £5m of additional capital investment, on top of the £42m already committed.

 Alasdair Allan MSP said the budget “invests a record £15bn in health and care services, delivers Scotland’s unique child payment to lift our youngest out of poverty and supports Scotland’s world-leading efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

“The Scottish Government had already backed Police Scotland with a budget increase of £42m. That will now increase that support to £60m overall with £50m of investment for frontline services.

“The Western Isles will benefit from our share of an extra £95m for local government – with an extra £729,000 of investment.

“We have made significant investments to tackle the climate crisis, with funding for a green deal, low carbon travel and £1.8bn of low emission infrastructure.

“The introduction of free bus travel for those aged 18 and under will make an enormous difference to young people – and alongside the £500 million bus infrastructure fund will help deliver a step change in the use of public transport.”

Commenting on the way that the Scottish Government has secured the support of the Scottish Green Party in passing this year’s budget, Scottish Labour Finance Spokesperson Rhoda Grant said:  “It is deeply disappointing to see the Scottish Green Party yet again sell our local councils, our environment and, indeed, themselves, short yet again.

“By kow-towing to Kate Forbes, the Greens have given the green light to the deep cuts faced by local government and have entirely abandoned their call for an end to further infrastructure construction.

“Just last week, the Greens’ Ross Greer said they would not support a budget unless it was a “climate emergency budget”. If this is a climate emergency budget, then I suggest Mr. Greer and his party reflect on their environmental credentials.

“As ever, it is the young people of Scotland, our local councils and the environment that will pay the price for the Greens 15 minutes of fame.”

Police Scotland chief Iain Livingstone said: "I welcome this additional funding and, while financial challenges remain, I recognise this is a significant increase in our allocation at a time of competing demands.

Meanwhile, the SNP Group at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are urging councillors to support their alternative budget plan which will prevent cuts to public services and avoid a sharp rise in council tax.

This week councillors are being asked to approve the budget for 20/21. The SNP Group's amendment will suggest utilising extra funds announced by the Scottish Government instead of putting it into balances.

SNP Group leader Councillor Gordon Murray said: “The SNP Group welcome the extra monies for local government announced by the Scottish Government.

“Our plan is to put this money directly to services, along with a council tax freeze, money for Bethesda and dental services in South Uist.

“We are avoiding making any cuts to services and we strongly urge councillors to support us. 

“Why sit on large reserves of cash when services need to be protected by reinvestment?”

 

Loganair have taken leading Scottish band Skerryvore under their wing to ensure the show goes on at this year’s 25th anniversary Hebridean Celtic Festival.

The airline, a long-time sponsor of the award-winning festival, is helping the band complete a whirlwind four-countries-in-three days schedule and arrive on the HebCelt stage on time.

Skerryvore, who originate from Tiree and are now based in Glasgow, are one of the hardest working Scottish bands on the international scene with a huge following at home and abroad.

The band are due on stage at HebCelt in Stornoway on Saturday 18 July during a weekend that will also see them play in the Czech Republic and Wales. With time being critical, Loganair have arranged to fly the musicians on the final leg of their marathon trip from Glasgow to Stornoway and make sure they hit their first note on cue.

Skerryvore will fly from Scotland to the Czech Republic on 16 July to play at the Colours of Ostrava festival. The following day they fly to Liverpool, then drive to Dolgellau in Wales for the folk and world music festival Sesiwn Fawr Dolgellau.

Finally, on Saturday 18 July, they will drive from Wales to Glasgow and catch the Loganair flight to Stornoway in time for the evening show at HebCelt.

Daniel Gillespie, a founder member of Skerryvore and the band’s accordionist, said: “As a band formed in the Western Isles, we have always been aware of the importance of connectivity and transport with regards to island communities and tourism.

“But we are extra thankful this summer that Loganair’s Glasgow to Stornoway route allows us to complete a run of shows that will see us reach four countries in three days, finishing off at the legendary HebCelt festival on the 18th July.”

HebCelt Director Caroline Maclennan said: “Skerryvore are long-time friends of the festival and we were desperate for them to be part of our 25th anniversary celebrations. Thankfully, Loganair stepped in to make sure they will be here on time during a hectic touring schedule.

“HebCelt recognises the unique support that we have had from Loganair throughout the history of the event and we are extremely grateful for their ongoing assistance.”

Kay Ryan, Chief Commercial Offer at Loganair said: “HebCelt continues to draw visitors from far and wide and with our growing list of airline partners, we’re delighted to play our part in the growth and continued success of the festival by improving connectivity to Stornoway from the world. We hope everyone enjoys the show and wish Hebcelt a very happy anniversary.”

The 25th HebCelt will be held from 15-18 July in Lewis and Harris. Already headliners Texas, Seasick Steve and Saving Grace have been announced for the milestone festival. Other acts confirmed so far include Skipinnish, Tide Lines, Julie Fowlis, Trail West, RURA, Kinnaris Quintet and Colin Macleod.

Stay connected with all the festival’s news:
* on Twitter https://twitter.com/hebcelt
* on Instagram https://instagram.com/hebcelt
* on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HebCelt
* online https://www.hebceltfest.com
* YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/hebceltfest
* Spotify https://open.spotify.com/user/hebcelt.festival
* Sponsors https://www.hebceltfest.com/backstage/sponsors

Volunteering Hebrides receives an award of £330,000 today (Thursday 27 February) to continue and expand their Befriending programme as part of the £3.5 million of National Lottery funding being shared across Scotland.

Projects helping to reconnect isolated or lonely people in communities throughout Scotland are benefitting from the lottery funding and, with an increase in referrals, Volunteering Hebrides can now reach out to more people across Lewis and Harris. 

The service will benefit more people like 43-year-old Robert Wemyss from Stornoway who has had a Befriender for the last two years. He said: “As an autistic male adult, Befriending Lewis has been a godsend for me. Before I became involved with the organisation, I was very socially isolated and rarely went out to busy places.

"Getting a Befriender has changed all that and improved my quality of life immeasurably. We regularly go out to the cinema and restaurants which I love, and I also now have a companion whom I can confide in when I am feeling down or anxious.

“This award will help lots of other people who, like me, who crave social connection and companionship and give them the chance to make wonderful new friends.”

Welcoming the news, Tina Macleod, Service Manager said: “This money will help us tackle the devastating effects that loneliness and social isolation can have on the lives of people in our remote island communities. 

“Rural living brings its own challenges and there are a large number of people here who feel so very alone. Often described as a lifeline, our service offers them regular contact with their own carefully matched Volunteer Befriender as well as the chance to meet others at our group events. We greatly appreciate the vision that The National Lottery Community Fund shares with us and we look forward to working together to make meaningful and lasting impact in our community.” 

Also in the Islands, Advocacy Western Isles receives £100,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund. This group will recruit a Learning Disabilities Advocacy Worker (LDAW) with additional administrative and managerial support, to support people with learning disabilities in Lewis and Harris. The LDAW will support The Speak Out Group (SOG), a group of 18 adults with learning disabilities based in Lewis.

The money from the National Lottery Community Fund goes to 29 organisations for projects that will improve people’s health and wellbeing and help communities to thrive.

Announcing today’s funding totalling, £3,577,529 The National Lottery Community Fund Scotland Director, Neil Ritch, said: “All of these projects are fantastic illustrations of National Lottery money reaching into communities and changing lives.

“We can all experience feelings of isolation or loneliness no matter our background, so it’s fitting that National Lottery funding is there to benefit everyone. Giving a few hours of your time to engage with someone can make an immeasurable difference to them and we are proud to support these important befriending projects.”

Last year The National Lottery Community Fund gave out over £36m of National Lottery funding to community projects across Scotland. Over 1291 projects benefitted from this, enabling people and communities to bring their ideas to life. To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk

 

Members of the North Glendale township have met Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan to discuss the state of their unadopted main road.

The South Uist crofting township is one of the last villages in the Western Isles to not have a paved access road to the township maintained by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Before a local authority will adopt a private road, it must be improved to a certain standard. But with no public fund available for such work, residents are left trying to maintain their road each year using private funds, crofting grants and the occasional council donation of excess chips.

With 11 properties, including the recently renovated thatched cottage where Margaret Fay Shaw spent ten years collecting material for the seminal publication Folk-song and Folklore of South Uist, North Glendale is home to several families, including the elderly and infirm who require regular health visits. The only road access to the village is over a stone bridge, first built by crofters in the 1930s, which is itself gradually deteriorating.

After years struggling to maintain their only viable connection to the wider community, the township is seeking a permanent solution.

Alasdair Allan MSP has called upon the Comhairle to consider allocating a portion of the recently received Crown Estate revenues for this project £97,500 in capital funding has been earmarked per ward for infrastructure work through the investment. “North Glendale has demonstrated an extreme fortitude and perseverance in trying to seek a resolution to this issue.

“This is a serious issue. If an isolated resident required emergency services, the place is difficult to get into as it is. If the bridge were to collapse in a storm, things would become impossible.

“Although no township seems to have a right to a road, I believe that this case is deserving of exceptional expenditure to help bring the road up to the standard required for council adoption.”

 

Police are appealing for witnesses after a housebreaking at Charlie's Bistro.

The incident took place overnight between Saturday 15 February and Sunday 16 February.

Police have asked for anyone with any information or anyone with dashcam footage of the area to call 101 with ref NH204/20.

Ship-spotters have a rare treat in store on Friday (28 February), when Stornoway is set to become one of the first ports of call for a brand new ‘battery-powered’ expedition cruise ship just launched in Norway.

MS Fridtjof Nansen (pictured) is Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten's second hybrid-powered expedition vessel, sister ship to MS Roald Amundsen. She’s sailing around Britain throughout March on a month-long showcase for the travel industry, which includes visits to nearly every port in the UK and a trade event at London’s Tower Bridge.

But before that programme even begins she is taking a short tour from Bergen in Norway and around the Viking raiding route. Today she’s in Lerwick, sailing on via Kirkwall on Thursday and Stornoway on Friday to reach Belfast on Saturday.

The tour is seen as a ‘shakedown’ cruise, giving the 156 crew and passengers alike a chance to see how the vessel operates and to familiarise themselves with her facilities. It’s likely that the 342 passengers include media, tourism industry representatives and some company executives.

The visit also gives islanders the first opportunity to view the unusually-styled ship, as part of a deliberate campaign to create what the industry calls ‘noise’ across the UK, viewed as potentially the biggest pool of cruise passengers for Hurtigruten.

In a company statement, Hurtigruten said: “We will operate our showcase voyages as modified expedition cruise experiences to put the ship’s onboard and shoreside activities through its paces.”

The company’s UK manager Anthony Daniels told travel industry journal TTG that Hurtigruten “want to engage the market and create awareness around what it means to have a ship like this here in the UK.”

About 1,000 guests will tour the ship on port visits in March, which include the tiny port of Fowey in Cornwall and which build up to London’s Tower Bridge overnight stop on 22 March.

Fridtjof Nansen’s first full-scale port call to Stornoway is already booked for May 2021, but on Friday she’ll receive her maiden visit plaque from Stornoway Port Authority.

The cruise season proper begins for Stornoway in May, with just two ships scheduled for April.

 

New figures show more school leavers from the Western Isles are in study, work or training than a decade ago.

Across Scotland, a record proportion of young people were in a positive destination three months after leaving school last year. The gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination is the lowest since 2009-10.

In the Western Isles, the number of unemployed school leavers seeking work fell from 5.1% in 2009/10 to 2.6% in 2018/19.

Over the same time period the number of school leavers going on to positive destinations rose from 89.6% to a record high of 98.4%.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the news: “It is very welcome that significant progress has been made and more young people in the Western Isles are going on to positive destinations such as work and study straight from school.

“Over the past nine years, more young people in the Western Isles have been in study, training or work three months after leaving school than ever before.

“It’s particularly welcome that the gap between the richest and poorest for those moving into a positive destination continues to narrow.

“This demonstrates that Curriculum for Excellence is delivering one of the ultimate aims of school education - to secure a positive next step in learning, life and work for our young people.”

HI-Scot credit union is on a mission – to get the Highlands and Islands saving in 2020.

“As we enter our 14th year of business, we’ll be spreading the word about the benefits of saving with the credit union,” said HI-Scot’s General Manager, David Mackay. “HI-Scot is member-led and member-run and we offer a range of services.”

HI-Scot is well established in the Western Isles, where the credit union is based. Their aim in 2020 is to raise awareness across the whole of the Highlands and Islands, highlighting their services which include accessible loans, online banking and payroll deduction.

Payroll deduction, for example, allows members to save directly from their salaries. This service is currently available to tens of thousands of employees in the Highlands and Islands – all they need to do to access it is to become a member of HI-Scot.

There are over 430,000 people saving with credit unions across Scotland and 3200 of those are members of HI-Scot credit union.

“In the Western Isles, where HI-Scot started out, we have just over 8% of the population saving with HI-Scot and we aim to raise the level of our membership across our common bond area, which incorporates the Highlands, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and the Western Isles.” David explained.

The credit union is run is differently from traditional high street banks. Anyone who joins becomes a member and has a vote and, each year at the AGM, a Board of Directors is voted in from the membership.

“Every one of our Directors is a HI-Scot member,” David said. “And each one is voted in by the wider membership. They all carry out their roles in a voluntary capacity, meaning that HI-Scot is run for the members, by the members. There are no external shareholders.”

Credit unions across the globe are run in this way, with savings and loans helping to keep money in local communities.

“I'd encourage anyone in the Highlands and Islands who wants to save or borrow to consider HI-Scot this year,” David said.

A new warning of continuing ice and snow showers has been issued this morning (Wednesday 26 February) by the Met Office.

The warning is the third overnight snow and ice warning in a row to affect the Western Isles. It covers the period from 10pm tonight until 10am tomorrow and warns of the risk of icy patches on roads and slips and falls on pavements.

Road conditions early today caused some difficulties for motorists, including at Carloway where a car left the road at 7.50am in a single vehicle incident.

Police and ambulance crews attended and one passenger was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.

The Met Office says that wintry showers are expected to continue overnight, especially over Western Scotland, with icy stretches on untreated surfaces. Showers will fall as a mixture of hail, sleet and snow with 1-3cm accumulations over 100 metres.

Stornoway police are asking for witnesses after a car was damaged while parked in Stornoway town centre on Friday (21 February).

The grey Nissan Xtrail had its rear passenger door dented and scratched while parked either at the South Beach car park or on Bayhead outside Central Garage.

The damage is thought to have occurred between 8.45am and 4.30pm on Friday and police would like to hear from anyone who knows what may have occurred, using the non-emergency number 101 and quoting incident reference NH230/20.

Record numbers of volunteers took part in research expeditions organised by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust last year, helping to launch a new year-round programme of monitoring marine mammals and basking sharks in the Hebrides.

For the first time, the conservation charity carried out marine surveys from its specialized research yacht Silurian during the winter months – with crucial data collected every month of the year about the presence and behaviour of some of the country's most spectacular marine wildlife.

Scotland's west coast seas are globally important habitats for cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoise – plus the endangered basking shark. But so far there has been little year-round data about these animals in the region.

"Our new winter surveys and the contribution of our wonderful volunteers offer us the opportunity to study the year-round presence and distribution of some remarkable species for the first time," said Becky Dudley, Marine Biodiversity Officer at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

"Our established summer expeditions, when most species are present in Hebridean waters, remain vital. But embarking on year-round surveys will shed new light on marine wildlife, and help us answer questions such as whether minke whales are present in the Hebrides all year, and if distribution of harbour porpoise changes between summer and winter."

As well as increasing understanding of cetacean and basking shark behaviour, this groundbreaking research helps detect trends and changes in the marine environment – including increases in underwater noise pollution and emerging threats like entanglement. All of this scientific evidence can then be used to inform action to protect marine wildlife.

In 2019, Silurian covered over 5,000 nautical miles during 23 research expeditions – stretching from as far north as Cape Wrath, south to Islay and Jura, and as far west as the Flannan Isles.

The expeditions depend on paying volunteers, who work as citizen scientists alongside researchers. Last year saw a 24 per cent increase in the number of these volunteers, with more than 120 individuals notching up over 700 hours of surveying. They helped record more than 1,200 sightings of over 3,300 individual animals, including 2,740 individual cetaceans, 589 seals and 40 basking sharks.

Already in this first year of year-round surveys, the team recorded four species of cetacean – common dolphins, harbour porpoise, killer whales and minke whales – in the winter months. These sightings add to a growing body of evidence that the Hebrides is an important area for certain species year-round. In total, nine marine mammal species were recorded in 2019 – the others being bottlenose dolphin, common seal, grey seal, Risso's dolphin and white-beaked dolphin.

Bruce Crawford, a volunteer who has joined the Trust onboard Silurian during both summer and winter surveys, said: "The Trust's surveys are among my most memorable experiences. It's an amazing feeling to know this work could help secure the future of these remarkable marine animals. I was part of a great team, which recorded sightings, assessed human impacts on wildlife such as marine debris, monitored sounds with an underwater microphone, and identified individual cetaceans through photography. We also had chance to explore some of Britain's most remote and beautiful places."

Highlights during 2019 included two exciting encounters with killer whales. One was with Busta, a well-known male from a group called the Northern Isles Community, mainly seen around Orkney, Shetland and Scotland's north coast. The other, off Ardnamurchan, was with males John Coe and Aquarius – part of a pod known as The West Coast Community, which is most often seen in the Hebrides and is at imminent risk of extinction.

The research expeditions are part-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage. Fiona Manson, SNH Marine Advisory Officer, said: "We're delighted to support the Trust's research expeditions, and it's great to see so many volunteers getting involved. With their help we are increasing our knowledge of a wide range of internationally important species in Scottish waters throughout the year, which will ensure that we can target conservation measures where they are most needed in future."

With marine mammals at risk from human activities including climate change, entanglement, pollution, underwater noise and habitat degradation, ongoing and long-term research is crucial to improve understanding of the impacts, and how to protect cetaceans. Findings from Silurian's expeditions have contributed to the designation of a protected area for harbour porpoise and the identification of proposed marine protected areas for Risso's dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks.

Since 2003, Silurian has travelled over 120,000 kilometres – equivalent to almost three circumnavigations of the world. The research has advanced understanding of resident and migratory species, with key findings including that the Hebrides is one of Europe's most important areas for harbour porpoise.

Volunteers can join Silurian's research expeditions this year for trips lasting one or two weeks. Anyone can take part, with some special trips for 16 to 17 year olds. Participation costs cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food, and support the charity's research. Visit hwdt.org/silurian for details, or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 01688 302620.

Members of a Holyrood Committee have visited the shipyard where two overdue and over-budget vessels to serve the Clyde and Hebrides ferries network are being built.

One vessel is intended to service the Lochmaddy-Uig-Tarbert route - and they will mean back-up vessels are available when other ships break down or are being serviced.

Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee is conducting an inquiry into the current and future challenges involved in the ferry procurement and construction process.

The Committee is aiming to establish what lessons can be learned for the procurement and construction of future new ferries after delays in the delivery of two new vessels being built at the Ferguson Marine yard.

The inquiry has already heard some evidence on the updated costs and timetable for the completion of two new hybrid ferries, following the Scottish Government’s decision to take public ownership of Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL). Further evidence sessions are scheduled in the coming weeks.

However, MSPs on the Committee recognised the importance of visiting the site to speak to the workforce, engineers and senior managers at the Port Glasgow shipyard and view for themselves the current status of the ships.

Committee Convener, Edward Mountain MSP said: “As part of its ongoing inquiry the Committee has heard a range of views about how the current situation whereby there are significant delays in the delivery of the vessels and cost overruns, has arisen.

“The Committee’s visit to the site gave us an opportunity not only to see the ships, but to learn more about the construction process. We were able to speak with current management and, importantly, the workers who have been involved in building the ships.

“This information will be very helpful as the inquiry progresses, as we aim to produce constructive recommendations for the procurement and construction of new ferries in future.”

The Committee agreed to hold an inquiry into construction and procurement of ferry vessels in Scotland at its meeting on 30 October 2019.

The remit of the inquiry is to identify and address current and future challenges and opportunities in the procurement of new vessels to support Scotland’s ferries network.

CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd) placed orders for two new ferries with Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL) in October 2015. The ferries are being delivered on a fixed-price basis under a design and build contract, with a combined fixed-price of £97m. The vessels are powered by hybrid marine gas oil/Liquid Natural Gas-powered engines, which are a world first for sea-going passenger and vehicle roll-on roll-off ferries.

The first ferry, MV Glen Sannox (vessel 801) was due to be delivered in summer 2018, with the second ferry (vessel 802) slightly later.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands wrote to the committee on 9 November 2017, highlighting a delay in the delivery of the ferries with vessel 801 delayed until Winter 2018/19 and vessel 802 some time later. 

The Cabinet Secretary wrote again to the committee on 16 August 2018 to advise that “…the first vessel, the MV Glen Sannox, will be delivered during Summer 2019 and the second vessel in Spring 2020”.

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, wrote to the committee on 25 April 2019 advising that he anticipated a further delay to the delivery of both vessels.

The directors of FMEL filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators on 8 August 2019, effectively starting the process which would place the business in administration.

On 2 December 2019, the Scottish Government confirmed that it had taken the Ferguson Marine shipyard into public ownership following the rejection by administrators of three commercial bids for the company.

On 18 December 2019, the Scottish Government published the Ferguson Marine Programme Review Board report, which indicated a delivery range for vessel 801 of October to December 2021 and a delivery range of July to October 2022 for vessel 802, with an estimated outstanding cost for delivery of the two ferries of £110.3m.

Businesses throughout the Outer Hebrides and beyond are being urged to stand up against the Westminster Government's new immigration curbs.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says many Islanders own small businesses that rely to a greater or lesser extent on EU workers, and they will be very worried.

"We know this because research for FSB Scotland’s new report on migration – A World of Talent: building an immigration system that works for small businesses in Scotland – found that the further north one travels and the more remote one gets, the more reliant businesses are on EU workers, and this reliance is growing.

"In fact today, 40% of Scottish firms have at least one person from the EU on the books, as against 26% for the UK as a whole. Based on past research the Highlands & Islands figure is likely to be at least 55%.

"The growth in EU worker numbers is not based on low wages, as some like to suggest. It happens because businesses really do have no choice. What with low unemployment, a declining and ageing population, and a variety of well-known remoteness barriers, Highlands & Islands employers seeking staff with the skills and approach to work that they require are forced to cast their nets ever wider.

"Clearly, the UK is a very diverse country with very differing needs, but we now have a new UK migration policy based on a one-size-fits-all approach.

"For a whole variety of reasons national one-size policies don’t work in the Highlands & Islands, and the consequence for this region if the new policy is implemented will be dire.

"Indeed, our research found that one fifth of small Scottish businesses could close or radically change their business models if recruiting EU workers became much harder; the figure for this region would be higher still," the FSB says.

"FSB Scotland’s report identifies four steps that the UK Government can adopt to make the new system meet the needs of small Scottish businesses.

"First, separate visas should be piloted for remote parts of Scotland and the UK, making it easier for migrant workers to come here; second, migrants wishing to come to Scotland should be awarded more points than those wanting to go work in less needy areas; third, the Home Office should design, develop and enforce a tailored approach to migration in partnership with the Scottish Government; and fourth, the £50,000 in investment funds required by the Home Office to set up a business in the UK should be dramatically reduced to allow Scotland to attract future overseas entrepreneurs.

"If you are one of the countless Highlands & Islands businesses that could be adversely affected by the UK Government’s new policy, tell your MP what you think now," says the FSB.

A total of 130 years of voluntary service to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was celebrated recently at Stornoway RNLI as six members were awarded RNLI Long Service Badges.

Stornoway RNLI Coxswain DI Murray, along with volunteer crew members Tony Morrison, Kenny Macarthur, Norman Smith, and Donnie Mackinnon, were all presented with RNLI 20-Year Long Service Badges by Stornoway RNLI Branch Chair, John J Maclennan.

Mr Maclennan also presented Stornoway RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) John Macdonald with his RNLI 30-Year Long Service Badge.

Speaking of the crew service award presentations, John Macdonald said: “This is an amazing achievement and it is down to their commitment and dedication to both the service and the Stornoway station itself.”

John J Maclennan added that it was a privilege to present the Long Service Badges, and said: “There is no abiding success without commitment and dedication, and without that commitment and dedication the lifeboat won’t launch – it is the glue that holds the fabric together.

“There is a great tradition in Stornoway Lifeboat of crew coming down through the generations; that continuity and experience being handed down, and the ongoing commitment of crew even after 20 years, it is something as a station we can all be proud of.”

Donnie Mackinnon & John J Maclennan

Norman Smith & John J Maclennan

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has called on Parliament to congratulate the six members of the Stornoway RNLI crew for their outstanding commitment and dedication to their community.

Mr Stewart said “For a long time volunteers in the Highlands and Islands have given their hearts and souls to ensure that their communities are safe and thriving. The commitment of RNLI crews, who risk their lives on almost every call, is staggering and the recognition of these men is exceptionally well deserved.”

Mr Stewart submitted a parliamentary motion asking Holyrood to commend the RNLI crew for their service and to acknowledge the vital work done by all RNLI volunteers.

Mr Stewart continued: “The provision of lifeboat services is one of the most vital service roles for our coastal communities and that it is all done by volunteers is inspiring. Congratulations to the crew members that have given so much to the West Coast, and thank you for your continued dedication.”

John J Maclennan & Coxswain DI Murray

John J Maclennan & Tony Morrison

The Sccottish Parliament reference has been added since the article was first published

 

 

A Mass Unwrap is planned in Stornoway for Wednesday (26 February) to highlight damaging levels of surplus plastic used to package food.

And the event is being welcomed by management at the store where it is to take place.

Clean Coast Outer Hebrides and Surfers Against Sewage are running the event at Stornoway’s Macaulay Road Co-op superstore between 2 and 4pm.

The idea is that shoppers do all their normal shopping, then take the time to stop and unwrap all the surplus packaging from their food, which is instead carried home in their own bags, boxes and re-useable containers.

The surplus packaging is loaded into trollies and given back to the store, who take it away to recycle or otherwise dispose of it.

Co-op Superstore manager Steven Cooper said he welcomed the demonstration of people-power in his store and especially people’s support for the environment.

He said: “I’ve got no issues with this at all, because it’s helping the environment. It’s really important that we should do all we can for the planet.

“We already encourage people to bring their own containers for the delicatessen counter and the Co-op has said that, by the middle of this year, all own-brand products will be packaged in recyclable plastic. We are also stopping the use of plastic carrier bags and will only offer compostable bags at the cash tills.

“If people bring plastic wrapping back to us we will send it back to the depot, we have no problem at all with that.”

Organisers of Wednesday’s Mass Unwrap said: “Mass Unwrap is an awesome action that highlights the level of plastic packaging in supermarkets and puts people-pressure on them to change. Individuals, families, friends and communities can all take part. It’s friendly, non-confrontational and tons of fun!”

The Mass Unwrap at Macaulay Road Co-op is on Wednesday 26 September from 2-4pm. Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/events/873094989787065/

Crime levels in the Highlands and Islands continue to be among the lowest in Scotland.

A reduction in total crime was recorded during the last Quarter 3 period compared to the same period the previous year (1 April to 31 December), including reductions in sexual crimes, crimes of dishonesty and anti-social behaviour. Overall detection rates have also increased, in particular in relation to violent crime with officers recording one of the highest rates in the country (82.5%).

The Police Scotland 2019-20 Quarter 3 Performance Report will be presented to the Scottish Police Authority’s Policing Performance Committee on Thursday (27 February).

Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent George Macdonald said: “The Highlands and Islands remains one of the safest areas in Scotland which is testament to not just the efforts of our police officers and staff, Special Constables and youth volunteers but to the local communities we serve and the external partners we work closely alongside. This support is absolutely crucial and by building upon the strong relationships we already have, we can deliver better outcomes.

“The figures highlighted in the Q3 report will serve as a benchmark moving forward as we continue find innovative ways of Policing to help keep people safe and identify people at risk. I continue to ask our communities to let us know your concerns so that we can dedicate our resources to the right places at the right times to target the right people.”

Group 1 crimes (non-sexual crimes of violence) have increased (234 from 202) however 55 of these crimes were recorded under the new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 which was not accounted for last year. This innovative new law is making a significant difference, with many victims of domestic abuse who may not have been identified before now gaining access to the support they need. Nationally there have been 1,313 crimes recorded against the new Act.

Chief Superintendent Macdonald added: “We will continue to prioritise our resources towards issues that cause the most harm to people and communities, drawing on the support of national resources including Roads Policing, Operational Support and the Specialist Crime Division. It is also crucial that we continue to identify opportunities presented by technology to improve effectiveness and maximise the amount of time officers spend in local communities.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the public for your continued support.”

For further information - www.scotland.police.uk/about-us/our-performance/

A new online competition has opened to find the best beach – and the best picture of a beach – in the Western Isles.

It’s the second year that the popular weather page https://www.facebook.com/WesternIslesWeather/ has run the competition, which gives a fair chance to each of the six islands in the Western Isles (grouping some of the smaller isles with their larger neighbours).

Each week people get the chance to post a picture of their favourite beach in a particular location – week one, this week, is from Lewis. Six images are chosen for a public vote and the picture with the highest number of votes goes through to the public vote final, with just one beach chosen as Best Beach in the Western Isles 2020.

Weather guru Richard Cooke, who runs the page, said: “We have the world’s best beaches in the Western Isles and this competition helps to showcase the best of the islands.

“Last year Horgabost beach in Harris took the title by public agreement. I had a great time running the competition and was blown away both by the quality of the images and by how many people took part – we had over 1,000 people submitting images and thousands voting for their favourites.”

Entries are already rolling in for Lewis week, with Traigh Mhor and Garry Beach in Tolsta, Port Nis, Ardroil and Dalmore all among the entries. Sunny skies, sunsets and wild waves are all part of the glorious imagery being shown off.

It’s a just-for-fun competition – apart from the pleasure of seeing your favourite beach featured – and Richard said: “I always appreciate anyone contributing.”

Our picture shows Mangersta taken by Judi Hayes.

Details of some of the plans for LUACH, a new Gaelic-medium festival which will take place for the first time on 3 and 4 April 2020, have been revealed by organisers.

LUACH is being organised by a number of community groups in Lewis and Harris with support from e-Sgoil. Among those taking part will be Dr Alasdair Whyte, Gaelic Ambassador of the Year; Linda MacLeod with Leugh is Seinn le Linda (reading and singing sessions for children and their parents); Spòrs Gàidhlig who will be providing outdoor activities, and the festival will be brought to a close by Trail West in Stornoway Town Hall on Saturday 4 April.

Jenna Morrison, CnaG Officer in Harris, explains: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with e-Sgoil and other local groups as part of the LUACH project. It is important that young people get opportunities to use Gaelic outside the school system and in the community, so that they gain confidence in speaking the language in different situations.”

For the inaugural event LUACH will focus on different areas in Lewis and Harris but organisers are already working on plans to stage events in communities throughout the Western Isles in 2021.

LUACH has received support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Scottish Government, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and An Lanntair as well as community groups such as Galson Estate Trust, Bragar and Arnol Community Trust and Comann Eachdraidh Sgìre a’ Bhac.

Shona MacLennan, CEO of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “LUACH will contribute to the main aim of the National Gaelic Language Plan: that Gaelic is used more often, by more people in a wider range of situation. We wish the festival organisers every success with their programme of events which will be very attractive to Gaelic-speakers in the islands and from across the country.”

Further information can be found on https://www.facebook.com/LUACHnaGaidhlig/, by contacting groups involved or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Met Office has issued a yellow alert, warning of a ‘high likelihood’ of snow and ice affecting the Western Isles overnight tonight (Monday 24 February).

The warning, issued at 10am this morning, is in place between 8pm tonight and 10am tomorrow morning and particularly warns of icy patches leading to a risk for pedestrians on slippery pavements.

The warning says: “Many areas will be affected by occasional showers of rain, hail, sleet and snow, with clear spells in between, leading to frost and icy surfaces. Further snow accumulations of 2-6cm are expected over parts of Scotland, mainly in the west, at elevations above 200m.”

The Iolaire play, An Oidhche Mas Do Sheoil I, which won a top award at the Scottish Gaelic Awards in Glasgow in November 2019, can be seen again at An Lanntair tomorrow, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February.

The play was initially performed by 50 pupils from Sgoil An Rubha in Point in Autumn 2019 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Iolaire tragedy on 1 January 1919.

It was written to highlight the impact which this horrific event had on the district of Point - 50 naval personnel from villages in the community were on the doomed vessel which left Kyle of Lochalsh on 31 December 1918 and only 11 men survived this grim experience.

Following many requests from the community for the play to be performed again, this will take place twice in An Lanntair on 25 and 26 February and a professional recording of the production will be filmed by Point Media Limited, which is run by experienced film producer Roddy Maclean.

Many of the pupils from Sgoil An Rubha who took part in An Oidhche Mas Do Sheoil I, which was written by former local headteaçher Alasdair Macleod and directed and produced by Marissa MacDonald, were also involved in a short film which won an award at the Gaelic Film G Festival earlier this month. This film called, Cuairt Cuimhne, was written by Ann Frater, directed and produced by Marissa MacDonald and filmed by Point Media Ltd.

Tickets and information for the performances on 25 and 26 February can be obtained from An Lanntair.


The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Holiday unit, Meavaig

Paul Finnegan of Seafield, Scalpay has applied for planning permission to erect a 30-square-metre wooden cabin in South Meavaig. Work is to include creating parking suitable for one car.

New house, Maraig

Brendan Hulme of 17 Blenheim Court, Stirling, has applied for planning permission to build a house at 3c Maraig. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for three cars, building a garage and constructing a polycarbonate tunnel. The house is to have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, an open-plan kitchen/living/dining area downstairs and a second living area upstairs.

New pod, Maraig

Mr Andrew Bartlett of 5a Maraig has applied for planning permission to site a Lesko pod at 5a Maraig. The single-storey structure is to be 6.8 metres long and 4 metres wide, and it is to contain two bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchen/dining/living area.

Change of use of building, Tarbert

Akram Ul-Hag of 88 Parkmanor Avenue has applied for planning permission to change the use of the flat at Tarbert House, East Tarbert, to a store for commercial use. No physical changes would take place.  

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New agricultural building, Achmore

Mrs K. Macleod of 17 Swordale, Point, has applied for planning permission to build an agricultural building at 168 Achmore. The building is to be 14 metres long, 5 metres high and 9 metres wide.

House extension, Ness

Innes Groves of 121A Cross, Skigersta Road, Ness has applied for planning permission to alter and extend the house at 121A Cross, Skigersta Road, Ness.

Site steel container

Derek Macleod of 36 Borve has applied for planning permission to site a steel container at 36 Fivepenny, Borve. The container is to be 6.1 metres long, 2.43 metres deep and 2.59 metres tall and is to be used for agricultural purposes.

New agricultural building, Uig

Derek Scanlan of 5 Mangersta, Uig, has applied for planning permission to commence farm-related building works at 5 Mangdrsta, Uig. The building is to be 13.7 metres long, 9.1 metres wide and 4.8 metres tall.

New house, Carloway

Donna Kumar of 7 William Childerhouse Way, Norwich, has applied for planning permission to build a house at 30 Gearranan, Carloway. Work is to include creating a new access.

 

The Met Office has lifted all weather warnings affecting the Western Isles, with an updated warning this morning (Sunday 23 February) showing that the area of risk has now moved away from the islands.

Wintry conditions are set to continue through the week, but there’s no longer a threat of gales on Monday. Ferry timetables are returning to normal on island routes, although today continues to see some disruption because of the conditions yesterday.

Some revised ferry timetables are in operation, including to the Sound of Harris service, where tidal conditions and a replacement vessel combine to necessitate an alteration to the service.

Two island vessels are today heading for Oban ahead of a return to normal service. MV Isle of Lewis has left Aberdeen and is expected to arrive in Oban on Monday to serve the Castlebay (Barra) route from Monday onwards, and MV Loch Portain has left Greenock for Oban, en route to Berneray to recommence service on the Sound of Harris.

 

Athletes from Stornoway Running and Athletics Club made up the largest travelling contingent for years, travelling through the night on Thursday (20 February) to reach the Scottish National Cross Country Championships at Callendar Park in Falkirk.

A record field of 2,460 athletes in all age groups were ready to race on Saturday, including 20 Stornoway runners from under-13s to seniors.

The under-13 girls – Sarah Maciver, Kyla Mcmurdo, Emily Murray and Megan Maclean – achieved the highest team position of the day, ranking the Stornoway club 7th of the 19 clubs in the field.

But with the mud and cold winds of the competition itself, following a long and weary journey to compete, it was dedication which proved the club were all winners. As an SRAC spokesman said: “Some commitment from our hungry, youthful squad.”

Pictures by Bobby Gavin.

A 30-year-old man is to appear in court in Stornoway tomorrow (Monday 24 February) charged with a variety of offences including police assault.

The man, who is currently in custody at Stornoway Police station, was arrested in the Island Road area at 8pm yesterday (Saturday) on charges of breach of bail and breach of the peace, and committed the assault at the time of arrest.

Witnesses sought after assault

Western Isles police are asking for public help after an assault in the early hours of this morning (Sunday 23 February).

The alleged assault took place near to a property in Guershader at 3am today. Police are following a positive line of enquiry but would like to hear from anyone who witnessed the incident on the non-emergency number 101, using the incident number NH222/20.

Appeal after vandalism

Information is being sought by police on an incident of vandalism which was carried out between Saturday and Sunday last weekend (15 and 16 February).

A grey Ford Focus parked outside a property on Mackenzie Street was scratched on its rear passenger door and wheel-arch.

Anyone who saw or heard anything or who knows anything about the incident is asked to call the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident reference NH208/20.

 

The UK Tory government’s controversial points-based immigration risks devastating local businesses and causing long-term harm to public services in the Western Isles, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

Unveiled earlier this week, Boris Johnson’s plan to block most European workers from entering the UK has come under fire from employers and industry leaders.

Chief Executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, Jimmy Buchan, has said, “We need ministers to allow scope for recruitment of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour as they are all vital to the viability of the sector."

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation added, “We are concerned that these proposals as drafted could hinder the production and processing of Scottish salmon.”

Chief Executive of Scottish Care, Donald Macaskill said the health and social care sector is faced with a “triple whammy”.

"We are closing the door on people coming to live and work and contribute to the economy, we are losing staff because of the toxic rhetoric around immigration coming from certain political voices south of the Border, and we are unable to build the social care economy and innovate in the way we have the potential to because of the economic impacts of these political decisions.

"We have to encourage people to stay. We simply are a country that needs migrants. We need a distinctive solution.”

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: “The announcement of the UK government’s plans for a new points-based immigration system appears now to be the biggest threat to Scotland’s tourism industry. These plans totally disregard the skill set and importance of those who work in the sector and go against what is needed in Scotland as a whole.

"Scotland’s situation is unique; we have very fragile areas in our economy and it is more important than ever that we’re able to attract and retain people, particularly in the Highlands and Islands and other rural areas. 

"We need a differentiated system that is responsive to the specific needs of our tourism industry, our demography and our wider economy and sectors. The impact of the UK Government’s new immigration plans will have a profound impact across local economies, particularly in rural areas.”

A cross-party report by Holyrood’s Finance Committee previously warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and our ability to fund the NHS, if Scotland does not have powers to grow our population.

Now, the MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has renewed calls for immigration powers to be handed to Holyrood – with the SNP’s proposals for a Scottish Visa gaining the backing of a wide range of expert organisations.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “These immigration plans could be disastrous for the islands.

“Important sectors of our economy such as seafood and tourism are reliant on migrant workers from Europe. We already have the preposterous situation – repeated raised in Westminster by Angus MacNeil MP – of fishing vessels on the west coast tied up due to a lack of crew. These plans will make a bad situation worse.

“Scotland faces demographic challenges as our population gets older. Nowhere are those challenges more stark than in the Western Isles, where our working age population is set to decrease by 17% over the next decade.

“We need the power to attract and retain the workers we need to staff our public services and businesses, and support our economy. It’s now absolutely vital that the political parties and industry leaders come together to back the SNP’s plans for a tailored migration system which works for Scotland and the islands.”

Earlier Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil said: “The UK Government’s hostile environment continues to cause misery and this latest policy announcement on post-Brexit visas could have devastating consequences for our economy.

“We already know how the UK Government’s policy of not allowing Work Visas for non-EEA workers is damaging to the West Coast fishing industry – this policy announcement will be harmful to many sectors such as hospitality, social care and agriculture.”

 

Western Isles Councillors are meeting next week to set the Local Authority’s budget for 2020/21.

The Local Government Settlement announced on 6 February 2020 equates to a cash reduction for core services of £0.9m for the Comhairle.

The settlement included an increase in funding for the Comhairle of £0.9m but also includes new ring-fenced monies of £0.6m for Health and Social Care and £1.1m for Early Years Expansion.

After allowing for inflation, budget pressures, a 3% rise in Council Tax and new commitments the Comhairle’s funding gap for 2020/21, based on the 6 February 2020 Settlement, is £6.4m. £2m of savings via efficiencies and redesign will reduce this deficit to £4.4m.

However proposals in a report to be considered next week by the Comhairle include an increase in Council Tax of 4.84%. For 77% of Western Isles residents this would result in an increase of £1.01 or less per week. The Comhairle already has the lowest Council Tax level in Scotland. This would reduce the deficit facing the Comhairle by 187K.

The Report, to be considered by the Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday (27 February), sets out proposals for £2.6m of savings. Taken together with the additional Council Tax increase these would leave a residual deficit of £1.6m to be funded from balances. This would reduce the balances earmarked to support the budget from £3.1m to £1.5m.

In relation to Capital the Comhairle has seen a cash reduction of £1.4m including a loss of £0.6m and a ring fenced £0.8m for Early Years expansion. If funding continues at this level until 2023 the Comhairle will have a funding shortfall of £5.2m in the 2018-23 Capital Programme. The Budget Report recommends that the Comhairle undertake a comprehensive review of the 2018-23 Capital programme.

The Scottish Budget will not complete its passage through Parliament until 5 March 2020. It is therefore possible that there may be changes before it is approved.

The UK Budget is scheduled to be published on 11 March 2020. It is unknown what impact this might have on the Scottish Budget and may also lead to revisions in Local Government Funding.

 

Enthusiasts for sci-fi, comics, fantasy and games will be ready for cosplay as the first ever ComicCon is planned for the Western Isles in April.

A planning meeting has been set for March 5 to bring plans for OH!CON (Outer Hebrides ComicCon) to fruition, with contributors of all kinds welcome to attend.

Excitement is building for the event, planned for Saturday 25 April at Western Isles Library, even though the programme itself hasn’t been announced. Organisers promise it will include talks, workshops and activities for the whole family.

They’re looking for people prepared to add their energy and talents to the event, whether as an enthusiast, a model, an artist or just as someone prepared to get the work done to make sure the event runs smoothly.

You can find out more about OH!CON from the website here or by following Western Isles Libraries on Facebook. The planning meeting is on Thursday 5 March at 6pm at Stornoway Library and all potential volunteers are welcome to come along.

Flags, speeches and a hubbub of activity at Stornoway Town Hall today (Friday 21 February) 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 from the hub on South Beach, 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 as it 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.

Raising the flag, designed by young people who will use the new Who Cares? hub and office in the Town Hall on South Beach.

School pupils in Harris were the first to receive their certificates as a new training programme on lifesaving was implemented by the charity Lucky2BHere.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar' s Education Committee have taken the decision to include emergency life support training as part of the school curriculum to all P7 and S3 pupils. It’s to be delivered by the Skye-based charity Lucky2BHere, which fundraises for and installs AED devices to help recover people suffering cardiac arrest. It also delivers training in how to use the life-saving equipment.

The new programme started in Harris on Wednesday (19 February) with P7 pupils at Sir E Scott School, Tarbert and P6/7 pupils at Leverhulme School in Leverburgh (pictured) all receiving their Certificates at the end of the training session.

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.

The regular Sound of Harris ferry, MV Loch Portain, is taking shelter in the harbour at Greenock on her way back to service from her annual upgrade.

Service between Berneray and Leverburgh is being covered by MV Loch Bhrusda until the Loch Portain’s return to take up service, expected to be early next week.

MV Loch Portain is pictured leaving Troon late yesterday afternoon (Thursday 20 February) as gale force winds began to build. Picture by Tom Hamilton.

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.

 

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).

The 10:18am bus run is scheduled to go ahead as planned today (Friday 21 February).

The 8:30am public service run was cancelled due to continuing high winds.

All morning school buses have also been cancelled and will operate in the afternoon.

The Barra-Castlebay ferry service has also been cancelled, with CalMac citing forecast adverse weather and swell conditions as the reason.  

The 9:15am sailing from Ardmhor and 10:10am from Eriskay have both been cancelled.

A review will take place at around 10:30am for the later sailings.  

CalMac advise that all sailings today will be liable for disruption or cancellation at short notice.  

Uist Cat Rescue are appealing for fosterers for several cats.

Volunteers would be asked to look after cats during their post-operation recovery period for 10 days at a time.

Uist Cat Rescue, who have no facilities at present, would loan out the use of crates, litter trays, bedding and food.

The organisation took to social media to make their appeal, saying: "If you have the time and love to spare, we would love to hear from you."

Their Facebook page can be found here.

Photo shows the latest cat, caught recently, who will be going to a full-time home following operation recovery.

A piper with roots in Barra has been appointed pipe-major in the Glasgow Police Pipe Band.

Duncan Nicholson returns to the role he held from 2010-2015 and replaces Alisdair McLaren.

With less than three months before the Scottish competition begins, Mr Nicholson says he is hoping to stabilise the band and put out some good performances.  

He commented: “It’s a big task ahead, but I suppose I have been here before. Looking forward to get back at it.”

Mr Nicholson has 30 years of experience playing the bagpipes and is a former member of Skipinnish and The Vatersay Boys.

The move is the latest in a multitude of changes for the band over the last 10 years. In addition to numerous leadership changes, the band endured a period of uncertainty when the Scottish police forces amalgamated to create Police Scotland. The band went through a series of name changes, eventually returning to its most well known and straightforward Glasgow Police Pipe Band title.

The band was established in 1883 as the Burgh of Govan Police Pipe Band, making it the the oldest civilian pipe band in existence.

Picture: Grade 1 Glasgow Police have appointed Duncan Nicholson as pipe-major, returning to the role he held from 2010-2015.

Storm Dennis had a good attempt at putting a stop to a community event at Taigh Sgire Sholais last Saturday (15 February) – but he was no match for the power-rangers of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

Teams of engineers turned out in gale force winds and rain to fix a fault on the local network, which had caused the power to go off for customers in the Solas area of North Uist.

A sale of work was planned for the community centre, and the hard-working ladies couldn’t believe their bad luck when the electricity went off at 9am on the day.

They needn’t have worried. Thanks to the hard work of SSEN engineers the fault was fixed and the power was back on by 10:30am, great news for all the island customers, but particularly for the organisers of the sale of work.

As a way of thanking the engineers for getting the power back on, the team behind the sale of work invited them in to sample the home baking and hot drinks.

Local volunteer Sandra MacIntosh said: “The guys did a great job restoring the power so quickly. We had done a lot of preparations for the sale of works in the previous weeks and we were so happy and relieved when the power was restored in time for the function starting.”

Mike Sutherland, one of SSEN’s local engineers, said: “We’re always happy to help the local communities on the islands and we appreciated the hot drink and tasty cakes on such a cold, stormy day!”

The picture shows SSEN’s power heroes, including Mike on the far left, along with the team behind the sale of work (SSEN).

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).

Taigh Dhonnchaidh, otherwise known as Duncan’s House in Ness, Isle of Lewis, is celebrating after receiving a £800 boost from Western Isles Lottery. The funds will be used to purchase new instruments to expand the range on offer to young people in the area.

Taigh Dhonnchaidh once belonged to Duncan 'Major' Morrison who taught music across the Isles and bequeathed his home to Ness Historical Society in 1998. His wish was for the preservation of local, traditional music and culture for future generations, following his death. Restored by volunteers, his home was opened to the Community in July 2000.

Each Easter, Fèis Taigh Dhonnchaidh, a Gaelic Music and Cultural Festival, offers tuition in a multitude of instruments for a week during the Easter holidays as well as Gaelic singing, drama and art. Instrumental classes run throughout the school term. In addition, various ceilidhs, storytelling evenings and other community events are held throughout the year and it is also the base for the Ness Melodeon Band.

Mary Duff, Secretary of Taigh Dhonnchaidh, explained in the application to Western Isles Lottery that, although the group was attended by many primary school children, they tended to move into older groups when they transitioned to secondary school. There was therefore a need to explore how they could be kept involved and their musical skills progressed. The application was for funding to purchase new keyboards and an electronic drum kit to add to the instruments on offer. 

Mary Duff said: “We are delighted and grateful to receive this funding from Western Isles Lottery. The funds will enable us to update our musical equipment and help us to provide even more opportunities for our young people. Having a facility like this, which relies entirely on volunteers, it is essential that we gain funding throughout the year. 

“Taigh Dhonnchaidh will celebrate its 20 Year Anniversary this July – and we plan to continue for another 20! That is why we are extremely grateful to groups such as Western Isles Lottery for funding. 

Taing mhor bhon chlann agus bhon luchd-obrach soar-thoileach aig Taigh Dhonnchaidh.

Janet Paterson, spokesperson for Western Isles Lottery said: “Taigh Dhonnchaidh is a great asset to the Ness community and long may it continue to play its part in the music scene. We hope the new equipment will be well used and particularly enjoyed by the older teenagers within the Community.

“This brings the total amount raised by Supporters in the Ness & Westside Area to £14,000. Proceeds currently being raised will be distributed to Shawbost Community Council who are planning to provide picnic areas in Shawbost, Bragar and Dalmore this summer. The more support they receive from the area, the more they can achieve.”

To Join Western Isles Lottery and support your Community, log onto www.westernisleslottery.co.uk

Pictured are some of the young musicians who attend Taigh Dhonnchaidh.

Ferry services across the Sound of Harris are being disrupted over the next days by a combination of weather, tides and vessel replacement.

MV Loch Portain is undergoing her annual overhaul at Troon and, while initially expected to return to service on Monday (17 February) has been delayed, now with an estimated return to service on or after Tuesday 25 February.

She’s replaced on the run between Berneray and Leverburgh by MV Loch Bhrusda, a smaller vessel with lower capacity and a longer crossing time. Her smaller capacity means that reservations on the service are currently essential.

A revised timetable is operating on the crossing until at least Tuesday, but adverse weather and tidal conditions are also having an effect, with services on standby for cancellation or disruption as gales sweep in from the southwest.

Tidal timetables will be in operation on February 23 to 27 on this service. Up-to-date service information is available here.

Picture shows MV Loch Portain at Leverburgh – she’s currently undergoing annual servicing.

The Met Office has today (Thursday 20 February) issued a fresh warning of gales for Saturday (22 February), affecting all of Scotland including the Western Isles.

The warning, issued at 9.37am today, covers the period from 6am to 10pm on Saturday and warns of delays to transport, potential loss of power supply and spray from coastal waves on shoreside routes and causeways.

It says: “Strong, gusty winds are expected across Scotland …during Saturday. The strongest winds will likely occur in the vicinity of heavy, squally showers. Whilst not all areas will see the strongest winds, gusts pf 55-65mph are expected in places. Exposed parts of northern and western Scotland may see gusts of 65-75mph.

“Showers will fall as a mixture of rain, hail and sleet with snow accumulations expected to be restricted to higher ground (above 200-300m). Winds will gradually moderate during Saturday evening.”

The Met Office warning has been followed by an early warning from CalMac that sailings between Stornoway and Ullapool could be disrupted or cancelled at short notice tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday.

Emergency services were called to South Beach Street in Stornoway at 12.30pm yesterday (Wednesday 19 February) to reports that a man had suffered a suspected heart attack.

The call came in to Stornoway Coastguard operations room from Scottish Ambulance, who requested assistance with recovering the casualty from the shore at the foot of the King’s steps, near to the Iolaire memorial sculpture.

Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team attended together with HM Coastguard duty officer, police and a team from Scottish Fire and Rescue service.

The man was found to have slipped and fallen on the steps. He was stretchered to the waiting ambulance by Coastguard and fire crews and was passed into the care of Scottish Ambulance Service personnel.

Stornoway’s Group Practice surgery at the health centre on Springfield Road will be closed from 2pm on Tuesday 25 February for staff training.

Any patient requiring urgent medical care should phone 703145, but all routine matters should wait until the surgery re-opens on Wednesday 26 February.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has defended itself against claims that cancellations of its ferry services were significantly up in 2019.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Scottish Greens transport spokesperson John Finnie MSP in January appeared to show that breakdowns in the CalMac fleet had increased by a third in 2019.

But revised figures, issued by both CalMac and the Scottish Greens, actually show that cancellations for technical reasons in 2019 totalled 1,069. There was a much higher figure of weather-related cancellations at 3,811.

A CalMac spokesman said: “The figures (used in the media reports) are out of date and not comparing like with like. The accurate figure for all routes served by CalMac is 1,125 technical cancellations for 2018 and 1069 for 2019. So technical cancellations are actually down, not up by a third as claimed.”

CalMac classifies its cancellations for the year by route, vessel and reason, with reasons for cancellation including not just adverse weather and mechanical problems, but pier work, very low tides and emergencies including medical emergencies and diversion to assist other vessels.

In 2019 the Castlebay Oban route had 128 cancelled sailings, with 63 on the Uig, Tarbert, Lochmaddy triangle and 58 on the Stornoway Ullapool route.

Highlands and Islands MSP Mr Finnie has called on the Scottish Government to “urgently review” its vessel deployment and replacement plan. He has been supported in his call by fellow Highlands and Islands MSP, Scottish Conservative Donald Cameron.
Mr Cameron said: "The sad fact is that the CalMac fleet – which now has an average age of 23 years – has been neglected at the same time as the procurement of two new vessels has been an extraordinary shambles, with almost daily revelations about how the SNP Government has mishandled the process.

"At the end of the day, this has serious implications for the island communities which are being affected.”

John Finnie MSP said: “CalMac is entrusted to deliver lifeline services to remote and island communities up and down the west coast. Behind these cancellations are people unable to attend hospital appointments on the mainland, missed job interviews, small businesses unable to send and receive goods, and a loss of important tourism revenue.”

CalMac is in the midst of its annual maintenance programme, with MV Isle of Lewis late to return to service on the Castlebay Oban run after an extended period of drydock. She’s now undergoing sea trials from the docks at Aberdeen.

Announcing the annual upgrade programme last autumn, a CalMac statement said: “More than £9 million is being targeted at vessel resilience, responding to the challenges of an increasing average age of fleet.

“This is in addition to the annual planned maintenance expenditure to ensure every vessel is ready for another year of supporting communities across the west coast. The resilience programme is more than double the amount spent last year.”

Picture shows MV Isle of Lewis in Aberdeen last week during her annual upgrade (Lewis Mackenzie).

 

 

The best of produce from near and far 21/01/2020

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or call 07771645238 to place your order, free delivery within the Town, Broadbay, Point Area. 

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Aubergine

 

£1.65

 

Butternut Squash   

 

£2.40

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£2.40

 

Cabbage (Red UK)

 

£2.40

 

Cauliflower

 

£1.85

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.35

 

Fennel

 

£1.40

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Turmeric (200g)

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.95

 

Dirty Carrots

 

£1.95

 

Ginger

 

£5.00

 

Horseradish

 

£12.00

 

Kale

 

£6.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£2.95

 

Golden Wonder

 

£1.25

 

Kerr’s Pink

 

£1.25

 

Roosters

 

£1.25

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Sprouts (Inverness)

 

£2.35

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

White Turnip

 

£3.35

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Cucumber

 

£1.15

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£3.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.15

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Gala Apples

 

5 for £1.50

 

Washington Red Delicious

 

3 for £1.80

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Clementine’s

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.90

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.90

 

Blood Oranges

 

4 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Pomegranates

 

£1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.15

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Green Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Rhubarb

 

£6.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

Barra Airport could be named the most scenic in Europe this year.

The poll, annually run by PrivateFly, sees Barra competing against 12 other airports in Europe.

Other regional categories include North America; Central & South America & The Caribbean; Asia; Africa & The Middle East; and Australasia. 

PrivateFly stated: "We've shortlisted airports that have proved popular in previous polls - ranging from iconic cityscapes, to island and coastal approaches, to mountain top runways."

Voting will close on Sunday 15 March.

The survey can be found here.

Led Zeppelin's lead singer and lyricist will be taking to the stage at the Hebridean Celtic Festival’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Robert Plant and his latest musical collaboration will appear on the HebCelt stage on Thursday 16 July.

Saving Grace features Robert and fellow vocalist, Suzi Dian, Oli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone and acoustic guitars) and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic and baritone guitars, and cuatro).

Their sound has been described as bluesy and folk-inspired, which packs a punch ranging ‘from a whisper to a scream’.

Robert said of performing at HebCelt: “I have a deep and charged connection with those faraway islands and look forward to returning to the beautiful machair and to bring a different slant to my longstanding game."

Saving Grace will join Texas, Seasick Steve, Tide Lines and Julie Fowlis as some of the star names on the bill for the milestone festival.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “Our 25th anniversary festival is a very special occasion and the programme reflects that.

“Robert Plant is a legendary name in the music scene and it is so exciting that he and the other highly accomplished musicians in Saving Grace will be joining us for such a significant event.”

The 25th anniversary HebCelt will be held from 15-18 July in Lewis and Harris.

Also announced for the anniversary line up are Colin Macleod, Mischa Macpherson, Sean Harrison, Rusty Shackle, INYAL, Hecla, Ryan Young & Jenn Butterworth, Scott C Park, Nicky Murray and James Nicol.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has been appointed the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance in Jackson Carlaw’s new Shadow Cabinet.

In his first words after accepting his new position Mr Cameron emphasised that it will be his job to ensure that Scotland’s vital public services receive the money they need to improve.

Mr Cameron said: “I am delighted to have been entrusted with this responsibility as we move ever closer to next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.

“Finance is at the heart of all our ambitions for government and I will be working closely with Jackson and the shadow cabinet team to ensure that our policy commitments are matched to our financial resources.

“We have been dismayed by the SNP’s performance on our key public services and the Scottish Conservatives will be entirely focused on improving the performance of the NHS, our schools and the police. They desperately need a Government which is on their side and not distracted by obsessions about independence.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to play my part in moving Scotland forward and I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Mr Cameron’s previous role was as Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Europe and External Affairs. In his new position he will be shadowing Kate Forbes MSP, the new Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Alasdair Allan MSP will today (Tuesday 18 February) lead a Scottish Parliament debate on the benefits of Gaelic Medium Education (GME).
 
The Western Isles MSP, who will speak in the debate in Gaelic, will welcome Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s decision to enrol pupils entering Primary 1 into GME as the default choice.
 
The council adopted the GME policy - which was aimed at achieving “a significant rate of growth in Gaelic” in the islands - in December.
 
The debate comes after Scottish Tory Education spokesperson Liz Smith faced criticism for suggesting that educating pupils in Gaelic was a "worrying" and "troubling" move, which would put children at a “distinct disadvantage” to their peers.
 
Speaking in the debate, Alasdair Allan MSP will say: “There are wide-ranging benefits to bilingualism, from increased creativity, to heightened cognitive abilities, to greater job opportunities.
 
“Having two languages makes the third - and the fourth - easier to learn.
 
“I commend Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on taking this progressive step to secure the language within its heartland.
 
“And I would urge them to continue to go further for the language.
 
“Knowing what we know about the cognitive, cultural and social benefits of bilingualism in a regional language or mother tongue, education in the Gaelic language should be offered in every school, to every child in the Western Isles, and continue to grow elsewhere too.”
 

Two Barra businesses have been shortlisted for the Community Business of the Year Award in this year's Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland Celebrating Small Business Awards.

Bùth Bharraigh and Cobhair Bharraigh are two of the five small businesses shortlisted for the Community Business of the Year Award.

Bùth Bharraigh is a community social enterprise based on Barra. Its local produce shop sells food, wholefoods and fresh produce as well as local crafts. Local information, a laundrette, Wi-Fi and bike hire are also available.

Cobhair Bharraigh is a charitable organisation providing a care support service, which includes a home-based support service and day-care centre, enabling carers to have a short break and helping them to look after ill and frail family members within their own home on Barra and Vatersay.

The FSB states finalists are chosen because they are exceptional, not just in the Highlands and Islands but in Scotland as a whole, and as FSB Awards grow from strength-to-strength and the number of entries increases, so it is becoming ever harder for businesses to stand out from the crowd.

FSB Highlands and Islands Area Leader Hamish Fraser from Skye said: “A strong sense of community lies at the heart of Highlands and Islands society, and we have some really outstanding local community initiatives, enterprises and organisations playing a range of vitally important roles, many supported by volunteers.

“I’m absolutely delighted that two of the five Scottish Community Award finalists come from this region, and even more so that they both come from Barra; not bad for an island with fewer than 1,300 residents – with Vatersay!

“I wish them both well and look forward to celebrating the massive contribution that all our small businesses make to Scotland’s wellbeing at the finals in March.”

The Awards Lunch, on March 19 at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh (formerly The Caledonian), will see over 200 businesses from across Scotland gather to celebrate small businesses, self-employed workers and the huge contribution they all make to the Scottish economy and our communities.

Winners of Scottish Awards – all bar the Community Award, which is for Scotland only – go forward to the UK final in London in May.

The Highlands and Islands finalists heading to Edinburgh are:

Business Product Innovation - Glencoe Activities, Ballachulish

Community Business of the Year - Bùth Bharraigh, Barra AND Cobhair Bharraigh, Barra

Digital/e-Commerce - Yellow Cherry Digital, Inverness

International Business - The TEFL Org, Inverness

Micro Business - WOW Scotland, Tomatin

Self-employed/Sole Trader - My Primary Tutor, Inverness

A full list of all Scottish Finalists can be found here: https://www.fsbawards.co.uk/finals/scotland.html

Residents of Point and Sandwick are being asked to give their views on how the profits from the Beinn Ghrideag community wind farm should be spent.

The results of the consultation will help Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) shape its next five-year investment plan.

Members of the Trust, wherever they live, are also being asked to give their views as part of the community consultation which is now live online here.

There is a second questionnaire to complement the community survey and it will be sent directly to recipients of grants from Point and Sandwick Trust, about the impact these grants have had on their organisations. This will form the main part of a social impact review.

Point and Sandwick Trust have engaged the services of consultants from Impact Hub Inverness to carry out the social impact review and community consultation over the coming months, to find out how local causes and organisations have benefited from investment from the community wind farm. They will then be drafting a community plan for the next five years, outlining the next series of spending priorities.

Donald John MacSween, Point and Sandwick Trust general manager, said: “We are looking forward to hearing community views about how we delivered our first five-year community development plan, and especially their views about the next five years of community investment.

“These are uncertain, austere times, and PST will be there to help. We are not here to fill gaps in the funding of statutory services but we can, and will, make a difference with our three turbines and we remain ambitious to harness our abundant renewable resources to directly benefit our community.”

He added: “We are very fortunate to have engaged Impact Hub Inverness, who are recognised experts with years of experience in the social enterprise business field. We are also fortunate that we have had solid community support from our beginnings 15 years ago and I hope the community will take this chance to help us formulate and deliver the next five year plan.”

Norman Mackenzie, chair of Point and Sandwick Trust, added: “This consultation is an opportunity for all of our stakeholders to have a say and help shape the future direction of Point and Sandwick Trust’s investment in our community.

“I think that our community grant scheme has proved to be a great help to local groups and it has made a significant contribution to social cohesion and wellbeing within our community. I have no doubt that this form of community support will continue to be central to our activities but, from a personal point of view, I also think we need to consider how we can invest for the future.

“I would urge everyone taking part in this consultation to make the most of the opportunity to make their views known and inform directors as to the type of community investment and support they would like to see PST be involved in over the next five years.”

Two previous in-depth consultations were undertaken by Point and Sandwick Trust, in 2009 and 2013, resulting in the Point and Sandwick Trust Community Investment Plan, now nearing completion. The new plan is due to be presented at the Annual General Meeting in November.

Pictures show Polly Chapman and Brian Weaver of Impact Hub Inverness and Beinn Ghrideag wind farm.

Pictures by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos.

Community projects in the Western Isles are set to share a major funding boost as the Co-op welcomes the latest causes to its Local Community Fund.

Castlebay Hall, Uist Community Riding School, Barra Youth Cafe Project, Uist Youth Cafe, Feis Bharraigh, North Uist Agricultural Society and Balivanich Play Park are all set to benefit from funding.

The causes directly benefit from members trading with their Co-op across its food and funeral business areas. In addition to the personal benefits they receive for themselves, one per cent of the purchase value also goes into the local community fund pot. Members can decide how the money is allocated and are encouraged to select the causes they wish to support online.

Nick Crofts, President of the Co-op Council, whose representatives are voted for by the millions of members it represents said: "As a member-owned business with a presence in every community across the UK, the Co-op is continuing to create value for millions of members and thousands of local causes.

"By becoming a Co-op member not only are you receiving great personal rewards and benefits, you are directly helping to support vital community groups in your area."

Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community and Shared Value at the Co-op said: "Thanks to our members since 2016 more than £56 million has been raised for over 16,000 causes that make a real difference in their local communities.

"Whether it is by protecting and improving community spaces, helping people reach their full potential by developing their skills, or promoting health and wellbeing, the money generated by our Local Community Fund changes lives in communities across UK."

 

 

 

 

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society extend a warm welcome to all those who have an interest in piping to come and listen to Sarah Muir in the Caladh Hotel on Saturday, February 29 at 7.30pm.

Sarah is the third piper to play an evening recital, and give a daytime workshop, in Stornoway this winter as part of a new programme organised by the Piping Society. Tickets are available on the door.

Sarah was born in Campbeltown, a part of the country that has produced many distinguished pipers over the years but today she lives in Glasgow and teaches piping in Fife schools.

She herself is taught by the well-known piper Willie McCallum and she has been doing very well in the professional competitions over the past year or two.

She won the prize for Ceol Mòr at the Portree Games last year and this qualifies her for an invitation to the Pipe Major Donald Macleod Memorial Piping Competition in April. She is the first lady to play at that competition.

Dr John Smith, chairman of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said: “Although a lot of girls learn to play the pipes in school, very few of them continue once they have left school. But it’s good to see that more and more of them are taking advantage of various courses available such as those run by the Conservatoire in Glasgow and that brings them up to the level where they can play with the best pipers in the country. 

“The Lewis and Harris Piping Society used to run a series of recitals over the winter when they invited some of the best pipers in the country to come and play for them but sadly that lapsed a few years ago. We are very pleased that we have been able to resurrect a programme of recitals. 

“Although many pipe tunes can be heard on CDs and iTunes, there is nothing quite like watching and listening to the great Highland pipe being played live in front of an audience. Come out and listen to her.”

Theatre in Schools Scotland brings performances of Catherine Wheels Theatre Company’s powerful production Lifeboat, by Nicola McCartney, to primary schools on the Isle of Lewis sponsored by The Scottish Salmon Company and supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Theatre in Schools Scotland tours world-class theatre and dance performances to primary schools across Scotland and is bringing Lifeboat by Nicola McCartney, presented by award-winning Scottish theatre company Catherine Wheels to P5 - P7 pupils in Lewis on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February 2020.

A total of 465 families in the Western Isles have benefitted from a Baby Box, the latest figures show.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has hailed the success of the Scottish Government Baby Box scheme.

Each box contains a selection of clothes, as well as everyday must-haves, like a bath towel, a travel changing mat, muslin cloth squares, a bib, a digital thermometer, and books.

The box now also includes a reusable nappy voucher, which dozens of families in the Western Isles have taken advantage of.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: “Every child, regardless of their circumstances, should get the best start in life.

“At the heart of the Baby Box is a message about tackling inequality, improving health and supporting new parents - which is why I’m delighted to see that 465 have been sent to families across the islands.

“96% of expectant parents are now requesting a Baby Box – and more than 120,000 have been delivered across Scotland.

“That’s a huge vote of confidence in the Baby Box, which will be vitally important in our efforts to ensure that all children get the best start in life.”

 

With the 75th anniversaries of VE day and VJ day due to be celebrated in 2020, the search is on to find the oldest surviving women of the Second World War and to mark their contribution.

The Women’s Royal Army Corps Association has launched a #FindourOATS campaign, to see if they can locate veterans of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and include their memories in the anniversary celebrations.

During the Second World War women served a vital role in the armed forces, with over 300,000 of them serving as clerks, drivers, code-breakers and manning AckAck guns.

And according to local WRACA representative Janice Maciver, the fact that there may not have been as many roles for women actually in the islands themselves does not mean they weren’t involved.

She said: “We are trying to find out if Western Isles women did join up and go away to serve. For all we know they could have served anywhere on the mainland and may still be alive, with memories they could share.

“Families may also have memories or photographs of a relative during her army service. We’re really keen to celebrate anyone who was in the ATS, or who has family who were.

“They may not still be alive, but their legacy is massive. They were strong women who paved the way for all the service females who came after them.”

Anyone who has information can contact the team via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or read the full appeal on Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/wracassociation/

Concerns have been raised that a proposed bottle return scheme could put small breweries at risk.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron warns that the Deposit Return Scheme, due to be introduced in 2021, could impose extra costs on local breweries.  

Mr Cameron revealed that he has been contacted by industry representatives and has written to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, expressing his concern and demanding assurances.

“I want to see clear evidence from the minister that this scheme has been properly thought through and its implications for producers in the Highlands and Islands have been addressed.

“We desperately need to encourage entrepreneurs to set up new businesses in our region and it is vital that we do not count the cost of this scheme in lost jobs and missed opportunities.”

Mr Cameron said: “In principle, I support measures to reduce waste, and re-using bottles is an excellent way of doing that.

“However it is crucial that any scheme doesn’t unfairly put our smaller breweries at risk due to them bearing disproportionately high costs compared to larger companies in the Central Belt.

“One of the success stories of the Highlands and Islands has been the establishment of a fantastic range of local craft breweries in recent years, such as Fyne Ales or Glen Spean Brewing to name just a couple.

“However, setting up a small business can be very demanding, and we shouldn’t add to that by introducing more costs and bureaucracy, especially if such businesses don’t benefit from the economies of scale of larger concerns. Many breweries in the Highlands and Islands also have to bear the extra cost of getting their goods to market using an increasingly stretched transport infrastructure.”


The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New woodland, Balivanich

Forestry Commission Scotland has applied for planning permission to create woodland at 28 Muir of Aird, Balivanich.

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New facilities building and motorhome pitch, Horgabost

South Harris Community Council has applied for planning permission to erect a facilities building and construct a motorhome pitch at Talla Na Mara Pairc, Niseaboist, Horgabost. The facilities building is to be 2.79 metres wide, 7.47 metres long and 2.44 metres tall. Work is to include creating parking for seven cars, installing a new treatment tank sized for up to 18 people, and erecting signage. 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New facilities building and motorhome pitch, Horgabost

South Harris Community Council has applied for planning permission to erect a facilities building and construct a motorhome pitch at Talla Na Mara Pairc, Niseaboist, Horgabost. The facilities building is to be 2.79 metres wide, 7.47 metres long and 2.44 metres tall. Work is to include creating parking for seven cars, installing a new treatment tank sized for up to 18 people, and erecting signage. 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Demolition and erection of extension, Carloway

Neal Ingram of 15 Knock, Carloway, has applied for planning permission to demolish the existing single-storey rear extension at 15 Knock, Carloway, and erect a 1.5-storey extension. 

Storage building for community use, Point

Point Agricultural Society has applied for planning permission to build a storage building in Upper Aird, Point. The building is to be for community use, specifically for storing agricultural equipment, and livestock feed and bedding. The building is to be 12.2 metres wide, 18.3 metres long and 5.1 metres tall. 

Crown Estate money totalling £1.7 million is to be split between all the council wards in the Western Isles.

The money is the Western Isles share of £7.5 million of revenue generated from the Scottish Crown Estate’s marine assets, in the first year of devolved management.

The national share was calculated by Scottish Government in consultation with COSLA, based on each council’s share of the adjacent sea area. The £1.7 million share for Na h-Eileanan an Iar was allocated to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as initial recipient for the revenues.

At the time of the allocation, in October 2019, Comhairle leader Roddie Mackay said that a protocol would be put in place for disbursement to communities.

It’s now understood that every ward in the Western Isles is to get a share of the cash for expenditure on infrastructure and amenities, with hub groups to be set up in the next few weeks in each ward area to discuss distribution.

There are nine council wards in the Western Isles, meaning that if the cash were to split on a straight proportional basis each ward would see just under £190,000. Distribution is, however, as likely to be in proportion to ward population or according to some other demographic formula.

Welcoming the funding allocation from Scottish Government last year, Comhairle leader Councillor Roddie Mackay said: “As a result of vigorous lobbying by the Comhairle and others, the Smith Commission of 2014 recommended that these revenues be returned to the communities hosting the developments and now Scottish Ministers are honouring that recommendation with £1.7m of Scottish Crown Estate revenues returning to the Outer Hebrides from the first year of devolved management.

“We are now starting to see real, tangible benefits from our many years of sustained lobbying – our communities will now have a say in how the marine estate is developed and revenues from these developments will now return to those same communities.”

Representatives of the North Harris Trust and West Harris Trust met the board of Crown Estate Scotland in 2018 at Talla na Mara in Harris to discuss the management of Crown Estate Scotland land. (Picture from Crown Estate Scotland).

All sailings have been cancelled for today (Monday 17 February.)

CalMac have warned that sailings tomorrow (Tuesday 18 February) are liable for cancellation or disruption at short notice.  

A review for tomorrow's sailing will take place today.

Sailings for Tuesday and Wednesday (19 February) have been amended due to an annual overhaul programme.

The scheduled sailings will depart from Castlebay at 8am, arriving in Oban at 1:30pm.

The Oban sailing will leave at 2:30pm and arrive in Castlebay at 8pm.

The culture and heritage of the Western Isles could create international marketing opportunities for island businesses, and a free seminar this month is aimed at helping make the most of the chance.

The sessions, in Stornoway on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 February and in Benbecula on Tuesday 25 February, are being planned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and booking is now open for the free places.

Our Culture and Heritage: International Market Opportunities is targeted at businesses in the heritage, tourism and creative industries, offering a chance to find out how you can use heritage and culture to expand business internationally.

The event description says: “The unique culture and heritage of the Outer Hebrides can be harnessed to create significant trading relationships across global markets. To help local organisations tap into this unique opportunity, we’re running events in Stornoway and Benbecula, in partnership with the Great Place Scheme.

“There are two events in each location. One is an open information session for any organisation interested in utilising heritage and culture to attract international markets. It will highlight the vast opportunities available and give practical advice to organisations to help them realise their potential.

“The second is an intensive workshop for organisations already attracting or aiming to attract international audiences but want to develop a strategic plan to ensure sustainable growth. This workshop will explore topics such as market research, routes to market, contractual considerations and the benefits of collaboration.”

The Stornoway events are at the Caberfeidh Hotel and in Benbecula delegates will meet at the Dark Island Hotel. 

 

 

A new hub for young people is to open in Stornoway on Friday (21 February), as part of a national celebration for care-experienced young people.

Care Day takes place each February across Scotland and is organised by Who Cares? Scotland, the national third-sector membership and advocacy organisation. Care Day raises awareness and understanding of care, and celebrates the talents of care-experienced young people and their friends.

The launch of the hub will be accompanied by the first flying of the new Western Isles care flag, which has been designed by young people. It features flowers representing the blossoming of potential and footsteps to represent the care journey.

The flag will be raised at 10.30am on Friday at the council offices on Sandwick Road to symbolise both the power of the voices of young people and the fact that Care Day is a time for the whole community to show its support.

Joining young people on the day will be Paul Sullivan, participation, policy and influencing manager with the Independent Care Review Secretariat. He’ll be speaking with young people, professionals, parents and carers about what is being proposed by the review for the future of care in Scotland.

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.

He said: “It’s going to be a real partnership-based space, where group participatory opportunities and individual support for care experienced and other young people in the Western Isles takes place.”

The hub will be officially re-named on Care Day by the young people, who have also chosen the paint and decorations. 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.

An independent advocacy service for young people on the islands is also to be offered. This independent advocacy service sits alongside partnerships with services across the Comhairle that are supporting a growing range of participatory opportunities for children and young people, including the clubs and groups which will call the new hub home.

A new Harris Tweed designer range, born entirely of island skill, design and weather, is to be launched for orders at Hebridean Celtic Festival 2020.

Kiltmaker and designer Netty Sopata of Diggory Brown is not only creating and stitching the designs, but originated the wool from her family’s flock of Hebridean sheep on their croft in Ness.

And her idea of creating a zero-waste, sustainable designer range has pulled in talents in Lewis, Harris and Uist to complete the whole process, from fleece, to cloth and into beautiful clothing.

Netty said: "I have been using Harris Tweed cloth in my work for nearly 14 years, but through weaver Sheila Roderick of Scalpay Linen I first became aware of Hebridean sheep and the feasibility of using their wool for weaving yarn.

“I initially worked with Rebecca Hutton of Taobh Tuath Tweeds in Northton, Harris and with Hebridean Yarn from Uist Wool. Through this project I became aware that there would be an opportunity to send fleeces from Lewis to Uist, to be processed into yarn, woven and then returned to work with in my studio.

“I convinced the shepherd in the family that we should experiment with our own flock of Hebridean sheep. Over the past four to five years the flock has grown and we can now send enough wool to be processed into weaving yarn at Uist Wool and then woven into Harris Tweed cloth by Rebecca.

“The flock is based in Ness and the whole family is involved in maintaining them. Our first bolt of Harris Tweed was created last year. This year we've experimented slightly with dividing the colour shades of the wool during the sorting process, so a subtle pattern can be created without being dependent on dyes.”

The finished cloth is being made into a range of zero-waste garment designs, to be launched at HebCelt in July and then available for order, while the Harris Tweed itself will also be available to buy in lengths.

Netty said: “The colour and texture are beautiful to work with and the ability to make decisions on yarn specifications with the technicians at Uist Wool is enabling us to create a really unique range of tweeds – all within the Harris Tweed specifications of course!"

The pictures show the Hebridean sheep at the family croft in Ness and a prototype of the finished designs for waistcoat and kilt, made entirely within the Western Isles (Diggory Brown).

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks have reported just one fault outstanding after the impact of Storm Dennis last night, with 17 properties in the Ness district off power this morning (Monday 17 February).

The homes in North Dell have been without power since 8am after wires came down in the strong winds. Engineers are on site and repairs under way, with power expected to be restored by 12 noon.

An SSEN spokesman said that the network had been ‘remarkably resilient’ during successive waves of wild weather since January and thanked any customers who may have been affected by the short outages for their patience.

CalMac’s veteran ferry MV Isle of Lewis is back in the water at Aberdeen harbour as she nears the end of her annual overhaul.

But the ship, which serves the Oban-Castlebay lifeline service for Barra, will be late to return to service after a painstaking upgrade which has seen new pitch control systems among other innovations introduced.

In October last year CalMac announced that it would be investing a record amount in the winter maintenance programme, which requires that all 33 vessels in the fleet must be brought in for overhaul and maintenance.

CalMac's Director of Asset Management, Julie Philpott, said: “For those not involved in the refit process the sheer scale of the tasks involved is hard to picture. Last year we fitted more then 11km of electrical wiring and this year new CCTV networks and pitch control systems alone will see 18km of new cable installed.

“Some communities may lose their regular vessel for longer periods due to the scale of the work being carried out this winter. However, this additional time out of timetable will help support delivery of a more resilient service in the long term. Customers will be able to see meaningful improvements in service.”

The Isle of Lewis was due to be back at Castlebay today (Sunday 16 February) but is still alongside Aberdeen Harbour’s Commercial Quay. An amended timetable has been put in place for the Castlebay-Oban route on Tuesday and Wednesday to manage the delayed overhaul schedule, assuming services can run at all in the weather.

The picture shows MV Isle of Lewis beside the quay at Aberdeen on Friday (Lewis Mackenzie).

Ferry cancellations and a growing roar from oncoming storm force winds greeted Islanders across the Hebrides this morning (Sunday February 16).

There's a renewed and extended Yellow Warning for Wind from the Met Office to run between 10:00 (UTC) on Sunday 16 February and 11:00 (UTC) on Monday 17 February.

Ferry services cancelled include those from Castlebay, Lochboisdale, Eriskay, Lochmaddy, Berneray, Stornoway and Tarbert.  All services on the CalMac network are affected in some way.

Western Isles police warned that the Isle of Lewis might once again be cut off from Point after midday today but in the end the road link remained passable.

But Boradbay became a haven for stormbound vessels with two cargo ships and two large fishing vessels taking shelter there.

Storm Dennis will bring some very strong winds and transport disruption during Sunday and into Monday morning.

Gusts of 50-60 mph are likely quite widely within the warning area for much of the period. Gusts of 70 mph are likely at times, more especially across western Scotland on Sunday afternoon and evening, as well as in association with heavy showers elsewhere. A separate swathe of 70-75 mph gusts probably crossing the far north of Scotland and Orkney for a time early on Monday.

What to expect:
    •    Some delays to road, rail, air and ferry transport are likely
    •    Probably some bus and train services affected, with some journeys taking longer
    •    Delays for high-sided vehicles on exposed routes and bridges likely
    •    Some short term loss of power and other services is possible
    •    It’s likely that some coastal routes, sea fronts and coastal communities affected by spray and/or large waves

The warning extended the area affected further south into parts of south-west England, and north into Shetland.

Three Coastguard Rescue Teams were called to Shawbost on Saturday (15 February) to help recover a walker who had been injured on a coastal path near the beach.

Scottish Ambulance asked for assistance around 11am after the woman called them. She had injured her leg during the height of Saturday’s bad weather and they were unable to lift her to the ambulance for further assistance.

Coastguard Rescue Teams from Bragar, Breasclete and Ness went to the scene and assisted the casualty using a stretcher, carrying her to the ambulance which then took her onwards to Western Isles Hospital.

Stornoway CRT was also tasked to bring their all-terrain vehicle (ATV) but were stood down before leaving the town area as the rescue had been achieved.

Stornoway RNLI Coxswain DI Murray was delighted to receive a donation on behalf of the local station of £1,000 from staff and customers of the Co-operative store, Macaulay Road, Stornoway.

Store Manager Steven Cooper and Co-op Area Manager Danny Simpson recently presented DI with the donation cheque, raised through a raffle, bag-packing, and in-store collection buckets.

The RNLI say: "Thank you to staff and customers for the fantastic donation!

"And further thanks to the Macaulay Road Co-Op store for hosting the Stornoway Lifeboat Fundraisers for three days in January as they held the annual RNLI SOS Raffle.

"A magnificent total of £1,074.50 was raised for Stornoway RNLI.

"Thank you again to staff and customers – Stornoway RNLI can’t do what they do without the funds raised by you!"

(photograph from left): Stornoway RNLI Coxswain DI Murray, Macaulay Road Co-op Manager Steven Cooper, and Co-Op Area Manager Danny Simpson.

The battering of the nameless storm which struck the Islands this morning is expected to reduce this afternoon…before the build-up starts to tomorrow's storm.

Roads were closed, ferries cancelled or delayed and other services disrupted as the weather system swept across the Hebrides.

Tempers flared over the latest closure of the Braighe Causeway near Stornoway.  HM Coastguard said at 12.45pm that they were “dismayed to report” abuse offered to their volunteer team by an individual who then chose to attempt to cross the Braighe during dangerous conditions.  A Coastguard spokesman said: “We re-iterate that this closure is for public safety, we appreciate the inconvenience and services will re-open the road as soon as deemed safe. Please bear with us, we are there for public safety.” 

Braighe Causeway reopens after 4.5 hours

The Braighe Causeway (A866) was closed for four-and-a-half hours before being reopened to traffic around 2.23pm today.

At  9.50am today (Saturday February 15) HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber announced on Facebook that it was closing the Braighe causeway at the request of Highland Islands Police Division.

HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber stayed in attendance at Point side until about 1.30pm, while Comhairle nan Eilean Siar took over the town side closure from Police Scotland. The Coastguard left the town side about 11.15am.

Police Scotland warned after the Braighe link between Point and Stornoway was closed yesterday morning at 9.35am that "There may be similar disruptions at high tides this evening at 11.10pm, Saturday at 11.30am and Sunday at 12.15am.

"Please take this into consideration when planning travel around these times. We will continue to update."

The Coastguard later stated: "We’re dismayed to report that our team were subject to abuse this morning by an individual who then chose to attempt to cross the causeway. We reiterate that this closure is for public safety, we appreciate the inconvenience and all services will reopen the road as soon as deemed safe. Please bear with us, we are there for public safety.

Once conditions have improved, road cleaners from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar removed all debris from the route before it was reopened to traffic.

Since the previous storm period, it has been agreed by local authorities that there will be no intermediate stage of closure, no convoy systems or partial reopening.  Given that today's high tide was not until 11.22am and that there will be a far longer period of closure while the road is cleared as a result of the new policy, it was not expected that the road would reopen until well into the afternoon. 

Ferry disruption – Saturday

Notices of disruption have now been posted on all 28 of CalMac’s west coast and Hebrides routes.

The Sound of Barra service was cancelled this morning, with a review due at 2.30pm regarding this afternoon’s sailings. There is no sailing scheduled between Oban and Castlebay today and a review this afternoon will decide whether Sunday’s service will run..

On the Uig triangle all morning sailings were cancelled and a review is due at 1pm for a revised timetable, starting from Lochmaddy at 4.10pm and serving Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy. This is intended to run this afternoon and evening, weather permitting, during a lull in the gales.

On the Stornoway Ullapool route, MV Loch Seaforth is expected to run to schedule from 6.30pm, leaving Ullapool. Freight services tonight and passenger services tomorrow are under warning of disruption and cancellation.

This morning’s Sound of Harris service was cancelled and a review is due at 1pm regarding sailings from 2.40pm onwards, departing Berneray.

Sailings between Mallaig/Oban and Lochboisdale are cancelled today and in doubt for tomorrow.

Power out in Lochs, North Uist

Gales affected power in South Lochs last night, with 211 customers losing power after a pole caught fire – Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSEN) engineers had the supply restored by midnight.

Today some customers in Lochmaddy and in the Grenitote and Solas area of North Uist are without power after wires came down around 8am. SSEN engineers are on site and it’s expected that supply will be restored by 1pm.

Flights

Loganair has implemented their flight-change offer for passengers due to fly during Storm Dennis tomorrow (Sunday 16 February).

The airline’s offer is available for passengers flying to or from Barra, Benbecula or Stornoway.

A Loganair statement says: “In view of the high winds forecast and potential for travel disruption, if you are booked to travel on 16th February, you can choose to re-book on an alternative flight between now and 23rd February on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The easiest way to change your flight is to access www.loganair.co.uk/managemybooking

"If you cannot find a suitable alternative there, please call on 0344 800 2855 with your booking reference handy and we’ll do our best to help.

“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.”

Warnings from Met Office

Storm Dennis will bring some very strong winds and transport disruption during Sunday and into Monday morning. There's a Yellow Warning for Wind across Outer Hebrides and Highland from 10am tomorrow to midday on Monday.
What to expect
    •    Some delays to road, rail, air and ferry transport are likely
    •    Probably some bus and train services affected, with some journeys taking longer
    •    Delays for high-sided vehicles on exposed routes and bridges likely
    •    Some short term loss of power and other services is possible
    •    It’s likely that some coastal routes, sea fronts and coastal communities affected by spray and/or large waves

Updated: 10:19 (UTC) on Sat 15 Feb 2020

Some very strong winds are likely in association with Storm Dennis. Gusts of 50-60 mph are likely quite widely within the warning area for much of the period. Gusts to 70 mph are likely at times, more especially across western Scotland on Sunday afternoon into Sunday evening with a separate swathe of 70 mph gusts probably crossing northern Scotland and Orkney for a time early on Monday.

Reason for update
The warning area has been extended north to include Orkney and the overall impact level has been changed to low. The start time has been brought forward by a couple of hours.

 

Prospective and experienced growers in North Lewis are invited to get together at Clan Macquarrie in Borve on Tuesday 25 February (from 7pm until 8.30pm).

Clan Macquarrie Community Centre – supported by Community Energy Scotland - are looking to encourage anyone interested in growing fruit and vegetables, for their own consumption or commercially, to come along to hear from those who are already doing this for themselves and who can offer support and advice to others interested in developing their knowledge and starting growing.

The session is a one-off event, being run by Clan Macquarrie under their current Scottish Government Climate Challenge Fund project, which formally ends at the end of March. 

There is, however, no problem with a group forming locally afterwards if people are interested in meeting again – and Clan Macquarrie will be happy to offer their facilities to help if it is required for future meetings etc.

You don’t need to have a polytunnel/polycrub to attend – Clan Macquarrie expects the information relayed at the session will help all growers.

At the meeting on Tuesday 25, attendees will have an opportunity to hear from representatives from various bodies e.g. the Lewis & Harris Horticultural Producers, Horshader Community Development, Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn and SAC Consulting, Stornoway. We also hope to have some experienced local growers in attendance. All with the intention of sharing knowledge, encouraging others and identifying not only the benefits but also the challenges of (and hopefully solutions to) growing our own food in a difficult climate – there may even be a taster for some locally grown produce!

Clan Macquarrie are keen to gauge the likely interest in this session and have asked that interested parties let them know in advance of their intention to attend – an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or a call to 01851 850751 would be very helpful. That said, they are equally happy for folk to just turn up on the evening.

The second phase of the Point and Sandwick Community Coastal Path project is about to begin, after Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) pledged the final piece of funding.

The community wind farm charity, which runs the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm, is to donate £9,000 towards work on the historic Shulishader steps – the 88 steps which lead steeply down to the geodha (Gaelic for cove), an old landing site for fishing boats which is enjoying renewed popularity as a wild swimming spot. 

To improve safety, the steps will be cleaned up and restored and a hand rail will be installed. An access path of around 300 metres is also to be created.

The work at Shulishader is part of a £1 million project to create a clear walking route from Stornoway along the Braighe and all the way round the peninsula of Point.

Once complete, it will be 40km long and form part of the legacy of Point and Sandwick Trust’s community wind farm, as one of the key funders. 

The first phase of the path, carried out in late 2018, involved shoring up the sea wall outside Eaglais na h-Aoidhe and building a better path along the coastline towards Aignish. That phase cost £114,00, with £57,000 from LEADER and the remainder from the Beinn Ghrideag profits.

Norman Mackenzie, chair of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “At PST we recognise the long-lasting value that the coastal path can bring to our area, both socially and economically.

“By providing easier access to our coastline, for the benefit of locals and tourists alike, the coastal path committee are making a real contribution to improving quality of life and opportunity in our area. By restoring the steps and opening access to the geodha at Shulishader, this second phase builds on the coastal protection work carried out at the Eaglais na h-Aoidhe site and ensures that a second historic site in our area can be preserved for the benefit of future generations.”

Point and Sandwick Trust’s community consultants, Alasdair Nicholson and Tony Robson, have been working with the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path committee on the phased project and are pleased to be embarking on phase two, which will also include marking out the walking route from the Braighe to Swordale – a distance of around 2km – with marker posts and putting in a number of gates for access.

Alasdair Nicholson said: “I am pleased that we are able to have put the funding together for this next step with support from PST, the Landfill Trust and a contribution from the grazings committee. These developments help responsible public access but also create new opportunities for crofting townships to diversify economic development.”

Tony Robson added: “It’s great to see this gem of a place being made more accessible.”

Work on the Shulishader steps and access track is likely to begin at the end of February and take around a month, with the handrail being made separately.  

In addition to Point and Sandwick Trust, a number of other groups and organisations have helped fund phase two of the coastal path. They include the Scottish Landfill Fund, which committed £7,000 and is administered locally by Third Sector Hebrides, and the Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee, which donated £4,000.

Erica Geddes, administration manager for Third Sector Hebrides, said: “Third Sector Hebrides are approved by SEPA to administer their Scottish Landfill Community Fund which distributes money from landfill taxes to support Scottish projects. This has enabled us to fund local community groups such as Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path SCIO group with eligible projects such as Shulishader steps and community access pathway.

“We have supported Point and Sandwick Trust on a number of local projects and I am sure we will work on more over the next few years. These local projects allow public amenities to be restored, ensuring they are safe and also accessible to the general public. We have no doubt that this project will be beneficial to the local community and given its beautiful surroundings will also be enjoyed by visitors to the area.” 

Matt Bruce, chair of the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path committee, said: “I am delighted the plans to carry out more works to the community path can be put into place so quickly. The reaction from all parties involved has been so supportive and we are now able to carry out the maintenance and improvement works needed to allow better access.

“This is one of the many interesting local features which are easy to forget about – we should all be welcoming the fact that better facilities are coming to our neighbourhood.”

Iain MacSween, clerk to the grazings committee, said they were delighted the work would begin soon. “We’ve been talking about it for quite some time and it’s great to see it finally getting underway. The steps themselves are a historical landmark in Shulishader.”

He recalled the “great summer pastime” of launching smaller toy boats from the bay, as a child, but said it had been at least 40 years since any proper work was done on the steps.

He added: “We are extremely grateful to the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path committee for pushing this and we are proud to be associated with them in reinstating the steps and improving it as an amenity – not just for Shulishader but for the wider community.”

Donald Taylor, a resident of Shulishader, also welcomed the project, having campaigned for it for years. He also hopes to see a bench erected at the top of the steps in the future, in memory of a Aird primary teacher Chrissie Murray, whose croft ended there, and a picnic area down at the cove itself.

Donald, who spent a lot of time out in his uncle’s boat as a youngster, said: “I’m pleased to see this work… and I’ll be more pleased when I see it finished.”

To mark the occasion, a photocall was held at the steps recently, involving the various organisations and people involved in organising the second phase of the coastal path.

Wild swimmer Colin S Macleod, who runs the Hebridean Sea Swimmers Facebook page, came along with some friends to take a dip in the bay to celebrate the news.

Colin said: “I’m really pleased to hear that the 88 steps are going to be cleaned up and a safety handrail put into place in this historical sheltered bay.

“I’ve been wild swimming there a few times. It’s such a beautiful place with a fantastic coast to be viewed from sea level. We’ll definitely be back there again.”

The photocall was also attended by Donald MacSween, secretary of Falmadair, the North Lewis Heritage Sailing Trust, which endorsed the coastal path committee’s funding bid and hopes to hold future events in the bay, especially during the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020. As a community boat trust, Falmadair has sgothean in its curation similar to those that would have been in use when Shulishader was a working bay.

Pictures from the Shulishader steps. (Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos)

Police are appealing for information to help trace a missing man who may have travelled to Stornoway.

52 year-old Michael Webster has been reported missing from his home in Ayr.

Police say enquiries have established Mr Webster was in Dingwall on Wednesday 5 February and travelled to Ullapool later on the same day.

He was seen on Ullapool CCTV and it is believed he may have travelled to Stornoway on the evening ferry.

Mr Webster is described as being 6ft tall and of medium build with brown hair.

He is a keen walker and is known to camp out or sleep rough.

Officers are keen to establish that he is safe and well.

Anyone who may have seen or had any contact with Mr Webster at any time since he was last seen is asked to make contact.

Anyone with information as to Michael’s whereabouts should contact 101 and quote incident no: 2450 of 05/02/2020.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney opened an exhibition in Stornoway detailing the creation of a powerful art installation commemorating the Iolaire disaster.

The widely praised and much-visited ‘Sheòl an Iolaire/The Iolaire Sailed’, was commissioned by Stornoway Port Authority and installed on the town’s South Beach ahead of the 2019 centenary of the tragedy.

The sculpture, designed by Torcuil Crichton and Malcolm Maclean, was envisaged as a temporary installation, but in response to enormous public demand, the Port Authority has applied for planning permission to leave the installation in place as a permanent reminder of one of the worst maritime tragedies in United Kingdom waters.

The exhibition in the ferry terminal comprises photographs, time lapse film, aerial films, poetry and paintings  of Sheol An Iolaire from its conception to its installation. Malcolm Maclean thanked all of those whose work was on show in the exhibition and the many hundreds of others who were too numerous for inclusion. He went on to commend the ferry terminal as potentially a great new venue for Stornoway and hoped this would be the first of many exhibitions, music performances  and and other events that could be held there in the years to come. 

Mr Swinney also met Inverness-based businessman Stewart Graham who is driving plans to establish a world class Iolaire Visitor Centre not far from the art installation.

The HMY Iolaire struck rocks outside Stornoway harbour on 1 January 1919 when it was taking WWI veterans back to the Isles of Lewis and Harris – 201 of the 280 men on board perished.

The 189-foot-long installation reproduces the dimensions of the ship and located in the harbour where it was due to berth. It features 280 wooden posts – one for each of the men on board the fateful voyage – with 79 painted white to represent the survivors.

Each post is lit with a waterproof footlight and at night, and when covered by the tide, the outline of the ship can still be seen beneath the waves.

It formed a highly visible part of the Iolaire centenary commemorations last year and has become a hugely popular site for both residents and visitors, while online images have attracted thousands more to the Iolaire legacy. There has also been a tremendous artistic response, some of which has been curated into an exhibition in the Stornoway ferry terminal.

Sheòl an Iolaire has been recognised by the Stornoway Amenity Trust’s Community Public Service Award for the individual or the group which has done the most to promote the town in 2019. It has been registered as a war memorial by the Imperial War Museum and has been listed for a John Byrne award.

Murdo Murray, chairman of Stornoway Port Authority, said: “We are extremely grateful to Mr Swinney for opening the exhibition telling the story of Sheòl an Iolaire which is a poignant and innovative commemoration of an event that had a huge impact on our community.

“We feel it should now remain as a permanent memorial alongside the new visitor centre as a legacy of the centenary events. Together they will tell the powerful and moving story of this terrible tragedy which should never be forgotten.”

Torcuil Crichton paid tribute to fellow artist Malcolm Maclean from Uig, as well as Stornoway Port Authority and their engineers, Wallace Stone and Stornoway Trust, who quickly grasped the potential of the idea.

“That Sheòl an Iolaire is still standing, is testament to their skill and ability to turn a concept into a real construction”, he said.

He added: “Sheòl an Iolaire tells the whole story of the tragedy in the simplest way possible, we brought the ship home.

“But on such a sensitive subject people bring their own memories and emotions to the site which changes with every visit. The incredible artistic response, some of which is in the walls of the ferry terminal, is part of that. The public response has been amazing and shows what can happen when people are left to make up their own minds”.

The Port Authority and Mr Graham, as well as the Stornoway Trust; An Lanntair arts centre; Museum nan Eilean; local historical societies and others, are part of a working group that has proposed the visitor centre.

Stewart Graham, founder of the international Gael Force Group which began life in his home town of Stornoway, said: “The Iolaire Centre will mark the maritime disaster at Stornoway’s Number 1 pier.

“Following consultation with the community in 2018, there was strong support for a visitor experience to commemorate the tragedy and its impact on the islands in the following period.  The vision for the centre is to create a space that tells, not only the Iolaire story, but that of the wider context of the island’s maritime history and war involvement.

“The centre will seek to tell the story sensitively and with due respect, over a century after the tragedy. It is expected that the centre would be both a lasting commemorative introspection and a world class visitor experience that supports a major, transformational, economic boost for the Islands.”

Music at the opening was provided by singers from the Dìleab project and Willie Campbell who sang ‘My Time Was Not At Hand’, one of the songs performed when Mr Swinney was among the audience at Celtic Connections recently.  Mr Swinney spoke at the opening event about how moving he had found the original Dileab event in December 2018 which he watched on-line and the entire Iolaire commemoration as it developed.

The event in the Stornoway Ferry Terminal building is also seen as pioneering the use of the terminal as a venue for performances and exhibitions with the audience being impressed by the excellence of the acoustics.

Top photograph: John Swinney (centre) with artist Malcolm Maclean (left) and local MSP Alasdair Allan

Middle photograph: The art form, the artist and the minister. Photograph by Chris Murray

Lower middle photograph: Willie Campbell with singers and musicians from the Dileab event

 

Residents at Blar Buidhe care home heard the patter of tiny hooves yesterday (Thursday 13 February) as two miniature therapy ponies made their first visit.

The miniature Shetland ponies are therapy horses in training, based in the Western Isles and learning their trade through visits to care homes and individuals with care needs.

And based on the smiles at Blar Buidhe, which is operated by HC-One, they were a big hit with residents and staff alike.

Care manager Donald McIntosh said: “Our activities co-ordinator is always looking for new things to do and she came up with this idea. A lot of residents had animals or pets in their past lives, so we want to keep them having that enjoyment in their lives where we can.”

The ponies are the latest therapy animals to work their magic at Blar Buidhe, which already has a pair of resident cats, sisters called Daisy and Dolly, who have lived there since they were kittens. Their job is to spread their affection around the laps, beds and welcoming hands of as many residents as possible.

Working alongside them is therapy dog Garry, who belongs to deputy manager Sharon Foster and comes to work with her each day. He’s just an apprentice, but is already receiving plenty of fuss and treats as he bustles in and out of the residents’ rooms.

The two ponies joined the flock for just over an hour yesterday, visiting every one of the 38 residents, either in the lounges or in their own rooms. They took the stairs to go upstairs but were persuaded into the lift on the way down, having lit up the rooms with their presence.

Donald said: “Our staff absolutely loved it and were delighted to see how much pleasure the residents got from the visit. It was even more effective than I thought it would be and we had some residents who respond very little to other activities, but who just lit up when the ponies came in.

“Some residents in particular really enjoy the company of animals and love to pick up and carry around the cats. But the ponies were so different and unusual that it obviously did trigger memories and feelings for some patients with dementia, perhaps even more than human contact does.”

It’s hoped that the ponies will return for future visits, but in the meantime Garry, Dolly and Daisy are keeping up the good work and spreading as much animal affection as can be fitted into the day.

Pictures show the mini ponies with residents at Blar Buidhe (HC-One)

(For clarification following reader comments, the ponies were visiting Blar Buidhe and are not a permanent part of the set-up at the home.)

New wind warning for Saturday

A new weather warning has been issued by the Met Office for strong gale force winds between 6am and 12 noon tomorrow (Saturday 15 February).

Issued just two hours ago (12 noon, Friday 14 February), this warning comes on top of existing warnings for strong winds across Scotland, but is specifically for the Western Isles and Skye, the only areas to be directly affected within this warning.

The warning says that severe gales on Saturday morning may lead to some transport disruption, with delays to ferries and air transport likely and the risk of coastal spray leading to road closures.

Impacts are now seen to be ‘likely’ with severe gales gusting to 70mph for a time on Saturday morning.

Revised SY/Ullapool timetable

CalMac’s Stornoway office have agreed a revised timetable for the Stornoway Ullapool ferry over the next 24 hours (Friday 14 to Saturday 15 February) to take account of incoming gales.

MV Loch Seaforth’s freight service from Stornoway tonight (Friday) is to depart 30 minutes early, at 10pm, and tomorrow morning’s freight service from Ullapool will depart one hour early, at 2am.

Saturday morning’s first passenger service has been brought forward by 1.5 hours and will now leave at 5.30am, with latest check-in time at 5am.

For passengers booked to travel on to Inverness by Citylink bus there will be a wait at Ullapool, as the bus cannot be brought forward due to its function as a service bus on the route. The CalMac terminal at Ullapool will be open for passengers awaiting the bus.

The 10.30am departure from Ullapool and 2pm sailing from Stornoway have been cancelled and the 6.30pm sailing from Ullapool is expected to run to timetable.

However, all services remain weather dependent, with all Sunday and Monday services on yellow alert for disruption or cancellation at short notice.

Low pressure brings windy weather

The first of two deep low weather systems coming in from the Atlantic is bringing a wave of windy weather from today (Friday 14 February), before Storm Dennis strikes on Sunday.

Today’s noon Met Office chart (pictured above) shows two low pressure fronts moving across the Western Isles from the south-west, with a deep low of 935mb today and Storm Dennis, the fourth named storm of the season, following behind at 974mb. This means two successive waves of wet and windy weather.

The Met Office updated a storm warning for Sunday and Monday at 11am today, saying that there is a potential for very strong winds to develop in association with Storm Dennis between 12 noon on Sunday and 12 noon on Monday across Scotland. Coastal spray, travel disruption and power cuts are among the possible impacts of the storm.

They said: “The location and strength of the strongest winds is uncertain at this stage, but there is a small chance that winds will gust up to 70mph for a time. More typically winds will gust up to 50mph at times. The strongest winds could also coincide with the Monday morning peak travel period.”

Braighe closed - Updated

Braighe re-opens: (Midday 14 February) The Braighe is now fully re-open to traffic after carriageway clearing was completed.

The Braighe causeway between Point and Stornoway was closed to traffic in both directions, as spray and debris affected the carriageway around high tide this morning. Police and Coastguard teams were on site monitoring conditions. 

Power out in South Uist

South Uist is feeling the first impacts of a period of what Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) calls “a period of unsettled weather”.

Reported damage to one of the overhead power connectors has led to 179 customers in the Loch Carnan area losing power just before 9am today (Friday 14 February). Two teams of engineers are on site but have not yet identified the fault. Nevertheless, they are expecting to restore supply to all households by 12 noon.

During Storm Dennis, SSEN's current forecast predicts heavy rain and wind gusts in excess of 70mph forecast. SSEN would like to reassure its customers it is well prepared to respond to the impact of Storm Dennis on the electricity network and is asking anyone concerned about the potential disruption to supplies, particularly those who may need extra support during a power cut, to call its teams on 105.

Ferry cancellations

Ferries across the west coast network are being affected by the severe weather, with the Castlebay Oban service cancelled for the day and scheduled for review on Saturday, and just one attempt due to be made from Ardmhor to Eriskay around 11.10am – all sailings thereafter are subject to disruption.

The Lochboisdale Oban/Mallaig service has been cancelled for the day and the Sound of Harris service was cancelled this morning and is to be reviewed at 12 noon for afternoon sailings.

Services on the Uig triangle are running approximately two hours late and subject to further disruption. 

Screen Machine are due to visit Daliburgh, Carinish and Liniclate next week with their mobile cinema.

The 80-seat air conditioned, digital mobile cinema is set to bring the latest films from Wednesday (19 February) onwards. Films to be shown are:

For more information and to purchase tickets visit here. At least 8 tickets are available on the door 30 minutes before each screening.

Daliburgh
Car Park, Borrodale Hotel, Daliburgh, HS8 5SS

19th February 2020

Little Women (TBC)
Writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) puts her own artistic stamp on this adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel... more
Book Now
17:30
19th Feb 2020
Tickets left:
59 online
8 on the door

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12A)
It’s finally here - after sending us on an incredible journey across eight films over forty years, the Star Wars saga comes to a definitive conclusion with The Rise of Skywalker... more
Book Now
20:30
19th Feb 2020
Tickets left:
58 online
8 on the door
Daliburgh
20th February 2020

Frozen 2 (U)
One of the most anticipated films of the year has finally arrived... more

17:30
20th Feb 2020
Tickets left:
0 online
8 on the door

1917 (15)
In the Spring of 1917, as the First World War rages on, the German Army is in retreat in northern France... more
Book Now
20:30
20th Feb 2020
Tickets left:
51 online

Car Park, Dark Island Hotel, LINICLATE, BENBECULA, HS7 5PJ

Travel directions
Liniclate
21st February 2020

Connect (15)
Brian (Kevin Guthrie) lives in a small Scottish coastal town, trying to lead a typically normal life, working day by day with a calm demeanour - but this belies an inner conflict as he feels he cannot share and connect with anybody... more
Book Now
17:30
21st Feb 2020
Tickets left:
64 online
8 on the door

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12A)
It’s finally here - after sending us on an incredible journey across eight films over forty years, the Star Wars saga comes to a definitive conclusion with The Rise of Skywalker... more
Book Now
20:30
21st Feb 2020
Tickets left:
43 online
8 on the door
Liniclate
22nd February 2020

Frozen 2 (U)
One of the most anticipated films of the year has finally arrived... more
Book Now
14:00
22nd Feb 2020
Tickets left:
4 online
8 on the door

Jojo Rabbit (12A)
In the latter stages of World War II, young Johannes ‘JoJo’ Betzler lives with his mother in Nazi Germany... more
Book Now
17:30
22nd Feb 2020
Tickets left:
60 online
8 on the door

1917 (15)
In the Spring of 1917, as the First World War rages on, the German Army is in retreat in northern France... more
Book Now
20:30
22nd Feb 2020
Tickets left:
30 online
8 on the door
Liniclate
23rd February 2020

1917 (with captions) (15)
In the Spring of 1917, as the First World War rages on, the German Army is in retreat in northern France... more
Book Now
14:00
23rd Feb 2020
Tickets left:
68 online
8 on the door

Frozen 2 (U)
One of the most anticipated films of the year has finally arrived... more
Book Now
17:30
23rd Feb 2020
Tickets left:
56 online
8 on the door

Little Women (TBC)
Writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) puts her own artistic stamp on this adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel... more
Book Now
20:30
23rd Feb 2020
Tickets left:
58 online
8 on the door


Carinish
Car park, Carinish Village Hall, North Uist HS6 5EJ


24th February 2020

Little Women (TBC)
Writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) puts her own artistic stamp on this adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel... more
Book Now
17:30
24th Feb 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12A)
It’s finally here - after sending us on an incredible journey across eight films over forty years, the Star Wars saga comes to a definitive conclusion with The Rise of Skywalker... more
Book Now
20:30
24th Feb 2020

Frozen 2 (U)
One of the most anticipated films of the year has finally arrived... more
Book Now
17:30
25th Feb 2020

1917 (15)
In the Spring of 1917, as the First World War rages on, the German Army is in retreat in northern France... more
Book Now
20:30
25th Feb 2020

Screen Machine are due to visit Castlebay next week with their mobile cinema.

The 80-seat air conditioned, digital mobile cinema is set to bring the latest films to Castlebay pier on Monday (17 February) and Tuesday (18 February). Films to be shown are:

  • Little Women - 5.30pm, Monday 17 February.
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - 8.30pm, Monday 17 February.
  • Frozen 2 - 5.30pm, Tuesday 18 February.
  • 1917 - 8.30pm, Tuesday 18 February.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit https://www.screenmachine.co.uk/locations/castlebay/ At least 8 tickets are available on the door 30 minutes before each screening.

 

The Veggie Box fresh vegetable stall, usually operated from Perceval Square on a Friday morning, has taken shelter from the storm for the day and relocated to 2c Clintons Yard, where the entrance is a door next to the Hebdrone trailer.

The stall will continue to operate with the usual array of fresh fruit and veg from Scotland and beyond until 3pm today, and apologise to customers for the inconvenience today. They are hoping next week will be better!
 
Any queries please contact the Veggie Box on 07771 645238

Braighe closed - latest

Stornoway Police have instructed that the Braighe causeway is closed as of 9.50am, with spray and debris thrown across the carriageway. High tide is at 10.26am.

Police and Coastguard teams are on site monitoring conditions. No convoy system will be operated following the closure so the road will have to be completely clear of debris before it re-opens to traffic.

Power out in South Uist

South Uist is feeling the first impacts of a period of what Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) calls “a period of unsettled weather”.

Reported damage to one of the overhead power connectors has led to 179 customers in the Loch Carnan area losing power just before 9am today (Friday 14 February). Two teams of engineers are on site but have not yet identified the fault. Nevertheless, they are expecting to restore supply to all households by 12 noon.

During Storm Dennis, SSEN's current forecast predicts heavy rain and wind gusts in excess of 70mph forecast. SSEN would like to reassure its customers it is well prepared to respond to the impact of Storm Dennis on the electricity network and is asking anyone concerned about the potential disruption to supplies, particularly those who may need extra support during a power cut, to call its teams on 105.

New storm, new chaos

A host of ferry cancellations are following the impact of Storm Dennis this morning (Friday February 14th).

And customers of the Veggie Box fresh fuit and vegetable stall in Stornoway this morning were told: "Due to the adverse weather conditions we were unable to set up the stall in Perceval Square this morning.

"However, we will be running the stall from 2c Clintons Yard.  We will be monitoring the weather conditions and if possible set up the stall round about 10am, if unable to do so due to the weather we will continue to run the stall from 2c Clintons Yard.

"If you are picking up your order can you please let us know where we can meet you and time or you can pick up your order from 2c Clintons Yard.  Any queries please contact me on 07771 645238," says stallholder Iona Ferguson.

All ferries in the Outer Hebrides face disruption, CalMac Ferries warn.   Already cancelled are the first ferries across the Sound of Harris and the Sound of Barra; services out of Lochboisdale; and services between Oban and Castlebay.  The Stornoway to Ullapool ferry left early this morning to try to beat the worst of the storm.  Ferries to North Uist are being delayed by several hours, so services from Tarbert will also be delayed at least two hours.

The Met Office said a statement issued on Tuesday (11 February): “Storm Dennis will bring heavy rain and widespread strong winds to many parts of the UK on Saturday and Sunday, though the impacts are not expected to be as extreme as Storm Ciara last weekend.

"The system will develop in the North Atlantic before tracking eastwards towards the UK and Ireland over the coming days, passing to the north of Scotland on Saturday.”

Paul Gundersen, Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “Although Storm Dennis is currently not expected to be as severe as Ciara, disruption is still likely. Our confidence in the forecast means we have been able to issue severe weather warnings well in advance, giving people time to prepare for potential impacts of the storm."

An early start is expected to a busy 2020 cruise season, with the first of 63 cruise ship visits to Stornoway planned for this year.

And the first caller, scheduled for a visit on 28 February, is a brand new vessel with cutting-edge technology, visiting before her maiden season even commences.

MS Fridtjof Nansen is described as a ‘next generation expedition ship’, whose facilities include three restaurants, indoor and outdoor observation decks and a fully-equipped science centre for research and ‘edutainment’.

Built in Norway’s Kleven shipyard, she’s powered by a revolutionary battery hybrid-powered proplulsion system and is launched this year by cruise line Hurtigruten.

Her maiden visit to Stornoway will take place ahead of her inaugural season, which starts on 1 April, with showcase cruises from London to Liverpool and Liverpool to Portsmouth.

The vessel is one of eight which will make maiden calls to Stornoway this summer, ranging from Ponant’s small French luxury ships, Le Jacques Cartier and Le Bellot, to Holland America’s Veendam, with 1,350 passengers aboard.

The year’s largest visitor is likely to be Cunard’s Queen Victoria, bringing up to 3,000 passengers and crew on Friday 12 June (weather permitting).

Pictures show Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen (right) with her sister ship MS Roald Amundsen in Svalbard during Arctic sea trials (Svalbard Post) and Cunard’s Queen Victoria during her last visit to Stornoway in July 2019 (Chris Murray).

In conjunction with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are offering an opportunity to students with Gaelic skills to be employed for 10 weeks during summer 2020 in the Western Isles with organisations which use Gaelic in the workplace every day. These 10 weeks can take place anytime over the summer, but the placement must be completed by 28 August, 2020.

This Scheme has been running for many years, and has been very successful in terms of developing the Gaelic skills of students, and giving them valuable experience of a professional work environment. From the point of view of the organisations, the Scheme can give them an opportunity to hire students to work on specific projects, work which would not be possible to do without the assistance of these students. 

Information about the Scheme:

  • The students must be in higher education (at university or in college)
  • The students must have some Gaelic speaking, reading and writing skills
  • The students must be intending to return to higher education in autumn, 2020
  • The Gaelic organisations must pay the Living Wage to the students (£9.30 per hour)
  • The students must work at least 30 hours per week on their placements, and
  • If possible, we recommend that priority be given to students who have not been on a placement scheme previously

If you are a student with Gaelic skills, who will be in the Western Isles over summer, 2020, and you wish to apply for the Scheme, please fill in the application form on the Comhairle website at: https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/leisure-sport-and-culture/gaelic-language-and-culture/sgioba-na-gaidhlig/sgeama-greis-gniomhachais-nan-oileanach/

The closing date for applications is 27 March, 2020.

Members of the Cancer Research UK Isle of Lewis committee are still on cloud nine today, after last night’s big reveal on the total for their fundraising efforts in 2019.

About 25 committee members were at the Annual General Meeting at Western Isles Hospital last night (Wednesday 12 February) to hear the announcement that £78,766 had been raised in Lewis and Harris to fund cancer research.

The total is down on last year’s record, but still well in excess of the previous annual average, which used to be between £60k and £65k every year, according to branch chair Amy Macaulay.

Amy said: “Last year was exceptional, but this year is still fantastic. We worked hard on our events and held some that were new and different, including two events in Harris for the first time.”

The Harris events were Here Come the Hearachs, a ladies’ lunch at Talla na Mara in October, following on the successful formula of the Lewis Ladies’ Lunch which is a regular fixture in the Stornoway calendar. 

Also new were a sponsored Postman’s Walk in Harris and a new sponsored four-legged walk in Stornoway, Hounds in the Grounds, which brought dog-walkers out for the cause.

Still the most successful fundraiser of the year was the annual house-to-house collection in August, which brought in £17,102.

Amy said: “People’s generosity is not diminishing. The topic of cancer is now so close to so many people and that is coming through in the amount they are giving. Research into cancer is so important and people feel they want to do their bit.

“We try to have different kinds of events to cover the island, bring in all age groups and attract all kinds of people.”

The committee has already started their 2020 fundraising, with three events in the first six weeks of the year, including joining the island’s other cancer charities on World Cancer Day on 4 February, for a sponsored walk with candles to symbolise both remembrance and hope.

The committee and supporters are pictured at the soup and pudding lunch in the M A Macleod Memorial Hall on 1 February, which raised over £1,000.

The Met Office says it has confidence in the storm warnings issued for most parts of the UK ahead of Storm Dennis, the fourth named storm of the season.

In a statement issued on Tuesday (11 February) they said: “Storm Dennis will bring heavy rain and widespread strong winds to many parts of the UK on Saturday and Sunday, though the impacts are not expected to be as extreme as Storm Ciara last weekend.

The system will develop in the North Atlantic before tracking eastwards towards the UK and Ireland over the coming days, passing to the north of Scotland on Saturday.”

Paul Gundersen, Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “Although Storm Dennis is currently not expected to be as severe as Ciara, disruption is still likely. Our confidence in the forecast means we have been able to issue severe weather warnings well in advance, giving people time to prepare for potential impacts of the storm.”

A yellow warning of wind is in place across Scotland, including the Western Isles, from 12 noon on Sunday to 12 noon on Monday.

CalMac has re-arranged today’s ferry timetable (Thursday 13 February) to get stock to Barra’s shops before the next storm blows in.

An amended timetable between Oban and Castlebay will see a 5pm sailing from Oban, according to CalMac, “in order to allow for essential supplies to reach the island.”

MV Isle of Lewis is due to reach Castlebay at 10.30pm.

An additional sailing is also running today between Oban and Lochboisdale, to compensate for missed services during recent storm weather.

The fish farming company Mowi has announced its fourth quarter results for 2019, showing that production fell and sea lice infestation rose in the last part of 2019, by comparison to the same period of the previous year.

The report, presented by the Norwegian-based company yesterday (Wednesday 12 February) said that ‘challenging’ biological conditions in Scotland had contributed to a fall in production. Mowi, formerly Marine Harvest, has salmon-growing pens in waters around the Western Isles, including off Scalpay and in Loch Seaforth and Loch Grimshader.

The report published yesterday said production had been lower because fish had been harvested earlier. In Scotland, it said: “Seawater temperatures declined slower than usual due to the mild weather and sea lice levels were higher compared with the fourth quarter of 2018. “Several farms experienced biological issues. Incident based mortality losses amounted to EUR 10.7 million related to Pasteurella Skyensis, PD and treatment losses (EUR 0.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2018).”

Biological issues included the presence of sea lice, which increased in Scottish fish farms. Mowi aims to use non-medicinal solutions to sea lice, but said: “As per the end of the fourth quarter (compared with 2018 figures), the share of fish having undergone medicinal treatments against sea lice … increased in ...Scotland. Mowi is working to reduce overall dependency on medicinal treatments.”

Picture: Mowi salmon-growing pens.

Angus Brendan MacNeil, the Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, has questioned the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, on the UK Government's approach to island renewable projects.

In September 2019, Mr MacNeil expressed his disappointment following the Contracts for Difference (CfD) Allocation Round 3, which only awarded two renewable projects in Lewis a CfD totalling 240 MW, which is well below the 369 MW required for the interconnector to the mainland.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “The islands have the best wind resources in Europe and has the potential to produce more than enough wind to support a 600 MW interconnector.  The stumbling block is the lack of joined-up thinking between the UK Government and the Energy Regulator Ofgem.

“At Scottish Questions today, I had the opportunity to raise this with Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I was pleased that he agreed with the point I raised and that the interconnector should be built.”

 

An emergency power interruption is affecting 653 customers in the Gress, North Tolsta, Vatisker, Coll, Back and the surrounding areas today (Wednesday February 12) say Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks.  

The power is off between 16:30 and 19:30.

Their text message states: "Our engineer Murray and his team will be isolating supplies in order to repair a faulty piece of equipment on our main network. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this interruption please don t hesitate to call us on 105 or send us a message on WhatsApp at https://wa.me/447342028546 quote reference number GA0978."

The media combo that produces We Love Stornoway has been praised for ‘cracking local content and national reach’ by award judges.

Stornoway Media Centre, on James Street, houses a stable of news websites, magazines and the monthly newspaper EVENTS, between them covering all kinds of news and events from the Butt of Lewis to Vatersay, as well as the Isle of Skye and other Scottish islands.

And the company’s wide-ranging media products, quality content and extensive reach of stories were enough to convince judges that no-one in the Highlands and Islands is doing better with their use of digital media.

Managing director Fred Silver received the Highlands and Islands Media award for Best Use of Digital Media at the annual press ball in Inverness on Friday evening (7 February).

He is pictured receiving the award from sponsor Diageo’s representative Keith Miller.

In the awards submission Stornoway Media Centre said: “Through the use of our linked websites and of social media, we have developed a responsive news service tailored to a community with very specific experiences. This in turn is leading to growing readership figures and a developing position as the islands’ principal source of news information.”

The claim was supported with examples showing that online readership for stories about the Iolaire centenary commemoration reached 214,342 readers in 2019, while just over 93,000 followers viewed video coverage of the torchlight procession and Iolaire centenary service at Holm on 1 January 2019.

In everyday news coverage, an exclusive story about the unscheduled visit of the Red Arrows to Stornoway airport in October 2019 was read by 3,825 people and a video of their arrival viewed 75,000 times after being shared by the Red Arrows themselves. On the same day, 4,900 people read exclusive news that the animal welfare charity Cats Protection was to withdraw their support from the islands.

Judges for the Highlands and Islands Media Awards said: “The judges were impressed with We Love Stornoway’s cracking local content which has national reach across a range of platforms.

“Strong stories featuring the Iolaire commemoration, the Red Arrows and Cats Protection stood out, while the use of written and video content, together with the use of social media, is a powerful combination which makes a real impact.”

Managing director and editor Fred Silver said: “We have a small but dedicated team who work hard to provide our local community with the kind of news service they deserve. It is gratifying to have our efforts recognised as the best they can be, especially by our peers in the world of news and media.”

NHS Western Isles was delighted to secure sponsorship again from Loganair as part of its 'Don't infect. Protect.' staff influenza vaccination campaign.

With any strain of influenza being dangerous for people who are more vulnerable, specifically those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and those with a serious health condition such as diabetes or heart disease, NHS Western Isles was keen for all its healthcare staff (particularly frontline staff) to take up the offer of the free influenza vaccination this winter. When NHS staff take the free vaccination, they not only help protect themselves and their families and friends, but they help protect patients and service users too.

Influenza is more than a bad cold and can make people very unwell. It's highly infectious with symptoms that come on quickly and can hit anyone. In the most serious cases, influenza can bring on pneumonia, or other serious infections which can, in extreme cases, result in death.

In order to help further encourage NHS Western Isles staff to receive their influenza vaccination, Loganair provided two return air flights and the lucky member of staff who won the flights, which can be taken from any airport in the Outer Hebrides to a Scottish mainland airport, was Laura MacLeod, NHS Western Isles Healthy Weight Practitioner.

Laura said: "I'm so pleased to have won these flights and will be using them to take a friend who has had a very difficult time away for a well deserved break. I chose to have my free flu vaccination as I have seen how dangerous the flu virus can be. A close friend once became critically ill with flu, she was flown to Glasgow and was in intensive care for several days. Thankfully, she recovered, but in my own role I meet patients and members of the public regularly, many are vulnerable with various health conditions, so anything I can do to reduce spreading the risk of flu, I'm happy to do."

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, said: "As part of NHS Western Isles’ policy for the prevention of transmission of infections including influenza, we want to ensure those in our care are safe and protected, especially those who are most vulnerable to influenza. Healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the influenza virus. The influenza vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect our staff and those around them.”

Hannah Campbell, Loganair’s Marketing Assistant, said: “Loganair is once again supporting a very important campaign, ‘Don’t infect. Protect.’ and we are pleased to assist NHS Western Isles in giving people better access to healthcare services. Congratulations to Laura. We are looking forward to welcoming her and her friend onboard their Loganair flights.”

For further information about influenza and the influenza vaccination, please visit www.nhsinform.scot

Pictured are Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health; prizewinner Laura MacLeod, NHS Western Isles Healthy Weight Practitioner; and Hannah Campbell, Loganair Marketing Assistant.

Volunteer members of Stornoway and Miavaig Coastguard Rescue Teams were in the water of Stornoway harbour last night (Tuesday 11 February) while most people were keeping warm during icy winds and hailstorms.

The 16 individuals, under supervision from area commander Murdo Macaulay, were carrying out revalidation training in water rescue skills with co-operation from Stornoway Port Authority.

Murdo said: “We need to ensure that our volunteers’ water rescue skills are regularly refreshed and tested to keep their tickets up to date. Last night we decided that, rather than the daylight and good weather we normally have for revalidation tests, it would be good to get them out in the dark and the wet to test their skills.

“The tests included throw-lines, swimmer rescue and casualty and stretcher-handling in the water, as well as bankside safety and ways of getting multiple casualties ashore using a system similar to the old breeches buoy rescue system. This could be essential in situations where the lifeboat is unable to gain access because a casualty vessel is close to shore or when we arrive first.

“Lighting the scene was also crucial. In every rescue scenario, once you’ve got eyes on you never take your eyes off the casualty, so lighting the scene is a skill everyone must have.”

Of the conditions on the night, Murdo said: “It was a bit cold, but everyone did really well and they were still smiling at the end of it.”

Picture shows a rope rescue in the water at Stornoway harbour (HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber).

A livestream Q&A event will be hosted for anyone interested in the Comhairle's upcoming Foundation Apprenticeships.

In 2019, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and partners secured a Skills Development Scotland contract to the value of £570K to support the delivery of Foundation Apprenticeships for the 2019/20 academic year and beyond.

Foundation Apprenticeships form an offer within the senior phase of secondary education and provides the appropriate underpinning knowledge and experience to enable young people to progress to a modern and graduate apprenticeship programmes within the local economy and nationally.

The panel for the live Q&A, which will share more information on the scheme with parents and pupils, will consist of Dolina Smith (Apprenticeship Manager, CnES), Iain MacMillan (Principal of the Lews Castle College), Angus Maclennan (Head teacher at e-Sgoil), Gordon Young (Head teacher of Sgoil Lionacleit), Hamish Scott (First year Foundation Apprentice in Creative Digital Media (Gàidhlig) Sir E Scott), Megan Murray (First Year ChildCare Apprentice, The Nicolson Institute) and Seumus MacRae (First Year Engineering, Sgoil Lionacleit).

Up to 105 places on seven Foundation Apprenticeships will be available to pupils entering S4 and S5 in 2020 - in Castlebay School, Sgoil Lionacleit, Sir E Scott School and The Nicolson Institute.

15 places are available in each of the following sectors starting from June. For the first time, the Comhairle will also be offering one year Foundation Apprentices. These have been chosen in response to pupil demand and opportunities for further/higher education/training and jobs.

Business Skills
If you like ICT, business management and working with people, a career in business might be for you.
Creative & Digital Media (delivered in both English and Gàidhlig)
Does working in film, TV, Radio, publishing, or on computer games and online media appeal to you? If so, why not gain skills and qualifications in creative & digital media.
Engineering
Interested in engineering? If you would you like to be involved in engineering-operations and systems, then this is the apprenticeship for you.
Food and Drink Technologies
The growing food and drink industry locally and nationally serves a wide selection of exciting career opportunities from food science to environmental health.
Social Services Children and Young People
Do you enjoy working with young people, making sure they stay healthy and happy? Then this is the apprenticeship for you – with a huge demand for skilled people in this sector with ample job opportunities and career progression pathways open on completion of the programme.
Social Services and HealthCare
Are you interested in a career in caring? This could be the one for you - get real life experience in the care sector that will allow you to work in the industry straight from school, progress to an SVQ 3 through the Modern Apprenticeship, or progress to a vocational degree such as Nursing or Social Work.
ICT Software
Is a career in the ever changing digital world for you? Are you interested in finding out what the skills requirement is to create, software for gaming, virtual reality or cyber technology? If so, this apprenticeship route is for you, gain the skills, qualification and work experience that will equip you to work in the industry, move into a Modern Apprenticeship or go onto Further/Higher Education.

Councillor Angus McCormack, Chairman of Education, Skills and Children’s Services: “This funding, supported by our charter development programme with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Bòrd na Gàidhlig (BnG), Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) programme and European Structural Funding (ESF) funding application, provides a major opportunity for local economic development, education, training and employment opportunities for our young people. I would encourage young people who may be looking to go to university or into graduate placements, to consider the exciting opportunities that are presented through this scheme.

“For each of the past five years, young people have left CnES schools with SQA vocational qualifications at SCQF5 at three times the national average. Concordantly post-school positive and sustained destinations, particularly into employment and university are high.”

The event will be held on Monday 17 February at 7:30pm. It can be viewed here.

A 25-year-old man is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal after a suspected controlled substance was found in his possession on Sunday morning (9 February).

The man was arrested in Stornoway town centre on other charges in the early hours of Sunday and a substance was found on his person. After preliminary tests the item was found likely to be a controlled substance and he will be reported accordingly.

If there was ever a time to shop locally, then this Saturday (15 February) is the time to start.

Stornoway has become the most northerly town in Britain to join a nationwide campaign supporting small shops and businesses.

Totally Locally Stornoway starts from the idea that, if everyone spent just £5 a week in local independent shops, instead of online or in supermarkets, then an extra £1.6 million would go into the local economy – and that’s just in Stornoway.

For the first time this year, shops and businesses are being encouraged to take part in the Totally Locally Fiver Fest, which starts on Saturday and runs for two weeks until 29 February.

And although no-one’s suggesting you stop your local spending at the end of February, the two weeks does give the chance for some fantastic £5 offers in shops and businesses all over Stornoway.

Stornoway’s Business Improvement District (BID) is actively supporting the scheme. In a social media statement they said: “Stornoway has claimed the title of the furthest north town to get involved, so let's get noticed! All businesses taking part put on a special £5 offer over the two weeks to show the diversity and value of what they sell, and to say thank you to the town for supporting independent business.”

Already signed up to participate are businesses including KJ Macdonalds, Sardar and Sons, and Lewis Revival. Foodie treats are on offer from the Good Food Boutique, Hebridean Tea Store and Charlie Barley’s butcher, and there are more businesses joining the Fiver Fest every day.

A spokesperson for Lewis Revival said: “Lewis Revival is proud to be participating in Stornoway’s own Totally Local Fiver Fest. It’s a great excuse to get out of the house or office and (re)discover what our local businesses offer.”

Look out for the distinctive red banner posters around town, shown off in these pictures by staff at Sardar and Sons and at the Good Food Boutique.

A new set of weather warnings has been issued by the Met Office as the impacts of the next named storm make themselves felt across Scotland.

Among numerous warnings issued across the UK, a yellow alert covers the whole of the Western Isles and is in effect from midday on Monday (1 February) to midday on Tuesday.

The Met Office said this morning (Wednesday 12 February) that there is: “potential for very strong winds to develop across the region in association with Storm Dennis.

“The location and strength of the wind is uncertain at this stage, but there is a small chance that winds will gust up to 70mph for a time. More typically winds will gust up to 50mph at times. The strongest winds could also coincide with the Monday morning peak travel period.”

A pink teddy bear has been left at Stornoway Library since Friday 7 February.

The library team took to Facebook to help the bear get home, saying: "This pink teddy bear has been at Stornoway Library since Friday and he's been reading all sorts of books over the weekend.

"Now he's started giving us orders and using the boss's desk...  Not good.

"Please share so that this 'fluffy cutie' bear finds his way back home ASAP!"

Eriskay causeway is currently closed (Tuesday 11 February at 7:46pm.) 

Western Isles Police say the decision was made to close the causeway due to the weather conditions.

There was an unusual flyby at Stornoway airport today (Tuesday 11 February) when one of the jets which serve the President of France passed low over the airport.

F-RAFB is a Dassault Falcon 7X long-range jet, capable of carrying up to eight passengers and three crew and belonging to the French Air Force, L’Armee de l’Air Francaise.

She is one of two Falcon 7X craft which make up part of the French Air Force Transport squadron ET60, based at Air Base 107 at Villacoublay in northern France. The corps is charged with the safe transport of the President of France and other government ministers as well as visiting foreign statesmen.

In 2010 she was bought as a back-up craft for her sister jet F-RAFA, nicknamed Carla One as a reference to the wife of then-president Sarkozy. Both jets are meant to be available to transport the president when the principal presidential jet, an Airbus A330-200, is under repair or when the available runways are too short for the Airbus.

Today’s flyby saw F-RAFB complete two low circuits at Stornoway without landing. Despite poor visibility, she was snapped by Bristow’s engineer Jason Spinks as she made practice approaches to the runway.

The aircraft is believed to have been on a training mission and to have cut short its practice runs due to the appalling weather conditions. It’s thought to be the first time the craft has been seen at Stornoway.

Pictures show (top) the Falcon 7X jet over Stornoway airport at lunchtime today (Jason Spinks) and in operation at her base showing her presidential livery (Marco Papa). 

215 families from the Western Isles have benefitted from new welfare payments introduced by the Scottish Government, reveals Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan as he welcomes statistics published today.

The Scottish Government opened the Best Start Grant for applications in December 2018. The payment provides parents or carers who get certain benefits or tax credits with financial support during the key early years of a child's life.

In the first year of their introduction, payments worth £620,491 have been made to island families. The Best Start Grant provides payments to eligible families at the birth of children, at nursery age and at school age.

Alasdair Allan MSP, who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, commented: “The SNP are determined to use our powers to build a social security system built on dignity and respect.

“The Best Start Grant provides crucial financial support to families at key stages of their children’s lives, and I’m delighted that hundreds of families in the islands have already benefitted. 

“This is just one of the ways the SNP in government are working to tackle child poverty – with the first payments of the innovative new Scottish Child Payment set to be made this year.

“It’s also very welcome to see the work being done to make sure Scotland’s new social security regulations and payments are properly “island-proofed” following passage of the Islands Act 2018.

“Sadly the need to mitigate Tory cuts like the Bedroom Tax leaves us working with one hand tied behind our back. It’s time for Scotland to have full control of all social security powers so that we can build a fairer country.”

The Best Start Grant is an expanded replacement for the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant.

The Pregnancy and Baby Payment replaces and expands on the UK Government's Sure Start Maternity Grant by:

  • providing eligible families with £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any subsequent children
  • not putting a limit on the number of children that are supported
  • extending the application window from 24 weeks pregnant to 6 months after the birth, giving clients longer to apply

The Leanne Fund is urging schools, groups and workplaces across the North of Scotland to take part in the Rainbow Raiser event and help raise vital funds.

This special fundraiser takes place on Friday 28 February with participants asked to turn up for school or work wearing their brightest, wackiest clothes and raise funds to make a real difference to the lives of those with Cystic Fibrosis and their families across the Highlands, Islands and Grampian regions.

Several schools and groups have already signed up but it's not too late to get involved and order a Rainbow Raiser pack.

Chrisetta Mitchell, Development Manager of The Leanne Fund said: “It's really simple to be part of Rainbow Raiser, just order your pack which contains everything you need.

“On the day, which doesn't have to be on February 28, just wear something bright and colourful, make a donation and have fun!”

Here are just some of the ways the money you raise will be spent –

  • £30 will pay for TV cards for a young CF patient when they are in hospital for treatment
  • £40 will provide a confidential counselling session to help with issues of anxiety, bereavement, depression, illness and other unexpected life events
  • £40 will provide a complementary therapy treatment to help a young person feel better and cope better with their CF
  • £200 will pay for patient transport costs for those who need additional support for getting to hospital appointments
  • £200 will pay for emergency support for a family when their child is in hospital and they are facing additional costs with accommodation, meals, fuel, childcare
  • £250 will provide a special Christmas experience – a trip to the Panto or a family meal
  • £300 will provide sport and fitness equipment to support an active lifestyle and improve lung function
  • £750 will provide a much needed holiday for a family
  • £750 will provide support for a young CF sufferer who is moving away to college or university or setting up home independently.

 

Nursery children and staff show off their rainbow colours at last year's Rainbow Raiser event.

Over 1,000 customers are without power this afternoon (Tuesday 11 Feb) after gusty winds brought down overhead electricity lines in Point. 
 
Lines have fallen beside Bayble, close to Sgoil An Rubha and the Point Free Church, cutting the supply to 1,115 customers between Aignish and Tiumpan Head.
 
A spokesman for Scottish and Southern Electricity Network (SSEN) said the repair would be relatively straightforward but that the necessary equipment needed to be moved to the site before the repair could commence.
 
Six engineers are on site and it is hoped that power will be restored to all customers by 5pm.

Picture: Stock image

The Scottish Government has pledged funding to support agricultural contributions to meet Scotland’s climate change ambitions.

The funding for a new Agricultural Transformation Programme will be initially £40 million.  

Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) chair, Yvonne White, said: “Crofting is well ahead on environmentally sustainable practices with its mainly extensive grazing system.

"Most of Scotland’s High Nature Value areas are under crofting tenure so we must be doing something right.

"The reinstatement of an easily accessible crofting forestry grant scheme, including low-density woodland cover for grazing, would see tree-planting on croft land burgeon.

"Peatlands, which crofters also manage, are even more relevant to carbon sequestration and therefore climate change.

"Studies have shown that careful mixed grazing is very beneficial to both carbon storage and increasing biodiversity.

"Payment towards the management of this important resource would reap huge rewards.

“Crofting has always worked with nature to produce high quality food and manage the environment in a sustainable manner.

"While crofting is already leading the way in low carbon agriculture, crofters are prepared to do even more to help reach the Scottish Government’s ambitious net-zero targets.

"Both embracing innovation and traditional methods will play a role in achieving this.”

Three Coastguard Rescue Teams were called out yesterday lunchtime (Monday 10 February) to help with the transfer of a sick patient from South Uist to Stornoway.

The Scottish Ambulance Service asked for Coastguard assistance at 1.05pm yesterday as they dealt with the transfer of a very unwell individual from South Uist.

Rescue helicopter R948 was tasked to uplift the casualty and Coastguard Rescue Teams from Lochboisdale and Benbecula were put on stand-by to man a helicopter landing site. In the event the teams were stood down as the casualty was taken to Benbecula airport by ambulance.

The patient was flown to Stornoway by R948, with Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team assisting with the transfer from helicopter to ambulance. From there the patient was taken on to Western Isles Hospital.

All teams were released from duty at 2.45pm.

Picture – Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team head for the helicopter with a stretcher ready to pass the patient into care of the Scottish Ambulance crew. (Stornoway CRT).

The W32 Barra bus service has been suspended this afternoon.

MacNeil Coaches said the decision was taken on the grounds of public and staff safety given the current and increasing wind speeds.

Sound of Barra ferry services are cancelled for the day, as was the morning flight.

As of 11:37am, the afternoon flight is still scheduled.

 

Ferries and planes are disrupted today (Tuesday 11 February) as a new wave of blustery winds blows from the Atlantic carrying hail, snow and possible lightning strikes.

And the weather has affected power supplies, too, as 30 households in the Uig area found themselves without power just after 10am this morning. Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) have sent a team of engineers to find and rectify the fault.

Overnight last night properties on Robertson Road in Stornoway were without power, as engineers worked on a recurrent cable fault which has affected the Matheson Road area since Storm Ciara hit at the weekend.

No ferry services are running today to or from Barra, Harris or North and South Uist, and this afternoon's 2pm sailing from Stornoway and 5.30pm from Ullapool have also been cancelled, with threatened disruption to tonight’s freight service.

At Stornoway airport the mid-morning flight from Edinburgh is currently reported to be an hour and a half behind schedule, with the departure to Edinburgh delayed until 12.50pm, though passengers are asked to check in as normal.

The Western Isles remains under a Met Office warning for frequent and heavy snow showers and strong winds, leading to possible blizzard conditions, especially at higher levels, until midnight tonight. A further warning is in place for tomorrow, when more snow showers and icy conditions could cause a hazard for pedestrians, drivers and power supplies.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) also issued an upgraded amber flood alert yesterday afternoon, warning of a high probability of coastal flooding anywhere in the Western Isles.

They said: “Due to a combination of high tides along with a large surge, wind and waves there is a risk of flooding in coastal areas during Tuesday. The greatest risk is around the times of high water. There will be a risk from wind and waves at all times, particularly on exposed western coasts.”

Police in Barra last night requested assistance from the Castlebay Coastguard Rescue Team as the Vatersay causeway was threatened with inundation from a high tide driven by the strong winds. The causeway is again being monitored tonight, as are all causeways and coastal routes in the islands.

High tide this evening is at 8.02pm at Lochboisdale, 8.16pm at Lochmaddy, 8.24pm at East Loch Tarbert and 8.39pm in Stornoway.

Picture: tides are high even without storm winds, as seen this morning at Cuddy Point in Stornoway.

Downpour Gin has been voted one of the nation's favourite gins in the Scottish Gin Society's Consumer Choice Awards.

The North Uist Gin came in at number six in the poll.

Harris Gin was the overall winner for the third year in a row.

North Uist Distillery commented: "Thank you for voting for us in the Scottish Gin Consumer Choice Awards.

"Delighted to make the top ten, coming in at number six!

"Congratulations to everyone involved..."

Stephen White, Founder of The Scottish Gin Society said: “We believe The Scottish Gin Society survey to be the largest of its kind and are delighted to have received more than three times as many responses in 2020 as last year. The results show that the popularity of Scottish Gin continues to grow, especially with even more new entrants appearing in this year’s survey. We would like to congratulate the brands involved as they are all producing exceptional products and look forward to the bright future of the gin industry in Scotland.”

Isle of Harris Gin has won the Scotland's Favourite Gin title for the third year in a row.

The Scottish Gin Society's annual consumer poll saw Harris Gin take almost 10% of the 19,169 public votes.

Isle of Harris Distillers Brand Ambassador, Iona Cairns, said: "Our team at the Isle of Harris Distillery are absolutely delighted and very honoured to hear that our Isle of Harris Gin has been voted the nation’s favourite in The Scottish Gin Society’s survey for the third year in a row.

"We are extremely grateful to all the gin lovers who voted for us and to our loyal customers for their continued support as we mark the fifth year of producing our Outer Hebridean spirit."

Nearly new and hardly used lockable Silent mini fridge, ideal for Guest House, 

£80.00

tel: 07709549426

 

Passenger numbers have fallen at all three of the airports in the Western Isles, according to figures released by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) on Friday (7 February).

The aggregate figures for 2019 show that Stornoway Airport saw the biggest dip in numbers, with air travel down by 3.3% at 134,680 passengers.

Barra was down 1.2% with 14,627 passengers over the year, and Benbecula also saw a fall of 1.9% with 36,507 people travelling by air.

Overall, HIAL saw traffic through its 11 airports fall by 0.9%, despite growth of 4.8% in passenger numbers through Inverness airport. The biggest falls were at Sumburgh and Wick, down 11.8% and 10.2% respectively. Sumburgh serves the Shetlands and the North Sea oil and gas industry and saw altered oil and gas flight patterns that support offshore operations. Scheduled passenger numbers were also lower on Aberdeen and Glasgow routes.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said the performance of the airports reflected aviation trends. He said: “We face challenges from a variety of sources including regulatory, technological, environmental and societal changes in coming years. Nonetheless HIAL will continue to invest in our airports and we are committed to continuously improving infrastructure and enhancing passenger facilities.”

Total passenger numbers include those on scheduled flights and larger commercial charters as well as air ambulance flights, small commercial and private charters and business flights.

A second MSP hits out at the planned budget cuts by the Scottish Government for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in last week's Scottish Budget (Thursday 6 February).

The draft Scottish Budget shows a cut to HIE from £61.1m in 2019/20 to £58.2m in 2020/21. This is a further fall from 2018/19 when the budget was £71.7m.

Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, who is also Labour’s Shadow Finance Secretary, said: “The fact that HIE has suffered another cut in its funding rings alarm bells that the Scottish Government still has the organisation’s merger within its sights.

“This seems to be the death by a thousand cuts.

“When the Government did a U-turn and retained the board of HIE three years ago, I suspected this would not be the end of the fight.

“It would appear that money is being taken away from this region to fund the creation of South of Scotland Enterprise. This is ludicrous as HIE never covered the south of Scotland.

“It is stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

“Kate Forbes, in her new role, needs to get a grip. She of all people should understand the challenges that the Highlands and Islands economy faces.

“These cuts will create further damage.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron had reacted angrily on Friday (7 February) to the Scottish Budget announcement: “I find it quite extraordinary that the SNP Government has decided to target HIE for cuts of this magnitude.

"This is the second year in a row that HIE funding has seen a significant reduction. Much of the region is facing the immense challenge of depopulation and losing our young people, and HIE is the agency we look to for encouraging economic development, creating jobs and sustaining our communities.

“With local councils across the Highlands and Islands struggling to deliver basic services due to years of unfair financial settlements from the Scottish Government, the SNP has now unbelievably decided to take the axe to the one agency which might have mitigated the impact of those cuts.

“Once again, we have confirmation that Nicola Sturgeon only seems to care about the Central Belt.”

The Scottish Government says it “is committed to the creation of a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

“This national purpose is underpinned by the National Performance Framework and our efforts to build a Wellbeing Economy, where improvements in living standards and our environment are as important as, and fundamental to, improvements in our economy.

“The Scottish Government's tax and spending plans for 2020‑21 reflect this vision and commitment. This budget of nearly £50 billion seeks to strengthen our economy and support the path to net‑zero carbon emissions, while tackling inequality through the delivery of first‑class public services and providing support for those who need it most.

“This approach, supported by a commitment to progressive taxation, forms a strong social contract between the Scottish Government and the people of Scotland.

“This Budget builds on the current Programme for Government, the National Performance Framework and the Medium Term Financial Strategy, which made clear that our plans would be focused on supporting our public services, building national wellbeing, boosting inclusive economic growth, building sustainable places, responding to the global climate emergency and tackling child poverty.”

The Budget was presented to the Scottish Parliament by Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes, the Minister for Public Finance and Digital Deputy Finance Secretary following the overnight resignation of scandal-hit Derek Mackay as Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work.

Kate Forbes thus became the first woman to deliver the Scottish Budget - prior to this, no woman had delivered a Budget in either the Scottish Parliament or at Westminster.

Ms Forbes, aged 29, only entered Holyrood in 2016 but was praised across the political divide for her steady performance after being given just a few hours’ notice to prepare.

Setting out the Government’s draft tax and spending plans for 2020/21, she warned opposition MSPs they would cause a meltdown in Scotland’s fledgling welfare system if they refused to back the budget when it comes to a final vote on March 5.

She said it included an extra £3bn because the Government becomes financially responsible for new devolved benefits from April, including Personal Independence Payments and Disability Living Allowance.

However if the budget fell, spending would be capped at last year’s £35bn, throwing the system into disarray.

She said it would also scupper plans to raise NHS funding by £1bn to £15bn and give £500m more to councils.

She said: “But worst of all, – as a consequence of the further devolution of social security payments – nearly £3bn of vital support will be denied to those in our society who need it the most. Now is not the time for brinkmanship.”

Ms Forbes announced there would be no change in income tax rates, a marginal increase in the thresholds for the lower rates to help the low paid and a freeze for the higher rate thresholds.

But Scottish Labour Finance, Jobs and Fair Work Spokesperson, Rhoda Grant, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “Despite the additional powers that have come to the Scottish Parliament over the last decade the SNP Government have failed to maximise their use, leaving our economy, our people and our essential services worse off. They have endeavoured to hide this through smoke and mirrors but they must come clean with the Scottish people.

“Scottish Labour wants transformational change, we want investment for the future. We know that we cannot reverse 13 years of mismanagement in one budget.”

A successful event showcasing careers in Lewis and Harris to forward-looking school students is to be repeated for Scottish Apprenticeships Week.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are planning a series of events at which young people can get an idea of future opportunities and meet people across island industries, gaining a better understanding of the world of work.

A careers convention at Stornoway Town Hall on Wednesday 4 March will see S1-S6 pupils from the Nicolson Institute invited to attend from 10am until 4pm, while a similar event will be hosted in Sir E Scott School on Thursday 5 March from 1.30pm until 3:30pm.

Then on Friday 6 March from 9:30am to 12:30pm there will be a Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) meeting in the Town Hall. This gives the opportunity for local priority private sectors to explain their skill, accreditation and training requirements to develop their future young workforce.

Tariq Hussain, training officer for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “A successful careers convention (was) held in Stornoway Town Hall back in November 2018. Feedback from exhibitors, pupils, parents and teaching staff was that the event provided an excellent opportunity for pupils to meet employers, colleges and universities, which assisted pupils to plan their future careers and post-school destinations.”

Employers are invited to contact Tariq to express their interest in becoming an exhibitor at tariq.hussain@cne- siar.gov.uk

CalMac are warning passengers on some island services to travel today (Monday 10 February) if they can, or to defer their plans for travel until Wednesday, because of highly likely disruption during forecast high winds on Tuesday.

Services liable to disruption tomorrow include the Stornoway-Ullapool route and sailings between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy, where CalMac say: “Due to the adverse weather forecast this service is at high risk of disruption or cancellation. Passengers intending to travel on Tuesday are advised to consider travelling on Monday 10 or Wednesday 12 February.”

Already cancelled is tomorrow’s service between Castlebay and Oban, which has also been suspended today.

A man has appeared in court today after being arrested on Sunday (9 February) by Stornoway police.

The 29-year-old was found to be in breach of bail conditions set following an earlier offence and was arrested and kept in custody at Stornoway police station until his appearance this morning.

Charged with assault

A 37-year-old man will be expected to appear in court on February 18 after being arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The man was arrested on Point Street at 1am on Sunday and charged with assault. He was released on an undertaking to appear in court at the set date.

Police are continuing their enquiries into the incident and are appealing for any witnesses to come forward, using the non-emergency number 101.

Work to prepare the Western Isles power network for extreme weather has stood the islands in good stead as Storm Ciara passed overhead.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said there were surprisingly few impacts from the winds on Saturday (8 February), when two of the strongest gusts recorded by the Met Office were in the islands – 69mph in Stornoway and 66mph in South Uist.

A low voltage fault affected a handful of homes in Callanish on Saturday and was quickly resolved, while on Sunday 68 properties in Solas, North Uist, lost power due to broken wires.

This morning nine homes in the Uig district have reported a loss of power and engineers are now (10.30am) on the way to find and resolve that fault.

An SSEN spokesman said that they were not complacent, with the islands under weather warnings for snow and ice, strong winds and lightning strikes forecast over the next three days.

Additional resources including extra personnel and contractors with specialist digging equipment have been brought to the islands to deal with any power outages that may occur.

The spokesman said: “We’re ready for whatever the next few days might throw at us.”

In a power cut, call 105 to report the fault and make sure you stay well away from any damaged or fallen power equipment. You can also use the Power Track app to check for reported faults and get information on when power is due to be restored.

Vulnerable customers can call 0800 294 3259 and ask to be placed on the Priority Services Register. They will then receive additional support during any loss of power.

Police are appealing for information after a boat trailer was removed from land within Arnol.

Police estimate the trailer was removed sometime between Tuesday 14 January and Friday 31 January.

They stated: "The trailer is a single boat trailer capable of taking a small rowing boat, and has certain modification to it and would be easily identified."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they wish to remain anonymous and use reference NH 167/20.

 

Greater protections to the welfare of animals in Scotland have been supported in a report issued by Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee.

Whilst considering the Bill, the Committee raised concerns about the lack of a central registration system to facilitate information sharing between authorities and agencies in relation, for example, to previous convictions.

Key provisions within the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill are:

• The increase of maximum penalties for animal welfare and wildlife crime offences to five years in prison
• The creation of fixed penalty notices for minor offences
• Removal of the requirement for court orders for rehoming animals.
• Increased protection for service animals (Finn’s Law) through the removal of the defence of self-defence.

Speaking as the report was launched, Committee Convener, Gillian Martin MSP, said: “We have explored the proposed penalties along with the powers given to those authorised to take animals into possession on welfare grounds. The Bill was widely welcomed but we believed more could be done.

“We recognise the tight focus of the Bill but we’re also in no doubt that it goes a long way to improving animal and wildlife protections in Scotland. When implemented, there should be greater co-operation, greater resourcing and greater awareness of the issues involved. The health and welfare of our animals and wildlife will be significantly improved.”

Additional recommendations made within the report include:
• That the options for enhanced detection and prosecution by expanding the powers of the SSPCA be explored
• That impact statements should be used as a matter of standard practise
• That the Scottish Government works with the Crown Office to provide more clarity and guidance about vicarious liability

More information about the Bill can be found here https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/113163.aspx

A new weather warning has been issued for the Western Isles area for Wednesday (12 February), stretching the extent of weather disruption from Storm Ciara over a fifth day.

The warning issued this morning (Sunday) alerts residents to the further risk of wind-driven snow showers at higher levels on Wednesday between midnight and midday, with icy surfaces creating an additional hazard.

It comes as the existing warning for Monday and Tuesday was updated to embrace a larger area of Scotland and Northern Ireland. That alert warns of frequent and heavy snow showers throughout the day between midnight tonight and midnight on Tuesday.

All 28 of CalMac’s ferry routes are under threat of disruption as the peak of Storm Ciara moves across the West Coast of Scotland.

In Barra, all sailings between Castlebay and Oban are cancelled throughout Monday and Tuesday, while early sailings on the Sound of Barra are cancelled on Monday, with a review due at 8.30am on the rest of the day’s sailings.

Services on the Uig triangle (Uig, Tarbert, Lochmaddy) are to be attempted on Monday, but subject to cancellation or disruption at short notice. The Mallaig-Lochboisdale service is cancelled on Monday.

Meanwhile on the Stornoway-Ullapool route and the Sound of Harris there’s been a day of cancelled services today (Sunday) and tomorrow’s services remain subject to cancellation at short notice.

A new Agriculture Transformation Programme to help farmers contribute positively to dealing with the climate emergency has been announced.

Scottish Land & Estates and WWF Scotland both welcomed the announcement by Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, of the new programme.

The two organisations have previously jointly called for such a fund to be established.  Farmers are increasingly feeling the impacts of a changing climate but with the right support they can be a vital part of the solution.

There is significant untapped opportunity in the agriculture sector to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions but high upfront costs represent a significant barrier to uptake.  This additional funding can support the industry to reduce emissions, protect our natural carbon stores and improve efficiencies in food production.

Sheila George, Food and Environment Policy Manager at WWF Scotland said: “It’s great to see this additional funding that will help farmers produce food in a way that reduces emissions and locks up more carbon. 

"By adapting our methods, Scotland could be at the forefront of the global transition to climate-friendly farming.”

Eleanor Kay, Policy Adviser at Scottish Land & Estates said: “To meet the ambitious government target of Net-Zero emissions by 2045 it’s clear transformational change will be needed.

"This hard-won additional funding will enable land managers to embrace new farming methods which reduce emissions whilst still producing the high-quality food Scotland is known for.” 

Within two hours of opening their booth at NY Now, the largest wholesale trade show in the USA, Essence of Harris were already taking orders.

The Tarbert-based candle company were in New York City this week to share their brand and products with the biggest home and lifestyle buyers in the country, flying the flag for the Isle of Harris and their growing range of hand-poured candles, fragrances, and island-inspired products.

“It’s been such a great journey,” says Jamie McGowan, Managing Director and Co-Founder, who was spreading the word about Essence of Harris in Manhattan alongside Beth Shannon, the company’s Marketing and Communications Manager. “I walk past here and go ‘Gee whiz, that’s our booth! There are our products here in the middle of New York.’”

The Essence of Harris booth – sitting in the Wellness section of a show that had more than 2000 businesses in attendance – featured selected candles on one wall and a map of Scotland on another. Their tartan products, which were launched in 2018 and include scarves, throws, and cosmetic bags, were also getting plenty of attention from passing buyers – especially when they learned that the thread count on the tartan matches the GPS coordinates of Harris.

Despite all the buzz, Essence of Harris’ arrival in America hasn’t happened overnight. Their presence in New York City is the result of hard work, lots of planning, and plenty of organizing (even down to making sure their brochure was produced using American English). “We felt New York was the best fit to start with, to see if we could compete in the market,” says Jamie. If their experience this week is anything to go by, Essence of Harris can certainly compete; they secured not only orders but meetings at some of the country’s biggest lifestyle brands, like ELLE and Martha Stewart Living. 

Their success at NY Now comes after a busy few years for the company. Essence of Harris began life in 2015 as Buth Bheag, when Jamie and his wife and co-founder, Deenie, opened a small shop in Harris. After re-branding in 2017 to Essence of Harris, the company have gone on to win multiple awards, hire more staff, and expand their premises. Essence of Harris now have a factory and large shop in the centre of Tarbert; outlets in Inverness and Aberdeen airports; and a new store in Glasgow’s high-end Princes Square shopping centre. 

In just five years, they’ve gone from pouring candles at a kitchen table in Tarbert to pitching America’s biggest buyers in New York City. “Myself and Deenie have a really dedicated group of people working with us, we haven’t been able to scale this business without them,” says Jamie. And it’s all only possible, he adds, thanks to the support from the island community. “Without it, we wouldn’t even be in Skye, never mind New York. Everything boils down to the fact that people at home support us.”

Emergency planning has switched in for major services as Storm Ciara begins its assault on the Western Isles.

The islands are under Met Office weather warnings from 12 noon today (Saturday 8 February) until midnight on Tuesday (11 February), with little respite from the wind and additional hazards including snow and lightning.

CalMac has warned of ‘likely severe disruption’ as winds gust up to 80mph across the West Coast region. Services already disrupted include the Stornoway Ullapool route, with the Loch Seaforth tied up at Ullapool after this morning’s early sailing and no return or 2.30pm sailing from Stornoway.

The Sound of Barra service is also currently suspended, with a review due at 3pm, and the Sound of Harris service is cancelled for the remainder of today. All other services to and from the Western Isles are subject to disruption at short notice.

CalMac's director of operations Robert Morrison said: 'Weather for the weekend is looking extremely problematic as far as delivering a scheduled timetable. There is a very high possibility of weather-related disruption to services across all 28 of our routes so people should be aware of this before setting off on their journey. We will of course be looking keep sailings running when conditions allow.”

Meanwhile Loganair have implemented their flight-change plan, allowing passengers who were due to fly during the worst of the weather tomorrow and Monday the opportunity to change flights without additional charges.

A Loganair spokesman said: “In view of the high winds forecast and potential for travel disruption, we are offering customers travelling on all Loganair flights the opportunity to adjust travel plans without charge. 

“If you are booked to travel on 9th /10th February, you can choose to re-book on an alternative flight between now and 16th/17th February. 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.”

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) have moved resources around the network to prepare for the impact of Storm Ciara as it hits the islands. In a social media statement yesterday (Friday) they said:

“We remain on Yellow Alert in the north of Scotland for Storm Ciara. Forecasts show two frontal systems moving in from the west, the first on Saturday from mid-afternoon bringing gusts of 60-70mph across the north of Scotland.

“A second front is forecast to move in from early Sunday morning, with the potential for gusts in excess of 80mph in western areas …. hail showers, heavy rain and lightning are forecast to accompany the strong winds on both days.

“This combination of weather conditions has the potential to result in damage to our network. In response, we have enacted our well-established resilience plans, increasing standby resources in anticipation of potential damage to the network and moving teams and equipment to the areas expected to be impacted.

“Over 470 field and support staff are on duty (and) over 70 mobile generation sets have been placed in key locations to help restoration efforts, with back-up generation stations available. 220 contact centre employees are ready to take customer calls.”

 

The Met Office warnings predict strong winds from 12noon to midnight today together with heavy rain and some hill snow. Tomorrow there’s a further yellow alert of winds which could gust of up to 80mph throughout the day and from midnight a 48 -hour warning of snow and wind begins, lasting throughout Monday and Tuesday.

A Met Office spokesman said: “Frequent and heavy snow showers will affect the region throughout Monday and Tuesday. Snow showers will mainly be over high ground, giving slight accumulations of 1-3cm above 150 metres and 5-10cm above 300 metres.

“Snow will gradually build up and, in a few locations, accumulations of over 20cm are possible by Tuesday evening over the highest routes. Strong winds…will lead to blizzard conditions at times and considerable drifting of lying snow. Frequent lightning strikes are also possible.”

A new system is to be put in place for road and causeway closures during storms and high tides, with immediate effect.

Members of Western Isles emergency planning group including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, HM Coastguard and Western Isles Police have decided to stop the use of convoy systems to escort vehicles along storm-affected routes.

The new system will simply mean coastal routes and causeways are open when they are safe to pass and closed when overall safety considerations, including obstructions on the carriageway, demand it.

At times when roads are affected by storms, this could lead to a longer closure period while debris is cleared from the carriageway.

Road closures during storm and high tides are decided by local police, with Coastguard teams usually providing the on-site protection for road inspections and the operation of closures, due to the high resilience of their vehicles.

The safety of staff and volunteers, as well as public safety, were uppermost when the new system was planned.

Storm winds and high tides often mean coastal routes and causeways are affected not just by spray but by debris including wind-blown seaweed, marine litter and stones which can be as large as small boulders.

The clearing of the debris after a closure will now be completed before the road re-opens at all, and not during a period when vehicles are being escorted in one-way convoys. The system is to be implemented across the Western Isles.

A flood alert was also issued for the Western Isles this morning (Saturday 8 February) by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The SEPA alert for coastal flooding covers the whole of the Western Isles and says: “Due to a combination of high tides along with a large surge, wind and waves there is a risk of flooding in coastal areas during Sunday and Monday. The greatest risk is around the times of high water….. There will be a risk from wind and waves at all times, particularly on exposed western coasts and causeways.”

A Coastguard spokesman said that the conditions over the weekend are not expected to affect the Braighe but that other causeways and coastal routes could be affected. Extra Coastguard personnel and a 4x4 Coastguard vehicle have been deployed in Benbecula for the duration of Storm Ciara.

High tides in Stornoway are at 6.47am and 7.15pm tomorrow (Sunday) and at 7.26am and 7.55pm on Monday.

 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Farm-related building works, Sollas

Roderick MacDonald of 3 Sollas, Isle of North Uist, has given prior notification for farm-related building works at the 3 Sollas, Isle of North Uist. The new building is to be 13 metres long, 4 metres tall and 9 metres wide. The walls are to be constructed of green box profile sheeting. 

New overhead line, Snishival

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution PLC has applied for planning permission to place a new 11,000 volt overhead line at Snishival, Isle of South Uist. 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

 Variation to Marine Licence, Tarbert

Planning permission is sought to construct temporary rock infill bund to the north of the existing pier in order to facilitate access for plant and materials for the pier reconstruction and extension works, at the ferry terminal, Pier Road, Tarbert. 

Change of use of shepherds hut, Scaristavore

Mr. and Mrs. D. Mackenzie of 4 Scaristavore have applied for planning permission to change the use of the shepherds hut at Sandy Bay Croft Wigwams, Na Bothain, 4 Scaristavore, to holiday-let accommodation. Work is to include building a replacement utility shed and creating two additional parking spaces, bringing the total number of parking spaces from two to four. The utility shed is to have walls constructed of green painted board on board timber cladding and a black profiled metal roof. 

New signpost, Horgabost

West Harris Trust has applied for planning permission to erect a standalone signpost at Talla Na Mara Pairc, Niseaboist, Horgabost. 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

74 new houses, Newmarket

Hebridean Housing Partnership has applied for planning permission to erect 74 houses in Blackwater, Newmarket. Work will include creating associated parking and accesses and the installation of air source heat pumps and other associated infrastructure.

Change of use of building, Stornoway

Engebret Ltd has applied for planning permission to change the use of the commercial garage at Garage 26, Inaclete Road, to a vocational training workshop. 

Temporary retention of accommodation unit, Uig

Jim Halbert of 10A Ardoil has applied for planning permission to temporarily retain the accommodation unit at 10A Ardroil for the duration of the house build. 

New house, Uig

Tom Hill of 4 Rosedale Terrace, Newbottle, Houghton-Le-Spring, Sunderland, England, has applied for planning permission to erect a house and create an access at 4A Crowlista, Uig. The house is to consist of an open-plan kitchen/dining/living area, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars. 

Hundreds of journalists and media workers - and their guests – gathered at the Kingsmill Hotel in Inverness last night (Friday February 7) for the Highlands and Islands Press Ball and Media Awards.

Principal sponsors Diageo were joined by Statkraft, Quatro PR, the National Union of Journalists, Chivas Brothers, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Hub North Scotland in supporting the event which has been taking place for more than 30 years.

Winner of the award for best use of digital media, particularly through its coverage of the Iolaire commemorations, was Stornoway Media Centre, for the work of welovestornoway.com

The award was accepted by Fred Silver, managing director and founder of Intermedia Services (Stornoway) Ltd, the parent company of welovestornoway.com  He said later: "This award is testament to the hard work and dedication of a whole team of people since 2012 who have built welovestornoway.com into the best local on-line news and information website with more than 37,500 users a month."

The community newspaper awards were dominated by publications from the Outer Hebrides with the three finalists being Am Pàipear from Uist, Fios and Rudhach.  The winner was Rudhach, the monthly newspaper serving Point which was set up 20 years ago with the assistance of the Western Isles Enterprise community newspaper programme, which was provided by Intermedia Services.  The award was accepted by Rudhach’s celebrated long-time columnist Matthew Maciver.

The award for the best use of Gaelic went to Shona Macmillan, of Fios, the Ness-based community newspaper.  This award was sponsored by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Judges had the onerous task of assessing a record 116 entries in 12 categories covering newspaper, online and broadcast news stories and features, as well as the year’s top photographs.

Gordon Fyfe, chairman of the Highlands and Islands Media Awards judging panel, said: “The media awards recognise and reward the best in journalism across our dispersed area which stretches from Shetland to Argyll and from Moray to the Outer Hebrides. 

“Once again, we were delighted with the number and high standard of entries and choosing a shortlist has been an extremely difficult task.”

Iain Grant, the former editor of the Caithness Courier and John O’Groat Journal, received the Barron Trophy for lifelong achievement in journalism.

HIPBMA Special Recognition Awards were presented to the Orcadian and Ian McCormack. The Orcadian, last year’s Newspaper of the Year, used their £500 prize money to set up the Outreach4CLAN campaign which raised £22,786.07 for an expansion of vital charity services in Orkney — over double what the appeal set out to achieve.

Ian McCormack, the long serving editor of the West Highland Free Press, retired after more than 40 years with the Skye-based weekly newspaper. Ian’s last day at the helm was on Friday, 31 February having published the 2,290th edition of the weekly paper where he became editor on 6 March 1976.

The Highlands and Islands Press Ball and Media Awards was held at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness. Principal sponsor was Diageo, and a new sponsor this year, Statkraft, provided additional support along with Quatro PR, Chivas Brothers, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the National Union of Journalists, Inverness Chamber of Commerce and Hub North Scotland.

The ball’s charity fundraising will benefit four local organisations: Day 1; Birchwood Highland; Alzheimer Scotland and Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS), as well as the Journalists’ Charity.

The full list of award winners is -

Top Business Story of the Year
Stan Arnaud, Press and Journal

Best Use of Gaelic
Shona Macmillan, Fios

Best Use of Digital Media
Stornoway Media Centre

Young Journalist of the Year (Alex Main Trophy)
Chris Maclennan, Press and Journal

Sports Reporter of the Year
Andy Skinner, Press and Journal

Photographer of the Year
Callum Mackay, Highland News and Media Ltd

Top Shot of the Year 
Eric Cormack, Highland News and Media Ltd

Reporter of the Year (Jim Love Memorial Trophy)
Keith Mackenzie, West Highland Free Press

Top Story of the Year
Louise Glen, Highland News and Media Ltd

Feature Writer of the Year
Val Sweeney, Highland News and Media Ltd

Community Newspaper of the Year
Rudhach, Lewis

Newspaper of the Year
Shetland Times

Diageo Journalist of the Year
Keith Mackenzie, West Highland Free Press

Barron Trophy for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism
Iain Grant, Grant News Agency, Thurso

HIPBMA Special Recognition Awards
Ian McCormack, Orcadian

For the first time, the event was organised by Quatro PR which moved into Scotland last year with the acquisition of the team at Inverness-based System2.

System2 organised HIPBMA for the last eight years. John Ross, Quatro’s head of media, remains as chairman and principal organiser of the Press Ball which he revived in the 1980s.

John, and colleagues Peter Kane, an executive director of Quatro with key responsibilities for strategic growth in Scotland; digital platforms and marketing manager Hollie Ivy and account director Suzanne Kane were responsible for all aspects of organising and managing the Press Ball and Highlands and Islands Media Awards.

More about the awards here https://www.facebook.com/pressballandmediaawards/

This article has been updated with more award details since first being published

Can you help Uist Community Riding School?

Many of the horses need stabling at night - resulting in the riding school running short on bedding.

They have appealed for anyone who can to donate bags of shredded paper from their home or business to be used as bedding in the stables.

The Uist Community Riding School Facebook page can be found here.

 

The Met Office have extended their weather warning until the end of Tuesday 11 February.

They also say the amounts of snow expected have increased. 

They commented: "Snow showers will mainly be over high ground, giving slight accumulations of 1 to 3 cm above 150 metres and 5-10 cm above 300 metres.

"Snow will gradually build up and, in a few locations, accumulations of over 20 cm are possible by Tuesday evening over the highest routes.

"Strong winds, gusting 50-60 mph, will lead to blizzard conditions at times and considerable drifting of lying snow.

"Frequent lightning strikes are also possible, perhaps leading to interruptions to power supplies."

 

The MSP for Dumbarton and Scottish Labour Deputy Leadership candidate has been in Stornoway as part of her Scotland-wide campaign tour.

Jackie Baillie met with Labour Party members in Stornoway yesterday (Thursday 6 February) and spent the evening meeting members, talking about her vision for the future of Scottish Labour and the need to reconnect with communities in every part of Scotland.

Today (Friday 7 February), she will be visiting Outer Hebrides Tourism and Tighean Innse Gall - a not for profit which is involved in social housing developments, household energy efficiency and runs projects aimed at reducing fuel poverty.

Jackie has served in the Scottish Parliament since 1999, winning her constituency seat at every election, against the odds. She would bring a wealth of campaigning, parliamentary and ministerial experience to the job, having served in Donald Dewar’s first Scottish Government.

Jackie Baillie said: “I am delighted to be here in Stornoway, listening to local people about the issues that matter to them the most.

"If Scottish Labour wants to win across Scotland again, then we must be in tune with every part of it – not just with the big cities on the mainland.

"For too long, decisions which affect Labour members across Scotland have been made in an office in Glasgow.

"Not only must Highland and Island voices be listened to within the decision making process, they should be part of it.

"I am immensely proud of my Scottish identity and the Scottish Labour Party needs to be the party of the Scottish people again.

“Labour proudly represented the Western Isles for decades until the 2001 General Election. Since then voters have gone elsewhere. For Scottish Labour to regain that lost trust, we must never again be unclear about the two greatest issues of the day – Brexit and the constitution.

“For the party to remain relevant in Scottish politics our route back must be based on winning again in every village, town and city, the length and breadth of Scotland.

“Our Party will only regain the trust of local people and begin to win again when we put aside our differences and work together. I am asking members to put their faith in me as their deputy leader for the sake of our communities, our country and our party. A vote for me is a vote for change.”

A young artist has made history by becoming the first painter from the Hebrides to compete in the Sky Portrait Artist Of The Year competition.

Eilidh Smith, along with her mother and fellow-artist, Margaret Ferguson, both entered the competition last year.

Margaret said: "It was my own fourth time of entering the competition and Eilidh's first.

"Last February, Eilidh got a phone call to say she was through to the heats.

"In April, we travelled to the heat in Battersea where she competed with eight other artists." 

A spokesperson from the Artist Of The Year competition said: "One of the things we love about the show is that it attracts people from all over the UK and even more so when it's from somewhere as special as The Hebrides.

"It was a pleasure to have Eilidh in the competition and to see someone so young create such brilliant work."

Eilidh's episode will be broadcast on Tuesday 11 February on the Sky Arts channel.

 

A three-year mental health and wellbeing project to benefit its officers and staff has been secured by Police Scotland – Highland and Islands Division.

The funding, from Police Care UK’s 1in4 Fund, will enable the employment of a project officer to oversee the delivery of a workplace action plan across the division.

It comes as the division also launches a formal partnership with See Me, Scotland’s programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination. The relationship acknowledges the division’s commitment to an ambitious programme of change, as well as talking about, and finding solutions to, challenges to ensure good practice in relation to mental health & wellbeing is sustained, and that necessary improvements to policies, processes and procedures are made.

Highland and Islands Division enrolled in the See Me in Work programme in 2018, and is the first organisation in the country to oversee the delivery of the action plan through a dedicated staffing resource. The project officer will implement the division’s proposals to deliver a range of outcomes and learning which it is hoped will be of benefit, locally and nationally, within Police Scotland, and of value to other employers.

Making the announcement on See Me’s Time To Talk Day (Thursday, 6 February, 2020), Inspector Judy Hill said: “The funding from Police Care UK gives us the opportunity to really tackle the issues around mental health stigma and discrimination, enabling us to lead the way in ensuring that, as an employer, our workplace is a mentally healthy one.

“We know that working as a police officer involves trauma as a core part of the job, but we also acknowledge that we must support our officers and staff to ensure they are mentally well and able to continue to provide a high level of service and response in our communities, both now and in the future.”

It is estimated that one in four people will experience mental illness at some point in their lifetime. It is acknowledged that pressures at work and at home, plus other social factors, can lead to unhealthy levels of stress, which can adversely impact a person’s mental health.

Interim director of See Me, Wendy Halliday, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Police Scotland - Highland and Islands Division to tackle stigma and discrimination with such a major employer.

“They are the first employer in Scotland to bring in a new member of staff to specifically work with us on delivering their action plan to tackle stigma.

“It’s great to see them getting involved in Time to Talk Day as well, showing that we can all talk about mental health.”

Photograph shows Inspector Judy Hill, Highland and Islands Division, and Wendy Halliday, Interim Director of See Me.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil has written to Hebridean Housing Partnership about the lack of affordable housing in Harris and Barra.

Mr MacNeil has received representations from people in Harris and Barra who are very concerned about the lack of house building projects in these islands.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said: “Concerns have been expressed from Harris and Barra that the lack of affordable housing is resulting in difficulties for young people and families wishing to remain in these areas.

“I appreciate that Hebridean Housing Partnership may have difficulties in securing land to build houses, but some means must be found to make land available for housing in order to ensure that there are people to run our tourism, care and all the other services needed within the islands.

“It would be a sad day if employment was available, but lack of housing prevented people making their homes in our islands.”

The Met Office have warned of potential blizzard conditions after the weekend.

They have updated their storm warning and stated: "Frequent and heavy snow showers will affect the region throughout Monday and at first on Tuesday.

"Snow showers will mainly be over high ground.

"Slight accumulations of 1 to 3 cm above 150 metres and 5-10 cm above 300 metres.

"Strong winds, gusting 50-60 mph, will lead to blizzard conditions at times and considerable drifting of lying snow.

"Frequent lightning strikes are also possible, perhaps leading to interruptions to power supplies."

They have previously issued a warning for strong winds to be widespread over the weekend, with the potential of gusts at 70-80mph.  

 

CalMac is warning of potential ferry travel disruption as Storm Ciara is forecast to hit its area of operations this weekend.

It is likely that severe disruption will affect a significant number of routes with winds gusting up to 80mph forecast.

The Met Office has issued a yellow ‘be aware’ warning for Saturday and Sunday.

CalMac's Director of Operations, Robert Morrison said: ‘Weather for the weekend is looking extremely problematic as far as delivering a scheduled timetable. There is a very high possibility of weather related disruption to services across all 28 of our routes so people should be aware of this before setting off on their journey. We will of course be looking keep sailings running when conditions allow.

‘I would urge passengers to allow extra time for their journey, keep track of the status of their sailing on the website or on social media and be prepared for delays and cancellations.

'The easiest way to get the very latest news about a sailing is to sign up for our text service to get the very latest service updates via their phone.

‘Customers can sign up for the text service via calmac.co.uk.’

Entries are now open for a chance to win a stage slot at HebCelt this summer.

The festival has partnered with Lews Castle College UHI to run the Showcase competition.

The winner will join the likes of Texas, Seasick Steve, Skipinnish, Julie Fowlis and Tide Lines in the HebCelt line-up.

They will also receive £500, passenger ferry tickets to Stornoway and overnight accommodation if required, as well as arena weekend passes to enjoy the milestone festival.

Jamie MacDonald, winner of last year’s contest, said: “Performing at HebCelt was brilliant. It’s a great island festival and an amazing crowd. The university’s Showcase competition to perform is a great way to reach a wider audience.”

Fellow-winner, Christian Gamauf, added: “Performing at HebCelt last year was one of the many great opportunities the University of the Highlands and Islands provides for students and alumni. Getting to come back to the Western Isles again and perform at the festival was a highlight of the summer for me."

Iain Macmillan, Principal and Chief Executive at Lews Castle College UHI, said: “Our relationship with the festival is now in its fourth year. Lews Castle College UHI is proud be supporting this fabulous festival which provides great opportunities for current students and graduates to perform.

“It is really rewarding to see the talent and interest in studying traditional music grow year on year, I can’t wait to watch this year’s winner on the stage at HebCelt.”

HebCelt Director Caroline Maclennan said: “The festival benefits enormously through its association with Lews Castle College UHI and its focus on traditional music.

“The competition fits perfectly with HebCelt’s passion for finding and supporting new talent and providing an opportunity to perform on a bigger stage.”

The competition is open to any performer or band who play a genre of music that reflects the general programming of the festival.

To enter, acts need to prepare a promotional pack in electronic format to sell their music to the judges and must include at least one high resolution photo and a biography, links to good quality recordings (three tracks) of their music and video of ‘live’ performance (optional).

For details on how to enter visit https://www.hebceltfest.com/lccuhi.  

The deadline for all submissions is midnight on Friday 6 March 2020. The winning artist(s) will be informed by 20 March.

Multidisciplinary artist Daniela De Paulis is organizing a live moon bounce event from Stornoway that will be held on the evening of February 8 as part of the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival.

This is one of a whole host of events taking place on Friday evening and throughout Saturday.

Earth–Moon–Earth communication, also known as Moon bounce, is a radio communications technique that relies on the propagation of radio waves from an Earth-based transmitter directed via reflection from the surface of the Moon back to an Earth-based receiver. The use of the Moon as a passive communications satellite was proposed by W.J. Bray of the British General Post Office in 1940.

It was back in October 2009 that Daniela de Paulis proposed to the CAMRAS radio amateur association based at the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory to use Moon Bounce for a live image transmission performance.
As a result of her proposal, in December 2009, CAMRAS radio operator Jan van Muijlwijk and radio operator Daniel Gautchi made the first image transmission via the Moon using the open source software MMSSTV.

De Paulis called the innovative technology Visual Moonbounce and since 2010 she has been using it in several of her art projects, including the live performance called OPTICKS, during which digital images are sent to the Moon and back in real time and projected live.

The scheduled time is 9pm. That means it will start at 4pm on the East Coast of the USA, and 1pm on the West Coast.

The live streaming event may start a little earlier than the live event. Following the live event, the audio from the panel discussion will be made available on our regular podcast feed at this site.

To view the live event, simply go to this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/1tZFOA5TfK0

Oor Big Braw Cosmos is a collaboration between renowned Scots poet Rab Wilson and the late, much missed Astronomer Royal for Scotland, John Brown OBE, pictured above.

In this special Hebridean Dark Skies Festival event, Rab will be joined by Chris Lintott and other festival guests to bring the book to life on stage and pay tribute to John, who passed away in November of last year.

Professor John Brown was a guest of honour on the opening night of the first Hebridean Dark Skies Festival, and was a significant source of support and advice as the programme for the festival came together. This year’s festival was to have featured a second appearance by John. Instead it is dedicated to his memory and to his work bringing astronomy to a wide audience.

Entry to Oor Big Braw Cosmos is included in the day ticket for A Day of Creativity and Curiosity, a whole day of events programmed by An Lanntair in partnership with Creativity and Curiosity lead artists Ione Parkin and Gillian McFarland.

If you could eat and drink the universe, what would it taste like?

Astrophysicist Roberto Trotta joins forces with An Lanntair and Uig Sands restaurant to bring complex astrophysics to life through two unique but complementary events – with cocktails and canapes at An Lanntair on Saturday night and dinner at Uig Sands restaurant on Sunday evening.

Roberto will host each event, providing an entertaining and educational experience for everybody….

g-Astronomy at An Lanntair 
Saturday 15 February, 8pm
 £25 per head
.  Three courses of cocktails and mocktails made to order, plus cosmic canapes, candlelight and music. 

The cocktail line-up will consist of…

  • Primordial Fireball (alcoholic) - 
Rum, raspberries, thyme and Big Bang blaze… the flaming start to your
 g-astronomical journey through the cosmos
  • Primordial Fireball (non- alcoholic) - A primordial fizz of raspberries, lime and ginger
  • Epoch of Reionization (alcoholic) - 
A golden star of Colonsay gin, lemon, mint
 and elderflower tonic to light up your palette
  • Epoch of Reionization (non-alcoholic) - 
A second golden star, bubbling with lemon, mint, elderflower tonic
  • Heat Death (alcoholic)
 - At the end of time, a supermassive black hole of vodka,
 fresh lime, triple sec and edible stardust
  • Heat Death (non-alcoholic)
 - Blueberries, lime, soda and stardust,
 resisting the ever-increasing entropy of the universe

 

Freelance Administrator

  • Available at an hourly rate.
  • Can assist with typing and organising.
  • Can create and maintain filing system.

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Over fifteen years secretarial and PA experience. Confidentiality is always held to the highest standard.

Happy to discuss any job, however small.

Please feel free to get in touch for a quote or further information.

In the evenings please call 07917 412 653. Not always available on the telephone through the
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A series of consultation ceilidhs took place a fortnight ago providing communities with a further chance to contribute to the development of Pròiseact an Fhìor Àite (the Great Place project).

The purpose of the Pròiseact an Fhìor-Àite (Great Place Project) is to develop for the Outer Hebrides a Place-based Heritage Strategy with a ten year vision and an accompanying Action Plan. Central to the work is identifying strategic approaches to support and deliver appropriate heritage-led economic development, infrastructure requirements and priorities.

Despite disruption caused by Storm Brendan, the ceilidhs were well attended by the communities in Harris, North Uist and Barra. Unfortunately, the ceilidh in Ness had to be postponed due to the weather, but organisers say they will look into rescheduling the event.

The ceilidhs saw members of the community contribute ideas and opinions to the project’s strategy and action plan, while enjoying the talents of local musicians and singers. The team delivering the ceilidhs included Great Place project manager, Catherine MacLean and Highlands and Islands based consultancy, StrategyStory, which has an office base in Stornoway and has been co-founded by Professor of Strategy Donald MacLean and former BBC Senior Producer, Kate Hooper.

Kenny MacLeod, Chairperson of Harris Development, who attended and introduced the ceilidh at the Hotel Hebrides, in Tarbert, Harris, said: “What a fantastic idea - a consultation that is also a ceilidh! So good to have such a wide representation and to hear all the talking at the various stations. Actually asking people for their views and getting them to shape the discussion – such a refreshing approach…and some beautiful singing and box playing as well! An enjoyable evening with a productive outcome.”

Catherine MacLean, Great Place Project Manager at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “Heritage is inherent in all that we do as islanders. On every island and in each community there is a wealth of knowledge, talent and cultural richness – each area and community has its own distinct story to tell – this came through loud and clear in our consultation throughout the different communities across the islands. What is truly impressive is the amount of passion and commitment of individuals in the communities towards the work of preserving and sharing our cultural heritage.

“Travelling through the islands - even in January - has been really important to do as it meant that we were able to experience and learn more about what is happening in each area. We had good engagement across the islands and feel we have a much deeper understanding of the breadth, scope of work, aspirations and potential held within our heritage across the islands.”

The two year project is led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and partners include Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Outer Hebrides Heritage Forum, Scottish Natural Heritage, Outer Hebrides Tourism, An Lanntair, Taigh Chearsbhagh, Urras Nan Tursachan and Historic Environment Scotland. The project is overseen by a steering group with a representative from each partner organisation. The project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

One of the most prestigious names in the food and drink scene in London will now offer whisky with a splash of Larkfire from the Isle of Lewis – the prize-winning ‘wild water’ which aims to bring out the full flavour of every dram.

All venues in The Boisdale Group – Mayfair, Belgravia, Canary Wharf and Bishopsgate – will list Larkfire as their recommended water for whisky, with a special tasting event being held on February 11 at Boisdale Belgravia to officially launch the collaboration.

The news comes as a number of top London venues have started to offer Larkfire – including Soho Whisky Club for their regular tastings, and Islington restaurant Frederick’s, to accompany their range of world whiskies.

James McIntosh, co-founder of Larkfire, said: “These well-known and respected names are highly regarded for their quality and impeccable taste, making them perfect for Larkfire.

“We’re thrilled to bring Larkfire from the Isle of Lewis to London, giving whisky fans in the capital the chance to make the most of their dram.”

James travelled the length and breadth of Scotland and visited countless distilleries before creating award-winning Larkfire, which was recently named Best Premium Drink at the World Beverage Innovation Awards.

He added: “Many whisky drinkers are unaware that tap water and mineral water can interfere with the delicate flavours of whisky, due to mineral content and added chlorine or fluoride in the water, but Larkfire is pure and naturally soft helping create a natural chemistry.”

Larkfire was launched after a study by Swedish chemists Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman in the Scientific Reports journal helped prove that water boosts the concentration of flavour compounds at the surface of whisky, enhancing the flavour.

A percentage of sales flow back into the Outer Hebrides via a partnership with community landlord The Stornoway Trust, which looks after 69,000 acres of land where the water is sourced.

To find out more or to buy Larkfire online, visit www.larkfire.co.uk

For more about The Boisdale Group, visit www.boisdale.co.uk

Pamela Macaskill first heard about her Postcode Lottery win when her daughter's phone started receiving notifications.

"She said: 'Mum, do we do the Postcode Lottery?' and I said: 'Yes...'

"Then I went to check my direct debit to make sure we definitely did enter it!"

Pamela, who lives on Berneray and has family connections to Lewis, went on to find she had won just over £193,000 as did fellow islander Sharon MacKillop.

In total, 101 islanders in North Uist and Berneray shared the £3 million lottery as part of the January Postcode Millions. The 80 players with one ticket won £21,425 each, and 15 winners doubled their prize to £42,850 each thanks to playing with two tickets. Four winners with three tickets each tripled their prize to £64,275.

Pamela, who works Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, says she plans to keep on working. "I told them: 'You're not getting rid of me that easily!'" she laughs.  "I haven't got a clue what I'll spend the money on. When you're not used to having that much, you don't really know what to do with it. I do love a good holiday though..."

Pamela has been entering the Postcode Lottery since the lottery's early days. "I remember a big buzz when it initially started, and I signed up – as it supports a lot of good causes. But I never in a million years thought I would win anything.

"When the news started to break, there was an amazing atmosphere. So many families in North Uist knew they were getting something. The community spirit we have here is phenomenal.

"We all gathered in Carinish Hall and it was like a huge party atmosphere there!"

Danyl Johnson, a People's Postcode Lottery ambassador and a former X Factor star, presented cheques to the winners at Carinish Village Hall on Friday 31 January.

Initially, entrants were told they would receive a minimum of £10,000. Excitement started to grow as various residents received cheques for even more than that. "Then we got to the last few letters of the winning postcode and they gave us cheques for £193,000," reveals Pamela. "Everyone here is so unassuming and works so hard – often with a minimum of one job – so is this a massive boost for so many in the community."

Pamela's fellow big-winner, Sharon MacKillop, was left speechless on stage after finding out she'd won £193,055. After taking a few moments to think about what she could do with her winnings she said: "I'm going to take my husband out for dinner!"

Sharon was also thrilled for her friends and neighbours in the area. She said: "We all know everyone here. It's lovely that it's not isolated, it's a lot of people in the community that have gotten a substantial sum of money."

Event host, Danyl, commented: "It's certainly been a day to remember in North Uist. We've had prizes in big cities and small villages all over the country, but we've never been to a place quite like this before. The views here are stunning and everyone has been so friendly, you can really feel the sense of community here.

"I am thrilled for all our winners and I know that this prize will not only benefit them, but will have a huge positive impact on everyone on the islands."

This week, a group of local young people got involved with the CalMac Community Fund as members of their Youth Panel.

The Panel worked with Gordon McKillop from CalMac and CnES Community Learning and Development to review applications to the company's Community Fund, which supports projects for children and young people living in west coast communities served by CalMac.

Groups applied for awards of between £500 and £2000 to fund a wide variety of projects across the islands. The Youth Panel is one part of the process of reviewing and awarding the fund, making sure that applications meet the needs of island young people.

Previous awards from the CalMac Community Fund have gone to the Western Isles Foyer Food for Thought project, Lewis and Harris Women's Football Association and to Comunn Eachdraidh Nis (CEN) in support of their Comunn Eachdraidh Youth Café.

These projects have benefitted many young islanders and CalMac aims to continue this support with the 2020 round of funding, in no small part thanks to the energy and insight of the Youth Panel, says CnES.

The Alzheimers Western Isles group received a funding boost of £750 this week from the Western Isles Lottery to enhance their current services across the West Side area of Lewis.

Marion MacInnes, who heads the local branch said: “We have various activities in the area including the Dementia Café in Borve, drop-in information sessions at Carloway Day Centre and our Ceilidh@Home project which covers 1-1 therapeutic activity at home for people living with dementia in advanced stages. Our Dementia advisor also makes regular home visits in the area.”

An application was submitted to the local Lottery for £750 to purchase a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro Wi-Fi and a number of personal headphone sets. The equipment would be used to support activities by accessing information for people living with dementia and their carers.

Janet Paterson, spokesperson for Western Isles Lottery, said: “The Lottery Team are delighted to be able to assist the Alzheimers group to enhance the service they provide in rural areas of Lewis. In addition to the equipment providing information, important life story work can readily be delivered as well as a range of activities that include photos, videos and music. The funds were raised by supporters in the Ness and Westside area and are being distributed back for this worthy service.”

Marion MacInnes welcomed the funding and said: “we very much appreciate the support of the Western Isles Lottery to purchase this equipment which will make a huge difference, particularly, to those who are no longer able to attend community events and depend on home visits. This is a fantastic enhancement to our rural service”.

To join the Lottery and support your own area, log on to www.westernisleslottery.co.uk

Pictured is Janet Paterson presenting the funds to some of the group who regularly attend the Dementia Café at the Clan MacQuarrie Community Centre in Borve.

A community survey and consultation is to be carried out by Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) over the coming months, to find out how local causes and organisations have benefited from investment from the community wind farm charity.

The charity, which disperses the profits from the community-owned Beinn Ghrideag throughout the community, will also be consulting on future spending priorities, with a view to creating a new five-year investment plan that is in line with the community’s own hopes and ambitions.

This new community consultation follows two previous in-depth consultations undertaken by PST, in 2009 and 2013, which resulted in the Point and Sandwick Trust Community Investment Plan, now nearing completion.

Impact Hub Inverness will be carrying out the consultation and two of its representatives, Polly Chapman and Brian Weaver, met with the board of Point and Sandwick Trust recently to agree the terms of the consultation.

Polly Chapman, chief executive of Impact Hub Inverness, said there would be two outputs from their work – a social impact review and a community plan for the next five years. “Basically we’re looking at what difference the grant has made and then looking forward to what the priorities for future investment are,” she said.

They will be surveying all grant recipients, Point and Sandwick Trust board members, the wider community and other stakeholders.

The survey will be carried out over the Spring, with the draft plan being completed by early summer. It is scheduled to come before board members at their annual away day in September and then in front of the wider membership at the Annual General Meeting in November. 

Speaking after the board meeting, Polly said: “I’m impressed by the number of people in that room and the enthusiasm that’s clearly coming across. It’s really refreshing to be in a room with a group of people who are looking to the future with optimism, commitment, enthusiasm and realism.”

Brian said it was “unusual” to have so many people working together on a shared vision.

“The joyous thing about a vision is when more than one person has it. If you can get people who share a vision to come together around it and work together towards it, then that is unusual. It’s unusual to have that number of people working together in a collaborative way, because so often in communities it’s about fights over power.”

Norman Mackenzie, Point and Sandwick Trust chairman, said: “This consultation is an opportunity for all of our stakeholders to have a say and help shape the future direction of Point and Sandwick Trust’s investment in our community.

“I think that our community grant scheme has proved to be a great help to local groups and it has made a significant contribution to social cohesion and well-being within our community. I have no doubt that this form of community support will continue to be central to our activities but, from a personal point of view, I also think we need to consider how we can invest for the future.

“I would urge everyone taking part in this consultation to make the most of the opportunity to make their views known and inform directors as to the type of community investment and support they would like to see PST be involved in over the next five years.”

Donald John MacSween, Point and Sandwick Trust general manager, said: “By the end of this year Point and Sandwick Trust will be nearing the £2million mark in community support, and now is an appropriate time to have an independent assessment of the effectiveness of the first few years, and undertake a wide-ranging consultation to find out how Point and Sandwick Trust should invest in the next five years.

“Priorities will have changed for the Point and Sandwick Trust Board during implementation of the first plan and the consultation on the new investment plan, taking account of these changing priorities, will give the PST board, members, grant recipients and the community an opportunity to have their say.

“Point and Sandwick Trust are still committed to their community and determined that the gift aid from Beinn Ghrideag Wind Farm will be used to fulfil that commitment in the future.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has expressed concern about the ability of A&E departments across the region to cope with the number of patients they are being required to treat.

Mr Cameron spoke out after recently published figures for December 2019 (available at: beta.isdscotland.org) revealed that the proportion of patients who have had to wait for more than 4 hours in the NHS Highland area rose to a record high.

He said: “The results for December 2019 were the worst since records began in June 2007. But, what makes them especially worrying, is that the figures for October and November were already the two worst results on record, even before we received December’s results.

“This trend is something that should concern everybody as it shows that the service seems to be under unprecedented pressure.

“Nicola Sturgeon has to accept that after 13 years in office we have every right to expect an improved health service. Unfortunately she appears to be delivering the precise opposite for people in the Highlands and Islands.

“Perhaps a bit less time spent debating flags and referendums, and a bit more time spent focusing on the needs of the NHS might be in order.”

 

UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh has completed the third phase of his environmental campaign, Antarctica 2020, by swimming in a supraglacial lake, a lake formed on top of a glacier due to melting ice.

In preparation for this incredible achievement, adventurer and endurance athlete Lewis spent Hogmanay in Lewis and Harris, getting into training for his campaigning challenge in the glacial meltwater of Antarctica by swimming alongside “The most welcoming folk in the world”.

His co-swimmers for his Hebridean training included Minch swimmer Colin Macleod, of whom Lewis later said: “Big thank you to Colin Macleod, who chose all our swim sites and runs the local Hebridean Sea Swimmers. An amazing, big, beautiful man. Heart of gold. If you want to swim in the Outer Hebrides - he’s your man!”

The preparation paid off, as Lewis swam in meltwater underneath the glaciers of the Antarctic ice-continent in East Antarctica on Thursday 23 January. He is the first person in the world to have swum there, and the fact that there was water to swim in clearly demonstrated the importance of his environmental message.

Lewis said: “East Antarctica is the coldest place on earth. Even so, everywhere I looked there was water rushing off the ice-sheet, carving long ravines deep into the ice sheet, or pooling into supra-glacial lakes. Antarctica is melting.

“No one had ever swum down one of these rivers before. They are not only freezing cold, but the ice can suddenly crack and the river can drain down a moulin at a terrifying speed to the bedrock hundreds of metres below. That meltwater then lubricates the bedrock, which causes the ice-sheet to become unstable; huge chunks then break loose and slide into the sea.

“So why was I attempting to swim here? Quite simply to demonstrate the rapid changes that are taking place in Antarctica, and to call for the urgent establishment of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around Antarctica.”

And the reach of Lewis's so-called ‘Speedo diplomacy’ now extends from the seas and lochs of Lewis to the Kremlin’s hallways.

Lewis's mission to create MPAs in Antarctica to protect the oceans from over-fishing then took him to Moscow, where he met Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to President Putin and Sergei Ivanov, special representative of the President on issues of the environment. Russia and China are the last of 25 required nations to agree to creating MPAs around Antarctica.

He said afterwards: “Warm and very constructive discussions at the Kremlin yesterday. We spoke about how Antarctica is rapidly changing due to climate change and industrial fishing and spoke frankly about the role Russia can play in protecting it. 

The end of January “... marks 200 years since Russian Admiral Bellingshausen discovered Antarctica. It's crucial now to protect the region, before it's too late.”

 

Photos: UN Ocean Ambassador Lewis Pugh with members of the Hebridean Sea Swimmers, swimming under the ice-sheet in Antarctica (Kelvin Trautman) and at the Kremlin (Olle Nordell).

The Comhairle's Slàinte Mhath scheme celebrated its 10 year anniversary in January.

In 2010, the Comhairle halved its existing sports facility membership fees to encourage communities to become more active.

Now, nearly 30% of the population of the Outer Hebrides are members of the scheme.

Over the years, the scheme has been developed further including offering free memberships to ‘at risk’ children.

In 2018, the Comhairle agreed reciprocal arrangements for access to a range of sports facilities across Scotland as part of the LeisureLink Partnership. This move has meant that families with existing Slàinte Mhath memberships are able to access facilities operated by the Comhairle, Highlife Highland, Orkney Islands Council and Moray Council, Argyll and Bute and LiveBorders free of charge.

It is anticipated that more local authorities and trusts across the UK will be added to this list over the next year.

Councillor Angus McCormack, Chairman of the Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee, said: “Many existing Slàinte Mhath members have seen significant enhancements to their membership benefits since the scheme begun back in 2010. For example, a family swim session for two adults and two children would previously have cost £20.30 at the Aquadome and yet is now included in the scheme.

“In addition, the Slàinte Mhath Scheme remains the cheapest of its type in Scotland and we are very pleased that our communities make full use of our excellent leisure facilities.”

Tony Wade, Sports Facilities Services Manager, said: “We regularly speak to visitors to the islands who use our facilities and they are impressed by the range and quality of what we offer including state of the art fitness equipment, which saw an investment of £340k in 2016, 3G all weather pitches and 25 metre pools.

“There is little doubt that the scheme offers fantastic value and we look forward to welcoming more members of the public into our facilities, and indeed the Slàinte Mhath scheme itself, over the coming months and years.”

Kara Hanlon, a regular user of the scheme over the last few years, whose most recent swimming successes included four Gold medals, one Silver and three Games Records at the 2019 World Island Games in Gibraltar, commented: “The Slàinte Mhath scheme offers great value for money and helps encourage families within the community to enjoy sport as much as possible.

“The quality and range of facilities available is amazing and helps promote physical activity of all ages and levels. In addition, the scheme’s unlimited access to facilities offers support to young athletes enabling them to achieve their sporting goals.”

Free training on suicide prevention is planned for Benbecula and Barra.

SafeTALK, which lasts for two and a half hours, will enable participants to learn four basic steps to recognise people who are thinking of suicide.

Participants will be more willing and able to help connect people with thoughts of suicide to others who can help them.

NHS Western Isles say: "Suicide is everyone’s business. We all know someone who has been affected by this issue and this training will give you the confidence to support others who may have suicidal thoughts.

"This free training is suitable for everyone over 15 years of age who wants to help prevent suicide. Places on the workshop are limited, so early booking is advisable.

"Suicide can affect any one of us so let’s make sure the right help is available."

The events will take place at Fire Station, Castlebay, Isle of Barra on Tuesday 18 February from 11:30am until 2pm and HHP Office, Balivanich, Isle of Benbecula on Tuesday 25 February from 11am until 1:30pm.

For further information or to book a place contact: Alison MacDonald, Health Promotion, NHS Western Isles, Tel: 01870 602588, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Met Office have warned of 70-80mph winds at the weekend.

They say the strong winds are likely to arrive on Saturday and last through to Sunday.

They have said: "Gusts of 50 to 60mph are likely across many inland areas, with gusts 70, possibly 80mph around some exposed coasts and hills, especially in the north and west.

"Heavy rain will be an additional hazard, especially over western hills. Winds of this strength across a wide area have the potential to produce disruption to transport, along with some coastal impacts, especially in the west."

Broadbay Medical Practice is to be closed for part of today (Tuesday 4 February.)

The practice will be closed from 1pm onwards to enable staff training.

Anyone who requires a doctor in an emergency is asked to phone 01851 703588.  

A new National Theatre of Scotland production, Ferry Tales, is set to pop up on the Ullapool and Stornoway ferry route from 21 to 25 April.

The musical production, part of Visit Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, will feature a local community cast, with open rehearsals for residents taking place in Stornoway from Thursday 5 March.

Ferry Tales will bring an enchanting musical tale, told using English, Gaelic, and BSL (British Sign Language), to three of the country’s major ferry routes, with the support of Caledonian MacBrayne.

Written by Isobel McArthur and directed by Lu Kemp, and featuring songs by Scottish folk singer Josie Duncan, Ferry Tales will draw inspiration from real community stories and experiences to create the short, immersive tales, told through storytelling and song by an ensemble of talented actors.

As part of the production, audiences will also be welcomed and immersed in inspiring local tales, where the ordinary becomes fantastical and the truth is funnier than fiction.

Local residents will also have the chance to be a part of the production’s community cast, with community engagement sessions in Stornoway allowing people the opportunity to come along and share their stories. Engagement sessions and rehearsals in Stornoway will begin on 5 March, and will take place at the Martin’s Memorial Hall every Thursday evening for seven weeks.

The rehearsals will be led by musician Ross Brown and local drama practitioner Laura Cameron Lewis, and any interested participants are encouraged to come along to the first session.

Prior to arriving on the Stornoway route, Ferry Tales performances will also take place on two further ferry routes: on Rothesay to Wemyss Bay sailings from 7 to 11 April, and on Oban to Craignure sailings from 14 to 18 April.

 

 

The three Island Authorities have called for a moratorium on HIAL’s (Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd) plans to centralise Air Traffic Control (ATC) services pending an Islands Communities Impact Assessment as legislated for under the Islands Act.

Airports affected by the centralisation proposals include Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Shetland and Orkney Islands Councils have made the request following HIAL’s decision to move forward with the centralisation of Air Traffic Control services to Inverness.

The controversial move was debated in the Scottish Parliament last week where it was condemned by many Highland and Island MSPs. 

HIAL is a public company wholly owned by Scottish Ministers who have been asked to intervene in the proposals which would see jobs being lost in the Islands.

A spokesperson for the Island Councils said: “All three Island Councils are of the view that, in line with legislation under the Islands Act, a full Islands Communities Impact Assessment should be carried out before any more work is carried out on the centralisation of ATC services.

“Not only would the centralisation of these services lose skilled island jobs, they could also curtail the future development of the island Airports.

“Centralisation of services and jobs is entirely contrary to what island authorities have been working towards over the past few years in terms of growing island economies.

"We believe there are other options which should be more fully explored, such as those that HIAL’s own consultants previously highlighted. In the meantime it is imperative that the centralisation process is halted to assess the true impact this will have on our Island communities.”

CalMac have become the first transport operator in the country to use the Any Disability symbol on board their vessels.

The sign was designed by Grace Warnock, a pupil at Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans.

Grace, who has Crohn’s Disease, designed the sign following her own experience of using accessible toilets, including receiving negative remarks from adults who did not appreciate or understand her condition.

The sign has now been evolved by design agency StudioLR with the aim of having it recognised by the British Standards Institution as the generally accepted sign for accessible facilities.

West coast operator CalMac is rolling out the new symbols across its 33 vessels and at port locations.

CalMac estimate they transport around half a million disabled passengers.

"The wheelchair symbol is commonly used on accessible toilet signs and Blue Badge parking permits, however this symbol doesn’t represent the people with wide-ranging impairments who use these facilities and services," said CalMac’s Transport Planning Manager, Demi Wylie.

"People with a hidden disability have the right to access facilities and services without having to explain their personal circumstances. It’s about building awareness of this and we hope that many more organisations will join us and adopt the new signs."

A nationwide campaign to recruit new Special Constables has been launched by Police Scotland.

The Special Constabulary is a part-time volunteer body consisting of officers with identical powers to that of police officers.

Police say there has been a steady decrease in the number of special constables, with "a significant number of recruits using the opportunity as a route to becoming a regular police officer."

The campaign focuses on encouraging people to give back to their local community by signing up in their spare time and enhancing local policing with their life experience.

Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said: “There are thousands of people living in Scotland who could bring the skills and talents from their own jobs into the role of a volunteer police officer and in support of their local community.

“Joining the Special Constabulary can also be a fantastic opportunity to consider whether policing is the job for you. It provides excellent experience and training for those who would like to become a full-time police officer.

“Police Scotland undoubtedly benefits from the experience volunteers bring, but it’s also an opportunity unlike any other where you gain confidence, new skills and get the chance to help people in need or make their life better.

“Anyone is eligible to apply to become a Special Constable as long as they satisfy some basic requirements for the role but ultimately we are looking for people who want to make a real difference to their communities and can bring a fresh perspective to the team they work in. The more varied your background, the more diverse our workforce will be.

“Don’t miss the opportunity to do something great.”

For more information on becoming a Special Constable and to find out more about eligibility, visit: https://www.scotland.police.uk/recruitment/special-constables/

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Alterations to church, Carinish

Iain Morrison of 17 Carinish has applied for planning permission to remove the pews and reposition the pulpit in the Carinish Church, Carinish, to form a cafe, install a fire escape door, modify the existing toilet to form accessible toilet and install a new toilet. 

Demolition of house, Lochmaddy

Macinnes Brothers Ltd has applied for planning permission to demolish the former house at Old Hospital, Lochmaddy. Work is to include levelling the site by removing 3600 cubic metres of rock in preparation for redevelopment of adjacent former hospital and surroundings. The rock will be stockpiled for a temporary two-year period. 

New house, Lochmaddy

Marri Morrison of Clachan Sands has applied for planning permission to erect a house and shed at 2 Trumisgarry, Clachan Sands, Lochmaddy. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars as well as installing a private drainage system. The house is to consist of two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining/living area and one bathroom. 

A new cat rescue group is being launched tomorrow (Monday 3 February) in the Western Isles after the national cats’ charity withdrew at the end of 2019.

Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens (WISCK) has been set up in response to an enormous outcry among cat-lovers when Cats Protection announced last year that they were pulling out of the islands.

Islanders were concerned about a return to ‘the bad old days’ when the welfare needs of cats were simply ignored. Feral cat colonies exist all over the islands, with female cats breeding constantly and kittens often suffering from parasite infestation, hunger and danger of injury or death from vehicles and other hazards.

Now a group of dedicated volunteers have decided to step in and do what they can to support island felines. Trapping, taming and socialisation, hand-feeding of kittens and getting sick and injured cats to the vet are just some of the tasks already being taken on by the new organisation.

The WISCKers include a constituted committee of six based in Stornoway and a small crew of dedicated fosterers, who will take in cats and kittens and look after them while health-care, neutering and, eventually, re-homing are organised.

There is also a team in Uist starting work on support for cats and kittens across the Uists and Benbecula and, backing up the core team, there’s exceptionally good support from other organisations who have an animal welfare remit.

WISCK’s Lewis and Harris Chair Alison Smith said: “We are very lucky in the network we have in the islands. The Old Mill Veterinary Practice is extremely supportive with everything from planned neutering of ferals to emergency care of cats that have been hit by cars.

“The SSPCA is working with us as we begin a programme of trapping female cats and kittens, lending us traps and other equipment so that we can get them indoors and prepare them for neutering and release – or socialisation and re-homing, if that’s possible.”

The trap, neuter and return (TNR) programme has been licensed by Scottish Natural Heritage, who are also supporting the new organisation. Alison said: “We’ve also been supported by businesses. Maybury Gardens in Stornoway, for example, has given us tremendous support by accepting donations for food and cat litter on our behalf.

“During the time since the national charity withdrew, we have had cats to care for, but we have been left absolutely without resources. We had no bank account, no vehicle, no traps and our pens were, and still are, in a poor state of repair – they were due for replacement just as we were left in the lurch.

“For the moment, what we need most is public support. We need money to feed cats, heat their pens and get them treated at the vets. We need volunteer fosterers who can give over a room or a water-tight outbuilding to foster feral kittens and we need volunteer cleaners, cuddlers and catchers who can help us with all the tasks needed to get cats and kittens in out of the cold.”

An urgent initial appeal is to fix up old outdoor pens and help build new ones, so that trapped feral cats can be kept safe while they recover from neutering or rear the last of their kittens before they are spayed. Any builder or joiner who thinks they can help with that is asked to get in touch.

And donations, small or large, one-off or regular are especially welcomed. There are collecting tins in businesses around the islands, and larger donations can be taken by Paypal or direct donation by bank transfer. Contact WISCK via their Facebook page (search for Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens) or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Picture shows the collecting boxes which will soon appear at businesses around the islands

A new cat rescue group is being launched tomorrow (Monday 3 February) in the Western Isles after the national cats’ charity withdrew at the end of 2019.

Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens (WISCK) has been set up in response to an enormous outcry among cat-lovers when Cats Protection announced last year that they were pulling out of the islands.

Islanders were concerned about a return to ‘the bad old days’ when the welfare needs of cats were simply ignored. Feral cat colonies exist all over the islands, with female cats breeding constantly and kittens often suffering from parasite infestation, hunger and danger of injury or death from vehicles and other hazards.

Now a group of dedicated volunteers have decided to step in and do what they can to support island felines. Trapping, taming and socialisation, hand-feeding of kittens and getting sick and injured cats to the vet are just some of the tasks already being taken on by the new organisation.

The WISCKers include a constituted committee of six based in Stornoway and a small crew of dedicated fosterers, who will take in cats and kittens and look after them while health-care, neutering and, eventually, re-homing are organised.

There is also a team in Uist starting work on support for cats and kittens across the Uists and Benbecula and, backing up the core team, there’s exceptionally good support from other organisations who have an animal welfare remit.

WISCK’s Lewis and Harris Chair Alison Smith said: “We are very lucky in the network we have in the islands. The Old Mill Veterinary Practice is extremely supportive with everything from planned neutering of ferals to emergency care of cats that have been hit by cars.

“The SSPCA is working with us as we begin a programme of trapping female cats and kittens, lending us traps and other equipment so that we can get them indoors and prepare them for neutering and release – or socialisation and re-homing, if that’s possible.”

The trap, neuter and return (TNR) programme has been licensed by Scottish Natural Heritage, who are also supporting the new organisation. Alison said: “We’ve also been supported by businesses. Maybury Gardens in Stornoway, for example, has given us tremendous support by accepting donations for food and cat litter on our behalf.

“During the time since the national charity withdrew, we have had cats to care for, but we have been left absolutely without resources. We had no bank account, no vehicle, no traps and our pens were, and still are, in a poor state of repair – they were due for replacement just as we were left in the lurch.

“For the moment, what we need most is public support. We need money to feed cats, heat their pens and get them treated at the vets. We need volunteer fosterers who can give over a room or a water-tight outbuilding to foster feral kittens and we need volunteer cleaners, cuddlers and catchers who can help us with all the tasks needed to get cats and kittens in out of the cold.”

An urgent initial appeal is to fix up old outdoor pens and help build new ones, so that trapped feral cats can be kept safe while they recover from neutering or rear the last of their kittens before they are spayed. Any builder or joiner who thinks they can help with that is asked to get in touch.

And donations, small or large, one-off or regular are especially welcomed. There are collecting tins in businesses around the islands, and larger donations can be taken by Paypal or direct donation by bank transfer. Contact WISCK via their Facebook page (search for Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens) or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Picture shows the collecting boxes which will soon appear at businesses around the islands

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has launched the first Fireskills programme for young people in Tarbert.

The programme comes in response to legislation and government policy, which sets out a clear requirement for SFRS to contribute towards improving life chances for young people.

A ten-week programme started at Tarbert fire station recently, involving 12 young people from Sir E Scott School and supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s community learning and development department.

Western Isles group commander for SFRS Gavin Hammond said: “I am so pleased that after a lot of hard work we are now able to deliver this fantastic youth programme on the Isles.

“They were understandably nervous, and I am really proud of them all already for embracing the opportunity. I am genuinely excited for all involved and our local fire fighters have committed so much already to get us to this point.”

The Fireskills programme is a blend of practical activities based on firefighter drills and reflective learning to enable the young people to recognise their achievements. It’s being delivered by SFRS personnel and workers from partner organisations.

Gavin said: “For many the programme will be their first encounter with the world of work and will assist with making a transition from school.

"To be in a position where we can positively make a difference to these young people, watching them grow in terms of their self-esteem, confidence, self-respect and respect for others is amazing.”

The Met Office has renewed and updated its warning of ‘very strong winds’ coming in across the north-west of Scotland during Monday (3 February) and lasting well into Tuesday.

The gale warning affects not only the whole of the Western Isles but all of Scotland, and is expected to lead to widespread travel disruption.

Loganair has offered customers scheduled to fly on Monday or Tuesday the option to change their flights for any time up to February 11 if their journey involves Stornoway, Benbecula or Barra airport.

A social media statement yesterday (Saturday 1 February) said: “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.

“We are continuing to plan to fly all our scheduled services, and we have standby aircraft and crews in place to help recover any disrupted services as soon as reasonably possible once weather conditions permit.”

Meanwhile CalMac is beginning to put in place cancellations across the network, with all services between Oban and Castlebay cancelled tomorrow and the service across the Sound of Barra suspended at least until a review at 2pm tomorrow.

An amended timetable is operating on the Uig, Tarbert, Lochmaddy triangle and the 2pm service from Uig to Tarbert has been cancelled. All sailings to and from Lochboisdale have also been cancelled for the day on Monday.

And a yellow ‘be aware’ notice has been posted on the Stornoway Ullapool service, warning of possible disruption to the passenger and freight services throughout Monday.

The Met Office updated the yellow warning of strong winds yesterday morning (Saturday) to alter the time-span of expected impact, which is now between 12 noon on Monday and 9am on Tuesday.

The forecast said: “A spell of very strong winds will affect much of Scotland from Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning. The strongest winds will likely be across exposed parts of the northwest on Monday afternoon and evening, where gusts of 55-65mph are widely expected, with the potential for 70-80mph gusts in more exposed parts such as the Hebrides.”

Winds are expected to move south-eastwards later in the day before subsiding during Monday.

Stornoway police were active on Willowglen Road on Saturday (1 February) checking vehicle speeds in the 30mph zone.

A total of six drivers were found to be driving over the speed limit and were issued with fixed penalties.

They will have to pay a fine of £100 and will have three penalty points placed on their licences.

Lews Castle College UHI has once again recruited engineering students from countries across Europe to study on the BEng Hons Mechanical and Energy Engineering degree courses offered at their Stornoway campus.

The degree courses offered at the college are highly rated amongst students and higher education institutions in France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany amongst others.

This has meant a steady influx of overseas students coming to the college each year to live and study in the unique environment of the Outer Hebrides.

Overseas students very much appreciate the warm and friendly welcome they receive from local residents and always settle in quickly to island life, enjoying the sporting and leisure opportunities the islands afford.

Lews Castle College UHI are in the fortunate position of having highly qualified and experienced staff who deliver engineering courses across the Highland and Islands region, as well as to local students with varied opportunities for students to engage in work placements and research activities.

Recent undergraduates from the college have gone on to complete post-graduate courses at St Andrews and Strathclyde Universities specialising in Mechanical Engineering, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

If you would like to find out more about Engineering courses offered at the college, why not visit the college campus in Stornoway where staff would be pleased to discuss the courses on offer and show you around their facilities. Or check out the college website.

Pictured are some of the students enrolled on BEng Hons Mechanical Engineering & BEng Hons Energy Engineering at the college.

At 10.40am today (Saturday February 1) a 999 call was received by the Coastguard Operations Centre in Stornoway.

The caller was reporting a surfer in difficulty near Tong on Broad Bay.

The local Coastguard report on their Facebook Page stated: "Stornoway, Ness and Bragar Coastguard Rescue Teams along with Duty Officers AC18, S18D and S18B were tasked from training along with Stornoway RNLI lifeboat and Coastguard Helicopter R948".

The Coastguard units arrived on the scene and confirmed the surfer was safely ashore.

The Coastguard stated: "This was a false alarm, but thank you to the caller who did absolutely the right thing and dialled 999 Coastguard."

Murdo Macaulay, the area commander with the HM Coastguard rescue service said on Twitter: "Fantastic clear day for training with our ATV operators, broken by a callout to surfer in difficulty. Thankfully a false alarm ending safe and well, then back to training."

A photograph of the training is seen below. 

Teams gathered on Thursday 30 January at Lews Castle College to participate in the First Lego League “City Shaper” Western Isles Regional Tournament.

The competition, which is staged around the world, was for children ranging from 9-16 years old and was the culmination of months of hard work (and fun!) where they had been building & programming their Lego Mindstorm robots and carrying out a research project.

The robots were brought to the tournament to battle it out in Robot Challenge games on a pre-built Lego area with numerous obstacles that the robots had been programmed to work on. The whole day was very entertaining not only for the kids but also those in attendance.

The competition is aimed at equipping school children with STEM related knowledge and skills as well as instilling the core values of teamwork, innovation, fun, discovery & inclusion.

The Overall Winners of the competition were the Stornoway Air Cadets and as a result of the high level of the competition both they and the second placed team from Sir E Scott school will be participating in the National Finals which are held in Perth on 29 February, where teams will compete for places in world finals in either Greece, America or Brazil.

More information on the event: https://education.theiet.org/first-lego-league-programmes/fll/

The phenomenon that is Peat & Diesel reached new heights of chart success this weekend.

Welcomed to the official charts for the first time by Official Charts.com (https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/albums-chart/) they climbed to number 27 in the UK album chart with Light My Byre.

Meanwhile they climbed to No 2 in the overall Scottish downloads charts. And sit at No 42 in the iTunes charts. 

The Stornoway band - whose music is produced on the Stornoway-based Wee Studio label - were performing in Aberdeen at the Lemon Tree creating what are, for them, everyday rave reviews on Twitter. 

Before that they paid a visit to the STV studios in Aberdeen.

 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Sandbank removal, Barra Airport

A marine licensing consultation request has been made to commence sandbank removal at Barra Airport. 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Caravan pods, Flodabay

Anthony Marrow of 4 Flodabay Farm has applied for planning permission to site three caravan pods at Flodabay Farm Caravan Park, Flodabay. The pods are to be 5 metres long, 5.2 metres wide and 3.1 metres tall. The roof is to be covered in plastic-coated metal profile sheeting, and the walls are to be clad in square edge vertical larch boards and plastic-coated metal profile sheeting. Work is also to include creating parking suitable for four cars.

Bake shed, Luskentyre 

Mrs K. Macleod of 10 Luskentyre has applied for planning permission to build a bake shed at 10 Luskentyre. The bake shed is to be a 3.6 metre by 3 metre timber-framed and -clad croft shed from which to sell home baking with the use of an honesty box. Work is to include the construction of a new access and the forming of 'lay-by' parking for two vehicles, off the existing road on the applicant's own croft. 

Installation of two holiday-let pods, Borve

Mrs R. Macdonald of 2 Borve has applied for planning permission to install two holiday-let pods. The pods are to be 8 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3.14 metres tall. The outside walls are to be clad in contrast dark stain panels and the roof is to be covered in black firestone rubber. Work is also to include creating a parking area and installing a bin store and rotary drying lines and creating parking suitable for two cars. 

New house, Tarbert

Ms K. Macleod and Mr D. Campbell of Ceann an Ora, Bunabhuineadar, have applied for planning permission to build a house and create a new access at 2B Tarbert. The house is to be single-storey with four bedrooms, a kitchen/dining area, a lounge and a living room. Work is to include creating parking suitable for two cars. 

Cathy Bain, formerly from Ness, has won an award for her Harris Tweed chair design at the January Furniture Show, held at the Birmingham NEC on 19-22 January.

The January Furniture Show is the UK’s leading furniture and interiors event, featuring the latest designs from the biggest names in the industry. A wide choice of suppliers attend the annual event to showcase their furniture, flooring, lighting and accessories, with both classic and contemporary styles featured.

Along with The Furniture Awards, developed by Furniture News magazine six years ago and sponsored by BFM (British Furniture Manufacturers Association), which celebrate the industry’s top suppliers, other awards are presented for individual, innovative designs.

Cathy’s work was sponsored by HEICO, an online upholstery supplies company (www.heico-direct.co.uk) who attended the event and whose products Cathy used in her chair. This competition was run by HEICO and the competition was for upholstery design.

Cathy says: ”I had to put in a mood board, then was shortlisted to make the chair and upholster it."

Cathy, who now stays in Edinburgh, explained her design for the aptly named The Spirit of the Hebrides chair: “The chair incorporates Harris Tweed and Lewis Chessmen printed fabric. The Callanish stones are represented by the staves.”

“It is made from a whisky barrel from the Abhainn Dearg distillery and has a cabinet underneath to store your whisky or gin. The armrest is turned from ash wood sourced from the Castle Grounds.”

Cathy Bain is pictured with her award and her island-inspired chair, The Spirit of the Hebrides.

 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website.

Mussel line, Lochs

Raven Rock Ltd has applied for planning permission to install a 1x210 metre mussel line in Loch Erisort, Kershader, Lochs.  

Forestry, Garynahine

Scottish forestry has applied for planning permission to create a small woodland area in Garynahine, 500 metres from the shore of Loch Roag. 

Demolition of house and building of three new houses

Broadbay Homes Ltd has applied for planning permission to demolish the current dilapidated house at Housing Development, Newmarket, and to then erect three houses in its place. Two houses are to have four bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, a kitchen/dining area and a utility room. One house is to have three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen/dining/family area, a bathroom, utility room and a built-in garage. Work is to include creating a new access and four more parking spaces, bringing the current total from two to six. 

Longlines for mussels

Western Isles Mussles Ltd has applied for planning permission to deploy two 220-metre twin-headline longlines for the production of mussels at Eilean Mor Mussel Farm, Loch Erisort, Laxay, Lochs. 

Anyone want 200 to 300 tonnes of soil and rocks from a family’s home-building site?

That’s the plea from new mum, musician and Harris Tweed Authority worker Jayne Hepburn Macmillan and her husband Kevin.

A mystery photograph hidden in the back of a landscape engraving could show some of Stornoway’s academic successes from long ago – but nobody can tell for sure.

The finders are hoping the power of social media will put names to the faces and allow the portrait to be correctly placed in its historical setting.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency are sending representatives to Stornoway next week, to discuss how the driving theory test could be made more easily available in the Western Isles.

The agency says they plan to improve the theory test provision they offer in the Highlands and Islands, and they’re holding meetings in Lewis and in Shetland to gather public opinions.

The Lewis and Harris Youth Concert Band are heading for  Perth in March to take part in the the Scottish Concert Band Festival 10th Anniversary National Finals.

The group of 38 young people, from various schools around the islands, won a coveted place in the finals after being presented with a Gold Award by SCBF adjudicator Alan Friel, who attended a concert held by the band in Stornoway last November.

Lewis-based publisher, Cranachan, is to launch a brand-new Young Adult imprint named 'Gob Stopper'.

Adding to their Pokey Hat imprint, which specialises in historical fiction for 8-12-year olds, Cranachan hope to extend their readership by targeting teen readers in Scotland.  Cranachan Publishing is based at Blacksheep Croft, North Galson.

Loganair is to launch new routes between Stornoway, Glasgow, Aberdeen and London Southend Airport.

The Essex airport which is owned by Stobart Group is an expanding gateway for travel to the capital.  Stobart also own Carlisle Airport where Loganair are due to start services soon.

Paving the way of innovative solutions to rural healthcare, the work of NHS Western Isles was recognised at the National Scottish Digital Health & Care Awards 2019.

NHSWI eHealth, Tec and IT team scooped the ‘Innovative Remote and Rural Service Award’ at the award ceremony held in Edinburgh on Wednesday, February 20th – one of the four award categories in which NHSWI were shortlisted.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil has called on the UK Government to ensure that key funding remains available to fishermen to improve safety at sea after Brexit.

Currently grants of up to 80 per cent are available for fishermen from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to finance personal protection equipment which includes work clothing as well as Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs).

Heritage sites in the Western Isles experienced a surge in footfall in 2018.

This is shown by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) release of its visitor figures for the 2018 calendar year.

The Blackhouse, Arnol welcomed 16,221 visitors in 2018 while Kisimul Castle welcomed 6,660 visitors last year.

Crofters facing threats from geese, eagles and deer, survey reveals.

The Scottish Crofting Federation has recently carried out an online survey about conflicts between wildlife and crofting, which demonstrates that there are some wildlife species whose numbers are threatening crofting incomes and livestock welfare.

The Stornoway author who wrote what was once described as the ‘best Scottish book since Trainspotting’ is to see his definitive work translated to the stage.

Kevin MacNeil, author of the 2005 breakthrough novel The Stornoway Way, is working with the award-winning Highland theatre company Dogstar. He aims to turn his tale of angst and low achievement into a show for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and for a tour of Scotland in October.

A 49-year-old man was taken to hospital on Friday afternoon (February 23rd) after his car collided with a lamp-post on the Tong Road.

Police, ambulance and a fire crew were called to the B895 at 3pm on Friday, after the man’s car left the road and hit the lamp-post before ending on its side against a wall.

British Science Week is a celebration of the best in science, technology, engineering and maths.

And the Western Isles are taking part in the fun.

Stornoway Library is holding various events in their new makerspace room - The Space - in March.

Stornoway cult band Peat ‘n’ Diesel created a stir yesterday (Saturday February 23rd) when they offered townsfolk a free gig – on the Manor roundabout.

The largest semi-submersible drilling rig in the world is once again due to be passing through the Minch next week (Monday February 25thonwards) as she leaves the port of Kishorn after re-fitting work.

CalMac’s Sound of Harris service continues to operate with restricted space, as the regular vessel MV Loch Portain returns late from her annual service.

Passenger capacity has been reduced to just 50 as the relief vessel MV Loch Bhrusda – the original and much smaller Sound of Harris ferry – maintains the service in Loch Portain’s absence.

Tolsta residents have been venting their fury about rubbish, damage and graffiti spoiling favourite walks around Garry Beach in North Tolsta.

There are signs of new life at the Lewis yard of fabrications company BiFab, with the imminent unloading of steel plate to begin construction on a new contract at the Arnish yard.

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, earlier this week backed the Fuel Poverty Bill at Stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament.

The islands MSP spoke in the chamber and raised fuel poverty issues relating specifically to the Western Isles.

Reflections on the Iolaire tragedy by primary school pupils in Lewis and Harris have been turned into a book of poetic tributes, thanks to an arts project organised by An Lanntair.

Pupils from Tong, Back, Point, Tolsta, Breasclete and Sir E Scott primary schools were all involved in workshops with Edinburgh poet Ken Cockburn in December.

A new management team at the Callanish visitor centre are looking ahead to the 2019 visitor season with confidence – and they’re buzzing with ideas.

Victoria Harvey and Gregor Macleod took the helm of visitor service provision at Callanish after the retirement in January of Angus Mackenzie, centre manager for nearly 10 years.

Angus has plans to spend more time on his croft, and for a big trip to Canada in autumn this year, but Gregor says with relief: “He’s just down the road, and if we need anything, he’s always there.”

The needs of local people, staff and users are being ignored in the rush to rationalise care unit provision on Lewis, says Councillor Norman A Macdonald of Uig.

A member of the Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB, Cùram is Slàinte nan Eilean Siar) Councillor Macdonald has hit out at their use of ‘rhetoric that suits their agenda’ on the future of small scale care units in rural areas.

Councillor Macdonald, one of the four voting members who represent Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on the IJB, says the current consultation process is flawed because of the way information has been presented to the board and public.

The Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB) is currently reviewing the use of the three Care Units in Lewis.

Over the last few months, they have been engaging with staff, stakeholders and community representatives to discuss changes that could be introduced. 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has stepped up calls for urgent and real action on a ferry fleet replacement programme including dedicated ferries for Harris and North Uist and a two-ferry operation on the Stornoway route.

Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Uisdean Robertson said:  “The Comhairle has been encouraged by the open approach and sympathetic ear Ministers have given to engaging with us on ferry matters.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan yesterday (Wednesday February 20th) questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeane Freeman MSP regarding the timescales for the replacement of St Brendan’s Hospital in the Isle of Barra.

In 2011, NHS Western Isles accepted that the current facilities were not fully compliant with the standards that are required for modern health and social care. Since then, progress on replacing the facility has been slow and suffered a number of setbacks.

Harris Gin is the favourite gin of Scottish drinkers – and that’s just been made official for the second year in a row.

A national online survey of gin-drinkers saw 21% of the 6435 voters choose Isle of Harris as the only Scottish gin they would want if they had to pick just one.

The survey was conducted by the Scottish gin society, which announced the results on Tuesday (February 19th).

Projects that tackle isolation, put generations in touch with each other and show the value of memories are to be run by Comunn Eachdraidh Nis (CEN) with money from the European Social Fund.

The sum of £41,860 was announced on Friday (February 15th) as a grant to CEN from the Aspiring Communities Fund, which has aims including to support inclusion and improve people's lives through heritage and local history activities.

Well-known writer and former teacher Donald S Murray has just launched his first website…created by Intermedia Services (Stornoway) Ltd which publishes EVENTS and welovestornoway.com

This comes after a busy few months for Donald – who nowadays lives in Shetland but who comes from the Ness district of Lewis.

What's your favourite football memory?

Is there one moment that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when you think back on it?

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has set its budget for 2019/20 described by Leader Roddie Mackay as ‘more challenging than any the Comhairle has faced in its history.’

The Comhairle agreed recommendations for a 4.79% increase in Council Tax which will mean an increase of between 60p and £1 per week for most people in the Islands.

Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay also moved that care home charges be increased by 3%, overturning a recommendation from the Integration Joint Board - which combines CnES and NHS Western Isles - of substantial increases.

CalMac’s independent Community Board has teamed up with the company to help raise the profile of Scotland’s west coast islands as business destinations.

The Board have organised a business conference aboard MV Clansman, on a non-landing cruise from Oban to Colonsay, on March 27.

Project Officer needed for delivery of cutting edge energy efficiency project in the Outer Hebrides, led and delivered by Tighean Innse Gall.
 
Tighean Innse Gall is delivering the Edge of Scotland Project. It is designed to promote the take up of energy efficiency and renewable energy in both domestic and non domestic properties across the Outer Hebrides. The Edge of Scotland project will involve extensive travel across all islands talking with homeowners, business owners and people who run community facilities, encouraging and supporting them to take action on energy. This project is being delivered in partnership with the Scottish Government, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Home Energy Scotland and Resource Efficient Scotland.
 
We are now recruiting for an enthusiastic: 
 
Edge of Scotland Project Officer
Fixed Term to 31st March 2020 PA13 - 16 (£25,905-£28,567)
 
To be based in our Cothrom office in South Uist with extensive inter-island travel.

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Final preparations are underway for Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds which is being performed in Stornoway next month.

The production, which is being put on by Iain Neosa MacKinnon of Neosa Music, is on in An Lanntair on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9.

A dedication service for the permanent granite wreath to be laid in memory of the Iolaire will take place at Garrabost Memorial Gardens on Saturday, March 2 at 11am.

The sculpture in remembrance of the disaster at the Beasts of Holm on January 1, 1919 has been commissioned by Point War Memorial Committee and paid for by community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.

Tolsta Community Development Ltd (TCDL) has recommitted itself to a programme of spending which gives priority to the people of its own village.

Murdo MacIver, Secretary of TCDL said: ‘We are very happy to be in a position to assist some island-wide charities, like Bethesda and Alzheimer Scotland. That’s our privilege.

“However, the main reason we exist as a company is to oversee the development of Tolsta as a viable community in which to live and work.

Loganair is leasing aircraft from another airline following the closure of its own sister airline flybmi.

Passengers travelling from Stornoway this week have found themselves on an aircraft operated by DOT LT, an airline based in Kaunas, Lithuania.

A surge of support from individuals and organisations has helped Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) begin the long process of getting back to business.

The trust has shaken off the shock felt by employees, trustees and local residents, after a massive blaze completely destroyed their business centre and headquarters at South Galson. Their focus now is on getting back to work.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has issued a flood warning for the Western Isles for Wednesday morning (February 20th).

The warning advises that there is a risk of coastal flooding during early morning Wednesday due to a high spring tide, surge, wind and waves. Isolated properties and coastal roads are at risk from waves and spray.

The risk is greatest around 7am on Wednesday, in areas exposed to the south west.

The Western Isles Lottery have given Harris Football Club their first result of 2019 by announcing they will receive all funding currently being raised by supporters of the Lottery across Harris.

All proceeds raised will go to the Football Club to ensure they receive the best start to their resurgence into the Lewis & Harris Football League.

The Scottish Crofting Federation has just concluded a short tour of membership meetings in Lewis and Shetland which had as their theme ‘Threats to Crofting’. A very encouraging turnout and intense degree of engagement at the meetings keenly illustrated the high level of concern amongst crofters.

SCF vice-chair, Donald MacKinnon, from Lewis, commented that meetings such as these, with nearly 100 attending in Stornoway, for example, “demonstrate the fierce commitment to crofting still out there, and the continuing strength of crofting culture in places like Lewis and Shetland. SCF will continue to lobby hard on these issues on behalf of our members”.

MPs from the Scottish Affairs Committee of the Westminster Parliament spent all day in Lewis yesterday (Monday February 18th) - visiting crofting and meeting with local crofters, businessmen and opinion-formers.

Last night they held a special meeting in Stornoway Town Hall to gather a range of opinions about issues affecting the local area.

It’s a social group that is having a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of those who take part – and now Point Parent and Toddler Group is getting support itself, with cash from Point and Sandwick Trust.

The community wind farm charity has given £300 to the group, which meets every Friday between 1pm and 3pm during term time in the Garrabost Free Church Hall, and the parents have been sharing their experiences of the difference it has made to their lives.

Schools, groups and workplaces across the North of Scotland are taking part in a Rainbow Raiser this Friday all in aid of The Leanne Fund.

Rainbow Raiser packs have been delivered to all who have signed up to take part which includes bunting and collection boxes - including welovestornoway.com !

The conservation charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) has today (Monday February 18th) published evidence that baby dolphins see the waters around Point, Tolsta and Lochs as a nursery.

The charity want more protection for a population of Risso’s dolphins in a ‘hotspot’ around east Lewis, after recorded sightings of the species showed that some individuals have been returning to the same area for at least 12 years.

A hike of more than 30% in council-run care home fees is to be discussed at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s budget meetings tomorrow (Tuesday February 19th).

The scale of the increase is causing concern among councillors, who will be asked to vote on whether to accept the proposed new fee scales.

The proposals come from the Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB) which last week (Wednesday February 13th) met to consider a wide range of budgetary and strategic issues for 2019/20.

The IJB is the body set up to implement a new integrated approach to health and social care provision, with representation from the Comhairle and NHS Western Isles and from health professionals, carers and third sector representatives.

 

Police Scotland is appealing for witnesses following a serious one vehicle road traffic collision in Stornoway.

The incident involved a black Yamaha XT660X motorcycle and happened sometime before 7.40am on Sunday, February 17 on Mossend Road in Stornoway.

Lewis running legend Kirsty Wade has declared herself surprised at news that a speed record she held for 31 years has finally fallen to a new young superstar – because she didn’t realise she still held it.

Kirsty’s British indoor mile record had stood for an astonishing 31 years, before falling to Scot Laura Muir in Birmingham on Saturday (February 16th).

Balallan footballer Rachael Johnstone is pulling on the Number One jersey for Scotland’s Women’s under-16 football team again tomorrow morning (Monday February 18th) as the team go head-to-head with Germany.

It’s the third match in an international development tournament in Portugal.

Scottish Water have reported a burst water main in Crowlista, Uig which has led to a number of households losing water supply or experiencing low pressure

Customers in the immediate and surrounding areas reported the problem before 5pm today (Sunday February 17th).

The road across from Plasterfield and Mossend towards Sandwick Road and Seaforth Road in Stornoway was closed completely by police from early this morning (Sunday February 17th).

An officer and a police vehicle were blocking the entrance at each end of the link road.  The road was closed before 8am.  It finally reopened as night fell, just before 6pm.

There was praise for all those involved in more than 12 hours of musical performance and competition yesterday in Stornoway yesterday (Saturday February 16th)

Beginning with preliminary rounds in the Stornoway Primary School and The Nicolson Institute from the start of the day, the Western Isles Young Musician of the Year and Young Singer of the Year contests culminated in a concert and prizegiving event in the ballroom at Lews Castle Natural Retreats.

SNP Comhairle Group Leader Gordon Murray has welcomed the Scottish Affairs Committee’s focus on crofting when they visit the Isle of Lewis on Monday February 18th.

The MPs are due to meet with crofters and hold a public discussion in Stornoway on the potential impact of Brexit on crofting as part of their wider Inquiry into the future of Scottish Agriculture post Brexit.

Councillor Murray said this would an opportunity for discussion of current and future challenges facing crofting communities.

Flybmi has become the latest victim of Europe’s fiercely competitive air travel market, announcing the end of all operations.

It is controlled by the Airline Investments Limited (AIL) Group which also controls Loganair.

In a statement the airline said: "It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement today (Saturday February 16th).

It’s time to clear up those old posters, community groups and events organisers in Stornoway and elsewhere have been told.

Of course, posters have been displayed all over Stornoway since time immemorial, and while technically this is against town bylaws, there is a certain understanding that community groups need to promote their events.

The tourist office in Tarbert will be able to open for the new visitor season, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

This claim came after the Council stated earlier that it does not want to run the tourist office in the building which it owns in the centre of the village’s main car park and where until last autumn VisitScotland ran the office.

In a statement issued at 16.48 yesterday (Friday February 15th) Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn said:

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (UOG) suffered the loss of its business centre in Galson early this morning.

A devastating fire destroyed the building in its entirety.

A mechanical problem means the Stag Bakeries mobile shop is not able to carry out its delivery run today (Friday February 15th).

A mechanical problem means the Stag Bakeries mobile shop is not able to carry out its delivery run today (Friday February 15th).

High-energy Celtic rock band Face The West yesterday (Thursday February 14th) announced the end of a five-year ‘career break’ with plans for a new album and a new schedule of live gigs.

The Isle of Lewis line-up featured Keith Morrison on keyboards and synths, Jane Hepburn on fiddle, DC Macmillan as drummer and Alasdair Maclean on the accordion – numerous other island musicians also joined the line-up for tours or individual gigs. They were festival and gig favourites for almost 15 years, after forming while still in school in 1998.

This weeks 'Fish of the week' is Lemon Sole, available filleted or whole at Harbour Seafoods in Stornoway.

Lemon sole is actually not a real sole, nor does it taste of lemon. It's a member of the flounder family, which also includes plaice and turbot. Lemon Sole is a delicate, sweet white fish and it's usually cooked simply, either grilled or fry and serve with a squeeze of lemon or a light sauce to enjoy it at it's best and not overpower the delicate flavour.

Fire crews will remain at Galson throughout the day today (Friday February 15th) after a massive fire ripped through the Galson Estate Trust business centre in the early hours of this morning.

Up to 25 firefighters battled flames against high winds and with a dwindling water supply after the fire was reported just after 1am, by a power worker heading to an incident in the area.

NHS Western Isles’ new Speech Therapy and Gaelic online resource, STaG.got a major boost yesterday (Thursday February 14th) from Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Mr John Swinney.

During a series of visits – which included meetings at Lews Castle College, at the threatened TalkTalk call centre, and with CnES education staff – Mr Swinney officially launched STaG.

Support for the Iolaire memorial tweed produced from Kenneth Mackenzie’s mill off Sandwick Road, Stornoway, has netted more that £5600 for local charities.

A statement from the Mill today (Friday February 15th) said: “Everyone at Kenneth Mackenzie’s Limited would like to thank those of you who purchased our Iolaire tweed.

The offices of Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn/Galson Estate Trust in west Lewis have been hit by a serious blaze overnight.

Emergency services were attending the fire at the Business Centre, Tom na Bà, South Galson, from the early hours of the morning.

In a statement on its Facebook Page the Trust says:

There have been major donations to Alzheimer Scotland - Western Isles during this week.

Local organiser Marion Macinnes, centre above, says: “A big thanks to our neighbours at FES, Bells Road, Stornoway for their donation of £1518 from their recent workplace raffle.  Thanks for thinking about us!”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan and Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP earlier today met with both staff and management at the closure-threatened TalkTalk call centre site in Stornoway.

Two weeks ago, the telecoms company announced that it would be making all 59 staff at its site in Stornoway redundant as of July this year. Talktalk are one of the largest private sector employers on the island.

The revamp of Stornoway Harbour takes another step forward as the Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) approves £3.5m funding for the creation of a new marina and facilities at Newton Basin.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney met with key representatives of the Stornoway Port Authority (SPA) and HIE today (Thursday 14 February) during his visit to the town.

 

The Annual General Meeting of the North Lochs Community Association will be held

on 

Thursday 28 February 2019

at

8pm, in the Leurbost Community Centre.

 

All long term and new residents in the community are very welcome to attend and share their thoughts and ideas.

 

 New members will be warmly welcomed.

 

Refreshments will be provided.

 

 

 

 

Riders and horse owners are invited to an open conversation being hosted by the British Horse Society and Police Scotland on Saturday March 2nd.

The event is for those keen to learn more about riding and roadcraft, how to report incidents and how to ensure you are covered in the event of an accident.

A move to abandon Brexit is being made today (Thursday February 14th) at Westminster by na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil is to table an amendment in the House of Commons asking MPs to support revoking Article 50 before March 29th, to avoid inflicting economic damage on all countries of the UK.

A group of four seals which have washed up at the Aignish end of the Braighe beach are likely to have died of natural causes, according to a marine animals stranding specialist.

The four carcasses were photographed by John Dyer this morning (Thursday February 14th) and have been causing comment and speculation on social media sites.

The multi-million-selling singer songwriter KT Tunstall and award-wining duo The Shires are the latest headliners to be announced for the Hebridean Celtic Festival this summer.

Eight years after last appearing at the internationally-renowned festival, KT Tunstall will top the bill on the Friday of HebCelt week, which runs from 17-20 July in Lewis and Harris.

The Shires will headline the Saturday programme of the event, which is being held for the 24th consecutive year.

The tourist information point in Tarbert is not going to be run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the council confirmed yesterday (Wednesday February 13th)

A council spokesman said that discussions were continuing with VisitScotland about the facility which is based in a Council-owned building in the centre of the village’s main car park that also includes toilets and a waiting room for bus services.

Why would Stornoway-based businesspeople be crowded into the Croft Suite at the Caladh Inn on James Street today (Wednesday February 13th) at breakfast-time?

It was to hear about VAT and how the payments are going totally digital from April as HMRC implements its Making Tax Digital strategy.

And there is not just a change at the Taxman’s end of the equations…MTD means companies have to have appropriate accounts software and it has to be compatible with HMRC’s technology.

CalMac have warned of ferry disruption or cancellation over the next couple of days due to forecast weather conditions.

Sailings between Eriskay and Ardmhor are liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice tomorrow (14 February). This evenings sailing at 1720 from Ardmhor and 1815 from Eriskay are expected to operate.

After cancellation of todays (13 February) sailing between Barra and Oban CalMac are running an extra sailing tomorrow (14 February) departing Castlebay at 0730.

The 0800 sailing from Castlebay to Oban on Friday 15th February has been cancelled. The first sailing on Friday 15th February will be the 13:30 departure from Oban.

To check the latest ferry sailing information visit www.calmac.co.uk/service-status

There are going to be new job opportunities for the Islands after Social Security Scotland announced today (Wednesday February 13th) that it will add 100 jobs across Scotland by the end of the year.

Once recruited the new teams will deliver a face-to-face service for those who need it most in their communities.

The Isle of Lewis committee of Cancer Research UK had a moment of pure astonishment at their Annual General Meeting last night (Tuesday February 12th).

Treasurer Norman Macdonald had kept the whole committee in the dark about the total amount they had raised over the past 12 months – which turned out to be a staggering £88,203, almost £14,000 more than the previous year.

Committee chair Amy Macaulay told welovestornoway.com today (Wednesday February 13th). “Norman had told us that the total figure was higher than last year, but when he handed round the treasurer’s accounts you could hear each member of the committee saying ‘Wow!’ as they read the year’s total.

Western Isles tour guides are making sure that all hands are on deck ahead of the coming cruise and tourism season – knowing that they have a huge gap to fill in their crew.

The Western Isles Tour Guide Association (WITGA) are still reeling from the loss of their long-time co-ordinator and leader Joan Morrison, who was tragically killed in a road accident on New Year’s Eve (December 31st 2018).

But a new committee has been formed and plans are well in hand to be ready for the first cruise ship visit on Friday March 29th, when the Astoria is expected to bring the first 500 passengers of the season into Stornoway Harbour.

Over 150 young musicians from the length and breadth of the Western Isles will be in Stornoway on Saturday (February 16th) for the most hotly contested music competition of the year.

The competition has been running for 25 years, offering young classical musicians the chance to showcase their talent and hard work, with a chance of winning the coveted title of Western Isles Young Musician of the Year.

An Lanntair is calling on all creative people to get themselves along to the arts centre this Friday, February 15th, 6.30-7.30pm, for the launch of the new Artists Support Scheme, run by Sandra Kennedy, An Lanntair’s new Artist Support Co-ordinator.

The Artists Support Scheme is aimed at any creative person; whether you are a painter, film-maker, writer, musician, designer, jewellery-maker; whether you are a school-leaver with aspirations of a career in the creative industry or you currently have a career in the creative industry – this project is for you!

Benbecula, Eriskay, Berneray, Grimsay, North and South Uist. are set to benefit as CalMac Ferries launches a new national marketing campaign ahead of the 2019 tourism season, designed to raise awareness of Uist as an unmissable getaway.

The ‘Sea Uist Soon’ campaign is spearheaded by CalMac Ferries and supported by Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT).

The campaign will comprise marketing, PR, experiential, digital information and social media activity which will encourage visitors to ‘seek out the extraordinary’ throughout the islands.

The first of the 2019 series of beach cleans have been planned by campaign group Clean Coast Outer Hebrides, with distressing evidence already this year of the impact of marine litter on island wildlife.

On February 1st a seal was found tangled in a fishing net on Dalbeg Beach. The net had cut into the seal’s neck and reduced its ability to hunt and eat, leaving it thin and vulnerable. It had eventually died of starvation.

Work is set to start next month on a major project to restore and regenerate the historic Lews Castle Grounds in Stornoway.

A partnership involving the Stornoway Trust, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the National Lottery and Historic Environment Scotland, will oversee investment of over £5 million in the much-loved public park over the next few years.

Building and civil works contracts with a total value of over £3.6 million have been awarded to two island based contractors by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in partnership the Stornoway Trust.

A man has been arrested in Ness after an incident in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday February 12th).

Police were called to a house in the district at 1.40am and a 23-year-old man was arrested and taken into custody.

Fanks will be crowded with expectant crofters across Lewis and Harris this week, as a busy week ahead of scanning ewes starts the spring cycle of lambing.

Contractor Simon Bedwell has arrived from Garve with a mobile scanning unit, which can be used to scan ewes using the same ultrasound technology as is used for human pre-natal scans.

Working his way through the flock, he then tells crofters whether each ewe is empty, or carrying single, twin or triplet lambs. They can then be marked accordingly with paint marks on the fleece so that their owners know what feed to provide for each sheep.

The R J Macleod Quaich was set up in memory of Roddy John ‘Barts’ Macleod by the Isle of Lewis Probus Club to be awarded to someone from the island who has made a significant contribution during the year.

This year it was awarded to Malcolm Macdonald in recognition of the work he has done in the connection with the Iolaire centenary, not just through his book ‘The Darkest Dawn,’ but also in many other ways, visiting schools and talking to pupils, and taking part a number of media events about the centenary.

NHS Western Isles would like to inform Podiatry Service users that due to unforeseen circumstances, podiatry services in Uist and Barra will be operating at a reduced level of service.

All patients will be offered appointments at Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh in Balivanich or at St Brendan’s in Castlebay.

Western Isles residents interested in mental health for all ages and in dementia are invited to join World Café event to discuss NHS Western Isles mental health services redesign

The World Cafe events are an opportunity to meet with the NHSWI team undertaking the mental health service redesign across the island chain.

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Stornoway’s Nicholson Institute had a starry night on Friday (8th February) after gaining the highest number of nominations in the youth category of the MG Alba FilmG Gaelic film awards,

A total of five nominations were made for their films, which won awards for best performance and the award for fluent Gaelic speakers – for their comedy piosmathduff.com – as well as best script for A-mach à Uchd a’ Bhàis, a documentary on the Iolaire disaster.

Television weatherman Sean Batty has been braving the windiest conditions in the UK, to film an episode of a new STV show with the Western Isles as the star performer.

On Friday (15th February) the islands feature in a show exploring how weather impacts on the Outer Hebrides and its people.

At its first meeting of 2019 last week, the board of Tolsta Power Ltd co-opted several new directors.

They include Stuart Thompson and Graham Morrison. Stuart is already involved with the Community Council in Tolsta.

Welcoming them, Tolsta Power Chairman, Murdo MacIver said: 'These appointments are part of our vision for succession planning.

Bethesda Hospice, which provides end-of-life care and support to island families, has received another £30,000 from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.

The money is the latest tranche of funding from the award-winning Point and Sandwick Trust, which owns and operates the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm for the sole purpose of generating profit to reinvest in the community of the Western Isles.

Point and Sandwick Trust has a 25-year commitment to support Bethesda and will be giving the hospice a total of £55,000 every single year for the lifetime of its turbines. The grant on Friday brings its support for Bethesda to £110,000 over the past two years.

The Isle of Barra was cast into mourning yesterday (Saturday February 9th), with the news that Canon Angus MacQueen had died peacefully, in St Brendan's Home, Castlebay.

The Right Reverend Brian MacGee of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles said: “May he rest in peace. Canon Angus had been fortified by the Rites of Holy Mother Church. We extend our sympathies to Canon Angus' family and friends.”

The Met Office has published a warning of icy conditions for Lewis and North Harris overnight tonight (Sunday February 10th).

The yellow warning covers the period from 9pm tonight to 10am tomorrow, with plunging temperatures bringing the risk of icy patches on roads and pavements and accidents including slips and falls on icy pavements.

Trading Standards officers are once again urging residents to say no to doorstep sellers, with reports of sellers currently operating in the islands.

And they’re calling on householders to display signs warning that uninvited sales are not wanted, as part of the protection they’re entitled to against such sellers.

A CnES spokesperson said on Friday (February 8th): “Our advice is never to deal with anyone who cold calls at your door. Just say ‘No thanks’ and shut the door. Please keep an eye out for vulnerable neighbours, particularly anyone who lives alone who may find it difficult to deal with uninvited callers.”

Coastguard Rescue Teams are involved in exercises across the Islands over coming weeks.

They announced yesterday that: “We will be conducting some training in the Castle Grounds, Stornoway (Marybank Lodge and sawmill area) over the following dates:

  • Saturday 9th February - day time
  • Tuesday 12th February - evening
  • Wednesday 13th February – evening

Renowned writer Donald S Murray returned to his roots in North Lewis yesterday (Friday February 8th) to give a creative writing class at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis – now housed in the former Cross school which Donald attended as a youngster.

Greeting many friends and former neighbours in the centre’s temporary café beforehand, he pointed out that he last remembered being in that building when he was a pupil and it was the school canteen.  

There’s still lots of mystery over Brexit Day on March 29th – but there’s no doubt about what’s happening on April 1st – and the Taxman will be making a real fool of you if your firm is not ready for the big ‘Making Tax Digital” changeover for VAT submissions.

Now local accountancy firm, Mann Judd Gordon, are holding seminars about MTD across the Outer Hebrides on Wednesday 13 February.

The seminars will cover the new Making Tax Digital rules that are coming in to force from 1 April.


A woman who fled her home in the early hours of this morning (Friday February 8th) did ‘exactly the right thing’, according to a Western Isles fire chief.

The woman was woken just before 3.30am by what she thought was noise from the wind, but as she went towards the back door of her home in Tong, her smoke alarms started to sound and she realised there was a fire developing in the back lobby.

A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged with dangerous driving, after a road accident which closed the A857 Barvas road on Wednesday afternoon.

Police were called to the accident, one mile north of Newmarket, at 3.30pm on Wednesday where two cars had been involved in the accident, with one ending up on its roof. No-one was injured in the accident.

The road was closed for a time to recover the vehicles and the driver of one of the cars is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged with dangerous driving, after a road accident which closed the A857 Barvas road on Wednesday afternoon.

Police were called to the accident, one mile north of Newmarket, at 3.30pm on Wednesday where two cars had been involved in the accident, with one ending up on its roof. No-one was injured in the accident.

The road was closed for a time to recover the vehicles and the driver of one of the cars is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

A 20-year-old man has been charged with dangerous driving, after a road accident which closed the A857 Barvas road on Wednesday afternoon (February 6th).

Police were called to the accident, one mile north of Newmarket, at 3.30pm on Wednesday, where two cars had been involved in the accident, with one ending up on its roof.

The Scottish Land Court yesterday (Thursday February 7th) announced that it had ruled in favour of Melbost and Branahuie Grazings Committee and against Highlands and Islands Airports Limited over land at Stornoway Airport.

HIAL claimed crofting rights at Stornoway Airport had been extinguished when the land was requisitioned during World War Two to enable an RAF station to be built. 

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