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.

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.

 

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.

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.”
 

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."

 

 

 

 

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.

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 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. 

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.

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.

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.

 

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 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.

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.”

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). 

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."

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.

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.” 

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.

 

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.’

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

 

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.

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.