SEASONAL GRAZINGS FOR LET

(NOT FOR HORSES)

  • Old Burgh Tip, Marybank, approx 3.27 acres
  • Gress Park, approx 3.25 acres
  • Arnish Road Grazings (3.88ha approx)

Sealed offers marked “Grazings Parks” to be lodged with the undersigned by noon on Friday, 27th November 2020.

(Preference will be given to applicants within the Stornoway Trust area)

Iain M Maciver, Factor
The Stornoway Trust Estate Office, Leverhulme House, Perceval Square
Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2DD

 

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson confirmed last night (Friday October 31) that for another day, there had been no new cases of COVID-19 anywhere in the Western Isles.

He reiterated on Twitter that the outbreak in Uist had been declared over by NHSWI Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts.

But he pleaded that people "Please remain vigilant across the Western Isles and follow the restrictions in place."

welovestornoway.com calculates that should an Covid-19 outbreak of the equivalent scale and speed of the one in South Uist take place on Lewis, about 450/500 people could become ill over a fortnight to three weeks, with a huge impact on every aspect of local life.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has written to Mr Jamieson to commend the local NHS staff and communities of North and South Uist, Berneray, Benbecula and Eriskay for their efforts to suppress the spread of Covid-19 during the most recent island outbreak.

“It is testament to the work of NHS Staff, Test and Trace and to the community of South Uist that this outbreak was contained in the way it was and very pleasing to read that we have now had 14 days without a further case.

“The speed of the outbreak and the sad death of the Care Home resident reminds us all of the dangers associated with this virus and as you have said we must all remain vigilant. I would be grateful if you would pass on my thanks to the Staff of NHS Western Isles and their partner agencies for their work in dealing with this outbreak and the ongoing work of the current pandemic.”

To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phone line will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available out with those hours.

Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles) https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=219

Parkinson’s UK Scotland is encouraging people of working age with Parkinson’s in the Western Isles to meet with others and find out more about living well with the condition, at a free online event in November.

The Scotland-wide event is open to people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Partners, adult family members or friends are also welcome.

Drop-in sessions covering a range of topics will start on Wednesday 11 November and be run flexibly over 3 weeks. Many of the sessions will be led by people with Parkinson’s and their partners, who developed the programme based on their experiences of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at a younger age.

Session topics will include Parkinson’s and employment, financial benefits, Parkinson's research, medication, and navigating the health service.  There will be opportunities to share hints and tips and find out about the support that partners, family members and friends can access.

The varied programme also features opportunities to try out activities that many people with Parkinson’s find helpful to manage symptoms, from singing and mindfulness to drumming, exercise and more. 

David Allan who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 50 in 2011 and is one of the volunteers with Parkinson’s hosting the event said: “If you're diagnosed with Parkinson's while you're of working age, your concerns are likely to be about more than health. You might worry about your personal relationships, children, work, keeping a roof over your head and paying the bills, and what the future will hold. It can be a very isolating place to be.

“Our Younger Parkinson's Event is an opportunity to meet others in a similar situation in Scotland and try something new. As people who live with Parkinson’s every day, we know what it’s  like to be told you have Parkinson’s and to try and make sense of what that means. Our experiences means we know what people find helpful - and we also know that every one of us is different, with unique experiences to share. 

“We want this to be a friendly and welcoming experience for everyone who joins in, wherever you live in Scotland and however long you have lived with Parkinson’s.”

Chloe Macmillan, Area Development Manager for Parkinson’s UK Scotland said:“Parkinson’s affects people of all ages, and we know that there are around 1,800 people under 65 who’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in Scotland, including a small number of people in the Western Isles.

"We know that it can be particularly isolating to be a younger person with Parkinson’s when there are very few people in a similar situation nearby. One advantage of moving the event online this year is that it makes it much easier for people from the Western Isles to join in without having to travel to the mainland. 

“People with Parkinson’s have told us that  their symptoms and wellbeing have got a lot worse during the pandemic, and some people have had NHS consultations cancelled or delayed. Now more than ever, we want younger people with Parkinson’s to know that they are not on their own, and find out more about things that can help. 

“Our face-to-face events are always oversubscribed, and attendees have told us that having information about Parkinson’s and things that can help with day to day life is invaluable. Meeting other people facing similar challenges, concerns and opportunities can make a massive difference, and we hope this online event will be as helpful in these difficult times.”

To find out more about the event, please visit http://prksn.uk/yp2020prog

For further details and to request a booking form, please contact Chloe on 0300 123 3679 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Find out more about Parkinson’s at www.parkinsons.org.uk.

The Arnish Yard in Stornoway continues to be part of a massive political and commercial battle over the fate of Scotland's entire renewables industry.

Scottish Labour MSP Alex Rowley has demanded that the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee should instigate an inquiry into the handling of a £30 million EDF North Sea contract offered to the BiFab fabrication yards, including Arnish. 

And former Advocate General for Scotland Lord Davidson QC this week intervened to dispute the Scottish Government's assertion that assisting BiFab would breach EU state aid rules.

In his letter to committee convener Bruce Crawford, Scottish Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Alex Rowley says: "I do not believe that we have been informed on critical issues of the progress of this case.

"First, the government claims that legal opinion exists that explains why it cannot help BiFab because of EU state aid rules, but will not tell us the gist of the opinion nor tell us who wrote the opinion and by whom it was actually commissioned. Ministers can decide that it is in the public interest to release legal opinions and this is what should be done now.

"Second, the government has failed, until the UK Government contacted them, to talk to the UK government even when the critical issue, is, they say, EU state aids and whether the guarantee could be ruled illegal. It seems strange to be dogmatic about EU state aids when we leave the EU before the work starts in Burntisland and do not know what the regime will then be."

"Third, the question of trust. A number of figures are being thrown around by the Scottish government suggesting liabilities that the company and I do not recognise.

"Fourth, North Sea renewable work is considered the ‘jewel in the crown’ for both Scottish and UK governments, but we are losing a stake in the North Sea because of our decisions. This was work that was won by BiFab, and the £30m contract would have secured income for BiFab. Withdrawing the guarantee at a time when we need work is a threat to jobs, the industry in Fife and to the Scottish renewables future."

 

Two separate weather warnings for strong wind over the weekend (31 October and 1 November) have been issued by the Met Office this afternoon (Friday).

And CalMac has given notice of possible disruption to services between Stornoway and Ullapool, with the passenger run by MV Isle of Lewis on standby for cancellation and the Saturday morning freight sailings at 1am from Stornoway and 5am from Ullapool both cancelled.

All services - including the Sound of Harris, Sound of Barra, Castlebay to Oban and Lochboisdale to Mallaig services - are also liable to disruption or have already been cancelled.

A weather warning in place for the period from 6am to 9pm tomorrow (Saturday) gives the worst forecast to the Western Isles, in a belt of wind stretching the full length of the UK, from Cornwall to the islands.

It says: “A belt of very strong and possibly squally southerly winds will develop on Saturday morning with gusts of 60-65 mph, perhaps 70mph on exposed coasts and hills.

“The winds will become more westerly during the afternoon …they will remain very strong across Scotland into the evening, with possible gusts around 75mph across the Western Isles.”

After a brief respite, a further warning comes into force at 12 noon on Sunday.

The Met Office says: “Strong southwesterly winds are likely to develop across northwest Scotland during the second half of Sunday. Gusts of 60-70mph are likely, perhaps as high as 75mph in the more exposed locations.”

 

Hebridean Housing Partnership resolved to donate £1,000 from their operating surplus to each of the following charities:

  • Western Isles Hospital League of Friends;
  • Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team;
  • Volunteer Centre Western Isles;
  • Western Isles Association for Mental Health (WIAMH); and
  • Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI).

A representative from each charity, Donna Mackenzie (League of Friends), Charlie Greenwood (Mountain Rescue Team), Suzanne Macaulay (Volunteer Centre), Rebecca Mahony (WIAMH) and Helen Sandison (WICCI) joined our staff and Board Members on 23 October via Microsoft Teams video conferencing to give some background on their organisation and explain how the monies would be used.

HHP Chair, Mr. Iain Macmillan welcomed everyone to the meeting, our first virtual cheque presentation, and thanked each of the charities for the vital work they do in our communities, particularly during these difficult times. He reminded everyone of the importance of remaining connected and for charities, including HHP, to support each other where possible.

Western Isles League of Friends provide resources, services and care for patients and residents of the Western Isles Hospital and they run a café in the hospital to raise funds.

The Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team Operate throughout the Outer Hebrides providing immediate access to the islands. Team made up of 25 volunteers who are trained in basic mountain skills with the addition of search techniques and management skills, communications, advanced first aid, advanced rigging and off-road and ATV driving.

Volunteer Centre Western Isles provide information, advice and support to individuals interested in volunteering, volunteer managers, voluntary groups, clubs and organisations, private and public sector organisations and companies.

The Western Isles Association for Mental Health run a service user led drop in centre called Catch 23 for adults with mental health issues, their friends, families and carers since 2003.

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative was established in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support in recognition of the specific issues faced by cancer patients in the Western Isles. Grants of up to £500 have been made available through funds raised for the Macmillan Cancer Support Western Isles to help with costs associated with treatments.

Each of the charities explained how their operation and fundraising had been sadly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, making the donation from HHP all the more critical this year.

HHP say: "We are committed to continuing to assist other locally-based charitable organisations and thank each recipient and their charities for the work they do throughout our communities.  Our staff run a series of fundraisers throughout the year with a wide variety of beneficiaries."

HHP is a charitable not for profit Registered Social Landlord governed by a Board of volunteers. It is a registered charity with number: SC035767.

If you wish to find out more about the work that we do please contact us on: 0300 123 0773 or call into our offices in Stornoway and Balivanich.

A call for safe behaviour over bonfire night and Hallowe’en has come jointly from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and Police Scotland, with not just firework safety but COVID regulations in mind.

The rules around gatherings outside will not change when the Western Isles moves into the new Scottish Government Tier One on Monday.

There still should not be any more than six people from two different households at a bonfire.

And First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already called for families to cancel any plans for guising or trick-or-treating, and not to allow children to go door-to-door tomorrow (Saturday 31 October).

Current guidance can be found on the Scottish Government website at:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-what-you-can-and-cannot-do/pages/seeing-friends-and-family/ and

https://www.gov.scot/news/halloween-and-bonfire-night/

Advice for parents is also available on the Parents Club website (https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/bonfire-night) which says: “Sadly this Bonfire Night will mainly be remembered as the year we couldn’t attend a fireworks display. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with the people you live with at home.”

An additional warning note is sounded by the head of Western Isles section of SFRS, group commander Gavin Hammond.

He said: "With public firework displays and bonfires not going ahead this year, due to current guidance on gatherings under COVID-19 restrictions, you may be tempted to hold your own fireworks display in the garden. 

“We'd urge people to follow SFRS advice, so that anyone who does wish to host a private event reduces any risks using the Firework Code and fire safety guidance.” For more information go to: https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/fireworks-safety.aspx

Some communities have planned ahead for the restrictions on safe gathering under COVID-19 regulations, organising socially-distant ways to enjoy Hallowe’en.

They include Point Youth Club, who are holding a virtual Hallowe’en competition, with entries posted on their Facebook page in categories including fancy dress, best-dressed window and pumpkin carving.

Carloway Community Association is also taking entries by email, including fancy dress and carved pumpkins and turnips, for what they are calling ‘COVID-een’. The Carloway pop-up community café also has a fiendish Hallowe’en takeaway tomorrow night, with ‘ghoul-ash and lice’ and ‘daemon’s duff with curdled custard’ on the menu.

And in Tolsta, families are being encouraged to place a carved pumpkin in their window for residents to spot as they are out and about.

Picture shows one of the spooky offerings to be seen on Point this weekend

 

As it is now more than 14 days since the confirmation of the last positive case of COVID-19 infection associated with South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula, NHS Western Isles says that considers that this outbreak has come to an end.

This has been the first major outbreak in the Western Isles with more than 50 people infected and more than 280 people asked to self-isolate as contacts. 

There was one death in the care home in Daliburgh during this time. The care home will continue with its restrictions on admissions, discharges and visiting for a further two weeks, says NHSWI.

"Although most people who contracted the infection were not especially unwell and were able to recover in their own homes, some required medical assistance or hospitalisation, so we are very aware that this virus is not only very infectious but also can cause significant problems to some people. There are also the additional long-term unknown risks associated with ‘long COVID’.

"We ask people across the Western Isles to continue to observe the COVID-19 restrictions that remain in place around households not getting together or visiting in each other’s homes yet, limiting travel, and avoiding car sharing where possible; alongside the personal behaviours of physical distancing, washing your hands and wearing face coverings in public areas.

"We would also ask that people who need to travel for essential reasons to and from the mainland to be extra vigilant for symptoms - notably the characteristic ones for COVID-19 infection: of fever, or new continuous cough, or loss or change in sense of taste or smell. 

"Other symptoms that people with COVID-19 infection can show are severe headache, aching bones or gastro-intestinal upset.  If you are in doubt, then please self-isolate at home with your household and seek a test."

To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.

Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles)

FACTS

F – Face coverings. These should be used in shops and on public transport (buses, trains and taxis)
A – Avoid crowded places.
C – Clean your hands frequently, using water & soap whenever possible.
T – Two metres – observe physical distancing.
S – Self-isolate and book a test if you are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.

 

Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team were called out yesterday afternoon (Thursday 29 October) to help bring a sick crewman ashore from a fishing vessel in Stornoway harbour.

The fishing vessel called for Coastguard assistance after the crewman, a man in his 40s, collapsed aboard the vessel just after 10am, when they were working in the Minch just north of the Isle of Skye.

The UK-registered vessel made its way to Stornoway and came alongside so that members of the Coastguard team could bring the man ashore and into the care of a waiting Scottish Ambulance crew.

The man was taken on to Western Isles Hospital for medical attention.

 

A man who appeared in court on Wednesday (28 October) on a variety of charges has been remanded in custody.

The 28-year-old man was arrested by Stornoway police in the Sandwick area at 1.40pm on Tuesday 27 October and charged with breaches of bail conditions, resisting arrest and possession of class A drugs.

He appeared in court from custody on Wednesday and has been taken to the mainland for custody pending his future appearance in court.

 

All Covid-19 tests done yesterday in the Western Isles confirmed that no more positive cases had been detected, NHS Western Isles said last night (Thursday October 29) on Twitter. 

In the latest update from NHSWI Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, he explained that a new Western Isles Covid-19 case was reported nationally yesterday - but the individual affected actually lives on the mainland and is simply registered with a GP on the Western Isles.  The place of registration has led to the positive case being allocated to the Islands.

A series of retests had taken place yesterday on Lewis of tests done previously through non-NHS routes, Mr Jamieson explained, and all of them had returned as negative for the virus.

He pointed out that the Highlands and Islands were all placed on Level One from Monday November 2 - and promised guidance soon on what that means.

Household visiting indoors remains banned. 

This total number of positive cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic, still stands at 61 - with 50 in South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula, one in North Uist, and 10 on Lewis.

From Monday 2 November, as part of the five-level strategic framework put in place to tackle COVID-19 in Scotland, the Western Isles will be placed in Level 1, but the ban on household meetings indoors will remain in place. This will be reviewed a week on Tuesday and there is a strong possibility this will be lifted in Level 1 areas at the next review. Up to 6 people from a maximum of 2 households can meet in other indoor public places and outdoors in any case.

The hospitality sector in the islands can operate until 22:30. People continue to be urged to avoid car sharing with people outside of their extended household wherever possible. Non-essential travel to and from level 3 or higher areas in Scotland and their equivalents in the rest of UK is prohibited.                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “While the Western Isles is in a better position than most other parts of the country, the recent outbreak in Uist has shown just how quickly that can change. With case numbers continuing to rise across the UK and the continent, we are still at risk and need to continue to remain vigilant.

“I know that people will be disappointed they will not yet be able to visit family and friends indoors, and I am hopeful this will be lifted soon. This is not an easy time for anyone in the islands, but if we all stick by the rules, this is an encouraging step forward.”

Level 1 restrictions can be found at:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/pages/protection-level-1/

Meanwhile Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed the production of an official face covering exemption card by the Scottish Government to support those who are unable to wear a face mask to feel more confident and safe in public places.

Mr MacNeil was contacted by several constituents who faced a negative response on public transport or accessing public services when they were not wearing a mask.

In response he wrote to the Minister for Public Health Joe Fitzpatrick MSP in support of the call by Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland to create an official card.

Mr MacNeil said: “I am very pleased that action has now been taken on this. No one who cannot wear a face mask due to health conditions, disability or other special circumstances should face any discrimination and the introduction of an official face covering exemption card is a very welcome step.

“I have heard of those who have been asked to provide proof of exemption but did not have this, causing anxiety and upset. The introduction of this card is very welcome step and I would encourage all who cannot wear a mask for various reasons to request a card.”

Physical and digital cards are available to request online www.exempt.scot or via a free helpline on 0800 121 6240.

(Additional information about Covid-related matters has been added from the MSP and MP since this post was first added to the site earlier this morning.)

 

 

 

Groups in the Western Isles are being encouraged to reach out to those in their communities who may need an extra smile this Christmas.

Volunteer Centre Western Isles has produced a step-by-step guide for community groups, third sector organisations and churches to run their own ‘Give a Gift, Light up a Life’ project, and spread a little kindness this Christmas.

This follows an a highly successful ‘Give a Gift, Light up a Life’ campaign the Volunteer Centre ran last year in partnership with NHS Western Isles Community Navigators which saw older, socially isolated people receiving a handwritten Christmas card and small gift.

It is hoped that this can be expanded, and that lots of groups and organisations across the Western Isles can get involved planning their own small acts of kindness projects this Christmas to help improve links between people within communities.

Suzanne Macaulay, Manager at Volunteer Centre Western Isles, said:“This year, the amazing COVID response across the Western Isles has shown the huge difference that volunteering and carrying out small acts of kindness in our communities can make.  We know a lot of people are feeling isolated at the moment, so we would like to help local groups to reach out to people in our community to provide a hand written Christmas card and a small gift to those who may need an extra smile this Christmas.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: "Christmas can be a hard time of year for a lot of people, and the extra strain that people have had to bear because of the coronavirus pandemic will likely exacerbate this.

“Whether it’s a gift or handwritten card, small acts of kindness like this can have an enormously positive emotional impact on their recipients who may be feeling low or isolated.

“This is a really excellent initiative from Volunteer Centre Western Isles which I hope lots of organisations in the Western Isles feel they can get involved with.”

If you are not part of a community group, but would like to donate a gift or card through the NHS Community Navigators, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., phone 01851 700366 or check www.volunteercentrewi.org for more information.

 

Household visiting will continue to be banned across the whole of Scotland - at least for a short period.

That was explained by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today (Thursday October 29) as she spoke to the Scottish Parliament.

And a new Western Isles Covid-19 case was reported nationally - but the individual affected actually lives on the mainland and is simply registered with a GP on the Western Isles.  The place of registration has led to the positive case being allocated to the Islands.

Today it was stated that the Western Isles , along with Orkney, Highland, Shetland and Moray will be placed in Tier One from Monday as part of the new Covid-19 restrictions.  Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the new restriction levels during First Minister’s question time.

The Level One restrictions - arpart from the separate ban on household visits - are outlined here:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/pages/protection-level-1/

The levels set under the new tier system will be reviewed weekly on Tuesdays with changes implemented the following Friday. The first review is scheduled for 10 November.

Ms Sturgeon said: “In time, hopefully a short time, we expect people in that Level One to allow people to meet in each other’s homes in groups of up to 6from a maximum of 2 households.

“However, at present on clear public health advice, the restrictions on household meetings will continue to apply in all parts of the country for now.

“I am conscious that in more rural and island communities that restriction can cause difficulties, so we will review the necessity of it in Level One areas ahead on the 10 November review. If the virus remains controlled in these areas, I am hopeful that we will be able to lift it then.”

She pointed out that in Europe countries such as France and Germany had decided to go back into national lockdown, a decision that she wanted to avoid for Scotland.

“If you live in a Level One or Level Two local authority area you must not travel to a Level Three or Level Four area expect for essential proposes.

“By essential purposes we mean things like work, if you cannot work from home,  education, local outdoor exercise, health care or caring responsibilities and essential shopping where that is not possible locally.

“Similarly people wherever they live should not travel between Scotland and areas in the rest of the UK with high levels of the virus unless it is essential.

“Given that the police can’t check everyone’s journey, this has to rely on public willingness to adhere to the guidelines. That’s why the advice is in guidance at this stage and not regulation but we will keep that under review.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “I am sure that the Tier 1 designation will come as very welcome news to us all as we attempt to move towards a more normal routine but we should all continue to act with common sense.

"It is slightly disappointing that indoors household mixing is not yet being permitted but we hope that this can change in the near future for the Western Isles as we know families and friends are very keen to see one another.

"However, it is encouraging that we can, once again, support the hospitality sector together with a maximum of 6 people from a maximum of 2 households whilst, of course, following social distancing and good hygiene practices.

 “We have all worked together to suppress the spread of the virus here in the Western Isles and I must reiterate that it is more important than ever that we look out for each other. Let’s try and maintain a positive outlook, and let’s ensure we encourage in whatever way we can, those who we know to be struggling.”

(This article has been extended with comments from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and details of the mainland-based Covid-19 case, since first being published.)

 

A number of retests relating to Covid-19 infections in Lewis are taking place, NHS Western Isles announced last night (Wednesday October 28)

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson said on Twitter: "We have been made aware of a number of tests through a non-NHS system which we will ourselves retest through the NHS system tomorrow."  The outcomes will reported this evening.


A new Western Isles Covid-19 case was reported nationally today - but the individual affected actually lives on the mainland and is simply registered with a GP on the Western Isles.  The place of registration has led to the positive case being allocated to the Islands.


Otherwise, there have been no new reported cases of Covid-19 infection throughout the Islands.

He also announced that dental service provision on the Western Isles will be expanded from the beginning of November including general dental and orthodontics. 

This total number of positive cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic, stands at 61 - with 50 in South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula, one in North Uist, and 10 in total on Lewis.

Monday (November 2) sees the start of the new 5 Levels of restrictions, which are due to be announced in detail later today.

According to summaries published nationally, the islands could be put in either Level 0 or Level 1.

Level 0: “Broadly comparable to the position we reached in August when the virus was very suppressed in Scotland but still a threat. At this level we would be able to meet indoors with eight people from three households and most businesses would be open, albeit with safety measures in place.” Nightclubs would stay shut, for instance.

Level 1: “Sees slightly more restrictions, household meetings would reduce to six people from two households but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.”

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature (37.8C of greater)
  • And/or a new and continuous cough
  • And/or a loss or change in your sense of smell and/or taste.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, no matter how mild, you and your household should immediately self isolate and book a test. To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.  Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles)

https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195

 

Katie Macleod – whose international writing career began on EVENTS newspaper in Stornoway more than a decade ago – has been named as one of Scotland’s Top 100 Women in Tourism today by Women in Tourism!

Katie, who is now based in New York and whose parents live in Eagleton on Point, says on Facebook: "2020 has been quite the year, so I’m absolutely shocked and delighted to be named as one of Scotland’s Top 100 Women in Tourism today by Women in Tourism!

"I’m honoured to be on the 2020 list alongside the likes of fellow travel bloggers, marketers at Visit Scotland, hospitality stars at luxury hotels, and all kinds of tourism businesses across every corner of the country, who you can read about here:

https://bit.ly/2HLQ7W7

"I have no idea who nominated me, but none of these things would happen without all of you following my "suitcase stories," especially the ones about the Outer Hebrides, so thank you!"

Katie's award-winning blog is storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com

Reflecting a diverse industry which drives the Scottish economy and delivers the warm welcome which visitors from all over the world recognise and celebrate, the Women in Tourism Top 100 2020 includes those working within hotels, destination organisations, tour operators, marketing agencies and visitor attractions.

The WIT Top 100 gives special recognition to those working on behalf of the Scottish tourism sector, including colleagues from the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Association of Scotland’s Self Caterers, HIT Scotland and ASVA (Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions).

In ensuring the sector continues to be heard, Kate Nicholls from Hospitality UK receives special recognition as the only addition to the list from outside Scotland. As a key voice of tourism and hospitality, Kate has worked tirelessly to ensure individuals and businesses are heard, and continues to lobby on behalf of the industry.

Susan Russell, Chair of Women In Tourism, said:“2020 has been an unprecedented year for not just tourism, but our way of life as we know it. Today’s announcement gives us an opportunity to recognise colleagues across our industry who go above and beyond on a daily basis. The Women in Tourism Top 100 2020 reflects the sector as a whole – from Shetland to the Scottish Borders and the Outer Hebrides to Fife, and while we recognise the challenges facing our industry, today’s announcement is an important moment to celebrate and thank everyone for all that they have done, and continue to do.”

 

 

New operators are interested in taking over the Arnish Yard on Stornoway Harbour, claims Comhairle nan Eilean Siar today (Wednesday October 28).

And the Council is also worried that equipment at the yard is being neglected.

A meeting took place yesterday to discuss the future of Arnish, involving Scottish Government, members of parliament and representatives from Fife and the Western Isles.

The Comhairle says it has requested a follow up meeting with  the Scottish Government and HIE and will look to try and free up the Arnish site for new operators.

Leader of CnES, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “There has been interest from new operators and it seems that the Barnes/BiFab era is coming to an end.

"There are also significant concerns over a lack of maintenance of the excellent equipment at Arnish.

"Following these concerns we feel it is important to separate the asset from its operator as soon as possible and to look at new operators who will ideally look to tie in with ambitious plans for on and offshore wind around these islands.”

Earlier Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said she was seeking assurances that the Arnish yard on Lewis will be open to any user who can bring work to it, rather than “sterilised” through its current lease.

Ms Grant has tabled a series of Parliamentary questions about the terms of the current lease by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to BiFab, the Canadian-owned company which has failed to secure work from multi-billion £ windfarm projects off the Scottish coast.

The Labour MSP has asked the Scottish Government “to ensure that any potential user capable of bringing work to the Arnish fabrication yard will have access to it”. She has also asked Business Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, what plans there are for a marketing campaign to promote Arnish’s potential.

There has been longstanding criticism of the fact that BiFab were given control of Arnish as part of a Scottish Government deal with Canadian firm DF Barnes which gave them funding support to take over the BiFab yards at Methil and Burntisland in Fife.

Ms Grant said: “It is pretty clear that there is no prospect of BiFab bringing work to Arnish but the yard continues to be sterilised by the continuing leasing arrangement between the company and HIE.

“We need to know the terms of that lease and how quickly Arnish can escape from it. I believe that there are other potential users who cannot be excluded in these circumstances”

Her support was welcomed by the Action for Arnish campaign set up on Lewis to fight for the yard’s future. Campaign spokesman Iain MacLeod said: “These are essential questions to ask and answers are long overdue.

“The Scottish Government’s  BiFab deal has been a disaster for Arnish. They are continuing to remove the last remnants of their presence at the yard and it is long past time for a line to be drawn under whatever arrangement exists between HIE and BiFab”.

 

 

 

 

 

Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, Scottish Labour MSPs for the Highlands and Islands, are issuing a joint call for people to have a responsible and safe Bonfire Night on 5thNovember.

With Covid-19 restrictyions leaving many organised public events across the region cancelled, it’s expected that more people may consider hosting their own events this year.

The negative impact that fireworks can have on people and animals was highlighted in the Scottish Government consultation on the sale of fireworks, which revealed that 70% of respondents had been affected by fireworks being used in an irresponsible or unsafe way.

Rhoda Grant MSP said: “With many organised firework displays being cancelled, it’s particularly important this year that people consider the impact of fireworks on people and animals. If you do wish to host your own fireworks display on Bonfire Night please follow Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advice, be responsible, considerate and safe.

“With Bonfire Night taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s also important that people stick to the necessary social distancing rules and restrictions on numbers and households mixing to prevent the spread of the virus.”

David Stewart MSP said: “Every year we receive casework from constituents about the inconsiderate or unsafe use of fireworks on the run up to Bonfire Night, which can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

“People living with conditions like Autism or who have a sensory impairment can find this time of year particularly challenging and we also know that animals can find fireworks very distressing.

“If you do decide to organise your own fireworks display, please be safe and consider notifying neighbours about your plans so they can take any necessary action to reduce potential distress.”

A consultation was conducted by the Scottish Government and was published on 4th October last year highlighting the public opinion towards fireworks and their use in public events. There were varied opinions:  

  • 70% of the respondents reported that they had been affected by fireworks in an irresponsible or unsafe way
  • 94% thought that there should be more controls over the sale of fireworks
  • 87% would welcome a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public in Scotland
  • 92% believed there should be more control over how fireworks can be used in Scotland
  • 93% thought that there should be greater controls to ensure animals are not caused unnecessary suffering because of the use of fireworks

New changes to support for hospitality and related businesses in Scotland met with a mixed reaction from the industry yesterday (Tuesday, October 27)

Commenting on the announcement that one-off grants of up to £50,000 (plus grants of up to 75% on subsequent properties) will be available to nightclubs and soft play businesses in Scotland, UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “This is incredibly positive support for two elements of hospitality that had been neglected.

“These businesses have been closed since the very start of the crisis and they have been looking ahead without much reassurance or idea of when they might start trading again. This financial boost will be a lifeline, keeping businesses and jobs secure.”

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls added: “This is a pragmatic and very positive manoeuvre from the Scottish Government and it is good to see some creative thought going into supporting businesses. We hope Westminster follows suit and provides similar support.”

But on the wider impact of the new ‘5-Level’ Covid-19n system of social control, Willie Macleod said: “This five-level system doesn’t appear to do hospitality businesses any good. There are small reasons to be positive, but the continual restrictions, lack of time to adjust and uncertainty over support is a worry.

“Relaxing the restrictions around meal service is a sensible step. As is the decision to allow alcohol to be served outdoors, although the time of year means this will probably not be a huge benefit.

“It is very disappointing that hotels are still unable to serve alcohol to residents other than in very restricted circumstances. When these businesses have made a huge effort and spent considerable sums making areas COVID secure, it remains a big blow. The level 3 restrictions around food service without alcohol are incredibly tight.

“Again, we need to stress the importance of providing sufficient guidance and time to allow businesses to get to grips with new measures. Businesses need to plan, order stock, communicate details to staff and that all takes time that they are not being given.

“It is vital that businesses know with certainty that adequate financial support will be made available over the duration of the five-level system to compensate business forced to close either through legislation or lack of financial viability. The sector has spent an estimated £80-90 million making premises safe and able to welcome customers. There are huge costs associated with closure, too. Businesses are spending around £10,000-15,000 per week just to stay closed. Financial support must be expansive and reflect these realities.

“The hospitality sector, which is vital to so many communities, must also be directly involved in the Business Advisory Council proposed by Scottish Conservatives if it is adopted.”

The team at Outer Hebrides Tourism say they are proud to introduce you to our new website, launching yesterday (Tuesday Otober 27) on www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk, which:

  • Offers a new fresh-look that makes much greater use of imagery
  • Showcases what the islands have to offer in a more accessible way, using our six brand stories (Wildlife, Landscape, History, Gaelic, Food & Drink and Wellbeing)
  • Includes dedicated sections on each of the islands, both big and not-so-big as well as a blog section that keeps the site fresh
  • Increases visibility of the Hebridean Way with a dedicated site
  • Gives a higher profile for Gaelic, including the home page in both Gaelic and English

The new look extends to a much more powerful presentation of businesses in the listings sections, including larger photos and social media feeds.  There are new opportunities to promote members' business, including hosting videos. 

Visitors will be able to book direct through the site once online-booking functionality starts in the coming weeks.
 
The site continues to list all tourism businesses on the islands that that OHT are aware of, but the new version makes a much clearer distinction between members of Outer Hebrides Tourism and non-members.
 
"We have done our best to incorporate as much of your feedback on the previous site in this new version. 

"We hope you like it, and encourage you to drop us your thoughts both on what you like as well as what still needs work. Inevitably there will be some bugs and spelling mistakes that have made it through editing, so please let us know about them so we can get them fixed. 
 
"We know 2020 has been a year to forget, but we hope the new site lifts your spirit and offers some encouragement about better times ahead.

"Many of you have been involved in this over the past few months, and we thank you all for your contributions,"OHT is telling its members.

Once again, there were no further cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles yesterday (Wednesday October 28) NHS Western Isles reported last night.

This leaves the complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic, at 61 - with 50 in South Uist, Ersikay and Benbecula, one in North Uist, and now 10 in total on Lewis, following the recent three cases reported last week.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson last night pointed out that everything might change on Monday (November 2) with the start of the new 5 Levels of restrictions.

According to summaries published nationally, the islands could be put in either Level 0 or Level 1.

Level 0: “Broadly comparable to the position we reached in August when the virus was very suppressed in Scotland but still a threat. At this level we would be able to meet indoors with eight people from three households and most businesses would be open, albeit with safety measures in place.” Nightclubs would stay shut, for instance.

Level 1: “Sees slightly more restrictions, household meetings would reduce to six people from two households but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.”

It's now suggested that whatever the planned Levels say, the restrictions on meeting others indoors will remain in force.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature (37.8C of greater)
  • And/or a new and continuous cough
  • And/or a loss or change in your sense of smell and/or taste.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, no matter how mild, you and your household should immediately self isolate and book a test. To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.  Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles)

https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195

 

The Lochs road has been blocked by a collision near Marybank Quarry, it was reported this afternoon (Tuesday Ocotber 27).

Western Isles Police said at 15.50: "The A859 near to the Breedon's Quarry outside Stornoway is currently closed while emergency services deal with a road traffic collision. 

"It is unknown, at present, how long the road will remain closed but we will keep you updated.  Local diversions are being put in place."

The Pentland Road is reported as having heavy traffic.

Traffic is reported as chaotic on the link road between Achmore and the main Pentland Road.

The diversion via Pentland Road to Achmore, then back to Leurbost (and vice versa) will add about six miles to the journey and it's a much slower road.

Big queues are reported of traffic retruning to the main road adjacent to Cameron Terrace.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is seeking assurances that the Arnish yard on Lewis will be open to any user who can bring work to it, rather than “sterilised” through its current lease.

Ms Grant has tabled a series of Parliamentary questions about the terms of the current lease by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to BiFab, the Canadian-owned company which has failed to secure work from multi-billion £ windfarm projects off the Scottish coast.

The Labour MSP has asked the Scottish Government “to ensure that any potential user capable of bringing work to the Arnish fabrication yard will have access to it”. She has also asked Business Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, what plans there are for a marketing campaign to promote Arnish’s potential.

There has been longstanding criticism of the fact that BiFab were given control of Arnish as part of a Scottish Government deal with Canadian firm DF Barnes which gave them funding support to take over the BiFab yards at Methil and Burntisland in Fife.

Ms Grant said: “It is pretty clear that there is no prospect of BiFab bringing work to Arnish but the yard continues to be sterilised by the continuing leasing arrangement between the company and HIE.

“We need to know the terms of that lease and how quickly Arnish can escape from it. I believe that there are other potential users who cannot be excluded in these circumstances”

Her support was welcomed by the Action for Arnish campaign set up on Lewis to fight for the yard’s future. Campaign spokesman Iain MacLeod said: “These are essential questions to ask and answers are long overdue.

“The Scottish Government’s  BiFab deal has been a disaster for Arnish. They are continuing to remove the last remnants of their presence at the yard and it is long past time for a line to be drawn under whatever arrangement exists between HIE and BiFab”.

 

 

 

 

Advocacy Western Isles

Annual General Meeting 2020

Due to Covid-19 restrictions our AGM will take place online via Zoom

On Thursday 29th October 2020 at 1.30pm

You are very welcome to attend our AGM, please contact us by 26th October 2020 for Zoom details.

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

or

01851 70 1755

 

A proposed ferry run to deliver essential winter supplies of oil and gas to Bernera has been postponed again today (Tuesday 27 October) – and may not take place for some time.

Heavy swell in the Atlantic and a continuing forecast for adverse sea conditions means the vessels suited to the crossing cannot reach the west side of Lewis. Operators say it could be weeks before they can make the crossing.

The short trip from the slipway at Uigen in Uig to Valasay in Great Bernera is urgently needed to carry oil tankers and deliveries of gas for heating before winter sets in.

The solution was put in place by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar after the Bernera bridge became the subject of a weight restriction due to structural weaknesses. A ban on heavy goods vehicles crossing the bridge has affected fuel deliveries, as well as waste collection services and other deliveries.

A screenshot of the swell forecast for the Uig area tomorrow (ventusky.com)

The picture shows a screenshot of the swell forecast for the Uig area tomorrow (ventusky.com)

Ferguson Transport and Shipping of Spean Bridge have been commissioned to run the ferry transport – scheduled for this Thursday (29 October), using one of their shallow-draft, roll-on-roll-off landing craft.

The vessels are often seen operating around the Western Isles and have delivered heavy equipment and vehicles for fish farms companies and Scottish Water in the recent past.

But shipping administrator Ewan Gibb said today that this week’s forecast sea conditions will not allow them to move into position for the crossing, meaning a third postponement to the crossing, and that the forecast for next week is looking little better.

He said: “It’s the wrong time of year to be doing this, to be honest. Hurricanes across the water are having their effect on us, too and if you look at the swell across the whole of the Atlantic it’s not nice just now.

“It’s unlucky that this need has arisen at this time of year. We are just going to have to assess week by week and see what mother nature has to throw at us.”

Fergusons fleet of vessels, suited to the shallow waters and slipways at each side of the crossing, can operate in significant swell height of up to two metres. The forecast for tomorrow, when the vessel would need to get in place for the proposed Thursday run, is between five and seven metres of swell.

Ewan said that the wave conditions could be prohibitive for the next three or four weeks, but that both Fergusons and the Comhairle had in mind the fact that temperatures will be dropping and that people need supplies for heating.

He said: “If we see an opening to get in there, we will take that opening because our main focus is to help local people. But really, when you look at the whole Atlantic, it doesn’t look promising.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - in an official statement today - says: "Due to forecast weather conditions and sea states this week, the sea run to Bernera scheduled to take place on Thursday 29th October, will now go ahead on Thursday 5th November. The aim of the run, via sea from Uigen Slipway, Uig to Valasay Slipway, Great Bernera, is to enable the topping up of oil and gas supplies in preparation for winter, and also to test this sea route should it be necessary to deploy again at short notice."

 

A business support programme aimed at developing the next generation of entrepreneurs is to be extended across the Highlands and Islands.

IMPACT30 is currently operated by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in the Highland Council area, as part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.

Delivered on HIE’s behalf by AAB Consulting, it offers bespoke support from industry specialists to people age 35 and under who are in key decision-making roles in young ambitious businesses.

The young business leaders benefit from 12 months of personalised coaching and mentoring, just-in-time training, and collaborative learning with other participants. 

HIE has approved a further investment of £100,000 to make the programme accessible to businesses in the Northern and Western Isles, Moray, Argyll and Bute, and North Ayrshire.

The investment will be targeted at helping young people develop commercial and employment opportunities as part of the region’s economic recovery.
IMPACT30 forms part of the Northern Innovation Hub, a project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with £11m from the UK Government and £1.7m ERDF support as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.

So far, the programme has run four times in Highland. Forty-nine businesses have taken part, including 19 currently in the programme. The average age of participants is 30 and the average age of their businesses is less than a year.

Extending IMPACT30 across the region is expected to benefit at least another ten businesses over the next year in addition to those in the Highland Council area. Claire Munro, HIE’s senior project manager for the Northern Innovation Hub, said: “Entrepreneurship is a key driver for successful business development and economic growth. Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs is essential to future job opportunities, inward investment and community resilience.

“IMPACT30 is about strengthening entrepreneurship to create a more robust and resilient economy, as well as improving business skills and supporting a confident workforce.

“By extending the programme, we’ll be able to build on its success so far and widen the impacts across the whole region. We look forward to welcoming the next cohort for onboarding in January.”

Mark Bell, director of economic development at AAB Consulting, said: “IMPACT30 welcomed 19 new businesses in August. It was great to feel how energised they all are about fighting the uncertainty head on. Our immediate task is to help them focus their energy on the things that are most important today, and that they are building their resilience in a way that they can respond to disruptions tomorrow, of which there will be many. Each business benefits from having an individual coach, a network to share and learn from, and other subject matter experts on hand to help with discreet challenges.”

The Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal is a joint £315 million initiative supported by both the UK and Scottish governments.

More information about IMPACT30 is available on the HIE website.





People will be able to apply for disability assistance in person across the Western Isles.

Options will include returning a paper form by post, applying over the phone, filling in an online form or getting help from a member of staff based in their local community.

Social Security Scotland, the agency which will administer these benefits on behalf of the Scottish Government, is continuing work to set up this local service.

There will be in excess of 400 local delivery staff providing face-to-face support across Scotland. This is a substantial increase on the existing Department for Work and Pensions offer, which has under 100 visiting officers for the whole of Scotland.

So far, Social Security Scotland employs four staff in Western Isles and has secured space in two locations. This will grow as more benefits are introduced and demand increases.

Locations have been identified based on feedback from experience panels and through working alongside community partners including voluntary sector. This will help to identify venues that are easily accessed and many of  our clients already make use of.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “Making sure that people are able to apply for benefits in the way that is right for them is one of the absolute fundamentals to ensuring that everyone gets the money that they are entitled to.

“The world is changing and things like the ongoing pandemic are changing the way people access services, with more and more of us looking to do so online. However, we don’t want a service that only works for the majority, it needs to work for everyone. We need to make sure that no one is left behind.

“This is why we are designing a system that gives people choices and makes sure that we take into consideration different accessibility needs – particularly for those looking to apply for disability assistance.

“People will have a range of ways in which they can apply for the disability benefits we will introduce. This includes applying online and also the option to apply in person with one of our specially trained staff located in communities in every council area.

“In setting up this service, we are taking a truly tailored approach. We want to understand the unique needs of local communities. We will continue to work with others to gain this understanding and to make sure that we have people available in the right places and at the right times across the Western Isles.”

 

Once again, there were no further cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles yesterday (Monday October 26) NHS Western Isles reported last night.

This leaves the complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic, at 61 - with 50 in South Uist, Ersikay and Benbecula, one in North Uist, and now 10 in total on Lewis, following the recent three cases reported last week.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson last night described the situation as "very welcome news for everybody."

If the Isles can maintain the present status with no recent infections (which needs to continue for a further week to show the outbreak is over) then the islands could be left on the lowest levels of restrictions as outlined by the Scottish Government.  Announcing the plan, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke down the lowest tiers as follows:

Level 0: “Broadly comparable to the position we reached in August when the virus was very suppressed in Scotland but still a threat. At this level we would be able to meet indoors with eight people from three households and most businesses would be open, albeit with safety measures in place.”

Level 1: “Sees slightly more restrictions, household meetings would reduce to six people from two households but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.”

The levels then progress up to Level 4 which is nearly a complete lockdown. The tier system has to be approved by the Scottish parliament before it can come into operation.  It seemed unlikely at the time she spoke last week that any region would be placed under level 0 restrictions. Areas with low incidences of cases, however, such as the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland could be placed under level 1 restrictions, it was believed.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature (37.8C of greater)
  • And/or a new and continuous cough
  • And/or a loss or change in your sense of smell and/or taste.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, no matter how mild, you and your household should immediately self isolate and book a test. To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.  Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles)

https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195

 

Trustees of community landowner the Stornoway Trust will meet tonight (Monday 26 October) in an online forum to tackle pressing concerns.

Among agenda items is the recent severe flooding on Sandwick Road, which led to the road being closed this morning as Police Scotland judged it unsafe for traffic due to standing water.

The flooded road is just outside Engebrets Filling Station, where Sandwick Road crosses the narrow canal which forms part of the drainage system between Newton and Broad Bay.

The same part of the road was closed for a week in August 2019 while Comhairle nan Eilean Siar rebuilt the bridging section of the carriageway over the water, which was in danger of collapsing.

Heavy rain over the past two weeks has led to water standing axle deep on the road surface at times, with the level of water in the canal and in the drainage catchments to either side of the road standing almost at road level even when it is not raining.

It’s widely understood that maintenance of the canal, including dredging it to improve flow, is the responsibility of Stornoway Trust as community landowner.

But factor Iain Maciver said that, although in the past the trust had taken responsibility for clearing the canal a number of times, trustees now believed that there are more urgent calls on their increasingly scarce resources.

He said: “The canal is bounded by a number of landowners, of which the Stornoway Trust is one. The trust has co-ordinated the cleaning of the canal a number of times in the past, but in recent years the trust has taken the view that it’s not something that we can support, because it is a traffic management issue, which rightly falls under the remit of the Comhairle.

“Circumstances have changed, especially over the past decade, and the canal is now expected to cope with all the surface water run-off from a number of developments including the school, sports centre and residential developments all around the area.

“The issue of flooding in the canal has manifested since the sports field development, but in any case the options to manage flow through the canal are limited.

“The flow through the canal is so low and the fall to the sea end of the canal so minimal, that improving drainage away from Sandwick Road is extremely difficult.

“The outfall to the sea is not much better than a two-metre drop from Sandwick to Broad Bay and the bridge on Constable Road (Anderson Road) rests on bedrock, so lowering it there to improve the flow is not an option.

“This matter will be on the agenda for trustees to discuss tonight, but trustees have previously taken the view that the responsibility to deal with the flooding rests with the council as the roads authority, The Comhairle should address it and apportion costs across the different bodies that own the land.

“The trust also has the concern that our actions over this area of road may set precedents elsewhere and the trust does not want to take responsibility for flooding where it is a highways obligation, which is clearly the case here.”

The Comhairle said tonight that it and Police Scotland have been monitoring the water level at the canal on Sandwick Road since the decision was taken early this morning to close the road. In the interests of public safety, a decision has been taken to leave the road closed overnight and review in the morning. There has been significant rainfall over the past week which has saturated the adjacent land, with further heavy rain forecast overnight.

The Comhairle, as Roads Authority, said it was currently in discussion with landowners with a view to facilitating maintenance works on the canal watercourse to assist the effective drainage of the area.  All businesses on Sandwick Road remain open and accessible.

 

 

A new economic impact report reveals the economic contribution Lews Castle College UHI makes to the local economy – contributing £24 million and supporting 230 jobs throughout the Outer Hebrides.

The College has a total student body of 2,250 people across its further and higher education courses. The curriculum offering for students is at the heart of the College and it aims to meet the needs and expectations of both students and employers from the Butt to Barra.

With new plans for a campus redevelopment as part of The Islands Deal it is hoped that LCC UHI will further increase its role in the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposed redevelopment project will allow the College to deliver training in more flexible and innovative ways as well as meeting the learning needs of individuals, businesses, and communities.

The report, which was commissioned by the University partnership last year, has been produced by the independent consultancy, Biggar Economics. 

The findings also reveal that the partnership’s impact across Scotland has grown by between 20% and 25% since it was last measured in 2010, mainly due to an increase in staff and graduates. The partnership achieved full university status in 2011 and will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in February 2021. 

However, the authors highlight that the University’s value goes beyond its financial contribution, explaining: “The benefits of the university extend beyond the significant gross value added and jobs measures. It supports sustainable and inclusive economic wellbeing and social development in the broadest sense, for people, communities and employers across the region. It supports heritage and culture, the economy, the environment, the regional health sector and it offers pathways through tertiary education that give routes to personal and collective growth and development. 

Lews Castle College Principal Sue Macfarlane said: “This report clearly demonstrates the importance of Lews Castle College to the local economy and community, particularly at this very difficult time.  We fully intend to build on this success, working with our partners across the Western Isles as well as colleagues across the University, to ensure the College is at the centre of the economic recovery of the islands ”

The University of the Highlands and Islands’ economic impact assessment report is available in the publications section of the university’s website.  

 

Safety and repair priorities on the pedestrian bridges in the castle grounds are on the agenda at tonight’s meeting of the Stornoway Trust (Monday 26 October).

A combination of wear and tear, vandalism and weather damage has created a series of access and safety issues on the bridges, which have been raised by representatives of Stornoway Community Council and users of the castle grounds.

They include fallen or damaged safety railings, slippery bridge surfaces and broken walkways which appear in danger of collapse, with regular grounds users reporting new problems regularly after weekend vandalism.

Stornoway Trust factor Iain Maciver said: “The main bridge causing the problem is over the Glen River near The Hub. It was already in poor repair and vandalism has left it in a worse state.

“We intend to replace this with an iron bridge as we have previously done in other locations, but we want it to be wide enough for a disabled buggy, so we have been looking at modifications and, with everything else that has been happening this year, it has taken longer than expected.

“The bridge near the waterwheel needs work to be done because it has been the subject of repeated vandalism and, above that, a new bridge was put in with netting across it to make it non-slip, but the mesh netting has not been ideal. That bridge is on the list for attention.”

Mr Maciver was keen to remind those ready to criticise of the issues that the trust, alongside many other organisations, have been facing in 2020.

He said: “People have forgotten that we have spent the best part of the summer in lockdown and that our work has been held back.

“We have a new grounds manager and he is on the look-out for what needs attention, but people need to appreciate that when it is wet and when there is leaf fall, wood becomes slippery. They must use common sense and approach all walkways with caution and care.”

Stornoway police are asking for public information after two incidents of vandalism during October.

In a recent incident, windows were smashed at a house in the Cearns at about 4.45am on Thursday 15 October.

An unrelated earlier incident saw vandalism at the portacabin building near Smith Avenue, behind the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway. This damage is believed to have been caused around Friday 2 October.

Police are appealing for any information about either incident.

If you witnessed anything, or have any information, contact Stornoway Police Station by telephone (101) or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The incident reference for the Cearns vandalism is NH/1181/20 and for the Smith Avenue portacabin damage NH/1129/20.

 

The University of the Highlands and Islands partnership contributes £560 million to the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire economies every year and supports 6,200 jobs according to a new report.

The economic impact assessment shows that for every £1 spent on the university, the university partnership puts £4 back into the economies of the communities it serves.

The report, which was commissioned by the university partnership last year, has been produced by the independent consultancy, Biggar Economics.

The findings also reveal that the partnership's impact across Scotland has grown by between 20% and 25% since it was last measured in 2010, mainly due to an increase in staff and graduates. The partnership achieved full university status in 2011 and will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in February 2021.

However, "The benefits of the university extend beyond the significant gross value added and jobs measures. It supports sustainable and inclusive economic wellbeing and social development in the broadest sense, for people, communities and employers across the region. It supports heritage and culture, the economy, the environment, the regional health sector and it offers pathways through tertiary education that give routes to personal and collective growth and development.

"Through the university, the region has greater control of its own economic and social future which will be especially important in helping its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."

Biggar Economics has also published reports on the economic impact of the individual colleges and research institutions which make up the university partnership.

The network covers the largest geographical area of any campus-based university or college in the UK and has the largest student population in Scotland, with nearly 37,000 students studying across the university partnership each year.

Welcoming the findings, Professor Crichton Lang, University of the Highlands and Islands Principal and Vice-Chancellor (Interim), said: "We commissioned these reports to measure the contribution our university partnership makes to the communities we serve. It shows that investment in our partnership has a clear benefit and, in these uncertain economic times, it is important to understand this benefit and highlight the full extent of the value the university partnership brings.

"As a flourishing university for the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire we aim to retain, attract and nurture talent in our region to reverse population decline and build innovation and socio-economic prosperity. This mission is particularly important as we work to support the recovery of our region following the COVID-19 pandemic. The nature of employment will change and we are working with employers, communities and learners to respond to their needs."

There were no further cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles yesterday (Sunday October 25) NHS Western Isles reported last night.

This leaves the complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic, at 61 - with 5o in South Uist, Ersikay and Benbecula, one in North Uist, and now 10 in total on Lewis, following the recent three cases reported last week.

And NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson added a new warning to his daily broadcast on Twitter.  The new tiered system of Covid-19 alert levels makes everyone responsible for the rules governing all of our lives.  If we can maintain the present status with no recent infections (which needs to continue for a week at least to show the outbreak is over) then the islands could be left on the lowest levels of restrictions.

Announcing the plan, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke down the tiers as follows:

Level 0: “Broadly comparable to the position we reached in August when the virus was very suppressed in Scotland but still a threat. At this level we would be able to meet indoors with eight people from three households and most businesses would be open, albeit with safety measures in place.”

Level 1: “Sees slightly more restrictions, household meetings would reduce to six people from two households but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.”

The levels then progress up to Level 4 which is nearly a complete lockdown. The tier system has to be approved by the Scottish parliament before it can come into operation.

It seemed unlikely at the time she spoke last week that any region would be placed under level 0 restrictions. Areas with low incidences of cases, however, such as the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland could be placed under level 1 restrictions, it was believed. 

This puts communities under a heightened pressure to follow the rules, lest the entire community loses a tier status. 

Summary of level 0 and level 1 from BBC News

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature (37.8C of greater)
  • And/or a new and continuous cough
  • And/or a loss or change in your sense of smell and/or taste.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, no matter how mild, you and your household should immediately self isolate and book a test. To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.

Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles)

https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195

 

The former leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has warned of crippling impacts on the islands’ renewables economy because of the rupture to the subsea transmission cable announced last week (Monday 19 October).

Lewis and Harris are off the main electricity grid for anything up to a year, according to Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) after damage to the only connection between the islands and the mainland grid.

And former council leader Angus Campbell says the lack of a second link to the mainland, in the form of the proposed interconnector between Lewis and the mainland, represents a ‘lost opportunity’ for the island economy, for Scotland and for the environment.

Angus spent 14 years, between 2003 and 2017 – when he stepped down from the Comhairle – lobbying for the interconnector which could carry power from island renewable energy companies to the network.

Most recently, he was invited to Holyrood in 2019 to speak to a parliamentary committee about energy security in the islands.

Speaking to welovestornoway.com, Angus said: “I feel very strongly about the position we are currently in, with diesel-fired turbines responsible for all the power we use over the next year.

“In terms of emissions and the importance of green energy, it’s no good saying that renewables are a priority and still leaving us unable to access the whole spectrum of natural resources that the islands offer. Everything here now rests on diesel generation because of a lack of transmission capacity, which has come from lack of investment over decades.

“I think that Government has to step in and say that the ability to transmit power from island wind and wave energy is more important than saving 50p a year on the average electricity bill.

“Energy security is vital to the islands and to Scotland as a whole, and if we are going to open up the economy it is madness not to have a second connection across the Minch – it always has been.”

Angus drew comparisons between Scottish islands and those in Sweden, where investment has been put into local battery storage areas, where communities can store locally-generated renewable power for use when needed – for example when lines go down in bad weather.

He said: “In terms of security for power supplies coming onto the island, if the interconnector had been built, that would have given us options for an alternative supply route coming into the islands, and options for using our own renewables to power our own needs.

“If we had had the investment, that would have brought money into the community and allowed us to be proactive in making our supply of clean, renewable energy secure.”

Instead, Lewis and Harris are now set for an unwelcome profile as the site of Scotland’s dirtiest power generation.

Angus said: “It’s ironic that Shetland is about to get their interconnector, which will mean that they can scale back use of their gas-powered turbine station at Lerwick.

“During the whole of the Our Islands Our Future debate, which I participated in over years, energy security was a high-profile item. It still is.

“But we are not seeing measures coming in to support that in the Western Isles. Without the interconnector we can’t make progress. That is the one thing that has to be cracked to combat climate change and to reduce island reliance on emission-causing fuel sources.”

 

Stornoway police are asking for public help after a car was damaged by a lighted firework thrown or let off close to a roadway last night (Saturday 24 October).

The driver notified police after the car was hit by the firework, which appeared to be thrown by a male in dark clothing who was with a group of four youths around 9.30pm, on Macaulay Road between the Spar roundabout and Manor roundabout.

Police say anyone who may have seen the incident or who has any information about it should contact them on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number 1222/20.

 

A massive lightning strike last night (Saturday 24 October) was responsible for a power cut which plunged all of Point and Sandwick into darkness shortly after 8pm.

A spokesperson for SSE said the lightning strike, in the East Street area of Lower Sandwick, damaged transmission equipment and caused a break in power for all customers between the Battery Point power station and Tiumpanhead.

The power outage initially affected 1,249 properties in Parkend, Sandwick and the whole of the Point peninsula.

Supplies were restored to 1,118 properties by 8.20pm as SSEN engineers re-routed the network.

For the remainder of customers, an expected time back online of 11.30pm was initially posted. The last few properties, in the area closest to the fault in Lower Sandwick, were restored to supply at 1.30am.

SSEN said in a social media statement last night: “We’d like to reassure our customers that on-island generation at Battery Point and Arnish Power Stations continues to run normally and would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused this evening.”

 

An assault in Stornoway earlier this month is the subject of a police appeal for information, released today (Sunday 25 October).

The assault happened on Simons Road, between Plasterfield and Steinish, around 9pm on Saturday 10 October.

Anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area at that time, or who knows anything about the assault, is asked to call police on the non-emergency number, 101, quoting incident number NH1179/20.

 

The procurement of the new ferries for the Tarbert-Uig-Lochmaddy triangle and the Ardrossan-Brodick crossing has come under heavy criticism from the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee in a highly detailed criticism of the entire arrangement - including the claim that the ferries' biggest failing is that they will only increase greenhouse gas emissions, not reduce them.

A central and prominent claim made in support of these vessels is that their hybrid LNG/Oil engines will result in lower emissions. This is demonstrably not the case, says the report which has been submitted to the Scottish Parliament.

LNG propulsion appears to have been added to the design as an afterthought, without first attempting to find the most efficient ship form in the first place. “To use an analogy, it is a little like occasionally filling a V8 muscle car with biofuel, without first considering whether a smaller car with a more efficient engine might get a better result,” says the committee.

They say their reports attempts to take the reader through the arguments and evidence that MIFC has amassed over the past 18 months, that leads them to conclude that hulls 801 – now Glen Sannox – and 802 are not suited to their intended routes on multiple grounds.

  • They perpetuate a ship design paradigm that is expensive to buy and operate.
  • They are built around the needs of a historical and embedded crewing regime, rather than the needs of the users and the route.
  • They are built to deadweight requirements that the data shows is highly inflated. This deadweight capacity has a direct and negative effect on fuel efficiency.
  • They are built to accommodate passenger numbers far in excess of the requirements of the route. This adds considerable operating costs.
  • They are vulnerable to high winds due to the tall superstructure and old-fashioned propulsion set-up. This is contributing to an increasing weather cancellation rate.
  • There is no evidence that alternative vessel designs and hull forms have been explored.

The committee continue that whilst “there has been a great deal of public discussion about the failure of FMEL, the overspend and the late delivery, even if the contract had been executed flawlessly these vessels would not be right for the routes they will serve.

“From everything we have read and learned, the decision process that led to the selection of these designs remains opaque. It is not clear whether it is CalMac, CMAL or Transport Scotland that is at the centre of decision-making on vessel choice, and there are no detailed design criteria available for examination.

“We are unable therefore to form any conclusion on why this design was chosen, or which agency made the key decisions on design. Central to understanding the decision process would be to see the ‘Specification of Operational Requirements’, which is a document produced by CalMac and passed to CMAL that stipulates and justifies the operational requirements of the vessel.

“We would hope to see analysis of passenger carryings, carrying statistics and a commercial business case within that document. However, thus far our requests to see the Specification of Operational Requirements under FOI have been refused.”

The procurement of hulls 801 and 802 began life as the ‘MARS’ project (Mull & Arran Replacement Ships)in 2012. A public CMAL presentation (LINK) from December 2012 covers the Brodick redevelopment and ferry design choices.

In this presentation, various design options were outlined: traditional monohulls; Norwegian style bi-directional monohulls and a 70m catamaran proposal from STS. The presentation compares options, particularly focussing on the block coefficient of each. Block coefficient is in simple terms a number that indicates how much energy it will take to push the vessel through the water. The higher the block coefficient,the more energy is needed. As can be seen from the table to the left, the Catamaran design has by far the most efficient hull, followed by the Norwegian bi-directional. All traditional monohulls have significantly higher block coefficients – ie they need more energy to propel them. On this important metric therefore, it appears that the worst option was chosen.

“It was clear is that both the Norwegian and catamaran options offer huge saving potential, both in capital and running costs. Two catamarans or Norwegian bi-directionals could have been bought for less than the original contract price of 801/802, and these two ships would together have been cheaper to run than one 801/802, whilst offering double the service frequency and 60% more combined capacity.

For the medium-speed catamaran option…the report points out that there is now a working example in Scottish waters demonstrating its capabilities. Pentland Ferries have been using a medium-speed catamaran to link Orkney with the mainland at Gills Bay since 2008, and such has been the commercial and operational success of this choice, that the company has already taken delivery of a new and larger catamaran in 2019 – the MV Alfred. Alfred has a car capacity of 98, a passenger capacity of 430 (ie just over4:1), a crew of 12-14 and consumes just 630 litres of fuel per hour. Her build cost was just £14 million, from a Vietnamese shipyard. (A European shipyard is estimated to have cost around £20 million).

Pentland Ferries have proven the medium-speed catamaran to be a reliable vessel, crossing some of the wildest waters on Scotland’s coast. Her reliability record is better than the Northlink monohull that operates in parallel with it, and the company is competitive despite being entirely self-funding and not in receipt of any operational or capital subsidies.

https://mullandionaferrycommittee.org/2020/09/18/parliamentary-inquiry-into-ferry-procurement/

A number of people from Inverness to the Isles of Lewis and Skye report having had severe illnesses with Covid-19-like symptoms from late 2019 though to early February 2020.
At the beginning of that time, the separate virus which causes Covid-19 had not been specifically identified internationally.  Even at the end of that period, the symptoms and outcomes of Covid-19 infection were not widely known.
Internationally, according to published reports, the first confirmed cases - where the patients' blood samples given at the time have since been tested for presence of the new virus - are early November in China, late December in France, and early February in California. In Washington state in the western USA, the first case now reportedly known was in mid-January. The first officially confirmed cases in Scotland are known to have occurred during February - involving infections from many different European locations, according to University of Glasgow research published in June.
According to a report published in highly regarded medical journal The Lancet in September, “the initial pandemic wave in Wuhan likely originated with a single infected case who developed symptoms sometime between October 26 and December 13, 2019; in Seattle, the seeding likely occurred between December 25, 2019 and January 15, 2020.”
A French case - with a positive identification of Covid-19 in a sample taken on December 27, 2019 - involved a man who was sick for 15 days and infected his two children, but not his wife, who works in a supermarket. He had not been involved in any foreign trade but his wife worked alongside a sushi stand, close to colleagues of Chinese origin. It’s possible she had had the disease before him but was asymptomatic, French researchers are quoted as saying.  
This pattern fits with cases of which we have been told, occurring in the Isles of Lewis and Skye in mid to late December, particularly.  Intense illnesses, spread to the immediate families, connected to use of international airports, and close contact with foreign visitors, particularly from China. In one set of cases, involving a multi-occupancy household, all but one person were badly unwell at this time - several months subsequently, that one person became ill and tested positive for Covid-19.  The other people in the household showed no symptoms at that time.
In two or three of the cases of which we are aware, the ‘long-Covid’ phenomenon is being reported with the people involved enduring recurrent post-viral symptoms.
From published reports, it is not clear that even if the people involved in our report were to be tested for antibodies to Covid-19, that would conclusively prove whether they had had the disease, particularly if they had it so long ago. None of them have been tested.  Nor could they have been tested for actually having the virus when they were unwell as such tests were not available at the time.
Conversely, we have been told of a more recent case of an offshore worker who tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies - although he had never tested positive for having Covid-19, never showed any symptoms, and no one else in his ‘social bubble’ became unwell.
The Lancet report concluded: ”The spread of COVID-19 in Wuhan and Seattle was far more extensive than initially reported. The virus likely spread for months in Wuhan before the lockdown [which started on January 23, 2020]. Given that COVID-19 appears to be overwhelmingly mild in children, our high estimate for symptomatic paediatric cases in Seattle suggests that there may have been thousands more mild cases at the time.”
In developing this article, we have excluded people who made remarks on the lines of “I was really ill in August, I wonder if that was Covid,” and similar vague comments. The people who talked to us were reporting full-scale Covid-19 like symptoms, with a small subset of non-respiratory cases, a pattern which has also been recorded internationally.  
International winter tourism, particularly from China, has grown tremendously in recent years in the Isle of Skye and the Highlands in particular.  There has always been a great level of international interchange for work in our regions of Scotland, particularly associated with the oil industry right across the world.  The use of air travel is proportionately far higher in our regions than elsewhere.  If Covid-19 is known to have been occurring in places as distant from Wuhan as Paris and Seattle in mid-to-late December 2019, then its appearance in our regions at the same time seems completely feasible.
One thing we do not have is any reports relating to late February and March.  If our information accurately reflects a pattern of events, then a first, modest wave of Covid-19 infection affected our regions in December and January.


An interesting fact - which we have no way of knowing is related - is that the death rates in the Highlands and Western Isles at the start of the year ranged from above to well-above average, according to a map published by the BBC as part of its pandemic coverage. 

(https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53233066)

Editor’s Note - this article for welovestornoway.com is based on a number of conversations with individuals in the Islands and northern Highlands of Scotland over the past six months. These often arose by chance but began to form a clear pattern.  Now it is in effect, a piece of open research. Publishing it as we do, is intended to gain further information to prove (or indeed, disprove) our conclusions.
We do have considerably more detail on a number of these cases but because of the nature of the area, going into any more detail would risk precisely identifying the affected individuals.
This research work has been conducted by Editor Fred Silver and freelance journalist Roz Macaskill. If there is additional information anyone can supply about this issue, please send your contact details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will get back to you.

There were no further cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles yesterday (Saturday October 24) NHS Western Isles reported last night.

This leaves the complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic, at 61 - with 5o in South Uist, Ersikay and Benbecula, one in North Uist, and now 10 in total on Lewis, following the recent three cases reported last week.

One further mainland-detected case has been retested by NHSWI and found to be negative. This increases the disparity again between the nationally published figures for infections and those reported locally. 

The mainland laboratory system was designed to provide rapid results for a large number of screening tests.  Where a result is a ‘weak positive’ in someone without risk factors for exposure to Covid-19, a confirmatory test is recommended.

The confirmatory test that is used by NHS Western Isles in the local laboratory is called a Cepheid test which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in testing for Covid-19 and is used as the system to ‘retest’ as necessary.  Where this test is negative, the mainland laboratory test is regarded as a ‘false positive’. 

 The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature (37.8C of greater)
  • And/or a new and continuous cough
  • And/or a loss or change in your sense of smell and/or taste.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, no matter how mild, you and your household should immediately self isolate and book a test. To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.

Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles)

https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195

Libraries in Tarbert, Liniclate and Stornoway have been open with their new 'Connect & Collect' service for several weeks now, and it is proving to be very popular, organisers say. 

They explains: "While it is not the same as being able to browse the shelves to select your own books, but still a brilliant way for people to stock up on their essential reading. It’s easy to do!

CONNECT with the library to ask for your books. You can either place a request for the particular books you would like via the online catalogue or ask the library staff to select some for you.  This can be done by phone, email or completing one of the online Connect & Collect forms.

Once that is done, you can COLLECT your items from your library.

Public libraries are only open reduced hours at the moment, but you can drop in any time we are open to return your books, and collect some more.

They say: "We are ordering wonderful new books all the time, so follow us on Facebook to find out about the tantalising new books as they arrive.  You can also request DVDs, large print and audio books as well.

"We are really keen to see more children and families asking for bags of books.  It can be particularly frustrating for young readers to have people selecting books for them, but think of it as getting a treasure chest of surprises each time you visit. 

"If we don’t have the books you are looking for, just ask and we’ll do our best to get them in for you.

Iain Mackenzie shows off the new library bags

To celebrate Connect & Collect, we have also launched a library ‘bag for life’ - the perfect way to carry your books to and from the library.

For those who aren’t suffering from digital overload and exhaustion at the moment, we still have our eLibrary of eBooks and eAudio books available at anytime, anywhere.

If you would like help with accessing the eLibrary, or would like to become a member, get in touch and we can help you.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  / 01851 822744

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @wilibraries

Those in the Western Isles who are eligible for the influenza vaccination are being urged to contact NHS Western Isles to book an appointment, at a venue near them, on 01851 763304.

"Please do not contact your GP Practice as this year’s influenza vaccination programme is being managed by NHS Western Isles," says NHSWI

NHS Western Isles is repeating earlier messages that it has become aware of a number of issues related to the distribution of appointment letters, including the following:

  • ​​S​ome individuals who may have already made an appointment or in fact already received their influenza vaccination, may receive another letter offering them another appointment date. We would like to sincerely apologise for the confusion this may cause. If you have already received your flu vaccination or have already arranged an appointment, please ignore this letter.
  • ​​​Some letters being issued to individuals who are not eligible for the influenza vaccination (i.e. you do not fall into one of the eligible groups). If you are confident that you are not eligible for the vaccination, you do not need to contact us for a booking, and please accept our apologies for this confusion.
  • ​​​Som​e letters have been directing patients to clinics outside their local area. Please don't worry- when you call to book your vaccination, our own local staff will assign you to the correct clinic. 
  • If you have not yet received your appointment letters and are currently eligible for the free influenza vaccination, you can contact us directly to book an appointment at your convenience.

The most vulnerable patients are being scheduled first, and staff will confirm which group patients fall into when they call us.

Please note that phone lines (01851 763304) are open Monday to Friday, from 9am until 5pm. If it is more convenient, drop a message with your contact number to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will get back to you. Phone lines may be busy but please try calling back if you are unable to get through.

Again, NHS Western Isles apologises for the confusion caused in relation to the distribution of letters, and thanks you in advance for your cooperation and understanding.

NHS Western Isles says it is working to make sure the most vulnerable patients are vaccinated first, and wish to thank the public for their patience as we roll out clinics over the next two months.

All primary school children will be offered the flu vaccination administered by the local school nursing team, during October and November. Most of these school children will receive the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray, avoiding the need for an injection. Consent forms have been sent home with all primary pupils.

Eligible groups:

  • Pre-school children aged 2 to 5 (children must be aged 2 years or above on 1 September 2020 and not yet in school) are also offered a free flu immunisation – as a nasal spray
  • Anyone aged 65 and over (by 31 March 2021)
  • Anyone with an eligible health condition (e.g. asthma, stroke, diabetes)
  • Pregnant women will be offered the flu vaccination by their midwife.
  • Healthcare workers
  • Unpaid and young carers
  • Those living in the same home as people previously shielding from coronavirus
  • Social care workers who provide direct personal care
  • Those aged 55 to 64 by 31 March 2021 will also be eligible for the vaccine from December.
     
Please visit www.nhsinform.scot for further information and a full list of eligible conditions.

There’s been an outpouring of support from the Islands for the residents and staff of Taigh a’Chridhe Uile Naomh (Sacred Heart House) care home, in Daliburgh.
This home has been affected the Covid-19 outbreak in South Uist which has led to 50 cases of infection with the virus in the area.
Toiletries, shortbread and sweets were very kindly donated by the Tesco store in Stornoway after the store gave its customers the opportunity to show support to care home residents in the islands, setting aside a trolley to be filled with donations.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Service Manager for Residential Services, Ella Macbain, herself based in Benbecula, said: “Such goodwill and kind gestures are appreciated very much as the Western Isles island communities show their support to Sacred Heart House during these difficult days.
“We have received telephone, and email messages, donations of various kinds.”
Ella Macbain added that the Borrodale Hotel in Daliburgh “has also been very flexible and accommodating in meeting the needs of staff from Lewis and Harris.”  Quite a few staff from the northern parts of the Western Isles have been involved in the extensive operation in South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay to control the outbreak of the virus.
Meanwhile, Western Isles NHS has confirmed there are no further cases in either the Uist or Lewis outbreaks of Covid-19.  In addition, a further possible positive test resulting from a mainland test is being retested on the Western Isles. The mainland laboratory system was designed to provide rapid results for a large number of screening tests.  Where a result is a ‘weak positive’ in someone without risk factors for exposure to Covid-19, a confirmatory test is recommended.
The confirmatory test that is used by NHS Western Isles in the local laboratory is called a Cepheid test which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in testing for Covid-19 and is used as the system to ‘retest’ as necessary.  Where this test is negative, the mainland laboratory test is regarded as a ‘false positive’. 

A new dance, fitness and wellbeing studio has opened in Stornoway after securing a grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Husband and wife team Kirstie Anderson and Rodney Jamieson opened the new facility under the new name Sandwickhill Studios.

Following six months of offering online classes during the pandemic, Kirstie held her first class for adults at the new studios this month, with limited numbers due to current restrictions.

More classes will gradually be introduced in the studio while online classes are still running.

HIE’s £46,275 investment enabled the second phase of the project covering key infrastructure costs such as an upgrade of the carpark, interior design and branding as well as internal fixtures, equipment and furnishings.

The new studio provides a flexible community hub for all ages in the area and aims to create three new jobs over the next few years.

In 2009, Kirstie began teaching dance and fitness classes in community venues around Stornoway before leasing a small studio at the local golf club. With her background of dance and breadth of fitness qualifications, she is now able to offer a suitable, dedicated space for a range of classes she teaches each week. It can also be used by drama clubs, dance residencies and yoga retreats.

During the summer months, the premises will provide a base for Rodney’s water-based activities such as surfing, snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding.

SurfLewis has been operated by Rodney for more than 10 years, providing surfing lessons at beaches around the island. As a RNLI Lifeboat crew member for 13 years and with extensive knowledge of the coastline and beaches, he has an additional voluntary role in promoting water safety in schools and communities.

The new building has also been supported by the 2014-2020 Outer Hebrides LEADER programme as well as significant investment by both businesses.

John Macdonald, account manager at HIE’s Innse Gall team, said: “We are delighted to be supporting two ambitious local firms to develop the new studio, which is important for encouraging increased participation in leisure and healthy activities as well as promoting health and wellbeing. As the business develops, it will also create the potential to employ more people, which will further benefit the local economy.”

Kirstie has been busy making changes to the set-up to help make the experience at home as good as it is in the studio. She has worked hard to get kids’ programmes off the ground in the studio and she is enjoying being back. Distancing spaces are marked up in the building, customers bring their own mats and masks are worn on arrival.

Kirstie Anderson said: “We are very pleased to have had investment from HIE. The work we do at Sandwickhill Studios is needed now more than ever following the lockdown. The classes will help people’s mental health, physical health and general wellbeing and support our local fitness and dance sector which is vulnerable at the moment. The support from HIE and LEADER will help us take the work we do forward, and we are thrilled to be getting ready to take the exciting steps forward as we recover from the challenging year.”

Photo shows Kirstie and Rodney with the new studio

With the clocks going back this weekend, it's another reminder that winter is coming, say Police Scotland today (Friday 23 October).

This can mean changes to road conditions which can affect everybody from pedestrians and cyclists to motorists. As daylight hours change and the weather becomes more unpredictable, Police Scotland is here throughout to keep people safe.

Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: “Keeping people safe on our roads is a priority for us throughout the year, however as we head into the winter months it is important to ensure vehicles and drivers are prepared for the change in road conditions.

"I would encourage drivers to check their vehicles before we experience the first of the wintry conditions.  Some simple steps can be taken to prepare such as checking lights on vehicles to make sure they are in good working order, ensure tyres have sufficient tread, check windscreen washer fluid levels and look out scrapers for clearing frost and ice from your vehicle. 

"As the nights get darker, I would also ask pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders to ensure they are visible to other road users.

"More best practice for road users this winter will be highlighted over the coming week as part of our winter road safety campaign.”

Every day this week, Police Scotland will be sharing advice and tips on how to keep you and your loved ones safe this winter, with videos featuring our vehicle safety helpful hints and tips.

Be sure to follow our campaign on Police Scotland website, Police Scotland Facebook page and Police Scotland Twitter, all this week.

Be Prepared. Be Safe. Be Seen #WinterSafety

The unsung heroes of emergency services control rooms are being recognised today (Friday 23 October) in a week designated in honour of international control room staff.

Joining in the recognition are HM Coastguard, celebrating the team at the Stornoway Coastguard Operations Centre who answer emergency calls.

There are 21 ‘headset heroes’ in the Stornoway ops room, plus controller Angus Maciver, IT and admin staff, counter-pollution team members and the coastal operations team of three, who train and direct Coastguard Rescue Teams all over the Western Isles.

A spokesperson for Stornoway Coastguard operations centre said: “We are taking part in international control room week, recognising the dedicated professionals in our Operations Rooms around the UK.

“These unsung heroes play a critical role in managing communications with the shipping community and the public. They are the first person you speak to when you call us for assistance – providing information and advice, whilst also co-ordinating our response to incidents our assets attend.

“Thank you for your commitment and diligence in assisting those who need our help. Also, thanks to our fellow 999 control room staff, for your dedication and co-operation during multi-agency taskings.”

Pictures show maritime operations officer Gary Ross-Jordan (left) and senior maritime operations officer Derek Cook in the Stornoway ops room today. A pre-Covid picture also shows maritime operations controller Angus Maciver and team leader Carol Campbell at work in the ops room (HM Coastguard/MCA).

 

Clear-fresh and great-tasting water supply is promised to residents of North Harris, as Scottish Water’s new state-of-the-art water treatment works (WTW) at Bedersaig enters service this week.

The unit was delivered by sea to Huisinis beach in July 2019 and its official switch-on signals completion of a £4.5 million investment by Scottish Water for the Isle of Harris’s westernmost communities of Gobhaig, Bedersaig and Huisinis.

The new modular WTW was manufactured by RSE (Ross-shire Engineering) at its specialised facility in Muir of Ord, near Inverness.  Before its arrival at Huisinis Beach on a late evening high tide, it was carried by road to Kishorn in Wester Ross, then via a specialised barge across the Minch and through the Sound of Harris.

Final commissioning work and the completion of associated infrastructure was held up during lockdown but was able to resume in the summer with reduced numbers on site and strict precautions in place.

Scottish Water’s project manager Kathy Auld said: “Completing commissioning safely and with care during the Covid-19 pandemic has involved significant challenges. We are very grateful to the local community, the North Harris Trust and our supply chain partners for working with us to enable this major milestone to be achieved. 

“The new, modern treatment works will be able to supply both residents and visitors in this part of Harris with clear, fresh and great-tasting drinking water for many years to come. It also has good capacity to support development and the connection of new customers in the future.”

The North Harris Trust played a key part in the project’s development as a community landowner. The trust previously completed its own project in late 2017 to improve visitor facilities and protect the local environment with the opening of the Huisinis Gateway centre.

Chairman of the North Harris Trust Calum Mackay said: “The pre-existing supplies for Gobhaig and Huisinis have struggled to meet demand in recent years, with regular need for extra water to be brought into the area by road at busier times.

“We are pleased that this investment will ensure a more reliable, secure and sustainable service for both communities, as well as bringing mains water to Bedersaig for the first time.

“The new and improved water supply creates an opportunity for much needed housing and small business developments to take place, building on the work that the Trust has already delivered.”

Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Farrer said: “Identifying and delivering the right solution for this part of North Harris has involved unique challenges – and our local team, our supply chain and our stakeholders have risen to the challenge at every stage.

“After the difficulties we have all had to navigate in 2020, we are proud that our investment supports a strong foundation for these communities and their economy to flourish in the years ahead.”

The picture shows the new WTW arriving at Huisinis on a late evening high tide in July last year (Scottish Water).

 

There have been three new cases of Covid-19 infection on the Isle of Lewis.

That was the message of the latest update from NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson last night (Thursday 22 October) on Twitter.

All three cases are linked, all are now self-isolating at home, and contact tracing activity is now under way.

One case spent a short time in hospital as an inpatient.

There have been no new cases in the Uist outbreak, with nine days to go before the Uist Covid-19 outbreak can be declared over - and that can only happen if there are no new cases in the meantime.

This leaves the total of cases from the outbreak in Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula still at 50.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is now 61 - with one in North Uist, and now 10 in total on Lewis.

NHS Western Isles says it "can confirm that all the appropriate steps in terms of the Test & Protect guidance and support are fully underway.

"To respect and maintain patient confidentiality, we will not be releasing any further details at this time."

NHSWI Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson, added: “We would like to reassure our local communities and visitors to the island that we are taking all necessary steps to contact trace, and contain the virus but it is vital that everyone in the Western Isles re double their efforts and follows the current Scottish Government restrictions and FACTS guidance to limit any spread of the virus.”

 The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature (37.8C of greater)
  • And/or a new and continuous cough
  • And/or a loss or change in your sense of smell and/or taste.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, no matter how mild, you and your household should immediately self isolate and book a test. To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.

Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles)

 https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195

 

More than 470 children across the Western Isles will benefit from extra funding to extend free school meals over the Christmas and Easter holidays.

A total of £10 million has been made available by the Scottish Government so that councils can continue providing free school meals through the winter breaks with future funding confirmed to extend support over Easter.

On Wednesday, Tory MPs in Westminster voted rejected a plan to extend free school meals into the school holidays, arguing that it was not the job of schools to “regularly provide food during the school holidays”.

No Scottish Tory MP voted to support the plan, despite recent indications from Douglas Ross that he wishes to end the Tories’ opposition free school meals provision.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“Many families are under considerable financial pressure at this time, and with less than two weeks until the UK government prematurely shuts down the furlough scheme, that’s unfortunately only set to get worse.

“The Scottish Government’s decision to extend the free school meals scheme will be a great relief for many hard-pressed parents. This important investment will support around 470 children and young people in the islands, helping families meet the cost of meals over Christmas, February and Easter holidays.

“The Tories at Westminster had an opportunity to support thousands of families worrying about how they will put food on the table in the weeks ahead, but they refused to do so. It’s clear that Westminster has a lot to learn from the SNP’s approach to tackling food insecurity and building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.”

 

Thw Point and Sandwick Trust pandemic response volunteer group has been shortlisted in the People’s Choice category of the 2020 Scottish Health Awards.

The awards are run in association with the Scottish Government and the Daily Record and the Point and Sandwick Trust Volunteers includes everyone who was involved in the volunteering since lockdown began – from leafletting to delivering meals to befriending. 

The Scottish Health Awards celebrate “the exceptional achievements of unsung heroes within health and social care services” and the People’s Choice category is “specifically to recognise our individuals and teams who have responded so magnificently to the challenge of caring for people during the pandemic”. 

The judging panel noted the quality and strength of nominations this year so it’s a real tribute to have been shortlisted. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will be decided by a public vote, which closes on November 6. 

For more information on how to vote, visit the awards website at www.scottishhealthawards.com or follow Point and Sandwick Trust on social media. 

This year’s events will take place virtually on Wednesday, December 9 and the public are urged to vote for the volunteers who responded so magnificently to the call for help to make the pandemic services projects possible.

A recent report produced by Alasdair Nicholson into the outcomes of the community wind farm organisation’s pandemic response revealed in black and white how many people had been helped by its pandemic services. These include the provision of 5,110 cooked meals, 3,373 emergency food parcels, 1,556 grocery deliveries, with a total of 260 households across 30 settlements benefiting from some form of help. The main beneficiaries were in the 71-80 and 81-90 age brackets and a total of 5,220 miles were covered by the delivery service drivers. 

The pandemic response, which also included telephone befriending, was made possible with grants of £55,600 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise through the Supporting Communities Fund for a food and medicine delivery service to vulnerable people and £55,525 for outreach telephone support and a cooked meal service from the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund.

But none of it would have been possible without the volunteers – an army of whom had answered the call to help. In all, 41 people volunteered with the pandemic response – including 17 volunteers who delivered the seven-days-a-week meals and eight who were trained up for the telephone befriending project.

Angus McCormack, honorary president of Point and Sandwick Trust, said the shortlisting in the Scottish Health Awards was an appropriate recognition of their contribution. 

He said: “I am delighted that our team from Point and Sandwick should be recognised in this way because I’ve seen the work for myself. I’ve seen all of it operating and I’m hugely impressed by what they have done. 

“It’s always pleasing when the work of volunteers in a community is recognised in this way because volunteering is really hard work. There isn’t necessarily going to be anyone at the end of the day saying ‘oh well done’ or anything like that. It’s the pleasure you yourself get from it and the feel good factor. It’s very much something that lies within yourself.”

Angus said he hoped that “projects of this nature” would be able to continue to happen in the Point and Sandwick area, now they have begun, and could be built on for the future. 

In the Scottish Health Awards, there are 16 awards categories in total. The others categories are: Support Worker, Innovation, Volunteers, Midwife, Allied Health Professional, Young Achiever, Unsung Hero, Care for Mental Health, Integrated Care, Healthier Lifestyle, Leader of the Year, Nurse, Doctor, Top Team and Global Citizenship. 

Parents and pupils accessing Stornoway Primary school once term restarts will face a challenge because of access difficulties created by the extensive road works under way on Perceval Road.

It is understood that the contractors working at Perceval Road have confirmed that they expect the lower Columbia Place junction to be reopened before pupils return tomorrow (Friday). It won’t be fully tarred but the trench will be filled and the road will be open. They expect to do the tarring during a night-shift by early next week.

Although the junction will be back in use, there will still be traffic lights and a considerable risk of congestion.

To ease this, the contractors will be doing the following:

  • Site entrance will be closed during pick-up and drop-off to stop additional vehicles from the site being on the road then.
  • Nicolson school buses are expected to be re-routed up Matheson Road instead of using Perceval Road/Goathill to ease congestion.
  • Contractors will be on site and will assist with any traffic directions.
  • Police may be asked to attend to assist if traffic concerns increase

If you need to use the Columbia Place entrance/ exit, parents are asked to please allow additional time. Other possibilities could be to use surrounding streets, such as Kennedy Terrace, to drop-off/pick-up. The use of the Kennedy Terrace Square could be by approaching and departing from the Leverhulme Drive side rather than from Jamieson Drive.

Pupils who live close by are encouraged to walk as much as possible.

SSEN Distribution is to replace the subsea power cable connecting Lewis and Harris to the Scottish mainland, following a recent fault on the 33,000-volt link which caused a massive power cut last weel on Lewis and Harris.

This could take as long as a year to complete, initial estmates suggest.

In a statement this afternoon (Thursday October 22) Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution confirms it is now starting a project to undertake an end-to-end replacement of the subsea distribution cable.

Investigations, including location testing from each shore end, confirm a fault on the 32km cable, which runs from Ardmore, Skye to Beacravik, Harris around 15km from the shore on Skye. Based on the depth of the water at the fault location, which is more than 100m deep, a repair has now been ruled out and a full replacement is required.

SSEN has initiated the procurement process to source a replacement cable, is reviewing the availability of cable-laying vessels and has undertaken preliminary engagement on marine licensing consents. The network operator is also reviewing all options to assess if the replacement will be undertaken on a like-for-like basis, or if the network can allow for a cable with greater capacity, whilst also meeting acceptable restoration timescales.

SSEN’s priority is to restore the network to normal operation as soon as possible. Whilst it is too early to determine specific timescales, SSEN expects the replacement project to take between 6-12 months given factors including cable procurement and manufacture, securing necessary permissions from statutory authorities and suitable weather conditions for cable installation.

SSEN would like to reassure the local community that there is no impact to the supply of electricity to homes and businesses as a result of the fault. In line with established procedures, Battery Point and Arnish Power Stations on Lewis will remain in operation for the duration of the fault alongside on-island renewable generation.

As part of these plans to ensure a continued supply of electricity to customers, SSEN has increased deliveries of fuel via sea tankers to its on-island supplier to transport directly to the power stations.

Further contingency measures are also in place, including the sourcing of large back-up mobile generation sets, to provide additional security of supply to homes and businesses on the islands.

As a result of the fault, there will be restrictions to electricity generation export during the period. SSEN remains in close contact with generators on Lewis and Harris to manage any generation constraint and will look to minimise disruption wherever possible. This includes undertaking a network study to understand any options to further increase the allowed generation.

An end-to-end subsea survey of the Skye to Harris cable was undertaken in August 2020 which did not identify any material concerns requiring attention. Further investigations are ongoing to determine the root cause of the fault, including to rule out any instance of third-party damage.

Mark Rough, Director of Customer Operations at SSEN, said: “We know how important a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity is to our customers and we’re acting as quickly as possible to progress this significant cable replacement project.

“We’d like to reassure our customers that our well-established resilience plans are in place to maintain power supplies to local homes and businesses as we source and install the new cable. Our power stations are designed and maintained to carry out full operations and play a crucial role to keep the power flowing during this type of situation.

“To maintain system stability, there will be restrictions to generation export until the network is restored to normal operation. We remain committed to exploring options and solutions to maximise the amount of renewable generation that can run and are undertaking one-to-one conversations with affected generators on Lewis and Harris as a priority.

“We have been engaging with local stakeholders throughout the week and met with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this morning to provide a full update.  A further meeting has been scheduled for next week to provide an update on progress.”

Commenting after the meeting, Councillor Roddy Mackay, the Council Leader, said, “Our two priorities here are ensuring a robust electricity supply for homes, businesses and the health sector in the islands and the protection of our community generators who have invested so much on the basis that their product can be exported to grid without restriction.

“The business case for many of our community generators relies on export of generated electricity and many of these community groups have purchased land, taken on staff and supported vital projects in the community.  Across the sector, hundreds of thousands of £s of revenue from exported electricity could be lost every month due to this failure.  Insurance policies will help but, in most cases, a month of no export has to elapse before insurance payments become available and, even then, payments will be based on an insurer’s monthly average taken across the entire year.

"This average will be well below the income expected by community generators over the winter months when wind speeds are high and consistent.  Some policies also cap insurance reimbursement at six months.  We will continue to press SSEN and others to ensure that this vital community income is safeguarded and, if necessary, compensated for.”

There's still ten days to go before the Uist Covid-19 outbreak can be declared over - and that can only happen if there are no new cases in the meantime.

That was the message of the latest update from NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson last night (Wednesday 21 October).

He said that once again, there had been no new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. This was the 4th day with no new cases. 

He explained that the Director of Public Health states that at 14 days with no new cases, NHSWI could consider declaring the outbreak closed.

This leaves the total of cases from the outbreak in Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula still at 50 - which is about seven times the total number of cases which had occurred on the Islands before the Uist outbreak.

Mr Jamieson, in his daily, late-evening, broadcast on Twitter, said again that he wanted everyone to continue to do whatever they could to keep to the guidelines to subdue the spread of the virus. He has earlier pointed out that the success of Test & Protect in subduing the Uist outbreak was dependent on the great co-operation of families afffected in accepting self-isolation as testing and tracing continued.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 58.  There have now been 50 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.

Official national figures show a higher total but NHS Western Isles has retested several people and found they were negative for the virus when a more relaible test was used.  The total number of cases shown nationally grew again by two yesterday - reaching an apparent total of 64 on the NHS Scotland Tableau display.

Essentially, two individuals received positive results from a mainland laboratory, which were retested through the NHS Western Isles laboratory and were confirmed negative.

The mainland laboratory system was designed to provide rapid results for a large number of screening tests.  Where a result is a ‘weak positive’ in someone without risk factors for exposure to Covid-19, a confirmatory test is recommended. 

The confirmatory test that is used by NHS Western Isles in the local laboratory is called a Cepheid test which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in testing for Covid-19 and is used as the system to ‘retest’ as necessary.  Where this test is negative, the mainland laboratory test is regarded as a ‘false positive’.  In the two cases this week, confirmatory tests have shown that Covid-19 was not detected. The Western Isles public health department risk assess each Covid-19 result and all such tests are thoroughly investigated.

 

 


The latest news on BiFab’s failure to win work from vast offshore windfarms makes it even more essential that the Arnish yard is available to other users, according to the campaign group Action for Arnish.

In a statement today Thursday October 22,, the group said: “Once again, we are utterly dismayed to learn that not even the hoped-for crumbs of the Neart na Gaoithe cake will come to Scotland, far less to Arnish. The refusal of the Scottish Government to underwrite the contract is disappointing to say the least.

“We express solidarity and sympathy with the workforce in Fife who have again been failed badly. Even before this news, there was little expectation that any of the work would come to Arnish in the event of BiFab being successful.

“However, this outcome reinforces our view that the whole relationship involving the Scottish Government, HIE and BiFab must come under review and the first step towards that is to have transparency over the Arnish deal.

"There is no doubt that the Canadian company, DF Barnes, who took over BiFab at the request of the Scottish Government, feel badly let down. The promises made at that time were not delivered on and the necessary investment was not forthcoming.

“Arnish has been a victim of this situation and is now completely marginalised without any prospect of work. It is time for complete openness about the deal with BiFab/DF Barnes and a clear statement from HIE and the Scottish Government that any firm which can bring work and investment to the yard will be welcomed rather than turned away”.


Union leaders involved in the battle to preserve jobs at Arnish hit out angrily last night (Wednesday October 21) as a wind farm deal that could have seen 200 workers return to BiFab’s yards is on the verge of collapse putting the future of the company in doubt.

BiFab had previously been selected by the developers of the Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind project to provide “at least” eight foundation jackets.

This comes just weeks after BiFab also lost out in a bid to win work on the Seagreen offshore wind project off the coast of Angus.


Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan will today (Thursday October 22) meet with Scottish Government Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP to discuss the situation at BiFab.  Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The news over the jackets for Neart na Gaoithe is yet more bitter disappointment following BiFab missing out on work for SSE's Seagreen offshore wind farm project last month.  While it is little surprise to learn today that the Scottish Government, as minority shareholders in BiFab, have now invested as much money in the company as the law will allow, it brings into even sharper focus the predicament which Arnish faces. I will be meeting with Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop later on today and will ask her to set out what the options now are for the yard and its workforce, as they deserve to have a future at a time when there is work to be done in Scotland’s growing renewables sector.”


In a joint statement GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “It looks like the Scottish Government ministers have walked away from our best chance of building a meaningful offshore wind manufacturing sector, and in doing so has extinguished the hopes of communities in Fife and Lewis who were banking their future prosperity on it.

“It’s a scandalous end to a decade which started with promises of a ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ supporting 28,000 full-time jobs in offshore wind and now finishes in mothballed fabrication yards and no prospect of any contracts or jobs on the horizon.

“Both the First Minister and the Prime Minister promised a green jobs revolution but they didn’t tell anyone it would be exported, and it all amounts to broken promises to workers who needed these yards to be thriving instead of dying.

“The fabrication contracts for NnG, just like those on the Seagreen project, will be manufactured by the rest of the world.

“Two projects worth a total of £5 billion, requiring 168 turbine jackets to power our future, and not even one will be built in Scotland – everyone needs to let that sink in.

“This is what political failure looks like and people are right to be absolutely furious.”

BiFab was rescued from the brink of administration by the Scottish Government in a £34 million agreement in 2017 before being purchased by Canadian firm DF Barnes in April 2018.  The Scottish Government also provided a loan facility of £15m.

A spokesperson for the owners of BiFab, Canadian firm DF Barnes, is reported as saying: “BiFab can confirm that following a decision by the Scottish Government that it can no longer provide assurances for the NnG jacket fabrication contract, the company has informed EDF & Saipem that it can’t provide the required assurances for the work.

“Unfortunately, the recent decision by SSE to award work to Asia over Scotland for their Seagreen project, combined with NnG project delays due to COVID-19, have contributed to this difficult decision.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government can only financially support BiFab, or any other commercial enterprise, in so far as a commercial investor would do the same.

“Without majority shareholder investment in the company or yards we have exhausted the options for what financial support we can provide legally.

“We will continue to do everything possible to support the business while recognising the need for us to remain in line with State Aid regulations and we will be engaging with trades unions and local representatives in the coming days.”

Communities across Lewis and Harris have been dealt a major blow by the failure of the subsea cable between the islands and the mainland grid, losing their ability to export renewable electricity from local wind turbine production and the vital income it brings.

In a change to the normal protocols, community generators have been permitted to operate at minimal output during this outage while SSE attempts to resolve the subsea cable fault.

But representatives of one Lewis windpower company said today (Wednesday 21 October) that this is scant consolation, given the hundreds of thousands of pounds that are likely be lost each month while the cable is out of operation.

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) in north-west Lewis is one of the local beneficiaries of renewable energy income and could lose out considerably over the coming winter period.

Agnes Rennie, chair of Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn, said: “It’s very disappointing to see this problem arise when so much effort has been invested by community organisations such as ours to achieve a transformational income source.

“We are all hoping that this fault can be rectified soon and it will still be possible to capture a good slice of wind energy production over the winter. We have benefited greatly from the turbines up till now, allowing us to build up strong reserves that will sustain our key functions in the weeks ahead while we wait.”

Winter wind speeds are critical to the profitability of locally-owned turbines, which provide much-needed income to communities across the island.

Wind farm operating company Galson Energy has been able to distribute nearly £400,000 to the Galson Estate community during its first six years in operation.

But the company’s annual revenue projections, and available funds, will be undermined by a lengthy outage. Insurance policies are in place to assist with loss of revenue, but these do not come into effect until a full month has elapsed and will be based on estimates, assuming the insurers accept the cause as an insured risk. Bank loan payments will be the first call on any income received by community generators.

Galson Energy chair Carola Bell said: “The majority of annual income is earned over the winter, so the timing of the cable fault is very concerning. As winds generally become stronger from October onwards, the length of this particular outage becomes critical.

“December and January tend to be the peak of production, so missing out on these months especially would be financially damaging. Should this outage continue for some time, losing out on a major portion of income over the key winter months will seriously undermine the company’s ability to pass income to the community during this unprecedented time of concern for many people.”

In their statement today, a Galson Energy spokesperson said: “Community generators have long recognised that the Western Isles electricity network has suffered from a serious lack of investment over many years and the subsea cable is part of this fragile infrastructure.

“Installed in 1990, it should typically have been replaced by now. Apart from its uncertain condition, its comparatively low capacity constrains the amount of electricity that can be exported to the mainland power grid.

“Community generators are strongly of the view that any plans for replacement should include a larger capacity cable, increasing it beyond the current 33kV to be more consistent with the capacity of overhead lines joining at either end.”

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn is the community landowner which led the development of three 900kW wind turbines at Ballantrushal, to provide an income stream for the Galson Estate.

Picture: Galson Energy has three wind turbines on the Galson Estate in north-west Lewis (Urras Energy Society).

 

The Scottish Government is to ask parliament to delay new regulations on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms by 12 months, because of the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The announcement was made late yesterday (Tuesday 20 October), shortly after Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan announced he had proposed a delay following representations by constituents.

Dr Allan wrote to the minister for local government, housing and planning, Kevin Stewart MSP, to raise the issue of upcoming changes to the laws around fire and smoke alarms.

Due to take effect from February 2021, these changes will require that every home must have a smoke alarm in the living room and in circulation spaces such as hallways and landings, a heat alarm in every kitchen, all alarms ceiling mounted and interlinked and a carbon monoxide alarm where there are fixed combustion appliances such as boilers and wood burners.

Dr Allan said: “I have received a number of enquiries from constituents over the course of the last week who were unaware of the upcoming changes to the regulations for fire and smoke alarms in homes.

“These changes are important…. However, there is very low public awareness of these changes and the pandemic will cause difficulties for households trying to get tradespeople in. I spoke to the Minister about this issue last week to ask whether it is reasonable to expect households to be compliant by February.”

In what appeared to be an instant response to the raising of the issue, a statement issued by the Scottish Government at 8.46pm yesterday (Tuesday) acknowledged the practical difficulties likely to be faced by homeowners and suggested moving implementation of the new regulations back to February 2022.

Minister Kevin Stewart MSP said: “Fire safety is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government, and we remain committed to implementing these improved regulations, which will mean everyone will benefit from the same level of protection, whether they own their home or rent from a social or private landlord.

“Given the impact of COVID-19, and the difficulties this is likely to create for people seeking to install new smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, we have listened to concerns and decided to ask the Scottish Parliament to delay implementation.

“If this delay is approved, we will continue to work with partners to spread awareness of the changes before the new deadline. Our focus will be on supporting householders to ensure satisfactory fire alarms are installed so we can improve the safety of their homes.”

The Scottish Government has made more than £15 million of loan funding available for social landlords ensuring that social tenants are safe in their homes and provided funding of £870,000 each year for two years to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to support their home safety visits to ensure vulnerable and high risk people can get the necessary alarms installed at no cost to them so that they are safe in their homes.

Home safety visits by Scottish Fire and Rescue have been suspended. Their website states: “To ensure the safety of the public and of our staff during the Coronavirus outbreak, we have taken the decision to temporarily stop most Home Fire Safety Visits except for those where the occupiers are identified as being at very high risk.”

 

Lewis and Harris have been left without electricity back-up at the onset of winter, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil was talking to welovestornoway.com yesterday (Tuesday 20 October) after the major subsea cable fault which has taken almost 18,000 Lewis and Harris customers off the main electricity transmission grid.

Power to the whole of the two islands is now being supplied by diesel generation at Battery Point power station in Stornoway.

Mr MacNeil said: “The fault is at 100m depth, about 15km from land, and it might be that the cable has to be fully replaced, at a cost of tens of millions of £s.  It could be a period of months, therefore, that Lewis and Harris would be supplied by back-up at Battery Point.

"The concern there is that the back-up is becoming long-term to permanent, and there’s no back-up remaining. What happens if something goes wrong with the back-up?”

The undersea fault which emerged over the weekend as the cause of a total power loss to the islands on Friday (16 October) is on a stretch of subsea cable which was laid in 1990, with an expected lifespan of 25 years.

The line connects the Isle of Harris with Ardmore Point in Skye, and then back to substations which are on a mainland line, itself considered by SSEN to need urgent upgrading and renewal.

SSEN is currently in consultation with Ofgem over the investment case for this line, after Ofgem rejected a proposal for renewal and upgrade of the two substations and connecting line.

Mr MacNeil said: “I’ve been in touch with Ofgem in the last five weeks about the line feeding the islands, particularly the substations at Quoich and Broadford in Skye. SSE had flagged them up as being of concern.

“I think Ofgem have got to engage in a discussion about how this is solved. Do we want to have a triangle of lines in the Minch for resilience, so that we’d have a cable between Harris and North Uist?

“Then there’s the question of the additional undersea cable in the North Minch that renewable energy would have brought in – Ofgem don’t use back-up as being a factor for having the interconnector.

“Finally, I think it would be good to know how much renewable energy is able to help, to ameliorate the amount of diesel that’s required to power Battery Point over this period.”

Also showing concern about the current situation with power supply to Lewis and Harris is Isles MSP Alasdair Allan.

He said: “I had a meeting online today (Tuesday) with SSE to discuss the issue of the failure of the cable between Skye and Harris. While I am reassured that on-island sources of electricity generation can cope, it is a matter of obvious concern that the connection to the mainland has been lost in this way.

“For just now, it seems that customers in Lewis and Harris will notice no difference, but I have sought assurances about what it will mean for community and other generators, who need to know that the local infrastructure is adequate for them.

“I have also made the case for the replacement cable being sourced quickly, and future-proofed to cope with future needs.”

SSEN Distribution said yesterday that investigations are underway to identify the cause of the fault. They said a survey in summer this year had shown no concern about the condition of the subsea cable.

In public information materials produced in February 2020, an SSEN statement said: “Our priority is to ensure a continuous, safe and reliable supply of electricity to the islands. The video-data and testing carried out by our engineers helps us to determine if the cable is in good operational health or requires replacement.”

SSEN also raised the possibility of third-party damage to the cable as a possible cause of the system break, in their statement yesterday.

In their general advice to mariners about protocol when operating in areas where subsea cables are laid, SSEN says: “As our cables are marked on Admiralty charts, mariners should show reasonable care and avoid towing gear near to or across them. If our cables are damaged by gear and reasonable care hasn’t been demonstrated, the mariner may be held liable for the damage.”

No statement has yet been released by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and no spokesperson has been available to answer questions from welovestornoway.com.

The picture shows a section of undersea cable during underwater surveying work carried out by SSEN Distribution (SSEN).

There have once again been no further cases of Covid-19 infection associated with the outbreak in Uist , NHS Western Isles said last night (Tuesday October 20) - nor have there have been others on the rest of the Islands. 

This leaves the total of cases from the outbreak in Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula at 50.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, in his daily, late-evening, broadcast on Twitter, said again that he wanted everyone to continue to do whatever they could to keep to the guidelines to subdue the spread of the virus. He pointed out that the success of Test & Protect in subduing the Uist outbreak was dependent on the co-operation of families afffected in accepting self-isolation.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 58.  There have now been 50 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.

Official national figures show a higher total but NHS Western Isles has retested several people and found they were negative for the virus when a more relaible test was used.

All ferries to and from Stornoway are cancelled today.

This, says CalMac, is due to windspeeds of up to 46 mph and an extremely heavy swell."

And Tarbert ferries are also cancelled. The next ferry from Tarbert will be on Friday at 0730.

 

Recognising that Highlands & Islands tourism has changed dramatically since we started to "unlock" in early July, the Federation of Small Businesses is holding a webinar for all businesses with an interest in tourism in the region to give them an insight into the likely shape of their industry post-Covid.

The FSB’s Highlands & Islands Development Manager, David Richardson, said:“While the priority right now for many tourism business owners in our region is surviving until next season, and doing so in reasonably good condition, all know that tourism has changed since the coronavirus crisis began. Hard-pressed businesses need to start planning for next year soon, and to do so they need the best possible insights into the sort of world that they will be operating in.

“As our national tourism organisation, VisitScotland has naturally put a lot of work into trying to predict what the new tourism landscape will look like post-Covid, and especially at how consumer demand and trends will change. 

“Recognising that the health of our tourist industry is inextricably linked to the economic health of our region as a whole, the FSB is delighted to invite business owners from across the region to join us for this important webinar. The panel will discuss VisitScotland’s predictions and  look at how Highlands & Islands businesses can adapt to make best use of the opportunities and overcome any threats.”

The FSB is inviting businesses from across the region to submit questions for the panel in advance, via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Panel: VisitScotland’s Senior Insights Manager, Chris Greenwood, and Regional Leadership Director for the Highlands & Outer Hebrides, Chris Taylor

Host: Tanja Lister, director of the Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland and FSB Highlands & Islands Area Leader

When: Wednesday, 4th of November, from 10:30 until 11:30 - Online

Open to: Everyone in business across the region – and further afield

Cost: Free

Booking essential to receive the webinar link: www.fsb.org.uk/event-calendar

Imminent changes to the laws around fire and smoke alarms seem set to catch people out.

Now Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has written to Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, Kevin Stewart MSP, about their concerns on the changes and asking the deadlines could be extended.

Changes to the law on fire and smoke alarms went through the Scottish Parliament at the beginning of 2019 and are due to take effect from February 2021. These changes were brought about after the tragic events at Grenfell Tower and mean that from 1 February every home must have:

  • a smoke alarm in the living room and in circulation spaces such as hallways and landings
  • a heat alarm in every kitchen
  • all alarms ceiling mounted and interlinked
  • a carbon monoxide alarm where there are fixed combustion appliances such as boilers and wood burners

The islands MSP has received a number of queries from concerned constituents since a leaflet from a private company advertising services to comply with this legislation was delivered to households across Scotland last week.

Alasdair Allan said: “I have received a number of enquiries from constituents over the course of the last week who were unaware of the upcoming changes to the regulations for fire and smoke alarms in homes. The understandable media and government focus on the pandemic has meant that publicising these regulations has been difficult to do in the normal way.

“These changes are important. The tragic events at Grenfell Tower emphasised just how important building and fire safety is, and these changes would see private homes subject to the same standards that already exist in the private rented sector.

“However, there is very low public awareness of these changes and the pandemic will cause difficulties for households trying to get tradespeople in.

"Given this, I spoke to the Minister about this issue last week and have written to him to ask whether it is reasonable to expect households to be compliant by February. I hope the Scottish Government will consider any reasonable measure to ensure homeowners have enough time to prepare.”

Two sheep on a croft in Gress needed to be treated by a vet on Saturday (17 October), after being attacked by dogs.

Police received a report that two large brown dogs had been seen chasing and worrying sheep at the croft around 11.30am on Saturday.

A vet was called to the two injured animals, who needed stitches to bite wounds and antibiotic injections after the attack.

Police are asking for anyone with information related to the incident to contact them on the non-emergency number, 101, quoting incident reference NH 1188/20.

 

Drink driver charged

A man was charged with drink-driving after being stopped by police in a residential area of Stornoway on Saturday (17 October).

The man was arrested at 8.10am and charged with drink-driving after testing. He’ll be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

 

Vandalism to fence

Police are asking for public help after an incident of vandalism at an address in Guershader, Laxdale, where damage was reported outside the property.

The damage, to a wooden fence and front door, was caused between 5pm on Friday 16 October and 1.30pm on Saturday 17 October.

Anyone who saw anything or has any information is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number, 101, quoting incident number NH 1189/20.

 

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) are investigating whether an unknown third party caused damage to a subsea cable, knocking out power to the whole of Lewis and Harris on Friday (16 October).

And it’s possible that the 32km cable from Ardmore in Skye to Beacravik in the Bays of Harris may need to be completely replaced to restore transmission.

A statement issued late yesterday (Monday 19 October) confirmed that a fault has been identified on the 33,000-volt subsea electricity distribution cable, with initial location testing indicating a fault around 15km from shore and in an area of deep water.

The cable’s entire length had been inspected by SSEN Distribution this summer, with no indication of any risk to its integrity, according to SSEN.

Friday’s fault caused a total power loss to Lewis and Harris and the islands have been supplied by locally generated power from Battery Point’s diesel-fired turbines since lunchtime that day, as reported on welovestornoway.com yesterday (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/18328-power-break-in-subsea-cable)

A spokesperson for SSEN said: “SSEN is committed to restoring the network to full operation as soon as is practicably possible. Further investigations are underway to identify the root cause of the fault, including to understand any instance of third-party damage, and to implement a restoration plan.

“This will establish whether a repair can be undertaken or, given the fault location, an end-to-end cable replacement is required.

“There is no impact to the supply of electricity to homes and businesses on Lewis and Harris as a result of the fault. In line with established network operation procedures, Battery Point Power Station will remain in full operation for the duration of the fault alongside on-island renewable generation.

“Further contingency measures, including coordination of additional fuel deliveries to the power station, are in place to ensure a continued safe and secure supply of electricity.”

An additional implication of the break to Lewis and Harris’s only mainland connection is that power exported by island wind turbines to the national grid will be interrupted. This could have significant consequences for community trusts using income from windpower generation.

The spokesperson for SSEN said: “As a result of the fault, there will be some restrictions to electricity generation export during the period. SSEN is in close contact with generators on Lewis and Harris to manage any generation constraint required and will look to minimise disruption wherever possible.

“A further update will be provided once investigations are fully complete and a restoration plan is in place.”

 

Yesterday evening (Monday 19 October) saw the unusual sight of three ferries within Stornoway harbour at the same time, as the changeover for MV Loch Seaforth’s annual overhaul was made.

CalMac is running a revised passenger timetable between Stornoway and Ullapool today (Tuesday) as the MV Isle of Lewis picks up the cross-Minch service.

But MV Hebridean Isles, which is to run a twice-daily freight service during the overhaul period, is off to a bad start. Weather disruption means that her first afternoon sailing has been brought forward by two hours this afternoon and tomorrow morning’s return crossing has been cancelled.

Last week the leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Roddie Mackay, called on CalMac to rethink their vessel allocation and provide a better freight service with higher capacity.

On Tuesday 13 October he said: “Once again Cal-Mac are doing what suits them rather than what is in the best interests of the Islands. The proposed two run freight service still has only half the capacity of the required trailer load.

“People plan their businesses around scheduled freight services. The high-handed disregard for service users is appalling. Calmac are removing the Loch Seaforth with capacity for 20 artic loads and replacing it with the Hebridean Isles with a capacity of five artic loads.

“Even with two overnight freight runs they only provide half of what they are removing …. the obvious thing to do is to have the Isle of Lewis do the freight run and the Hebridean Isles do one of the day runs.”

The Loch Seaforth is due to start her annual overhaul on Thursday (22 October) and it is scheduled to be complete by Monday 2 November. On 7 November the Hebridean Isles herself is set to go into drydock for her annual overhaul.

CalMac is planning what they earlier called ‘significant fleet improvements’ during this year's dry docking maintenance programme. Each of the company's 34 vessels, of which the Loch Seaforth is the largest at 8,600 tonnes, have to have a period of maintenance to ensure continuing seaworthiness.

CalMac’s director of operations, Robert Morrison, said: “Organising time for each vessel to enter dry dock while keeping services running is a real challenge for us that requires detailed planning. When the weather is taken into account, this can be real test keeping communities connected.

“Above and beyond the normal bow to stern servicing to ensure they are fit for another year's service, there are some major projects planned this year to improve comfort and resilience on a range of vessels.'

“MV Loch Seaforth is having a further 40 internal seats fitted and improved Fast Rescue Craft and cranes are being added to MV Hebrides and MV Isle of Lewis which are also receiving new disabled bathroom and changing facilities.”

The pictures show MV Hebridean Isles arriving into Stornoway yesterday (Monday 19 October) and the Loch Seaforth and Isle of Lewis almost nose-to-nose last night as the Isle of Lewis arrived to take up service (Mark Nicolson).

 

 

The first run by a temporary ‘Bernera ferry’ has been delayed once again by the weather, and will not now take place on Thursday (22 October) as scheduled.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has asked Ferguson Transport and Shipping to provide a suitable vessel for the transportation of oil and gas from Uigen slipway in Uig to Valasay slipway on Great Bernera.

The run is intended as a work-round after Bernera Bridge was closed to heavy goods vehicles in August. HGVs carrying heating oil and gas will form the main cargo on the short sea-crossing.

Ferguson’s shipping administrator Ewan Gibb said a forecast five-metre swell tomorrow (Wednesday) would make the movement of their vessel from Kyle of Localsh to the west side of the Isle of Lewis impossible. A decision will be taken early next week on rescheduling, possibly for Thursday 29 October.

Ewan said: “We essentially need a three day window of reasonable weather – a day to get the vessel into position, a day to do the run and a day to get away again.

“We have three landing craft, any of which would be suitable for the job – this is what they are designed to do and they are over in Uist and Harris all the time, helping out as workboats for a variety of customers.”

“We have a continuous schedule of jobs and, if we get tied up somewhere and are unable to move a vessel it has a knock-on effect for our business and costs the Comhairle more.

“We are used to changes of plan. Plans change all the time in this business and we can’t control the weather, but we try to accommodate what’s needed as best we can in the circumstances.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar state: "Due to forecast weather conditions and sea states this week, the sea run to Bernera scheduled to take place on Thursday 22nd October, will now go ahead on Thursday 29th October.  The aim of the run, via sea from Uigen Slipway, Uig to Valasay Slipway, Great Bernera, is to enable the topping up of oil and gas supplies in preparation for winter, and also to test this sea route should it be necessary to deploy again at short notice.  In the meantime, the Comhairle continues to make good progress with the statutory permissions required to enable the replacement bridge construction and will provide an updated timescale when these are resolved."

Picture shows Fergusons’ vessel Carly, one of the workboats suitable to perform the Bernera ferry run, during a previous visit to Stornoway (Peter Ward/marinetraffic.com).

 



Education Scotland’s draft Gaelic Language Plan for 2020-2025 is now available for public consultation.

The draft plan will remain open for comment from the 19 October 2020 till 29 November 2020.



Gayle Gorman, HM Chief Inspector and Chief Executive of Education Scotland, is keen to hear from those from across Scotland on their views of Education Scotland’s draft Gaelic Language plan.

She said: “ Education Scotland recognises that Gaelic is an integral part of Scotland’s heritage, national identity and current cultural life. We are committed and proud to work with and alongside the profession and partners supporting Gaelic, through the curriculum, professional learning and the way in which we define Gaelic Education. As we look ahead, we want to hear the views of Scotland’s education workforce, stakeholders, partners and members of the public on our draft Gaelic Language Plan.”

Education Scotland’s Gaelic Language Plan is part of our Corporate Plan and helps to exemplify further how Gaelic is embedded in our role. It builds on our previous successes and is ambitious for Gaelic.  Our new plan articulates with the aims of the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-2023 to:
    •    Increase the use of Gaelic;
    •    Increase the learning of Gaelic; and
    •    Promote a positive image of Gaelic.
    •    We continue to work in collaboration with stakeholders, learners, practitioners and communities to improve educational experiences and outcomes for those in Gaelic education which in turn contributes to enabling a sustainable future for Gaelic language in Scotland. 
    •    We invite stakeholders, partners and members of the public to take part in this consultation.

Please email comments regarding the content of the plan to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before the closing date.

Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band

AGM

on Thursday the 12th of November at 6pm on Zoom

Please contact

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

for details to join the Zoom meeting.

The First Minister has announced further details of the £40m that the Scottish Government has earmarked to support employees and businesses hit by the new Covid-19 restrictions and eligibility criteria.

Outer Hebrides Tourism explains how the business support funds will be administered by local authorities, providing one-off grants to businesses directly impacted by the restrictions implemented on 9 October 2020. 

A COVID-19 Restrictions Fund will be restricted to hospitality and other businesses required to close by the brake restrictions regulations. It operates as a two-tier scheme, with a smaller grant of £2,000 for businesses with a Rateable Value (RV) of under £51,000 and a larger grant of £3,000 for those businesses with an RV over £51,000.  

At the same time, local authorities will invite applications for a discretionary business hardship fund -  with payments of up to £1500 - will support some businesses that remain open but are directly impacted by the restrictions, including those in the direct supply chains of firms that must close.

For the business closure fund you must be a hospitality or other business required by law to close under these new restrictions.  

For the discretionary business hardship fund you must be:
  • a hospitality business and some gyms, required by the regulations to operate in a restricted way
  • a producer/wholesale business based in Scotland supplying primarily short-life goods or produce to hospitality businesses required by the regulations to close or operate in a restricted way and able to evidence a 25% reduction in turnover during the break period
If your business operates multiple premises you can apply for grants for each premise, applying only once to the local authority in which your business is headquartered. The maximum any one business can receive will be restricted, regardless of the number of premises: the upper limit for the business closure fund is £15,000; the upper limit for business hardship fund is £10,000.

Your businesses must have been open and trading before 9 October.

You must have a business bank account. This is the account your grant will be paid into if your application is successful.

Your business premises must be registered for Non-Domestic rates. Businesses that pay rates through their landlords rather than directly to a Council are eligible to apply (evidence to be provided through a copy of lease agreement). 

Businesses which have breached wider COVID regulations/requirements prior to local restrictions are not eligible to apply. 

Businesses with connections to tax havens, as set out in the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020, are not eligible to apply.

Applications are welcome from Limited Companies, Sole Traders, Trusts and Partnerships provided they meet the other criteria. 

Retail and businesses that provide takeaway food as the core and established basis of their operations are not eligible for these closure or hardship funds.

Local authority websites will be updated at 9 am today  (Tuesday 20th October) allowing business to complete applications. Applications will close on Tuesday 3rd November at 5 pm.

All details are on the Scottish Government website.

There have been no further cases of Covid-19 infection associated with the outbreak in Uist , NHS Western Isles said last night (Monday October 18) - nor have there have been others on the rest of the Islands. 

This leaves the total of cases from the outbreak in Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula at 50.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, in his daily, late-evening, broadcast on Twitter, said again that he wanted everyone to continue to do whatever they could to keep to the guidelines to subdue the spread of the virus.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 58.  There have now been 50 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis. Official national figures show a slightly higher total of 62 but NHS Western Isles has retested several people and found they were negative for the virus when a more relaible test was used. 

In Scotland as a whole, the number of new cases fell to 993.  This compares to figures like 1167 on Saturday and 1351 on Wednesday last week.

The chart below shows the top of the list of local health authority areas which is displayed in the image above. 

An Lanntair is opening a new gallery exhibition Leanabh Cloiche/Stone Child, by artist Mhairi Corr, on Saturday, October 24th.

Based on the theme of The Abandoned Child Archetype, Leanabh Cloiche / Stone Child presents 19 characters navigating their way over rocky ground. A story waiting to be told, all these children have something in common: they have been thrown or have fallen from the nest and are left to find their own way without guidance.

Artist Mhairi says: “In Jungian psychology, this is the archetype of The Abandoned Child. Hiding their profound vulnerability is necessary for survival. They hunch over to protect the embers in their hearts. They grow prickly exteriors. The become even less approachable, isolating themselves further from the sense of belonging that they crave.

 “Defensive and untrusting, they are suspicious not only of the world at large, but the more immediate threat of each other.”

Each of the 19 Stone Children are presented with their own scenario – a suggestion by the artist of their background, yet open to as many interpretations as there are observers; each character providing a surface for its viewers own projections. Conversely, they too are the audience, watching back silently, listening, attentive.

Made from pulped newspaper modelled over individual armature, the solid stone-like quality of each character echoes the Stone Child’s fragile yet tough exterior, with the chaos and confusion of the outside world creating and warping each one’s formation as Mhairi explains: “Yesterday’s news, opinions, gossip are all mixed up into a soggy chaotic verbiage.

“The pulp does its own thing as it dries (I have learned to step out of the way). Its weight will bend the armature. Limbs will warp. Necks will disappear. Heads will settle into hunched shoulders. Once dry, the pulp is transformed from flimsy transient newspaper into a relatively tough material with a stoney appearance.”

She adds: “So, here are the Stone Children. Here are their characters. Here are their challenges. How do they interact? How does the story unfold? What scenarios can we dream up? Nineteen characters navigating their way over rocky ground, A story waiting to be told.”

Mhairi Corr has been creating and exhibiting throughout the UK since graduating from Glasgow School of Art in 1982.  She is a previous recipient of the Scottish Arts Council Award (1995) and the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Award (1996); and in 2003 held post of Online Artist in Residence with Channel 4’s Art Factory (2003). For further information, please visit: www.mhairicorr.moonfruit.com

Leanabh Cloiche / Stone Child opens in An Lanntair’s main gallery on Saturday October 24 and runs till Saturday December 12.

Visitors are reminded that COVID-19 safety measures are in place at An Lanntair gallery and will therefore be asked to provide contact details for Scottish Government Test & Protect, to observe social distancing and to wear a face-covering if able to do so.

Mhairi Corr: Paper Pulp Animals Workshop – Learn how to make paper pulp animal sculptures with artist Mhairi Corr in An Lanntair’s two-day workshop. Running on Tuesday November 24 and Wednesday November 25, 10am-4pm, £60/£51.

Residents on the Isle of Great Bernera will have their bins emptied on the scheduled day - Tuesday 20th October.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar say: "We would ask that residents present their bins for collection by 8am on Tuesday 20th October.

"As both non-recyclable and food and garden waste bins cannot be emptied at the same time with this vehicle configuration, please note that the vehicle will visit your property twice to collect each waste stream separately.

"Residents in Garynahine, Callanish, Linshader, Lundale, Crulivig and Earshader will have their bins serviced on Tuesday 20th October.

"We would ask that residents present their bins for collection by 8am."

Stornoway Sailing Club is on the crest of a wave after receiving a rescue craft from staff at Stornoway Airport.

The rigid inflatable boat (RIB), was donated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL), which operates Stornoway Airport, after the craft was withdrawn from front-line service in December last year.

The RIB will contribute to the sailing club’s continued growth on the island.

Stornoway Airport manager Duncan Smith said: “We talked to the club and members told us they could make good use of the craft. The club provides excellent opportunities for local people to try their hand at sailing and this will help to offer an expanded programme.

Stornoway Sailing Club chairman Toby Marshall said: “We are all completely overwhelmed by HIAL’s generosity in donating the RIB, which is everything we need in a safety boat.

“It allows us to provide more effective safety cover to the bigger and faster dinghies and will enable the more experienced club sailors to safely venture further afield. We’d like to thank HIAL and also Stornoway Port Authority for letting us store it at the marina.”

Mr Marshall said having the RIB also opens up the possibility of the club becoming a Royal Yachting Association Recognised Training Centre allowing members the opportunity to gain internationally recognised qualifications without having to travel or wait for training places to become available.

The University of the Highlands and Islands has appointed Professor Todd Walker as their next principal and vice-chancellor.

Professor Walker is currently provost and deputy vice-chancellor at University of New England, which operates several campuses in the state of New South Wales, Australia. He leads the academic, quality, and indigenous portfolios at University of New England and is the chair of UNE Partnerships, a registered training organisation delivering further education.

He is an accomplished clinical cytologist with strong teaching, research and consultancy credentials. He has a degree in medical biotechnology, a PhD in molecular oncology and a graduate certificate in university leadership and management, all from Charles Sturt University.

He has worked in multi-campus, regional universities in Australia for over 20 years including, Charles Sturt University, University of Ballarat and Federation University Australia, where he co-led the creation of the university through the acquisition and merger of the Gippsland campus of Monash University as deputy vice-chancellor (engagement).

Garry Coutts, Chair of the University Court, said: "Professor Walker's background makes him an ideal leader for us as we approach our tenth birthday as a university serving the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire.

"With an impressive 25-year career in senior academic leadership and management, he brings significant networking and experience to the role. He understands and values both further and higher education and has worked across institutions with multiple campuses based in communities with very different needs.

"Our communities need their university now and in the future. Whether it is training people in new skills, nurturing the leaders of tomorrow, or working with business to ensure they have access to the best research to help them grow and thrive, our university partnership will play a vital role in supporting the recovery of our region from the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. I am convinced Professor Walker is the right person at the right time to take us to another level."

Professor Walker said: "I am delighted to be joining the University of the Highlands and Islands, as its next principal and vice-chancellor at an exciting time in its development and growth. I look forward to working collaboratively with staff and students, partners and principals, community and government as we build and strengthen the university partnership.

"I believe the University of the Highlands and Islands is poised for a bright future and I am honoured and humbled to lead the partnership and all staff through the next chapter of the university's development."

Professor Walker will take up his appointment on 1 February 2021. He replaces Professor Clive Mulholland who retired in July 2019 and will be the university's third principal and vice-chancellor. He will join the university exactly ten years to the day since the University of the Highlands and Islands was founded.

A catastrophic failure of the subsea cable between Skye and the Isle of Harris was responsible for a massive power cut which hit everyone in Lewis and Harris on Friday (16 October), according to Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

A spokesperson for SSEN said today (Monday 19 October) that the significant fault means that all 17,774 properties in the two islands are now being powered by the diesel-fired turbines at Battery Point power station – and that this will continue for ‘the foreseeable future’.

The undersea cable break means that the only power link between the whole mainland transmission network and the northern half of the Western Isles has been severed, although power continues to flow to the southern isles through a separate spur of undersea cable from Skye.

The fault in the subsea cable, which runs from Broadford substation, via Ardmore Point in Skye to the Isle of Harris, is thought to be about 15km from the Skye side of the Minch, although the exact location of the rupture has not yet been identified.

SSEN is today (Monday) carrying out undersea investigations to find the point of damage and establish whether, and how, a repair can be effected.

Meanwhile the Stornoway-based team at Battery Point are dealing with the logistics of keeping all the turbines in the diesel-fired power station running for a prolonged period.

Negotiations are under way with mainland power station teams, to bring manpower to the islands and keep the power station running for what may be months through the winter.

Power station managers are also meeting local representatives of Scottish Fuels to arrange for extra deliveries of diesel. These will keep both Battery Point and back-up turbines at Arnish powering the islands.

The spokesperson for SSEN said: “There is no real time-scale which we can attach to this situation, we can only say that it will be for the foreseeable future.

“At the moment Battery Point has plenty of capacity for the islands’ power needs, but as the clocks go back and weather gets colder, we will also need to use Arnish in a support role.

“Mainland staff will be coming over to help staff the power station 24/7 for the time that is needed, so that we can ensure our own teams get their rest days and off-duty time while this is happening.”

Power to all of the two islands was lost at 10.28am on Friday (16 October) and the power station was fired up and had all areas on supply by 12.50pm.

At the time of the power cut, local SSEN workers were put under further pressure by a public statement issued by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, who described as ‘unacceptable’ the loss of power, which they mistakenly attributed to a planned outage.

They said: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will be making strong representations to SSEN regarding today’s loss of electricity supply. SSEN declared on their website that this was a “planned outage”. However, no notice was given to islanders. This is unacceptable.”

The planned outage notified on the SSEN page was, in fact, a piece of routine maintenance which affected just five addresses in Arivruach.

Last month, SSEN responded angrily to a decision by Ofgem that the substation at Broadford in Skye should not be funded for replacement, despite a needs case showing that the station and its supporting equipment was near the end of its life and ought to be replaced.

SSEN said in their consultation materials: “The current line was constructed in three distinct sections between 1956 and 1989 and is now reaching the end of its operational life. 

“Its planned replacement is essential to maintain security of supply to homes and businesses along its route, as well as to the Western Isles, which is supplied by two subsea cables from Ardmore point.”

Pictures show the power station at Battery Point running full steam ahead on Sunday and the route of the subsea cables (dotted lines) running between Skye and Harris (SSEN)

A Met Office warning of heavy rainfall for Lewis and Harris has been issued this morning (Monday 19 October) for rainfall this afternoon.

The late-notice warning has arisen as the Met Office updates a forecast of heavy rain to show that the yellow warning now applies further north-west than was expected, taking in the north of the Western Isles.

Issued at 10.24am, the warning advises that spells of rain, heavy at times, will persist through today and start to clear on Tuesday morning, with 20-40mm of rainfall expected quite widely and 50-75mm possible over higher hills.

The warning period is between 3pm today and 9am tomorrow.

 

There have been no further cases of Covid-19 infection associated with the outbreak in Uist , NHS Western Isles said last night (Sunday October 18) - nor have there have been others on the rest of the Islands. 

This leaves the total of cases in Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula to 50.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, in his daily, late-evening, broadcast on Twitter, said again that he wanted everyone to do whatever they could to keep to the guidelines to subdue the spread of the virus. He said the lack of a new case was "very encouraging and it's a good sign."

Yesterday, the Scottish Government said there had been 316 new cases nationally - which compared to figures like 1167 the day before and 1351 on Wednesday. The figures given at the weekend are often lower - but the previous Sunday the figure was 956.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 58.  There have now been 50 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis. Official national figures show a slightly higher total but NHS Western Isles has retested several people and found they were negative for the virus.

A Stornoway-based solicitor has been struck off the Scottish Law Society’s register for professional misconduct.
The solicitor affected is Kevin Macpherson, aged 45, who has been a solicitor since 1998 and has run his own firm called kfmLAW in recent years.
He was a partner in Ken Macdonald and Co from April 1, 2009, to November 30, 2012, and a director of that firm from December 1,2012 to 30 August 2013.
Several hearings were held between September 2018 and October 2019 by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal into a complaint from the Council of the Scottish Law Society about Mr MacPherson's conduct in his previous posts.
The decision by the Discipline Tribunal was made public in a statement on the www.lawscot.org website last Tuesday October 13.  
The complaint alleged that the professional misconduct involved sending improper text messages to a trainee at Ken Macdonald and Co, and sexually explicit emails to a female employee - described only as Ms D – of another firm of solicitors elsewhere.
The Discipline Tribunal took the action against Mr Macpherson, for his conduct between March 2011 and August 2013 in respect of the trainee, and from 22 June 2012 in respect of the other woman. The hearings heard that the emails first came to light in May 2013.
The tribunal found that Mr Macpherson had repeatedly sent text messages to the trainee - described only as TS - in relation to matters which did not fall within the sphere of her professional duties, attempting to persuade her to socialise with him, visit him at home and befriend his fiancée. He admitted that this amounted to harassment of his trainee and an abuse of his position of authority, although she did not attribute significance to them until after the other emails were discovered and shown to her in the office.
Further, in email correspondence with Ms D with whom he was friendly, he made repeated reference to his trainee in sexually explicit terms. He also referred to the statement of a child complainer in a case sexual abuse by another young person, to which he had access in his capacity as the accused’s solicitor, thereby breaching client confidentiality.
This drew Mr Macpherson's integrity into question and the profession into disrepute, the tribunal found, and striking off was the only appropriate sanction.

A group of four swimmers sparked an emergency response this afternoon (Sunday 18 October) when they became caught in a riptide off Cliff beach in Uig.

The party, thought to be of island residents, including a mother and her teenage son, were all caught in the strong current while swimming around 3pm today.

Two of the party were able to make their way to shore and raise the alarm, with Stornoway Coastguard operations centre setting a rescue plan in motion at 3.05pm.

Rescue helicopter R948 was tasked and Coastguard Rescue Teams from Miavaig and Breasclete also went to the scene.

A woman in her 40s was taken by helicopter from the scene to Stornoway airport and onwards by Scottish ambulance to Western Isles hospital.

The other members of the party were given advice by CRT personnel before leaving the scene.

A spokesperson for HM Coastguard said today: “Please be aware of the currents and tide conditions if you intend to enjoy our beautiful beaches.

“Rips are strong currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag people and debris away from the shallows of the shoreline and out to deeper water.

“They tend to flow at 1–2mph but can reach 4–5mph, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer.

“Rips are especially powerful in larger surf, but never underestimate the power of any water. They are also found around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.”

Further Advice can be found at:  https://rnli.org/safety/know-the-risks/rip-currents

 

A walker who fell and injured her hip lay for an hour on the shore at Upper Shader because she was unable to call for help.

The 43-year-old woman fell on the shore, at the bottom of a croft, at lunchtime on Friday (16 October), in an area where there was no phone signal and no passers-by.

She was eventually able to get a text to her parents, who called emergency services.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received the appeal for help at 2.15pm.

Bragar and Ness Coastguard Rescue Teams were sent to the scene and were able to lift the casualty up through the croft by stretcher, to a waiting Scottish Ambulance crew, who took her on to Western Isles Hospital for medical treatment.

All teams were stood down and returned to base at 4.09pm

The picture shows members of the two CRTs lifting the casualty during the incident on Friday.

 

 

Stornoway police are asking for public help after an incident of vandalism at a residential address in the town on Friday (16 October).

A window was broken at a home on Cearn Floddaidh at around 8.30pm on Friday and anyone who may have seen or heard anything which could help with the incident is asked to call police on the non-emergency number, 101, quoting incident number NH1186/20.

 

There has been yet another case of Covid-19 infection associated with the outbreak in Uist , NHS Western Isles said last night (Saturday October 17)

This brings the total of cases in Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula to 50.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, in his daily, late-evening, broadcast on Twitter, said again that he wanted everyone to do whatever they could to keep to the guidelines to subdue the spread of the virus.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 58.  There have now been 50 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis. Official national figures show a slightly higher total but NHS Western Isles has retested several people and found they were negative for the virus.

A resident in the care home in Daliburgh died three weeks after a positive test for Covid-19, But NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said in a joint statement earlier this week:  "We are sorry to confirm the death in a care home of a resident who had tested positive for COVID-19 approximately three weeks before their death, and send our condolences to their family and loved ones.  Any individual who sadly passes away within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19 infection, will have this confirmed as a COVID-19 death by ​Public Health Scotland, regardless of any other contributory factors."

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleading for help in facing up to a crisis over its level of financing.

It wants to know where it should make savings or enforce efficiencies. 

As part of this process, CnES is asking individuals and organisations to answer four questions as part of its "ongoing community engagement on budgetary and service issues."

Decisions at Scottish Government level mean the Comhairle is looking to find savings of £6.6m over the next two years.

It has been engaging with communities in the Western Isles through an online survey and virtual community conversations across the Islands.

The questions included in the latest survey are as follows:

  1. What other areas do you think we should look at to either improve efficiency or cut services?.
  2. How could public sector organisations work together to make efficiencies?
  3. In what ways could the Comhairle work with others to promote the procurement of local goods and services?
  4. In what ways could local areas work together to reduce demand on public services or provide them more efficiently?

The questions are a further means of ascertaining views and can be found here:

https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=oyzTzM4Wj0KVQTctawUZKTRxcY3ScSxAmcjLiTegASpUODhVVUUzSVUwRk5PNDA1MllUR09KOVo0QS4u

The Comhairle is holding a seminar for Members on Wednesday 21st October so responses would be appreciated by Tuesday 20th October to allow for feedback to the seminar.

Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay said: “I would encourage as many people as possible to complete the survey. The process of finding £6.6 million of savings is not an easy task, it is vital that the Comhairle works with the community to find a budgetary solution. However to be clear, we have to cut costs and there are hard decisions to be taken.

“All views submitted in the survey will be carefully considered and will form an important part of the budgetary and service decision-making processes.”

The recording of this year’s much-anticipated Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture, given in Gaelic by Dr Joni Buchanan of Uig, Lewis, on the subject of ‘Hebridean Women – Lives of Consequence’, will be made available over the internet, with English subtitles, on Thursday 22nd October on Pairc Historical Society’s Facebook page and their YouTube channel, it was announced recently.

The full link is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD6x1XE1ZvQh07R42TGdkcA

An illustrated booklet containing a written version of the lecture in both Gaelic and English will also be published by Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc on the same date.

It will be available price £6 plus P and P from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Drawing on Joni’s recent research and a book she is writing on the subject, the lecture will address a glaring gap in the vast literature about the Hebrides and their people - the limited extent to which women feature in most accounts of these islands.  She will challenge the perception that women have played only a minor role in island history and address some of the reasons for this misconception.

Donnie Morrison, chairman of Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc, who organise the annual lecture in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar e-sgoil and Multi-Media Unit, the Islands Book Trust and Angus Macleod’s family, said: ‘I am sure the subject of this year’s lecture will be of great interest to many people. We are most grateful to BBC Radio nan Gàidheal for recording the lecture so that, despite the coronavirus restrictions, it can be accessed widely without a physical meeting’.

There will also be a special edition of BBC Radio nan Gàidheal’s ‘Feasgar’ programme on Thursday 29th October starting at 12.30pm in which Cathy MacDonald will be discussing influential female figures with Joni and others, who will reflect on some Highland women who have influenced and impressed them or had an impact on their personal lives.

Joni Buchanan is a native of Uig in Lewis. She was educated at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway and is an Honours Graduate in Economic History from Strathclyde University.  More recently, Joni became a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Geography through the University of Aberdeen and the University of the Highlands and Islands. Her doctoral thesis was a detailed study of the transition of Uig from “Gaidhealtachd Community to Shared Space” over the post-war years.  With a continuing commitment to the story of her own island, language and culture, she provided the historical research for the “As an Fhearann” exhibition and publication; wrote “The Lewis Land Struggle; and is currently completing a book on Island Women/Mnathan nan Eilean.  Dr Buchanan lives in her native village of Mangersta, Uig.

 

Tourism and hospitality businesses in Skye have made an emergency aid plea to the Scottish Government after the new round of Covid-19 restrictions devastated their income for October, the last month the 2020 'season'.  

Tourism organisation SkyeConnect told Cabinet Secretaries, Fergus Ewing and Kate Forbes yesterday (Friday October 16) that, further to the First Minister’s announcement on Wednesday 7 October, Skye hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodation have seen a swathe of cancellations because of confusion and mixed messaging from the Scottish Government over travel restrictions.

In addition, the restaurants and hotels have lost thousands of £s in revenue as a result of cancellations due to restrictions on non-resident diners, hours of operating and the sale of alcohol.

"This part of October is usually the last opportunity in the short Skye tourist season to build up cash reserves. This year those cash reserves are more important than ever and these last-minute changes to the capacity to open and build reserves are more important than ever.

"That opportunity has been taken away and risks dire consequences for all businesses affected. They remain on the brink of permanent closure."

To provide evidence to support this assertion, SkyeConnect surveyed businesses within the sector this week.  The headlines make stark reading – 38% of respondents have lost more than £20,000 in October due to the new restrictions. The equates to an average of 30% of turnover for the month – the last chance to make money before the winter.

Two thirds of respondents have seen food sale fall by more than 20% and half of respondents have seen alcohol sales fall by 75%. This leads to one third of businesses expressing a lack of confidence in the ability of their business to survive and more than half saying the Scottish and UK Governments are not doing enough to support the sector.  The effect of the First Minister’s announcement on 7 October of new restrictions is a de facto lockdown on Skye.

"Skye hospitality businesses have gone above and beyond to keep guests and our communities safe. The measures introduced mean that we have not seen any cases of COVID within our businesses and there has been no spread to the community. That protection and the extraordinarily strong response from the hotels, guest houses and self-catering premises has come at a significant cost, impacting on cash reserves needed to survive the winter.

"The de facto lockdown, where our hospitality businesses are in theory operational but in practice unable to operate at anywhere near profitable capacity, also means we are ineligible for any compensation available to closed businesses from the UK Government financial support package commencing on 1st  November.

"Skye and the Highland hospitality businesses affected have been forgotten. They are invisible. Their fate over the winter looks to be desperate and mass redundancies in the hospitality sector are a certainty.

"We request an urgent response and compensation for the effective closure of our businesses. The £40 million currently on offer is a drop in the ocean compared to the losses our sector is suffering."

 

The dates for a series of community conversations on Gaelic’s future as a community language in the Outer Hebrides have been announced by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

Meetings for Tiree and Staffin, Isle of Skye, are being organised by Michael Russell MSP and Kate Forbes MSP.

The meetings, due to take place virtually in November, are in response to the recent publication of research suggesting that the Gaelic language could soon cease to be a spoken language in the communities of the Western Isles.

Alasdair Allan MSP is working with the Soillse research team and a cross-party representation of MSPs including Donald Cameron, John Finnie and Rhoda Grant.

Along with the conversations, a call for written submissions has also been launched. Please visit www.alasdairallan.scot for more information including dates and registration.

As well as discussions about Gaelic usage in the home and community, the meetings will also gauge opinion on whether any different structures are needed to coordinate and drive forward local development actions under the direct control of the Gaelic-speaking community.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“I am happy to launch these conversations on the future of Gaelic in the Western Isles and hope that they highlight viable initiatives which will support Gaelic in its island communities.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, meetings will now be held virtually, organised according to geography. The meetings will discuss important issues, such as how people view the future of the language, what challenges and barriers people face using Gaelic in the home and community, and whether a Gaelic community cooperative should be established.

“I have confidence that this will allow for a useful discussion and hope that all those who wish take part in these meetings are able to do so. If for whatever reason someone is unable to attend a meeting, they have the option to submit a written opinion on my website.”

Meeting dates and areas covered.

West Side & Ness

6/11/20, 7pm

Stornoway & Broad Bay

7/11/20, 3pm

Uig, Carloway, Lochs & Pàirc

7/11/20, 7pm

Harris

9/11/20, 7pm

North Uist & Benbecula

13/11/20, 7pm

South Uist

14/11/20, 7pm

Barra

16/11/20, 7pm

Due to COVID-19 government public health guidelines, all meetings will be delivered through Zoom.

There have been no further cases of Covid-19 infection in Uist or anywhere else on the Islands, NHS Western Isles said tonight (Friday October 16)

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, speaking in what has become a daily broadcast on Twitter, said tonight he wanted everyone to do whatever they could to keep to the guidelines to subdue the spread of the virus.

Earlier in the week he asked for everyone to download the Protect Scotland app which aims to notify people if they have been in close contact with a positive case.  He reminded users that they must enable the Bluetooth facility on their mobile phones in order for the app to function.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 57.  There have now been 49 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis. 

A resident in the care home in Daliburgh died three weeks after a positive test for Covid-19, But NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said in a joint statement earlier this week:  "We are sorry to confirm the death in a care home of a resident who had tested positive for COVID-19 approximately three weeks before their death, and send our condolences to their family and loved ones.  Any individual who sadly passes away within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19 infection, will have this confirmed as a COVID-19 death by ​Public Health Scotland, regardless of any other contributory factors."

NHS Western Isles Chair, Ian Burgess, recently retired after havig served seven years as a Board member.  Gill McCannon, previously Vice Chair, has taken over the role as Interim Chair. 

Appointed as Chair in January 2019, Ian Burgess had served previously on the Board as a non-executive director and vice chair.

Ian started his career in the Merchant Navy in 1973 as a Cadet Navigation Officer. In 1984 he left the Navy to join HM Coastguard and over his 31 year career held many roles, ending as Divisional Commander.

This work gave him access to the coastal communities within the Western Isles, working with volunteer teams and engaging with community stakeholders and during his HM Coastguard career Ian was involved in many change programmes designed to improve the performance of the volunteer force and modernise the way coastal rescue is carried out.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, said, “I would like to pay thanks and wish Ian a well earned, long and happy retirement. 

“Ian has worked tirelessly since taking up his appointment and on behalf of NHS Western Isles, I would like to thank him for his leadership, direction and support.”

Ian commented: “It is with some sadness that I am retiring as Chair of the Western Isles NHS Board at this time. However I have served seven years on the Board as a Non Executive Director as both Vice Chair and latterly Chair. I feel it is appropriate that I move aside for someone new and refreshed to take up the position of Chair.

“I am extraordinarily proud of my time with NHS Western Isles and wish to thank the Chief Executive and all the staff, especially in these challenging times.

“I would also like to say thank you to all on the Integrated Joint Board, those from the CnES and of course all those working in our Care Homes and Hospice. I pray for the safety of our community in these difficult times.

Gill McCannon, who had been appointed Interim Chair, has lived and worked in the Western Isles for 33 years and has had a professional career in healthcare for over 43 years as a registered Adult Nurse specialising in acute care, critical care nursing and specialised nutritional therapy.

Gill has also had an academic teaching career, as an academic teaching fellow, teaching both undergradute and post-gradaute nursing programmes. This has been at the Western Isles campus based at the Western Isles Hospital, which was part of the University of Stirling, Department of Nursing and Midwifery. She has been a Non Executive Director at Western Isles Health Board for nearly four years, and part of that includes the role of Vice Chair.

She commented: “I enjoy my work at the Board and the opportunities and challenges that this role brings. I am passionate about the NHS and feel that I am able to use my expertise and knowledge of the health service which compliments the core values of NHS Western Isles. I work with integrity and bring strong leadership and committment to the Board.”

 

Gordon Jamieson said: “Gill has amassed over 40 years of experience and expertise in working within the health care sector and in recent years at the Health Board itself. 

“We are delighted to welcome Gill into her new role as Interim Chair.”

There's power outrage after today's power outage after Comhairle nan Eilean Siar publicly attacked power company SSEN for planning the widespread power cut across Lewis and Harris today (Friday October 16)

On the Council's own Facebook Page, it said: "Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will be making strong representations to SSEN regarding today’s loss of electricity supply.

"SSEN declared on their website that this was a “planned outage”. However, no notice was given to islanders.

"This is unacceptable."

The claim was repeated on the CnES Twitter account.

However, SSEN say the power outage as a result of a major network fault somewhere on the interconnector line where it travels through Harris and this afernoon are overflying the line with a helicopter to try to trace the source of the problem.

A total of 17,774 customers in all of Harris, Scalpay and Lewis were affected by the cut which began at 10.28am. 

At about 11am power was restored in central Stornoway – only to go off again 3 minutes later.  A blip of power occured a few minutes later, leading to fears of massive damage to electronic equipment if the on-off situation continued.  The power then returned again at 11.06am. Power was then restored in stages across Stornoway, reaching Goathill Road about 20 minutes later, for instance. 

Power was restored to the whole area by 12.50pm and all three islands are being supplied with power from Battery Point power station in Stornoway until the link to the mainland can be restored.

Comments on the CnES Facebook Page pointed out there "are two pieces of information on the SSEN website. One which is a genuine planned outage and the other which is the unexpected loss of supplies across Lewis and Harris."

Another comment said: "The app says the planned outage was in 3 postcodes only, and there is also now the notification for the current unplanned fault affecting all postcodes."

A third said:"Don’t do anything silly until you’ve read the SSE statements properly. 3 small postcodes planned, the rest is major fault which nobody could predict."

There were also power cuts in North Uist and Benbcula at the height of the problem. 

Photograph below shows work under way during the Arivruaich planned outage. 

 

 
 

A massive series of electricity power cuts have hit parts of the Western Isles today (Friday October 16)

Around 18,000 customers have been affected.

The isles of Lewis, Harris and Scalpay and other areas are affected.

Power went off in Stornoway around 10.25am.

At 10.42, SSEN predicted all power supplies would be restored by 1.30pm

At about 11am power was restored in central Stornoway – only to go off again 3 minutes later.

A blip of power occured a few minutes later, leading to fears of massive damage to electronic equipment if the on-off situation continued.

The power then returned again at 11.06am. Power was then restored in stages across Stornoway, reaching Goathill Road about 20 minutes later, for instance. 

Power outages began around 9.30 in other areas of Lewis and Uist, according to the SSEN website - https://www.ssen.co.uk/PowerTrack/

Faults are also shown in the Inverness and Dundee areas. 

A message from electicity supplier SSEN says that a major network fault has occurred. By 11.45, SSEN said power engineers had reached the site of the fault. 

At 12.55pm, SSEN messaged customers saying: "Our engineers have altered the network and all power is now restored. We would like to apologise for the interruption. If you have any queries or if your power remains off please do not hesitate to call us on 105 or send us a message on WhatsApp at https://wa.me/447342028546 "

 

 

 

The Western Isles Construction Training Group is seeking interest from suitably experienced individuals or organisations to deliver the provision of Construction and Civil Engineering Training Services to the membership of the Group.

The WICTG is an Independent Training Group under the auspices of the Construction Industry Training Board.

Key duties will include:

  • Co-ordination of the groups training plan and the organisation and delivery of training courses using an approved Training Provider network.
  • Organising and attending meetings
  • Monitoring training and reporting to the Group Management Committee
  • Processing financial transactions using Sage 50 accounts package

A good knowledge of the local construction industry is desirable.

The post is part time flexible with a maximum of 20hrs per week and will be for an initial period of two years from December 1st, 2020.

Further details of the role and responsibilities required may be obtained from Chrissie Macdonald, Secretary, Angus Mackay & Sons Plant Hire Ltd, 60 Coll, Back, Isle of Lewis HS2 0LR, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to whom tenders should be returned by Friday 6th November 2020.

TIGHEAN INNSE GALL’s

AUTUMN OFFER

  • STRUGGLING TO STAY WARM?

  • STRUGGLING TO PAY ENERGY BILLS?
  • STRUGGLING WITH HEATING WHILE STAYING HOME MORE?

WE ARE HERE TO HELP

COULD YOUR HOME BENEFIT FROM THESE?



CONTACT US TO FIND OUT IF WE CAN HELP YOU

Tel: 01851 706121 E-mail: iThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

These are grant funded /assisted works. We will prioritise those who receive Universal Credit or the Winter Fuel Payment.

To keep you safe during works all our contractors work in strict accordance with the Scottish Government’s COVID guidance.

As Covid-19 restrictions continue to affect individuals and the economy, the Food Bank based at Stornoway Golf Club is available on Wednesdays and Saturdays 11am-2pm.

They say: “if you are in need of this service please do not hesitate to come along and speak to one of our volunteers.”

The golf club offered up the premises to the Covid-19 resilience group way back in late Feb/early March.

In mid-April, the group got back in touch about using the premises as a hub for a number of services, mainly The Salvation Army, to expand their drop-in Food Bank, and the local CAB service which were involved in packing and distributing food boxes into the community and having a manned stand at the drop-in to assist anyone in need of their advisory services.

The doors first opened to the public on Wednesday 6th May ­ in the first three hours they saw 43 people, which far exceeded expectations. Things grew quickly in terms of the numbers of people using the service, to a record day of 94.

Numbers ebb and flow yet they see many new faces each week and offer a number of tinned goods, as well as some fresh produce, household cleaning and toiletries.

The project requires a lot of hard work, led from the start by The Salvation Army officers, Callum and Emma Newton and assisted by many of their army corps members and golf club staff/members.

Many applications for grant funding were made to various sources in the third sector, Scottish government and private sector grant funds, some successful, others not.

Another huge help was the amazing generosity of the Island people who donated everything from food, baby clothes, DVDs, CDs, toys and games which helped a significant number of people’s wellbeing during lockdown.

Donations are very welcome in the aim to continue the project as long as is required. It is seen by many agencies and the public as a fantastic scheme for the whole island.

Since July, The Salvation Army in Stornoway has installed new officers, Lieutenants Christopher and Faith Thompson, who are available to provide support those who come to the Food Bank as well as assistance through the Baby Bank.

These services are both available at the Golf Club premises and continue to be a great support to those on Island at this time.

“As each month brings about new changes and restrictions, we are thankful to the many individuals who work behind the scenes to stock check, sort and deliver this service to those who need it during these times and have made this Food Bank a welcoming space where people can get the help they need.”

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is to return to the Isle of Lewis from Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 February.

The two-week programme is set to include an exhibition by astronomy-inspired artist collective Lumen; music by Kathryn Joseph and Renzo Spiteri; talks by award-winning TV presenter Dallas Campbell and renowned climate scientist Tamsin Edwards; and lots more.

The two-week arts and astronomy festival will be a key event in An Lanntair’s winter programme, as one of Scotland’s most prominent island arts venues cautiously continues to welcome back local audiences and winter visitors. The festival is supported by new funding from Caledonian MacBrayne as well as Outer Hebrides LEADER, and is presented in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust, and Lews Castle College UHI.

The third Dark Skies programme once again promises a mix of innovative and accessible events for all ages, from astronomy events with Highland Astronomy and Stornoway Astronomical Society to online conversations with fascinating people including songwriter Karine Polwart, currently developing a theatre project inspired by supernovas, and health psychologist Kari Leibowitz, whose ‘wintertime mindset’ research has generated international media coverage. Other events include a night swim with Immerse Hebrides and a film programme exploring our complex relationship with darkness. Further announcements will follow in the coming weeks, with tickets going on sale from November.

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We are thrilled that the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is to return for its third year, and are extremely grateful to Caledonian MacBrayne for helping to make this exciting new programme possible, as well as to Outer Hebrides LEADER for their continued support. This year has been immensely challenging for anyone who creates live events, and we are taking a very cautious approach to planning our third festival, with a programme that is adaptable to various lockdown scenarios in order to ensure the safety of our audiences and guests.

“We have always wanted this festival to provide something for people to look forward to during the darkest months of the year. This feels more important than ever as we enter a winter of continued lockdown restrictions. We are hopeful that by February we will be able to put on a full programme of live events, but whatever form our third festival takes it will once again be a very special celebration of the breath-taking beauty of the Hebrides in winter. Put the dates in your diary now.”

Lumen are a London-based art collective brought together by a shared interest in themes of astronomy and light. Launched in December 2014 by artists Louise Beer, Melanie King and Rebecca Huxley, they have curated or co-curated over 70 exhibitions and been commissioned to create work by the British Science Association and the Green Man Festival. They have also hosted residencies in Cornwall and Atina, Italy. Their Dark Skies Festival exhibition is the first time they have shown their work in Scotland. Find out more at http://lumenstudios.co.uk

Lumen said: “We are extremely excited about exhibiting for the first time within Scotland and viewing the night sky within the beautiful landscape of Stornoway. This exhibition is a collection of works that explore the philosophical and ecological importance of a clear view of our galaxy by Lumen directors, Louise Beer, Rebecca Huxley and Melanie King. Lumen will also exhibit Our Night Skies for the first time, a video composite of time-lapses of the night sky, showcasing artists from all over the globe. By combining the views of the stars together in one video, visitors to the exhibition will get a feeling of the Earth spinning through space from a range of vantage points."

Kathryn Joseph is one of Scotland’s most acclaimed singer-songwriters. Her debut album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled won the 2015 Scottish Album of the Year Award. Her follow-up, From When I Wake The Want Is, was also shortlisted for the prize. Her music has featured in the National Theatre of Scotland’s stage adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, and in the recent film The Outlaw King.

Kathryn Joseph said: “I feel so lucky to get to be part of the beautiful Hebridean Dark Skies Festival and I cannot wait for all of it. My dad lives on Lewis so it will be very lovely to get to be back there in all of the ways. Thank you so much for having me.”

Dallas Campbell is a TV presenter, author, and ambassador for STEM education. He has won many plaudits for his services to public understanding of science, including an Honorary Masters degree, an Honorary Fellowship from the British Science Association, and an Arthur C Clarke Media Award for services to space science. His acclaimed TV work includes the BAFTA-nominated Stargazing Live (BBC 2) which broadcast astronaut Tim Peake's historic launch to the International Space Station live from Kazahkstan. His first book, Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet, charts the history, science and culture of human spaceflight.

Dr Tamsin Edwards is a climate scientist specialising in quantifying the uncertainties of climate model predictions, particularly for the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet contributions to sea-level rise. She is a Lead Author of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (to be published in 2021) and a Contributing Author to the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (2019).  Tamsin regularly advises the UK Government on sea-level rise, climate science and science communication, and provides expert comment to international media and business.

Renzo Spiteri is an internationally respected multi-percussion player and drummer, composer and improvisor who has been described by the press as “an artist who constantly surprises” and whose music “touches the soul directly”. Renowned for his artistic versatility, creative use of sound and unlimited modes of expression, Renzo specialises in interdisciplinary and cross-artistic projects, collaborating with contemporary dance choreographers, visual artists, theatre directors, spoken word artists and filmmakers.

Highland Astronomy - aka freelance astronomer Stephen Mackintosh - presents talks and stargazing sessions all over Scotland. He is returning to the festival for a second year.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival takes place against the backdrop of some of most extraordinary dark skies in the whole of the UK – with breath-taking scenery to match. In winter in particular, many astronomical sights can be seen through the naked eye including the Orion Nebula (over 1,500 light years away), the Milky Way Galaxy, and one of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies the Great Andromeda Galaxy. The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, can also be seen from the islands, one of the very best spots in the UK for watching this incredible phenomenon.

Andrew MacNair, head of marketing at CalMac, said: “The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival promotes the beauty of the area through inspiring and unique events. CalMac is delighted to be involved for another year.”

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will run from Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 FebruaryHighlights of the first two Hebridean Dark Skies Festivals have included singer-songwriters Karine Polwart and Emma Pollock, Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott, comedian Robin Ince, children’s storyteller Andy Cannon, astronomers John Brown, Nigel Henbest and Amaury Triaud, Lewis’s first ever ‘live moon bounce’ with artist Daniela de Paulis, a Hebridean revival of acclaimed multi-media project Whatever Gets You Through The Night, arts and astronomy project Creativity and Curiosity, and food event g-Astronomy, with award-winning science communicator Roberto Trotta.

Stornoway business owners in the hospitality sector are supporting calls for the Scottish Government to go further to support the country’s hospitality businesses if it is to have any hope of keeping their businesses alive and their employees' jobs safe.

Speaking privately to welovestornoway.com, business owners complained of the maze of overlapping restrictions and questioned the need for restrictive measures in areas which had no community transmission of Covid-19.

One pointed out that Sweden - with population of 10.23 million - has recorded 102,407 cases of Covid-19 and 5,910 related deaths so far, despite having one of the lightest levels of mandatory restrictions in the world throughout the pandemic. By contrast, Scotland - with population of 5.4m - has recorded 44,036 cases and 4301 deaths have been registered on death certificates as related to Covid-19.

The sectors trade body, UKHospitality yesterday warned that the £40m support package for the industry which has been announced will not be enough and has called on the Scottish Government to outline how it will provide further financial support as soon as possible.

UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland Willie Macleod said: “Financial support for hospitality businesses, which are either closed or operating under severe restrictions, and supply chain businesses is welcome.

“The reality is, however, that the £40 million pot made available by the Scottish Government is not going to be nearly enough. It will be nowhere near enough to offset the massive hit businesses have taken. It will not keep businesses afloat and it will not keep enough jobs safe.

“Compulsory closures in the central belt and the trading restrictions elsewhere are biting hard. Consumer confidence is also low which means revenue is down and cash flow reduced. Businesses need cash in order to survive and keep as many of their employees as possible in jobs.

“The Scottish Government must go further. It needs to announce as soon as possible how it will use its share, understood to be £700m, of the £1.3bn allocated last Friday by the Chancellor to the devolved governments. It must use a significant chunk of this to help the beleaguered hospitality sector and its employees. Many hospitality businesses including nightclubs, meeting spaces andconference venues are, as yet, unable to re-open and they need the support that has hitherto been denied them.

“There must also be a change in the way these restrictions are being rolled-out. It is increasingly incumbent on government to provide adequate notice of restrictions being placed on businesses and, at the same time, provide full details of how these businesses will be supported.”

Covid-19 restrictions introduced in September did not slow consumer spending, as the recovery seen since July continued, according to Bank of Scotland’s Spending Power Report.

In September, non-essential spending grew 7% year on year, the largest increase in any single month since July 2019 and eclipsing the 3% increase in August.

Whilst further Covid-19 preventative measures are now in place for restaurants in Scotland, in September - where the ‘Rule of Six’ was in place from the 14th of the month and the 10pm curfew from the 25th -  card spending increased 14% year on year. This was the biggest rise since March 2020, higher than August, which had the support of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. 

Other high-street pillars also saw a resurgence in spending in September. Department stores,hit badly by pandemic lockdown measures, saw spending surge 33% year on year, compared to a 11% increase in August. Elsewhere, home stores continued to attract significantly more money from shoppers this year, 43% above 2019 levels, as well as electrical stores (42%).

Spending at clothing retailers grew 5% year on year in September, up from 4% growth in August.

With a limited number of travel corridors in place between Scotland and the rest of the world, spending on holidays has continued to trend well below 2019 levels. In September, people spent 62% less than this time last year, remaining unchanged from the month before.

As the government moved back to encouraging people to work from home, commuter spending was down in September by 51% year on year (from 44% in August). Fuel spend is now only 10% less than a year ago, having been as much as 60% down, in April.

Researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands have expanded their range of languages now available online to support a variety of multilingual research projects. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, international collaboration focussed on local community recordings has continued in Ireland and India. Project descriptions are now available on the university website in Irish and Hindi, as well as English and Gaelic. It is a uniquely quadrilingual approach and a natural extension for the University of the Highlands and Islands, given its 20-year commitment to bilingual provision, and online teaching in a blended learning approach.

Gordon Wells, project manager for the Gaelic research network Soillse, headquartered at the University of the Highlands and Islands with an office at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, explains: "The COVID crisis has given us another incentive to widen the application of islands-led technical innovation and share originally Gaelic-focused teaching and research methodologies used at the university.  

"One of the community-based projects we support, ‘Guthan nan Eilean/Island Voices', is focused on language capture and curation.  It started as a bilingual project, in Gaelic and English, but now it includes fourteen other languages, from Basque to Japanese to Welsh, as other interested parties around the world have followed its development, and adopted and adapted the video materials and ‘Clilstore' language learning software it uses. It's a delight to see ideas initiated in the islands spreading so far and wide."

Professor Neil Simco, Vice-Principal for Research and Impact at the University of the Highlands and Islands added: "We are intensely aware of our responsibilities to enhance the status of Gaelic and develop its use, and as the only university with a physical base and delivering a tertiary educational offering across the Gaeltachd, the University of the Highlands and Islands is inspired to use our knowledge and experience to deepen our international research and engagement.   

"This is another example of how the university is leading the way in responding to the sociolinguistic diversity of our research scholars and student body, by using new technology to develop our research engagement in innovative and sustainable ways."  

Professor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, University of the Highlands and Islands Gaelic Research Professor and Director of the Language Sciences Institute which heads up international research projects with both India and Ireland, said: "Our multilingual online presence reflects our international perspective. It is important to understand the Gaelic situation in its own context but also to examine how it compares with broader issues of minority language sustainability in a global context.

"The challenge related to sustaining the cultural and linguistic diversity in the world is emerging as one of the main socio-cultural issues of the 21st Century."

CalMac Community Fund information sessions -

Wednesday 21st October

CalMac Ferries plan to hold online information sessions for groups who may be interested in applying to the CalMac Community Fund. This year the CalMac Community Fund aims to support non-profit organisations registered to the islands and ports we serve which engage and deliver services for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. We will seek to support services that tackle social isolation, mental health, loneliness and or poverty.

We will consider applications that address other social issues relative to your community if the application can demonstrate the need. Organisations can apply for an award between £500 and £2,000. Applications will open from Thursday 1 October 2020 and close Monday 30 November 2020.

Sessions will take place on Wednesday 21 October at either 12:30 or 17:00.

If you wish to join an online information session CalMac will send you a link to Microsoft Teams.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in advance with:

  • Your name
  • Email address
  • Organisation
  • Location
  • Preferred time of either 12.30pm or 5pm

https://www.calmac.co.uk/community-fund

There has been a further cases of Covid-19 infection in Uist, NHS Western Isles confirmed tonight (Thursday October 15)

For three days there had been no further cases in Benbecula, South Uist or Eriskay – or anywhere else on the Western Isles.

Last week, there was an earlier a gap of one day when, for the first time in more than a fortnight, there had been no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, speaking in what has become a daily broadcast on Twitter, said tonight he wanted everyone to do whatever they could to keep to the guidelines to subdue the spread of the virus.

Earlier he asked for everyone to download the Protect Scotland app which aims to notify people if they have been in close contact with a positive case.  He reminded users that they must enable the Bluetooth facility on their mobile phones in order for the app to function.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 57.  There have now been 49 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis. 

A resident in the care home in Daliburgh has died three weeks after a positive test for Covid-19, But NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said in a joint statement :  "We are sorry to confirm the death in a care home of a resident who had tested positive for COVID-19 approximately three weeks before their death, and send our condolences to their family and loved ones.  Any individual who sadly passes away within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19 infection, will have this confirmed as a COVID-19 death by ​Public Health Scotland, regardless of any other contributory factors."


A care home resident in South Uist has died three weeks after testing positive for Covid-19.

The death at the Sacred Heart Care Home in Daliburgh follows the Covid outbreak in Uist.

In a joint statement, NHS Western Isles and and Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar said the resident died about three weeks after being tested.

The statement points out that: "Any individual who sadly passes away within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19 infection, will have this confirmed as a COVID-19 death by ​Public Health Scotland, regardless of any other contributory factors."

The statement goes on: "Following the positive test all care was carried out using the appropriate personal protective equipment in order to reduce the risk of transmission of infection to either other residents or staff.

"Residents are tested routinely for Covid-19 twice a week, and the past three sets of results have shown no positive tests amongst residents."

The two authorities expressed their condolences to the resident's family and loved ones.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 56.  There have been 48 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.  National figures show a total of 58 cases but NHS Western Isles retested two of those and said they were false positives.

Advocacy Western Isles

Annual General Meeting 2020

Due to Covid-19 restrictions our AGM will take place online via Zoom

On Thursday 29th October 2020 at 1.30pm

You are very welcome to attend our AGM, please contact us by 26th October 2020 for Zoom details.

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

or

01851 70 1755

 

HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, says it is delighted to have attracted funding of £1.5 million to deliver the installation of a network of 24 rapid charging points on the west coast of the Highlands and Islands..

Units will be installed in rural parts of Lochaber, Skye and Lochalsh, Argyll and Bute and the Western Isles at locations yet to be confirmed.

It intends to employ two new members of staff to deliver the project, which has attracted European Union funding and support from the Scottish Government.

The FASTER Project - Facilitating a Sustainable Transition to Electric Vehicles in the Regions – aims to ensure that the availability of charging stations is not a major obstacle to EV market penetration, with the proposal to carry out the design and analysis, procurement, installation and operation of 73 rapid chargers (50KW capacity) across the 3 countries. It will also provide an additional supportive, enabling environment for suppliers and consumers and provide increased confidence and reassurance in regional commitment to the emerging EV market.

Lochaber Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of HITRANS, said the FASTER project was the latest in a growing number of environmentally-friendly European projects that HITRANS was involved in.

He said: “We are committed to deliveing practical projects which contribute towards the greening of transport in our diverse and rural area. FASTER will share best practice for deploying charge points and promote sustainable transport in the region. We are leading on the design and procurement work package, and it is expected that we will install 24 rapid charge points or more if budget allows.”

He said preliminary work has been conducted on possible locations for the chargers through the HITRANS EV Strategy, and discussions were ongoing with Transport Scotland project partner Strathclyde University (engaging with SSE Networks) to ensure locations were chosen wisely and in line with grid capacity and existing infrastructure.

HITRANS has tapped into European collaboration to help deliver the FASTER. It is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The project will assist with analysis of the planning and procurement requirements needed to kick start a commercial charging service. Ireland and Northern Ireland are included in the project partners.

There could be more changes to the retail picture for Stornoway, as two clothing chain stores await news on their future.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill on Francis Street and the branch of Peacocks within the Co-op superstore on Macaulay Road are both owned by the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which filed a notice of intention (NOI) to appoint administrators on Friday (9 October).

The company has appointed business crisis advisers FRP advisory to negotiate what could happen next to their 1,100 stores UK-wide, which include the upmarket brands Austin Reed and Jaeger.

The EWM group blames ‘hard trading conditions’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Filing a NOI gives them ten days’ protection from creditors and allows them to continue to trade, although Stornoway’s Edinburgh Woollen Mill store has already been closed since lockdown.

EWM chief executive Steve Simpson said that significant cuts and closures would be inevitable. He said: “Like every retailer, we have found the past seven months extremely difficult. This situation has grown worse in recent weeks … against the backdrop of the initial lockdown, current local lockdowns, and the second wave of Covid-19 reducing footfall, (which) have made normal trading impossible.”

Business analysts have suggested that EWM’s older customer profile means their core customer-base are people reluctant to visit stores during the pandemic. The ‘traditional-style’ store has also failed to develop a significant online presence or click and collect service.

Scotland’s islands have come out on top of the RSA’s Heritage Index again.

The RSA is, as from August 2020, the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and is an independent charity that  has been at the forefront of significant social impact for over 260 years.

The organisation says that Orkney came first for the second time running, while Shetland (3rd), Eilean Siar (5th) and Argyll and Bute (6th) also scored highly, reflecting both the localities’ rich heritage assets and local efforts to maintain and promote them.

Other tourist destinations also scored well – the Highlands just missed out on the top 10, coming in 12th, while Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow also feature in the top 10.

The index, in collaboration with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is built from a multitude of different factors affecting an area’s heritage, from listed buildings, levels of public participation, funding streams and more, to reflect the state of heritage in Scotland and the UK today.

Heritage Index Ranking: Top 10

1

Orkney Islands

2

Dundee City

3

Shetland Islands

4

City of Edinburgh

5

Eilean Siar

6

Argyll and Bute

7

West Dunbartonshire

8

East Lothian

9

Stirling

10

Glasgow City

There have been no further cases of Covid-19 infection in Uist – or anywhere else on the Western Isles – NHS Western Isles confirmed again last night (Wednesday October 12)

The last single additional cases were announced on both Saturday and Sunday evenings. So there have now been three days without additional cases, knocking the Western Isles even lower down the national charts for comparative rates of infection. 

Before that, there was an earlier a gap of one day when, for the first time in more than a fortnight, there had been no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, speaking on in what has become a daily broadcast on Twitter, said last night: "Good news again today." There had been no new cases.  "That's a very positive position." He pleaded for everyone to continue with the measures they are taking so as the number of cases could remain at zero.

He asked for everyone to download the Protect Scotland app which aims to notify people if they have been in close contact with a positive case.  He reminded users that they must enable the Bluetooth facility on their mobile phones in order for the app to function.

The complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 56 with no recorded loss of life.  There have been 48 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.  National figures show a total of 58 cases but NHS Western Isles retested two of those and said they were false positives.

In the Faroe Islands, one new COVID-19 case was discovered on Tuesday – the first one since Thursday of last week.Since Tuesday, two recoveries have also been announced, meaning 467 of the 478 confirmed cases have ended in recoveries so far.

The remainder are the current number of active cases totalling 11.  In addition, 69 people are currently in quarantine but no one is currently hospitalized. In total, 141,775 tests have been conducted in the Faroe Islands, reports local.fo

 

 

Livestock sales in Stornoway in 2020 went exceptionally well in the most difficult and unusual of circumstances, says one of the directors of Lewis and Harris auction mart.

Director Kenny Macleod of Ness said today (Wednesday 14 October) that Monday’s final sale, which saw 1,941 lambs and sheep of all classes presented for sale, had seen gimmers reaching a record price of £140, up by £5 a head on last year’s record of £135.

He said: “October sales can see very low prices because the buyers have their quotas, but Monday’s sale was unbelievable. Not only did we reach a record price for gimmers from Murdo Macleod at 7 Garyvard, but quite a few made more than £100.

“We had a full ring-side of local buyers looking for breeding ewes and gimmers, and this followed a cattle sale last week where numbers of livestock were higher than the previous year, which augurs well for crofting in the islands.”

The four sales run at Steinish in 2020 under the hammer of Dingwall and Highland Marts were conducted under testing circumstances while new Covid regulations were being brought in.

Kenny said: “We had enormous challenges throughout the summer and at one point we were wondering whether we could have sales in Stornoway. There were lots of obstacles and a great deal more responsibility on mart directors and volunteers.

“But everything has gone like clockwork and the sale prices achieved gave us a real boost. It’s very unusual for prices to stay high like this, but superb to see everyone so happy.”

A number of causes have contributed to the better-than-expected outcome of the sales, according to Kenny.

He said: “The European market is buying more British meat during the pandemic and more people are cooking at home, contributing to the local demand for good-quality fresh meat at the island butchers.

“We never thought everything would go as well as it has over the four sales and we are extremely grateful for the support of the local crofting community who have remained loyal to the mart year after year, and who understand the challenges we have faced.”

At Monday’s sale, lambs sold to £90 gross for a Cheviot from Glen Kyles, Leverburgh and ewes to £80 gross for a pen of cross ewes from Arivruach, Lochs. The record price of £140 for gimmers went to a pen of blackfaces from Garyvard, Lochs and feeding sheep sold to £130 gross for a Cheviot ram from Ballantrushal.

At last week’s cattle sale, Kenny said, prices were not as high as last year but were still on a par with mainland markets.

Weaned bullocks sold to 299.5p for a 207kg Limousin cross from Kershader, Lochs and £810 gross for a 376kg Charolais cross from Cross Skigersta Road, Port of Ness. Weaned heifers sold to 302.0p for a 202kg Limousin cross from Bunavoneader and £780 gross for a 307kg of the same breed from Lower Barvas.

Store cattle sold to £1,200 each, for a 524kg Limousin cross heifer and a bullock of the same weight, both from Lower Barvas. The top gross price was fetched by a Shorthorn cross heifer in calf from Laxay, which fetched £1,650.

The picture shows the top-price gimmers sold by Murdo Macleod of 7 Garyvard on Monday (Murdo Macleod).

 

A whale spotted in apparent distress in Sandwick Bay yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 13 October) has stranded and died near Stornoway.

A Stornoway Coastguard operations officer said the animal had apparently been in collision with a vessel and had extensive wounds to its flank.

The 15ft bottlenose whale had come ashore at Battery Point, after being tracked in the water for several hours by volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

Outer Hebrides area co-ordinator Sara Wood-Kwasniewska said: “I can confirm that, due to injuries sustained, the whale sadly expired at 6pm. I will be making a full press release statement in due course.”

Picture shows the whale coming ashore and is by a member of Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team.

 

An instant emergency response swung into action when a Royal Navy Merlin helicopter suffered a mechanical failure and needed to land at Stornoway airport yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 13 October).

The helicopter was taking part in the Joint Warrior NATO exercise as part of the UK’s airborne anti-submarine warfare capability, flying over and around the islands during sub-hunting activity in the Minch.

Around 3.30pm her pilot notified authorities that the craft had suffered gearbox failure and needed to land urgently at the nearest airfield.

As the helicopter headed for Stornoway, a full emergency was declared at the airport and responders including fire crews were called. Police meanwhile closed the main Stornoway to Point Road at the airport as a precaution.

The helicopter landed safely and all services were stood down, with the incident closed by 4pm.

A spokesman for Stornoway Coastguard operations centre said that the usual full emergency response would also have involved the RNLI lifeboat and Coastguard Rescue Teams, but this incident resolved so quickly the teams were not called upon.

The picture shows a Royal Navy Merlin in operation (Royal Navy).

 

A walker who sprained her ankle while visiting the Harris hills was airlifted to Stornoway for medical attention yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 13 October).

The woman and her companion were staying in visitor accommodation in Harris and decided to walk the path to Sron Ulladale from the Huisinis road in west Harris.

After injuring her ankle, the walker was unable to make the return walk and her companion called for emergency help, but was unable to give precise details on their location.

Police called in Coastguard assistance at 5pm and Tarbert Coastguard Rescue Team were tasked to help with the search, along with Coastguard Rescue helicopter R948.

Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team got a call from the Police at 5.30pm and had 12 team members on scene in Husinish – with team members travelling from Ness, Breasclete, Stornoway, Lochs and Harris – and they all arrived in Hushinish ready to start a land search, just as the helicopter lifted the casualty from a location about five miles away on the Sron Ulladale track, which is beside the Loch Chliostair dam, up behind Amhuinnsuidhe.

The pair were spotted by the helicopter crew at around 7.30pm and airlifted from their location to be taken to Stornoway.

(Reference to Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team has been added since the article was first published.)

 

Islanders who face financial hardship due to being asked to self-isolate should apply for a £500 self-isolation grant offered by the Scottish Government, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan says.

The new Self-Isolation Support Grant will help people who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as those unable to work from home.

This grant is for those who will face financial hardship due to being asked to self-isolate and will be targeted at people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship.

Applications for the Self-Isolation Support Grant opened on 12th October and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund, which is administered by local authorities.

Alasdair Allan said: “We know that self-isolation can be tough, but it is essential to protect people and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

"To ensure people do not experience financial hardship as a result of doing the right thing, the Scottish Government has introduced this new £500 grant for people on low incomes who have been asked to self-isolate.

"These payments will help ensure islanders do not have to make a choice between self-isolating and supporting themselves financially.

"Applications for this new benefit are now open, and I'd urge anyone in the Western Isles who is facing a loss of income due to self-isolating to apply for it.”

There have been no further cases of Covid-19 infection in South Uist – or anywhere else in the Western Isles – NHS Western Isles confirmed again last night (Tuesday October 12)

The last single additional cases were announced on both Saturday and Sunday evenings. 

Before that, there was an earlier a gap of one day when, for the first time in more than a fortnight, there had been no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, speaking on in what has become a daily broadcast on Twitter, said both the weekend cases involved a personal contact of an existing case and were not a further example of community transmission. Last night, he said he was "not in a position to say the outbreak was over."  He pleaded for everyone to continue with the measures they are taking so as the number of cases could remain at zero.  He said the public measures "were clearly having an impact."

This means the complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 56 with no recorded loss of life.  There have been 48 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.  National figures show a total of 58 cases but NHS Western Isles retested two of those and said they were false positives.

Several people in Shetland have been asked to self-isolate as NHS Shetland deals with two new confirmed cases of Covid-19, Shetland News reports.

However, as one the cases involves a person who has been to Shetland as a visitor, the total number of confirmed cases within the local health board area rises by just one to 63.

Meanwhile, the total daily number of new cases across Scotland continue to rise rapidly with 1,429 new cases confirmed over the last 24 hours. Fifteen people have died since yesterday and the number of people in hospital has risen to 570.

NHS Shetland said the latest case added to the isles’ tally was a local resident, with the infection possibly associated with travel to the UK mainland.

The report from Shetland has been added since the original article was posted.

 

 

Ferry wars have broken out between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and CalMac Ferries as the annual crisis caused by the Loch Seaforth's annual maintenance period nears. 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has accused the ferry service provider of failing to work together with them and to consider the needs of the islands and the islands economy.

The call comes as Cal-Mac are putting the Hebridean Isles on the freight run for Stornoway-Ullapool whilst the Loch Seaforth is in dry dock.

The Comhairle is proposing that it should be the Isle of Lewis ferry doing the freight run and the Hebridean Isles doing the passenger route.

The Leader of CNES, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “Once again Cal-Mac are doing what suits them rather than what is in the best interests of the Islands.  The proposed two-run freight service still has only half the capacity of the required trailer load. People plan their businesses around scheduled freight services. The high-handed disregard for service users is appalling.

"The First Minster at the start of this pandemic said the protection of freight services to these Islands was the priority. This remains the case yet Calmac have decided to be driven by the needs of leisure travel rather than freight in their latest moves.

"Calmac are removing the Loch Seaforth with the capacity for 20 artic loads and replacing it with the Hebridean Isles with a capacity of 5 artic loads. Even with two overnight freight runs  they only provide half of what they are removing. Both the Isle of Lewis (15 artic loads) and the Hebridean Isles are available during the dry dock period so the obvious thing to do is to have the Isle of Lewis do the freight run and the Hebridean Isles do one of the day runs.

"These are simple solutions which meet Island needs, after all these are the islands they are meant to service, yet they choose an option which perhaps suits Calmac, but certainly not our islands and we call on them to address this immediately for the dry dock situation this month.”

The temporary ferry run to Bernera planned for Thursday 15th October has been postponed to next week.

The vessel earmarked for the utility run of fuel deliveries had been due to leave the slipway on Goat Island tomorrow (Wednesday 14 October).

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has hired the 33-metre Jenna J from Ferguson Transport and Shipping and will oversee her transportation of oil and gas from Uigen slipway in Uig to Valasay slipway on Great Bernera, scheduled for Thursday.

The run is intended as a work-round after Bernera Bridge was closed to heavy goods vehicles in August. HGVs carrying heating oil and gas will form the main cargo on the short sea-crossing.

The aim of the run is to enable the topping up of oil and gas supplies in preparation for winter, and also to test this sea route should it be necessary to deploy again at short notice.

Fergusons Shipping have been commissioned to undertake this run via sea from Uigen Slipway, Uig to Valasay Slipway, Great Bernera.In the meantime, the Comhairle says it continues to make good progress with the statutory permissions required to enable the replacement bridge construction and will provide an updated timescale when these are resolved.

The transport marks a return to old-style sea crossings for Bernera, which has not had to rely on ingenious sea transport of vehicles since the Bernera Bridge opened in 1953.

Jenna J is a shallow draft workboat with capacity for 100 tonnes of cargo and up to six crew. She has a five-metre wide bow ramp suitable for discharging vehicles onto slipways in shallow water.

Her hire has been opportunistic for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, since the Jenna J had been booked at Macmillan Engineering on Goat Island for her annual pre-planned maintenance.

Macmillan director Gordon Mackenzie said: “Fergusons has been bringing vessels to Goat Island for servicing and maintenance for about two years now, and the Jenna J was already booked for her visit before Covid.

“That meant that we were expecting her in Stornoway for her pre-planned annual maintenance anyway, so that has made it much easier.”

Pictures show the Jenna J on the slipway at Goat Island earlier this week and a historical image showing how transport by sea used to be managed before the opening of the bridge (Bernera Historical Society).

THIS post has been significantly updated since first being published to include the news of the postponement.

 

Please learn the lessons of the Uist Covid-19 outbreak…that's the plea from Western Isles NHS this morning (Tuesday October 13)

Physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, the use of face masks and coverings, and not entering other households or have others entering your home are all vitally important to prevent further spread.

A feature of the current outbreak in Uist (which covers South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula) is that the vast majority of people who have contracted COVID-19 infection have experienced mild symptoms.

Whilst this is clearly something that is positive for those individuals affected, it also means that individuals have been later in self-isolating and requesting a test, which did result in further spread to close contacts.

"If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, please self isolate and book a test immediately to help prevent any further spread. You should continue to self isolate until you have been told the outcome of your COVID-19 test."

NHS Western Isles have become aware through the contact tracing process that spread of COVID-19 in Uist can happen as a result of car sharing outwith households. COVID-19 spreads quickly and easily in cars, even when people are wearing masks.

"We would strongly encourage everyone wherever possible to avoid car sharing with anyone from outwith your household and, wherever possible, do not car share in the workplace. (There are of course exemptions, including those taking driving lessons). If car sharing is unavoidable, you should take every precaution, including:

  • limiting the number of people in the vehicle;
  • washing your hands before entering and after leaving the vehicle;
  • maintaining good ventilation and opening windows for the duration of the journey;
  • sitting as far apart as possible, and avoid face to face (i.e. one person driving and one in the back);
  • wearing a face mask or covering for the duration of the journey;
  • ensuring you cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue and dispose of the tissue in a bin after leaving the vehicle; and
  • wiping down surfaces that people touch (e.g. door handles) before entering the car and after the journey.
  • if there is no other alternative but to car share, take steps where possible to share with the same individual/s each time.

"We must ensure that local communities understand what self isolation means and why it is so important.  When you, or someone in your household/extended household, has symptoms, we ask that you self isolate and book a test as soon as you experience symptoms, no matter how mild.

"If you, or someone in your household or extended household, tests positive for COVID-19 infection, you will be asked to continue to self isolate for a set period of time (10 days from the onset of symptoms if you are the one who has tested positive; or 14 days if someone from your household/extended household has tested positive).

"If someone from within your household/extended household tests positive and you have others from within your household at work or at school, they should return home as soon as possible to self isolate."

When you have been identified through contact tracing: - The NHS Test and Protect Team may contact you to let you know you have been identified as a close contact of someone who have tested positive for COVID-19. This is another situation in which you will be asked to self isolate. Please ensure you complete your self-isolation period, as explained to you, as it is possible that you may be incubating the virus and could pass it on to others. Any other members of your household who are also contacts will be asked to self-isolate too. If they are not, then they are not contacts and can continue with their usual activities.

What does self isolation mean? Self isolation is when you do not leave your house because you have or might have COVID-19. It may also mean that you have to separate yourself from the rest of your household in order to protect them from COVID-19 infection.

If your household is in self isolation, you should not go to work, you should not send your children to school, you should not visit others or have others visit you, you should not go to the shops, and you should not go for a walk or run. You must not use public transport under any circumstances.

You should stay at home/in your current residence for the period of your self isolation, and only leave to have your COVID-19 test or in the event of an emergency. You can, if you wish, spend time in your garden if it is not a shared space.

Why do I have to self isolate? Self isolation is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection to others that you may come into contact with. It is important that you complete your self isolation period. For those self isolating as a result of being a close contact of someone with COVID-19, it is important that you complete your 14 day self isolation period (from the date of last contact with the case) even in the event that you test negative for COVID-19 during your isolation period. This is because you may be incubating the virus and could still potentially pass the virus on to others.

Support: - We are very conscious of how challenging self isolation can be, and there is support available through various routes. This support may be for shopping, prescriptions, financial support, walking dogs and advising on child care.

  • National Assistance Helpline (0800 111 4000) or textphone (0800 111 4114). The helpline is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (01851 600 501). Enquiries can also be channelled to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Resilient Uist for help with the collection of medication and shopping (07976416811) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All of the above is available on the NHS Western Isles Coronavirus website https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/

 

 

 

 

Water supplies to some customers in Stornoway were cut off yesterday afternoon (Monday 12 October), after Scottish Water started work on a faulty valve.

The utility company said that supplies had been restored to all customers by 7.30pm, when they had completed a full repair of the fault.

Some customers may continue to experience low or intermittent pressure in their water supply, which could be due to an airlock in the pipes, or discoloured water. The factsheet Unplanned Interruption To Your Supply will explain why this is and how to resolve it.

A spokesperson for Scottish Water said: “We would like to thank all affected customers for their patience and co-operation during this incident.”

More than 400 creative sessions for children and families have been held in community venues across Lewis and Harris since An Lanntair’s Full Circle project started in November 2018 – adding to the charity’s weekly Art Labs for young people, run in Uig, Tarbert, Bragar, Lionel and Stornoway over the past three years.

These popular activities are now set to renew, restart, and grow even more, as An Lanntair invests in and welcomes new staff members into its Education and Outreach team, and starts a range of ‘Stepping Stones’ children and family workshops this autumn.

Removing barriers to accessing the arts, Full Circle delivered a programme of regular, free, high-quality arts engagement activities, funded by the Aspiring Communities Fund, with support from the European Social Fund; and has worked specifically with parents facing multiple disadvantages through Action for Children and Community Learning Development.

Moira Macdonald, Full Circle Project Manager, said: “Over the first 18 months of the Full Circle project, Arts Workers Moira Maclean, Ruth O’Dell, Christine Richings and Heather Moger led creative sessions in community venues all over Lewis and Harris.

“Parents and grandparents in every venue got on board with the ethos of the project and joined in being creative with their child. The children had new experiences of making, playing and music; and importantly, the families got inspiration for incorporating creativity at home.”

In a recent survey, 94% of families agreed that Full Circle activities gave them ideas to do at home; with 91% saying Full Circle gave them the opportunity to be creative with their child.

“It really helped my children explore painting in a way we don’t get to at home,” said one parent. “They were free to create whatever they wanted in a safe and varied environment.”

Another commented: “I have learned to stop worrying about my children behaving perfectly and just let them have fun and be creative. I have learned so much patience and new ways of communicating with them.”

A total of 98% survey respondents felt that Full Circle activities were suitable for their child’s age and development, as one said: “The music classes are the most wonderful thing! My eight-month lights up with the music and my three-year-old goes wild.”

And 100% of those surveyed said that the Full Circle Arts Workers welcomed and made them feel comfortable when attending; thanks to the hard work and dedication of An Lanntair Arts Workers Moira Maclean, Ruth O’Dell, Christine Richings and Heather Moger.

An Lanntair is delighted therefore to announce that it is investing once again in its Education and Outreach team as, with support from the fifth round of the Aspiring Communities Fund, the arts centre launches its new ‘Stepping Stones’ programme and has recruited three new team members to support its delivery.

Soon to join the Arts Workers are performer and theatre-maker Catriona Hill; multimedia artist Robbie Thomson, and sound and moving image artist Alicia Matthews. Together they will work with An Lanntair’s Education and Outreach team to provide free-to-access, inspiring creative opportunities for children, lone-parent and low-income families and young people throughout Lewis and Harris.

COVID-restrictions allowing, Stepping Stones is set to deliver a series of fun workshops in a range of artforms to keep children and young people entertained during school holidays and at weekends – beginning with ‘Boo!’, spooky themed activities for the October holidays.

Weekly ‘Family Music’ and new ‘Dance and Movement’ sessions for pre-school children and their parent or carer are to take place in community venues and online; with weekly ‘Creative Play’ and ‘Mini-Make’ sessions again happening in An Lanntair.

The arts centre is re-opening its ‘Art Labs’ – creative studio spaces for young people in various venues in Lewis and Harris – and the weekly ‘Film Lab’ workshops return, delivering specialist tuition in film and documentary making to young islanders.

An Lanntair’s Education and Outreach team continues its multi artform activities with Nurseries and Sgoil Araich, starting with the delivery of ‘BirdBox’, a themed resource box full of books, musical instruments, art materials and puppets, accompanied by activity ideas, songs and videos.

And a wealth of online resources are also available at www.lanntair.com – including a new online Creative Play initiative for young families to enjoy over winter – as the team keep adding to An Lanntair’s downloadable resources and creative videos.

The importance of An Lanntair’s outreach work came to the fore earlier this year as the UK COVID-19 Lockdown put an abrupt stop to many family routines and social activities. In response, the charity’s Arts Workers produced a number of online activities and resources to help all through a difficult and unprecedented time.

“During the lockdown, many families struggled with isolation,” said Moira Macdonald. “And the resources which we shared maintained a sense of connection with the An Lanntair and Full Circle community.”

As well as offering online Drama, Art, and Dance workshops during lockdown, An Lanntair Arts Workers also produced the Merry-Go-Round booklet, including songs and music making activities; Family Music online videos, and a series of Creative Activity worksheets.

The downloadable Hebridean Handbook – created and beautifully illustrated by Lewis artist and teacher Alice Macmillan – proved extremely popular; and in a bid to ease pressures, An Lanntair also provided Free Family Art Packs, with art supplies sent to pre-school and primary-age children, as well as delivering a selection of art materials to children at Hillcrest, the local Children’s Home run by Action for Children.

There have been no further cases of Covid-19 infection in South Uist – or anywhere else in the Western Isles – NHS Western Isles confirmed last night (Monday October 12)

This follows single additional cases being announced on both Saturday and Sunday evening. 

Before that, there was an earlier a gap of one day when, for the first time in more than a fortnight, there were no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, speaking on Twitter, said both these case involved with a personal contact of an existing case and were not a further example of community transmission. 

This means the complete total number of cases on the Islands, according to NHS Western Isles, since the start of the pandemic is 56 with no recorded loss of life.  There have been 48 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.  National figures show a total of 58 cases but NHS Western Isles retested two of those and said they were false positives.

The reduction in infection numbers has seen the Western Isles fall rapidly down the weekly national infection charts - from a highest position in the orange 75-99 segment. 

 

Stornoway butchers Macleod and Macleod are making some changes to their presence in Stornoway town centre – and are now appearing in town centres all over Scotland.

The popular company has already closed its Church Street store to retail customers and will be concentrating instead on home deliveries, manufacturing and retail from that shop.

Their Westview Terrace shop – the former Alex France butchers – will now become their main counter and they continue to welcome individual customers and telephone orders at that shop.

Behind the scenes there's reason for celebration over the changes, as Macleod and Macleod black puddings are beginning to appear at a well-known upmarket food hall with a UK-wide presence.

Island customers are reporting the sight of marags, proudly branded with Macleod and Macleod, at the signature stores in Inverness, Carlisle and Perth.

Business owner Kenneth Macleod said: "We have been working for many years with the UK meat wholesale company Scotbeef, which has sites at Inverurie, Bridge of Allan and in East Kilbride.

"Through them, we have supplied Macdonalds hotels with Stornoway black pudding for some time and we have now secured this new order with one of the best-known top-end food halls in the UK.

"It's a very substantial order which means a lot of hard work for us and the guys have been putting everything they can into both meeting this order and keeping all our other regular customers happy."

The new order is just the start of a business expansion which will see more orders in the coming months and possible expansion as part of what Kenneth calls 'a bigger plan'.

He and his son James (pictured) are the third and fourth generation of their family to have worked in the business, following in the footsteps of Kenneth's father Willie (pictured at the shop counter) and grandfather Kenneth, who established the business in the late 1920's with brother-in-law Donald Macleod. Both are pictured in portraits of the time."

There's been a huge welcome from customers to the return to commercial life of Appliance Town at 12 Scotland Street ,Stornoway, which reopened under new management last week.

It was the start of the pandemic lockdown which delayed the reopening for months…and now Covid-19 is causing disruption in the supply chain for the new team.

They have white goods available for purchase in store, online or by phone with free delivery in Lewis & Harris and also provide a installation and recycling service.

The photo…with everyone socially distanced using the new style of photgraphy encouraged by the Codi-19 rules…shows the team Jamie ,Craig and John Murdo who will be glad to help you with your enquiries.

An online gallery of tiny artworks is now offering a last-chance offer to own an original piece of island art in aid of a good cause.

Talla na Mara in Horgabost, Isle of Harris, had the 83 postcard-sized artworks on display up until Saturday (10 October) as a means of raising much-needed funds for Bethesda hospice and to help buy a beach-access wheelchair for use in Harris.

A minimum donation of £40 was requested from anyone wishing to own one of the artworks, which were all created as part of the Art for Giving project at the Harris community hub.

With the exhibition now closed, there’s a chance to grab one of the last few pieces for a donation of any size, no matter how small.

A spokesperson for Talla na Mara said: “There are some really lovely pictures remaining, a great opportunity to acquire an original miniature artwork at an affordable price for yourself, or dare I say it, a Christmas gift for someone special, all whilst supporting two great causes, the Bethesda Hospice and the West Harris Trust Beach Access Fund.

To view remaining work, please visit https://www.tallanamara.co.uk/island-art-for-giving/. To purchase, either email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give us a call on 01859 503 900.” 

From this afternoon (Monday 12 October) the exhibition at Talla na Mara is a collection of photographic images made using single exposure photography at locations around the islands, by shortlisted Sony World Photography artist Michael Faint.

 

Police were called to deal with a series of reports of assault in Stornoway over the weekend, with two men charged as a result.

On Saturday (10 October) police were asked to attend an incident outside a house on Anderson Road, where a 43-year-old man was charged with assault.

He’s to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

In a separate series of incidents, a man was charged after two assaults reported on Sunday afternoon (11 October), one at Macaulay Road and one at Cearn Floddaigh.

The 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with two assaults and two charges of using threatening and abusive behaviour.

He was later released from custody on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

 

2,200 lambs and sheep of all classes are passing through the sales ring at Lewis and Harris Auction Mart today (Monday 12 October), with all the action livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/watch/auctionmart/

The sale is the last of a season defined by the stringent regulations imposed during the Covid-19 crisis, with no sellers allowed in the ring, no social interactions or food and drink and limited contact between buyers under strict conditions.

But high demand from crofters saw the mart directors taking the unprecedented step of adding an extra date into the calendar last minute.

Last Tuesday (6 October) saw an extra sale for cattle, with 135 animals passing through the ring under the direction of auctioneers Dingwall and Highland Marts.

The auctioneers described last week’s sale as: “A great show of calves forward in Stornoway with a full ringside of buyers supporting their mart and local produce.”

Weaned bullocks sold to 299.5p for a 207kg Limousin cross from 7 Kershader, Lochs and £810 gross for a 376kg Charolais cross from 100 Cross Skigersta Road, Port of Ness. Weaned heifers sold to 302.0p for a 202kg Limousin cross from Atlantic View, Bunavoneader and £780 gross for a 307kg of the same breed from 41b Lower Barvas.

Store cattle sold to £1,200 each, for a 524kg Limousin cross heifer and a bullock of the same weight, both from 25 Lower Barvas. The top gross price was fetched by a Shorthorn cross heifer in calf from 24 Laxay, Isle of Lewis, which fetched £1,650.

The picture shows sheep from Garyvard to be sold this morning.

 

Public toilets at the Bràighe look likely to be closed for some time while Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s technical services department looks into a problem with overflowing raw sewage.

But the locked doors of the loos are causing grief to tradesmen and delivery workers, who have come to rely on the quick stop as they head for work in Point.

A query about what was going on with the facility was raised on the Point/An Rubha noticeboard on Facebook, after a follower noted that the Comhairle website was still listing the toilets as open.

Covid-19 precautions were ruled out as a possible cause, since the toilets in Perceval Square and in Tolsta and Dalmore remain open, despite the same concerns about cleaning and infection control.

Councillor Norman Macdonald promised to look into the matter, and on Friday (9 October) reported that he had received this reply from the Comhairle.

“The toilets at the Braighe are currently out of order due to an issue with the septic tank discharging raw sewage onto the common grazing.

“We have had a number of contractors investigating the issue and are currently waiting for Scottish Water to empty the tank before further investigations using an underground camera can be used to identify the possible cause of this issue.”

 

The following planning application has been approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

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

A Pre-Application Community Consultation Notice has has been submitted by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for the erection of a community campus in Castlebay. The community campus is to include a pre-school, primary and secondary education facilities, health and social care facilities, community and police facilities including sports hall and swimming pool, with associated parking, bus drop-off and provision of external landscape spaces and sport pitches. 

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 house, Borve

Fiaraz Iqbal of 58 Southmere Drive, Bradford has applied for planning permission to erect a new house at 13B Melbost, Borve. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a lounge and a porch/laundry room.

 

New agricultural building, Bragar

Lucia Campbell of 26 North Bragar has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 26 North Bragar. The agricultural building is to be 19 metres long, 10 metres wide and 5 metres tall, made of blue box profile.

 

New house, Borve

Alex John Morrison has applied for planning permission to build a new house at 6B Borve. Work is to include creating a new access.

 

New polycrub, Point

D.G. Schofield of 10 Aignish, Point, has applied for planning permission to erect a polycrub at 10 Aignish, Point. The polycrub is to be 12.7 metres long,  metres wide and 2.55 metres tall, made of clear polycarbonate.

An Lanntair arts centre is presenting a new series of Adult Classes Autumn 2020 – as well as another opportunity to get creative outside with two Wild Creative Play workshops lead by artist Mairi Gillies.

Starting the last week of October and running through to December, there’s something on offer to tempt all with An Lanntair’s Autumn Classes, presenting the opportunity to learn more and hone your skills in interior design, lino-cut printmaking, and paper mechanics and puppetry.

Join online via Zoom for something new in Pop-Ups, Paper Mechanics and Puppets with Colleen Magennis.

A professional puppeteer and puppet-maker, with a strong interest in mechanical movement and automata, Colleen previously worked for Little Angel Marionette Theatre in London and has toured he own solo shows.

In her new An Lanntair class, Colleen will show the basic principles of designing and making pop-ups for creating stage sets for Paper Theatre; making articulated 2D carboard puppets, and exploring some basic paper mechanic techniques to introduce built-in characters.

Following on from her successful placing in BBC Scotland’s Home of the Year competition, Lewis artist Moira Maclean shares her interior design advice this autumn with her informal interior design class, exploring the colours, textures, patterns and styles that take you to your happy place.

And a good introduction to lino printmaking is presented in Gill Thompson’s An Lanntair class – a time to get inky and enjoy being creative.

Using natural forms as the inspiration for images, Gill’s Lino-cut printing class will explore this versatile printmaking technique; starting with basic skills and moving onto more complex designs, reduction lino-cut prints, and multi-block prints.

But there is more… An Lanntair’s Wild Creative Play workshops with artist Mairi Gillies presents a chance for anyone who wants to have fun making art outside; one workshop taking place at Shawbost Beach, and another on Barvas Machair.

Guided by Mairi to connect with the environment, participants will explore the landscape together, finding ideas and inspirations – just remember to bring some warm waterproof layers, an open mind, and your inner-child ready to have some fun!

An Lanntair’s Autumn Adult Classes and Workshops will be run in accordance with COVID-safety measures and guidelines. For full Adult Class details, please visit An Lanntair website at: www.lanntair.com/events/category/workshops

 

There's been one further case of Covid-19 infection in South Uist, NHS Western Isles confirmed tonight (Sunday October 11)

This follows a single additional case being announced on Saturday evening. 

That came after a gap of one day when, for the first time in more than a fortnight, there had been no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, speaking on Twitter, said tonight the case was a further one involved with a household contact of an existing case and was not a further example of further community transmission. 

This means the complete total number of cases on the Islands since the start of the pandemic is 56 with no recorded loss of life.  There have been 48 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.

According to national figures from the NHS, this gives a seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 of 37.4, down from 59.9 from yesterday, and from 67.4 the day before, and compared to Highland on 14.8 and Glasgow City on 248.6.

The largest marine protection area in the whole north-east Atlantic has now been officially designated to the far west of the Western Isles.

The new West of Scotland MPA was announced on Friday (9 October) by the Scottish Government’s natural environment minister Mairi Gougeon, after a consultation process which ended on 31 December 2019.

The protected 100,000 square kilometres of deep-sea habitat contributes to Scotland’s international commitments to protect the marine environment in the North-East Atlantic and is part of a package aimed at reaching the global target of 10% of seas protected by the end of 2020.

Featuring the deepest parts of Scotland’s seas at over 2,500 metres, the site safeguards some of the most vulnerable habitats and species on the planet, including deep sea sharks, coral gardens and a variety of other fauna.

It provides protection to 14 vulnerable habitats and species, including the leafscale gulper shark, orange roughy and Portuguese dogfish. Protected habitats include coral gardens, cold-water reefs and deep sea muds.

Ms Gougeon said: “Scotland’s deep sea waters are home to a number of threatened species and habitats including coral gardens and deep sea sharks.

“The designation of this site will address one of the last gaps in our MPA network and will be key in achieving the international target of 10% of the world’s oceans covered by an MPA by the end of 2020.

“It also clear evidence of Scotland’s commitment to lead by example internationally on environmental protection.”

The pictures show the area map of the West of Scotland MPA (ScotGov) and examples of some of the fragile corals and deep-sea species recorded in the area (JNCC).

There was recognition for two worthy characters from the Isle of Harris in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020, announced on Friday (9 October).

Recognised for her services to the community in the Isle of Harris over many years was Morag Munro, former co-ordinator of Crossroads Care, who is to be made an MBE.

Morag retired from the unpaid role as co-ordinator of Crossroads (Harris) last summer, after 35 years in the voluntary position. Her services to the Harris community in that and other capacities were described at the time as ‘exemplary’.

Also named for services to the Isle of Harris, and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, was Angus ‘Gus’ Maclean, who is to receive the British Empire Medal (BEM).

Gus, from Borrisdale, has continued to provide a lifeline service from his mobile shop throughout lockdown.

A spokesperson for Harris Football Club, for which he is chairman, said: “An award richly deserved in recognition of his outstanding hard work over many years, and especially this year under extremely trying circumstances, where he has proved again to be such an asset to our community, providing a lifeline service to some among us most in need.

“His commitment to his job, dignified manner and the care he takes with all his customers mark him out as an island treasure we are proud to call one of our own!”

Pictures show Gus Maclean and Morag Munro receiving a presentation of flowers at her retirement in June 2019.

 

The voters of Harris and South Lochs have made their choice for the third councillor to represent their ward at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Independent candidate Grant Fulton had a convincing win over two other candidates for the position, after last Thursday’s by-election (Thursday 8 October), in a poll where 37.7% of eligible voters turned out.

Grant won 536 votes, with former councillor Annie Macdonald gaining 158 and Kris O’Donnell 22. There were five rejected voting papers, all of which were void as they were unmarked or uncertain in their voting intention.

The new councillor, Harris-born Grant Fulton, said he was ‘fortunate to be elected’ and thanked all who had voted for him.

Grant is the development officer for Harris Development Ltd and stood on a platform of issues including increased housing, especially for young families, more stable year-round jobs and better infrastructure to support tourism and local initiatives.

Before the result was announced, he posted on social media, saying: “Whatever the result I’d just like to thank everyone I managed to chat to over the last few weeks and who offered their very kind support.

“Whether I get in or not I’ll still be working in my community development role and endeavouring to get a few quid for Harris for the multitude of projects being run by volunteers giving up their own time for our community. Sometimes successful, sometimes not but you can be guaranteed that I put in the effort.

“I talked to a councillor from Stornoway yesterday and he said it was incredible the way the Harris community work together developing the island and ultimately supporting each other.

“I do feel we are unique in the Western Isles, I don’t think there’s any other wards where the community is so active, the amount of hours put in by volunteers is immense, not for personal gain but for the betterment of all, to make our island a better place to work and live in for every member of the ward.”

The result of the by-election was announced following the count on Friday morning (9 October) at the M A Macleod memorial hall in Stornoway.

Grant was declared the successful candidate after a single round of counting.

 

Companies trading with countries in the EU or European Economic Area (which adds in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein to the EU 27) are warned it may be illegal to transfer personal information across the new borders after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

A release sent out by the UK Department of Media, Culture & Sport says that if you are a UK business or organisation that receives personal data from the EU or EEA, “you may need to take extra steps to ensure that the data can continue to flow legally as we transition to our new relationship with the EU in January 2021.  Visit gov.uk to check how you can legally continue to receive personal data such as names, addresses or payroll details from organisations in the EU or EEA from January 2021."

This type of information is regularly used in the daily running of businesses and organisations – for example, in relation to human resources, sales, purchasing or marketing.  This includes names and addresses of customers, suppliers or partners to provide goods or services and could also IP addresses or human resources data, such as staff working hours and payroll details.

Earlier a ruling by the EU's top court in Luxembourg last Tuesday morning dealt a serious blow to the prospect of digital information being able to flow freely to the EU/EEA after Brexit.

From January 1, the United Kingdom loses its automatic status as a safe destination for EU data because it falls out of the EU's legal system. Now the U.K.'s data protection regime needs to get a stamp of approval from the European Commission in what is known as an "adequacy decision."  But the Court of Justice of the European Union last Tuesday deemed the U.K.'s bulk data collection regime illegal under EU law. It said that legislation like Britain’s Investigatory Powers Act — rules that give local national security agencies authority to harvest people’s information — fails to protect fundamental rights. Similar rulings also affect Belgian and French laws. So such a a stamp of approval is unlikely. 

People who have experienced pregnancy or baby loss are encouraged to check if they are eligible for financial support as part of the 18th Baby Loss Awareness week (October 9-15) .

Bereaved parents who get certain benefits or tax credits could be eligible for payments to help ease some of the financial pressure when a baby is stillborn or dies after birth.

Eligible people could still receive a Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment of up to £600. They may also qualify for the Funeral Support Payment to help towards the costs of a funeral.

The Scottish Government involved parents who have experienced baby loss in the design of these services to make sure that it met their needs and was sensitive to these specific circumstances.

Their input has influenced website content, including simplifying wording around eligibility to make it easier to understand.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “The loss of a baby is one of the hardest things any parent can go through. It is awful to think that at a time of such grief and loss, some parents will also be faced with the pressure of finding money to get them through this period and will have already spent money on baby goods. We want to make sure that people in this position know that there is support available.

“We know that bereaved parents can often feel overwhelmed and may wish to talk things through with someone – that’s why Social Security Scotland has specially trained Client Advisers available to guide people through what they may be eligible for and the application process.

“And whilst this is Baby Loss Week, we want people to know that this help is here all year round. That is why we are working closely with organisations that provide vital support to parents who experience this to promote these payments.”

 Chief Executive of SiMBA, Sara Fitzsimmons, MBE, RM said: “It is important that we support bereaved parents in any way that we can, so it was an honour to be able to support the focus group for the Best Start Grant.

“We brought together parents who had themselves been bereaved, so they could help review and give feedback on literature and words with an empathetic understanding and help support bereaved families who may benefit from some financial help after the loss of their baby.”

People can apply for the Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment for a baby that was stillborn or died after they were born – they can apply from the 24th week of pregnancy to six months after the baby’s birth date

Parents of a baby who was born alive prematurely and who died before the 24th week of pregnancy are eligible to apply for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment - it is a £600 payment for a first child and £300 for other children.

Funeral Support Payment can help towards burial or cremation costs. It can also cover some travel, document, and medical costs – the average total payment is around £1,500.

A client leaflet explaining what support is available at:  
https://www.socialsecurity.gov.scot/what-we-do/stakeholder-resources/best-start-grant-pregnancy-and-baby-payment 

People can find out more and apply at mygov.scot/benefits or by calling Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222

SiMBA support those affected by the loss off a baby during pregnancy or shortly after birth, full details can be found at www.simbacharity.org.uk

The Scottish Government has introduced a grant scheme to help individuals if they are required to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The purpose of the grant is to help ensure that people who have tested positive for the virus and their close contacts self-isolate for the required period, to stop the onward spread of the virus. A grant of £500 is available to individuals who meet the criteria of the scheme.

The scheme opens for applications on Monday 12 October and details of the eligibility criteria and the application form can be accessed on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar website  https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/coronavirus/self-isolation-support-grant

Applications must be made during the 14-day self-isolation period. Applications made after the 14-day period cannot be considered.

Meanwhile the political tug-of-war over the Covid-19 pandemic in the context of the looming end of UK connections with the European Union from January 1, 2021, and the campaign for Scottish independence have been shown in a series of recent statements. 

Highlands and Islands Tory MSP Donald Cameron has welcomed the UK Government announcement that an extra £700m will be coming to Scotland, increasing the amount the UK Government has delivered to Scotland to £7.2 billion.

Earlier, UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, confirmed that the UK-wide Jobs Support Scheme would be expanded to pay two-thirds of the wages of employees in businesses that have been forced to close in any new restrictions…already in force in parts of Scotland.

 Mr Cameron said: “This is an extremely timely intervention by Rishi Sunak and will give hope to the many businesses across the Highlands and Islands that are apprehensive about what the future holds.

 “Unfortunately, and in stark contrast, many hospitality businesses in my region have been left completely baffled by the SNP Government’s confusing set of new rules, especially whether they are supposed to consider themselves a restaurant or a café and can continue to trade.”

The expansion of the Chancellor’s Job Support Scheme will apply across the UK and be effective from 1 November. The furlough scheme runs until 31 October. The Chancellor also announced on Friday 9 October an additional £0.7 billion of funding for the Scottish Government.

Mr Cameron has also urged SNP ministers to work with the UK Government to deliver infrastructure projects.  The Conservative MSP spoke up after it was claimed that Michael Matheson, SNP Cabinet Secretary for Transport, had instructed Transport Scotland "not to engage" with the UK Government’s Connectivity Review.

At the same time, SNP minister Ivan McKee was reported as saying that the Scottish Government may turn down a proposal to develop free ports in Scotland.  Mr Cameron said: “SNP politicians should not allow their hostility to the UK Government to prevent major investments coming to the Highlands and Islands. Let’s face it, after 13 years of SNP Government, local people here have been left with impassable roads, rusting half-built ferries, and are still in many cases waiting for decent broadband.”

There's been one further case of Covid-19 infection in South Uist, NHS Western Isles confirmed tonight (Saturday October 10)

This came after a gap of one day when, for the first time in more than a fortnight, there had been no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, speaking on Twitter, said tonight the case was "not unexpected" and was not an example of further community transmission. 

This means the complete total number of cases on the Islands since the start of the pandemic is 55 with no recorded loss of life.  There have been 47 cases in South Uist, one in North Uist, and seven on Lewis.

According to national figures from the NHS, this gives a seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 of 59.9 from yesterday, down from 67.4, and compared to Highland on 16.5 and Glasgow City on 253.3.

Plans to charge those involved in short-term holiday lets as much as £1000 per property to take part in a national licencing scheme have alarmed Outer Hebrides Tourism leaders. 

Prior to lockdown, the Scottish Government responded to pressure in Edinburgh and some other areas including Skye for rules to regulate short-term holiday lets.

While many of their other plans remain on the back burner due to COVID-19 (including the so-called 'tourist tax'), they are pushing ahead with their scheme, and have published an outline scheme in their consultation paper.

Outer Hebrides Tourism says the Short Term Lets Licensing Scheme Planning document is worded in a reassuring way, but has the potential to have a dramatic impact on self-catering businesses.

With all the various extra regulations involved, it could easily costs over £1000 per property each year. These extra costs come at a time when businesses are least able to incur them given the impact of the COVID lockdown, which took away half the season, and the recent return of movement restrictions.
 
The scheme requires the local authorities to establish a licensing scheme (similar to pub licensing).  The local authority has wide discretion to design the scheme, what businesses will need to do to get a licence, and how many businesses will receive a licence.  This could include requiring meet and greet for every guest, limiting arrival and departure times/days, inspection visits and providing data to the local authority.
 
In addition, the local authority can also require all new and existing self-catering properties to apply for planning approval, under a change of use clause.  There are no guarantees that existing properties would receive such permission, and even if they did, the permission would only be valid for 10 years, and would then need to be renewed, with no guarantee that renewal would be granted.
 
Given that the Scottish Parliament has already given approval to a scheme, this will not be put to a parliamentary vote, so MSPs are not going to have the chance to scrutinise this scheme.  
 
OHT says: "It is essential that we make the Scottish Government aware of the feeling in the industry, and the damage that this could cause if we are to have any impact on the legislation. The consultation period is short and closes next Friday 16th October."

Stornoway Port Authority will shortly allocate marina berths for the period from 31st October 2020 to 30th April 2021.

Owners of vessels up to 14 metres length requesting a berth should apply in writing by 1700 on Friday 16th October 2020 by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by post to:


Stornoway Port Authority
Amity House
Esplanade Quay
Stornoway
Isle of Lewis
HS1 2XS

Scott Campbell
Harbour Master

SPAR Scotland launched its first Community Cashback campaign in August…and after getting through the preliminary stage, Stornoway-based Alzheimer Scotland, Western Isles, is hoping to pile up the votes to win in its division.

Spar Scotland has provided more than  £30,000 to give away to community groups and charities around the country.

Customers, store staff and CJ Lang employees were encouraged to nominate a local charity or community group to win a cash sum of money.

The campaign has been taking place in all 109 CJ Lang company-owned SPAR stores with the winning groups being announced in November.

Colin McLean, CEO of SPAR Scotland, said: “We are pleased to announce our first Community Cashback campaign where we are giving away over £30,000 to local community groups and charities around Scotland.”

“During the pandemic, local community groups and charities have suffered as they rely so much on donations from the public.

"We hope a number of organisations will benefit from a share of the Community Cashback campaign”, Colin McLean added.

There are a total of 21 monetary prizes up for grabs ranging from £800 to £2,000.

The UK became a member of SPAR in 1956 when a group of independent wholesalers was granted the SPAR licence by SPAR International. There are five regional partners in the UK with strategically placed Distribution Centres in each region. A central office, located in London, provides national marketing and buying services for the group and supports the development of the brand

https://clicktime.symantec.com/3Y51cKGvd8KZBhTx4stHazd6H2?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sparscotland.co.uk%2Fcommunity-cashback.aspx%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR2h_SYzrtorBV2oTzEHMvCbmEI-hfzgpCctsy0R39gDnx6Q48FeLVZoHVM

Marion MacInnes, Locality Leader, Alzheimer Scotland, Western Isles, said: "The votes close on 18th October. We are in Area 2 which covers North Scotland and we are up against some giants!
 
"Every little bit of fundraising we can access helps us to sustain the work we do locally, it’s a constant battle but an important one.
 
"Voting is really quick and easy - we’d really appreciate if they could follow the link and vote."

Today is World Mental Health Day (Saturday October 10, 2020), and the Highlands & Islands Division of Police Scotland is encouraging our officers, staff and everyone living in the communities we serve to open up about mental health, to talk and to listen.

Supporting our officers and staff with their mental health and tacking the stigma that can often be attached is one of our main priorities, and for the past ten months a dedicated mental health and well-being project officer – Kirst MacDonald - has been supporting the Division in creating a plan which allows us to make continuous improvements to our culture, practice and policies on mental health.

The role is financially supported by Police Care UK’s 1in4 Fun, and Kirst works in collaboration with See Me, the national programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Highlands & Islands Division was the first employer in Scotland to employ someone specifically for the See Me in Work Programme, and is extremely proud to be leading on this unique partnership. 

Kirst said: “Our officers and staff work extremely hard every day to keep people living in the Highlands and Islands safe, however it is absolutely crucial that they also take care of their own mental health and well-being to be able to deal with the challenging situations they can find themselves in. .

“On this very important global awareness day, I want to take this chance to encourage absolutely everyone to make one small change, or take one action, to help look after your mental health or the mental health of someone else. Making positive change might seem hard, especially during uncertain times, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

“It is important that we tackle the stigma surrounding mental health together."
 
See Me's health, social care and workplace manager, Dr Patty Lozano Casal, said: “It’s vital that workplaces, especially those like the police where employees can face highly stressful and traumatic situations, have supportive work cultures where people feel safe to speak out without the fear of being judged or dismissed, know who they can speak to and where to go for support. So we’re delighted to be working with Police Scotland’s North Division and Kirst, who are leading the way in tackling mental health stigma and discrimination to make it easier for staff to open up."

Shadow Health Secretary Donald Cameron is also highlighting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of many people.

“Research tells us that mental health problems are more common than we may think and, sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic will have had a serious additional effect.

“Keeping apart from friends and family; jobs and livelihoods put at risk;  the relentless worry -  all these things take a toll.

“World Mental Health Day…provides a good time for all of us to reflect on how we are managing, but also to think of others who may be finding the stresses caused by the pandemic hard to bear.  There is plenty of information available, for instance, through the dedicated website that supports World Mental Health Day." That's https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/world-mental-health-day

And NHS Western Isles is asking islanders to take part in an online survey to understand how people are coping during the Coronavirus  (COVID-19) pandemic.  The survey is part of a joint Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme (NPA) COVID-19 Response Group.

The Re-Mind Project survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. You will be asked to provide the first answer that comes to mind and, if you wish, in another 4-6 week’s time you can complete the survey again. The link to this survey can be found at: www.clic-survey.com and closes on 31st October 2020.  Further information can be found at http://publichealth.ie/clic/

For the first time in more than a fortnight, there have been no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 anywhere in the Western Isles.

This was welcome news, particularly in relation to the South Uist hotspot and was again the reason for "cautious optimism" said the latest video update on Twitter last night from NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson.

This standstill means the complete total number of cases on the Islands since the start of the pandemic remains at 54 with no recorded loss of life. According to national figures from the NHS, this gives a seven-day rate of cases per 100,000 of 67.4 compared to Highland on 19.5, Shetland of zero; and Glasgow City of 248.5.  

And the Western Isles NHS  lso launched a video with Peat & Diesel to communicate "in a lighthearted way the importance of hand washing and also lift everyone’s spirits."

To view ‘That’s the way we wash them’ visit: https://vimeo.com/466529787

Inspired by their smash hit song ‘That’s the way we do it in the Western Isles’, the NHS said this was a reflection of the need to get important messages across to younger members of our community in new ways.

"The light-hearted video highlights the importance of handwashing during the coronavirus pandemic, in a way that should make you smile. Whilst it’s not intended in any way to be educational or an instruction video, the handwashing message (and lyrics) get an important message across, and at the same time, will lift your spirits!

"The message is communicated in the unmistakable tongue-in-cheek Peat & Diesel style, and features the band in never-before-seen footage."

Gordon Jamieson said: “We are delighted to team up with Peat & Diesel once again.  By having their support we can reach our younger age groups with some important messages. The intention of the video is clearly to raise awareness of the importance of hand washing and is not intended to be an accurate demonstration (which is provided in our Infection Control video at: https://vimeo.com/464916296). 

"We want to sincerely thank Peat and Diesel, and to Wee Studio Records for again supporting us get important messages across. Not only does this band create some excellent music, Peat and Diesel have been strong and invaluable supporters of the local NHS and have helped raise awareness of important messages on several occasions. We are extremely grateful for their ongoing support.”

Peat and Diesel accordionist, Innes Scott, said: “Peat and Diesel were only too delighted to again lend their support to NHS Western Isles and we hope our music continues to spread important health messages.  We hope you enjoy the video!”

To view ‘That’s the way we wash them’ visit: https://vimeo.com/466529787

Letters to islanders about this year's influenza vaccinations are directing some patients to clinics outside their local area, NHS Western Isles warns.

And they add: "Please don't worry – when you call to book your vaccination, our own local staff will assign you to the correct clinic."

And they say: "Please do not contact your GP Practice as this year’s influenza vaccination programme is being managed by NHS Western Isles."

The most vulnerable patients are being scheduled first, and staff will confirm which group patients fall into when they call us.
 
Telephone lines are open Monday to Friday, from 9am until 5pm. If it is more convenient, drop a message with your contact number to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 
"If you are eligible for the influenza vaccination and have not yet received your appointment letter, we can reassure you that appointment letters are being issued in stages and you will receive an invitation to book an appointment in due course."
 
People may have received a letter in error when they do not fall into one of the eligible groups. NHS Western Isles says that "if you are confident that you are not eligible for the vaccination, you do not need to contact us for a booking, and please accept our apologies for this confusion."
 
The Influenza vaccination is being offered to those aged 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions (e.g. asthma, stroke, diabetes), pregnant women, children aged between 2-5 years, primary school children and health care workers who are already eligible.
 
This year, for the first time, social care workers, those living in the same house as people who have been shielding from COVID-19, and 55-64 year olds are also now eligible to receive the Influenza vaccination.
 
Primary school pupils throughout the islands will be offered the influenza vaccination administered by the local school nursing team, during October and November. Most of these school children will receive the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray, avoiding the need for an injection. Consent forms have been sent home in school bags for all primary pupils, with parents and carers urged to return the form with consent to ensure their child is protected against influenza this winter.
 
Pre-school children who are aged two and above (as at September 1, 2020) are also offered a free flu immunisation – again taken as a pain-free nasal spray.   Women who are pregnant will be offered the influenza vaccination by their midwife.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed plans to fill a current 4G ‘not spot’ in Uist and is urging constituents to identify other places where mobile phone signal is lacking.

The area around the Isle of Grimsay has been identified as part of Wilkinson Helsby Projects Telecoms Ltd’s (WHP) contract with the Scottish Government to deploy crucial mobile coverage.

Funding has been committed by the Scottish Government and secured from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support activity in the Highlands and Islands region.

Mr MacNeil said: “I was informed by WHP who are involved in telecommunications that they are proposing a welcome telephone installation in Grimsay for 4G, a ‘not-spot’ where 4G is unavailable, this is very welcome but I would encourage constituents to inform WHP and myself of other places where there may be ‘not spots’ and infilling.

“This is part of a Scottish Government contract to deploy crucial mobile coverage – probably on the EE, BT network. It is a 21st century requirement and something we need for day to day business and of course crucially in emergency situations.

“I will respond to Telecoms consultation on this project and will highlight any further ‘not spots’ brought to my attention by constituents.”

WHP are exploring solutions to some issues which may arise such as technical constraints, availability of power, availability of land, any other cost constraint and attracting a mobile operator but the site identified is at Baymore, Grimsay.

WHP was awarded the contract by the Scottish Government to acquire, build and operate the passive infrastructure such as the base, mast, power supply and transmission link required to attract mobile operators to deploy sites in Not Spots where otherwise it would not be financially viable to do so.

If you would like to highlight a 4G ‘Not Spot’ within Na h-Eileanan an Iar please email WHP at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and CC to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Action for Arnish – the campaign group formed to fight for the work-starved fabrication yard on Lewis -  has called for a halt to the removal of machinery and other equipment.

The call comes after truck-loads of machinery were seen to leave the yard which is leased by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to BiFab, the Canadian-owned company which has failed to win work from major windfarm projects off the Scottish coast.

It is understood that more heavy equipment is due to leave the yard within the next few days.

In a statement, Action for Arnish said:  “The removal of this machinery is another step towards the total mothballing of Arnish. It is certainly a signal that BiFab have no interest in bringing work to Arnish.

“We have sought and received assurances, via Comhairle nan Eilear Siar,  that the equipment belongs to BiFab and was not paid for from public funds. However, we believe this possibility should also be closely monitored.

“The fact BiFab are so obviously turning their backs on Arnish reinforces our contention that the yard should be available to any company that can bring work to the island, rather than tied into a deal which has failed to deliver.

“We again call on the Scottish Government to end the secrecy about the deal with DF Barnes which gave them Arnish as an add-on to the two BiFab yards in Fife. The Lewis community is entitled to know why this agreement still exists, in the absence of any work”.

The statement concluded: “The Prime Minister has this week highlighted the potential of offshore wind for the Scottish and UK economies. These opportunities will continue to pass Arnish by unless there is a serious commitment to developing and marketing the yard’s potential”.

GMB Scotland Organiser Hazel Nolan said:  “At the very moment we should be heavily investing in the renewables supply chain to aid our economy recovery it appears the Arnish yard is literally being deconstructed.

“Both the employer and the Scottish Government need to answer the questions the whole community are asking: What is going on here and what is the long-term plan for the fabrication yard?”

CalMac Community Fund information sessions -

Wednesday 21st October

CalMac Ferries plan to hold online information sessions for groups who may be interested in applying to the CalMac Community Fund. This year the CalMac Community Fund aims to support non-profit organisations registered to the islands and ports we serve which engage and deliver services for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. We will seek to support services that tackle social isolation, mental health, loneliness and or poverty.

We will consider applications that address other social issues relative to your community if the application can demonstrate the need. Organisations can apply for an award between £500 and £2,000. Applications will open from Thursday 1 October 2020 and close Monday 30 November 2020.

Sessions will take place on Wednesday 21 October at either 12:30 or 17:00.

If you wish to join an online information session CalMac will send you a link to Microsoft Teams.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in advance with:

  • Your name
  • Email address
  • Organisation
  • Location
  • Preferred time of either 12.30pm or 5pm

https://www.calmac.co.uk/community-fund

A sea link is going to be tested out as continued efforts are made to keep transport links open between Great Bernera and the mainland of Lewis.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, as part of its resilience planning considerations in relation to the current weight restriction on Bernera Bridge, is planning to undertake a utility run of Heavy Goods Vehicles on Thursday 15thOctober 2020 to serve Bernera residents.

Fergusons Shipping have been commissioned to undertake this run by sea from Uigen Slipway, Uig to Valasay Slipway, Great Bernera.

CnES says that other routes were considered – however, this specific crossing affords the least restrictions in terms of accessibility, tides and weather.

The aim of the run is to enable the topping up of oil and gas supplies in preparation for winter, and also to test this sea route should it be necessary to deploy again at short notice.

The boat is currently undertaking maintenance at Goat Island in Stornoway Harbour and it is hoped that this work will be completed by Wednesday 14th October to allow for the utility run to go ahead the following day.

This is subject to change at short notice and the Comhairle will communicate any changes at the earliest possible opportunity.

Meantime the Comhairle says it continues to make good progress with the statutory permissions required to enable the replacement bridge construction and will provide an updated timescale when these are resolved.

Many of Stornoway’s independent shops and businesses are joining in with the Totally Locally national Fiver Fest – a high-street shopping campaign starting from tomorrow (Saturday 10) to Saturday 24 October.

To show the importance of supporting our High Streets, Stornoway is joining with over 100 independent high streets across the UK, to put on very special £5 offers across two weeks in October.

At present around 40 shops or enterprises are planning to take part - ranging from Good Food Boutique to Rarebird Design, Wool 4 Ewe to The Colour Centre and many more.

Organisers say: “The independent shops and businesses are what makes our town special and unique. We appreciate it when our community support us, so these offers are to say thank you for that support, and to show just what great value our local businesses are.”

Fiver Fest is a free to join campaign, devised and run by Totally Locally, a grass-roots high street organization which has been helping businesses and high streets to help themselves since 2010 with incredible results.

For this Fiver Fest, Totally Locally is partnering with Visa to encourage even more small business owners to sign up to this celebration of independent high streets.

Together, they are also calling on consumers to divert £5 of their weekly spend to support the small businesses in their communities.

“If every adult in your town spent just £5 per week in their local independent shops and businesses, it would mean £1.5m here per year going directly into our local economy. Which can lead to more jobs, a better high street, a stronger economy and a nicer place to live. Makes you think doesn’t it?!”

Fiver Fest has been running successfully in individual towns in the UK and abroad over the past seven years, but in 2019 the team at Totally Locally brought together towns across the country in on big Fiver Fest celebration. In all, 43 towns joined in and the result was phenomenal with reports of new customers, people rediscovering shops they hadn’t been into in years and huge sales of £5 offers.

“We know Fiver Fest isn’t going to change the world”, said Chris Sands of Totally Locally, “but small changes in spending habits can really make a difference to our high streets. Just by diverting £5 of our weekly spend to local independents we give them a fighting chance to thrive. It’s a conversation worth having!”.

It is for this reason, that the fourth national Fiver Fest is taking place. This time it’s even more important than ever after how our world has changed during 2020 and YouGov research has shown that 59% of shoppers have used more local shops to support them during lockdown.

Totally locally was founded in Calderdale, West Yorkshire in 2010 by award winning brand and marketing expert Chris Sands.  There are now more than 60 towns in the UK who have gone ‘totally locally’ with the full ‘town kit’ and it has reached as far as New Zealand, USA and Australia. Chris decided to give away the campaign, after he was inundated with towns after the success of the campaign in Calderdale, where he lives. “I just wanted to see what would happen!” he said.

And Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has backed the “Scotland Loves Local” campaign which also encourages people to support their local High Streets and shops.  Mr Cameron said: “Our High Streets sustain numerous jobs and livelihoods across the Highlands and Islands.

“They are a linchpin of community life and it’s so important that we do everything we can to secure their future.  So I would urge shoppers to “Love Local” and keep supporting their local High Street.”

More on the campaign here: https://lovelocal.scot/scotland-loves-local/

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will return to the Isle of Lewis for its third year from Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 February, with the first programme announcement due on Thursday 15 October.

Ahead of the announcement, the festival has launched a fresh search for striking night-time photography to showcase as part of its 2021 programme.

The winners of the Dark Skies 2021 Photography Competition will be invited to  exhibit their work throughout the festival in February, as well as receiving a festival pass with free access to events throughout the programme. The competition is open to photographers from anywhere, although the images must have been taken in the Hebrides.

To enter the competition, please send a maximum of two photos by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before our competition deadline of 21 December – with the longest night of the year - and tell us where in the Hebrides it was taken. Images attached to emails should be no more than 6mb each.

The two-week arts and astronomy festival is set to be a key event in An Lanntair’s winter programme, as one of Scotland’s most prominent island arts venues cautiously continues to welcome back local audiences and winter visitors. The 2021 festival is supported by new funding from Caledonian MacBrayne as well as Outer Hebrides LEADER, and is presented in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust, and Lews Castle College.

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “We are thrilled that the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is to return for its third year, and we are very grateful to Caledonian MacBrayne for helping to make this exciting new programme possible, as well to Outer Hebrides LEADER for their continued support. This is a hugely challenging time to be planning festivals but we are very excited by what we have put together, which will be adaptable to different lockdown scenarios to ensure the safety of our audiences and guests. We’re looking forward to sharing all of it soon – in the meantime please put Friday 5 February to Thursday 18 February in your diaries. And please send us your dark skies photography and be a part of this exciting event.”

Highlights of the first two Hebridean Dark Skies Festivals have included singer-songwriters Karine Polwart and Emma Pollock, Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott, comedian Robin Ince, children’s storyteller Andy Cannon, astronomers John Brown, Nigel Henbest and Amaury Triaud, Lewis’s first ever ‘live moon bounce’ with artist Daniela de Paulis, a Hebridean revival of acclaimed multi-media project Whatever Gets You Through The Night, arts and astronomy project Creativity and Curiosity, and food event g-Astronomy with award-winning science communicator Roberto Trotta.

Facebook www.facebook.com/anlanntair

Good news for the 'High Street' today as Appliance Town at 12 Scotland Street, Stornoway has now reopened under new management after closing in January.

The closure was related to health reasons and the new team says: "It was well missed and we hope that we can bring back products and services to meet the need of the Island people.

"We have a wide range of white goods available for purchase in store, on-line or by phone with free delivery in Lewis & Harris.

"We also provide a installation and recycling service, so come along and meet our team – Jamie, Craig and John Murdo – who will be glad to help you with your enquiry."

NHS Western Isles expressed cautious optimism last night (Thursday October 8) as the rise in the numbers of newly reported Covid-19 infection cases in the South Uist outbreak seems to be slowing up.

Last night, only one additional case was added to the tally, bringing the total to 46.  Previously, daily rises had sometimes been three or four additional cases, rising from 17 cases on September 28 to the present total over nine days. 

To put this in perspective for readers on Lewis and Harris, given that this outbreak is almost entirely confined to South Uist with just one related incidence in Benbecula, the same level of outbreak in Lewis and Harris would see more than 500 people ill, recovering or self-isolating at the same time.

In a further comparson, the Fallowfield district in the city of Manchester is reported to have the worst level of Covid cases in England - with 551.9 cases per 100,000.  The rate in South Uist is five times greater, at roughly 2,500 per 100,000. 

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, in his daily, late evening update which attracts thousands of views on Twitter, emphasised the need to adhere to the present restrictions - and thanked people for their efforts so far. 

He has pointed out previously that the majority of cases are mild – so mild, in some cases, that people were not reporting or reacting to the symptoms quickly enough to prevent further spread of the infection. Only one person has been reported as being in hospital, being flown to Glasgow soo after the start of the outbreak. 

Detected spread was within families, across to other households and within workplaces.  NHSWI has repeatedly emphasised the need to avoid car sharing across households - very common in areas with limited or no public transpport - but Gordon Jamieson added an emphasis on avoiding work vehicle sharing as well when he spoke on Tuesday night.

All the new cases are reported to be on the Isle of South Uist.  Although a mention was made of Benbecula as the location for one infection several days ago, all the other cases have been on South Uist, reinforcing the message of spread by households and workplaces.

The Uist outbreak was first reported a fortnight ago on Friday October 2. Before this outbreak all the seven officially confirmed cases had been unrelated ones on the Isle of Lewis.  The intense testing regime has thrown up an additional separate case in North Uist, now reported to involve a visitor and be completely unrelated to the South Uist outbreak.  That brings the total of new cases in Outer Hebrides 'second wave" to 47, compared to seven in the "first wave." For comparison, the historical figure for Shetland remains at 60 – it had its major community outbreak at the start of the pandemic emergency.

A children’s picture book written by a Stornoway cove will be ready for Kindle readers on Saturday (10 October).

Scott Macdonald, whose family are ‘townies’ from Columbia Place, now lives in Inverness, but having grown up in town and spent all his holidays with granny and papa in Stornoway, feels a strong connection to the islands.

Which is perhaps why the ex-RAF man had his ‘lightbulb moment’ when a flock of birds flying over his car in the city reminded him of the pull of the wild.

The book started off as a response to that single incident. Scott said: “Driving through the Longman estate a flock of birds flew overhead and their droppings covered my windscreen. Instead of being annoyed, the idea for the story came straight into my head.”

Henry the Heron is a tale of friendship and overcoming adversity. Henry is left behind on the Isle of Barra when him and his family are heading south for the winter. Henry must find a way to get back to his family, but there's a problem. Henry has never flown on his own before!

While writing the tale, Scott didn’t have much of an eye to publication. Publishing without pictures as an ebook at first, he asked readers to make a donation to the Archie Foundation Highland, saying: “Hopefully it will bring a smile to at least one child’s face during this pandemic.”

The Archie Foundation supports the Highland Children’s Unit at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, and it turned out that among their supporters was Rebecca Truman of Primal Studios – a children’s book illustrator.

Scott said: “The book was without pictures, as I can’t draw for toffee. Rebecca’s illustrations are just incredible – she’s a very talented artist who has brought this story to life.”

The paperback of the book, published by Primal Studios, is now ready for immediate order, priced at £6.94, and the Kindle version will be released on Saturday priced £2.48, at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Henry-Heron-Heading-Scott-MacDonald-ebook/dp/B08J3KK23J/ 

Donations can still be made to Archie’s Foundation at  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/scott-macdonald11

Sandwick entrepreneur Megan Macdonald has been shortlisted for not one, but two awards, it was announced on Tuesday (6 October).

Her name’s on the list for the rising star of the year and for resilient woman of the year, in the seventh annual awards to be presented by Business Women Scotland.

Megan’s being rewarded for nerves of steel and a heart of gold during lockdown, when she was quick to regroup and decide where her priorities lay.

That was first with her community, as she dedicated a huge amount of time and energy early in lockdown to a successful online auction that raised £69,000 for Bethesda care home.

But Megan then pushed on to look for new markets and new products for her business, Sandwick Bay Candles, forging partnerships that will see candles, diffusers and wax melts made in the Hebrides reaching customers all over the country.

Megan’s nominated in the seventh annual Business Women of Scotland awards – which, of course, will be going virtual for the first time this year. The final is on 8 November.

Lynne Kennedy MBE, founder of Business Women Scotland, said: “With the effect coronavirus has had on the world and the economy, it has never been a more important time to celebrate success.

“The awards mark the achievements of the growing number of women-led businesses and recognise the entrepreneurial talents of women across Scotland.

“Importantly, the awards also help to create more business role models to inspire the next generation of leaders. These awards provide the perfect platform for women across all sectors in Scotland to showcase the vital contribution they are making to our business ecosystem.”

Megan is pictured on the day her James Street workshop re-opened, with COVID restrictions, in July.

 

What tropical beach is this?

That was the question posed yesterday (Wednesday 7 October) by the flight crew of a C-17 Globemaster transporter plane from 99 Squadron RAF, challenging their followers on Twitter to guess where in the world they were.

Guesses ranged from Grimsby and Luton to Belize and Akrotiri in Cyprus, but the majority of dedicated RAF-followers recognised the distinctive approach to Stornoway airport, on a glorious afternoon of sunshine.

The RAF Globemaster is just one of the impressive pieces of military hardware on display above and around the Western Isles at the moment, as exercise Joint Warrior 20-2 continues.

An RAF Dauphin helicopter and a Twinstar light aircraft were at the airport earlier in the week, operating in support of Joint Warrior, with sightings of Poseidon sub-hunters over the Minch as part of the current submarine exercises.

French and Danish warships are among those operating in the Minch today (Thursday) in support of submarine hunting activity in all areas around the Western Isles.

Live firing at the Qinetiq range is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week (13 and 14 October) and GPS denial exercises continue this afternoon from 2pm, on Friday and on Saturday.

Meanwhile, RAF Lossiemouth confirmed on Monday (5 October) that flying is to return to their airbase from next Monday (12 October) after the first stage of a complex refurbishment programme which included resurfacing their runways.

Operational from Lossiemouth – and likely to be spotted over Stornoway – will be three Poseidon MR4 sub-hunters, a quick reaction alert (QRA) squadron and Typhoon FGR4 jets relocating back to the base after temporary operation from RAF Kinloss.

The pictures show the view from the cockpit of a C-17 Globemaster yesterday (No 99 Squadron RAF), and the Twinstar and RAF Dauphin at Stornoway airport on Monday (Jason Spinks).

 

A new set of traffic lights are going to be added to the road-map of Stornowway as part of road improvements associated with the ongoing Lewis Residential Care project at Goathill, Stornoway.

Essential road improvement and drainage works are planned for parts of Perceval Road and Columbia Place with work starting on Monday 12 October which will last for approximately 13 weeks and will consist mainly of:

  • Minor ground investigation works and drainage installation
  • Widening of the current carriageway
  • Construction of a bus stop layby and shelter
  • Installation of new street lighting columns and traffic light system
  • Full resurfacing of the road spanning from 50 to 65 Perceval Road and both junctions of Columbia Place

When completed, the new road layout and traffic management measures, which will cover the area including the entrance to the new care facility, Sinclair Avenue and the junction of Perceval Road and Columbia Place, will enhance road safety for pedestrians and road users in the area.

Pedestrian and vehicular access will be maintained at all times. Parking on Perceval Road will not be permitted during the site working hours of 8:00 to 19:30 Monday to Friday and Saturdays 8:00 to 16:30.

The Comhairle says it would like to thank residents and road users in advance for their patience and co-operation during this period of disruption.

We need to remain vigilant and keep observing the rules in the Coronavirus outbreak. "If we behave irresponsibly then an inevitable consequence is a higher risk of infection and outbreak, so we should all continue to act with a degree of common sense and not become over-complacent given the low infection rates we have hitherto enjoyed."

That's the view today (Thursday October 8) of Councillor Roddie Mackay, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.  In his regular Statement he writes:

"Following on from the first full week of council service committees…we completed the ‘set’ last week with a meeting of the Audit & Scrutiny Committee, which is chaired by Councillor Angus Morrison from Balallan, assisted by his Vice-Chair Cllr Iain Macaulay from Laxdale. This Committee primarily commissions and reviews reports from our internal audit team regarding processes, practice and procedures across the council. Policy & Resources Committee which I chair myself, ably assisted by Cllr Alastair Macleod from Point, also met, to consider all financial matters across the entire Comhairle programme. Later that day the full Council sits and it is of course chaired by the Convenor, Cllr Norman A Macdonald from Uig, and is attended by all council members. The primary focus in committees recently has been the financial challenges facing us but there is also lots of work being done to maintain, and indeed improve, services where possible.

"The occurrence of a number of cases of COVID-19 in Uist has been a concern but so far –- thankfully –- there have been no severe cases and it is really encouraging to see the way the council and public health have worked together to respond quickly and effectively to this outbreak. I would like to pay particular tribute to the staff in the care sector who have worked selflessly to cope with the inevitable strain on the service.

"The outbreak itself brings a reminder that we need to remain vigilant and keep observing the rules. If we behave irresponsibly then an inevitable consequence is higher risk of infection and outbreak, so we should all continue to act with a degree of common sense and not become over complacent given the low infection rates we have hitherto enjoyed. If we can demonstrate that containment and management of the outbreak locally can be achieved swiftly, it does support the case for some in-island restrictions being eased so that we can move more freely within our communities. We will see how the situation evolves and we continue our discussions on these issues with both Scottish Government and Public Health, and indeed we had a meeting with Prof Jason Leitch, the Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse and others on this matter just last week.

"Ongoing business in the last week has seen myself and our Communities Director, Calum Iain Maciver, meet with HIE leadership to agree joint work in a number of areas going forward; our Chairman of Development Donald Crichton meeting with the Islands Minister to drive on the energy ambitions for our islands and to try and find improved prospects for Arnish Yard; Cllr Uisdean Robertson our Chairman of Transportation met with, amongst others, Transport Scotland, to press on a number of issues, including the challenges in the pier building projects and to ensure the Ullapool Stornoway overnight freight sailing is undertaken by the Isle of Lewis whilst the Loch Seaforth is in dry dock later this month.

"Earlier this week the Comhairle embarked on another ‘first’ by starting to conduct Community Conversations online. Rather than simply abandon the community participation in the budget setting process just because we cannot meet in person, we are trying to engage online. It works, and is a good way of getting our message out and of course as it has limited access we are ensuring communities share their say in a range of other ways by submitting their views directly online or via their local council members. There are a wide range of communications and press releases and useful information items on the Comhairle website and I would encourage you to share anything you might find useful with those who you know may not be able to access it. You can, of course, still e-mail in your views via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. As well as the website of course there is the Comhairle Facebook page and it is good to see that many are still tuning in to the online cèilidhs and the most recent one hosted by Calum Martin was another excellent event, maintaining the great standard we have enjoyed since these cèilidhs began.

"I meet many people who continue to be positive and to be thankful for so many reasons but I do also meet some who are finding it difficult and wearisome so I think, as we all did earlier in this pandemic which stopped us in our tracks, it is more important than ever that we look out for each other. Let’s try and maintain a positive outlook, and let’s ensure we encourage in whatever way we can, those who we know to be struggling."

 

Two new cases of Covid-19 infection have been confirmed in the South Uist outbreak - which now totals 45, said NHS Western Isles last night  (Wednesday October 7)

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, in what has become a daily, late evening update which attracts thousands of views on Twitter, emphasised the need to adhere to the present restrictions - and the harsher ones which start tomorrow.

His emphasis on enforcement last night followed the more upbeat message of the previous night when he gave more details about how their Test & Protect process was working. 

He pointed out then that the majority of cases were mild – so mild, in some cases, that people were not reporting or reacting to the symptoms quickly enough to prevent further spread of the infection. He pleaded that people react more quickly to the mild symptoms and self-isolate before seeking a test. 

He said that detected spread was within families, across to other households and within workplaces.  NHSWI has repeatedly emphasised the need to avoid car sharing across households - very common in areas with limited or no public transpport - but Gordon Jamieson added an emphasis on avoiding work vehicle sharing as well when he spoke on Tuesday night.

All the new cases are reported to be on the Isle of South Uist.  Although a mention was made of Benbecula as the location for at least one infection three days ago, all the other cases have been on South Uist, reinforcing the message of spread by households and workplaces.

The Uist outbreak was first reported almost a fortnight ago on Friday October 2. Because of the time sometimes taken for symptoms to show - if the person has symptoms - it is only now that the scale of the original range of infections can be known fully…and then there is the need to track and trace all the later contacts. 

Before this outbreak all the seven officially confirmed cases had been unrelated ones on the Isle of Lewis.  The intense testing regime has thrown up an additional separate case in North Uist, now reported to involve a visitor and be completely unrelated to the South Uist outbreak.  That brings the total of new cases in Outer Hebrides 'second wave" to 46, compared to seven in the "first wave." For comparison, the historical figure for Shetland remains at 60 – it had its major community outbreak at the start of the pandemic emergency. If the Outer Hebrides had been affected to the same extent as the mainland, the number of officially-recognised local cases would be at least three times greater than at present.  

Na Hearadh Agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch by Election - Thursday 8 October 2020

WHAT VOTERS NEED TO KNOW FOR POLLING DAY

Malcolm Burr, Returning Officer, is reminding voters in the Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch By Election what they need to know to have their say on Polling Day:

  • Polling Stations will be open from 7.00am to 10.00pm
  • Details of the Polling Stations for Na h-Eileanan an Iar can be found on the Election Office Webpage.
  • Electors may wish to consider avoiding peak times and attend Polling Stations at quiet periods such as mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
  • Polling Station staff will give you your Ballot Paper and answer any questions you have regarding the Electoral process.
  • If you applied for a Postal Vote, it must be received by the Returning Officer by 10pm on Thursday 8 October 2020. If you have left it too late to post, you can drop it in at any Polling Station in the Ward or at the Council Offices, Sandwick Road, Stornoway.
  • Vote using numbers and rank the candidates in order of choice using 1, 2, and 3. Put the number 1 in the voting box next to your first choice, a 2 in the voting box next to your second choice, a 3 in the voting box next to your third choice. You can make as many or as few choices as you wish.

The following additional hygiene measures will be in force at this By-Election:

  • No more than one elector/or family group will be permitted in the Polling Station at any one time (a member of staff will be on duty at each Polling Station to assist with queue management and maintenance of social distancing).
  • Electors are encouraged to wear face coverings and will be asked to maintain social distancing.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available at the entrance to each polling station and on exit.
  • Please leave the Polling Station as soon as you have cast your vote.
  • Each Polling Station will have been deep cleaned, prior to Polling Day.
  • Individual Ballot Pencils will be issued to each elector (electors may bring their own pencil/pen)
  • Polling booths will be santitised after each elector has voted.
  • Regular cleaning of door handles, light switches, corridor areas, etc will take place throughout the day.

 

A youth who took a car from Stornoway has been charged after driving it into a river and abandoning the vehicle.

The 15-year-old boy was accompanied by friends, according to reports, and one of them filmed the escapade for social media as police tried to bring them to a halt on the Pentland Road yesterday evening (Tuesday 6 October).

The young people left the car after it entered the river beside the road near Carloway. One youth was later charged with road traffic offences.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We can confirm that a 15-year-old male youth has been charged with a number of road traffic offences in the Carloway area on Tuesday, 6 October.

"A report will be submitted to the relevant authorities in due course."

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is calling on all constituents turning 18 this month and beyond to make sure that they access money put aside for them in the former Child Trust Fund (CTF).

For every child born from 1 September 2002 until the Conservatives closed the scheme in January 2011, the Labour government invested £250 in a fund that only they can access.

The money went into an account their parents could open with a financial services provider, using a voucher sent out by the government. For children whose parents didn’t use their voucher, the government set up an account for them.

Mr MacNeil said: “If you are turning 18 this month or any time until 2029, you can access this fund and I would encourage everyone to take action on this.

“The problem is that not everyone knows it is there because the Conservatives stopped paying into it and then cancelled it altogether.

“Now more than ever, every £ counts and don’t miss out on cash that is yours.”

A Child Trust Fund (CTF) was a long-term tax-free savings account for children.

https://www.gov.uk/child-trust-funds/find-a-child-trust-fund

If you’re looking for your own trust fund, you’ll need your National Insurance number.

HMRC will send you details of the Child Trust Fund provider by post within 3 weeks of receiving your request.

Fill in the form online at  https://www.gov.uk/child-trust-funds

You’ll need a Government Gateway user ID and password. If you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you fill in the online form.

If you’re a parent looking for your child’s trust fund, you’ll need either:

The chief executive of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Malcolm Burr, has been giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee at a live session this morning (Wednesday 7 October).

Mr Burr is one of the local government representatives called to speak at a virtual session of the local government and communities committee, which started at 9.30am.

He joins representatives of local authorities in Glasgow, Fife, Aberdeen and Dumfries and Galloway, as well as COSLA’s resources spokesperson Gail Macgregor, all of whom will speak before the committee, answering questions.

The committee is discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local government finances, including the effects of local lockdowns and the financial impact on reserves and capital projects.

Speaking ahead of the session, committee convener James Dornan MSP, said: "Covid-19 has impacted on every aspect of Scottish society and this has been felt acutely by local authorities.

"This session will help inform the committee on councils' ability to provide vital public services during an immensely challenging period.

“The committee heard claims last week about a potential £1 billion budget shortfall facing local government, and the financial challenges facing councils are something we want to explore in further detail this week - especially from COSLA, which speaks for the whole sector.

"With all of Scotland now under more stringent measures, we are eager to hear from Aberdeen City Council on how they were affected by their local lockdown. We'll also be hearing directly from an island council – Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - and a mainly rural council – Dumfries and Galloway - about how the crisis has affected them. "

 

Scotland’s airline, Loganair, has warned of more flight changes on the way in an advance statement issued to all customers today (Wednesday 7 October).

Although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out a nationwide travel ban, public confidence in travel is beginning to drop and falling numbers on board domestic flights are driving the airline to consider a revised timetable.

Ahead of the First Minister’s expected statement this afternoon, Loganair made an announcement this morning.

They said: “As Government restrictions around the UK continue to tighten, we’ve had to adjust our flight schedules to adapt to customer demands. The majority of our customers will be unaffected, yet we recognise the changes will cause inconvenience for some.

“We’re grateful to all of our customers for their patience and support as we continue to chart a flight path through the extraordinary circumstances in which we all find ourselves. “We hope to welcome you aboard one of our flights very soon, but above all, all of us here at Loganair trust that you remain safe and in good health.”

The announcement unleashed a wave of discontent from passengers who have made advance bookings only to see the flights they selected cancelled or postponed to unsuitable dates.

One Stornoway traveller said: “(Booked) flights from Stornoway to Edinburgh. Flight times changed four times, then cancelled and automatically booked onto Glasgow flights which are unsuitable. No flights at all to Edinburgh until 29 March next year now!”

A Loganair customer service spokesperson responded: “We know it can be very inconvenient and for that we are truly sorry. However, we have a responsibility to ensure the airline continues to operate during this on-going period of uncertainty as best it can for customers and the future of Loganair.”

 

Lewis band Astrid are the latest artists to see their plans for touring devastated by the pandemic, announcing this morning (Wednesday 7 October) that tour dates in January and February 2021 are cancelled.

Band members Willie Campbell and Charlie Clark were booked to take their ‘perfect pop’ music to venues in London, Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as gigs all over Scotland, between 22 Jan and 7 February 2021.

In a statement on their Facebook page this morning they said: “First, thank you very much to all of you that have shown us support, goodwill and love since we reformed.

“As you all know it’s been a really terrible time for everyone involved in the music industry, unfortunately we’ve been affected by it as much as everyone else, and sadly, it’s come to the point that we feel we need to cancel the upcoming tour.

“The uncertainty has been throwing a major spanner in the works for making it happen the way we wanted it to. We’ve decided to come back with new music which will definitely be followed by a tour once we are all out at the other end of these strange and stressful days.

“We’d like to sincerely thank all the venues we were due to play, thank you to all of them for their patience and perseverance, we wish them all the best for the months ahead. We’re really looking forward to the day we can play a show for you all again.”

Astrid’s critically-acclaimed recent album Fall, Stand, Dance, their first for 15 years, was nominated for the Scottish Album of the Year award in July and both musicians have been active during lockdown with solo projects.

Willie has been a favourite on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s lockdown ceilidhs from his home in Tolsta, and his solo album, Nothing’s Going to Bring Me Down, reached no 2 in the iTunes singer songwriter chart.

Meanwhile Charlie’s eagerly awaited next solo album, Late Night Drinking, is due for release in March on the Creation 23 label.

The band signed off their post on a positive note as they said: “We were on course to have our best year since reforming. A cracking wee team has formed around us with multiple tours, festivals and songs for a new album in the bag. We’re working with some great people, we’re so looking forward to getting underway again properly. Keep in touch folks and stay safe.”

 

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar risk a backlash from Harris people on the day their ‘community conversation’ is due to be gathering views from the people of the island.

Tonight’s (Wednesday 7 October) consultation exercise was moved from Thursday at the last moment, with a change of schedule announced at lunchtime on Monday (5 October).

The online events are designed to maintain social distance, while opening up the debate on budgets, Crown Estate spending and service delivery to everyone in the Western Isles.

But community newsletter De Tha Dol yesterday (Tuesday) issued a stinging open rebuke to the Comhairle, drawing attention to the barriers put in the way of would-be participants in the process.

Their Tweet read: “CnES, regarding community conversations, after a misspelled registration link, a change of date and closing registration yesterday noon, is there any way people in Harris can still register to take part? Changes happening faster than folk can process…”

The Harris community conversation is due to begin online at 6pm this evening (Wednesday) and is open by email invitation after online registration. Registration closed at 12 noon on Monday (5 October) – six minutes before the new date and time for the Harris meeting was published.

Stornoway police are asking for public help after a theft from a parked car in Stornoway town centre yesterday (Tuesday 6 October).

The silver VW Beetle was parked in the South Beach car park at about 12.30pm, when a grey and orange Simms shoulder pack was taken from the car.

Any witnesses to the theft, or anyone that may have been seen someone acting suspiciously is asked to contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111, quoting incident number NH1146/20.

 

Landrover damaged in collision

A Landrover Discovery parked in the Spar carpark in Stornoway was damaged by a collision with another vehicle early this week.

Police are asking for any witnesses to the incident, which they are classifying as a road traffic collision. The damage, to the driver’s side of the vehicle, happened between Sunday (4 October) and yesterday (Tuesday 6 October).

Any witnesses to the collision, or anyone who was parked within the SPAR carpark and may have seen the vehicle in question is asked to pass information to Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they wish to remain anonymous, quoting incident number NH 1150/20.

 

The entertainment capital of Ness, Ness FC Social Club, has become the latest victim of coronavirus restrictions and is to close for the foreseeable future.

Members of the social club met by Zoom on Monday evening (5 October) to discuss the future of the club in the light of current, and changing, restrictions on the number of individuals who can be seated together in social and hospitality venues.

Members took the decision to temporarily close the club, from 31 October until it is viable to re-open again.

The news has been greeted with sadness by local residents and by musicians who have performed in the club. Iain ‘Costello’ Maciver said: “Sorry to see Ness Social Club closing, hopefully temporarily. Played there at the opening night and also at the tenth anniversary of the club.”

In a statement released on social media after the meeting, representatives said: “The closure is considered essential to ensure that the club’s reserves are protected. The club will then re-open once the coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted and it is viable to gather together again.”

It’s hoped that some virtual and online events will continue, including the monthly ‘open the box’ superdraw which helps to raise funds.

Picture: Ness FC Social Club.

The Church of Scotland Presbytery of Lewis says it has been approached by a large number of parents and teachers who are gravely concerned about the content of the Relationship, Sexual Health and Parenthood [RSHP] materials which Comhairle nan Eilean Siar intends to introduce in response to Scottish Government Guidance.

Lewis Presbytery is opposed to the use of rshp.org materials as the default resource in teaching the Personal & Social Education Curriculum because:

  1. the content, and age and stage appropriateness of much of the rshp.org materials approved by the Scottish Government will confuse and prematurely sexualise young minds
  2. the rshp.org materials are being translated into Gaelic by Bòrd na Gàidhlig in conjunction with NHS Eilean Siar while there are acceptable, alternative RSHP materials presently available to English stream pupils. It is unlikely that they will be available in translation to pupils in Gaelic Medium Education.  As a result, Gaelic Medium pupils will have no alternative but the translated rshp.org materials.  Pupil withdrawal from such classes will, therefore, be more likely
  3. while the removal of homophobic and transphobic bullying from schools is an aspiration Presbytery fully supports, there is the very real danger that it will be replaced by heterophobic and faithophobic bullying against those who are unable to ‘embrace’ an ideology that goes against their conscience, morality, and/or faith position. Pupil withdrawal from such classes will, therefore, be more likely
  4. the liberty teachers have to use alternatives to the rshp.org resource may be lost if, as the LGBTI Inclusive Education Implementation Group urges, legislative options are introduced should insufficient progress in local delivery of LGBT inclusive education take place by the end of the current Parliamentary term.

Lewis Presbytery seeks to work collaboratively with the Comhairle for the well-being of all children and young people in the Western Isles and pledges to support Elected Members and staff in prayer.  

It acknowledges the Comhairle’s nationally recognised work in relation to educational innovation evidenced by the success of E-sgoil and urges an equally innovative and dynamic educational innovation in the area of RSHP resources. 

Other RSHP materials exist which satisfy Education Scotland and can be tailored to our island culture and the Presbytery pledges to support the Comhairle in this endeavour.

Three new cases of Covid-19 infection have been confirmed in the south Uist outbreak - which now totals 43, NHS Western Isles confirmed last night  (Tuesday October 6)

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, speaking on Twitter, gave more details about their Test & Protect process was working. 

He pointed out that the majority of cases were mild – so mild, in fact, that people were not reporting or reacting to them quickly enough to prevent further spread of the infection. He pleaded that people react more quickly to the mild symptoms and self-isolate before seeking a test. 

He said that detected spread was within families, across to other households and within workplaces.  NHSWI has repeatedly emphasised the need to avoid car sharing across households - very common in areas with limited or no public transpport - but Gordon Jamieson added an emphasis on avoiding work vehicle sharing as well.

The Uist outbreak was first reported on Friday October 2. Before this outbreak - which is regarded as the first one involving community transmission of the virus - all the seven officially confirmed cases had been on the Isle of Lewis.  According to reports in South Uist, the original infection spread began from a single social event held locally. 

The intense testing regime has thrown up an additional separate case in North Uist, now reported to involve a visitor and be completely unrelated to the South Uist outbreak. 

New information displays by the NHS nationally show the speed of the new infections in each area. Earlier displays showed historical totals which gave no idea of change over time. These are measured in positive cases per 100,000 population.

(https://public.tableau.com/profile/phs.covid.19#!/vizhome/COVID-19DailyDashboard_15960160643010/Overview)

That brings the total of new cases in Outer Hebrides 'second wave" to 44, compared to seven in the "first wave." For comparison, the historical figure for Shetland remains at 60 – it had its major community outbreak at the start of the pandemic emergency. If the Outer Hebrides had been affected to the same extent as the mainland, the number of local cases would be around three times greater than at present.  

The annual Blythswood shoebox appeal is now underway, although on a more low-key basis than in previous years.

Brightly wrapped Christmas boxes filled with useful items and gifts for people living in some of Europe’s poorest countries have been sent in huge numbers from the Western Isles over many years.

But restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic mean less opportunities for group collections, which often yield dozens of boxes from schools and churches.

In a statement issued yesterday (Monday 5 October) Lewis Blythswood said: “The Blythswood shoe box appeal will be held this year in Lewis and Harris, with different guidelines due to the Covid pandemic.

Leaflets are available from the Blythswood charity shops in Balallan, Ness and Stornoway or online at https://blythswood.org/shoeboxappeal/. Shoeboxes are to be delivered only at specific dates and times, to the appeal centre at the back entrance of the old Co-op building on Kenneth Street, Stornoway, opposite Lodge Fortrose, which is being used thanks to D R Macleod. 

The collection point will be open on Thursday 5 November  between 3pm and 6pm, Friday 6 November from 3pm to 7pm and in the morning of Saturday 7 November, between 10 am and 12 noon, when the appeal closes.

This year shoeboxes must not be taken into council premises or schools, although in some parts of the island arrangements will be made to collect them from a local central point. 

Blythswood said: “When accessing the appeal centre, please wear masks, keep to social distancing and keep to the rules. A limited number of pre-wrapped empty shoeboxes are available from the Blythswood charity shop in Kenneth Street, Stornoway.

“For further information please contact co-ordinators Dorothy Kennedy on 07733 401254, Chris Martin on 01851 706143 or Charlie Nicolson on 07717 816476.”

Once collected, the shoeboxes will be despatched to Blythswood’s highland depot at Evanton, near Inverness, where they will be sorted and checked before being sent out to Eastern European countries where the need is greatest.

The picture shows a recipient of last year’s shoebox donations (Blythswood).

 

Essence of Harris, Scotland’s fastest-growing hand-poured candle and home fragrance company, secures international approval with two award wins at New York trade show.

NY NOW, one of the largest home and lifestyle gift trade shows in the US, which identifies the trendsetters of the future, has awarded Essence of Harris the “Emerging Brand” and “Community Impact” awards at its Autumn trade event.

Jamie McGowan, founder Essence of Harris, said: “In February this year we were wowed by the reaction we received when we were at the NY NOW trade show. Our range celebrates Scotland’s natural heritage and offers a glimpse into life on the remote and rugged Western Isles, which proved to be a big hit in the US. The autumn NY NOW trade show was virtual this year, but we still felt the ripples of positivity about the brand shine through when we exhibited.

“Our passion for showcasing Scottish provenance and craftsmanship has always been at the forefront of everything we do. We use only soy wax and the finest ingredients.  Our aim is to share the tranquillity of the Isle of Harris with customers near and far so securing this accolade from the USA is a huge coup for us.

“We want everyone to enjoy a piece of the Hebrides in their home so we hope that these award wins will help us on our journey to expanding the Essence of Harris brand across the globe.”

Sandra Kehoe, NY NOW Sr. Exhibitor Manager: “Every now and then a brand emerges onto the scene that captivates consumers with an enchanting brand story, breathtaking imagery and an exceptional product experience in equal measure.

“From their luxurious candles and home fragrances to their Tartan collection of throws, scarves, bags and more the Essence of Harris brand has made a huge splash in the US market and is a fan favourite of the NY NOW community.”

The Emerging Brand award celebrates a new brand on the rise and champions a new generation of makers and creators who have recently launched innovative products that tell a compelling story across their platforms. This award honours the spirit of creativity and innovation in product, storytelling, and being of the moment.

The Community Impact award celebrates the change-makers, those making a positive impact on their communities and those who have reinvented their business models or pivoted to create products.

Essence of Harris was founded in 2015 by partners Jamie and Deenie McGowan. With sustainability in mind, they sought to produce high quality, natural products that also allowed for the creation of stable, year-round employment for the younger generation of islanders who were moving away for opportunities and employment.

Essence of Harris hand pours, packages and fulfils everything in its factory in Tarbert on Harris.

The full range is available online at www.essenceofharris.com and instore at their shops in Harris and Princes Square Glasgow.

The company is also exporting worldwide to USA, China, Thailand and across Europe.

More than 100 fishing boats and their crews and owners on the islands will soon run into a wall of post-Brexit red tape if they don't progress fast with a new registration scheme - and still want to export produce to the remaning EU countries.

Local fishing vessel owners are being reminded that they need to register as ‘food businesses’, and have their vessel inspected by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to enable catch to be exported, either directly or indirectly, to Europe after EU-exit is completed on December 31.

Owners of Outer Hebrides registered vessels are urged to contact Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar’s Environmental Health team to register their vessels and make arrangements for their vessel to be inspected. This is a legal requirement for those vessels who intend to export their catch, either directly or indirectly, to any EU Member State after the end of the ‘transition period’ on 31st December 2020.

Exemptions apply if your catch is intended either for personal consumption, or it does not exceed 25kg and is for direct sale from the quayside.

Vessel owners are responsible for this registration process, and failure to do so may mean that their catches cannot be exported to EU member states at the end of the transition period.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “90 fishing vessels have already registered and environmental health have carried out over 70 inspections. However, there are over 200 vessels  operating in the islands and we are reminding owners to get registered so inspections can be arranged before the end of the year.”

More details and a registration form are available www.cne-siar.gov.uk/fishingvessels  or by emailing environmental health at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Lochs teenage goalkeeper Rachael Johnstone made a big debut on Sunday – stepping up to the Celtic women’s first team for the first time, in a pre-season friendly against Hearts women.

It was Rachael’s first game since 8 March, with lockdown interrupting what was set to be her breakthrough season, but she made the experience count and saw her team leave the field 5-nil winners.

Rachael lives in Ballallan and goes to Sir E Scott school in Tarbert, and she has, according to her mum Rhona, been working hard for this moment.

Rhona said: “She’s finally achieved her dream and one step further in her goal to become a professional footballer. She has worked incredibly hard during lockdown, and since, so really deserves this.”

Celtic Women FC are next scheduled to meet Hearts at the Oriam National Performance Centre on 1 November, COVID permitting. Before that they are due to re-start league competition against Glasgow City on Sunday 18 October.

Picture shows Rachael in her team strip ahead of Sunday’s game (Rhona Johnstone).

 

The Comhairle has recently approved its Local Transport Strategy 2020-2030, its first since 2000.

The strategy is currently on the Comhairle’s website for a period of public consultation until the end of October 2020.

The strategy is at the following link:

https://cne-siar.gov.uk/have-your-say/consultations/2020/outer-hebrides-local-transport-strategy/

Comments on the strategy can be sent to Anne Murray at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,  thanked consultant Naomi Bremner and HITRANS for their assistance in developing the strategy and stated that “this is a comprehensive piece of work which encapsulates and sets out the Comhairle's transport priorities and aspirations for the next ten years.

"Clearly, there are objectives within it that the Comhairle and partners can do at their own hand and there are those that can only happen with the support of UK and Scottish Government.

"Transport, as an economic driver, features highly in the National Islands Plan and while external funding is always a challenge, particularly in the current financial climate, it is hoped that the forthcoming Shared Prosperity Fund can have some significant impact in maintaining and developing the islands’ transportation infrastructure”.

Moldova’s National Philharmonic Orchestra headquarters and a field of 100 beehives have been destroyed by fire in the past month – but if it weren’t for emergency equipment from Stornoway, much more property and even lives could have been lost.

Yesterday (Monday 5 October) Stornoway firefighters learnt that equipment which was last year driven 2,200 miles by them – from Stornoway to Moldova – has protected communities and buildings during two major incidents this September.

A team from the Scottish Emergency Rescue Association (SERA) went to Nisporeni in Moldova in September 2019, taking with them reconditioned fire appliances, ambulances and a huge consignment of emergency equipment including protective clothing and breathing apparatus for firefighters.

On 24 September, some of the firefighters trained by SERA, and equipment once used to fight fires in Lewis, helped battle a catastrophic blaze at the Moldovan National Philharmonic Orchestra’s headquarters in Chisinau.

The previous week, on 18 September, Stornoway fire engine ‘Effie’ helped 29 firefighters to extinguish a fire on the hills of Cetireni village.

Crews from Ungheni and Nisporeni, also trained by SERA, succeeded in stopping the spread of the wildfire, which threatened two villages and destroyed 100 bee hives.

Knowing that the equipment and training has been so useful has partly offset the disappointment felt by Stornoway’s SERA volunteers, according to Ian Murray, who has been to Moldova seven times in all.

He said: “Everybody at SERA is numb with disappointment that we can’t travel as we intended to this year.

“In 2020 SERA planned to take emergency equipment to Ukraine, but it simply isn’t possible. With the number of countries that we have to pass through and the risks that involves, it just can’t be done.

“All of us use our own leave time to make the trip and, although it is enjoyable, if we had to enter self-isolation both here and in Ukraine it would mean six weeks of work time lost.”

Even during the year of COVID, SERA has purchased an 18-foot box lorry, now being set up to use as a transporter for carrying emergency items to needy countries. That will be coming to Stornoway later this year to collect some of the aid items already gathered in Lewis.

Ian said: “Scottish Fire and Rescue regularly upgrades and renews equipment and the redundant equipment is still useable, so we set this aside for SERA missions.

“When people leave the service, there are tunics, gloves, boots and leggings which are left with us, so those can also go.

“I must also say to the people of Lewis and Harris that the money to buy this truck has come from people putting their change into our collecting tubs all around the island. We must have collected £1,000 from these in the past year, so I want to thank everybody who has given us even a few pennies.”

The pictures show firemen with breathing apparatus and the Moldovan Philharmonic hall ablaze, and Effie the fire appliance from Stornoway beside a field of 100 beehives which were destroyed. Pictures from Moldovan news station Reporter de Garda and from SERA.

 

The number of cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the south Uist outbreak now totals 40, NHS Western Isles confirmed last night  (Monday October 5)

And the testing regime has thrown up an additional separate case in North Uist. That brings the total of new cases in Outer Hebrides 'second wave" to 41, compared to seven in the "first wave." 

The Uist outbreak was first detected eleven days ago yesterday (Friday October 2). Before this outbreak - which is regarded as the first one involving community transmission of the virus - all the seven officially confirmed cases had been on the Isle of Lewis.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, speaking on Twitter, emphasised the need to slow the spread of the virus by following the guidelines.

NHS Western Isles has launched a new infection-control video - on https://vimeo.com/464916296 

New information displays by the NHS nationally show the speed of the new infections in each area. Earlier displays showed historical totals which gave no idea of change over time. These are measured in positive cases per 100,000 population.

The historical figure for Shetland remains at 60 – it had its major community outbreak at the start of the pandemic emergency. 

(https://public.tableau.com/profile/phs.covid.19#!/vizhome/COVID-19DailyDashboard_15960160643010/Overview)

 

 

Residents in the Western Isles are warned again to be on the look out for both telephone and internet scams which are becoming more incessant and more cunning.

Nationally, since the lockdown, criminals have been exploiting the public's increased reliance on technology, and unfortunately the Western Isles have not escaped this trend.

Recent scams reported locally include HMRC, TV licencing, DVLA, Amazon, broadband and banking scams.

An example of a scam communication reported on the Isle of Skye

In a recent complaint, a resident was supposedly telephoned by their internet provider.

The caller asked if they had been experiencing slow broadband speeds, the call was then  transferred through to a "technician".

After around 40 minutes of going through various tests on the laptop, the complainant was told that they were entitled to just under £500 in compensation for slow internet.

The resident  was then asked for banking details in order to process their refund. At this stage the complainant realised this was a scam and finished the call.

Several minutes later the laptop screen came back on with a live picture of the resident's home interior.  m The "technician" had been given remote access to the laptop whilst pretending to be checking the broadband speeds.

Trading Standards advise that you should not engage with such calls, especially if you are asked to input any details onto your laptop. All of these scams are devised to get personal details including passwords and bank accounts.

If you think you may have given payment details to a scammer, you should contact your bank without delay. Scams can be reported to Trading Standards on 01851 822694.

In a week of celebrity-spotting for the islands, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Amongst the creels on Leverburgh pier, there was an absolutely fabulous sight this morning, as glamorous favourite Joanna Lumley dropped by at the Butty Bus for a coffee.

Butty Bus owner Chris Ross said: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. Absolutely Fabulous.”

Ms Lumley was coming off the Sound of Harris ferry and is reportedly heading north through the islands today.

Pictures: Joanna meeting admirers and enjoying a coffee (The Butty Bus).

 

New restrictions have been imposed on care home visits across the entire Western Isles.

Care Home Visiting has been suspended across both North and South Uist in light of the COVID 19 transmission rate across Uist,

This will be reviewed on a weekly basis with visiting being reinstated at the earliest opportunity, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

For Barra, Harris and Lewis, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is reverting to having a single, dedicated visitor for each resident across its Care Homes.

This is a precautionary measure, as although there is no evidence of sustained transmission across these three areas, the service does want to ensure it strikes the right balance of protecting residents from the potential risk of COVID entering the Care Home whilst also allowing residents to retain family and social connections.

"We will review this arrangement as and when circumstances dictate i.e. it is evident that the transmission rate is increasing or there is no evident transmission."

The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar statement thanks "residents and families for their continued support and patience."

 

Lews Castle College UHI are delighted to announce a new partnership with former Digby Chick Head Chef James Mackenzie.

James’ new role as Development Chef is part of Lews Castle College UHI’s new approach to support and develop new opportunities for the local community hit by the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

The College are seeking to offer a range of new training experiences in the Professional Cookery and Hospitality sectors to directly meet the needs of the local industry and so increase the resilience of the local economy.

James’ appointment will explore a new focus on the food and drink sector locally and lead to enhanced opportunities for horticulture, food technology and food and drink innovation.

James  said “…after 35 years in the industry I was looking for an opportunity to put something back into the industry locally and by training up the next generation of chefs and cooks I think I can bring my vast experience and knowledge to this initiative. The kitchens at Lews Castle College are a fantastic bespoke training facility and I cannot wait to get started."

Dr Michael Smith, Head of Department at Lews Castle College UHI commented that: “This is a great step forward in being able to begin servicing better the food and drink sector locally.

"We hope with additional on-going industry input and advice we can produce and offer a range of engaging courses for school pupils all the way up to professional chefs.

"The hospitality sector is crucial to the local economy and Lews Castle College want to offer courses that support and encourage this sector.”

 

Three candidates are lined up for the position of councillor for the Harris and South Lochs by-election, to be held on Thursday (8 October).

The position has been left vacant after councillor Finlay Cunningham stepped down earlier this year, triggering a by-election.

Voting at polling stations in Leverburgh, Tarbert, Scalpay and Gravir will take place between 7am and 10pm on Thursday, with special arrangements in place to ensure hygiene and social distancing are maintained in the first poll of the post-COVID era.

The arrangements include asking all voters to wear a face-covering and requesting that only one voter or family group enter each polling station at a time – election office officials will be on duty to ensure social distancing in the queue.

Kris O’Donnell

Annie MacDonald

Grant Fulton

The three candidates have made their statements and answered a series of questions put to them by Harris Voluntary Service’s community newsletter De Tha Dol, which has published a by-election special carrying the answers and summaries.

You can find these on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011696650012 Paper copies of De Tha Dol are available at An Clachan in Leverburgh, Ardhasaig Garage, Brownies and ADs in Tarbert and it can also be viewed by on-line subscription.

The candidates are:

  • Grant Fulton from Drinishader in the Bays of Harris,
  • Annie MacDonald from Kirkibost, Great Bernera, who lives in Laxay, Lochs and
  • Kris O’Donnell from Falkirk, who lives in Airidhbhruaich.

Questions asked of all three candidates by De Tha Dol included their views on executive headships at island schools, tourism issues and political affiliations.

The timetable of a series of ‘community conversations’ being held by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been radically revised, it was confirmed today (Monday 5 October).

The online conversations, which act as consultation exercises on budgetary and service issues, were to involve all council wards in the Western Isles, with special additional sessions for youth representatives and voluntary sector groups.

But the timetable has been changed for Harris and South Lochs to avoid clashing with Thursday’s by-election, and conversations in North and South Uist and Benbecula have been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new timetable, due to be published today by CnES, shows the expected session for Stornoway North and South going ahead tonight between 6pm and 7.30pm, with tomorrow evening’s session in Barra also going ahead.

But sessions in South Uist tomorrow (Tuesday) and in Benbecula and North Uist on Wednesday have been postponed.

Instead, the session for Harris and South Lochs will be held on Wednesday at 6-7.30pm and not on Thursday as previously scheduled.

A spokesman for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “Local members for Uist were keen to see the sessions there postponed and there were also issues around the clash between the by-election in Harris and the community conversation on the same day.”

The programme for each Community Conversation will be as follows:

  1. PowerPoint presentation on financial position of the Comhairle.
  2. Request that individuals and groups complete the online Budget Consultation.
  3. Review of the previous round of Crown Estate applications and guidance on how to apply for the next round of funding.
  4. Facilitated discussion regarding community engagement and service delivery.

WARD/AREA

AREA

Date/Time

6.       Steornabhagh A Deas

7.       Steornabhagh A Tuath

  • Stornoway South
  • Stornoway North

Mon, 5/10/20

6.00 – 7.30pm

1.       Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eiriosgaigh agus Uibhist a Deas

 

  • Barra

Tue, 6/10/20

6.00 – 7.30pm

3.       Na Hearadh agus Ceann A Deas Nan Loch

  • Harris

Wed, 7/10/20

6.00 – 7.30pm

4.       Sgir’ Uige agus Ceann A Tuath Nan Loch

  • Lochs (N&S) and Kinloch

Thurs, 8/10/20

8.00 – 9.30pm

  • Breasclete, Carloway & Lochganvich
  • Uig & Bernera 

Tue, 13/10/20

6.00 – 7.30pm

5.       Sgire an Rubha

  • Point (Sandwick)

Tue,13/10/20

8.00 – 9.30pm

8.       Loch a Tuath

  • Back and Tong
  • Tolsta

Wed, 14/10/20

6.00 – 7.30pm

9.       An Taobh Siar agus Nis

  • Westside and Ness

Wed, 14/10/20

8.00 – 9.30pm

 

The number of cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the south Uist outbreak now totals 38, NHS Western Isles confirmed last night (Sunday October 4)

The Uist outbreak was first detected ten days ago yesterday (Friday October 2). Before this outbreak - which is regarded as the first one involving community transmission of the virus - there had only been seven officially confirmed cases, all on the Isle of Lewis.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, speaking on Twitter last night, said that cases had now been found as far north as Benbecula.

He emphasised the determined work to control and suppress this virus by all the staff involved and pleaded for people to follow the socal distancing rules and mask guidance as well as car-sharing only with members of the same household.

A headwind for 23 miles, and rain for all 26, didn’t stop Karen Macdonald from achieving an excellent time in her London Marathon run today (Sunday 4 October).

Setting out from the Callanish Stones under threatening skies at lunchtime, Karen declared herself ‘ready to run’. She said: “Typical Hebridean weather has shown up for the occasion of course. It’s ok, I’m ready to battle through it.”

And battle she did, over 26 miles of Lewis roads, including the classic dips and peaks of the Pentland Road and the exposed wind-swept stretch over the Braighe.

Her aim was to finish the run at Granny’s house in Aird. Granny Murdina Macdonald was one of Karen’s inspirations when she set out to raise funds for Alzheimer Scotland.

The result explains the giant smile on Karen’s face – by 6pm today she’d topped £3,195 on her fundraising page at

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/karenmacrunslondon

The great total – well over her target sum of £2,500 – made the pain worthwhile, even though Karen reflected running in the opposite direction might have given her an easier task.

She said this evening: “Should probably have run the route in the opposite direction and then I would have only had three miles of a headwind instead of 23. So I’m delighted with my time of 4hrs 29mins.

“Cannot thank my support squad enough...keeping me fed and watered the whole way, taking the best photographs, cheering me on when I needed it the most.

“And to everyone who came out to support me or cheer me on along the way...thank you SO much, it really did give me a much-needed boost on so many occasions.”

The total raised, says Karen, makes her ‘very emotional’ and she adds: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who sponsored me!”

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

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

Electric charging station, Tarbert

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd has applied for planning permission to install an electric charging station, with associated feeder pillar, and creation of two electric charging parking spaces at existing car park on Pier Road, Tarbert.

New house, Scaristavore

Dualchas Architects has applied for planning permission to erect a new house at 2B Scaristavore. Work is to include creating parking for three cars. The house is to consist of two bedrooms, a dressing room, a kitchen/dining area, a laundry/utility room, two bathrooms (one of which will contain a sauna), a studio, a living room and a library.

New house, Borve

Donna Inglis of 30 Seaforth Road, Stornoway, has applied for planning permission to build a new house at 3A Borve. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a living room and a utility room. Work is to include creating parking suitable for three cars.

Planning permission in principle, Borve

Donna Inglis of 30 Seaforth Road, Stornoway, has applied for planning permission in principle for a house plot at 3B Borve. 

Prior notification for farm-related building works, Lingerbay

Angus Taylor of 1/3 80 Victoria Crescent Road, Glasgow has given prior notification for his intention to erect a farm-related building at 19 Lingerbay.

New house, Scalpay

R. D. Macaskill of 19 Kyles, Scalpay, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 19A Kyles, Scalpay. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining area, lounge and porch. Work is to include creating a new access, parking suitable for two cars, and installing an air source heat pump.

New agricultural building, Northton

Kenny Mackay of 9 Ferry Road, Leverburgh, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 29A Northton. The building is to be 15 metres long, 9 metres wide and 3.28 metres tall. The exterior is to consist of green livestock mesh with a white polythene roof.

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 extension, Barvas

Jamie Feeney of 9 Upper Barvas has applied for planning permission to build an extension at 9 Upper Barvas.

Two new polycrubs, Borve

Ness Community Council has applied for planning permission to erect two polycrubs at Clan MacQuarrie Community Centre, Borve.

New path, Steinish

Sandwick Community Council has applied for planning permission to create a new path at Steinish Headland Track. The path would be 1.5 metres wide and would link existing paths, roads and tracks. Work would also involve the installation of a small bridge, and two culverts for field drainage.

Change of use of premises

Andrew Maciver of No.9 Coffee Shop & Sandwich Bar has applied for planning permission to change the use of the premises at 9A North Beach from retail to a coffee shop/sandwich bar.

New house, Ness

Finlay Macleod of 8 Swainbost has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 21A Cross, Ness. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen/dining/lounge area. Work is to include installing an air source heat pump, and creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars.

Temporary office building, Melbost

Car Hire Hebrides has applied for planning permission to site a temporary office building at Car Valet, Stornoway Airport, Melbost. The building is going to be 8.5 metres long and 3 metres wide. Work is to include altering the vehicular access, creating eight more car parking spaces (bringing the total number of parking spaces to twelve) and erecting a vehicle barrier.  

New garage, Back

Calum Mackay of 1 Blackwater, Newmarket, as applied for planning permission to erect a new garage at 18A Back. The garage is to be 11 metres long and 6 metres wide.

Studio building, Lochs

Angus Macdonald of 9 Keose has applied for planning permission to erect a studio building for small exercise classes at 9 Keose Glebe, Lochs. The building is to be 9 metres long and 5.98 metres wide.

New house, Coll

Morag McNeill of 3 Redmire Crescent, Allanton, Shotts, has applied for planning permission to erect a new house at 54B Coll. Work is to include creating a new access.

Alter and extend house, Breasclete

Anna Mairi Macleod of 41 Breasclete has applied for planning permission to alter and extend the house at 41 Breasclete.

Change of use of land, Bragar

South Bragar Common Grazings has applied for planning permission to change the use of land in South Bragar to create parking for eight cars. Work is also to include erecting a drystone wall.

Change of use of land, Dalmore

Christina Mackay of 3 Dalmore has applied for planning permission to change the use of the land at Dalmore to site two static caravans. Work is to include creating parking suitable for two cars.

New house and annex, Uig

Jen Topping of 25 St Phillips Road, London, has applied for planning permission to erect a new house and annex accommodation and garage at 8B Timsgarry, Uig. The property is to consist of five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and two kitchen/dining/living areas. Work is to include creating parking suitable for three cars.

Change of use of building, Stornoway

Murdo Morrison of 10 Bulnacraig Street, Stornoway, has applied for planning permission to change the use of a shed to annexe sleeping accommodation at 10 Bulnacraig Street, Stornoway.

Extend agricultural building, Galson

David Roberts of 38A South Galson has applied for planning permission to extend the agricultural building at 38 South Galson.

Prior-notification for farm-related building works, Ness

Gordon Macritchie of 5C Fivepenny has given prior-notification of his intention to erect a polycrub at 11 Fivepenny. The polycrub is to be 10 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres tall.

New house, Achmore

Sue Wakely of 46 Hillview Cottages, Ratho, Newbridge, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 12 Achmore. The house is to consist of one bedroom, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining area, a lounge and a utility room. Work is to include creating an access and parking suitable for two cars, and install an air source heat pump.

New garage, Tong

Maureen Macdonald of Creagan Ard, 15B Aird Tong, has applied for planning permission to erect a new detached garage at Creagan Ard, Aird Tong. The garage is to be 10.3 metres long, 7.3 metres wide and 6.34 metres tall.   

Extend house, Dalmore

Christina Mackay of 3 Dalmore has applied for planning permission to extend the house at 3 Dalmore.

There’s some big wheels turning in North Uist – and they’re turning heads too, when people see who’s driving….

James May and Jeremy Clarkson are on their grand tour, filming on the Isle of Vallay tomorrow (Monday 5 October) and staying over in North Uist today (Sunday).

The combination of a Buick, a Lincoln and a Cadillac, along with about 20 cars belonging to production crew, meant a crowded carpark today near Taigh Chearsabhagh

Hayley McLay snapped Jeremy Clarkson about to hit the road on his grand tour.

Pressure is growing on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to close all schools in Uist while the current outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the islands is brought under control.

In a statement publicly issued on Friday (2 October), independent councillors for Uist and Barra said they had reiterated ‘in the strongest terms’ that all schools should be closed until after the October holiday.

The council had previously said (30 September) that Daliburgh school and nursery and Lionacleit secondary would remain closed until the October break, while Iochdar school, Balivanich school and Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath re-opened on Thursday (1 October).

CnES said the situation would be reviewed daily and that all schools in the area had been deep-cleaned and risk-assessed.

But Friday’s statement said: “The Uist and Barra independent group of councillors has held numerous discussions this week with the Comhairle’s education department regarding the position of schools in Uist and Benbecula.

“We agree with the decision to close Daliburgh and Lionacleit until the October holidays, which will ensure a natural break of three weeks in which we can hopefully suppress the spread of the virus, but feel that the closures should have been extended to include all the schools in Uist for it to have the greatest effect.

“We have reiterated in the strongest terms that it is the desire of the vast majority of the parents in Uist who have contacted us to keep all schools closed until after the mid-term October holidays.

“Based on advice from NHSWI, the public health department and the latest available data, the Comhairle’s education department has taken the view that it is perfectly safe to open Iochdar school, Balivanich school and Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath and keep Daliburgh and Lionacleit closed.

“This is expressly against our wishes and against the wishes of the community, which we have been elected to represent, to have all schools closed.

“We continue to have discussions with the education department about this decision and will closely monitor the data being presented and the decisions taken about our schools to ensure our children and the wider community is protected from this virus as much as they possibly can be.”

Some parents plan to keep children away from school anyway from tomorrow, in a climate of anxiety throughout Uist and Benbecula. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased more than ten-fold within a week, from three on Friday 25 September, to 35 on Friday 2 October.

Businesses in South Uist had already moved to an effective voluntary lockdown, with home services cancelled, non-essential businesses closed and essential services delivered on a restricted basis.

Hebridean Housing Partnership have restricted repair services in Uist to emergencies only until the situation becomes clearer and have also stopped installations of smoke and heat detectors.

The Daliburgh branch surgery has closed and GP Kate Dawson of Benbecula medical practice has urged that any potential contacts of the existing known cases in South Uist should practice disciplined self-isolation.

On Thursday she said: “31 cases has generated a lot of contacts. Each contact may have caught the virus, but we won't know until they develop symptoms, which may take up to 14 days. 

“Each contact must self-isolate. Other people in the same house don't have to self-isolate unless they have also been in contact with a confirmed case. In practice this means that the person self-isolating should say away from everyone else in the house, preferably in their own room. They should not go out, not share meals, not share bath towels etcetera. 

“If a contact should develop any symptoms, even mild ones that might be covid-19, they should get in contact with NHS24 on 111, or go onto the NHSinform website, or contact Public Health in Stornoway.”

Yesterday evening’s announcement from NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson offered a welcome respite from the cascade of increasing case numbers in Uist. He said that no new cases had been confirmed in the 24 hours up to 10pm yesterday (Saturday 3 October).

 

Two young rugby players are planning to swap hard knocks for hard work on a bike, as they make October the month to top up the coffers at Stornoway Rugby Football Club (SYRFC).

Liz Smith, who’s 16 and in S5 at The Nicolson Institute, and her fellow rugby enthusiast Liam Macfarlane, 13 and in S2, both train and play with SYRFC. Liz is in the junior and women’s teams and has been training for three years and Liam is in the junior team and has played competitive matches.

They’ve set themselves the challenge of cycling 600 miles – 300 each – outside school hours throughout October, to raise funds for their club. They’ll be putting in the miles separately near their homes.

Liz said: “We realised that SYRFC has lost a lot of fundraising opportunities and has not been able to attract sponsors because there have been no matches during lockdown, so we thought we would try and do something about it.

“Our plan is to cycle 10 miles a day each – Liam in Point, where he stays, and me around my home in Bragar – and we’re hoping to raise around £500.”

Liz has a collecting box and a paper sponsor form, and already has pledges of £350. She also hopes to get support for more copies of the sponsor form and has set up a Facebook page to post bulletins on their progress at

https://www.facebook.com/SYRFC-Sponsored-Cycle-102141654998458/.

After today’s soaking wet ride, day four of the challenge, Liz said: “Wet. A workout on the way out as it was into the wind but flew back. It was a good cycle. I think I'm getting used to going out every day.”

The pair are planning for a big finish on Saturday 31 October, with the pair riding round town in Hallowe’en costume before a big finish at the rugby pitch on Bayhead.

Liz said: “We haven’t decided on the costumes yet, but we thought we should make the most of finishing our challenge on Hallowe’en and make sure that people notice us!”

Women’s rugby coach Angus ‘Bubble’ Mackay said: “The commitment of this pair is amazing and the effort to do 300 miles each is pretty impressive. The money they raise will all go straight into helping to raise the profile of junior rugby, especially to help motivate girls to get involved.

“We’re getting a lot of interest among young women in rugby as a team sport lately and Liz has been really enthusiastic about the idea of getting a girls team going. It’s a great game and really helps them to gain confidence.”

The pictures show Liam and Liz after practice and ready to roll on Friday (2 October) and Liz on the road yesterday (Saturday)

 

A man who drove his car into a lamp-post early this morning (Sunday 4 October) will find himself in court on more than one charge.

The 35-year-old left the scene after his vehicle collided with the post on the A866 in Sandwick at 5.20am. He was subsequently traced by police, arrested and charged after testing procedures at Stornoway police station.

He’s been charged with careless driving and drink-driving and was kept in custody until sober. He was released on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

Obstructing police

In an earlier incident on Sunday at 12.30am, a 21-year-old man was arrested outside a residential address in Sandwick.

He was arrested after shouting and swearing at officers and was charged with police obstruction and with threatening and abusive behaviour.

He was released from custody and is to be called for an appearance in court at a later date.

Vehicle damaged

Police are asking for public help after a car was damaged while parked on Lewis Street in Stornoway.

The Mitsubishi car received scratches on the driver’s side door while parked between Wednesday (30 September) and Thursday (1 October) last week.

Anyone who knows how this may have occurred is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH1131/20. 

 

 

The Linda Norgrove Foundation has put out "wee reminder of our Virtual 10k which we hope you will take part in during the first ten days of October.

"We are disappointed not to be able to hold our usual event here on the Bhaltos Peninsula and will miss seeing you this year, but you can still join in wherever you are on the islands or further afield.

"You can sign up here: https://lindanorgrovefoundation.org/get-involved/events/

"Entry is £10 and all funds raised will go to Afghanistan to help fund young Afghan women to study to become doctors.

"If you can take part, do let us know where you go and send a photo that we can put up on our Facebook page.

"Thank you for your support over the years."

It's a worldwide event - for instance Yumiko and Filippos, below and friends walked for LNF in Värdshuset Koppartälten north of Stockholm yesterday, enjoying the autumn colours followed by lively conversation over coffee.

If you were planning on launching a business just as lockdown came along, you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit low in spirits.

But Iain Faller, owner of the first and only specialist whisky shop in the Western Isles, was quite prepared to weather the storm and find ways around the unexpected hit.

Exactly one year ago, on 1 October 2019, Iain had secured premises and applied for his licence to sell spirits. His plan to open in March 2020 was beaten by two weeks when lockdown came along.

Iain said: “I already had a licence to sell from my house, so I used social media as a platform and reckoned that, as long as I sold one bottle a week, I could still get all my processes in place.”

In the event, scarcely a day of lockdown went by without a sale and, by the time the Island Spirit Whisky Shop eventually opened at 38 Cromwell Street on 18 July, it was set to become a destination.

Iain said: “I had been delivering orders myself around the Stornoway area, with Woody’s taking deliveries further afield around Lewis and Harris and some bottles going out to the mainland by post. On Monday (28 September) we sent away our first overseas order, to Malta.”

Demand for what Iain has to offer has grown organically and the atmosphere of the shop itself adds substantially to the interest. He said: “I want it to be a place where people can have an experience and take the time to enjoy the choice of what they are going to buy.

“We sell single malt whisky by region, mostly from Scotland but we also have Japanese and Irish whiskies, blends and collectables on small batches by specialist distilleries.

“One side of the shop is given over to the whisky, while on the other we have craft gins – almost exclusively from Scotland and with a special focus on island gins – Scottish craft vodkas and a variety of rum from traditional Caribbean to Scottish spiced rum.”

The gins are a special feature, the range selected by Iain’s wife Mary and with advice always ready for customers who want to ask specific questions about the botanicals that create distinctive character.

Island Spirit is a click and collect point for Harris gin and Barra gin, and gins from Colonsay, Skye, Tiree and Orkney are among a huge range of island tipples on the shelves. Many visiting customers are keen on buying something from the islands to take home.

The spirits are complemented by giftware including blown glass and Sandwick Bay candles made with the aromas of maturing casks.

A significant part of the purchasing experience is the opportunity to ask questions and get advice, tasting notes and ideas on what to try, or what to buy as gifts.

Iain said: “This is not like supermarket shopping where you just grab something off the shelf. We listen to what people want and we try to match what they’re looking for.

“I think it’s quite a change for the island. Stornoway didn’t have a dedicated whisky shop, unlike most west coast towns – and now it does.”

You can find out more about the Island Spirit Whisky Shop at https://www.facebook.com/islandspiritwhisky

 

Muirburn – the controlled, cool burning of heather on Scotland’s moorlands – is becoming ever more important in the fight against wildfires in Scotland, land managers said this week.

As the permitted season for muirburn (October 1 to April 15) opened, grouse moors and estates are working with government, conservation groups and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to continually enhance muirburn procedures and ensure the newest knowledge is at the heart of how land is managed.

The latest science, published in May by Duke University in North Carolina, USA, has concluded high-intensity fires, such as wildfires, can destroy peat bogs and cause them to emit huge amounts of their stored carbon into the atmosphere whilst low-severity fires – such as muirburn - spark the opposite outcome.

Tim Baynes, Moorland Director at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Muirburn – or heather burning – is a traditional land management practice backed by the latest science and best practice. If muirburn is not carried out then we could gradually lose Scotland’s much-loved heather forever and that would be a tragedy for us and also the species which depend upon it. Grouse thrive in this habitat but so do other bird species – especially curlew, lapwing and golden plover which are low in numbers and are at real risk.

“Now, muirburn is also becoming an ever more important tool in combating wildfires. Scottish Fire & Rescue Service has supported controlled burning which involves lighting small strips of vegetation before they are quickly extinguished. This removes the top layer of old heather growth – reducing fuel load without damaging the land and mosses it sits upon.

“We have seen some huge wildfires across Scotland in recent years including the fire on peatland on part of the Flow Country which is estimated to have released carbon into the atmosphere equivalent to six days’ worth of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Had muirburn by skilled practitioners been allowed in this area then there is a chance that wildfire could have been prevented or lessened in severity due to a much reduced fuel load for the fire to spread.

“The Muirburn Code, launched by the Scottish Government in 2017, provides good practice guidance for burning and cutting of vegetation. This code is important for gamekeepers and estates and it prohibits muirburn on deep peat, something which is often misunderstood by those not familiar with the code.

“We are constantly reviewing the latest science on this subject as we strive to contribute to Scotland’s net zero targets. The latest international science from Duke University suggests controlled burning could help reduce carbon loss from peatland and it is something that needs to be closely considered as we continually update our knowledge and practices.”

Iain Hepburn, head gamekeeper at Dunmaglass Estate, part of the Loch Ness Rural Communities, and also a part-time firefighter with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, has been engaging with firefighters to share best practice when it comes to tackling wildfires on moorland.

Iain said: “Muirburn largely takes place in the spring and is conducted in line with the Muirburn Code which we fully support. This controlled burning helps hugely in preventing the spread of wildfires and there is an army of gamekeepers on estates across Scotland who work together to stop wildfires which are a real problem in the summer months. Managing vegetation growth is key to tackling wildfires.”

There's been a massive and supportive reaction on-line to the announcement earlier today (Saturday October 3) that Peat & Diesel's planned tour has been completely cancelled for this year.

Earlier today they said on Facebook…

"Well, Folks. It’s not good news!!! All our gigs are cancelled for 2020.

"Our Scottish, English and Irish Tour is going nowhere.

"That CO-‘RHONA’VIRUS carry on has put the kaibosh on the party!!

"All gigs are currently being rescheduled so don’t panic.

"We will hopefully have it sorted and a post up in the next few days for new dates in 2021.

"Thanks to everyone that supported us along the way.

"We are heartbroken thinking about all the events staff and the other bands who are all in for a tough time. A lot of them have become great friends and we miss you."

Reaction was swift to their Facebook post…

Karen Young said: "Totally understandable under the current circumstances. Feel sorry for the livelihoods of everyone involved, wishing this could be over with and we are all dancing and singing with you soon. X"

Kathleen Main wrote: "Gutted for you and every one in the music business, I hope it’s not too long before your back singing and joking at Nigg Bay Golf Club!"

Ross Groves said:"Lads it is what it is, me along with all the other fans will be behind you all the way, we will get the party and it will be massive once it's safe to do So, take care guys."

Gary Robertson wrote: "Sad news indeed but we stay committed, focused and positive for great times to come. This was never going to be a ‘flash in the pan’ journey!  We’re here for the duration, the Ceol agus Craic and one helluva HORO GHEALLAIDH when the time is right!"

Sue Reeves said: "I kind of guessed as much, but so sad. Really was looking forward to seeing you in Kyleakin. Stay safe you guys, what a rotten year for yous....really hope things look up for 2021."

And there was a special suggestion from Willie "Hitchhike': "I would like to ask everyone that bought tickets for gigs this year that been cancelled to take a loss on them and the band to give them the first chance of buy new one for gigs in 2021 to help support the music industry in these tough times, stay safe."

And Andy Layton James added: "It's so sad, ALL us musicians esp the pro ones have and are losing out on their livelihoods…The virus will never go away, we'll just have to be more careful and learn how to live and cope with it."

The tour, including two sold-out dates at the Ironworks in Inverness and another at Barrowlands in Glasgow, has - not unexpectedly –  fallen victim to the Coronavirus pandemic, with a total of nine Scottish gigs between 6 November and 5 December all scrubbed from the calendar.

Also biting the dust are performances in Cork and Belfast in October, and in London, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle through November.

The announcement adds pressure to a challenge started by band members Innes, Uilly and Boydie on Thursday (1 October). They and Boydie’s shipmates aboard the FV Comrade (SY337) intend to stay sober through October to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Care.

You can support them with that at the fundraising page https://www.gosober.org.uk/teams/peat-diesel

New tour dates for 2021 and ticket arrangements for those who were booked at the Scottish gigs will be published soon by Highland promoters Beyond Presents.

(More precise details of the lost tour have been added since this was first posted.)

 

 

The telephone befriending group set up by Point and Sandwick Trust as part of its Wellbeing Project to combat the effects of the pandemic and lockdown is to become permanent, with a grant of £5,000 from Foundation Scotland to secure it for the future. 

The money was obtained by Urras Stòras an Rubha on behalf of the group, which will be known as Caraidean an Rubha agus Sanndabhaig (CARAS), with input from some representatives from the community wind farm organisation including general manager Donald John MacSween and community consultant Alasdair Nicholson. 

It is a welcome step forward as other aspects of the Wellbeing Project – the fresh daily meals by Chief Cook Donald Smith and the grocery delivery service – came to an end yesterday (Friday, October 2).

The new group will be chaired by Catherine Anne Smith from Lower Bayble, who said they were looking forward to reaching out, especially with such uncertainty over Covid 19. 

As a first step, the Caraidean group will be picking up on any recipients of the meals service who ticked the box in the recent survey, indicating they would welcome contact from a befriender.

Catherine Anne said: “We were all delighted to hear that the funding bid was successful and Donald John wasted no time in setting up Caraidean an Rubha agus Sanndabhaig (CARAS), our telephone befriending service. 

“Now that we are an independent body, and all the official work has been done behind the scenes, we can concentrate on building on the success of the marvellous work carried out by Point and Sandwick Development Trust over lockdown.  

“The feedback from the meals delivery service was amazing and the volunteers did so much to help in the community that we wanted to carry on helping out in some way with the contacts we built up over the summer. We are looking forward to continuing and building on the friendships we’ve all created since then.  

“With winter approaching, and another possible lockdown, we are keen to befriend anyone in the area who would like to join our befriending group and we look forward to making lots of new friends over the coming months. Point and Sandwick are friendly communities anyway but we would love to make them even friendlier and reach out to anyone who may not have as much contact with people as they would like.

“My own experience as a befriender has been a positive one and I always look forward to catching up with them and I hope they get as much enjoyment out of our conversations as I do.  A wee blether over a socially-distanced cuppa is the best cure in the world!”

Christine Macleod, also from Lower Bayble, is the new group’s secretary. She said establishing the group on a permanent footing was particularly welcome for those who had been receiving the free meals as they would miss the chats on the doorstep when their meals were being delivered. 

“They will miss this contact every day,” she said. “It’s a contact and a contact is so important, especially for the older people. There is a lot of loneliness. And now with Covid 19 in Uist, people are going to be extremely careful.”

Christine, who works as day care organiser for Alzheimer Scotland, said: “I do home visits anyway and that’s why I’m so aware that there’s a lot of loneliness. I am seeing people who are really, really lonely. And that’s the ones that have been identified. What about the ones who haven’t been identified? Who have no contact with an organisation or anything?”

Angus McCormack, honorary president of Point and Sandwick Trust and chair of the Hebridean Men’s Cancer Support Group, was “absolutely delighted” the project would be continuing on a permanent basis – as these support networks are so crucial for wellbeing. 

“I realise what an important service it is to people, especially at this time of Covid 19 where so many people are having to remain in their homes and just don’t get visitors,” he said.

“I talk a lot to the men in the cancer group, for example. We were always phoning one another. The people who go to the cancer group know there’s a network there and just to know that somebody is thinking about you is so important. 

“I’m grateful that this additional funding recognises how important this scheme is for the people in our area. There is no area which doesn’t need this type of scheme but it’s another example of the community responding to what Covid 19 has brought to us and that is just so important.”

News of the project continuing was also welcomed by psychotherapist and lecturer Hereward Proops, who had provided training for the befriending volunteers, as well as those working on the delivery service, on how to be good, supportive listeners.

He had shared key principles such as active listening and open questioning and stressed the importance of communication skills in helping tackle social isolation.

Hereward said: “In these days of Covid 19, where face to face contact with people is inadvisable, the important of things like the befriending project – the importance of maintaining social contact – cannot be overstated.”

He described the project as “empowering”, adding: “It’s a great example of the community helping themselves; finding support from within.

“Social isolation is a huge problem for mental health and anything that helps combat it, especially in these days of coronavirus, is hugely beneficial and telephone befriending is a great means for people within the community to maintain positive contact with one another in these difficult times. I think it’s great that this project will be in place for the community in the long run.”

Point and Sandwick Trust community consultant Alasdair Nicholson, who had accessed the funding for the different aspects of the Wellbeing Project, said the creation of these initiatives had fostered a community resilience and hailed the “tremendous effort by the many volunteers that took part.”

He added: “We don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of a resurgence of coronavirus, or indeed any other issue like that, but I think the community itself will be better placed to respond to future events. Without doubt, the fact the Trust was able to pursue and host and manage the Wellbeing Fund was something that ultimately meant a whole range of people in the community were given critical and crucial support in the time it was needed.”

Picture of Catherine Anne Smith by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos

Cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the south Uist outbreak now total 35 - which is five times the total of cases for all the Western Isles before the Uist outbreak was detected just over a week ago yesterday (Friday October 2).

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, speaking on Twitter last night, said: "A further four positive cases confirmed tonight, related to the current South Uist outbreak. A tribute and heartfelt thank you to health & social care staff who have gone above and beyond the extra mile."

He emphasised the determined work to "control and suppress this virus" by all the staff involved.

The population of South Uist is around 1800 people while Lewis and Harris have around 21,000 so an outbreak of a comparable size in Lewis and Harris would create around 400 cases. 

Earlier, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan requested that a coronavirus mobile testing unit be deployed to Uist to help deal with the outbreak of coronavirus.

Previously operated by HM Armed Forces, the mobile testing units were passed to the Scottish Ambulance Service at the start of September to support the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the management of localised outbreaks.

Alasdair Allan said: “This continues to be a very serious situation, and I would like to pay tribute to everyone in the health service and other frontline workers who are doing so much to cope with this outbreak.

“While the hospital in Stornoway does have a testing machine and samples can be sent to Glasgow, it is clear that a mobile testing unit would be a huge help to local testing - especially with so many people in Uist having to self-isolate and case numbers continuing to rise."

Meanwhile NHS Western Isles has reassured pregnant women in Uist that maternity services are continuing as normal.  However, during this time the midwifery service will be limiting face-to-face contact with patients until the Uist Coronavirus outbreak has ended.

Patients who are experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus (no matter how mild), have been asked by Test & Protect to self-isolate or be tested (or if your household is self isolating), must inform their local midwifery service as soon as possible to ensure they provide the safest option for care. You should not attend appointments in these circumstances with the exception of emergencies.

Normal service opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and weekends on-call 9am-9pm for any support and advice. Outwith these hours, the local midwifery service telephones are diverted to the Western Isles Hospital’s Maternity Ward.

For any urgent issues outwith these hours please contact NHS 24 on 111, or in an emergency dial 999.​

And Comhairle nan Eilean Siar continues to have a dedicated service to collect details of individuals throughout the Western Isles who are looking for support during COVID-19. Those seeking help are asked to complete the Request for Support Form -

https://forms.cne-siar.gov.uk/form/auto/vof_requestsupport?dform_title=COVID-19%20Request%20for%20Support%20Form

to provide their contact details and the type of support they require. For those who cannot access online services please call the Council on 01851 600 501. Enquiries can also be channelled to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Comhairle will continue to gather the information about who needs support and work alongside community groups to both coordinate and provide local support across the Western Isles.

The Outer Hebrides have become part of an international news story on UK Home Office proposals to “deal with the problem of asylum-seekers.”

A series of proposals have been – reportedly – made…including setting up camps in the Northern or Western Isles of Scotland to house would-be asylum-seekers.

Yesterday (Friday October 3) the Herald newspaper reported that; “the use of Scottish islands for asylum seeker detention facilities is firmly 'on the table' as part of Home Office plans.

Insiders at the department had, it said, confirmed to the Herald that Scottish islands, such as Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, were being considered as possible locations to build processing centres for vulnerable refugees.

The Herald stated Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, and Orkney/Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael had both said the plans would never be viable and locals would not support them.

A Whitehall source told The Herald: “It would be remiss of the Home Office not to look at all options on how best to resolve this problem.  All these options are on the table, including using Scottish islands. Everything is being considered...and nothing has been ruled out.”

US-based CNN reports today (Saturday October 3) that Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier considered a proposal to send asylum-seekers to two Atlantic islands more than 4,000 miles away. Aides proposed removing migrants from the UK mainland to Ascension Island or St. Helena, off the coast of Africa.

Some of the other suggestions reportedly included mooring disused ferries off the coasts as floating camps, repurposing disused oil rigs, using a wave machine to try and force small boats crossing the Channel from France back into French waters and placing barriers in the water to block boats from safely crossing.

The leaked plans were condemned the Labour Party. Patel's opposition counterpart Nick Thomas-Symonds said the government was "lurching from one inhumane and impractical idea to another."

"The idea of sending people to Ascension Island, creating waves in the English Channel to wash boats back and buying ferries and oil rigs to process asylum claims shows the Government has lost control and all sense of compassion," he said in a statement.

Some media reports have pointed to the influence of former Australian premier Tony Abbott, now a UK international trade advisor. Australia courted international opprobrium with its remote camps for would-be migrants on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

 

Street collections by charities are one of the many activities halted by the pandemic emergency.

The Isle of Lewis Cancer Research UK Committee and volunteers usually go out with their collecting cans, house-to-house in August each year.

But the group says: “The Covid restrictions has meant that this valuable fundraiser can't be done in our usual way.

“Instead of our annual door-to-door visits, which we do enjoy, we are asking if you would like to make your donation online at

https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/unite/isle-of-lewis-cancer-research-uk

“If you don't have internet access and would like to make a donation please call in to your local shop.  There will be collecting cans available there for the month of October. 

The shops taking part are:

  • Buth an Rubha
  • Gordon Diesel’s (Back)
  • Tolsta Shop
  • Cross Stores
  • Welcome Inn, Barvas
  • Lochs Services, Cameron Terrace
  • Ravenspoint, Kershader
  • Uig Shop
  • Bernera Shop

“Covid-19 has slowed us down, clinical trials are being postponed and vital research is being delayed. We are determined to continue our life-saving work, but to save lives tomorrow we need your help today.”

There's been an admission today (Friday October 2) of further confusion over the organisation of influenza vaccinations in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles says it "has become aware that a number of letters have been issued in error to individuals not eligible for the influenza vaccination.

"In addition, a number of letters have been issued with incorrect information, either in relation to where individuals should attend for their appointment, or the appointment date.

"NHS Western Isles would like to apologise sincerely and unreservedly for this error.

"We would strongly encourage those who receive their letters to contact the telephone number on their letter (which is correct) to make a suitable appointment at a venue near their home. Please do not contact your GP Practice as this year’s influenza vaccination programme is being managed by NHS Western Isles.

"We are aware that letters are directing some patients to clinics outside their local area. Please don't worry- when you call to book your vaccination, our own local staff will assign you to the correct clinic.

"The most vulnerable patients are being scheduled first, and staff will confirm which group patients fall into when they call us.

"Phone lines are open Monday to Friday, from 9am until 5pm, and are already very busy. If it is more convenient, drop a message with contact number to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.t

"Don't worry if you have received two letters - just call the phone number in your letters to arrange an appointment.

"If you are eligible for the influenza vaccination and have not yet received your appointment letter, we can reassure you that appointment letters are being issued in stages and you will receive an invitation to book an appointment in due course.

"If you have received a letter in error (i.e. you do not fall into one of the eligible groups) and are confident that you are not eligible for the vaccination, you do not need to contact us for a booking, and please accept our apologies for this confusion.

"Again we would apologise for this unfortunate error and thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding."

NHS Western Isles says it is working to make sure the most vulnerable patients are vaccinated first.

Influenza vaccination is being offered to those aged 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions (e.g. asthma, stroke, diabetes), pregnant women, children aged between 2-5 years, primary school children and health care workers who are already eligible.

This year, for the first time, social care workers, those living in the same house as people who have been shielding from COVID-19, and 55-64 year olds are also now eligible to receive the Influenza vaccination.

Primary school pupils throughout the islands will be offered the flu vaccination administered by the local school nursing team, during October and November. Most of these school children will receive the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray, avoiding the need for an injection.

Consent forms have been sent home in school bags for all primary pupils, with parents and carers urged to return the form with consent to ensure their child is protected against flu this winter.

Pre-school children who are aged two and above (as at September 1, 2020) are also offered a free flu immunisation – again taken as a pain-free nasal spray – and will be invited by NHS Western Isles to make an appointment for a vaccination.

Women who are pregnant will be offered the flu vaccination by their midwife.

 

 

 

 

 

Western Isles Island Games Association (WIIGA) has cast their vote on the re-timing of the international island games, after the 2021 event in Guernsey was cancelled due to fears of Coronavirus.

WIIGA chairman Norrie ‘Tomsh’ Macdonald said the Western Isles group had submitted their preference for the next games to be held in 2022, following their meeting on Monday (28 September).

The international Island Games Association (IGA) canvassed all 23 participating island groups to vote on their preferred replacement date, after announcing on Saturday 26 September that the island games in Guernsey 2021 would not go ahead.

The IGA will make an announcement on the future date of the games in the next few weeks, but the venue is certain to be Guernsey, who had prepared all the facilities needed for the competition.

Norrie said: “Guernsey and Shetland are the only two islands with contracts signed, so Guernsey will definitely get the next games, but the Bailliwick of Guernsey (Guernsey’s parliament) will have warned the IGA against going ahead next year, in consultation with their own health authority.

“To have 23 islands from all over the world sending athletes to a small island community was just not a viable possibility. Options had been discussed such as all of us self-isolating for two weeks ahead of the games, but like many island groups, we have athletes coming to join us from much further afield and the self-isolation option just would not work.

“Our preference is for 2022, COVID permitting, because to wait for 2023 would mean a four-year gap between the last games (2019) and the next. That gap is huge for young athletes.”

Holding the next island games in 2022 comes with its own issues, because that is also the year of the Commonwealth Games, which start on 28 July in Birmingham. But WIIGA officials believes athletes who qualify for both could use the island games as a warm-up event, which could work to their advantage.

Now Western Isles coaches are having to cope with working athletes through the disappointment of losing next year’s event. Norrie said: “I don’t doubt for a second that it’s the right decision, but competition is what keeps our athletes going.

“I particularly feel for the young athletes who had only been to Gibraltar in 2019 and were just getting to their level when this halt had to be called. Going to the games is something all our athletes work for – it’s a huge buzz and a sad thing to miss out on.”

The disappointment is echoing around all the islands. A spokesperson for Shetland Island Games Association said: “We’re disappointed, obviously, but it’s the right decision. Too much risk for the good folks in Guernsey, but also for all the islanders who will come from afar for the games.”

North Uist coach Robert Fraser said: “Understandable but disappointing. The prospect of the games happening was giving some of young athletes a goal to aim for in this difficult year. It will now be challenging for some of them to maintain motivation over the winter months.”

And Norrie Macdonald added “Athletes are naturally disappointed having dipped their toe at Gibraltar and been left hugely enthusiastic for the prospect of the next games. Hopefully we can raise their sights for 2022 and go on from there.”

The picture shows junior members of Stornoway Running and Athletics Club welcoming home WIIGA competitors after the Gibraltar games last year (WIIGA).

Bristow Helicopters Limited has been awarded a contract extension to continue delivering UK search and rescue (SAR) helicopter services for Her Majesty’s Coastguard, it was announced this week (Tuesday 29 September).

The commercial contract for search and rescue helicopter service provision to HM Coastguard was awarded to Bristow in March 2013 and has now been extended until 31 December 2026.

Alan Corbett, chief executive of Bristow Helicopters Limited, said: “Bristow remains fully committed to working with the MCA to realise its remaining goals.

“The extension of the current contract allows us to cost-effectively introduce new capabilities into the existing helicopter fleet and to explore technologies which may be of benefit in future contracts.”

Bristow employs about 360 people across 10 strategically-located SAR helicopter bases, including the base at Stornoway airport. 

The Stornoway-based team flew their 1,000th rescue mission during September.

The helicopter’s most recent operational tasking was a medical transfer from Stornoway to Raigmore Hospital yesterday (Thursday 1 October).

Last Saturday (26 September) Coastguard rescue helicopter R948 flew a long-range rescue mission to airlift an injured crew member from a cargo vessel 90 miles west of Lewis.

The picture shows rescue helicopter R948 on practice ‘wet-winching’ operations near Stornoway this week (Jason Spinks).

 

Coastguard Rescue Teams from Stornoway and Tarbert were called out today (Friday 2 October) to help a walker who had fallen in the Harris hills.

The casualty, a man in his thirties, had fallen on the footpath between Huisinis and Crabhadail in Harris and injured his ankle. He called for help at 1pm today.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre tasked the two CRTs, along with Area Commander Murdo Macaulay and equipment including the coastguard all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

The teams met the man and assisted him to return to his car but, after checking him over, he was found not to need any further assistance or medical attention and was able to leave the area on his own.

Teams were stood down at 2.15pm.

 

Barra’s Christmas celebrations are set to be twice as colourful this year, as the Barra bunting project’s second Christmas tree nears completion.

That’s because a dedicated worldwide band of creative volunteers plan to set a second Christmas tree next to 2019’s creation – and both will be entirely made of yarn squares.

The colourful conical work of art that was 2019’s tree was shortlisted for a voluntary arts ‘Epic Award’ soon to be announced.

They said: “Beairteas Bharraigh (the Wealth of Barra) was keen to get young people interested in knitting and crochet, so planned a secret yarnbomb and, having seen a photograph of a crocheted Christmas tree in Italy, thought it would be the perfect project.

“In early 2019, they encouraged residents, visitors and people all over the world to crochet squares to cover the tree that would become the focal point of Castlebay’s festive decorations.”

Now the second version of the tree is well under way, and Western Isles Lottery announced on Wednesday (30 September) that they would support the project once again this year.

Barra bunting project’s colourful tree is a worldwide effort, with supporters near and far contributing their crochet time and materials to get the bright focal point completed.

Ann Shanks from Grangemouth spent lockdown producing 120 crocheted squares and Kath Artiles Shannon sent her square from Cullera in Valencia, Spain. Other contributions have come from New Jersey, USA, Falkirk, Lanarkshire and Burghead, while Isabell and Heidi Gruber sent a boxful of squares from Germany.

For this year’s 2.5 metre highl tree, the project needs 436 squares in total. A call went out on Wednesday (30 September) for extra help, with 100 squares to go.

A spokesperson for the project said: “How can you help? Knit or crochet a square (or more) 12cm x 12cm to help us reach our target. On Barra and Vatersay, we are looking for people who would be able to sew some squares together in strips of 10. Sewing needle and yarn supplied – just message if interested.”

You can find out more about the Barra bunting Christmas tree project and how to participate at https://www.facebook.com/barrabunting

The pictures show last year’s tree and squares contributed from Falkirk and from Grangemouth (Barra Bunting Project).

 

Cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the south Uist outbreak now total 31 - which is more than four times the total of cases for all the Western Isles before the outbreak was detected a week ago today (Friday October 2).

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has now requested that a coronavirus mobile testing unit be deployed to Uist to help deal with the outbreak of coronavirus.

Previously operated by HM Armed Forces, the mobile testing units were passed to the Scottish Ambulance Service at the start of September to support the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the management of localised outbreaks.

Alasdair Allan said: “This continues to be a very serious situation, and I would like to pay tribute to everyone in the health service and other frontline workers who are doing so much to cope with this outbreak.

“While the hospital in Stornoway does have a testing machine and samples can be sent to Glasgow, it is clear that a mobile testing unit would be a huge help to local testing - especially with so many people in Uist having to self-isolate and case numbers continuing to rise."

Meanwhile NHS Western Isles has reassured pregnant women in Uist that maternity services are continuing as normal.  However, during this time the midwifery service will be limiting face-to-face contact with patients until the Uist Coronavirus outbreak has ended.

Patients who are experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus (no matter how mild), have been asked by Test & Protect to self-isolate or be tested (or if your household is self isolating), must inform their local midwifery service as soon as possible to ensure they provide the safest option for care. You should not attend appointments in these circumstances with the exception of emergencies.

Normal service opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and weekends on-call 9am-9pm for any support and advice. Outwith these hours, the local midwifery service telephones are diverted to the Western Isles Hospital’s Maternity Ward.

For any urgent issues outwith these hours please contact NHS 24 on 111, or in an emergency dial 999.​

 

Your local Co-operative Food store on Macaulay Road in Stornoway offers a Home Delivery service to support the community.

This service provides help and support to customers who are either housebound or in remote areas and not physically able to visit the store. 

All you need to do is email, or have a friend or family member email our store, with your shopping list, your name, contact number and your address. Once your shopping has been processed we will call you for card payment over the phone. Data protection measures are in place. We are aiming for a 24-hour time-scale. This is from the moment we receive your email right through to delivery.

Don’t forget you can add your membership card number so that you’re not missing out on your benefits.

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

Thank you, stay safe and we look forward to delivering this great service in our community.

The total number of people in southern Uist found to have positive reactions for COVID-19 infections is now 24, almost a week after the outbreak was first recognised with an original three cases.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today (Thursday October 1) raised in Parliament the outbreak of COVID-19 that has occurred in Uist over the course of the past week.

He said that 24 positive cases associated with the outbreak have been confirmed by NHS Western Isles as of 30 September, with one islander having to be airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The islands MSP expressed concern at the situation and asked the First Minister for an update.  Alasdair Allan said: “This situation continues to be of great concern, and my thoughts are with all the families affected.

“Schools in Daliburgh and Liniclate have been closed until after the October holidays, Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh (Uist and Barra Hospital) in Balivanich has restricted visiting and the local hospitality sector has undertaken a self-imposed shutdown.

“As I impressed on the First Minister today, the impact of this outbreak in an island community with limited health services is significant and will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.

“This underlines the fact that every household and community has to be on their guard and comply with the public health guidance.

"If you develop symptoms, you can book a test by phoning 01851 601 151. Please limit your contact with other households and avoid car-sharing.

"Ensure physical distancing and good hand hygiene. People should work from home if they can and avoid non-essential travel.”

This afternoon (Thursday Octcober 1) NHS Western Isles has stated:

As part of this year’s influenza vaccination programme in the Western Isles, a number of letters have been issued inviting eligible individuals to make their appointment for their annual vaccination.

NHS Western Isles has become aware today (Thursday) that a number of letters have been issued with incorrect information, either in relation to where they should attend for their appointment, or the appointment date.

We apologise sincerely for the confusion caused by this error, and would strongly encourage those who receive their letters to contact the telephone number on their letter (which is correct) to make a suitable appointment at a venue near their home.

Again we would apologise for this unfortunate error and thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding. We are currently looking into the cause of the issue.

With COVID-19 circulating across the country including the Western Isles, islanders are being reminded that it is particularly important to have the free Influenza vaccination.

The Influenza vaccination is being offered to those aged 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions (e.g. asthma, stroke, diabetes), pregnant women, children aged between 2-5 years, primary school children and health care workers who are already eligible.

This year, for the first time, social care workers, those living in the same house as people who have been shielding from COVID-19, and 55-64 year olds are also now eligible to receive the Influenza vaccination.

 

 

TIGHEAN INNSE GALL’S

AUTUMN OFFER

  • STRUGGLING TO STAY WARM?

  • STRUGGLING TO PAY ENERGY BILLS?
  • STRUGGLING WITH HEATING WHILE STAYING HOME MORE?

WE ARE HERE TO HELP

COULD YOUR HOME BENEFIT FROM THESE?



CONTACT US TO FIND OUT IF WE CAN HELP YOU

Tel: 01851 706121 E-mail: iThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

These are grant funded /assisted works. We will prioritise those who receive Universal Credit or the Winter Fuel Payment.

To keep you safe during works all our contractors work in strict accordance with the Scottish Government’s COVID guidance.

An ultra-challenge for one of Ness’s emergency health workers has netted an amazing total of £6,020 for Ness and Shader First Responders.

Lorna Thomson not only ran a marathon – she did it twice, covering an astonishing 53 miles between Stornoway and Ness on her own two feet.

The achievement is even more remarkable given that Lorna only ran her first marathon last summer. She was a marathon debutante at the Harris marathon and was on the spot when Stornoway public relations writer Michelle Macleod suffered a cardiac arrest.

Lorna said: “I was running my first marathon that day and happen to be passing when she collapsed. I began CPR while others applied the defib (defibrillator) and secured her airway. Along with a fantastic team effort, Michelle survived and is now raising money for Lucky2Bhere.”

The ripples from that momentous event keep spreading outwards, with Lorna redoubling her first responder commitment to raise funds as well as to work with the Ness team.

She had a well-deserved bright and cool day last Saturday (26 September) for her double marathon, when she left Stornoway at 7am and was accompanied along the way by friends and family, along with colleagues from emergency rescue teams including first responders and ambulance crews.

On Sunday Lorna found the energy to post her fundraising total of £6,020 and to say: “What a day I had yesterday. Huge thank you to all who supported me – you all know who you are. Legs are feeling remarkably well so far, a day in front of TV is in order. Thanks once again for all your generous donations!”

The pictures show Lorna glowing with achievement at the finish in Ness, after her 53-mile challenge.

 

Stornoway Port Authority will shortly allocate marina berths for the period from 31st October 2020 to 30th April 2021.

Owners of vessels up to 14 metres length requesting a berth should apply in writing by 1700 on Friday 16th October 2020 by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by post to:


Stornoway Port Authority
Amity House
Esplanade Quay
Stornoway
Isle of Lewis
HS1 2XS

Scott Campbell
Harbour Master

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI) is continuing to offer a support service to people diagnosed with cancer and their families, albeit greatly limited by current health restrictions.

The WICCI centre on Cromwell Street closed in line with national health guidance in March, and re-opened on a limited basis in mid-August, now with a single part-time member of staff.

But services are continuing to be delivered, and development manager Helen Sandison is keen that those receiving treatment or struggling with non-medical issues connected with their diagnosis stay in touch.

Helen said: “We have changed our opening hours and are predominantly working from home, in line with government guidance.

“No services are being offered within the building, but we are carrying out some home visits, including for podiatry and massage, which can still be done with strict hygiene precautions for the moment.

“We’re also offering online counselling, but our main service is the delivery of funds from the Macmillan Social Fund, which continues to be on offer to anybody with a current cancer diagnosis or receiving treatment.”

The fund has been the source of £150,000 distributed in the Western Isles since it opened in February 2018. During lockdown £30,000 was distributed locally, part of a total in 2020 of £40,000 in grants issued.

Helen said: “We’re especially keen to speak to people who have been newly diagnosed, who are going through treatment or who are struggling with being at home all day, with heating costs or with financial difficulty. We really want to hear from them.

“The application process is really quick and easy and can be done by speaking to your GP, your Macmillan nurse or by email to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“We also strongly encourage people to get in touch with health services if they think they have symptoms – to see a GP and get checked and especially to take up screening appointments.”

The NHS mobile breast screening unit is in Harris between next Tuesday 6 October and Thursday 15 October and in Lewis between 20 October and 20 November.

Women between the ages of 50 and 70 will receive a letter offering them an appointment three weeks ahead of the proposed date. Nobody should attend the bus without an appointment, but to ask questions or re-arrange an appointment, call 01463 705416.

 

The contractor responsible for works at Lochmaddy Pier may have to be replaced, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Following the initial suspension of the construction works at the Lochmaddy Pier Improvement Project due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the Ireland-based main contractor L&M Keating Ltd suspended works again on 20 July 2020 with the stated intention of returning to the sites at Lochmaddy and the Inchgreen Drydock on 10 August 2020.

However, the contractor - which is headquartered in Kilmihil in County Clare in the far west of Ireland – has not returned to either site and options as to how the project can continue have been considered and evaluated by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s project delivery team.

L&M Keating Ltd opened a UK branch operation last year but has not filed any subsequent reports with UK Companies House.  According to the Clare Echo in July, the company was in a crisis and was absent from contract sites in their area as well.

Today (Thursday 1 October 2020), the Comhairle considered a report which sets out the options for Lochmaddy and it was agreed that the Chief Executive take any actions necessary to safeguard the interests of the Comhairle, potentially including the termination of the contract with L&M Keating Ltd and the retendering of the works.

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, who chairs the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, “It is disappointing for the Comhairle and, particularly, the community and business sectors in North Uist that we find ourselves in this position”.

“It is however important that we continue with the delivery of the project whilst protecting the positions of the Comhairle and Transport Scotland as much as possible and it is clear that we may now have to explore alternative avenues for delivering the infrastructure improvements”.

“An additional concern for us has been the impact of the current situation on the local supply chain, including island-based subcontractors and suppliers of materials and other services.  I am, however, confident that the mechanism now in place within the administration of the contract will minimise the impact on these businesses as much as possible”.

 

For those interested in the success of islands in general - and football in particular - there’s an extraordinary football game taking place this evening.

And in the small Faroe Islands fishing town of Klaksvik, the talk for days among the population of about 5,000 has only been about football, reports the Faroes news website local.fo

With a national team ranked 107th in the world, there have usually been few celebrations at European and international matches.

But this evening, the Faroes league champions KI Klaksvik will face the Republic of Ireland’s Dundalk in a Europa League play-off round, in the most important game in Faroe Islands’ football history.

They are therefore 90 minutes away from becoming the country’s first team to qualify for a major European competition.

And according to the Irish Times, Dundalk are worried even though because of a Covid-19 related walkover against Slovan Bratislava, the Faroese have only actually had to win one game to get this far.

This is because last week’s 6-1 defeat of Dinamo Tbilisi was impressive and demonstrated that KI Klaksvik – who arrived in Ireland on Tuesday – have a game plan. Four of the Faroese side’s goals came from set pieces, three of them scored in the space of 13 second-half minutes by Pall Kletskaro and despite having just 29 per cent possession in the game.

Kletskaro and Norwegian striker Ole Erik Midtskogen form a highly successful strike-force back at league level and the team, which includes six internationals, scored 19 goals in the three games before they turned their attention to Europe, says the Irish Times.

Dundalk manager Fillipo Giovagnoli says:  “They are a team that are really dangerous,They don’t need to have the control of the game; they can be dangerous at any moment the way they play. We will prepare for that …I’m pretty sure we are going to perform at a high level.”

Completing the London Marathon usually means a trip to the big smoke, but for one Stornoway lass, this year it means running for home.

Karen Macdonald has decided to get her running shoes back on – five years after she last ran a marathon, and in a year when the marathon is not actually happening.

But the cause she has chosen is important enough to her that she’s joined the virtual London Marathon effort for 2020 and will be putting in her miles in Lewis this coming weekend (Sunday 4 October).

Karen is running the 26 miles to raise funds for Alzheimer Scotland’s Western Isles branch, in recognition of her marvellous granny, former primary school teacher Murdina Macdonald, who is beloved of many generations in Point and beyond.

86-year-old Murdina – Murdag a’Mhate to her friends – is being cared for at home in Aird, by her family and by main carer, neighbour Joey Macaskill. She has developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but still enjoys independence at home and time spent with the other three generations of her family, although this has had to be restricted since renewed Coronavirus precautions came into force last week.

Karen, who is 29 and works in commercial banking for Lloyds, came home to complete her qualifications online several weeks ago, but will be returning to Glasgow on Monday 5 October.

Her chosen route is a start at the Callanish stones and then taking the Pentland road at Breasclete to Marybank, through Stornoway and out to Point to finish at her granny’s house in Aird.

“Granny knows that I run and she will be surprised at me doing 26 miles, but doing this for Alzheimer Scoland is really important to me. I ran my first marathon for Alzheimer Scotland because my other granny started to develop the illness when I was 17, so as a family we have always been aware of how Alzheimers affects so many families.”

The family’s support extends not only through Karen’s marathons, sponsored walks and other fundraisers, but to her dad, Norrie ‘Tomsh’ Macdonald, skydiving from a plane over Florida in October last year.

“Alzheimer Scotland Western Isles has been such a support to our family, providing support and signposting help, and also offering services to Granny when she was able to go out, before the pandemic. Even during lockdown they have been maintaining digital engagement for granny.

“Alzheimers touches so many lives and Alzheimer Scotland doesn’t get Government support. I’ve never stopped supporting them and I don’t think our family ever will.”

The disappointment of not getting the atmosphere of the London Marathon in the big city is just one more letdown in a year when Karen has had to postpone her wedding and big celebrations for her 30th birthday.

She said: “London Marathon gave us the choice between cancelling our place altogether or running at the designated time on Sunday. The weather is meant to be better on Saturday, but then I wouldn’t have been eligible as a London Marathon finisher.

“Doing it this way means I will be entitled to enter on a future date as well, so this way I get two medals, but twice the pain.

“It won’t be the same running the Pentland road with no-one cheering along the way, but I’ll have Mum driving behind me with bottles of energy drink and Granny ready to welcome me when I get to Aird. I’m sort of looking forward to it.”

You can support Karen’s effort for Alzheimer Scotland at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/karenmacrunslondon

The picture shows Murdina with grand-daughter Karen

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has welcomed the launch of a new UK Government Trade Hub which is dedicated to helping Scottish businesses win export orders.

Mr Cameron said: “The new Scottish hub will help businesses in my region, which produce many world-beating products and services, to even greater success overseas.

“I urge all local companies with an interest in securing overseas orders to get in touch and explore the range of support on offer.”

The Trade Hub is based at Queen Elizabeth House, a new UK government HQ in Edinburgh.  Through it, businesses will be able to utilise the UK government’s global networks, expertise and influence, as well as world-leading credit agency, UKEF. Queen Elizabeth House will house 3,000 civil servants from multiple departments.

UK Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart MP said:  “One of the UK Government’s key priorities is to champion all four parts of the UK and demonstrate how beneficial a strong Union is for all. This specialist Hub for Scotland will provide businesses with the support and guidance needed to boost their profits and harness their full potential.

UK Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid said: “This new UK Government Trade Hub in Edinburgh is fantastic news for Scottish businesses. It will help them make the very most of the global trade opportunities once the EU transition period ends.

In another first, UKEF has appointed a specialist to focus on renewable exports and to support energy transition in Scotland, further demonstrating the continued commitment to supporting energy companies across Scotland and helping them succeed abroad.

In Queen Elizabeth House, DIT will be joining the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Office of the Advocate General, HMRC, HM Treasury, Cabinet Office, the Office for Statistics Regulation, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the Government Actuary’s Department. Additional UK Government departments are expected to confirm occupancy in the coming months.

Work is also underway to set up a flagship UK Government building in Glasgow. The Edinburgh and Glasgow buildings are part of what the UK Government describes as a new commitment to Scotland.

And Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to seeking a resolution to US tariffs on Scotch whisky.

Boris Johnson made the commitment at Prime Minister’s Questions while answering a question put by Scottish Conservative MP David Mundell.

Mr Cameron said: “I welcome the robust line that the Prime Minister is taking. Whisky distilleries here in my region stand to benefit very significantly from a growth in exports that will generate more jobs and more investment.”

Volunteers have taken delivery of more than 400 donated Christmas boxes today (Thursday October 31st) as the annual Blythswood shoebox appeal gets into full swing.

By 6pm tonight a volunteer team had loaded three full pallets and were a good way into the fourth, with boxes arriving in ones, twos and in carloads from around the island.

The collecting point is at the back of the old Co-op furniture store on Kenneth Street in Stornoway, where a team of volunteers were busy between 3 and 6pm this afternoon.

They’re expecting tomorrow (Friday November 1st) to see the pile of boxes climb still higher, as six primary schools and a number of churches, community groups and businesses bring in their collected donations between 3 and 7pm.

Blythswood shoeboxes are filled with warm hats, gloves and scarves, useful household items, toiletries, sweets and toys for children. They’re collected across Scotland, with the island donations due to be shipped off to Blythswood’s depot in Evanton over the weekend.

Lewis and Harris have a tremendous record for generosity each year, with this year’s donations heading off to Romania from the Western Isles. There they will help people living in desperate poverty to survive a harsh winter and to share a bit of winter cheer.

Pictured is seven-year-old Bethany Murray of Stornoway, passing her giftbox to Blythswood volunteer Nana Maclean. Nicola Finlayson of Ness shows off pallet number four as it starts to fill up, and the team pose beside three pallets filled and ready to go – l to r Nan Maclean (Stornoway), Hilda and Willie Bell of Point, front row Erica Buchanan of Branahuie and Nicola Finlayson of Ness.

 

A change to their filming schedule means Versus productions will be in Upper Bayble tomorrow (Friday November 1st) and not closing the Pentland Road as expected.

Forecast adverse weather has meant a change of plan for the huge production crew, who have been filming an international feature film starring Game of Thrones star Michelle Fairley in Point, Lochs and Achmore through this week.

Location manager Davie Burt told welovestornoway.com: “We won't be filming at the Pentland Road tomorrow due to possible adverse weather conditions, so we've moved location to our hero’s house in Upper Bayble.”

The crew are expected to be on site from 6am tomorrow morning and will continue filming through the day.

Scenes on the Pentland Road will be filmed on Monday and Tuesday, weather permitting, with a full road closure between Carloway and the Breasclete junction.

 

Transport and logistics operator, David MacBrayne Ltd, which operates CalMac Ferries, has seen an increasing number of passengers visiting the Scottish western isles.

A service reliability of 99.4 per cent and punctuality of 99.6 per cent were highlights in an excellent year for business, the company claims.

For the first time, CalMac carried more than 5.6 million passengers and more than 1.4 million vehicles as part of yet another year on year increase.

‘I am delighted to report on a very successful last financial year, in what has been a very challenging working environment,’ said DML chief executive, Duncan Mackison.

‘Increased passenger volumes, combined with a higher number of sailings that we have been tasked with carrying out, are placing more and more pressure on our services. 

‘It is testament to the innovative approaches, skill and dedication of our staff that we can deliver an increase in profit on what is a highly specified and detailed contract to deliver ferry services across the west coast.

‘Against a challenging background, our performance, both financially and in our service offering to the travelling public is outstanding,’ said Duncan.

‘We operated 162,335 of 164,089 scheduled sailings, with service reliability of 99.4 per cent and punctuality also running at 99.6 per cent last year, figures any transport operator would be rightly proud of.’

Last year CalMac was crowned ferry operator of the year at the UK Transport Awards.

‘Over the year we have seen improvements that focus on customer service, increased training opportunities for young people and a greater focus on environmental awareness, all helping sustainable economic development across our islands and remote mainland communities, said Duncan.

As part of new environmental commitments, DML is on course to cut our carbon emissions by 5 per cent over the year to come.  This reduction equates to carbon output produced by 1668 cars every year. The significant reduction in carbon produced is mainly down to the use of fuel monitoring systems, increasing operational efficiency and diligent work by all involved in the business.

The company remains fully committed to creating opportunities for young people. Over the past two years the number of Modern Apprentices employed has doubled to 23. More than 90 per cent of the Modern Apprentices live on the islands supported by CalMac and in the last year every single apprentice secured full time employment, demonstrating our commitment to local employment.

The launch of a new Community Fund was also a highlight last year. The Fund, which offers support to groups working with young people in the company’s area of operation, has significantly increased support to charities and events going on across the west coast.

Across the wider DML group the company continues to realise its growth ambitions. After taking over the management of Perth Harbour from the local authority in July 2018, marine traffic into Perth has increased by an impressive 31 per cent.

‘We have ambitions to grow even more over the next few years and continue to add value for our communities, the Scottish Government and Scottish taxpayers,” added Duncan. “The ferry industry across Scotland faces a number of challenges in the future and we stand ready to offer our expertise, innovation and world class experience to benefit the whole industry."

The issue of the replacement of St Brendan’s hospital and care home on Barra was raised with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan during yesterday’s session of the Scottish Parliament.

It has been recognised since 2011 that there is a need for the facility to be replaced. 

NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are currently considering proposals which would integrate the current hospital, health and social care development with that of replacing Castlebay community school and other Comhairle services in Barra.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“This was a useful opportunity to again raise the replacement of St Brendan’s and the need for the community to be properly informed and involved as the project develops.

“Next week marks an important milestone, as the Comhairle is due to meet to consider the options outlined by the feasibility study. This represents significant potential for the development of public services in Barra and Vatersay, and there is increasing evidence of collaboration and partnership between the Council, Health Board and Scottish Government in the development of this project.

“I am grateful for the Cabinet Secretary’s continued assurances that St Brendan’s will be replaced at the earliest opportunity. The community in Barra and Vatersay have already waited long enough.”

Jeane Freeman said: "Work is under way between the health board, the council and the integration joint board to determine the best approach for delivery of the hospital project and the Castlebay community hub. That joint work must ensure that public infrastructure best meets the needs of the local population and provides an effective and sustainable health and education resource for the future.

"The feasibility study was recently completed and a decision on the preferred way forward is expected to be taken very soon. Along with the health board and the council, we remain committed to delivering the St Brendan’s re-provision at the earliest opportunity.

"We can agree on two important points in relation to the project. First, it is vital that a decision is taken quickly and that the health board and the council take the appropriate steps to implement the recommendation as quickly as possible. Second, the local community absolutely needs to be fully involved and engaged with the whole process, including the design of any new build. The Scottish Government remains fully committed to the project and I expect senior leadership at the health board and the council to move it forward and to deliver against the agreed timescales."

 

The best of produce from near and far 01/11/2019

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

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

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Aubergine

 

£1.45

 

Butternut Squash   

 

£2.40

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£2.60

 

Cauliflower

 

£1.95

 

Romanesco

 

£1.95

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.35

 

Fennel

 

£1.35

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Turmeric (100g)

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.65

 

New Season Dirty Carrots

 

£1.95

 

Ginger

 

£5.00

 

Horseradish

 

£15.00

 

Kale

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mixed Squash

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£2.95

 

Golden Wonder

 

£1.95

 

Kerr’s Pink

 

£1.55

 

Roosters

 

£1.55

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

White Turnip

 

£3.35

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Cucumber

 

£1.00

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

Chicory

 

£0.90

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£3.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.95

 

Scottish Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Cox Apples (UK)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Gala Apples

 

5 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.90

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.80

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Plums

 

5 for £1.50

 

Pomegranates

 

£0.80

 

Satsumas

 

5 for £1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Scotch Bonnets Chillies

 

£20.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

Business leaders in the Outer Hebrides are invited to attend free workshops that focus on attracting, recruiting and retaining the workforce.

The events are organised by consultants ‘Remarkable’ on behalf of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and will also highlight tips on how to be more cyber aware. 


Advice and information from speakers will include productivity and efficiency in the workplace and developing new, improved ways of working.



Thursday 14 November -  HIE’s office at 9 James Street, Stornoway 10:30-1:30pm. 

There will be an opportunity to hear from local employer Dòmhnall Campbell, Chief Executive of MG Alba. 



Friday 15 November – Data Centre, Taigh Ceann a’ Locha, Benbecula 10:30-1:30pm. 



Presentations by representatives from HIE, Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) will be made at both events.

Members of SBRC’s ethical hacking and business teams will offer simple and effective tips on how businesses can protect their data and systems from cyber incidents. 


SBRC provides a range of integrated security services that help businesses assess, build and manage cyber security and respond to incidents. The event will help people understand threats and vulnerabilities and help them build their confidence. 



Other speakers on the day include Mary Leishman from Remarkable who will give a presentation on Investors in People and Investors in Young People.

These standards are about investing in staff training and development and helps employers to achieve business goals, resulting in a happier, motivated workforce. 



Bill McMillan, head of business growth at HIE’s Outer Hebrides team based in Stornoway, said: “These events are valuable for employers who want to future-proof their workforce strategy and for anyone interested in developing and retaining young people. There will be a good opportunity during these events to network and share insights with various agencies and other employers.



Any queries should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07801 981611.

Events can be booked at:

Fire Scotland have issued a timely reminder about firework safety, with local and community displays set to begin on Saturday (November 2nd).

The senior fire officer for the Western Isles, Group Commander Gavin Hammond, said people would be wise to attend a safely organised bonfire and firework display, rather than lighting fireworks in their own garden or croft.

He told welovestornoway.com: “If you must have a bonfire at home make sure it is well away from buildings, vehicles, trees, hedges, fences, power lines, telecommunications equipment and sheds and ensure that smoke does not cause a nuisance to neighbours or flying embers endanger neighbouring property.”

Community safety advocate Mairi MacDonald said there were simple rules to follow to try and ensure a safer event for everyone. She said: “There’s a list of essential points people should keep in mind if they are holding their own firework party.

“Never drink alcohol if you are tending a bonfire or setting off fireworks. Bonfires should be built from untreated wood and paper-based materials only to reduce emissions of fumes or noxious smoke, and you should keep pressurised containers or sealed vessels well away from bonfires to prevent combustion.

“Never throw fireworks on bonfires and never use flammable liquids to light bonfires –proprietary fire lighters should light the bonfire safely and effectively.

“And don’t forget that smoke from bonfires, sparks, flying embers or burning debris must not endanger nearby property or cause a nuisance to other householders or road users. Finally, never leave a burning/smouldering bonfire unsupervised – make sure it is completely
extinguished.”

Figures show that children are more likely than adults to be injured by fireworks, even though watching a display can be great fun for kids. Group Commander Hammond said:

“Over the past five years over 350 pre-school children, some as young as one year old, were treated in hospital for firework injuries. Be safe and always follow the fireworks code. It is important that people understand current legislation regarding fireworks and their use too.”

There’s a clear code for using fireworks within the law. It is an offence to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am (or after midnight on bonfire night); to modify, tamper with or misuse fireworks; to throw or set off fireworks in any highway, street, thoroughfare or public place or for anyone under 18 to possess fireworks in a public place.

Causing unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animals with the use of fireworks is also an offence. For further safety advice visit SFRS website https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/fireworks-safety. or www.saferfireworks.com

The number 13 might be unlucky for some, but not HI-Scot credit union which is celebrating 13 years of serving their members across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

From humble beginnings as an idea conceived by hard-working volunteers determined to bring an ethical, community-minded option for saving and borrowing to the islands, Western Isles credit union (HI-Scot's original incarnation) opened its doors in 2006.

“HI-Scot has continued to grow, year on year, since 2006,” said General Manager, David Mackay, “In 2011 we expanded to Highland region and the Orkney and Shetland Islands and now have over 3000 members.”

With almost £4 million held on deposit, HI-Scot members are certainly seeing the benefits of saving regularly through the credit union. Many members use payroll deduction, an easy way to save every week or month, and a service offered by many employers, including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles.

Members also benefit from a range of loan products, meaning that a new car, washing machine or kitchen can become an affordable reality. Over the past thirteen years, HI-Scot have approved over £9.5 million in loans and, with a process which considers each application individually, tailor member's borrowing to their personal circumstances. There's no “Computer says no” with HI-Scot!

“As people start to look for more ethical ways of banking, credit unions offer their members something that High Street banks cannot,” David Mackay said, “HI-Scot is owned entirely by its members and so operates with their interests at heart.”

HI-Scot is based in James Street, Stornoway, but the credit union is accessible in all areas of the Highlands and Islands thanks to online services and local Access Points. More information can be found on HI-Scot's website: www.hi-scot.com

“It's been a great thirteen years and the credit union is thriving.” David added, “All of us at HI-Scot look forward to many more years supporting our members across the Highlands and Islands to save, borrow and plan for tomorrow.”

 

The Lochs show Annual General Meeting will be held at the Laxay Showground on Monday 18th November at 7pm, all are welcome to attend.

A road accident in Scalpay on Monday (October 28th) has led to a man being reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Two cars were in collision on the unclassified ring road on the Isle of Scalpay at 12.39pm on Monday and police were called to the scene. One of the vehicles was badly damaged, although no-one was injured.

A man in his twenties is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal for a number of road traffic offences following the accident, including for dangerous driving.

People living in Na h-Eileanan Siar along with those living in parts of Dumfries and Galloway, and of Glasgow, have one week left to take part in the census rehearsal.

Around 72,000 households in those areas received a letter this month with information about the rehearsal and details on how to participate. This week they received another letter, reminding them that they have until Thursday 7 November to complete their census rehearsal questionnaire.

Taking part in the rehearsal is voluntary, but doing so helps preparation for Scotland’s census 2021. The census findings are vitally important to the planning of public services such as schools, roads and hospitals.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop visited the Census Rehearsal Helpline office, where staff answer questions from the public and help them complete their census, either online or by requesting a paper copy.

Ms Hyslop said: “Census results are vital for helping the government, local authorities and key services plan for every element of life in Scotland – from the construction of new homes to NHS support. The census also becomes part of our history – in the future our descendants will be able to find out about us and how we lived.

“I’d like to thank the many people in the rehearsal areas who have already filled out their questionnaire. For those who haven’t yet, there’s still time to take part, with one week left until it closes on 7 November.”

Pete Whitehouse, Director of Statistical Service, NRS, said: “The census takes place every 10 years and is a unique count of everyone in Scotland. It is important we get it right in 2021, and taking part in the rehearsal helps us to do just that. By taking part in the rehearsal, you’re helping to shape Scotland’s future and improve the lives of people living and working in Scotland.”

People who live in the rehearsal areas and are looking for more information can visit census.gov.scot or call the census helpline on 0800 030 8333 until 7 November. They can also follow on Facebook and Twitter @scotcensus2021.

Every ten years there is an official count of Scotland’s population. Scotland’s next census, subject to the approval of the Scottish Parliament, will be held on 21 March 2021. This will be the 22nd census to take place since 1801 and the 17th to be managed independently in Scotland. 

The questions being asked in the October rehearsal, and the guidance provided, may not be identical to what is asked in the census, as the rehearsal will help inform decision-making for the census in 2021. The final census questions are planned to be agreed through the Scottish Parliament by summer 2020.

The personal information about individuals is confidential and answers are anonymised and analysed to produce national and local statistics. Records are protected for 100 years. NRS statisticians use the information to calculate facts and figures for Scotland and for local areas, but it cannot be used to identify any individual person.

The man who beat Eric Bristow to become the youngest world darts champion is following in the Crafty Cockney’s footsteps to Stornoway this weekend.

This Friday (November 1st) the Sea Angling Club will play host to former world darts champion Keith Deller, for an evening of exhibition matches and social mingling with island darts enthusiasts.

The visit this weekend comes two years after Eric Bristow and the King of Bling, Bobby George, inspired island darts enthusiasts with a hugely successful evening at the Sea Angling Club.

Keith, who beat Eric Bristow to take the world champion’s title in 1983, still holds the record for the fastest 301 score of 25 seconds, and his winning checkout of 138 in the match against Bristow is still referred to as ‘the Deller checkout’ on the rare occasions another player hits that score.

On Friday he’ll pit his skills against local players chosen at random from names in a hat, before spending the rest of the evening mingling and chatting with darts players at the club.

Andy Dowie, club house manager, said: “We’re delighted to be welcoming Keith, a fomer world champion, following on from the very successful visit of Eric Bristow and Bobby George two years ago.

“The evening gives island darts enthusiasts the opportunity to meet one of the big names from the world of darts at the home of darts in Stornoway.”

Friday’s event begins at 7pm. The next big darts date in the Sea Angling calendar is the 16th Western Isles Open Darts Festival, running for a week at the end of January, with players coming from near and far to take part.

Tarbert, Inverness, Aberdeen…and now Glasgow.  Today is the day for the rapidly growing Essence of Harris brand as they opened the doors of their latest store in Princes Square in Glasgow this morning. (Wednesday October 30th) .

Company founders Jamie McGowan and Deenie Macleod, along with one of their new employees Caris, were on hand this morning to welcome the first customers from 10am.

Jamie said:"We’re lucky to have been able to create seven new jobs here in Glasgow, made up largely of young, dynamic staff members who hail from the Outer Hebrides themselves and who can share our story with consumers within Glasgow. Job creation is one of the key drivers behind our brand.”

Katie Moody from Princes Square said, “We’re delighted to welcome Essence of Harris - a successful and ambitious Scottish business - to Princes Square. Visitors to the centre come from near and far to enjoy the wide range of high quality retailers we have here and Essence of Harris will be a wonderful addition to that list.”

And James adds: “You'll find us on the first floor, just at the top of the staircase!

All the info can be found via this link

The team say: “Looking forward to meeting all you shoppers in Glasgow!”

This article has been updated with additional comments since first being published

 

An island charity which provides goods and services to people in hospital and care homes to make their experience a more comfortable one has had its mission of kindness secured by community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.

Western Isles Hospital League of Friends provides resources to Western Isles Hospital and local authority residential care homes Dun Eisdean and Dun Berisay, with its prime objective being to provide a level of care in hospital and beyond that is separate to what the NHS provides. 

It runs the tea bar in the hospital in Stornoway and uses the proceeds to buy goods which will make hospital stays more comfortable for patients and enhance their wellbeing.

These range from televisions, radios, table-top fridges and microwaves for hospital wards to the mobile library service providing a range of books and subscription magazines to the admission packs containing items such as toiletries for patients unable to access their own belongings.

They also provide Christmas gifts to the wards, birthday gifts and cards for long-stay residents, gave a contribution towards a memorial garden, do bus runs and ceilidhs over the winter and have provided packs of dementia resources to the care homes.

Although the charity also raises money through raffles, bag packing and collecting cans, most of its funds come from the tea bar, which is open for breakfast, lunch and snacks to patients, visitors and staff.

But disaster struck when their chiller cabinet broke down, severely restricting the food they were able to offer and thereby hitting their income.

Point and Sandwick Trust came to the rescue, however, with a donation of nearly £2,200 which allowed the charity to buy a new chiller and resume normal service once again.

Western Isles Hospital League of Friends chairman Roy Cameron said: “It has a huge impact if we can’t catch all the customers that we can because we’ve got to run our payroll costs and then have something left over, which is distributed.”

The League of Friends relies heavily on volunteers, just as it did when since the charity was first set up in the old County Hospital in 1979, and they are the ones who deliver birthday presents to all care home residents, run the library and staff the tea bar at weekends. However, it also employs a chaplain and four part-time staff to run the tea bar during the week.

On a good year the tea bar will usually make a profit of around £2,000 which can all go towards the services provided by the League of Friends. After its period of restricted service, the tea bar is now happily back on track, raising money for the cause. 

When the chiller in the tea bar broke down, the charity was horrified at the prospect of having to replace it due to the high cost.

The suggestion to ask Point and Sandwick Trust for help came from League of Friends director Gordon Mackay, who is also a board member with the community wind farm charity. 

Treasurer Donna said they were “delighted” to receive the money which “genuinely did make a huge difference”. They also appreciated how easy the process was. “Point and Sandwick Trust were easy to deal with and the form was easy to go through, which makes a big difference when you are making applications. They didn’t demand lots of quotes, which again is quite a lot of work and can be quite onerous for small committees.

“They didn’t push down our prices so we got a really good quality chiller which will hopefully last a lot longer. We could not have bought such a good chiller ourselves.

“They were very supportive from the start.”

From that one grant, Point and Sandwick Trust have enabled Western Isles Hospital League of Friends continue with their many acts of kindness to hospital patients and care home residents.

Gordon Mackay said: “On behalf of Point and Sandwick Trust, we are delighted to be giving the League of Friends money for the purchase of new equipment within the tea bar at the Western Isles Hospital. The League of Friends provide such a vital service with the tea bar which assists families of patients, patients themselves and even the employees of the hospital.

“Yet again the money is being put to good use to benefit the wider community.”

Treasurer Donna said: “It’s the small things that make a difference.”

Volunteers are the heart of the Western Isles Hospital League of Friends and at one time there were more than 95 volunteers. Numbers are much lower now and any new volunteers would be warmly welcomed. Anyone interested should get in touch by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Stornoway man Malcolm Macleod has been promoted to an executive chief officer post at Highland Council, it’s been announced.

Malcolm’s appointment as executive chief officer - infrastructure and environment is part of the council’s redesign programme.

Originally from Stornoway, Malcolm has been the council’s head of planning and environment for the last seven years and has worked in the Highlands for over 20 years. His most recent roles have included overseeing the delivery of many of the major housing and infrastructure projects across the Highland area as well as managing the council’s corporate change programme.<