The mobile cinema, Screen Machine, which was due to start a Western Isles tour in South Uist from Thursday 8 October, has postponed its scheduled visit.

An announcement from Regional Screen Scotland’s director, Robert Livingston, today (Wednesday 30 September) broke the news to film-lovers.

Meanwhile, Daliburgh School and Nursery and Lionacleit Secondary are to remain closed for regular attendance until the October break as part of the continued reaction to the Covid-19 cases confirmed in the Uist area.

Robert Livingston said: “In the light of the very rapid rise in Covid-19 cases in South Uist, we have reluctantly decided to postpone our planned tour of the Screen Machine to the Western Isles, which was due to start on 8 October.  Given all the safety measures we have in place, it’s very unlikely that a visit by the Screen Machine would in any way contribute to the spread of the virus.

“Nonetheless, at a time when schools and businesses have been closed as a precaution, and when many people are being asked to self-isolate, it would be unreasonable to ask folk to come together for any kind of social activity.

“Moreover, taking into account the fact that the NHS Highland area has seen a rise in total cases of over 11% in just one week, we have decided not to switch immediately to other, mainland locations, but instead to take a short break until the start of November at the earliest, to allow time for the longer-term picture to become clearer.

“It’s unfortunate that the Highlands and Islands region, which had seen so few cases throughout lockdown, should experience such a dramatic surge just when services like the Screen Machine are able to open up again, and we very much hope that it will be possible to resume service in the near future.”

The Screen Machine only returned to the road on 18 September and is currently heading for Tobermory from Jura. The blockbuster Tenet was on the programme for the expected tour of the islands from next week.

To-date, all those who tested positive live in South Uist. Appropriate contact tracing measures are in place and a significant number of pupils and school staff are currently self-isolating on this basis.

 In response to this, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has confirmed the following arrangements for schools in the Uist area.

  • Daliburgh School and Nursery and Lionacleit Secondary will remain closed for regular attendance until the October break.
  • Iochdar School, Balivanich School and Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath, along with their associated pre-school provisions, will open on Thursday 1st October on a full-time regular basis.

The situation will be reviewed daily and any changes to the above plans will be immediately communicated through the normal Comhairle social media channels and school Groupcall systems.

All schools in the area have been deep-cleaned and risk assessments have been reviewed. IT support provision is being put in place for Daliburgh and Lionacleit in order that pupils can be provided with an online curriculum to access learning from home during the period of closure. The headteachers in Daliburgh and Lionacleit will contact all their parents and pupils to explain local arrangements.

Sunday 4 October sees the start of activity in the seas around the Western Isles, as the NATO exercise Joint Warrior gets underway once again.

Running between 4 October and 15 October, the exercise will consist of anti-submarine exercises conducted by warships, submarines and aircraft in coastal and offshore waters to the north, north-west and west of Scotland.

Daily broadcasts from Stornoway Coastguard at 7.10am and 7.10pm will make mariners aware of likely activity including submarine operations, mine-sweeping and GPS denial activities which could affect them.

Joint Tactical Exercise planning staff (JTEPS), who co-ordinate the exercise for the Ministry of Defence, said in a briefing issued yesterday (Tuesday 29 September): “In light of ever-changing threats to our Armed Forces, military ships maintain a detailed plot of maritime activity in their vicinity, which includes establishing the identity of small fishing vessels.

“Mariners are advised that warships from various allied nations will be conducting reconnaissance and challenges. Warships taking part have been instructed to offer fishing vessels and the wider civilian community every assistance in their dealings with exercise activity.”

The seas around the Western Isles have been designated in ‘area groupings’ named Pentland (north of the Ness district and the Butt of Lewis), Minch (North Minch), Hebrides (Little Minch) and, on the Atlantic side of the islands, Lewis (west of Lewis and Harris) and Uist (west of the southern isles).

Warships from several nations will be active in these areas, and on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 October a large number of fast small boats will operate in the North Minch to the west of Ullapool, but outside the main ferry route.

Submarine activity is due to begin on Monday (5 October) in the Minches, continuing right through until 15 October, and will also be evident in the Uist area throughout next week, west of Lewis between Wednesday 7 and Sunday 11 October and in the Pentland area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week.

Royal Navy vessels HMS Pembroke and HMS Cattistock will be minesweeping along a narrow channel of the Shiant bank during the exercise. Faslane-based HMS Pembroke recently became the Royal Navy’s most modern mine counter-measures vessel (MCMV) after being equipped with a state-of-the-art Oceanographic Reconnaissance Combat Architecture (ORCA) command system.

Inert exercise training mines have been laid for the exercise and a permanently-manned fisherman’s hotline number is available on 01923 956366.

Of most concern to mariners and residents of Lewis is likely to be the activity of GPS denial, popularly known as ‘jamming’, which can create interference with GPS equipment.

The JTEPS briefing said: “The denial of GPS services through the jamming of the GPS signal is an essential part of preparation for military operations and the training is likely to impact on both military and civilian users on land, sea and in the air.

“The ability to conduct jamming is spread throughout the modern world. Consequently, military forces are required to train under such conditions in order to demonstrate the effects it has on systems and to train personnel in other modes of operating.”

GPS denial will be operated from Loch Ewe between Tuesday 6 and Saturday 10 October, in half-hour bursts on an irregular timetable. Much of Point and parts of North and South Lochs could be intermittently affected by interruptions to the signal. Stopping the jamming in emergency can be requested by VHF to Stornoway Coastguard.

Any unexploded ordnance discovered by fishermen, divers or members of the public during and after the exercise should be notified at once on the emergency number 999 to HM Coastguard or to Police Scotland. The main advice to everyone is DO NOT TOUCH.

Meanwhile the skies over the islands, and occasionally Stornoway airport, will be the scene of activity from international air forces including the Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35B Lightning joint strike fighter aircraft, operating with the US Marine Corps (USMC) VMFA 211 Squadron F-35B aircraft.

The jets will launch from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the exercise, which comes ahead of the aircraft carrier’s maiden operational deployment next year.

Pictures show RAF F-35B lightning jets taking off to join HMS Queen Eizabeth ahead of the exercise (RAF), the interference prediction plot for GPS denial activities from Loch Ewe (JTEPS) and minesweeper HMS Pembroke, operating in the Minch next week (Royal Navy).

The Isle of Barra’s RNLI lifeboat is up on blocks inside a shed at the boatyard of A Noble and Sons in Girvan, Ayrshire this week.

The 17-metre, 42-tonne RNLB Severn class vessel, Edna Windsor (17-12), is to have a full mid-service-life engine replacement.

She was brought undercover at Noble's boatyard yesterday (Tuesday 29 September) ready for work to begin, after being at Girvan for several weeks.

Alexander Noble and Sons were established in 1946 as traditional shipwrights, and still use some of the increasingly rare skills needed to repair wooden vessels, but the majority of their work today involves repair, refit and maintenance of steel workboats such as trawlers and pilot tugs.

Undercover at their yard they have two slipways with engineering and spray-painting workshops, and it’s on one of these that the Barra RNLB has been secured ready for work to begin.

She will be fitted with twin 10-cylinder engines giving a speed of 25 knots and a range of 250 miles. The self-righting vessel has below-decks room for casualties and an area where a doctor can work, with stretcher space, a galley and secure seating.

While the work is continuing, Barra Island RNLI station has a replacement vessel, the Severn class RNLB Robert and Joy Freeman (17-31), which enables them to continue responding to emergencies until the return of their own vessel, which is expected at the end of October.

Pictures show the Barra lifeboat on the slipway and in the engineering shed at Nobles boatyard in Girvan yesterday (A Noble and Sons).

 

Work is due to recommence on the construction of eight flats for affordable rent at the former Police Station, Tarbert, Harris in early October 2020, Hebridean Housing Partenership says today (Wednesday September 30)

This project was suspended in September 2019 due to the non-performance of the previous contractor.

John Maciver, Director of Operations for HHP, said: "Whilst the actions of the previous contractor were most regrettable, we remain acutely aware of the importance of this development to bring much needed additional housing to Tarbert and we have worked with our partners at TIG, Torrance Partnership, colleagues in the Scottish Government and the newly appointed contractor, Alec Murray Construction, to ensure this project can go ahead as quickly as possible; we are grateful for their support to recommence these works.

"Progress of the development was also set back by the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lock down, but the housing is currently expected to be available by June 2021, subject to any change to the current guidance for construction projects. The development will consist of 8 x 2 bedroom flats and will benefit from air source heating.

"In addition to these new homes in Tarbert, there is also one remaining 2 bedroom Shared Equity property available at Pairc Niseaboist, Harris. This shared equity scheme designed to help people who would be unable to buy a new build house without assistance.

"Priority will be given to first time buyers, people living in social housing, armed forces or veterans, widows/widowers, disabled people, people living in private rented housing and people aged over 60.

For further details and application packs, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 0300 123 03

An ‘exemplary’ student has been awarded the Student of the Year title  at Lews Castle College UHI as its Online Graduation Week Continues.

SVQ Electrical Installation student Andrew Horne’s work has been described by his lecturer as “exemplars for future students attending this course in our college.’

This week sees Lews Castle College UHI begin a week of online graduation celebrations. Sadly, due to Covid restrictions, graduation has not been able to take place but the College are continuing to do everything possible to help students celebrate.

Throughout the week the College will be celebrating the stories of some of the wonderful students who have been studying with Lews Castle College UHI. These stories will celebrate how students, with the support of the College, have overcome extremely difficult circumstances created by the global pandemic to continue to excel in their studies.

Of Andrew Horne, Richard Hemmings, Lecturer in Electrical Engineering, said “Andrew’s non-practical work has been completed to a very high standard, gaining 100% grades in all the work he submitted to date. During the Covid lockdown, Andrew and his colleagues had to complete as much work as they could on-line. This situation was particularly challenging as apprentice courses were never designed for on-line delivery. I am very pleased that they coped so well.”

Andrew has been serving his Apprenticeship with local company A Campbell Electrical Services. Company Secretary Rachel Campbell said: ‘ACES Ltd are delighted to hear of Andrew’s award which reflects his hard work and we are appreciative of the support he receives from Lews Castle College.

"We are sure Andrew will continue to progress through his next two years at College with the same work ethic and determination he has shown over the last 18 months. Over the last 18 years all of our Electrical Apprentices have enjoyed their training at Lews Castle College as part of their SECTT Apprenticeship scheme.’

(A name spelling has been corrected since this was first published. Apologies for the error.)

 

Polling day for the by-election in Harris next Thursday (8 October) will give voters their first flavour of arrangements for casting a vote in the post-COVID era.

Returning officer Malcolm Burr has this morning (Wednesday 30 September) announced how polling day will run in the by-election for a new councillor in the Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch ward of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Polling stations at Leverburgh village hall, Tarbert community hall, Scalpay community centre and Gravir Free Church hall (pictured) will be open from 7am to 10pm next Thursday.

Details of all the polling stations and all the information about the poll can be found on the election office webpage at

https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/your-council/elections-and-voting/by-election/.

Additional hygiene measures mean that no more than one elector/or family group will be allowed to enter the polling station at any one time. Electors are encouraged to wear face coverings and to maintain social distancing.

Hand sanitiser will be available at the entrance to each polling station and on exit and each polling station will have been deep-cleaned before polling day. Booths will be sanitised after each elector has voted, and ‘touch points’ such as door handles and light switches will also be cleaned through the day. Voters are asked to leave the polling station as soon as they have cast their vote.

The vacancy for a third councillor for Harris and North Lochs was created when Finlay Cunningham stood down in July this year.

 

There was an amused reaction from the countryside districts of the Western Isles to the demand from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar yesterday (Tuesday September 29) that all bins be presented handle first, untethered and on-time each collection day.

On Twitter, Sarah Duce wrote: “All well and good. My bins are a mile from my house and if I don’t tie them, they blow away, leaving a trail of rubbish. Alternatively you could adopt my road and splash some tar on. Then I could have them at my house.”

Another reply reads: “Is this from April 1st, CnES? We live in one of the windiest places on earth....an untethered bin in winter is likely to distribute one’s fortnightly household refuse somewhere between Sula Sgeir and Norway. Followed by a 2 hour hunt for the actual bin.”

Another wrote:”Who would be liable for a traffic incident where vehicles collide and persons are injured trying to avoid mobile bins? A risk assessment had shown that exposed bins should be safely restrained where necessary.”

Earlier in a public statement on "Wheeled Bin Collections" issued at this lunchtime yesterday (Tuesday September 29) a Comhairle nan Eilean Siar spokesman said they "would like to remind residents in the Western Isles of the importance of presenting their wheeled bins correctly at the roadside.

"The Comhairle request that all Bins are presented by the roadside with the handles facing outward for 8am on the day of collection.

"Householders and service users are asked to ensure that no ropes, bungee cords or elasticated hooks are left attached to the bins as these could pose a hazard to our members of staff when loading bins onto the rear of the collection vehicle.

"Please note, bins that are stored in roadside bin storage housings must be presented to the roadside for collection.

"Any bins not presented correctly at the roadside may not be emptied," warns Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Jodie Sinclair from Laxdale is asking you to please vote for Theo Health – and you only have until midday on Friday (2nd October).

Jodie developed the Theo smart band and app to support recovery from anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

She explains: “My start-up company, Theo Health, is currently competing in the entrepreneurial competition - TATA Varsity 2020 - with the chance to win £15,000 of funding and you can help us win it by simply voting for Theo Health in the link below and sharing this post. Voting is open to everyone!

www.nacue.com/events/online-peoples-vote/695-theo-health.html

“The online people’s vote lasts only until midday this Friday. The company with the most votes will be fast tracked to the Grand Final. The pace has been building at Theo Health over the last few months and winning this funding would allow us to accelerate, file for a patent and create a more advanced prototype of Theo, one that can be presented to potential investors.

“Your vote would really mean so much! If you would like to read more about what Theo is, how it helps and the inspiration behind it, click here: www.jamesdysonaward.org/2020/project/theo/

Jodie’s product is the tangible evidence of her determination not to let bad luck get in the way of her career. In 2014 she was just about to head off for her place at the University of Dundee after leaving The Nicolson Institute, when she fell off her skateboard and ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

The ACL is one of the two ligaments which connect the thigh to the shin and enable the knee joint to work. At the time Jodie was an active athlete, who’d competed for the Western Isles at the International Island Games in Jersey and was looking forward to playing rugby and football at university.

Instead she found herself with an undiagnosed injury that, eventually, needed reconstructive surgery. From being an agile athlete, Jodie found herself in a very different position after the operation.

“I went for several months without diagnosis and then, after an MRI showed what it was, I had to wait a year for an operation. By the time I had the op my thigh muscle had completely depleted, and, after surgery, I had to struggle to do exercises which I could have just done without thinking about before my injury. The exercises would work when I was with a physio, but when I was at home, I felt like I wasn’t working the right muscle, and nothing was happening. It was so demotivating.”

But from that experience Jodie invented her new best friend – Theo. “The idea stemmed from that – it’s a device you wear when doing repetitive exercise and the muscle sensors take one reading using all three sensors, linking with an app which gives live feedback showing muscle tension.

“After your exercise session it will show you a progress chart and over the weeks you will see how it changes. You can exercise with the sensors on the bad leg, then on the good leg, and the lines on the app will show you how you are moving towards normal function in the damaged leg.”

Jodie won a number of awards for the Theo project last year and development has continued since then. 

(The links given in this article have been updated since it was pubished.  It seems they only worked within the LinkedIn environment - apologies)

The wooden horse, Miss Porter, situated beside the Porter’s Lodge in Bayhead Street, Stornoway, has been adversely affected by the weather and has been needing attention for some time now.

She is no longer the beautiful showpiece she once was and the Western Isles Lottery Team are now endeavouring to provide Miss Porter with a much needed make-over.

Miss Porter was the name selected by the Stornoway Amenity Trust from a list of over 30 names suggested by the public in 2010.

Originally installed by the Trust back in 2010,  the horse was made by Stornoway Trust’s forester Iain Murray, and painted by Jane Macintosh. She was a pleasing talking point for visiting tourists. However, Miss Porter is now showing her age being rather weather-beaten and her original carriage, excavated from George Cladd’s croft in Marybank, has unfortunately fallen into disrepair.

The Lottery Team , in partnership with Stornoway Trust, plan to repair Miss Porter soon, with some cosmetic surgery. In addition, the Team have commissioned a local artist to repaint the horse.

Sadly, the original carriage was assessed as being beyond repair. Tony Robson, of the Lottery Team, sourced a suitable and different replacement in Halifax, northern England, and it is currently on its way to the Island. The Lottery Team express their sincere thanks to Woody at Express Parcels for waiving the expensive transportation costs which would otherwise have further delayed the project.

The Drawn Driving Carriage/Trap is described as being “an exceptional example of an original horse drawn Victorian Ralli Car” by its previous owner, an antique dealer.  The Cart, it is believed, has spent most of its life in Lincolnshire.

From historic articles, the Car originates from 1898 but no explanation can be found as to the origin of this vehicles’ name, nor why it is called Car and not Cart, but it became very fashionable in around 1898. It is an off-shoot of the Dog Cart.

Emma Fraser, Secretary of the Lottery Team, said “this is truly an example of the Community coming together to improve the aesthetics of the Town and, thanks to everyone’s efforts, we will once again have a beautiful show piece at the heart of a very busy thoroughfare”.

The Lottery Team express their gratitude to Stornoway Trust and Woody’s Express Parcels and, most importantly, to every single supporter of the Western Isles Lottery who continue to make projects like this happen throughout our Islands.

To join in with the Lottery and help the good work across the Islands continue, you can log onto www.westernisleslottery.co.uk

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is clamping down on incorrectly presented wheelie bins – warning residents that all bins must be out on the street at 8am on collection days – with the handles facing out.

In a public statement on "Wheeled Bin Collections"this lunchtime (Tuesday September 29) a Comhairle nan Eilean Siar spokesman said they "would like to remind residents in the Western Isles of the importance of presenting their wheeled bins correctly at the roadside.

"The Comhairle request that all Bins are presented by the roadside with the handles facing outward for 8am on the day of collection.

"Householders and service users are asked to ensure that no ropes, bungee cords or elasticated hooks are left attached to the bins as these could pose a hazard to our members of staff when loading bins onto the rear of the collection vehicle.

"Please note, bins that are stored in roadside bin storage housings must be presented to the roadside for collection.

"Any bins not presented correctly at the roadside may not be emptied," warns Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

A total of 19 individuals in southern Uist have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 infection, as of this morning (Tuesday September 29). 

One patient with COVID-19 infection has been transferred to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow for treatment, says NHS Western Isles.

"We have no further information as to their condition. All other patients are managing their symptoms at home," they say.


Message from Daliburgh Branch Surgery

The Branch Surgery in Daliburgh has now closed (from 29.9.2020) as a precautionary measure as a result of the increase in cases of COVID-19.  Surgery staff have been liaising with Resilient Uist and they will, as before, do two lots of prescription collections from the Practice in Benbecula. This will be on a Monday and on a Thursday.  If you require your prescription collected please call Paul Steele on 07976 416 811 and he will make the arrangements with you. Please note that you need to contact Paul for each medication collection. This will not be done automatically.
We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.​


This is a further increase of two cases since yesterday.  The original three cases were reported last Friday.  Prior to this outbreak, the total number of officially recognised cases in all the Western Isles was eight - although it is widely recognised that many cases went untested and unreported throughout the UK in the original outbreak in March and April. 

A Problem Assessment Group (PAG) met on Friday and an Incident Management Team (IMT) met yesterday (Monday) and is working with Scottish Government, and Public Health Scotland to provide advice and support.

Liniclate Sports Centre

Liniclate Sports Centre is closed today and Wednesday 30th September.  This comes after the announcement that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has closed all schools in Uist until Thursday 31st September to staff and pupils, as a precautionary measure. Further updates on Liniclate Sports Centre will be provided on the Comhairle Facebook page, Comhairle Website and Comhairle Sports App.

HOSPITAL VISITING

NHS Western Isles has taken the decision today to restrict visiting in Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh to essential visiting only. This decision is being implemented with immediate effect as a precautionary measure.

Essential Visiting examples include:

  • a parent accompanying a child
  • in maternity settings, partners or birth partners being able to attend ante-natal, clinic or scan appointments with their partner 
  • when someone has reached the end of their life, has a life-threatening illness, when someone is receiving difficult news, or similar situations 
  • when people have a mental health issue such as dementia, autism or learning disabilities.

The following general restriction applies for all visitors:

  • Do not visit anyone in hospital if you are unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19 (regardless of how mild they are), or if you have been identified as a contact of anyone with COVID-19.
  • All visitors must hand sanitize and wear a face mask. 

The Virtual Visiting service remains in place for those who wish to book a virtual visit with a friend/relative in hospital. To book a visit with a patient in Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh, please telephone 01870 603601​. Once your visit is scheduled, you can log on to https://www.wihb.scot.nhs.uk/i-am-a-visitor/welcome/ to attend your appointment.

DENTAL SERVICE: UIST AND BENBECULA

The dental clinic in Liniclate will limit appointments to emergency care only for the next few days. This reduces both travel and contact between members of the public, and dental staff. We hope to lift this restriction as soon as it can be confirmed that the current outbreak has been controlled.  At present, patients in Uist and Benbecula seeking dental advice should call the practice on 01870 602178. Callers will be assessed for urgency by dental staff and urgent cases given priority. Do not attend the clinic without calling first.

HEALTHCARE APPOINTMENTS

In terms of appointments in hospital or with other healthcare staff in the Uists, we would advise patients that, at this stage, there is no change to patient appointments and they will continue as planned, unless we notify you otherwise.

TEST RESULTS

We would ask that individuals who are tested through Test and Protect do not contact their GP or hospital for their results. If tested, you will be contacted directly with the result. Please ensure that you provide accurate contact details and self isolate (i.e. do not leave your house) until you receive your result. If your result is positive, you will be required to self isolate for 10 days.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts said: “We would like to reassure our local communities and visitors to the island that we are taking all necessary steps to contain the virus but it is vital that everyone in the Western Isles follows the current Scottish Government restrictions and FACTS guidance to limit any spread of the virus.”

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.

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 (regardless of how mild the symptoms are), you and your household should immediately self isolate and book a test. You should not attend your workplace and children in the household should not attend school/nursery.

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)

The shipyard responsible for building two new ferries, one of which will serve the Uig triangle route, has named companies who have won further work on the much-delayed contract.

The first of two dual-fuel ferries being built for Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) for use by CalMac on the Hebrides and Arran routes is moving onto a new phase of fit-out work.

MV Glen Sannox returned to the Ferguson Marine’s Port Glasgow shipyard early in September, after extensive remedial work needed in dry-dock to repair problems caused by the long delays in her construction.

Now Ferguson have awarded £15 million worth of contracts for pipework, electrical work and passenger area fit-out. Among those winning the contracts are Blu Marine, who also have contracts for ferry companies P&O, Stena and DFDS.

Further work has been awarded to Dales Marine, who completed the dry-dock repairs to the Glen Sannox at their Greenock yard, and McEvoy Engineering has won a contract for pipework on the vessel.

Ferguson says that 200 jobs will be secured by the new contracts, while a further £10 million in contracts will be awarded in the next few weeks.

Tim Hair, turnaround director at Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Ltd, said: “Following a period of uncertainty due to Covid-19, it has been really gratifying to see our team return to outdoor working on MV Glen Sannox.

“We’ve made some solid strides forward over the last few weeks on MV Glen Sannox and have slightly extended the dry dock period to take advantage of the stability of the vessel whilst stationed there to carry out some additional tasks.

“Now that the ferry has been brought up to its current condition and has returned to our shipyard, the next steps will include work on the superstructure, electrical work and the installation of approximately 16km of pipework.”

The Uig triangle ferry, which will serve Tarbert and Lochmaddy, is still currently known only as Hull 802. A report on the progress and impact of Covid-19 on the programme for vessels 801 and 802 was presented to the Scottish Parliament on 25 August.

Ferguson say that the cost of the project to deliver the ferries remains unchanged at £110.3m, but due to the yard being forced to close for three months and on restricted working for at least a further three months, MV Glen Sannox is now due for delivery between April 2022 and June 2022.

Work on Hull 802 and her potential future completion to serve the Western Isles route is expected to follow Glen Sannox’s commissioning for service.

The picture shows Glen Sannox as she entered the water from the Ferguson Marine slipway on 21 November 2017 (Ferguson Marine).

 

SNP Members in the Western Isles have selected sitting MSP Alasdair Allan as their candidate again to fight the Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency in the Scottish Parliament elections next May.

Alasdair Allan, who has represented the islands in Holyrood since the SNP took the seat from Labour in 2007, was confirmed as the SNP's sole nominee, following an online consultation with members.

Western Isles SNP Constituency Association Convenor Margaret Martin commented: "Alasdair has been a hard-working and popular MSP, and has helped many hundreds of individuals in his work locally. We look forward as SNP members now to working for his re-election for a fourth time in May.  At a difficult time for the country, I believe Alasdair is the person to represent this constituency's interests and continue to stand up for the people of the islands."

Alasdair Allan commented:“I feel incredibly honoured to represent the people of the Western Isles in the Scottish Parliament. If people choose to elect me in May, I will be honoured to do that work again. I thank SNP members for asking me to be their candidate.

"Support for independence has never been higher in Scotland, and is now establishing itself as the majority view. I believe as firmly now as I did when I joined the SNP thirty years ago that this view will prevail and win out in the end.

"I have tried though to represent people in the islands whether they vote for me or not, raising issues as varied as the future of Coastguard jobs in the islands to the need for affordable housing or the future of Gaelic.

"I don't take voters for granted. it is voters who will decide whether I continue to serve as MSP, and I look forward to that campaign in May"

A total of 17 individuals in South Uist have now tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 infection, NHS Western Isles reports this afternoon (Monday September 28).

All the individuals are from the southern end of Uist. 

Close contacts are being advised to self-isolate and other identified contacts are being followed up and given appropriate advice.

The NHS say: "We would ask that individuals who are tested through Test and Protect do not contact their GP or hospital for their results.

"If tested, you will be contacted directly with the result. Please ensure that you provide accurate contact details and self isolate (i.e. do not leave your house) until you receive your result. If your result is positive, you will be required to self isolate for 10 days.

A Problem Assessment Group (PAG) met on Friday and an Incident Management Team (IMT) met today and is working with Scottish Government, and Public Health Scotland to provide advice and support.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts said: “The individuals involved have been asked to self isolate for ten days from onset of symptoms and we are tracing all their contacts, who are also being advised to self isolate, for 14 days, from the date of their last contact with the case as a precaution."

Hebridean Housing Partnership have announced that: "In view of the COVID-19 outbreak in Uist we have restricted our repair service in Uist to an emergency-only basis until the situation becomes clearer. We have also ceased our investment works, including smoke and heat detector installations.   We will be in touch with people affected by this update, to make new arrangements for the work to be carried out as quickly as possible.

"Services in Barra are operating near normal but we will ensure that only local operatives are employed wherever possible.  Heating works are continuing to be carried out by Alex Murray Construction but only in vacant houses at present.  We will keep this under constant review.

"If you need to contact us at any time to report an emergency repair please phone 0300 123 0773. If you have concerns regarding your Tenancy, or have any other queries, please call us on 0300 123 0773 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Track and Trace remains the key weapon in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 in our communities, says Isles MP Angus Macneil and urges any constituent with symptoms to book a test.

With 17 confirmed cases in South Uist and Eriskay, Mr MacNeil has written to NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Jeanne Freeman seeking detail on the testing programme and in particular the possibility of asymptomatic testing.  Currently 60 to 80 per cent of Covid carriers are asymptomatic and can unknowingly spread the virus.

Mr MacNeil welcomed the increase in testing figures in Na h-Eileanan an Iar which currently stands at 2886 but stressed that even those who return a negative test should ensure they proceed with isolation.  He drew attention to the successful programme of testing, quarantining and testing asymptomatics in the Faroe Islands where the virus has been repressed.

“If people suspect they have even the slightest symptoms, in smell or taste, to book a test because ultimately testing and finding the virus is the way we beat the virus.”

Mr MacNeil added that thoughts of all the communities of Na h-Eileanan an Iar are with those in South Uist and Eriskay affected by this outbreak.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged close adherence to public health guidance in light of the recent spread of COVID-19 in South Uist and Eriskay.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I can only urge everyone to adhere closely to public health guidance. If you develop symptoms, you can book a test using the local phoneline on 01851 601 151. The symptoms are a new persistent cough, a fever or loss of smell or taste.

“If you have questions about self-isolating, testing or symptoms, your first port of call is https://www.nhsinform.scot/.

 “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. We all need to abide by public health guidance, which matters now more than ever.”

The Importance of Having a Will and a Power of Attorney

It is estimated that only a third of the population of Scotland have a Will and it is likely that fewer still have a Power of Attorney. This inevitably will lead to many families having to go through difficult and costly processes when someone loses capacity or passes away. Making a Will and a Power of Attorney will make it easier for loved ones to get through a time which may already be very stressful.

Your Power of Attorney sets out who would be able to manage your affairs and make decisions on your behalf if you lost capacity and your Will sets out what should happen with your estate once you pass away. Neither document becomes effective until it is required.

It is understandable that it is not easy to think about losing capacity or passing away but making a Will and a Power of Attorney is not as difficult as people think it is, and it will give peace of mind that your affairs are in order.  

It is just as important for young people to have Wills and Powers of Attorney as it is for older people to have them.

Did you know?

  • It is particularly important for croft tenants to have a Will to ensure the croft can be transferred to the next tenant.
  • It is not necessarily true that everything will automatically go to your spouse or partner if you pass away without a Will.
  • If you do not have immediate family members and you have not left a Will, your estate will be shared out by the nearest class of relatives. This could mean that cousins you are rarely in contact with will inherit your estate.
  • It is not enough to simply tell people your wishes while you are living, your Will requires to be written.
  • You can change your Will at any time if circumstances change, so it is not set in stone when you first make a Will.
  • If you do not have a Power of Attorney in place and you find yourself in a situation where you cannot manage your own affairs, no one will be able to deal with your bills, take money out of your sole bank account or make any decisions for you. The only alternative is for a Guardianship Order to be put in place which can take several months and will involve the Court and a number of professional assessments.

At Anderson Macarthur we are passionate about everyone having a Will and a Power of Attorney and we are committed to keeping the costs of these documents affordable. Our solicitors will be able to take you through the process of making a Will and a Power of Attorney and answer the questions you might have.

Anderson Macarthur is signed up to the Free Will Service offered by Cancer Research UK. This means we can offer free wills to clients. Cancer Research UK will pay for your Will to be made in the hope you leave something to them in your Will. If you would like to use the Free Will Service then please let us know when you contact us.

Tha ar luchd lagha fileanta anns a’ Ghàidhlig agus gu math deònach bruidhinn ri neach sam bith mu dheidhinn na cùisean seo anns a’ Ghàidhlig.

For more information and to arrange your Will and Power of Attorney, please contact one of our offices: -

Stornoway: Tel: 01851 703356 or Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Portree: Tel: 01478 612197 or Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Fèis Bharraigh – it was held online in July and its success and 40-year legacy was also celebrated online at Fèisean nan Gàidheal Annual Conference at the weekend.

Fèis Bharraigh was established in 1981 when Father Colin MacInnes along with Glenuig piper, Dr Angus MacDonald, came up with the idea to promote, encourage, foster and develop the practice and study of the Gaelic language, literature, music, drama and culture in Barra and Vatersay. 

Its success inspired other communities and a hugely popular cultural movement was born, with 46 other Fèisean taking place every year throughout Scotland, under the umbrella of Gaelic arts organisation, Fèisean nan Gàidheal.

Fèisean nan Gàidheal usually holds its Annual Conference at different Scottish venues every year. Undeterred by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was held on Friday (25th) afternoon with more people than normal given the opportunity to attend and participate in an online event.

Events for Fèis organisers and tutors from across the country included a workshop on Barra songs with John Joe MacNeill, early years games and songs with Eilidh Cormack and Katie Mackenzie, idioms with Alec Macdonald and a session about Gaelic use in the island Fèisean with Arthur Cormack.  Special Guest was Lucinda Geoghegan, Creative Learning Director of the National Youth Choir of Scotland who demonstrated the use of rhythmic games and movement to aid the learning of songs in Gaelic.

At Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s AGM, held on Friday evening, the organisation’s Chair, Anna Murray, published the organisation’s Annual Report. Despite the curtailment of some activities towards the end of the 2019-20 financial year, more than 72,000 people engaged in the organisation’s activities and over 80 FTE posts were supported by its work.

Following the AGM, a panel hosted by broadcaster Cailean Maclean, discussed the origins of Fèis Bharraigh and its legacy. The panel included Fr Colin MacInnes, Dr Angus MacDonald, Kenna Campbell, Katag MacNeill and Angus MacNeil MP. 

A cèilidh, featuring singers and musicians from Fèis Bharraigh (Barra), Fèis Eilean an Fhraoich (Stornoway, Lewis) and Fèis Taigh Dhonnchaidh (Ness, Lewis), all marking significant anniversaries, plus some others present at the online event rounded off the evening events which were streamed live to over 3,000 people.

Arthur Cormack, Fèisean nan Gàidheal chief executive, commented: “All arts organisations have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and it has been a very unusual year in that respect. We have done our best to move as much of our programme as possible online and while face-to-face interaction is missed, there have been successes in online delivery. 

"We were keen to proceed with an online conference to bring together Fèis organisers, tutors and funders.  The organisation’s focus in the coming months will be ensuring support for the Fèisean to delivery work in their communities, online for the foreseeable future, and creating employment opportunities for artists who have lost so much work during the past few months.”

The organisation’s Annual Report may be accessed here.

MSP Alasdair Allan visited Lews Castle College UHI today (Monday September 28) to welcome new Principal and CEO Sue Macfarlane as Graduation Week launches. 

Mr Allan met students who are being supported to continue their studies as the Covid pandemic continues.

The College is hosting a week of online celebration for the graduates of 2020, from today (Monday 28 September). The University of the Highlands and Islands will be publishing celebratory webpages featuring video messages from the Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, the University's Principal and Vice-chancellor and local academic partner principals. Students will also be able to download a graduate list to keep as souvenir. Throughout the week the College will be releasing celebratory student stories via its website and social media.

Lews Castle College Principal Sue Macfarlane said, ‘We want to celebrate all our higher education students who have graduated their courses this year despite the challenges they’ve faced through COVID-19. This has been an extremely difficult time for students, and we are very proud of all the hard work and dedication shown by every one of them.

"Lews Castle College is invested in helping to support the local community during this difficult time. We have a huge range of facilities on offer to support retraining, upskilling and flexible learning. A wide range of our courses can be studied online, part time and with expert support from College staff. We are working hard to develop our online offering further with new courses launching in January to provide further support for students and local businesses alike.”

MSP Alasdair Allan said, "It was great to meet with Sue today and to celebrate the achievements of our students locally in what are tough and trying times for students and educators.  The College has a crucial role in supporting individuals and business in the islands and it was interesting to hear about how this work is continuing as we adapt to the challenges brought about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lews Castle College UHI is an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands, the United Kingdom’s leading integrated university encompassing both further and higher education. The College provides a diverse range of courses to students in Lewis, North Uist, Benbecula and Barra.

Picture caption | MSP Alasdair Allan and Lews Castle College Principal Sue Macfarlane meet FES Electrical Apprentice Craig Mackenzie to discuss his work

A mariner injured on board a cargo vessel in the Atlantic was brought to hospital in Stornoway on Saturday (26 September) after a 12-hour wait for his vessel to get within range.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call for help from the Dutch-registered cargo vessel Stadiongracht, en-route for Poland, at 10.30pm on Friday.

The vessel was then 260 nautical miles west of Benbecula, within the UK search and rescue area but outside the range of the Coastguard helicopter. A member of her crew had a hand injury which required medical attention.

The vessel’s skipper was asked to make for the Isle of Lewis and headed north-eastwards overnight, calling to say she was heading to the north of St Kilda at about 8.37am on Saturday.

Stornoway Coastguard helicopter R948 headed for a rendezvous location 90 miles from Lewis and was able to airlift the man from the deck at 11.10am on Saturday.

The casualty was taken to Stornoway airport and passed into the care of a crew from Scottish Ambulance, with the helicopter crew stood down at 12.24pm.

Picture shows the Stadiongracht which continued on its journey following the rescue (Baltic shipping).

 

Uist is effectively entering voluntary lockdown after news yesterday (Sunday 27 September) of a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in South Uist.

Businesses across North and South Uist, Benbecula and other islands reacted swiftly and the islands are today (Monday) seeing flash closures and restrictions to services as companies do their best to limit the spread of the virus through small communities.

Among businesses which have announced temporary closure from this morning are the Claddach Kirkibost centre in North Uist and the Kilbride café on the shores of the Sound of Barra, Am Politician in Eriskay and Salar Smokehouse at Loch Carnan.

Taigh Chearsbhagh arts centre and museum in North Uist was also closing from today, with a review due on Wednesday. The Post Office remained open, today only, until 1pm, as an essential service.

In a statement this morning they said: “Please only use this service if absolutely necessary. We will review the situation on Wednesday afternoon and make a decision about potentially reopening the post office only, later this week, on a limited schedule.”

Isle Drive Uist has cancelled driving lessons and will review the situation at the end of the week. Creagorry motors are asking customers to use their outdoor payment terminal to pay by card when purchasing fuel and not to come into the office.

Close contact businesses such as hair salons and beauty therapists are especially concerned. Among those suspending their service are the Shore Room, Uist Beauty, Margie MacSween and Solas complementary therapies.

Other organisations are changing their arrangements to try and maintain a service during the peak of the current outbreak. Among them, Berneray shop is now offering home deliveries.

N D MacAskill and Son are suspending feed and coal deliveries this week and closing their shed, although they will still make deliveries in emergency by telephone appointment.

There have been calls for restrictions to inter-island travel to prevent the spread of the current outbreak, especially to Barra.

Castlebay and Vatersay Community Council posted on their Facebook page today: “With 14 cases of Covid in the Uists confirmed and more test results pending, more than ever we need to ask is our travel essential, particularly inter-island at this time. Please be proactive and stay safe.”

Pictures show Taigh Chearsabhagh arts centre and the Kilbride Café, both closed from today.

 

Nominations are being sought for Community Heroes in the Western Isles during the Covid-19 Crisis.

As part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign, Scotland’s Towns Partnership is on the search for ‘High Street Heroes’ - or, in the Western Isles, community heroes. until Friday 2nd October.

As the national campaign encouraging people to 'think local' during the Covid-19 crisis, Scotland Loves Local wants to celebrate the people, businesses and local organisations who have gone the extra mile to support their communities during the lockdown and the reopening of village and town centres.

Almost any civic-minded and community action is eligible for recognition in these awards. Whether by supporting vulnerable residents or key workers, helping local businesses to go digital, keeping the local area clean and tidy, ensuring high streets can re-open safely, or encouraging people to shop locally, we want to know who has been a community hero in your area.

All those who are nominated will receive formal recognition. In addition, a cross-section of entries from across Scotland will be selected for a special Scotland Loves Local prize, as well as potential opportunities for local and national media coverage as part of the campaign.

There are three categories for the awards: individuals, local businesses, and organisations.

Examples of organisations might include your local community council, charity, development trust, business improvement district or local authority.

Nominations can be made on this short online form, which only takes a few minutes to fill out.

Although the main competition closed for entries at 5pm, on Friday 11th September, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar say the Western Isles section is open until until Friday 2nd October.

Western Isles athletes are digesting disappointing news after the announcement on Saturday (26 September) that the 2021 NatWest International Island Games will not go ahead.

The games, set to be held in Guernsey in July 2021, have been postponed due to concern about COVID-19 and its potential impact.

The International Island Games Association made their announcement following their virtual AGM on Saturday, when chair Jörgen Pettersson said: “This decision was not made lightly and was based on the responses received from the recent survey undertaken with member islands.

“First and foremost in making the decision was the wellbeing of all the member islands’ sportspeople and the impact that any importation of the virus into Guernsey would have on their island.

“We have waited for even the slightest possible opportunity to go on with the games in 2021, but we have to acknowledge the facts. The pandemic is not over, the quarantine regulations will continue to make planning forward very difficult.

“Therefore, it would not be fair to ask the member islands or the host island to commit financially to an event next summer. This has been a difficult decision to accept for all of us.

“I am truly sorry for this decision but I also know the determination in our island communities and I am convinced we will come back in friendly competition as soon as possible.”

Passing on the news to island athletes on Saturday, a post from Western Isles Island Games Association (WIIGA) said: “Not what our islands’ elite athletes wanted to hear but not unexpected in the middle of pandemic. It’s only a postponement, the Games will go ahead, it just means everyone will have the chance to prepare how they would have wanted to.”

The NatWest International Island Games are a bi-annual competition intended to give island athletes the opportunity to represent their community and raise the profile of even the smallest islands.

The last games, in Gibraltar in 2019, saw the Western Isles take four gold medals, two silver and two bronzes, to finish twelfth in the medal table. In Gotland in 2017 they won 14 medals, while Jersey in 2015 saw their biggest haul of 19 medals including nine golds.

The games in Guernsey in 2021 were due to be the last games where NatWest International was the title sponsor.

News of the postponement came just after Stornoway Running and Athletics Club had hosted their first post-COVID track and field meet on Saturday at the Smith Avenue track.

Under strict guidelines, the event saw athletes between the ages of 11 and 21 competing at running distances from 100 to 5,000 metres, and in hurdles, discus and shot-put events. Full results are at https://srac.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ogm-26_09_2020-results.pdf

The picture shows members of the Western Isles Island Games Team celebrating after the 2019 competition in Gibraltar (WIIGA).

 

The next area to benefit from upgraded walking routes between Stornoway and Point will be Steinish, after Mossend Residents Association secured more than £42,000 from the Crown Estate Coastal Communities Fund.

Plans are at an advanced stage for the Steinish Circular Coastal Trail, with the funding now in place for the first of two phases. That section will be from Simon’s Road, starting at a location 50 yards before the entrance to the Auction Mart, and will head down towards the sea and along the coast via the newly constructed path.

An application for planning permission has been submitted for this part of the project, which will involve upgrading the existing road and path that leads off Simon’s Road, extending around the estuary, bordering a designated SSSI (Special Site of Scientific Interest) with sinking sands known locally as ‘the Cob’.

If planning permission is secured, the eventual path will be 2km long and 1.2M wide with wider areas of 1.7M for passing and resting. It will be surfaced to allow for easy wheelchair and buggy access.

Phase two of the planned work will involve extending the track around the shore side of Steinish village and up around the far side of the village, exiting near the airport. 

Mossend Residents Association are “delighted” to have secured the money, confirmed by a full meeting of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in August, and were assisted in this by Point and Sandwick Trust honorary president Angus McCormack in his capacity as local councillor.

Angus McCormack is also a North Street resident and was happy to help the Residents Association. He said: “I’m delighted that at last this project, which has been lying on the shelf for a number of years is going to go ahead.”

The area around the estuary is well known for its rich bird life and the project has received support from Scottish Natural Heritage. Arctic Tern nest in summer and other visitors include Skylark, Shelduck, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plover, migrating waders, ducks and geese. Salmon and sea trout can be found in the estuary waters.

Angus also said: “It’s a beautiful walk, actually. It is possible to walk there just now but for anybody who’s not good on their pins, it’s not good. We are trying to make it so that anyone can walk there. It’s a sea estuary so there’s a very wide variety of birds to be seen over the year and sometimes it’s very interesting to see the fish go in up the river.”

Michael Smith, who is on both the Mossend Residents Association and the Steinish Community Development Trust, undertook much of the recent background work to bring the project to the planning stage. He said: “The Steinish Community Development Trust and the Residents Association are delighted that this wonderful project has made it to the development stage with the help of our local councillor on the Residents Association and the input of Point and Sandwick Trust.

“During lockdown and our daily one hour walks around the village it became clear to residents that this path project would really be of huge benefit to not only those in the village but many people in the Stornoway area who seek a quiet coastal walk where they can appreciate the views across the sands, experience a variety of wildlife and benefit form breathing in fresh sea air.” 

Angus added: “It’s a lovely walk and the opportunity to see the birds in the estuary is wonderful.”

Duncan Mackay, chair of Mossend Residents Association, warmly welcomed the development. He said the area was “really excellent” and particularly popular with dog walkers. “It’s very, very popular. It’s a lovely area; good for bird watching, dog walking, fishing and general sightseeing – although the likes of children have to be extremely careful because there is sinking sand.”

Duncan is also chair of the Fideach Angling Club, whose area covers the Steinish pool. He recalled the idea for the path being mooted “about three or four years ago” and added: “It finally came to fruition there when we got the grant. Angus put a lot of work into that. We’ve been talking about it for quite a while and the grant put the icing on the cake.”

Vandalism and anti-social behaviour by a small number of people are contributing to local worries about youth disorder, according to a report by Police Scotland’s Chief Inspector Ian Graham to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s communities and housing committee last week (Tuesday 22 September).

Chief Inspector Graham reported that cases of vandalism between April and June 2020 were almost double those at the same time last year.

34 cases of vandalism have been reported across the islands in that period, and councillors told Chief Inspector Graham of their own concerns, raised by reports from residents, especially in the Stornoway area.

Police Scotland’s local police plan for the next three years says that antisocial behaviour describes a range of issues which cause distress to communities and make them feel unsafe, from vandalism to noisy neighbours and youth disorder.

The report says: “Alcohol and associated behaviours continue to be a significant factor in disorder in the area. We will continue to work closely with the licensing industry to share best practice and maintain robust licensing monitoring.

“We will continue to work with partners to share information, support education, prevention, diversionary and enforcement measures linked to harmful alcohol and drug consumption.

“We will better understand the causes to reduce instances of antisocial behaviour, violence and disorder to enhance community safety across the area.

“We recognise the strong sense of community identity and resilience across Western Isles and seek with partners, to build on this to make all of our communities stronger, more agile and able to lead and take responsibility on local issues.”

Chief Inspector Graham also had news on road safety issues, with a separate report to the committee on performance between 1 April and 30 June under the headings of road safety and road crime.

The number of people detected speeding in that period has more than trebled over the same period last year, with 23 people detected speeding against seven in 2019/20.

But people detected for drink and drug-driving offences have halved in the year, from 12 in 2019/20 to six in the same period this year.

Councillors noted the progress made against the objectives set within the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Local Policing Plan 2020/23.

 

Schools throughout Uist are being kept closed tomorrow (Monday September 28) and for at least the following two days as the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak focused in South Uist spreads. 

There are now 14 confirmed cases.  In a special broadcast on Twitter (https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1310333598432661512?s=21) NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson pleaded with people throughout the Islands to follow the Covid-19 rules to help control the outbreak.

In a statement issued at 22.25 tonight (Sunday September 27) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: " In the light of information received on potential school-related cases, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has taken the decision to close all schools in Uist for the next three days, as a precautionary measure, until test results give a clear picture.

"The Comhairle will review the situation on a daily basis.

"A Groupcall message has gone out to all parents informing them of the closures."

The first three cases on Uist were only confirmed two days ago, on Friday September 25.

Earlier today four additional individuals in Uist were confirmed as positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. 

All seven individuals were self-isolating at home and none have required hospital care, says NHS Western Isles.

Then by 22.40 tonight the number of positive tests was announced as 14, with more testing going on at the time. 

And this almost triples the number of cases officially known on the Outer Hebrides to 22.  This compares to almost 60 in Shetland and 22 in Orkney, both of which have smaller populations.

The earlier report in full is on:

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/18104-3-more-covid-19-cases-in-uist

(This story has been significantly updated since being posted for the first time at 22.45 on Sunday September 27)

Two people had to be airlifted from a secluded cove near to Gress after becoming cut off by the tide, losing access to their boat, and being stranded overnight.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre said the man and woman had apparently left Brevig pier on Friday (25 September), with the intention of reaching the shore at Sialabhaig Mòr in a small rowing boat.

The pair successfully gained the shore and were winkle-picking when they were cut off by the tide. They took shelter in a small bothy in the cove overnight, but had no communications and were unable to call for help.

At 9.13am yesterday  (Saturday 26 September) a passing vessel noticed the pair and alerted HM Coastguard using their on-board phone. The initial report was of persons in the water and a swamped vessel.

Stornoway RNLI lifeboat launched at 9.15am, and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team (CRT) were tasked to head to the location by road, taking the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) while Coastguard rescue helicopter R948 also went to the site.

A member of Stornoway CRT reported: “The team made their way as close to the location as possible and it was obvious that we wouldn’t be able to use the ATV due to the amount of fences and lack of gates, so we made our way to the incident on foot, a trek of around 3/4 of a mile through waist-high heather in places.”

The helicopter crew winched both casualties from their location to the beach, where a check revealed no signs of injury, but it was decided to take the pair on to Stornoway airport, and to the care of a team from Scottish Ambulance.

Meanwhile the RNLI lifeboat stood by as Stornoway CRT cleared personal belongings from the beach and pulled their small boat up past the high waterline.

All teams were stood down by 10.37am with all safe and well.

The picture shows the location of the rescue, with R948 waiting to uplift the casualties en-route to meet a Scottish Ambulance crew (Stornoway CRT).

 

A 19-year-old man was arrested at Western Isles hospital in the early hours of this morning (Sunday 27 September), after police were called because of his conduct towards hospital workers.

The man was charged under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act and was taken to Stornoway police station, after police were called at 2.15am.

He was kept in custody until sober and was released pending a future court date to be set on the charge.

 

Four additional individuals in Uist have been confirmed as positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. 

This brings the total number of people identified as having the virus in Uist to seven, says NHS Western Isles.

And it almost doubles the number of cases officially known on the Outer Hebrides to 15.  This compares to almost 60 in Shetland and 22 in Orkney, both of which have smaller populations.

The first three cases on Uist were only confirmed two days ago, on Friday September 25.

All seven individuals are self-isolating at home and none have required hospital care, says NHS Western Isles. .

The individuals are from the southern end of the Uists.

Test and Protect actions are under way. Contact tracing is ongoing. Close contacts are being advised to self-isolate and other identified contacts are being followed up and given appropriate advice.

A local Problem Assessment Group (PAG) met on Friday and is working with Scottish Government, and Public Health Scotland to provide advice and support.

As part of the identification of cases of COVID-19 in the Uists and because care home staff were identified as close contacts, the PAG has advised testing of all staff and residents of Taigh a'Chridhe Uile Naomh, the care home in Daliburgh.  The care home has suspended admissions, discharges and visiting. Both residents and employees are currently being tested or re-tested.  Because nursery staff were identified as close contacts and asked to self-isolate for 14 days, Cothrom Nursery at Ormiclate is closed until further notice.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts said: “The individuals involved have been asked to self isolate for 10 days from onset of symptoms and we are tracing all their contacts, who are also being advised to self isolate, for 14 days from the date of their last contact with the case as a precaution.

"We would like to stress that individuals who have been identified as close contacts and advised by the Test and Protect team to self isolate should complete their period of self-isolation, even if they subsequently have a test for COVID-19 and test negative.

“We would like to reassure our local communities and visitors to the island that we are taking all necessary steps to contain the virus.”

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, said: “If we are to be able to contain and suppress this outbreak, people must follow the rules. COVID-19 thrives on complacency.

“You should not meet with anyone from outside your household socially indoors in your home or their home (this applies to all age groups but with the exception of extended households).

"Please also ensure that you maintain good respiratory hygiene – cough or sneeze into a tissue and dispose of the tissue in a bin, or alternatively cough/sneeze into your elbow.

“We would further advise that individuals do not car share, unless absolutely necessary; and disposable gloves should not be worn when shopping (hand sanitizer should be used before and after shopping and you should only touch items that you wish to buy).”

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.

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.

Police are asking for public help after two separate incidents of vandalism reported in the early hours of this morning (Sunday 27 September), where windows were smashed at people’s homes.

In the first incident at Cearn Fhlodaidh in Stornoway, a window was smashed at a home between 11pm on Saturday evening and 3am today (Sunday).

And in a separate incident, a window and a glass pane in a front door on Willowglen Road were both smashed.

Police have asked for any witnesses to either incident, or information about anyone that may have been seen acting suspiciously in the area, to contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they wish to remain anonymous.

The incident numbers are, for the Cearn Fhlodaidh incident PS.20200927-1849 and for the Willowglen incident NH1095/20.

 

There are only 570 puffins left in the wild in Scotland; that was the astonishing message of a conservation campaign launched by Macdonald Hotels and the Mediacom.com branding agency on Wednesday September 23.

This widespread media release – which would startle any visitor to the Shiant Isles – sent welovestornoway.com off into a full-scale fact-checking exercise – very much a feature of modern media work.

And the good news is that the figure is completely wrong. The Shiant Isles alone have 100 times more puffins at home there than the campaign figure claims exists in total in Scotland.  

The claim was part of ‘Scotland’s Pixelated Populations’, a campaign which focuses on endangered animals in Scotland, editing images of them to show as many pixels as there are animals left in the wild. The campaign is backed by Macdonald Hotels, founded by Donald Macdonald from Harris.

The media release states: “There are 570 Puffins left in the Scottish wild, with their rainbow coloured bills, puffins are an iconic animal among the cliffs and islands around Scotland’s coastline, with large colonies around Galway and St. Kilda. Unfortunately, the Puffin population has dropped from around 33,000 to just 570 in the last 20 years.”

Much more unfortunately, the release had mixed up the figures for Shetland on its own with those of Scotland in total.  And it also confused Galway in Ireland with Galloway in Scotland. 

The original claim appears in the Herald report of the campaign - https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18743035.picture-campaign-highlights-endangered-species-scotland/

The Macdonald Hotels website (https://www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/news-events/scotlands-pixelated-populations) now has a display slightly modified since welovestornoway.com contacted their PR agency on Friday.  The Pixelated Image reflects only 570 surviving puffins while the text now says there are 43,956 puffins at present – and also the reference to 33,000 as the total for 20 years ago.  Confusing or what?

The origin of the figure of 570 is a total quoted for Shetland alone in 2017. While numbers in Shetland had crashed, they are thought to have recovered slightly since then. The total figure for Scotland should include not only those in the Shiants but colonies on St Kilda, Bass Rock, St. Abbs Head, Duncansby Head, Faraid Head, and Lunga.

In the Shiants, a successful campaign was run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to protect puffins and other birds by eliminating invasive black rats. The Shiants has 10% of the entire UK puffin population according to the RSPB. Conservationists reported 64,695 occupied puffin burrows (about 129,000 individuals) in the Shiants in 2015 and a ‘significant increase’ in puffin breeding success after their campaign concluded in 2018.

Another iconic Scottish creature under threat according to ‘Scotland’s Pixelated Populations’ is the Scottish Wildcat – which is certainly true. But the campaign figure of only 35 surviving is not supported by Scottish Wildcat Action – which is campaigning to save the wildcat – mostly under threat from interbreeding with feral domestic cats. They say: “In the wild, latest research suggests there are between 100-300 Scottish wildcats left” but more research is under way (http://www.scottishwildcataction.org/about-wildcats)

The figure quoted by ‘Scotland’s Pixelated Populations’ for bottlenose dolphins remaining in Scotland was 200 individuals – actually the number reported by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society for Moray Firth alone, an area which supports the North Sea’s only known resident population of bottlenose dolphins. They range throughout the Moray Firth and down the east coast, at least as far as the Firth of Forth. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust reports an additional pod of 30-40, seen in Tobermory Bay in summer 2020, and thought to be resident in the Inner Hebrides. They have evidence of another pod of 15 in the Sound of Barra. While under threat from human activities like fishing and underwater sonic pollution, the bottlenose dolphin is not regarded as endangered.

Pine Martens are another species under threat according to ‘Scotland’s Pixelated Populations’ with only 3,500 remaining.  Pine martens are one of the rarest mammals in Britain, but the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species says they are making a comeback in Scotland, while still perilously close to extinction in England and Wales. The trust says: “Once widespread throughout Britain, persecution and deforestation caused pine marten populations to decline dramatically. By 1915, they had disappeared from everywhere but north-west Scotland with smaller, scattered populations in the uplands of Wales and northern England.

“Today, pine martens are doing well in Scotland. In England and Wales, however, it seems that numbers dwindled to a point where recovery was unlikely without a helping hand.” And a project is under way in North Wales and in the Forest of Dean to reintroduce pine martens by taking them from Scotland.

The other two creatures mentioned in ‘Scotland’s Pixelated Populations’ are the Capercaillie with 1,114 surviving and the Golden Eagles with 440 pairs.

The Capercaillie – basically a big grouse – has been extinct in Scotland once already - in the mid-18th century. The main cause for the extinction was thought to have been the loss of its woodland habitat. Birds from Sweden were reintroduced into Perthshire in 1837 and by the 1970s numbers of capercaillie had grown to about 20,000. According to figures from Scottish Natural Heritage, there were 1,114 birds surviving in 2017. It is at very real risk of extinction…again.

The figure given by ‘Scotland’s Pixelated Populations’ for Golden Eagles actually refers to whole of the UK.  According to the Scottish Wildlife Trust: “In the UK, Golden Eagles are found on large expanses of open moor and hill in the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides, with a very small number in southern Scotland, and a few also in Cumbria.  The most recent national UK survey in 2003 recorded 442 pairs. Although this represents an overall stable population size, there have been increases in the Western Isles and in parts of Caithness and Sutherland but declines in the central and eastern Highlands.”

So you could say that pixelation creates a very blurry image of reality!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amid the debate about Covid-19, a statement frequently made is that ‘it’s just like flu.’

But which flu… the mild cases of flu which the majority of people are familiar with or the deadly outbreak of winter 2017-18?

That year, the flu vaccine’s failure to protect against some of the key strains of the infection contributed to more than 50,000 extra deaths in England and Wales alone, according to data from the Office of National Statistics. It was the worst winter on record for more than 40 years, with the 1975-76 season being the last time deaths climbed so high above the expected levels.  At the same time, the toll in Scotland hit an 18-year high. There were 23,137 deaths in all between December 2017 and March 2018, according to the National Records of Scotland - the highest figure since 1999/2000.

The reason that a flu epidemic doesn’t run amok in the way that Covid-19 has done is simple – there’s a vaccine available each winter and most of the time, it’s quite effective, but it does depend on accurately predicting which strain of flu is going to be the biggest threat and then creating a vaccine which will at least stall it. And it depends on enough people getting the vaccine.

Influenza, to give its full name, leaves thousands of people hospitalised each year. It can be serious and life-threatening, with permanent damage done to the lungs and other organs, and persistent post-viral syndromes creating months of discomfort for thousands of people.

Now with COVID-19 circulating across the country, the free flu vaccination is being offered to more people than ever in Scotland.

NHS Western Isles is strongly urging everyone eligible to:

  • Protect Yourself;
  • Protect Others; and
  • Protect our NHS

by getting your flu vaccination.

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 now eligible. They join those aged 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, children aged between two and five years, primary school children and health care workers who are already eligible.

The vaccination programme has already started for health and social care workers in the Western Isles. From the beginning of October, NHS Western Isles will be offering vaccination appointments to most other eligible groups. People aged 55-64 years will be invited for their free flu vaccine in December.

Letters will be issued shortly by NHS Western Isles inviting you to make an appointment for your flu vaccination. Contact details to make your appointment will be included in your letter. In line with the new GP contract and primary care reform, vaccinations will now be carried out by community nurses rather than by practice nurses. We will be offering appointments at a range of community locations near to your own home, as well as in local GP surgeries, to make things easier and more convenient for our local communities.

There will be strict infection prevention and control measures in place to ensure flu immunisation is done in the safest way possible. 

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.

The flu vaccine is safe for baby and mother at any stage of pregnancy, and pregnant women across the Western Isles will be offered the flu vaccination by their midwife.

Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles' Director of Public Health, said: “Getting your flu vaccination is one of the most important reasons for leaving your home.

“Influenza is a very infectious disease which can have serious consequences and can be fatal. Those who have chronic conditions should ensure therefore that they are immunised again with this year’s vaccine. The influenza vaccination remains the best defence against the virus.

“We want everyone in the Western Isles who is at greater risk from the dangers of flu to be protected. The immunisation is safe and provides protection for up to a year. It only takes a few minutes.

“Even if you were immunised against flu last winter, it is important to receive the vaccine again this year, as the viruses change each season.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic period, it is more important than ever that you do what you can to protect yourself and your family from flu.”

Visit www.nhsinform.scot/flu or call 0800 22 44 88 to find out about getting the flu vaccine in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has worked with local artists to provide exclusive 30 minute weekly Cèilidh footage to all Care Homes throughout the Western Isles in order to provide residents with some musical entertainment.

Following the success of the Covid Cèilidhs which reached people all around the world, the Comhairle was keen to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to enjoy the talented Western Isles musicians who have been performing weekly on the Comhairle Facebook page.

In the photos you can see Christine MacCuish and Robin Cooke enjoying lunch, social distancing in place, with a nice glass of wine and listening to Iain ’Costello’ Maciver on the iPad. They both enjoy his concerts as he sings both Gaelic and English songs to meet all tastes.

Iain ‘Costello’ Maciver said, “Speaking as someone who has had a family member in a care home, I know first hand how vital it is for residents to have musical stimulus not just during the COVID pandemic but at all times. I hope these cèilidhs go some way to raising the spirits of both residents and staff alike.”

 

Nominations are being sought for Community Heroes in the Western Isles from during the Covid-19 Crisis

As part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign, Scotland’s Towns Partnership is on the search for ‘High Street Heroes’ -or community heroes in the Western Isles.

As the national campaign encouraging people to 'think local' during the Covid-19 crisis, Scotland Loves Local wants to celebrate the people, businesses and local organisations who have gone the extra mile to support their communities during the lockdown and the reopening of village and town centres.

Almost any civic-minded and community action is eligible for recognition in these awards. Whether by supporting vulnerable residents or key workers, helping local businesses to go digital, keeping the local area clean and tidy, ensuring High Streets can reopen safely, or encouraging people to shop locally, they want to know who has been a community hero in your area.

All those who are nominated will receive formal recognition as a High Street Hero. In addition, a cross-section of entries from across Scotland will be selected for a special Scotland Loves Local prize, as well as potential opportunities for local and national media coverage as part of the campaign.

There are three categories for the awards: individuals, local businesses, and organisations.

Examples of organisations might include your local community council, charity, development trust, business improvement district or local authority.

Nominations can be made on this short online form, which only takes a few minutes to fill out.

 

The next round of Community Conversations on Budgetary and Service issues will be held in an online format. 

This will start on Monday October 5 and those wishing to (virtually) attend can register online. 

Additional meetings have been scheduled for Third Sector organisations and Youth Groups as detailed below.

GROUP

Date/Time

Youth Group Representatives

Thursday, 15/10/20  6.00 – 7.30pm

Third Sector Group Representatives

Thursday, 15/10/20  8.00 – 9.30pm

Online Registration can now be completed through emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Please include your name, which session you’d like to join, home address and any comments or questions. The Comhairle will send out a link to every attendee at each daily conversation on the day

The deadline for registering for these two meetings is Thursday, 8th  October at 12 noon.

The Comhairle also welcomes any comments or questions submitted in writing to:

Director of Education, Skills and Children’s Services,                       

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar,

Sandwick Road,

Stornoway, HS1 2BW

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.

 

The mental health of students is under threat following yesterday’s ban on socialising with anyone outside of their halls of residence or accommodation.

That's the view of Rhoda Grant MSP for the Highlands and Islands who is raising her concerns with Scottish Government ministers.

The Labour MSP say she wants reassurances from the government that it will encourage universities and all those involved in supporting students through this period, to utilise all support available for students who are struggling to cope mentally with social isolation.

And she has also urged all those working and supporting young people to flag up any concerns they have about a young person saying, “better to act unnecessarily, than not to act at all”.

It comes after yesterday’s Scottish Government announcement banning students from going to pubs, parties or restaurants in a bid to stem a spate of coronavirus outbreaks.

Mrs Grant said: “All steps have to be taken to stop the spread of this virus, but it will be totally unacceptable to just leave students without support.  

"This situation is going to have a pretty catastrophic impact on young people’s mental health.

"We hope it’s not just their physical health but their mental health that is being looked after and that all the support available is drawn upon for them and their families.”

She went on: “In normal circumstances, students are going to university and they’re homesick, but they at least have the Freshers Week of fun and distraction.

"Now they’re left with just homesickness and isolation. There’s a lot of young folk breaking their hearts and parents are probably breaking their hearts too because their young ones have flown the nest.

"To worry that your child, because that’s what they are, is alone and scared and homesick must be so hard to bear. It’s not only the children’s mental health that will be suffering, this must be having an impact on the parents as well.

“I’m raising this with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and John Swinney, Education Secretary. I want everyone to be aware of these young student’s mental health and I would call on all those involved in their support right now to use all the avenues of support that is available for them.”

A care home in Daliburgh has suspended admissions, discharges and visiting following yesterday’s (Friday September 25) confirmation regarding three positive cases of COVID-19 in Uist.

The local Problem Assessment Group (PAG) has advised testing of all staff and residents of Taigh a'Chridhe Uile Naomh (TACUN) in Daliburgh as part of the identification of cases of COVID-19 in South Uist and because care home staff were identified as close contacts,

Taigh a’Chridhe Uile Naomh is a largely purpose-built home which opened in July 2007 on the site of Daliburgh hospital.  There are nine permanent places in the main side of the Care Home and seven permanent places in the Dementia Unit.  There are two respite beds. Care home staff are routinely tested as a matter of course – however, on the advice of the local Health Protection Team, both residents and employees are currently being tested or re-tested.

In addition, Cothrom Nursery in Ormiclate will be closed until further notice because of nursery staff being identified as close contacts and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.  Overall, the centre provides quality childcare through the medium of Gàidhlig for children aged between 3 months and 12 years.

NHS Western isles says that all appropriate actions to ensure the continued safety of residents and employees of the care home are being taken in line with Scottish Government and Health Protection guidance and advice, and all staff, residents and residents’ families will continue to be kept informed.

NHS Western Isles can confirm that contact tracing of the three individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 infection is ongoing. Close contacts are being advised to self-isolate and other identified contacts are being followed up and given appropriate advice.

The individuals have mild symptoms that are being managed at home.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts said: “Following the identification of these positive results, the individuals involved have been asked to self isolate for ten days from onset of symptoms and we are tracing all their contacts, who are also being advised to self isolate for fourteen days from the date of their last contact with the case as a precaution. We would highlight to those contacted through Test and Protect to self isolate that they must complete their 14 day self isolation period, even in the event that they are subsequently tested, and test negative for COVID-19.

“We would like to reassure our local communities and visitors to the island that we are taking all necessary steps to contain the virus but it is vital that everyone in the Western Isles 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, you and your household should 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 is 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

Three people based in Uist have been confirmed as positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 infection, NHS Western Isles said this afternoon (Friday September 25). 

The individuals have mild symptoms that are being managed at home.

These are believed to be the first cases officially reported from Uist.

"Test & Protect actions are under way. Contact tracing is ongoing. Close contacts are being advised to self-isolate and other identified contacts are being followed up and given appropriate advice," NHS Western Isles said.

A Problem Assessment Group (PAG) has been established and is working with Scottish Government, and Public Health Scotland to provide advice and support.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts said: “Following the identification of these positive results, the individuals involved have been asked to self-isolate for 10 days from onset of symptoms and we are tracing all their contacts, who are also being advised to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of their last contact with the case as a precaution.

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

“We would like to reassure our local communities and visitors to the island that we are taking all necessary steps to contain the virus but it is vital that everyone in the Western Isles 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, you and your household should 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)

A mix of tradition and innovation is giving the blackhouse village at Gearrannan a major facelift, as thatchers work on the roofs of two of the buildings in the historic village.

A team from the Cheshire company Master Thatchers (North) Ltd have been up on the roof at the hostel and on the blackhouse where the café and shop are based, stripping off old thatch and replacing it with a new covering with a lasting lifespan.

Iain Macarthur, a director of Urras nan Gearrannan (Gearrannan Trust) said the replacement work was in the existing workplan for the village, but lockdown meant it could proceed quickly without visitors around.

He said: “Obviously if there had been visitors here, it would have enhanced their experience to see the thatching process, but having the village closed while the work is done has, to some extent, made it easier.”

Iain has been on-site with his camera at intervals throughout the job, recording the work being done by thatchers Dave Brooks and brothers Michael and Daniel Mikelowski, who are from Poland and qualified as thatchers in England.

Adding to the international dimension, the reeds being used for the job have come from Europe – most likely from Austria or Hungary.

Dave Brooks said: “Our usual suppliers are in Scotland, on the River Tay, but sadly they had a fire this year which destroyed their stock, so the reeds have had to come from further afield.”

Using reeds is a new departure for Gearrannan, according to Iain Macarthur, who said: “Barley or oat straw would have been used traditionally, or anything that was available, including heather and reeds, if they were just patching damaged spots.

“We have found that the straw doesn’t last as long, even though it is what would have been used in the past. These thatchers are used to working with reed and a precedent was set by the Skye Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir where their houses have been thatched with reed for a number of years.

“The technique and material may be different but the final finish is very much like how it would have looked.”

Work is progressing very well, with the thatching team paying attention to details such as the finial posts – where nets are fixed to help weigh down the roof against storms – and a flush finish at the ridge of each roof.

Thatcher Dave said: “The technique we use for ridges is different in Scotland because, with the likelihood of stronger winds – especially in the islands – we don’t do the decorative scalloped ridge but a tight, flush finish. That means there’s nowhere that the wind can catch it.”

Dave and his team are expecting the work to be finished by next Friday (2 October) and have no fears about the weather in the meantime. Dave said: “It doesn’t make any difference, we work in any kind of weather, so it doesn’t really affect our timetable.

“We have worked all over Scotland, Ireland and even in France. The weather conditions don’t hold us back, though we might take the odd break if it’s really raining hard.

“It has been different for us working here because we can’t travel home for weekends and we do miss our families, but the hospitality has been great and the people are really nice. We enjoy it up here.”

Iain Macarthur’s pictures show Dave, Michael and Daniel at work. The net with stones weighing down the finished thatch will be added later by island workers.

For the first time since lockdown began Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have had a full set of council committee meetings, explains council leader Councillor Roddie Mackay.

The meetings "were held online as we cannot yet all meet in the council chamber but at least the system is back in place and there was a full agenda at each meeting. There are four what we call ‘service’ committees through which the regular business of the council is conducted.

"The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is chaired by Uisdean Robertson from North Uist and the Vice-chairman is Kenny ‘Flip’ Macleod from Ness. Uisdean has had a busy three years as Chairman which has included liaising with Scottish Government around the many challenges thrown up by the ferry building debacle and the ongoing debate around HIAL’s controversial air traffic control plans.

"The Communities and Housing Committee, chaired by Kenny John Macleod from Barvas, assisted by Vice-chairman Paul Steele from South Uist, has many important areas to cover, not least the ever present home care issues, and one of the significant roles of this committee is to oversee the delivery of the largest house building programme in the Comhairle’s history. The completion of the new Care Facility at Goathill is another first for the council and a long held ambition.

"Donald Crichton from Tong chairs the Sustainable Development Committee and his Vice-chairman is Norrie ‘Tomsh’ Macdonald from Point. This committee will play an important role in ensuring we deliver our economic recovery plan in the months ahead.

"The fourth and final ‘service’ committee is the Education, Sports and Children’s Services committee chaired by retired teacher Angus McCormack from Sandwick assisted by his vice-chairman, Paul Finnegan from Scalpay. This committee has oversight of a huge budget, almost half the Comhairle spend, and will continue to have a crucial role in maintaining the delivery of a quality education provision for our islands (and nationally via e-Sgoil) in these troubling times. There will be meetings of Audit & Scrutiny, Policy & Resources and full council next week.

"Whatever committee councillors sit on, whatever district they represent or whatever their political persuasion, I know that you will expect us all to put our shoulder to the wheel and do the very best we can to keep delivering services across the islands, despite ever reducing budgets and ever increasing costs. That’s our job and as we enter a period of consultation and discussion with communities around what our spending priorities should be over the next couple of years we really value and welcome your input and feedback as it will help shape our plans going forward.

"The work of the council in liaising with both the UK and Scottish Governments continues, of course, and over the past couple of months we’ve engaged with a range of Ministers to make our case for ongoing support and proposing new ways in which they can invest in these islands.

"We have begun work on the proposals for innovative new ideas around an Energy Hub at Arnish which will be a fantastic development facilitated by the exciting Deep Water Port proposals being driven forward by Stornoway Port Authority with our full support and backing.

"The work in developing the Barra & Vatersay Community Campus is continuing and we hope we are able to secure the funds to deliver this ambitious project in the near future.

"Plenty of challenges but also plenty of opportunities. So whilst COVID-19 has disrupted all our lives, we have to stay focused on delivering the very best we can for our islands.

"Stay safe, stay positive and let’s all appreciate how fortunate we are in living where we do."

Police are asking for public help after a break-in at the Cearns, reported on Monday (21 September).

Between 28 August and 21 September a locked outside boiler store was broken into at an address in the residential area of Stornoway, and a number of items were taken.

They included decorating materials and other items.

Anyone who has any information on this incident or who noticed anything suspicious between those dates is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH1079/20.

Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, Scottish Labour’s MSPs for the Highlands and Islands region, have pledged to constituents that they are still here to help and those who wish do to so are able to contact them by mail or over the phone, despite regional offices like the one in Stornoway remaining closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MSPs were contacted by the consumer campaign, Keep Me Posted, which aims to ensure that consumers who do not have access to the internet or who just prefer to receive bills or mail by post are able to do so, for an assurance that constituents can still contact their MSPs by post.

While the vast majority of constituent contacts now come in by email or via website or social media, both Rhoda Grant and David Stewart are also pleased to receive letters or speak to constituents over the phone.

Commenting on the campaign, Rhoda Grant MSP said: “In line with government guidelines, like other MSPs across the region, we were forced to close our regional offices in Inverness and Stornoway at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and with cases rising again we’ve been unable to open them again as planned.

“Representing such a large region and one where broadband and digital connectivity can be a challenge for many , it’s essential that constituents who aren’t on-line are still able to contact their MSPs with any problems and issues they might have by phone or in writing, something our office has continued to facilitate right through the lockdown and to date.

“That’s why I’m backing the Keep Me Posted campaign to send a clear message to constituents that I can still be contacted in various ways, including by post if that is the method that best suits them”

David Stewart MSP, who has also backed the campaign said: “The Keep Me Posted campaign does a great job standing up for those who want to continue receiving hard copies of bills, statements or other important documents, and I’m happy to keep receiving mail from constituents as well.

“Many people prefer to receive documents and correspondence by post as they may feel it is more secure or because they don’t have access to digital communications method or the skills or confidence to use technology. Being able to pick up a pen and paper and write to your MSP will always be important and something I’ll support.”

 

Shetland Islands Council has now formally written to both the UK and Scottish governments about exploring options for achieving financial and political self-determination for the island group, the Shetland News website reports.

SIC leader councillor Steven Coutts told prime minister Boris Johnson and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon that “current arrangements undermine the prosperous and fair future for Shetland residents we want to see”.

It says that the council will conduct “extensive research” into potential future models and requests a meeting with senior government ministers

Coutts’ letter reads: “I write following the resounding support of our Council to explore the options for self-determination for Shetland.

“This follows a meeting held on the 9th September 2020, where the vote was 18-2 in favour of the motion to pursue self-determination options. The strength of feeling demonstrated by the vote highlights that the status quo is not tenable.

“The current arrangements undermine the prosperous and fair future for Shetland residents we want to see.

"Shetland is proud of our past and continuing wider contribution to Scotland and the UK, through its strategic location and natural resources.

“As we look forward in the areas of energy, fisheries and vertical satellite launch we can continue to provide that role.

“However, we need recognition that additional fiscal and political powers at a Shetland level are essential to maximising these opportunities and achieving the thriving island community we aspire to.

“The council intends to conduct extensive research into the most attractive future model and would formally request a meeting with you and relevant senior ministers.”

The beautiful, kindly gaze of an alpaca from Callanish has captured the hearts of judges in an international photo competition, winning second place for her owner.

Caskie is the matriarch of the herd at Callanish alpacas, and owner Clare Lewis captured one of the favourites in her herd, Martina, looking out of her stable door and over the Callanish landscape, all reflected in Caskie’s benevolent eye.

The picture, shown here, won second place in the category of alpaca close-ups in a competition run by the Alpaca Owners Association in the USA, and judged by expert members of the Lincoln Camera Club in Nebraska.

Clare described her accolade, which she entitled ‘The alpaca of Caskie’s eye’ as ‘unbelievable’, especially as it is the only non-USA entry to be placed in any category of the competition.

Clare said: “Appreciation of the beauty of any of our animals is very touching. Caskie has huge, jet-black eyes which are so convex I have sometimes seen the entire length of the Callanish stone circle reflected in her eye.

“By contrast, Martina has stunning blue eyes, rarely seen in alpacas, and this, together with her white fleece, goes along with her profound deafness. Being deaf doesn’t disadvantage Martina in any way as 13-year-old Caskie, the matriarch, takes special care of Martina. I felt that care and watchfulness was beautifully reflected in this image.”

Unbeknown to Caskie, she’ll have even more responsibility next summer, as all the herd except her are pregnant. Clare borrowed three males during lockdown and has since found that just one, Archie, will be the father of all the future cria – the proper word for baby alpacas.

Baby alpacas fathered by Archie the alpaca fit the island nicely, as Clare points out, since a fictional Archie the alpaca was a central character in the novel The Brilliant and Forever, written by Stornoway author Kevin MacNeil. Kevin also followed up with a book of philosophical alpaca musings, The Diary of Archie the Alpaca.

Clare’s picture has earned her a winner’s ribbon and her picture of Caskie’s eye will appear in a future issue of the Alpaca Owners Association magazine.

 

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak today (Thursday September 24) outlined additional government support to provide certainty to businesses and workers impacted by coronavirus in Scotland, HM Treasury said in a media release sent to welovestornoway.com and other news outlets.

Delivering a speech in Parliament, the Chancellor announced a package of measures that will continue to protect jobs and help businesses through the uncertain months ahead as we continue to tackle the spread of the virus.

The package includes a new Jobs Support Scheme to protect millions of returning workers, extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and 15% VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sectors, and help for businesses in repaying government-backed loans.

The announcement comes after additional measures to combat the spread of the virus were imposed across the UK.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “When I visited Scotland last month I saw first-hand how UK Government schemes have protected jobs and businesses in the face of this crisis.

“And I was always clear that I wouldn’t hesitate to act in a creative and effective way to provide even more support should it be needed.

“With the resurgence of the virus and the restrictions imposed as a result now is the right time to provide the people of Scotland with the extra help they need.”

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said: “The package announced by the Chancellor today is great news for people and businesses in Scotland. It will help keep people in jobs, extend crucial support to businesses and giving them the certainty they need. It will give businesses and self-employed people the support they need to get through this difficult situation. It comes on top of an extensive package of UK Government support throughout the pandemic, and is very welcome.

“The UK Government has put in place unprecedented measures to support all parts of the country during this pandemic, clearly showing how Scotland benefits from being part of a strong United Kingdom.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic the UK Government has provided billions of pounds of support both to the devolved administration in Scotland and directly to Scottish businesses and workers.

We have given the devolved administration an additional £6.5b to cope with the pressures of the pandemic and we are supporting nearly half a million jobs in Scotland through the furlough scheme, down from a high of more than 930,000 at the end of July.

Our Self Employment Support Scheme also helped more than 150,000 self-employed Scots and more than 65,000 businesses in Scotland benefitted from UK Government loan schemes.

The Chancellor unveiled his Plan for Jobs in July which supported jobs across the UK by focussing on skills, young people and boosting the hospitality sector with a VAT cut and landmark Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

The government has been consistently clear that it would keep its support under review to protect jobs and the economy, with today’s action reflecting the evolving circumstances and uncertainty of the months ahead.

The package of measures, which applies to all regions and nations of the UK, includes:

Support for workers

A new Job Support Scheme will be introduced from 1 November to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus.

Under the scheme, which will run for six months and help keep employees attached to the workforce, the government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand.

Employers will continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work - but for the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary.

This means employees who can only go back to work on shorter time will still be paid two thirds of the hours for those hours they can’t work

In order to support only viable jobs, employees must be working at least 33% of their usual hours. The level of grant will be calculated based on employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.

The Job Support Scheme will be open to businesses across the UK even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme, with further guidance being published in due course.

It is designed to sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus and could be worth over 60% of average wages of workers who have been furloughed – and are kept on till the start of February 2021. Businesses can benefit from both schemes in order to help protect jobs.

In addition, the Government is continuing its support for millions of self-employed individuals by extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grant. An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are currently eligible for SEISS and are continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus. The initial lump sum will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year. This is worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875.

An additional second grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April - ensuring our support continues right through to next year.

This is in addition to the more than £13 billion of support already provided for over 2.6 million self-employed individuals through the first two stages of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme – one of the most generous in the world.

Tax cuts and deferrals

As part of the package, the government also announced it will extend the temporary 15% VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors to the end of March next year. This will give businesses in the sector - which has been severely impacted by the pandemic - the confidence to maintain staff as they adapt to a new trading environment.

In addition, up to half a million business who deferred their VAT bills will be given more breathing space through the New Payment Scheme, which gives them the option to pay back in smaller instalments. Rather than paying a lump sum in full at the end March next year, they will be able to make 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year.

On top of this, around11 million self-assessment taxpayers will be able to benefit from a separate additional 12-month extension from HMRC on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility, meaning payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.

Businesses given flexibility to pay back loans

The burden will be lifted on more than a million businesses who took out a Bounce Back Loan through a new Pay as You Grow flexible repayment system. This will provide flexibility for firms repaying a Bounce Back Loan.

This includes extending the length of the loan from six years to ten, which will cut monthly repayments by nearly half. Interest-only periods of up to six months and payment holidays will also be available to businesses. These measures will further protect jobs by helping businesses recover from the pandemic. 

 We also intend to give Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme lenders the ability to extend the length of loans from a maximum of six years to ten years if it will help businesses to repay the loan.

In addition, the Chancellor also announced he would be extending applications for the government’s coronavirus loan schemes that are helping over a million businesses until the end of November. As a result, more businesses will now be able to benefit from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Future Fund. This change aligns all the end dates of these schemes, ensuring that there is further support in place for those firms who need it.

A network of food collection and distribution points is gearing up for a new wave of activity, as the island economy tightens still further under new restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Eilean Siar Foodbank yesterday (Wednesday 23 September) offered thanks to all those finding ways to donate foodstuffs, especially through the network of fire stations across the Western Isles.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s watch commander Campbell Macrae is today (Thursday) delivering to Stornoway the latest from Tarbert fire station, made by a couple from Scalpay.

He said: “Thank you to all the communities across the island for your continued kindness and support. This is making a direct positive impact during these difficult times.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are proud to support the Eilean Siar Foodbank project. We have established drop off facilities at Ness, Shawbost, Great Bernera, Valtos, Stornoway, South Lochs and Tarbert community fire stations.

“These drop off points are available 24/7. Just pop round and leave your donation in the specially designated box outside the stations and the fire service will deliver to the local foodbank. The need for this support remains high and your generosity goes a long way.”

The Eilean Siar Foodbank is just one of the services providing support to vulnerable families and individuals, at risk of going hungry because of changes to their financial situation.

During lockdown an extended network of volunteer-run community food-points have sprung up, with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this week (Tuesday 22 September) publishing a guide to some of them.

Anne Etta Macleod, one of the organising group for the Kinloch food and baby bank, said: “We have done our best to make sure that everybody knows that help is available, by distributing a leaflet to homes and getting the word out to home carers and through the Comhairle.”

The Kinloch foodbank is sited within the Free Church hall, while other districts have made different arrangements for food distribution. At Barvas the food bank has recently moved into a container beside the community halll, where volunteers pick and pack parcels for delivery and the Harris Food Bank has also opted for doorstep delivery.

In Back, the community council and Ionad Loch a’ Tuath secured funding in May for community larders, using yellow salt bin boxes to place food and toiletries for anyone who may need them.

And Point and Sandwick Trust have put in place a food delivery service, which includes fresh meals cooked by The Chief Cook and delivered by volunteers, as well as a delivery service for supplies including food bank parcels.

Anne Etta Macleod of Kinloch food bank said: “We are anticipating that as we go into the winter, as the furlough scheme comes to an end and as businesses begin to close down, we’ll see much more uptake for the food service for the rest of this year.

“We know that some people find using a food bank hard and we assure everyone of complete confidentiality, but it’s likely that this winter there will be people who need this kind of help who would never have considered using it before.”

A statement from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to thank all foodbank volunteers across the Western Isles for their dedication and hard work.

 “It is vital that anyone who requires the use of a food bank is aware of the services available and can find relevant contact details for these services.”

To find out what services are available in your area, contact Mark Maciver at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 01851 706650, or Fareshare via Steve Hankinson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., tel 01851 705727. Individual foodbank contact details are available on the Comhairle’s Facebook page or via local community newsletters.

Pictures show the foodbank at Kinloch (Paul Murray) and a recent donation at Tarbert fire station’s food collection point (SFRS)

 

Community activists, unions, councillors, local business and industry representatives have today (Thursday 24 September) launched the “Action for Arnish” campaign, after renewables supply chain firm BiFab failed to secure any work from the £3 billion Seagreen offshore wind project.

Manufacturing contracts for the project’s 114 turbine jackets, which will be located 27 miles off the coast of Angus, have instead been awarded to Fluor and Lamprell, and will be delivered exclusively at their yards in China and the UAE before being shipped to Scotland.

Campaigners have intervened to prevent the permanent closure of the publicly owned fabrication yard, demanding transparency over the leasing arrangements between BiFab’s owners DF Barnes and the Scottish Government, along with an investment and industrial strategy to allow the yard to compete for contracts across the energy sector.

The launch follows stormy exchanges in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday involving the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Fair Work over the government’s failure to deliver on previous job creation commitments for Scotland’s offshore wind sector.

GMB Scotland Organiser Hazel Nolan said: “Scotland has no chance of a “green recovery” if there is no investment in the local supply chains and we continue to award renewables manufacturing contracts to the rest of the world.

“The Arnish yard has been lying mothballed for nearly a year but every turbine jacket from the Seagreen project will be manufactured in either China or the UAE, anywhere it seems but Scotland, and that’s disgraceful.

“It’s been a decade since Alex Salmond promised us the “Saudi Arabia of Renewables” and Scottish Renewables forecasted 28,000 jobs in offshore wind, yet the Cabinet Secretary told parliament yesterday that delivering jobs for the “green revolution” is dependent on independence.

“This is what political failure looks and sounds like, a decade of lies and spin at Holyrood and Westminster ending up in a constitutional blame game, and an industry body cheerleading for the rest of the world while Scottish communities are desperate for jobs.

“We warned that despair will turn to anger the longer this failure is left unchallenged. Communities failed by politics will take control of their own futures and the “Action for Arnish” campaign is a direct response to what is a renewables scandal too far.”

The “Action for Arnish” declaration calls for full transparency from the Scottish Government on current leasing terms for the yard; a statement of intent from BiFab/DF Barnes; and open access for any other company which can use the yard.

Signatories – all in personal capacities - include the leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Roddie Mackay; the chair of the Outer Hebrides Energy Group, Ian McCulloch; former UK Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, and the interim principal of Lews Castle College, Sue MacFarlane.

All elected representatives for the Western Isles will be asked to support the declaration which is also being sent to Scottish Government Ministers. An ongoing campaign will now be mounted in support of jobs at the yard.

The initiative has come from former members of the Arnish Workers Committee. Their spokesman, Iain MacLeod, said: "There is a great sense of frustration on the island about the way Arnish is a neglected issue for the people who hold power over it.

 “We have repeatedly held back from launching this campaign because there was supposedly always something about to happen, but it never materialises. We now need to fight for the future of the yard and the jobs that depend upon it which are critical to the island's future".

The campaign has the support of the STUC as well as GMB and Unite trade unions who had members at the yard. Hazel Nolan, Scottish organiser of the GMB, said: “Scotland has no chance of a “green recovery” if there is no investment in the local supply chains and we continue to award renewables manufacturing contracts to the rest of the world.

“The Arnish yard has been lying mothballed for nearly a year but every turbine jacket from the Seagreen project will be manufactured in either China or the UAE, anywhere it seems but Scotland and that’s disgraceful”.

Former UK Energy Minister and Lewis resident, Brian Wilson, said: “This is a campaign the whole island should get behind. The key demand is that the Arnish facility which was created through past public investment must be available to any company capable of bringing work into it, rather than sterilised by a deal that has failed to deliver.”

Earlier, the news that none of the fabrication work for the Seagreen offshore wind farm project has been awarded to BiFab brought an angry response from Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant.

During topical questions in Holyrood on Tuesday September 22, Mrs Grant asked the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop, if the Crown Estate would guarantee that their first round of Scotwind leases would ensure that there was local content in these projects and that they would adopt fair work practices.

Rhoda Grant said “Too often we see work going to overseas yards that undercut us by using low wage economies to compete. When companies are making money out of Scotland’s natural resources, we should ensure that that work is carried out by people paid and protected in the same way as they would be in Scotland.

“Furthermore, given these are our natural resources our communities should also benefit from the economic boost of these jobs. Workers in Lewis and Fife should be employed making the turbines required for the Seagreen wind farm.

Mrs Grant continued “I also asked the Cabinet Secretary if the Scottish Government would look at the historical practice of bidders for Scotwind leases. It would be simply wrong for companies who overlooked the Scottish workforce in the past to get these contracts on the promise of doing better in the future.”

The Cabinet Secretary asked that Mrs Grant writes to her on the detail and she would respond.

Initial local supporters of the campaign - all signing the protest letter in their personal capacity – are:

  • Murdo F. Campbell, former Arnish worker and Stornoway Trustee
  • Donald Crichton, Chair of Sustainable Development Committee, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Roz Foyer, General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress
  • Roddie Mackay, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Ian McCulloch, Chair of Outer Hebrides Energy Group
  • Iain MacIver, Maciver Peels Crane Hire
  • Calum MacLean, member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Stornoway Trustee D.R. MacLeod, Haulier
  • David MacLeod, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Iain MacLeod, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Rab MacMurdo, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Angus Morrison, Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar James Morrison, ex Arnish Works Committee
  • Hazel Nolan, GMB Scotland Organiser
  • Charlie Nicolson, member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Stornoway Trustee Pat Rafferty, Unite Scotland Regional Secretary
  • Zena Stewart, former member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Brian Wilson, former UK Energy Minister
  • David Wood, Haulier

Local politicians back ‘Action for Arnish’ campaign

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron and Sgir’ Uige Agus Ceann A Tuath Nan Loch Councillor Raghnall Friseal have backed the ‘Action for Arnish’ campaign, following SSE’s decision to award Seagreen contracts to firms with manufacturing sites in China and the UAE.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said:“It is extremely disappointing that BiFab’s high-skilled workforce in Arnish have been overlooked by SSE in the contract process for the Seagreen development.

“The SNP Government promised that we would have a green revolution in Scotland, but when local firms are losing out on business to China and UAE, it sounds like this is all talk, but no action. 

“Ministers need to get round a table with local workers and other stakeholders to explain why this has happened, and what can be done to actively promote our high-skilled manufacturing workforce on Lewis.”

Cllr Raghnall Friseal said: “It has only been a few years since jobs at Arnish were saved, but this news is a slap in the face for local workers.

“I am committed to working with those involved at the Arnish site, the Scottish Government and others to identify ways of supporting our local workforce.”

LABOUR BACKS ACTION FOR ARNISH CAMPAIGN

The Western Isles Labour Party has given its backing to the Action for Arnish campaign which has been launched by former workers at the yard, trade unions and community leaders.

In a statement, the constituency party said:  “We warmly commend the former Arnish workers who have taken the lead in trying to focus attention on the disgraceful treatment of the yard over recent years.

“The demand for the Arnish yard to be available to any user which can bring work to it is particularly important.  The dependence on BiFab which was created by the Scottish Government as a side-deal to the Fife yards has been a disaster for Arnish.

“The MP and MSP for the Western Isles are the people who should have been making these demands long ago but in their absence it is time for others to take the lead in fighting for jobs in the islands.

“Without a sustained campaign to market Arnish and make the necessary investment, we will continue to see opportunities pass the yard by without anyone being held responsible for this failure.

“The Western Isles Labour Party urges every islander, regardless of politics, to add their names to the Declaration for Arnish and to give full support to an ongoing campaign for the yard.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar backs Action for Arnish

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is backing the Action for Arnish campaign and is meeting with Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse later this month to highlight concerns and seek a more sustainable future for the Arnish yard.

Councillor Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, said:  “The disappointing news this week that Bifab has been unsuccessful in bidding for the SSE renewables contract off the East coast is a further blow to our local economy.   This, of course, has implications for the Arnish fabrication yard and leaves our skilled local workforce without any prospect of future work. 

"It further highlights the lack of a national strategy or framework that would put in place incentives to ensure that renewable energy developers use local markets to construct their projects.

"Along with the Council Leader I am a signatory to the statement by the Arnish Campaign Group and fully share their frustration at the lack of progress in securing contracts for the yard.

"The Comhairle is meeting with the Energy Minister on 30 September and will be highlighting our concerns and seeking that he open up a new dialogue with the Arnish Campaign Group to address the issues raised and seek a more sustainable future for the Arnish yard.”

 (Details of local involvement have been added on several occasions to this article which was first posted at 00.01 today)

A coastal search yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 23 September) helped Coastguard Rescue Teams (CRTs) to consolidate training which they had just begun at the beginning of the week.

Police Scotland asked for the help of CRTs from Stornoway and HM Coastguard duty officers, after reports that there was concern for a person reportedly heading towards Tràigh Mhòr in Tolsta.

Although the alert turned out to be a false alarm with good intent, teams had set up a control point, searched surrounding areas and prepared the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for use by the time the individual was found safe and well.

HM Coastguard area costal commander Murdo Macaulay said: “We had just returned to training this week, with Stornoway CRTs receiving training on Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday we had a call-out.

“Having just done the training made us sharper. We were keen to get started and train to be better, because we never train to maintain skills, but to improve them.

“In the event the call was a false alarm, but we’re much happier to respond to what turns out to be a false alarm than not to be called and perhaps to see a different outcome.”

Training sessions restarted this week for teams from Stornoway, Miavaig and Breasclete, Ness and Bragar, with teams from Uist due to begin training today (Thursday).

The revived activity follows a long period when the regular CRT training programme was suspended due to lockdown.

Murdo Macaulay said: “Since March we have focused on maintaining our incident response capacity and providing aid to partner responders and NHS Western Isles. This week we restarted the vital training that keeps us always ready to respond.

“Of course, there are differences and challenges ahead as we embrace a new way of training to reduce COVID risks, but the dedication to constantly improve remains the same.”

Among the routine tasks undertaken by CRTs this summer, teams have collected COVID test samples from the Leverburgh ferry for transport to NHS Western Isles labs, undertaken patrols to maintain safety at beaches and helped Police Scotland with traffic management during funeral processions.

Pictures show teams undertaking training in Stornoway and Uig this week, and during the incident in Tolsta on Wednesday evening (HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber).

 

Gaelic short film competition FilmG, has launched this year’s competition with the help of a well-known face from Gaelic broadcasting sharing tips, tricks and all the crucial entry information in a special online show.

Shona Masson, presenter of BBC ALBA’s upcycling series Dreach Ùr, hosted the YouTube event, which included a Q&A from pupils hoping to take part in the competition, a look back at the best from previous years of the competition, and the unveiling of this year’s stunning competition theme images.

2020 has been a year like no other, and FilmG’s yearly theme had to reflect this – Èirich (Gaelic for rise) aims to inspire this year’s filmmakers to rise above the challenges that the previous few months have thrown at them.

Alongside the competition launch, the FilmG team also announced the new series FoghlamG, an online masterclass in filmmaking from industry professionals, which provides those taking part with the knowledge to create stunning films on their own, without even the need for professional equipment.

As well as packing all of this into the livestream launch, the FilmG team gave pupils from across Scotland the opportunity to ask Shona, who also directs programmes for BBC ALBA, questions they might have about Gaelic, filmmaking, and media in general.

Shona Masson, who has been involved in many FilmG entries over the years, as both a youngster and industry professional said: “It’s clear that creating and trying new things is good for everyone, and FilmG provides a platform for anyone to take part in a creative competition by making a short film. Everyone has a story to tell, so if you’re interested, hopefully you’ll make an entry for FilmG this year!”

FilmG is run by MG ALBA and Skye-based media company CGS, to encourage the growth of Gaelic media talent. This is the competition’s thirteenth year, and has been the platform for many people now working within the Gaelic TV and film industry.

FilmG’s project manager, Ewan MacLean said: “FilmG is a huge part of the Gaelic social calendar, and in particular for the schools that we are involved with, so it’s such a pleasure that we’ve been able to keep that up in 2020.It’s so important for creative young filmmakers to see how professionals work, and be able to ask them about the industry.”

Murdo MacSween, Communications Manager for MG ALBA, said: “We’re very proud of the continued impact of FilmG in inspiring and developing young filmmakers to make Gaelic content. FilmG is very important to us and we can’t wait to see this year’s crop of films, they keep getting better and better.”

FilmG will remain open to entries until December 11. Find out more at www.filmg.co.uk, or on the FilmG social media pages, and FoghlamG is available on FilmG’s YouTube channel.


Publishing is one of the areas of work badly hit by the COVID-19 crisis –and Stornoway-based publishers Acair are not immune to the crisis gripping the industry.

The Gaelic publishing company Acair is planning to extend its online presence as part of a strategy to recover from a serious downturn in book sales during the Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic has meant that the normal promotional opportunities, such as book launches and a presence at major Gaelic events such as The Royal National Mod have been put on hold.

The company, which received charitable status in 2017, has already cut staff working hours and is now reviewing all other costs, but the difficulties could mean that the existing staff of four might have to be reduced.

Seonag MacKinnon, who chairs the Acair Board of Directors,  said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a serious effect on the whole economy and Acair is no different. The company is small-scale compared with many other publishing companies, but it plays a hugely valuable role in publishing Gaelic books.”

She added: “Without Acair, it is also doubtful that the historically and culturally important account of the ‘Iolaire’ disaster, ‘The Darkest Dawn’, would have been published. As well as crucial funding from a range of funding bodies, Acair also depends on book sales, and sales have fallen dramatically over the past seven months.”

She said that although staff working hours had been reduced to lower costs, more drastic action was being considered. “Our staff is totally dedicated to the work and it is heart-breaking to be in a position that we are left with no alternative at this stage but to consult with staff members on reducing the four staff we have, to three,” she said.

She added: “We have been helped by the Government Furlough Scheme, but it was never going to be a substitute for normal trading conditions. We must make every effort to keep the company itself going, until the country and the economy recovers.”

With uncertainty about the end of the pandemic and the resumption of the usual promotional events, Acair is now looking to extend its online presence to reach existing and new customers through the internet.

Seonag MacKinnon said: “There still doesn’t seem to be an end in sight because restrictions can be placed on gatherings and other activities at any time if there are new outbreaks of the virus.

"We were planning to develop our website before the pandemic struck, and although this was delayed, we are keen to do this as quickly as we can.

"Online shopping in all sectors has increased and we feel there is an opportunity for the company to recover a substantial part of the market we have lost because of the restrictions.”

 

 

 

A series of projects across the islands which include development of new fisheries, boat repair yards, marine tourism businesses, a cockle survey and a Blue Fin Tuna Tagging and Release scheme have won backing as part of an EU aid scheme which will soon be scrapped as part of Brexit.

In total, £427,627 of grants have been awarded to 16 projects by The Outer Hebrides Fisheries Local Action Group, aiming to create the equivalent of 18 full-time jobs.

This was supported by the European Union's Maritime and Fisheries Fund 2014-2020 and by the Scottish Government.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee heard details of the scheme at its meeting today (Wednesday September 23). 

Funding for all the projects must be committed by 31 December 2020 and projects completed and grant assistance claimed by 30 September 2022.

Councillor Donald Crichton, Chair of Sustainable Development said: “These grants have supported projects across the islands with a total cost of over £1.4m.

"This highlights the contribution of European funding and the requirement for a suitable replacement scheme as we leave the European Union”.

The Committee also heard details of the The Comhairle’s Fisheries Investment Scheme which has been in operation since October 2012 and has loaned over £1.5m to more than 40 applicants across the islands.

Under this scheme, loans are up to 40% of eligible project costs, subject to a maximum loan of £100,000 and are available for the purchase of fishing vessels of less than 24 metres in overall length, equipped to go fishing at sea, up to 30 years old.

Over the last six months the scheme has helped support fishing vessel investment of £1.62m with the Comhairle providing £460,000 loan funding from the Fisheries Investment Scheme.

Councillor Crichton said: “The Comhairle is committed to supporting the fishing sector particularly during the challenging economic times we face as a result of COVID and Brexit.”

 

A new bridge for Bernera, which could be completed as early as January 2021, might serve the island for a lifespan of 30 years, councillors heard today (Wednesday 23 September).

But there are barriers to progress on the project which could delay the work, despite the local urgency of the situation, and a longer-term solution may still need to be found.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's transportation and infrastructure committee today heard a progress update on the bridge, which has been placed under a permanent weight restriction since structural weaknesses were identified earlier this year.

At their meeting in August, councillors discussed the emerging situation and heard that an interim bridge, running alongside the existing structure, would cost about £500,000 and would have a likely lifespan of 25 years.

They were told that a more substantial replacement bridge – effectively a permanent solution – would cost in the region of £5 million.

At that meeting the Comhairle was asked to find the funding for the interim structure and the director for assets, finance and resources was asked to submit a report outlining the options for a long-term replacement of the bridge.

Today, councillors heard that costs are now estimated at £2m for the immediate solution – four times the allocated funds which have already been agreed. The proposed design would have a predicted lifespan of 30 years.

Committee chair Councillor Uisdean Robertson said that there were ‘critical factors to be resolved’ if work is to progress quickly.

He said: "Work on the design and procurement is progressing very well indeed but the requirement for a marine licence means that the project could be delayed by several weeks.

“Officers are working with colleagues in Highland Council to find a solution to that issue as soon as possible as we do not want to see such important and urgent community works being unnecessarily delayed. If required, we will write to the Scottish Government seeking their support in expediting the process.

"The earliest timescale for completion would be January 2021, with this being extended to April 2021 should the full consultation period for marine licensing be required.

“Further information will be made available as appropriate and the Comhairle wishes to thank the community for their continued patience."

It’s not been made clear whether the suggested interim solution is still to be followed by a longer-lasting permanent structure, or whether this issue will be deferred for a future administration to resolve.

The first definite change attributed to the new COVID-19 restrictions which come into force today (Wednesday 23 September) is one of the new initiatives created to try and bring economic activity back to Harris.

The seafood and local produce market, which was to be held outside the Isle of Harris distillery in Tarbert this Saturday, has been cancelled.

Organisers said this morning: “Unfortunately, in light of the new stricter Covid regulations we have decided to postpone our first pop-up market which was due to take place this Saturday 26 September.

“We hope it will be possible to run a Saturday market at some point in the future so do keep an eye out for any updates. For now, take care and stay safe.”

The market was planned around existing COVID regulations which have led to the distillery’s shop and café remaining closed, despite a partially-revived tourist season.

It was hoped to put locally-caught seafood, home grown vegetables, jams and pickles, chocolate and fresh eggs in front of both island-dwellers and visitors as a trial event.

Picture: Local producers had hoped to attract business with seafood and other produce (Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd).

 

A mysterious substance, apparently thrown up by the sea, has caused disfiguring stains to the area around the new Iolaire memorial site at Holm.

The inky stains, with a distinct splatter pattern, give the appearance of having landed during a single moment from a high wave during recent south-westerly winds.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is looking at options for repair. The damage, which has resulted in staining to paving slab areas, is believed to have been caused by a substance thrown up by the sea during high tides and strong winds over recent days.”

Welovestornoway.com editor Fred Silver visited the site today (Wednesday 23 September) and said: “At first sight it seems as if the slabs just have water splashes on them, but the splash marks have penetrated the slabs and, although no longer wet, seem to have left permanent stains.

“It doesn’t feel oily and doesn’t seem to smell strongly, so it is difficult to guess what it might be – and more to the point, how the Comhairle can remove it short of sand-blasting the stone.”

 

Registration opened today (Wednesday 23 September) for people who want the chance to tell Comhairle nan Eilean Siar exactly what they think of current budget proposals, including service cuts.

Round 5 of the Comhairle’s ‘community conversations’ also has the advantage of being accessible directly from your own sofa, as the whole process will be entirely online.

Budgetary and service issues will be discussed with as many people as wish to participate from Monday 5 October, when residents of Stornoway North and South will be invited to participate in an online discussion between 6pm and 7.30pm.

The schedule goes on to Barra and South Uist on Tuesday 6 October, Benbecula and North Uist on Wednesday 7 and Harris and North Lochs on Thursday 8 October.

Rural districts of Lewis will be invited to join the conversation at sessions the following week, on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 October.

Anyone who wants to virtually attend the discussions can register online by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and giving their name, the session they would like to join, their home address and any comments or questions. The Comhairle will send out a link to every attendee on the day. 

Each community conversation will include a presentation on the financial position of the Comhairle and a facilitated discussion, as well as an invitation to complete the survey currently open at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/cnes-recovery-business-plan-consultation.

That opportunity to comment closes at 5pm on Saturday (26 September).

The deadline for registration to join the conversation is Monday 5 October at 12 noon and the Comhairle also welcomes comments or questions in writing to Director of Education, Skills and Children's Services, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, HS1 2BW.

 

Loganair has moved to reassure passengers on the practical implications of new COVID restrictions, especially where changes of plan are concerned.

The airline issued a statement yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 22 September) soon after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had finished speaking at Holyrood. The FM outlinined new limitations on social contact which take effect from today (Wednesday).

A spokesperson for Loganair said: “Today’s announcement from the Scottish Government has not placed any restrictions on domestic travel, however we remain cautious that customers booking trips for business and leisure across the UK are looking for flexibility more than ever before. 

“To that end, customers who have made, or will make, a booking with Loganair up to and including 27 September will receive one free date change per booking. For any bookings made on or after 28 September, Loganair will be reducing the usual date change fee by 50%.

“Our policy on flexibility for compassionate fares will remain in place. More information on this can be found at https://www.loganair.co.uk/fares/for-difficult-times/.” They also point to the existing FlyFlex+ fare, which incurs neither a date change fee or a fare difference.

The statement signals a short window for the next four days, within which passengers who expect to fly but are unsure of the impact of new restrictions can book without worrying about rebooking charges.

But it also allows the airline to begin a process of reducing the massive impact that coronavirus continues to have on Loganair as a business and on the air industry in general, by putting a date-change fee back in place.

 

Tuesday 29th September will see An Lanntair art centre’s first floor Café Bar area once again open – complete with new catering partners Elior, new furnishings, a new Café Bar exhibition by artist Molly Fitch, and some spectacular new commissioned artworks created by four Western Isles artists.

An Lanntair offered artist commissions to decorate various areas of the arts centre – and the results are stunning with works by local artists Alice Macmillan, Mhairi Law, Jonathon Macdonald, and Bronwyn MacKenzie now in place to greet returning visitors.

In the Harbour Room café area, artist and printmaker Alice Macmillan transports visitors to the wilds of St Kilda as, in the shadow of the sea stacks, gannets plunge to fish in the waters below.

Alice expanded: “When I visited St Kilda last year, I was completely blown away by the spectacular landscapes, the history, and the abundance of wildlife in the remote archipelago.

“I was totally captivated by the immense sea stacks – Stac an Armin and Stac Lee. They loom out of the mist, towering above the Atlantic and teem with seabirds. The energy of the place is palpable as you watch young gannets darting in and out of the water alongside dolphins jumping out of the waves.

“It really is like another world. I wanted to create some of that energy in my linocuts, capturing a snapshot of the chaotic natural world.”

Capturing attention in the Bar area is the dramatic triptych photographic work, The Edge of Blue, by photographer Mhairi Law, of Island Darkroom. Above Mhairi’s works – and painted directly onto the walls of the mezzanine walkway – is The Guiding Lighthouse, a gloriously textural and luminously colourful original work by Bronwyn MacKenzie.

Bronwyn said: “This was such an exciting and wonderful opportunity for me as a 21-year-old local artist.”

An Lanntair’s Round Room area has also been transformed with works directly drawn onto the walls by artist Jonathan Macdonald, who has brought the space to life with his unique, intricately beautiful and colourful vision of chaotic order.

Jonathan’s work is complimented by new soft amphitheatre-style seating in the Round Room, and indeed all the artwork commissions are wonderfully off-set by a new-look An Lanntair with new furnishings and tables now in place throughout our Café Bar.

Bith ann am Breathan: Life in Layers, by artist Molly Fitch, is the first exhibition to be shown in the Café Bar, presenting a series of exciting and playful hand-cut pictures, inspired by the Hebrides.

Molly said: “I’ve found my home on these islands in the warmth and kindness of community, the ingenuity and the resilience.”

New catering operators Elior offer an amazing new cake range, baked treats, and freshly brewed barista coffee; and the Elior chefs have crafted and curated new food and drink offers, packed full of locally sourced, great tasting dishes to entice and encourage all back to An Lanntair.

To book your table, simple email manager Lillian at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, phone number, email, number of people in your party and the date and time you would like to book. Your reservation will then be confirmed via email.

An Lanntair will be ensuring Scottish Government COVID-19 safety guidelines are followed throughout the arts centre. You can find full details of our COVID-19 safety Visitor Information on our website at: www.lanntair.com

An Lanntair reopening times:
Tuesday to Wednesday, from 10am to 5pm
Thursday to Saturday, from10am to late
Last Sunday of each month, from 11am to 5pm

The latest clampdown on social contact today (Tuesday September 22) as part of the pandemic emergency has sparked protest and concern.

UKHospitality in Scotland has called for a package of targeted support for the industry to help it cope with further measures which restrict trade and hamper viability and clarity on the detail of the additional restrictions imposed on hospitality and licensed businesses today.

The trade body has warned that job losses and business failures will be an inevitability unless support is immediate and wide-ranging. 

This came as a nationwide ban on Scots visiting other households was introduced to stem the rising tide of Coronavirus cases, meaning millions of people living on their own, face possibly many months more of isolation.

UKHospitality Executive Director in Scotland, Willie Macleod said: “These restrictions are a further, potentially fatal, blow for many hospitality businesses. In isolation, they may appear moderate, but the cumulative effect is going to be hugely damaging. Consumer confidence is going to take another hit and we cannot hope to recover while confidence remains low. 

“Scottish Government encouragement for working from home is going to hit city centre hospitality very hard. These businesses have already lagged behind as office workers and tourists have stayed away and they are going to take another battering. 

“Although Scottish Government will review the further restrictions announced today in three weeks time, it is disheartening that they are potentially in place for the medium term and will affect business trading over the mid-term break and as the Festive period approaches. Lots of businesses will not survive this and we are going to see more and more people lose their jobs unless we have the support to counterbalance these restrictions. 

 “The Governments at Westminster and Holyrood must immediately announce an exhaustive package of financial support, otherwise our sector is facing ruin. Employment support must be extended. The furlough scheme is already winding down and it comes to a complete halt at the end of October. Unless it is extended for our sector, businesses are inevitably going to have to make staff redundant. We are looking at a steady stream of job losses for six months, otherwise. 

“We also must have longer-term support to enable businesses to rebuild in 2021. The VAT cut for the sector must be extended as must the business rates holiday. We also need a rent-debt settlement package, otherwise whole businesses are going to go under with widespread redundancies.” 

Shadow Health Secretary Donald Cameron raised concerns with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that further lockdowns could lead to already delayed operations being further delayed.

Mr Cameron questioned the First Minister earlier today about the significant backlog in scheduled operations which he feared could become insurmountable.

Speaking later, the Highlands and Islands MSP said: “It is incredibly important that the Scottish Government has a plan that takes into account the extra strain that will be put on the NHS by the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

“Here in the Highlands and Islands, where we have a relatively large proportion of older people who are vulnerable to a respiratory disease like Covid-19, we could face a major problem with people with other medical conditions, who would normally need hospital treatment, not being attended to.

“It’s right that we respond to the threat of the second wave but we must not overlook the impact this could have on very vulnerable people who desperately need attention.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said: “It is clear that we cannot let this rise in cases go unchecked, having seen what happened in our communities and care homes earlier this year.

“I know it will be difficult for people not to have family and friends in their homes. Sadly, I fear there will be more jobs losses particularly in the hospitality and tourism industries due to the 10 pm curfew.  Many of these businesses are hardly managing at the moment.

“The UK Government must now look at extending the furlough scheme and help for the self-employed. Businesses must be supported through this as many are already on a cliff edge and this could well tip them over.

“I do hope that these measures will also help the NHS restart services that have been postponed due to the pandemic.

“Our testing system is not world leading and this must change.  Testing and tracing is the only way to control the spread of Covid-19.”

The tenth anniversary of the death of Lewis international aid worker Linda Norgrove is being commemorated with two virtual events which are testing a lot of women – and some men.

Swimming through September and running 10k in October are the events chosen by the Linda Norgrove Foundation to mark 10 years since the foundation of the memorial charity.

The Linda Norgrove Foundation was established in October 2010 in memory of Linda, whose work in Afghanistan was devoted to ensuring that the people could achieve prosperity and stability as their country was rebuilt.

Linda’s parents, John and Lorna Norgrove, set up the foundation to continue her work, seeking to ensure that their daughter was not defined by the tragic circumstances of her death, but by the life she lived and the choices she made.

In the ten years since, a series of flagship events which span the world have raised funds to support women and children in Afghanistan, the poorest country in the world outside Africa. There’s a special focus on education and enabling women to create their own income, but health and other constructive programmes are also supported by the charity.

Linda was kidnapped in Kunar on 26 September 2010 and died in an attempted rescue by US forces on 8 October. She was 36. As the tenth anniversary of her death approaches, the foundation have taken the pragmatic decision to go virtual with their commemorative fundraising.

Through September that meant a virtual open-water swimming challenge which attracted over 50 entrants – 49 of whom were women. The adventurous supporters came from across the Western Isles, Scotland and the world and each pushed hard to achieve something they had never done before.

In British Columbia, Jen Gow swam almost 6km around Buntzen Lake near Vancouver. She said: “It was a great challenge – Linda’s sense of adventure still always inspires me.”

Jennifer Gordon and her pals, Emma Papakyriakou, Fee Andrews, Marta Maciejek and Kate Allen swam just over 1km in Gladhouse reservoir in Midlothian while in Lewis Laura O’Halloran, Katia Petteloot and Kathryn Lamont-Smith smashed their 3km swim yesterday morning (Monday 21 September) in perfect conditions at the Braighe.

From 1 October it’s the turn of the runners, with the challenge set to run 10k anywhere, at any time in the first ten days of the tenth month. You can register at https://lindanorgrovefoundation.org/shop/, paying an entry fee of £10 and buying an optional event t-shirt for £12.

Launching the challenge on their website, the Norgroves said: “The year after Linda’s death, we held our first big fundraiser, a 10k run/walk on the Isle of Lewis. This has become an annual event and has grown to include participants throughout the world.

“Due to the uncertainty associated with Covid-19 and current restrictions on gatherings for outdoor events, this year’s 10k will be fully virtual. Pick a good day, and run, walk or cycle wherever you are in the world. Every penny raised will go to fund a young Afghan woman to study to become a doctor.”

The foundation’s work continues despite the restrictions of COVID, although some projects were temporarily halted. Last week a midwifery project run by Afghanistan Libre and financed by the foundation reopened four women's centres, responding to the urgent health related needs of Afghan women.

Pictures show some of the sisters swimming for Linda during September off the Bràighe, in Midlothian and near Vancouver in Canada.

The first stormy images to be shown by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s new road monitoring camera on the Bràighe have gone live today (Tuesday 22 September).

Already nicknamed ‘Bràighe-cam’, the camera joins Barvas-cam and Clisham-cam to help drivers view road conditions before making their decision to travel at times of severe weather.

Today’s images are captured at 10-minute intervals and delayed by a further 10 minutes before they reach the public, although it’s hoped that this time-lag will be reduced to one-minute updates in the future.

They are available to view on the Comhairle website at https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/roads-travel-and-parking/roads-maintenance-winter-gritting/road-monitoring-cameras/braighe-camera/

A statement this morning from CnES said: “The roadside camera station will provide the travelling public, emergency services and decision makers with more visual information. This will allow them to make better informed decisions on safe travel along the Bràighe in winter months, during periods of high tide and stormy weather.”

As well as generating images, which include limited night-time vision via an infra-red camera, the monitoring station can measure wind speed and direction.

The Met Office is today forecasting south-south-westerly wind gusts up to 40mph, with sustained wind speeds this morning up to 23mph.

Pictures show the Bràighe-cam monitoring station and images generated around 10.45am today.

 

One of Britain’s biggest trade unions has today (Monday 21 September) called for offshore windfarm contracts to be halted until a protocol has been created for ensuring that fabrication work stays in Britain.

GMB London made the call after a protest from GMB Scotland last week, when it was announced that 84 wind turbine jackets for the £3 billion Seagreen offshore wind farm in the Firth of Forth will be made in China.

Seagreen 1 is expected to be Scotland’s largest wind farm and it had been hoped that some of the work could have gone to BiFab – operators of the Arnish fabrication yard in the Isle of Lewis.

Fabrication contracts for Seagreen were awarded last week to the Zhuhai fabrication yard in Guangdong province, China. An earlier contract for the initial 30 jackets has already gone to Lamprell, a company in the United Arab Emirates.

It was reported on Saturday (19 September) that SSE Renewables had rejected bids for the work from Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) because their costs were too high.

GMB’s regional secretary, Warren Kenny, described claims that these projects were intended to produce ‘green’ energy as ‘the breath-taking absurdity of the supply chain and carbon emissions reality.’

He said: "The steel for the turbines and jackets is being made from high emissions coal and the ships that transport them many thousands of miles will be powered by high emissions oil.

"Offshore wind farms and the current supply chain which lead to higher bills and no jobs are against the direct economic interest of union members and families. 

"GMB London calls for the Government to halt awarding any further offshore wind farm electricity supply contracts until the power companies have put in place a UK-based supply chain."  

BiFab is now owned by the Canadian company DF Barnes, which reportedly said last week that the news was "extremely disappointing".

BiFab has three yards in Scotland – at Arnish, Methil and Burntisland – and has only been kept afloat during financial troubles over the past three years as part of an agreement brokered by the Scottish government to support new opportunities for fabrication and construction in the marine, renewables and energy sector.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said:“Seagreen 1 is expected to be one of the one of the largest offshore wind farms in the UK. We have yards in Lewis and Fife which have a proven track record in delivering high-quality manufacturing. Instead of this work being done in Scotland, SSE have awarded it to a company 6,000 miles away at the other side of the Eurasian landmass.

“This is another missed opportunity deliver work to yards like Arnish. There is a pressing need for the UK Government to reform the Contract for Difference funding scheme which subsidises these renewable developments to ensure these projects actually deliver benefits to the local supply chain in Scotland.”

(Picture: Seagreen Wind Energy).

A scheme to provide free, standardised house numbers to homes across the whole Galson Estate is set to make its first impact in the next few weeks.

The house numbers project being organised by Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (UOG, Galson Estate Trust) is described as ‘a meaningful legacy’ from the COVID-19 pandemic by Lisa Maclean, UOG’s commercial development manager.

Lisa said: “We’ve been working alongside organisations on issues connected with well-being and keeping people independent at home for a long time, and it’s come up regularly with emergency services that house numbers are a significant issue

“Finding addresses can be quite a problem in rural Lewis, where homes aren’t numbered consecutively and sometimes only the resident of a house knows what number it is.

“It makes it hard for care services, emergency workers and even where shopping deliveries are concerned. We have been running a prescription delivery service during lockdown and we ourselves have noticed the problem.

“When the pandemic broke we felt there was an opportunity to do something meaningful that would leave a legacy, with funds available and a good pool of volunteers who have stepped forward to help out with community initiatives.”

The free house numbers being offered will be on a standard-sized, slate background with reflective, high-contrast numbers. The first order for 200 house-numbers is being placed with Graphite Signs in Stornoway this week.

It’s expected that a team will be out and about fixing the numbers to houses in a few weeks’ time, with volunteers supported by UOG staff as they carry out the work.

Lisa said: “Once the first numbers are up we have volunteers in every village who will be identifying places where the residents haven’t got in touch, so that can have as many houses as possible numbered.”

The initiative has been warmly welcomed by Ness and Shader First Responders, who are themselves hoping to be back in action soon after receiving additional training on first response during the pandemic.

In normal times, these volunteer teams would be called out by Scottish Ambulance to help a sick or injured person before emergency services can reach remote addresses. That means they have first-hand experience of trying to find a specific house, sometimes at night or in poor weather conditions.

Ness First Responders co-ordinator Duncan Morrison said: “This is a really good initiative and we’re fully behind it. I was helping to deliver medication to homes in the Galson area during lockdown and that made me very aware of the difficulty of finding addresses.

“When first responders are called they could be going to someone who has had a stroke or cardiac arrest, and the longer you spend trying to find an address the longer that person is not getting the care and treatment they need, when every second counts.

“We could be going to an address we don’t know in the dark or in poor weather conditions. Once we’ve found the house it’s an additional help to the ambulance following after us, since they can see our vehicle and it takes them straight to the patient.

“Even having the same format of numbers for every house is going to make a difference. I have a nice Spanish-style tile number outside my house and I recently had a delivery driver who went right past it, just didn’t see it. So I have an order in for a number myself now.”

Free house numbers can be ordered by anyone who lives on the Galson Estate using the printed order form in Fios or online at https://www.galsontrust.com/housenumberingscheme. Applications for the numbers are open until Wednesday 30 September.

Picture shows Ness First Responders and Scottish Ambulance attending an address in Ness today (Monday 21 September).

 https://www.galsontrust.com/housenumberingscheme

Tomorrow (Tuesday September 22) sees the people of Great Bernera encountering their new bin collection service - which will mean two visits by the newly-acquired smaller refuse collection vehicle, possibly over two days.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar states that it "expects to collect bins on the Isle of Great Bernera on Tuesday 22nd September. It may not be possible to service all the bins in one day. Any bins not serviced on Tuesday will be serviced the following day.

"We would ask that residents present their bins for collection as normal at 8am on Tuesday 22nd September and ensure that any unemptied bins are left at the kerbside for collection on Wednesday 23rd September.

"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."

The changes follow the limitations placed on the weight of vehicles permitted to cross the Bernera Bridge.

 

The massive worldwide following for Lewis band Peat & Diesel got another hit of live mayhem from their favourite musicians yesterday (Saturday 19 September).

The draw for a raffle organised in aid of Alzheimer Scotland Western Isles branch was live and predictably chaotic, as band members Innes and Uilleam struggled to keep Boydie on track with the winners’ announcements.

The star prize was a unique oil drum seat, made by raffle promoter Mark Maciver who said: “Made out of the finest materials straight from the croft in Lochs where Boydie grew up as a young boy, the oil drum is claimed to be the very one he used for transport where he would climb inside and roll down to the shore.”

Along with other distinctive prizes, the autographed oil drum chair helped sell an impressive £2,800 worth of tickets, rounded up on the day by a generous donation to make the total of £3,000. 

Mark said: “Thank you very much to everyone who bought tickets. An incredible sum that’ll be put to good use by Alzheimers Scotland Western Isles – and Inverness isn’t too far for the top prize to go!”

And a spokesperson for Alzheimer Scotland said: “Thanks to Mark MacIver for organising the Peat & Diesel fundraiser prize draw. A massive £3000 raised for local funds! We are blown away!”

The picture shows Boydie attempting to stow away before the prize is shipped, with Molly the dog in her Alzheimer support t-shirt.

A bluefin tuna caught, tagged and released off Harris on Friday (18 September) marks the beginning of a new phase of conservation research.

Donnie Macleod of Crossbost in North Lochs is the lucky fisherman pictured shaking fins with the massive fish, which was caught from the fishing vessel Harmony, skippered by Angus Campbell of Kilda Cruises in Harris.

Harris Development Ltd, which is spear-heading the local programme, announced early in August that they had been successful gaining derogations for three vessels to fish for bluefin tuna in waters off the Western Isles.

The scientific programme complements similar work by other European coastal states but they are currently the only organisation in Scotland issued with the derogations in a tightly controlled fishery.

A spokesman for HDL said: “We work closely with Marine Scotland and The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) using their reporting format to lead to a greater understanding of this spectacular fish.

“We hope to achieve multiple tags this year and this will feed into similar programmes taking place in Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, giving scientists a clearer picture on BFT stock density and migration patterns. The data may also be used by scientists studying climate change and increasing oceanic temperatures.”

Regardless of the scientific benefit, there was no denying the thrill and gamesmanship of catching the huge fish on Friday. It took approximately 23 minutes for the fish to be brought to the vessel, whereupon it had a handshake from Donnie (pictured) and was swiftly tagged with an ICCAT tag and safely released. 

A flat calm sea and a glorious sunset made for a scenic rescue as Barra RNLI lifeboat and Uist coastguard teams were called out on Friday afternoon (18 September).

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call for assistance at 3.30pm from the Ullapool-registered fishing vessel Serene, with one person aboard, which had suffered engine failure one nautical mile west of Geirinis in South Uist.

Barra RNLI lifeboat and Coastguard Rescue Teams from Benbecula, Lochboisdale and Griminish were called, with the CRT personnel providing eyes on the situation from the coast.

A local fishing vessel, the Monach Isles, also went to the assistance of the casualty, a 28foot creel boat which had electrical trouble with her engine, and was able to take her in tow to the safety of Ardivachar, where coastguards helped make her safe.

All crews were stood down with all safe and well at 6pm and the RNLI crew enjoyed a placid sunset cruise back to Castlebay, as shown in the picture (Barra RNLI).

 

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is supporting Macmillan Cancer Support’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning which takes place on Friday 25th September.

Mr Cameron said: "This has been a very challenging time for many people who are living with cancer, as well as for their families and friends who may have had to keep their distance during Covid-19 restrictions.

"And many of the fundraising activities that charities like Macmillan Cancer undertake, have been affected too.

"That’s why it’s so good to be able to participate in the World's Biggest Coffee morning, wherever we may be, and in so doing support the people who deliver cancer care and the people who benefit from that care."

2020 is the 30th anniversary of Macmillan's biggest fundraising event of the year.

Macmillan’s Biggest Coffee Morning takes place on Friday 25 September.

Anyone with details of local related events – real or virtual - please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will add them to this post.

 

New artworks by island artists, Alice Macleod and Mhairi Law from Island Darkroom were installed over the past few days in An Lanntair arts centre's new Cafe Bar. 

The Stornoway centre says: "It was a wonderful moment to see these works, commissioned by An Lanntair during lockdown, finally displayed at this scale.

"Our new-design Cafe Bar will open to the public on Tuesday 29th September and we just cannot wait to welcome you - come see these beautiful artworks in person!"

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has again raised in the Scottish Parliament the opportunities for home-working to bring more public-sector jobs to rural and island areas.

During a portfolio question time session in the Scottish Parliament on Thursdday [September 17], the islands MSP highlighted the potential benefits this would bring, and asked what more the Scottish Government can do to ensure more posts in the public sector are open to home-working or hot-desking in rural offices.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The rapid shift to home-working brought about by the pandemic has the potential to be beneficial for the islands if we can encourage employers and public sector organisations to make sure that more and more of their jobs can be done by home-working or hot-desking.

“We know that a key reason for people moving away is that they can only pursue their chosen career path on the mainland, and so if we can enable people to do that while remaining in the islands it would help to tackle depopulation.

“I was pleased to see the Scottish Government acknowledge the need for them to show leadership in this area and commit to further discussions with representatives of the rural economy.”

Meanhwile Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant has said both the Scottish and U.K. Governments must now “sit up and pay attention” to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the region and has called for an economic “shot in the arm” to support local jobs and businesses following the publication of a report from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The report “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Highlands and Islands” warns that the economy of the Highlands and Islands could decrease by as much as £2.6bn this year due to the impact of Covid-19 on businesses and jobs.

And the figures presented in the document also suggest that unemployment increased faster in the region than the rest of Scotland.

Rhoda Grant said: “This report makes grim reading and should make both the Scottish and U.K. Government’s sit up and pay attention to the serious impact that Covid-19 has and is having on the Highlands and Islands, one of the worst hit areas in the country economically. 

“The Scottish and U.K. Governments must work together to invest in the Highlands and Islands to protect jobs , livelihoods and businesses and the future economic prosperity of the region.

"If we want to see the region survive and thrive after Covid-19, we need to ensure the right support is in place to allow us to build back better and support an economy that works for everyone."

Covid-19 Update: 1505 18th September 2020, from NHS Western Isles

There have been no further positive tests through the NHS Western Isles testing system today.

The number of positive tests reported by NHS Western Isles remains at 8, with the last reported case in June.

We can, however, confirm that a Western Isles resident has tested positive for COVID-19 through a private testing centre, whilst off island.

This test cannot be verified by NHS Western Isles as it was not an NHS test, and the individual has not been retested by NHS Western Isles as they remain off island.

NHS Western Isles was notified of this test result and has advised the individual to self-isolate, and to ensure they do not use public transport.

NHS Western Isles has also completed Test and Protect requirements and has advised all identified contacts to self isolate for 14 days.

FACTS

F – Face coverings.

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.

Normal water supplies were yesterday evening (Friday September 18)  restored to Scottish Water customers in South Uist, who experienced disruption resulting from an airlock affecting the intake water main to Stoneybridge water treatment works.

Scottish Water engineers worked through the night on Thursday, into Friday morning, to clear the airlock and restore normal production of drinking water at the site, which serves around 1600 customers across the south of the island, including Daliburgh and Lochboisdale.

While the supply from Loch Iarras to the water treatment works was interrupted, drinking water stored within the island network initially maintained supply to customers.  Customers experienced low water pressure or loss of water as storage reserves reduced, until water production was restored.

Water tankers were brought on to the island to allow supply to the water network to be supplemented by road if necessary – and these were used on Friday to speed up the restoration of supplies. A team from Scottish Water also distributed bottled water, targeting customers who have registered for additional support; and areas of the island which experienced the lengthiest disruption.

 A spokesperson for Scottish Water said on Friday: “We would like to apologise for the disruption to water supplies experienced by our customers served by Stoneybridge water treatment works last night and earlier today. We are grateful for their patience and support while our local team worked to restore normal service as quickly as possible.

“Supplies are now returning to normal across the island.  If customers experience discoloration or intermittent pressure following the restoration of supply, they should run their cold kitchen tap at half pressure until the supply returns to normal. If problems continue, they should contact us for further advice and assistance on 0800 077 8778.”

Customers who may need additional support if their water supply is interrupted, for example due to a medical condition, can join Scottish Water’s Priority Services Register either online by going to www.scottishwater.co.uk or by calling 0800 077 8778.

 

A team of engineers from Scottish Water is making progress with resolving an airlock, which has been affecting the intake water main to Stoneybridge water treatment works in South Uist.

Production of drinking water at the site has resumed and the situation is improving.

The affected water main connects Loch Iarras to the site at Stoneybridge, which produces drinking water for around 1600 customers across the south of the island, including Daliburgh and Lochboisdale.

The impact of the issue on the local water network overnight, and into this morning, means that it will take some time for normal service to be restored to all affected customers.  However, many customers will see an improvement in water pressure and most supplies are expected to return to normal over the course of the afternoon.

As a precaution, water tankers have been brought on to the island to allow extra water to be brought into the island water network by road. A team from Scottish Water is also distributing bottled water, targeting customers who have registered for additional support; and areas of the island which have experienced the lengthiest disruption.

A spokesperson for Scottish Water said:“An airlock occurred yesterday [Thursday] evening, affecting the water main that supplies Stoneybridge water treatment works from Loch Iarras.

“Our local team took quick action to ensure the water network was supplying as many customers as possible in the north of the island from Benbecula. Engineers were on site overnight at Stoneybridge, working to restore the flow of water to the treatment works – and the situation is now improving, with resumed production of drinking water at the site.

“Road tankers have been brought on to the island to enable us to supplement the water supply if necessary.  We also have teams working to distribute bottled water, targeting customers who may be vulnerable and areas which have experienced lengthier disruption.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers overnight and this morning. We are grateful for their patience and support while we continue working to restore normal service. If any customers need extra support while their supply is disrupted, for example due to a medical condition, we encourage them to contact us on 0800 077 8778 so that our local team can assist.”

There’s a chance to revive the lost festival culture – on-line, at least with the Highland and Islands Students Association this afternoon.

HISA says: “We want to celebrate musicians from the Highlands and dedicate an afternoon to their amazing talent. 

“This online stream with festival vibes will take place on our Facebook page and is going to brighten up your afternoon with some excellent tunes.”

Simply tune in at 3pm today (Friday 18th September

And the performers are…

Eilidh Macintyre is a 4th-year student on the UHI BA Applied music course. Her main instrument is voice, but she also has been playing flute and whistle for about nine years. She plays with the trad band Madderam who are excited to release their first album later this year and she also enjoys teaching and various solo ventures.

Emilia Marienfeld grew up on the Isle of Foehr on the west coast of Germany, in a home with influences reaching from songs deep rooted in the Frisian culture on Foehr to Scottish traditional music. During high school she joined the folk Baltica Ensemble in Denmark where they annually play festivals such as the Tonder Festival in Denmark and furthermore the journey took her to Scotland, where she started studying traditional music at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Through a scholarship she landed on Uist, where she immediately felt a strong sense of community, through the music and the language. Recently she had amazing opportunities and projects, such as playing Celtic Connections, learning Gaelic, and digging deep into the rich Gaelic culture, which she is very keen on expanding. 

Sheena Peteranna is in the 3rd Year of her UHI BA Applied Music course and loving it. She has played the bagpipes since the age of nine and picked up the whistle during her time on HNC Music at UHI Benbecula LCC Campus.  She enjoys the beauty of simple yet lively traditional tunes. For the trad fest she is playing ‘Invergordon’s Welcome to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II’ - Pipe Major John D. Burgess, into ‘Seonaidh’s Tune’ - Fred Morrison and finally ‘Kenny MacDonald’s’ - Donald MacLeod, all played on the small pipes. She is also joined by guitarist Alex Houston. 

Chloe Steele is a Gaelic singer and piper born and bred on South Uist. Chloe has a huge passion for her local community and culture. She dedicates much of her time to educating youth on Gaelic music, running community projects and placing huge emphasis on the inter-generational element of community spirit and involvement, all to safeguard her culture and heritage. Chloe has been involved in various local, national and international projects and events over the years and has made a name for herself internationally.

Originally from Coatbridge, Ellen Grieve is living proof that it is never too late to learn an instrument. Having grown up in an area where musical opportunities were rare, Ellen never let go of her dream to learn the accordion after seeing one for the first time at the age of nine. It was 28 years later, while living in Orkney, that she was finally able to pursue her ambition and began learning at the Orkney Traditional Music Project in 1997 where she would later teach for 15 years. She has been a part-time student on the Applied Music degree for eight years, which has given her many opportunities to explore music, including conducting one of her own compositions, written for 61 musicians, at the Glasgow Mitchell Theatre as part of Celtic Connections.

Morag Currie is a violist, fiddler, composer and music educator, currently based in Paisley, but originally from Thurso in Caithness. She performs in a diverse range of genres and ensembles, from traditional Scottish to string quartet, session work and contemporary music. She has worked as a session player with Biffy Clyro and Frightened Rabbit, is the regular violist with contemporary music specialists, The Auricle Ensemble and is an active freelance violist and fiddler. Morag’s own works are rooted in folk music, but also make use of electronics, digital workstations and sampled sounds. Morag studied viola at Napier University and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and graduated with Distinction from the MA Music and The Environment at UHI in late 2019. 

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is reminding islanders what to expect if they are contacted by an NHS contact tracer, following reports in the national media of scammers pretending to work for the Test and Protect contact tracing service.

When contacting individuals who have tested positive, contact tracers will ask people to identify others who they’ve been in close contact with and places they’ve been 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms up until the time they’ve self-isolated. This information will then be input into contact tracing software and used to identify and contact those identified.

The positive individual will not be named by the contact tracer in line with patient confidentiality, unless they agree to have their details disclosed to help the contact tracing process.

Important, contact tracers will not ask anyone for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything. The data gathered will be stored securely by NHS Scotland and safely destroyed as soon as possible after the pandemic concludes.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I am urging my constituents to be on guard about potential phone scams. Contact tracing is an important part of tackling coronavirus, but unfortunately it seems there are unscrupulous individuals seeking to take advantage of peoples’ fears over the virus.

“The NHS already has a number of protections in place to stop potential fraudsters and ensure all information is kept confidential.

 “Contact tracers will introduce themselves, state the reason for their call, and will always identify who they are calling by name. They will not ask for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything.

 “The tracers are supported by software which builds on a tried and trusted platform, allowing teams to identify outbreaks and reduce transmission for high risk groups.

 “Test and Protect is one way we will tackle this pandemic, but physical distancing and good hand hygiene continues to play a huge role as we hopefully continue to keep the islands free of coronavirus.”

Last year, Sally Reynolds, the development officer for Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh (Carloway Estate Trust) organised a project involving the John Muir Trust for school children to plant trees with the trees supplied by the Woodland Trust. 

For the completion of this project, the John Muir Trust presented the community with three wooden bench seats – one each for the villages of Carloway, Tolsta Chaolais and Breasclete.

It was decided to locate the Tolsta Chaolais seat near the junction of Shiader Road and the main village road and place a commemorative plate on it in remembrance of Alexander Angus Macleod who was lost on HMY Iolaire on New Year’s Day 1919.

The bench’s location is only a few yards from where Alex Angus lived in Tolsta Chaolais and is part of the Bonnet Laird Walk which was also established by the Carloway Estate Trust.

On Wednesday 16th September the Rev Duncan MacAskill, Carloway Church of Scotland, and himself a relative of Alex Angus, unveiled a commemorative plate in a short ceremony accompanied by Angus Macleod, Chairman, Carloway Community Council, and his wife Cathy. 

Because of new Covid-19 regulations only residents from two households were permitted to attend.

Sincere thanks were extended to all those who helped and contributed towards this project. 

A special thanks also to all the businesses who kindly contributed materials for the establishment and completion of this installation.  

 

A roadside monitoring station, with camera functions, has been installed at the Braighe over the summer months, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Roadside Camera Station will provide the travelling public, Emergency services and decision makers with more visual information. This will allow them to make better informed decisions on safe travel along the Braighe in winter months during periods of high tide and stormy weather.

The camera has the ability to measure wind speed and direction and limited visibility night time images are also possible as a result of an infra-red camera.

Camera images will appear on the Comhairle website in the coming weeks. It is hoped that a live camera feed will be available before the winter months.

Huge losses of fish due to high levels of jellyfish have hastened a decision by Grieg Seafood Shetland to end operations of its five farms on the Isle of Skye.

In August 2019, Grieg Seafood initiated a strategic evaluation of its Skye operations. The company has now concluded that it will end its operations there.  It says "the decision was expedited due to an incident of high mortality at three of the Skye farms between late July and early-September 2020, mainly caused by abnormal levels of jellyfish.

"Unfortunately, 627,000 fish (approximately 1500 tonnes) were lost. Operations at the impacted sites are discontinued immediately, while operations at the two remaining farms will end after harvest in the coming months."

Grieg Seafood says it has 25 employees on Skye. Some of the employees will be able to continue working for Grieg Seafood should they want to relocate to Shetland.

Grant Cumming, Managing Director of Grieg Seafood Shetland, said: “As we have had to move supportive equipment and resources for our Skye farms back and forth from the Shetland isles, we have regrettably not been able to maintain the fish welfare and production standards that we have in the rest of the company. Therefore, we have decided to end our operations in Skye and will look for alternatives for the farms and the remaining employees outside the company."

The Prospect trade union, which represents air traffic controllers, has hit back in the row over the plan to centralise air traffic control for seven Highlands and Islands airports - and its conclusions are supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

It means loss of air traffic control jobs at Benbecula, Orkney, Shetland, Stornoway, Wick and elsewhere.  They would be replaced by a remote air traffic management system (RTS) supplemented by new IT.

An independent report by procurement expert Dave Watson commissioned by Prospect says implementation costs have already almost doubled. Safety and operational concerns have been raised over the proposed remote tower system.  The report says the project will take at least £18m of economic benefit from island economies.

"In this case, the risks are not just financial; they are fundamental to the operation of airport services to the Highlands and Islands," it says. “Remote towers are not as yet proven technology in a setting as challenging as the Highlands and Islands.”

Proposals for a single remote tower centre were first mooted two years ago as part of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd plans to "future-proof" its operations over the next ten to 15 years.

Commenting on the report, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure at CnES, said: “This report confirms the arguments that the Comhairle and others have been making. This is a costly, risky, vanity project which should have been stopped long before now. 

"The economic impact on island areas is unacceptable. The loss of jobs in the Islands is unacceptable. The risks are unacceptable. I repeat our call that HIAL think again about proceeding with these proposals and I would ask again that Scottish Government intervene.

"The report outlines that HIAL’s plans to relocate all air traffic controllers to a central location at Inverness, have underestimated the likely costs and risks of the project."

HIAL says remote towers are the “only option that offers long-term solutions in terms of resilience and flexibility”.

(This report has been updated with comments from CnES since first being published)

A BBC ALBA documentary about Peat & Diesel has won a major award at a New York film festival.

Peat & Diesel: That’s The Way We Do It! received the prize for International Documentary Feature at the long-running Williamsburg International Film & Music Festival in Brooklyn.

Produced by Stornoway-based MacTV, the programme follows the band as they gain momentum and fame ahead of the launch of their second album and a landmark gig at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow.

Peat & Diesel – fisherman Calum ‘Boydie’ Macleod, electrician Innes Scott and delivery van driver Uilleam ‘Uilly’ Macleod – captured the imagination of young and old through their infectious music and unique tales of island life.

The documentary was a huge success on BBC ALBA when it aired in early April, as part of an evening of Peat & Diesel music and antics which drew one of the biggest audiences of the year.

BBC ALBA Head of Service Margaret Mary Murray, who was also Executive Producer of the programme, said: “We had a feeling that this programme would be a hit with audiences and it certainly was. We received a huge amount of appreciative feedback from the audience when we screened the double bill of this fabulously entertaining roller coaster road movie charting the rise of Peat & Diesel plus coverage of their sell-out gig in Glasgow. It was a memorable night on BBC ALBA!

“We are delighted that the talent of the island-based musicians and filmmakers has been recognised on the international stage demonstrating that the local does have global appeal!”

The programme’s Producer/Director, the RTS Scotland award-winner Daibhidh Martin, said: “Peat & Diesel are totally unique and it was great craic being on the road with them. They are captivating and it’s been brilliant to be there with them as they become more and more successful, watching the audiences react so positively to them.

“They celebrate Gaelic and island culture, mixing sincere and relatable subjects with comedic imagery and stylings. It was never difficult to film the band and capture something that audiences would respond to.”

BBC ALBA has seen significant international success in recent years, with both international co-productions and awards frequent fixtures, a testament to the quality and ingenuity of the BBC ALBA production sector, they say. 



Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant says some dental services currently not available on the NHS are available if the patient is willing to pay privately.

The MSP has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, after a number of constituents approached her raising concerns that dental treatments – such as fillings and root canals – which are currently not available on the NHS because of the coronavirus restrictions, are available if the patient is willing to pay privately for the treatment.

Under current Scottish Government guidelines NHS dentists can offer only a limited range of services but these restrictions do not apply to private dental services and thus many people are being prompted to pay for the treatments recommended.

Rhoda Grant MSP said: “This is very concerning to me as not everyone will be able to afford these services if they are only available privately and the sad reality is that we don’t know when these restrictions will be lifted.

“I appreciate that extra equipment and PPE is necessary to keep dentists safe but it’s unfair that one person who needs treatment can get it because they can afford it while another person, who needs the same treatment, has to wait and potentially risk further damage because they don’t have the funds.”

"This…will widen the health inequalities gap between the rich and poor if it’s not addressed. That is why I’m raising this with the Scottish Government in the hope that a solution can be found.”.

 

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.

A team of engineers from Scottish Water is working to clear an airlock affecting the intake water main to Stoneybridge water treatment works in South Uist.

The affected water main connects Loch Iarras to the site at Stoneybridge, which produces drinking water for around 1600 customers across the south of the island, including Daliburgh and Lochboisdale.

Drinking water stored within the island’s water network is currently keeping the majority of households in supply, but customers in some areas are experiencing loss of supply or lower than normal water pressure as tank levels fall.

A spokesperson for Scottish Water said: “An airlock occurred yesterday [Thursday September 17] evening, affecting the water main that supplies Stoneybridge water treatment works from Loch Iarras.

“Our local team took quick action to ensure the water network supplies as many customers as possible in the north of the island from Benbecula. Engineers remain on site at Stoneybridge, working to restore the flow of water to the treatment works.

“We apologise for the disruption that some customers are experiencing and are working hard to restore normal service as quickly as possible.”

 

The Hebridean Community Garden project, a joint venture between Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn and the Clan Macquarrie Community Centre in Borve has had a welcome funding injection from the National Lottery Community Fund. 

In all, £10,000 was awarded thanks to generous National Lottery players, which will enable the purchase and repair of necessary equipment to really get the horticultural venture going on the Galson Estate in north Lewis.

Explaining the circumstances surrounding the gardening project, Donald ‘Ba’ Macdonald of the Clan Macquarrie Community Centre said: “For some years, we’ve had ambitions to develop a community growing project on a part of the Clan Macquarrie Community Centre land.

Severe storm damage to an earlier polytunnel a number of years ago was a disappointing setback and, together with the usual challenge of fully funding a project, had delayed us.

“The local demand for a project of this nature was emphasised by the success of a specific and very well-attended ‘grow your own’ workshop in February this year. Against that background, we are delighted with the positive outcome of our application to the National Lottery Community Fund, and with the help provided by the Urras with the application process.”

It is envisaged that the Hebridean Community Garden Project will assist in developing the skills and knowledge of interested community members, thus creating a valuable and long-lasting community venture. ‘Ba’ continued: “The funding award will allow us to move forward with what we hope will be the first key stage of a sustainable community project.”

Announcing the most-welcome news along with hundreds of other projects benefitting from Lottery funding, Scotland Chair of the National Lottery Community Fund, Kate Still, said: “In these uncertain times, our priority is to ensure that National Lottery money continues to flow to charities, voluntary sector organisations and grassroots groups. I would like to congratulate The Hebridean Community Garden Project on their award.  Theirs is an important project and will support people now and in the future when they can physically come back together to make great things happen in their community.”

Christopher Smail, from Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn, said: “We are delighted with this news and very grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund for believing in the project.

"This funding is the result of many people’s hard work at the Urras and Clan Macquarrie Community Centre, and we believe that The Hebridean Community Garden will deliver great things for the Galson Estate.”

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the project, please contact Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn on:

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

01851 850393

Former primary schools in Leverburgh and Lochmaddy, as well as the resource centre in Kershader, are amongst the assets set to pass into community hands following new awards of funding totalling £1.6m by the Scottish Land Fund. 

Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: "Communities across the country are playing a pivotal role in helping create a fairer and greener Scotland as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The latest round of Scottish Land Fund grants – provided to 21 different community groups – will go towards projects that will provide locals with better access to green space, encourage wildlife and support community business. With this funding being awarded during Climate Week, I look forward to these projects seizing the opportunity to help our green recovery.”

John Watt, Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair said:"Groups from all across Scotland are making a real impact to their communities with a wide range of ambitious projects that deliver tangible benefits to the people who live there, and the Scottish Land Fund is delighted to be able to support them.”  

Sandra Holmes, Head of Community Assets at HIE, said: “These successful projects announced today are all fantastic examples of people taking control of local resources for the long-term benefit of their communities. Applecross Community Company, for example, will be able to purchase, restock and improve the local woods to provide access to the community as well as buy land to build affordable homes.

“Ownership will give these communities greater control over important assets and will help ensure their long-term future. We wish all the successful groups the very best in their new ventures.”

Some projects receiving Scottish Land Fund cash are:

Applecross Community Company
Award - £137,252

The award will allow Applecross Community Company to purchase, restock and improve Togarve Community Woods and provide access for the community.

Applecross Community Company
Award - £151,500

With this award Applecross Community Company will buy land in order to build nine homes for affordable rent and four for sale with rural housing burden, along with space for an electric charging point and allotments.

Leverhulme Community Hub
Award – £49,167

By using this award to purchase the old Leverhulme Primary School, Leverhulme will be able to create a community centre with cafe, self-service laundrette, charity shop, gym, Post Office and museum of Gaelic language, culture and Harris Tweed.

North Uist Development Company
Award - £19,779

The group will use the award to buy the former Lochmaddy Primary School to use as a community hub and, in future, for accommodation.

Pairc Trust
Award - £38,500
With this money from the Scottish Land Fund, Pairc Trust will be able to take ownership of the Resource Centre in Kershader, Isle of Lewis, in order to carry on running its playgroup and childcare services and to provide space for other community groups.

Tiree Community Business Ltd
Award - £12,700

Unused land in Scarinish will be bought by Tiree Community Business Ltd in order to turn it into a sensory garden and community growing space.

Summer 2020 has been a landmark moment for HI-Scot credit union based in Stornoway – as the credit union reached the significant milestone of issuing £10 million in loans since opening in 2006.

And they are reminding folk…2020 has not been the easiest of years and, for many people, saving has been the last thing on their minds - but there's never been a more prudent time to think about putting money aside for a a rainy day. Or a global pandemic.

“Saving with a credit union is very straightforward,” said HI-Scot credit union General Manager, David Mackay, “And with options like payroll deduction, where you decide how much to save and this is deducted directly from your salary every pay day, our members can start saving today.”

HI-Scot has more than 3200 members and, with no external shareholders, the credit union is building a strong financial community across the Highlands and Islands. The credit union offers a range of savings and loans to members and operates under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, so members' accounts are fully protected.

“We offer our members, who all live and work in the Highlands and Islands, services that suit their needs.” David explained, “For example, we recently introduced phone loans, which makes accessing our affordable loans a whole lot easier. At HI-Scot, we take each member's circumstances into consideration, whether they want to save or borrow – or do both.”

The summer of 2020 brought some positive news for HI-Scot as the credit union reached the significant milestone of issuing £10 million in loans since opening in 2006.

“That £10 million has allowed our members to buy cars, make improvements to their homes and has supported them in countless other ways to access affordable credit.” said David, “That's a lot of people getting to work or keeping their home in good condition thanks to a HI-Scot loan.”

To find out more about saving and borrowing with HI-Scot credit union, have a look at their website: www.hi-scot.com

 

The local pioneers of Alzheimer Scotland are being recalled as the charity reaches a significant milestone – its 40th year on World Alzheimer’s Day, 21 September 2020.

Founded in 1980, Scotland’s leading dementia charity has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of people with dementia and their families.

The charity is using the anniversary to reflect on its many innovations, which include a 24 hour freephone Dementia Helpline and the world leading Scottish Dementia Working Group.

Chief Executive Henry Simmons said: “It is remarkable to reflect on the last 40 years of Alzheimer Scotland. We have demonstrated some wonderful innovations over the years, and at the heart of them lie our staff and volunteers who innovate every single day because of the person-centred way they work with, and understand, people with dementia and their family carers. I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone who has been a part of Alzheimer Scotland over the last 40 years when I say it is an enormous privilege to be able to have a positive impact on the lives of the people we support.”

Marion MacInnes, Locality Leader from the local Western Isles services, would like to give special recognition to the many people who were instrumental in setting up the original local services particularly Kenny MacLennan, Catherine MacKenzie, Katie MacPherson and all the staff and volunteers that have supported the service over the years and to those that still do.

"The foundations that were laid back then are still going strong locally as we continue to focus on finding ways to support people living with dementia and their carers and families," she says. 

As part of the 40th celebrations, the charity is launching three new digital innovations, which include the launch of their very own app. The app is designed to complement Alzheimer Scotland’s website, and users will be able to get information and updates about what support available in their local area. One of the key benefits the app offers to users is instant notifications from local staff, such as changes to group times or crucial COVID-19 related updates.

On top of this, the charity is launching the redesign of their Purple Alert app, which helps to find people with dementia if they go missing.

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

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

 

Extend house, Stornoway

Colin Macleod of 8 Barony Square has applied for planning permission to extend the house to the rear of the property at 13 Sand Street, Stornoway.

Alter and extend house, Carloway

Iain Macarthur of 5 Borrowston, Carloway, has applied for planning permission to alter and extend the house at 5 Barrowston, Carloway.

New floodlights, Stornoway

Western Isles Community Society has applied for planning permission to install 12 LED floodlights in the pavement on South Breach. The floodlights would be 0.5m away from the Town Hall wall.

New fence and hardstanding, Steinish

Scott Maciver of 2A Steinish has applied for planning permission to erect a fence, create a hardstanding and make improvements to drainage at 2A Steinish.  

Change of use of land

Phillip Davis of Taigh an Uillt, Uigean, has applied for planning permission to change the use of the common grazings land at Taigh an Uillt, 16 Uigean, Kneep, to domestic curtilage. Work will also include creating an access, parking suitable for one car and erecting a shed. The shed is to be 5.5 metres tall, 5 metres wide and 9.8 metres long. 

Sun lounge extension, Dalmore

Angus Smith of 11 Dalmore has applied for planning permission to create a sun lounge extension at 11 Dalmore.

New agricultural building, Tong

Alasdair Campbell of 9A Aird Tong has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 9A Aird Tong. The building is to be 22.86 metres long, 12.19 metres wide and 6.2 metres tall. Work is to include creating an access and parking suitable for five cars.

New house, Barvas

Derick Morrison of 6A Upper Barvas has applied for planning permission to build a house at 1A Upper Barvas. The house consists of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a lounge and a utility room. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars.

New house, Laxdale

Derek Maclean of 90A Newmarket has applied for planning permission to build a house at 11B Newvalley, Laxdale. The house is to have four bedrooms, a kitchen/family/dining room, a lounge, two bathrooms, and a utility room. Work is to include installing an air source heat pump and creating an access and parking suitable for two cars.

Gable signage, Bragar

Planning permission is sought to install gable signage at Community Centre, Grinneabhat Centre, North Bragar . The sign is to be 2.6 metres tall and 1.8 metres wide.

New house, Back

Derek Beaton and Anne Marie Lockerby have applied for planning permission to erect a new house at 40B Vatisker. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, a kitchen/dining/family area, a lounge a TV room. Work is also to include building a detached garage, creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars, and installing an air source heat pump.

Work has resumed on a project to restore a historic access route to a popular island cove after it was put on hold due to lockdown.

Work on the Shulishader steps – the 88 steps which lead steeply down to a shore once used as a landing site for fishing boats and now popular for wild swimming – was paused earlier in the year, just as it was about to enter a major stage. 

But now construction company Breedon are back on site in Point  – to great joy, among campaigners and fundraisers.

The steep flight of steps down to the geodha (Gaelic for ‘cove’) will be repaired and made safe – they were cleaned up, in the initial stage of the work – and an access path of around 300 metres is being created, from the township to the top of the steps. The path is based on a light existing track and the pictures show how much progress has already been made in the space of a few days.

The work will be completed by the installation of a handrail to boost safety. 

Work on the access path is expected to be finished by the end of this week and the steps should be done in the next couple of weeks. The handrail – being made by John Angus Morrison of Vagabond Gates and Railings, based in Knock – is expected to go in within the next month. 

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

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

Point and Sandwick Trust gave £9,000 towards the work at Shulishader as part of the second phase of the coastal path. In addition, the Trust’s community consultants, Alasdair Nicholson and Tony Robson, have been working with the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path committee on delivering their ambitious project. 

The first phase of the path, carried out in late 2018, involved shoring up the sea wall outside Eaglais na h-Aoidhe and building a better path along the coastline towards Aignish. It cost £114,000, with £57,000 from LEADER and the other £57,000 from the profits from Point and Sandwick Trust’s wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag. 

A number of other groups and organisations have helped fund the second phase of the path. The Scottish Landfill Fund, administered locally by Third Sector Hebrides, committed £7,000 and the Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee gave £4,000.

As well as the access to the geodha at Shulishader, the second phase also includes marking out the walking route from the Braighe to Swordale on the Minch side of Point  – a distance of around 2km – with route posts and installing several self-closing gates for access. 

Matt Bruce, chairman of the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path committee, said he hoped these gates would “settle in and become popular” and warmly welcomed the resumption of the coastal path work in general.

He said: “After the hold up of all building work over the summer, it’s great to be back on site with Breedons and we hope that it will be ready before the end of September.

“All the funding is in place and we continue to be thankful to Point and Sandwick Trust and the Landfill Fund and the Shulishader grazings who have helped us financially.

Iain MacSween, clerk to the Shulishader and Newlands Grazings Committee, said: “It’s a great relief that it’s going to get going again. We were all set to get going with the project just when the lockdown started so it’s been a bit frustrating.

“It will make a big difference to that part of the township and it will give safe access to a place which was used extensively in the past for smaller boats fishing in the bay and is now used by wild swimmers and families wanting safe access to a nice shore.”

Shulishader resident Donald Taylor, who has been campaigning for work to be done to the area for years, was also thrilled to see the project resume. “It’s absolutely amazing, terrific. I’m absolutely delighted because I was beginning to wonder…”

Along with his brother, Dr Derek Taylor, Donald has been researching and writing a series of articles on the geodha, on the history of Shulishader and on some well-known people from the village. It is hoped that some of this material will eventually be incorporated into information boards, to be placed at the roadside access point.

Picture by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has applauded th recent High Court judgement backing the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) business interruption insurance test case.

Mr Stewart has continued to raise the problem of the insurance sector failing to pay out for business interruption insurance due to Coronavirus and thus “wriggling out of their obligations” to businesses in his region and throughout Scotland.

The FCA brought the case “in order to resolve the lack of clarity and certainty that existed for many policyholders making business interruption claims and the wider market”.

The court found in favour of the arguments advanced for policyholders by the FCA on the majority of the key issues. 

Mr Stewart said: “Early on in this pandemic I began to realise just how devastating it was for companies who had their claims for business interruption insurance turned down.

“Companies were at risk of going under sooner and that put the whole local economy at risk.

“This judgement is a win for all those small and medium businesses who had no chance of taking on the big boys of the insurance world. I do hope that insurance companies will now reconsider some of the claims they rejected, and I would advise businesses to get back to their insurers in the light of this judgement.”

Mr Stewart added that he hoped there would not be an appeal by the insurance sector but if there was that it was dealt with swiftly and without lengthy delays.

The FCA said that most small and medium sized businesses policies were focused on property damage and only had basic cover for Business Interruption as a consequence of property damage. But some policies also covered Business Insurance from other causes, in particular infectious or notifiable diseases (‘disease clauses’) and non-damage denial of access and public authority closures or restrictions (‘denial of access clauses’). In some cases, insurers had accepted liability under these policies.  In other cases, insurers had disputed liability while policyholders considered that it existed, leading to widespread concern about the lack of clarity and certainty. 

The FCA’s aim in bringing the test case was to urgently clarify key issues of contractual uncertainty for as many policyholders and insurers as possible. The FCA did this by selecting a representative sample of policy wordings issued by eight insurers. The FCA’s role was to put forward policyholders’ arguments to their best advantage in the public interest. 370,000 policyholders were identified as holding policies that may be affected by the outcome of the test case.   

In April Mr Stewart found widespread frustration and concern from Highlands and Islands firms over delays in accessing loans and a refusal to pay out on business interruption insurance.

The MSP wrote to business groups across his area asking if banks were making it harder to get business interruption loans and if insurers were refusing to pay out for claims on business interruption insurance policies.

Among those to respond to the MSP’s request, were Chambers of Commerce in Caithness, Moray, Lochaber and Mid-Argyll.

A new podcast series to help current students and graduates navigate their future career and employment options has been launched by the University of the Highland and Islands.

It explores the shifting nature of work in an increasingly interconnected world. In each episode, guest speakers will unpack their career and share varying perspectives on the world of work to support students and graduates at an uncertain time.

Acting to support those affected by the uncertainty and changes following the COVID-19 pandemic, the first Future Me podcast series features a range of interviews with employers, staff and graduates that share their own career stories, experience and advice.

Speaking about this new initiative launched by the Careers and Employability Centre, Nicola Smith, Head of Careers and Employability, said:

"The theme running though this podcast series is ‘look up, look forward, be in the know'.  This new resource gives us an opportunity to communicate with students in a different way to provide them with insight into a range of career journeys, shared by real voices, in an accessible format. 

"We believe that there will be something of interest to everyone no matter what subject or level you are studying at, how you are learning or where you are located. We want listeners to see their career decisions not as ‘problems to be solved', but as amazing opportunities to be curious about. This podcast will encourage them to be open to exploring the possibilities and to consider what careers exist across our region and beyond."

Produced and hosted by the university's curriculum development and employer engagement team, Katie Masheter, Alana Macleod, John McLuckie and Audrey Decou, each episode is approximately thirty minutes long and it features guest interviews from businesses and academia to students and staff, with more details of student support services available locally across the university partnership available. 

Highlands and Islands Students' Association President, Florence Jansen, said: "The service provided by the careers and employability centre is a major component of the student experience at the university and helps so many students develop the skills needed to thrive in this uncertain time, giving them confidence to succeed in their chosen careers. We're so excited to see how the new podcast adds to the service provided and hope it motivates our students to stay connected, ambitious and excited about their futures."

The series is available now from the careers and employability centre at www.uhi.ac.uk   
 

The Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has urged residents and organisations in the Western Isles to take the opportunity to contribute to a consultation on the Comhairle’s budgetary plans as part of the Recovery and Renewal for the Islands.

Councillor Roddie Mackay said:  “We are facing extremely challenging financial circumstances in the months and years ahead and I and my fellow councillors would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to look at the proposals and contribute to the process. It really is important that we get  views from  across the community and that people have a say in where we are going as we continue our journey of recovery and renewal.”

Councillor Mackay's comments followed after an earlier media release today (Wednesday September 16) entitled "CNES is Seeking Views on the Draft Recovery Business Plans"

It stated: "Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is providing an opportunity for individuals and organisations to comment on the Draft Recovery Business Plans.

Those who wish to submit comments can do so via the Recovery Business Plans Consultation Survey –

https://cne-siar.gov.uk/have-your-say/consultations/2020/comhairle-corporate-strategy-and-recovery-business-plans/

Paper copies of the survey are available on request by calling 01851 600501.

The consultation closes on Saturday 26th September.

Responses to the survey will be taken into account by the Comhairle when it next considers the draft plans on the 30th of September 2020.

 

The safe participation in country sports is vital to helping the rural economy recover, Scottish Land & Estates said today (Tuesday September 15).

Country sports say they have been unfairly singled out by a vocal few as an activity that should not be allowed to take place during Covid restrictions.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of the rural business association, said critics of country sports appeared content to see thousands of workers’ livelihoods lost in order to prevent the activity taking place.

Ms Laing said: “Over recent days, we have seen an array of calls being made for country sports including grouse shooting to be halted, which would deliver a crushing blow to the rural economy at a time when it has already been struggling during the pandemic.

“A recent Scottish Government commissioned review highlighted how important grouse shooting is for employment, reporting that around six gamekeeper jobs are maintained for the same area of land that would need one shepherd if used for farming.   This also doesn't take account of the part-time employment on shoot days and the hotels, shops, restaurants, garages and other businesses across Scotland which rely on country sports tourism for their own sustainability.

“Country sports is an open air pursuit where social distancing is easily practiced and a Covid-19 framework is adhered to. A range of other activities in the events and tourism sector are also unaffected by changes to maximum gatherings.

“Rather than health concerns being the foremost priority for all, it is sadly clear that some are using the pandemic as a means to attack an activity which they wish to ban anyway.

“People from all walks of life go angling, stalking and shooting in rural Scotland and to enforce a shutdown would unnecessarily cost thousands of jobs at a time when we need to maintain every form of employment we can. Country sports are worth around £200m per annum to rural areas, far more than many other celebrated sporting and cultural events.

“Everyone fully understands the difficulties that the pandemic is creating, especially when it impacts on visiting our family and loved ones. However, it is deeply troubling that anyone would use unfounded health concerns to pursue their dislike of country sports and place livelihoods at risk as a result. That is the reality of what activists are calling for.”

 

The latest Tour Guide Tales podcast episode went on-line from VisitScotland recently, and it is all about the Outer Hebrides.

Hosted by Grant Stott, each episode features a different tour guide who recounts their personal experiences and reveals secret tales relating to special places in Scotland.

Coinciding with 2020 as Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, several episodes feature tales about coastlines and waterways, and the latest episode is no exception with Magaidh Smith from Achmore offering up tales of the sea and wildlife.

Coinciding with 2020 as Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, several other episodes also feature tales about coastlines and waterways, including the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, Kilmartin Glen, and Sumburgh Head and Lighthouse in Shetland.

The podcast is available from:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6VteEM7dZK6feIgZvYUAx6

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yNmE5NjJkYy9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/visitscotland-presents-tour-guide-tales/id1519279395

Other episodes will include stories relating to: Glasgow Central Station, Blair Castle in Perthshire, Skail House in Orkney, the National Wallace Monument, locations used in the Outlander series, and sites of Edinburgh’s haunted past.

Tour Guide Tales is VisitScotland’s latest digital initiative to connect people with Scotland, with other activity including Sketching Scotland and Stargazing in Scotland. Now the industry has begun to re-open it is hoped these initiatives will not only entertain, but also encourage people to get out and explore what’s on their doorstep in a responsible way. 

Eva Kwiecinska, Senior Marketing Manager, VisitScotland said: “The concept of Tour Guide Tales is simple - to share fascinating, entertaining and sometimes unexpected stories from some of Scotland’s most enthralling tour guides.
“For those who might not be able to travel right now, it’s a chance to capture that wee bit of Scotland from home. We also hope it encourages people to explore more of the country or even book a guided tour to discover the secrets of their local area. Tourism businesses are facing huge challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic so now is a great time to support them as we look toward rebuilding the industry in a responsible way.”
Kat Brogan, Managing Director, Mercat Tours, whose guides are involved in the podcast which delves into Edinburgh's history, said: “History is made up of stories, and stories bind us to our past, our memories and each other.  Weaving tales and making connections for visitors and locals is what we’ve loved doing since 1985.  Storytelling isn’t only visual; the traditional human craft of sharing a story captures imaginations and brings people together.  We are excited to be part of a project that celebrates Scottish tourism and culture.”

The new podcast series builds on a film version of Tour Guide Tales which was launched last year, featuring videos of tour guides from across the country including Aberdeen Art Gallery, Hawick Cashmere and Falkland Palace, with the full series available on VisitScotland’s YouTube channel.

The Tour Guide Tales podcast is available on all major podcast apps now or listen online at visitscotland.com

 

People facing the threat of losing their jobs across the Western Isles are being urged to make use of a free Scottish Government service to help them take their next steps.

Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) is the Scottish Government initiative for helping individuals and businesses who are dealing with redundancy.

Delivered locally, it’s available for anyone who is worried about the prospect of redundancy, about to go through the process or has already been made redundant.

It’s a Partnership of 22 organisations, including Skills Development Scotland, Jobcentre Plus, local authorities, Citizens Advice Scotland, colleges and learning providers. This network of local and national knowledge is invaluable in providing all the support you’ll need to help you take the next steps following redundancy.

The PACE Partnership in the Western Isles can provide one-to-one support over the phone to help you understand the redundancy process, as well as your rights and entitlements. PACE can help you update your CV, look and apply for jobs, check what benefits you might be entitled to, or even advice on starting your own business.

Business, Fair Work and Skills Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “I know these are deeply concerning times for many people. Despite the necessary lockdown restrictions, we are working tirelessly to ensure we can continue providing comprehensive support to those who have lost their jobs through the Scottish Government’s PACE initiative.

“If you’ve been made redundant or your job is at risk, I would encourage you to give PACE a call. You can also find out more about the services they offer at redundancyscotland.co.uk.”

Gordon MacDonald, who leads the PACE partnership in the Western Isles said: “Facing redundancy can place a huge amount of stress on an individual and often their family members. The PACE Partnership in the Western Isles is here to support anybody that may already have been made redundant or might be faced with being made redundant, and can offer support and reassurance to ensure you get all the help you need”.

“While we can’t meet anyone face-to-face at the moment, we’re available to chat on the phone to give free, confidential advice and guidance on next steps.

“I’d encourage any individuals, regardless of circumstances, to get in touch.”

Businesses of any size can also contact PACE to get help to support their staff through the redundancy process.

You can find more information on PACE support at www.redundancyscotland.co.uk, call the PACE helpline on 0800 917 8000 to speak to an adviser, or contact your local Skills Development Scotland centre in Stornoway on 01851 708900.

A modest bid to raise £50 for Bethesda by raffling a special edition bottle of Harris Gin – only one – has run away with itself over the past couple of days – with £4360 pledged so far. (7pm Monday September 14)

It was the brainchild of Mairi 'Ord' Mackenzie of Soval who says: "I was one of the lucky ones who successfully secured a Cèilidh bottle of Harris Gin from the first batch released.  After seeing the demand for these beautiful handcrafted bottles I thought I would put that demand to good use and raise some funds for Bethesda.

"I am giving one lucky person the opportunity to get their hands on this bottle for a £5 donation to Bethesda.  

"Many island families will understand the vital service offered by the Bethesda Hospice, from personal experience I couldn't have managed without them when my husband was dying.  So please share this page with all your friends and let's make a difference.

"For every £5 donation I will enter your name into the raffle which will be drawn at 7pm on Saturday 19th September.

"How many bottles are available? Currently only one - as all stock sold out by midday today and will not be available again until the 22nd September.

"How do you make sure your name is in the draw?  You can donate anonymously, but you need to check the box stating you are happy for your details to be shared with me ... or else I won't know who you are!

Donations are through a JustGiving page – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ceilidhgin

And some runners-up prizes have been donated as well including one from ceramicist Rupert Blamire who created what the Isle of Harris Distillery describe as "a very special object to embody  the spirit of The Harris Cèilidh, made by hand with craft and care, a rare thing and rather limited in nature."

The distillery says of the new product: "It is designed to be given and shared with others, providing  a unique new way to socially connect, even at a safe social distance.

"Each one is glazed in the beautiful colours of our island's sea and sky, with wonderfully tactile patterning. At a half-standard 350ml in size, The Cèilidh Bottle is ideal to present and pour, helping to better enjoy an evening among old friends and family.

"Send to loved ones and arrange to join them for a drink and a cèilidh online. Or, simply to let them know you’re missing their good company.

"Or, perhaps just procure a bottle for yourself, and enjoy and refill again and again as you take it to gatherings of your own.

"The bottle is also presented in a carefully designed box which carries a simple guide to creating your own cèilidh, and holds three postcards from Harris to send to others, inviting them to reconnect and join The Harris Cèilidh with you, too."

The fundraising is in memory of Mairi's husband Michael who passed away on the 23rd December 2019 after being diagnosed with the tumour Glioblastoma Mutliforme in January 2018.

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Some of the swimming pools run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will reopen tomorrow (Tuesday 15th September.)

Two of the pools on Lewis are not included – those at Lionel and Shawbost where they are part of school properties. 

Tony Wade, Sports Facilities Services Manager said: “ For the first three weeks of reopening we will be offering a more limited range of services than usual as we all learn to come to terms with adapting to new ways of operation.

"At Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais  for example, there will be lane swimming with a maximum of ten swimmers per lane. These spaces will be bookable in advance from 12pm the previous day and will be organised on a 'Slow' 'Medium' and 'Fast' lane principle.

"We will also be offering family sessions, with the pool divided up into five sections bookable by family groups, two for families with pre-school age children and three for families with older children. This principle will be followed at all our sites, although with smaller numbers which reflects the sizes of the pools, ventilation capacities etc.

"At ISL, Swim Western Isles, the swimming club and the Island Games Swim Development group, who look after many of our young talented swimmers will also be allocated slots, so that they can hopefully begin to start the long road back to normality. There is more information on what to expect on your visit on our app and Facebook page.

 "After three weeks, we will reassess the timetable and are hopeful we can look to restart some of the more specialist groups such as Aquafit. However, this will very much depend on the currently very unpredictable circumstances we all find ourselves in.

"Unfortunately the pools at Lionel and Shawbost will not be able until we reach Phase 4 of the Scottish Government roadmap and we will keep customers up to date with progress as soon as we can."

Sessions can be booked online using the new CnES Sport Facilities app available on Google Play and the App Store. 40 minute sessions will cost £2 for adults and £1 for Concession customers. Family sessions will cost £5 and £3 for concessions and must have a minimum of one adult and one child in each booking. Customers will need their membership number and a four digit PIN – please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and they will be happy to help.

A limited number of spaces will be available for those without access to a smartphone – please call Reception on 01851 822800.

 

Renowned Lewis ecologist Alastair McIntosh is joining Sir Jonathon Porritt for the Scottish launch of Sir Jonathon’s new book on the climate emergency, ‘Hope in Hell’, on Wednesday (September 16). 

Alastair published his own latest book ‘Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being’ in August

Alastair, who was brought up and educated in Lewis, living in Leurbost from the age of four, says that “for some 50 years Sir Jonathon Porritt has been one of the world's wisest voices speaking for the Earth.

“Wherever you are, join us for the Scottish launch of his "Hope in Hell" 5pm Wednesday 16 Sept, register: https://cbs.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_53QSJDpgSFeX9-ss8jJ7kw

The event will be chaired by Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, Porritt was a prominent member of the Ecology Party (now the Green Party of England and Wales). Nowadays he is a worldwide sustainability and writer (http://www.jonathonporritt.com)

Alastair’s father’s roots were in the Borders and the Highlands but he was born in Doncaster of an English mother. He says he identifies with the community of place that raised him from the age of four, which was Leurbost.

The launch of Riders on the Storm: The Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being, online by Birlinn Books in partnership with Climate Fringe & The Centre for Human Ecology, was chaired by Prof Alison Phipps of Glasgow University on Thursday 13 August, Zoom video recording here.  Climate change is the greatest challenge to humankind today. While the impact of COVID-19 sheds a light on the vulnerability of our interconnected world, the effects of global warming will be permanent, indeed catastrophic, without a massive shift in human behaviour.

Alastair sums up the present knowledge and shows that conventional solutions are not enough. In rejecting the blind alleys of climate change denial, exaggeration and false optimism, he offers a discussion of ways forward. Weaving together science, politics, psychology and spirituality, this guide examines what it takes to make us riders on the storm.

https://birlinn.co.uk/product/riders-on-the-storm/

Alastair holds a BSc in geography from the University of Aberdeen sub-majoring in psychology and moral philosophy, a financial MBA from the University of Edinburgh, and a PhD by published works in liberation theology, land reform and community empowerment from the Academy of Irish Cultural Heritages, University of Ulster. He was best-known in the Isles for his involvement in Scottish land reform starting with the Isle of Eigg in 1990 and the Harris superquarry battle (1992 – 2004)  Less well-known is his work with South Pacific education, development and ethnography (1980-91 in Papua New Guinea and 2012 onwards in Indonesian West Papua), sustainable tropical forestry, and the GalGael Trust, urban poverty and cultural renewal.

 

Tiny works of art capturing the true essence of the Western Isles will hang at the new exhibition opening at Talla na Mara, Horgabost on 1 October.

And the artworks – all donated by island artists – will be for sale at an easily affordable price to raise money for two excellent local causes.

Island Art for Giving was launched as an idea in January this year, with artists asked to submit works in any medium, constrained only by the postcard size of 6x4inches (15x10cm).

Needless to say, the intervention of COVID-19 meant the original exhibition date in June had to be cancelled, but lockdown may even have helped to offer some creatives the time and space to produce their contributions.

An impressive response from artists throughout March and April means that 79 genuine original artworks will be hanging at Talla na Mara for 10 days, a tempting array for would-be purchasers.

Talla na Mara manager Linda Armstrong said: “We are raising funds through Island Art for Giving for Bethesda Hospice and for the West Harris beach access fund, which is aimed at buying a beach-access wheelchair which can be borrowed for use anywhere in West Harris.

“We’ve been stunned by the tremendous range and quality of works donated by generous artists for these causes – in all kinds of media including oils, acrylics, watercolours and even a stone-carving and a wall-hanging.

“The works are all on exhibition from 1-10 October and on sale for a £40 donation, or more if the purchaser is feeling generous. Because the works have all been donated and because Lewis artist Gill Thompson has mounted them for nothing, all the money raised will go to our two charities.”

There will be an online gallery too, at https://www.tallanamara.co.uk, giving art-lovers a chance to acquire an original miniature work of art at an affordable price, and in aid of two very deserving charities.

Linda said “"We're very grateful to all the artists who have contributed to Island Art for Giving and we're hoping to see plenty of folk either here at Talla na Mara, or online to enjoy the artworks and perhaps arrange to take one home."

Pictures show some of the artworks for exhibition and sale: Luskentyre and North Harris by R Gadd and Croft by the Sea by A J Barber.

 

The aim of the vote on Wednesday September 9 was not to get more powers for the Shetland Islands Council but "to explore replacing the council with a new system of government which controls a fairer share of our revenue streams and has a much greater influence over our own affairs”.

That's the view of Shetland councillor Duncan Anderson following the decisive vote as councillors sought to explore the options for achieving political and financial self-determination.

Members voted 18-2 in favour of a motion that has been proposed by nine councillors, including leader Steven Coutts and convener Malcolm Bell.

The Shetland News website says the vote stemmed from growing frustration over the ever-growing trend towards centralised decision-making and reduced Government funding for essential services.

The council will now seek discussions with the UK and Scottish governments.

The motion is not the first bid for more powers for the isles, with the Shetland Movement gaining popularity in the 1980s and 1990s before losing steam.  Self-governing Faroe has often been used as an example of how things could be run.

In 2015 a pro-autonomy group Wir Shetland was formed but it remains inactive. Councillor Anderson, who was a member of Wir Shetland, was a driving force behind the council’s motion.

“I was proud to second the motion in the council chamber which will embark the council on a process of seeking more financial and political powers for these islands,” he told Shetland News after the vote.

“Many in Shetland currently feel powerless. As an elected representative, I often feel frustrated by the erosion of powers, ring-fenced funding and lack of resources we face.

“Local authorities endure much of the public's blame but are often a victim of external decision-making or legislation.

“Give Shetlanders the powers, resources and responsibility to manage our own affairs, as many other island groups do successfully.

“I have no doubt in our ability to effectively govern ourselves, we just need the opportunity and the will. I am delighted 17 of my colleagues were willing to support the motion. I believe this can be the first small step towards a brighter future.”

The SNP’s sole councillor Robbie McGregor supported the motion, but called for all options to be explored.  Only two councillors, Stephen Leask and Ian Scott, spoke out against it.

There is a sense locally that initiatives like Our Islands Our Future – set up in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 to give more powers to Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles – have not lived up to their billing.

Leader Steven Coutts said things were at a “crossroads”, with councillors no longer content with just sitting back.

Stories featuring the life and work of coastguard volunteers and helicopter crews come under the spotlight in a landmark series being shown on More4 from tonight (Sunday 13 September).

The brand new More4 series featuring Her Majesty’s Coastguard and several mountain rescue teams called ‘Emergency Rescue: Air, Land and Sea’ will be shown at 9pm.

During the series there will be an opportunity to see at close hand work carried out in the air, on land and at sea by HM Coastguard – the UKs only national Emergency Service – following its staff and volunteers who can both be called upon 24/7 to be there when they are needed most.

The series had exclusive access to join the crews on board the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopters at Newquay, Humberside and Inverness, and followed coastguard rescue teams in the south west of England and staff in operation centres.

Last year alone HM Coastguard coordinated over 22,000 incidents rescuing around 7,000 people, with our helicopters flying over 2,600 missions.

This series was filmed during the summer of 2019 and early spring of 2020, covers a wide range of incidents from missing walkers, dog rescues, injured seafarers to people being rescued from the water after being washed into the sea.  It highlights just how unforgiving the coast and sea can be and viewers will see first-hand the daily challenges faced by Coastguard teams.

The first episode sees the coastguard helicopter from Newquay perform a dramatic lifesaving rescue of a man who had fallen into the sea whilst on holiday in Cornwall, Falmouth Coastguard Rescue Team goes to the aid of a group of friends who hired a boat and found themselves stranded in mud near Falmouth and the coastguard helicopter from Humberside is sent to an ill crewmember of a vessel in the North Sea.

Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: ‘Emergency Rescue: Air, Land and Sea has been over a year in the making, we’re thrilled to be able to highlight the tremendous work carried out by our helicopter crews, volunteer coastguard rescue teams, staff both on the coast and in our operations centres alongside the mountain rescue teams that have also featured.

‘It will be a real insight into the wide variety of work our staff and over 3000 volunteer coastguard rescue officers carry out on a daily basis, from rescuing people drowning in the sea, helping injured fisherman, reuniting dogs with their owners to assisting our fellow emergency services.

‘I hope you’ll watching when it airs and that you’ll be as moved as I have been by the stories that have been told.’

Have you got an extraordinary home…and do you live in the Outer Hebrides?

That’s the question being asked by the BBC just now. 

The BBC programme 'Scotland’s Home of the Year' is currently filming for series 3 to be broadcast on BBC Scotland in 2021.

A spokesperson for the team involved says: “We have nine regional programmes with three shortlisted properties in each – one of them is Highlands and Islands and we are still short of a property to represent the Outer Isles this year.

“We’re looking for houses with distinctiveness, functionality and clever design in mind. However, crucially this is HOME of the year not HOUSE of the year so it’s also very much about what the owners have brought to their homes in terms of personality and passion.

“A small cottage has as much of a chance as a grand mansion.” 

Programme making is already under way elsewhere with the filming team due to visit a home in a village near Portree in Skye in a few days time. 

Scotland’s Home of the Year follows three experts as they scour the country looking for the nation’s most amazing homes.

In each episode, celebrated interior designer, Anna Campbell-Jones, architect and university teacher Michael Angus and globally recognised lifestyle blogger, Kate Spiers will judge three homes on functionality, distinctiveness and clever design. The winning candidate in each episode goes through to the final – where one of them is crowned Scotland’s Home of the Year.

Anyone interested should send details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..uk

 

Orkney has confirmed it also has greater independence from Scotland on its mind, according to a report in the Herald newspaper this morning (Saturday September 12).

The development came after councillors in the Shetland Islands voted overwhelmingly to pursue ways of becoming more autonomous. 

Earlier in the summer, the UK and Scottish Governments announced the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland will benefit from investment of up to £100m as part of an Islands Growth Deal.

And last year Scotland's ministers released National Islands Plan which aims to tackle depopulation, a lack of housing and the need for improvements to transport and health service.

It has now emerged that three years ago Orkney looked into whether it can loosen ties with Scotland and the UK in the wake of Brexit.

And Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan confirmed it was later agreed by the council that they would "seek self-determination" for the group of 70 islands "in the event of any future constitutional change".

"We want to seek our opportunity as a unique part of the UK that we could do something different if we wished," he said.

"All constitutional matters ultimately rest with Westminster, so the question is, we would need to make sure that is written into any future [Scottish independence] referendum.

"Shetland is a slightly different position in that they want to do this now.

"We will work with them and support them and work alongside them because we both have the same historic background and the same challenges from government and there are some unique opportunities in a post-Brexit world."

Some hope to adopt a similar path to that taken by the Faroe Islands, which have autonomous status within the Kingdom of Denmark.

Shetland in its motion this week to go down the route of self-determination, raised concern that more decision was being centralised and public funding being consistently reduced and that it was "seriously threatening the prosperity, and even basic sustainability, of Shetland as a community".

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18715728.break-scotland-now-orkney-talks-independence/?ref=ebln

 

 

People living in the Highlands & Islands are being urged to make their views known about policing in their area. 
 
Police Scotland launched a survey earlier this year – ‘Your Police 2020-2021’ - which asks communities across the country to tell us their opinions about the policing response to coronavirus within their Division. It also includes questions on public confidence in the police and perception of crime in local areas.
 
The survey is the largest of its kind in the UK to involve the public in a conversation about policing and coronavirus. Tens of thousands of responses have been received so far which are reviewed on a weekly basis.
 
Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett said: "The survey is open throughout the year to help us identify and understand people’s opinion of their local police service, as well as any concerns about safety and wellbeing in their area. During these challenging times and beyond, I would strongly urge people to take the time now to give us your views and opinions as your feedback will ensure that our approaches to policing are relevant and supporting the communities we serve.
 
“We have maintained a strong level of public confidence in Scottish policing over the past few months and we value the strong relationships we have with our communities. The survey takes no longer than 10 minutes to complete, so in the time it takes to have a quick cup of tea, you can play a crucial role in shaping our services for Highland & Islands Division and beyond.”
 
You can complete the survey over the phone by calling 07717 150 296 and leaving a message.

A member of the survey team will then call you back.
 
You can also complete it online at consult.scotland.police.uk/surveys/your-police-2020-2021/
 
A British Sign Language version is also available at: consult.scotland.police.uk/surveys/your-police-bsl/

Highland Council says plans to redevelop Uig pier on the isle of Skye have been shelved because of a shortfall in Scottish Government project funding - despite being part of a project which is seeing a new ferry built - albeit years behind schedule and massively over-budget - and major port improvements at Lochmaddy and Tarbert.
The local authority said tenders returned for the project “exceeded the funding allocation from Transport Scotland”.
In a letter to MSP Rhoda Grant this week, council officials said: “Unfortunately, the tenders returned for Uig exceeded the funding allocation from Transport Scotland – and whilst we and Transport Scotland remain committed to provide enhanced facilities at Uig – construction works have been paused whilst we reconsider procurement routes and budgets. This will mean that we will not be able to progress the works and thus the outage that was planned from September of next year will now be deferred for at least 12 months.”
Strengthening of the council-owned berth is required for the delayed replacement of MV Hebrides.
Mrs Grant said while the new pier was not needed right away, this highlighted major concern over the government’s willingness to adequately fund infrastructure projects.
She said: “The council has made it clear that the tenders are so far out they have had to pull this project for the foreseeable future. The community will want to understand what has gone wrong and I am writing to the council and to the government’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to get some answers.
It appears the government hasn’t managed to do its sums correctly and has underfunded this scheme.”
Mrs Grant has been in correspondence with the council and the Equality and Human Rights Commission over the suitability of the scheme for people with disabilities.
She added: “Concerns were raised that the plan to upgrade the pier does not include disabled access the water so I asked Highland Council to give me a commitment that an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) would be undertaken before any works went ahead. When I asked for an update this week I was surprised to be told that it had not been done and that the scheme was being shelved.”

 

More than 400 people have downloaded Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sport Facilities App since its release on Monday (September 7), CnES has announced.

The App currently covers Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais but each of the other three Comhairle sports facilities (Harris Sports Centre, Liniclate Sports Centre, Castlebay Sports Centre) will have a section added in the coming days.

The app, available by searching “CnES - Sport Facilities” on Google Play or the Apple App Store can be downloaded for free to your phone.

Customers can book activities directly from the app, as well as find out all the latest COVID-19 reopening information as it happens.

Tony Wade, Sports Facilities Services Manager said: “It has been great to see such an uptake in use of the app in the first week. The app will mean we can keep all our customers up-to-date with facility news in real time, direct to their phone.

"All customers need to do is enable ‘push notifications’ and they will get all our latest news, straight away.”

“Each of our sports facilities is different, this gives us a range of challenges in reopening facilities.  The app will be a great way of keeping customers informed quickly and helping us give customers information that is only relevant to their local sports centre.

 

Opposition to the transfer of all Highlands and Islands air-traffic control jobs to a new centre in Inverness is growing.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has welcomed the support from the SNP councillors in the Western Isles on the campaign to keep Air Traffic Control services locally placed within their communities.

Following a letter written by Cllr. Gordon Murray to HIAL Chief Executive Inglis Lyon beseeching him to rethink the proposals which would see Air Traffic Control services stripped from the islands and rural Scotland and centralised in Inverness, Mrs Grant said: “It is very telling that the opposition of the Air Traffic Control Proposals is now cross party, and that the SNP Councillors in the Western Isles and SNP members are not supporting the devastating proposals that their Minister of Transport, Michael Matheson is so determined to wave through.”

She continued: “The local communities, Air Traffic Controllers and their families, Unions and the Labour party have been battling these proposals for some years now and have consistently listed the catastrophic economic and social effects that the proposals will have on rural and peripheral communities.

“The risks are endless: depopulation, loss of robustness, a reduction in quality services. I am pleased that the Western Isles SNP Councillors are now stepping up as well. Hopefully if Scottish Ministers won’t listen to the concerns of the Scottish people they will at least listen to their own party members,”

Mrs Grant added: “I hope that the SNP councillors will support the Petition to the Scottish Parliament opposing these proposals and calling for an independent assessment to be made, which was created and circulated by members of affected communities earlier this year.  That they will be add their voices and make representations when it comes before the petitions committee soon. Perhaps then Ministers will realise that this is not a political, but a very serious economic concern.”

It was earlier pointed out that the proposal to transfer all air traffic control responsibilities from the islands would have a major impact on the tiny economy of Benbecula, in particular.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: "“The removal of these jobs will have a severe direct impact on the local economy. In Benbecula, it is estimated that these jobs represent more than 1.5% of the area’s salary base. At a time when the government is beginning to decentralise public sector jobs to the islands, this action by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd is regressive."

Alasdair Allan has submitted a response to the retrospective Islands Communities Impact Assessment concerning HIAL’s Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS).

The programme would see islands-based air traffic control officers relocated to a central surveillance centre in Inverness and Benbecula Airport downgraded to an Aerodome Flight Information Service (AFAIS). The strategy was approved in 2018.

The impact assessment, which was required by the Scottish Government in spirit of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, is being undertaken by Reference Economic Consultants.

The MSP outlined several concerns which have been raised by community members, Air Traffic Control officers (ATCOs) and local representatives. “Over the past year, I have raised the anxieties of constituents that the strategy will have a negative impact on islands communities with both HIAL and the Scottish Government.

“The development of air service delivery should ensure that the needs of the communities at the heart of policy. I hope that this first-ever impact assessment under the Islands Act will mitigate the negative impacts which ATMS may cause."

 

 

A single substation which routes electricity to every resident in the Western Isles is near the end of its life and ought to be replaced, according to Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

But the work needed to renew and upgrade it has been put on hold by the energy regulator Ofgem.

Responsibility for repair and maintenance of electricity infrastructure and equipment rests with Scottish and Southern Electricity Network Transmission, but Ofgem sets the spending for transmission companies as they are monopoly companies.

Ofgem are currently in consultation with transmission companies about major investments for the next five years (2021 – 2026). In the initial stages, they asked for draft business plans and set investment proposals based on the evidence given to them.

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil says SSEN have strong concerns that works to upgrade and renew substations at Broadford on the Isle of Skye, and at Quoich in the Highlands, have not been approved.

SSEN has been told to keep on maintaining the substations even though they believe them to be nearing the end of their functional life. They warn of future problems if replacement substations are not planned.

But Ofgem says that SSEN has failed to make the case for investment, without which they can’t give the go ahead to such radical works.

An Ofgem spokesperson said: “Maintaining a strong and reliable network for all consumers is our top priority, and wherever network companies have demonstrated they need vital funding to do this we have given them the go-ahead.

“However, SHET (Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission) has failed to bring forward to us evidence of the need to replace or renew substations at Broadford and Quoich over the next five years, dismissing, for example, even minimum refurbishment options.

“This money will come out of all consumers’ bills, and we can’t green-light spending consumers’ money on poorly-evidenced proposals. So we have left the door open for companies to come back to us with more evidence on the work they need funding for, during this consultation period.

“We now expect them to come forward with better-evidenced plans.”

Speaking to welovestornoway.com yesterday (Thursday 10 September), Mr MacNeil said: “Ofgem are telling SSEN that they must just get the parts and keep on repairing their substations, but the equipment will not last for ever.

“In my letter to Ofgem, I have said that these are substations that SSE are worried are at the end of their life and, if they cannot be used, the consequences for those of us at the end of the line would be difficult indeed.

 "The only feed to the Outer Hebrides is from the Fort Augustus line passing through Skye, which then spurs on to the island groups in the Outer Hebrides, one north to Lewis and Harris and one south to Uist and Barra.

 "It is concerning that a risk which would certainly not be accepted in other industries seems to be accepted within the energy networks.”

The proposed replacement of Broadford substation is integral to major works planned by SSEN on the line between Fort Augustus and Ardmore Point in Skye

In a public consultation launched online in June, SSEN said: “The Skye reinforcement project will be one of the most significant energy investments in the West Highlands since power was first brought to the area in the 1950s.

“The new line is essential to maintain a secure supply of energy to homes and businesses across its route, as well as to the Western Isles, which is supplied by two subsea cables from Ardmore Point.”

In July, Ofgem announced investment of £25 billion to transform Great Britain’s energy networks, including both gas and electricity infrastructure. Of this over £6bn was promised to maintain, replace and repair network assets and resilience, with more to follow in future as needs become clearer.

Ofgem have acknowledged the letter from Mr MacNeil and he awaits a response.

The pictures show a subsea power cable such as the two which carry the supply between Skye and the Western Isles, and a plan of the proposed new route of the Skye reinforcement project (SSEN).

 

A Met Office warning of heavy rain overnight on Saturday and throughout Sunday has been updated to include the whole of the Western Isles today (Friday 11 September).

The warning comes into force at 6pm on Saturday and last until midnight on Sunday, with heavy, persistent rain forecast to be accompanied by strong south-westerly winds.

The Met Office says low level impacts such as flooding and travel disruption are widely likely, with a low likelihood of more severe, ‘moderate’ impacts such as power cuts, damage to buildings and communities being cut off.

Many places are likely to see 25-50mm of rainfall, but over hills and mountains peak totals of 150-180mm are likely during the warning period.

The south-westerly winds are not expected to have any severe impact, but may make travelling more challenging.

CalMac is warning of some possible disruption to services across the Minch between Oban and Castlebay and between Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has issued a flood warning for the Western Isles for overnight, Saturday-Sunday. 

 

This week’s sale of lambs and sheep at Lewis and Harris auction mart ‘exceeded all expectations’, according to auctioneers Dingwall and Highland Marts.

The sale on Wednesday (9 September) saw over 3,300 sheep of all classes pass through the ring in a COVID-compliant sale, which was once again live-streamed for sellers and onlookers to watch at home.

A spokesperson for Dingwall and Highland Marts Ltd said: “Thanks again to all vendors for respecting the current Covid19 restrictions. Again another great sale exceeding all sellers’ expectations.”

A total of 2,539 store lambs averaged £47.03, up £9.53 on the year, with a top price of £94 gross for a pen of Mules from 5 Shulishader, Point.

Gimmers (52) sold to £100 gross for a Texel, also from 5 Shulishader, and 724 ewes and feeding sheep sold to £102 gross for Cheviots from 31 Lionel, Ness.

Mart director Kenny Macleod said: “Prices were a wee bit down on the last sale in August, but top lambs were still reaching good money, with a few over £70. Essentially the prices reached what the buyers thought the animals were worth.

“We had one less of our regular mainland buyers, but more locals buying at this sale because they want sheep for themselves to improve their stock.”

Kenny also offered thanks and praise to the local sellers who continue to support Lewis and Harris Auction Mart by bringing their livestock for sale to Steinish.

He said: “There are always other options for selling stock, but we are more than happy with the number of local producers staying loyal to the Lewis and Harris Mart on a yearly basis. Their loyalty is important to keep the facility open and it’s beneficial for everyone to have a mart on our own doorstep.

“This year was an exceptional one in terms of arranging sales, yet still we are seeing new sellers coming to the mart for the first time. The number of volunteers has also been great and they have been a huge help in making the sales run smoothly and efficiently under unusual circumstances.”

The next and last sale in the Lewis and Harris calendar is on Tuesday 6 October, for all classes of sheep, lambs and cattle. Booking is open now at https://lewisandharrisauctionmart.co.uk/index.html and will close on Tues 29 September, or earlier if sale capacity is reached.

 

Booking for driving tests to be taken in Stornoway has restarted, with the first batch of tests due to be taken in the islands towards the end of September, according to a spokesman for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

But the DVSA website, which re-opened for booking test appointments on Monday (7 September) has already closed again until next Monday (14 September) because of the ‘exceptionally high’ level of demand for tests.

Nationally, tests are due to restart on Monday (14 September), but the Stornoway test centre, which is operated by the international testing and qualifications agency Pearson VUE, usually offers tests only during one week of the month.

All island candidates who had a test put on hold with the onset of lockdown in March have received an email inviting them to rebook their test.

The monthly appointments system is in place for tests to continue in October and November.

The restart of car driving tests across most of Scotland follows the lifting of restrictions by the Scottish Government. This follows a phased return of the driving test across the whole of Great Britain.

The DVSA spokesman said 375,000 more new and rescheduled tests would become available across the UK on 14 September to book up to 21 January 2021.

When test appointments are booked up in Stornoway, the nearest available mainland test centres are at Gairloch, Ullapool and Portree in Skye.

Safety measures have been put in place to protect learners and examiners from COVID-19 and DVSA has published information at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/driver-and-vehicle-standards-agency  so that candidates know what to expect.

Picture shows Samantha Macaulay, who passed her test first time in February this year (Lewis Macleod driving school).

 

The proposal to transfer all air traffic control responsibilities from the islands would have a major impact on the tiny economy of Benbecula.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: "“The removal of these jobs will have a severe direct impact on the local economy. In Benbecula, it is estimated that these jobs represent more than 1.5% of the area’s salary base. At a time when the government is beginning to decentralise public sector jobs to the islands, this action by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd is regressive."

Alasdair Allan has submitted a response to the retrospective Islands Communities Impact Assessment concerning HIAL’s Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS).

The programme would see islands-based air traffic control officers relocated to a central surveillance centre in Inverness and Benbecula Airport downgraded to an Aerodome Flight Information Service (AFAIS). The strategy was approved in 2018.

The impact assessment, which was required by the Scottish Government in spirit of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018, is being undertaken by Reference Economic Consultants.

The MSP outlined several concerns which have been raised by community members, Air Traffic Control officers (ATCOs) and local representatives. “Over the past year, I have raised the anxieties of constituents that the strategy will have a negative impact on islands communities with both HIAL and the Scottish Government.

“The development of air service delivery should ensure that the needs of the communities at the heart of policy. I hope that this first-ever impact assessment under the Islands Act will mitigate the negative impacts which ATMS may cause."

 

 

People across Scotland are being urged to download the new Protect Scotland app to help suppress the spread of coronavirus.

This enhances existing Test and Protect contact tracing measures, offering an additional layer of protection to break the chains of transmission faster.

The free app is available now on Apple and Google app stores. (welovestornoway notes: For the Apple App Store, this link seems to take you, with only one further click, straight to the app.  On Google, this link requires you to enter a search for Scotland Test and Protect to find the app.)

Once downloaded, the app works in the background, using Bluetooth technology to anonymously alert people if they have been within two metres for at least 15 minutes with another app user who has tested positive for coronavirus.

It also quickly alerts those you have been in close contact with if you test positive, even if those contacts are unknown to you.

People’s privacy will be protected, as the app uses encrypted anonymised codes to determine close contacts, which are deleted after 14 days. It doesn’t store details on an individual, or their location.

Designed to complement the Test and Protect person-to-person contact tracing system, the app will allow people to self-isolate far quicker if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others – and the more people who use the app, the better it will work.

However, people are being reminded that following FACTS remains vital - face coverings, avoid crowded places, clean hands and surfaces, two metre physical distancing and self-isolate immediately and book a test if you have symptoms.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, said: “The Test and Protect system is a vital part of Scotland’s fight against coronavirus, and the new Protect Scotland app builds on the existing person to person contact tracing that is in place.

“The more people who download and use the app, the better it will work, helping make connections you may have otherwise missed.   This will allow people to self-isolate far quicker if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.

“The Outer Hebrides have been very fortunate in having less recorded infection than most other areas. This makes it especially important to break any possible chain of infection through people accessing testing, supporting contact tracing and following the advice on how to self isolate.  We all have a part to play in suppressing the virus, and downloading the app, whilst following hygiene and distancing guidance will help protect you, your family and your community.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The launch of the app is a welcome development which will offer an additional level of protection – supporting NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system to continue to drive down the spread of COVID-19 across the country.

“I would encourage everyone to download the free app if they have a compatible smartphone, and help slow the spread of COVID-19. This will support the work of NHS Scotland and has the potential to help avoid local lockdowns.

“The more people who download and use the app, the more effective it can be in helping to make connections that may otherwise have been missed. This will allow people to self-isolate quickly if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.

“We all have a part to play in suppressing the virus, and downloading the app - alongside other vital measures such as following hygiene and physical distancing guidance - will help protect you, your family and your community.

“We also know that not everyone uses a smartphone or will be able to or want to access the app, which is why this software is very much there to complement existing contact tracing methods.”

 

Readers are turning to welovestornoway.com in their thousands, official data from Google shows.

August saw a new set of records set for the news and information website as monthly users were a shade under 60,000.

One article was read more than 28,000 times – and users spent longer than ever on each visit to the website.

Time spent per session on the website has steadily risen over the past five years.

And a surge in usage saw 28,728 users in one week of August.

Google Analytics figures for August 2020 show:

  • Users: 59.9K  Increase38.9%
  • Sessions: 267.6K  Increase15.1%
  • Average Session Duration: 00:02:04  Increase4.8%

This is a huge credit to the team at Stornoway Media Centre – who have surmounted the challenge of the pandemic by working from home…across the globe.  Our writers and contributors have been based in Vietnam, Greece and the USA as well as Portvoller!

If you want other people to know what you are doing, tell us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  - and we can tell the world!

And, of course, we need paid-for advertisements - your AGMs and formal notices, Family Notices, job advertisements and shop promotions are all welcome - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

Four Westside youngsters are sprinting towards the conclusion of a fundraising 320-mile challenge to raise money for the Matthew Woodman Foundation.

The Foundation’s main focus is to raise money to help the community by providing a safe space for mental health and bereavement support.

The Foundation was set up by Kim Woodman of Greenock in memory of her two-year-old son Matthew, who died suddenly during a visit home to family in Stornoway last August.

Kim told welovestornoway.com earlier this year “We were at home with my parents when Matthew’s heart started racing and he stopped breathing.

“He was rushed to hospital by ambulance, but it was impossible to save him, and he died at Western Isles Hospital. It turned out that he had an undiagnosed heart defect, an aortic coarctation, or narrowing of the aorta.”

The four youngsters involved in the present challenge are twins Arran and Lewis Goetz aged 9. Matthew was their cousin. One of the others is Charlie Morrison aged 10. He reads 'The Week Junior' every week and had read an article about fundraising so wanted to try something himself. Grace Morrison, aged five, was excited to raise something for charity too.

When the Morrison family – including mum Donna – discussed this with the twins, it turned out they had been thinking about raising money for the Foundation.  Matthew lived in Greenock where the Foundation is now so it was important Greenock was involved in some way. The kids are always running around so a step-challenge was obvious choice. Officially, 1,000,000 steps is equivalent to 500 miles for an adult but would be less mileage for a child. As it happens, Arnol to Greenock is 320 miles in total so it fitted perfectly that they would do 1,000,000 steps and reach Greenock.

The four started on 27th August, the second anniversary of Matthew's death and set out replicate his final journey home to be buried in his hometown. As things stand today (Thursday September 10), they have just over 139,000 steps to do and should finish their challenge by the start of next week. They have raised £2272 so far, having first set a target of £1000. (https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/amillionstepsformatthew)

They got in touch with Greenock Morton FC before the challenge began and the club donated a top for each child which have 'Matthew One Million' on the back of each top. Since then, Greenock Morton FC have covered the story on their own website and it’s been in the Greenock Telegraph. And it was decided the 'walk' would be from the kids’ homes in Arnol to Cappielow, Morton's ground.

Donna says: “The kids have had a fantastic amount of local support and their school, Sgoil an Taobh Siar, has been behind them every step of the way.”

THE SCOTTISH Government has confirmed new restrictions on meeting people from other households in response to continually high numbers of new Covid-19 infections.

As of today (Thursday September 10), Scotland is following the England in limiting the number of people allowed to meet inside and outside to six from no more than two households.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament first minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced that venues and events that had hoped to reopen on 14 September would now have to wait until at least 5 October.

She said the six-person limit will include pubs and restarants to allow them to "remain open with high level of compliance".

This means that live music venues, indoor soft play facilities and indoor contact sports activities for people aged 12-and-over will have to be paused for a further three weeks.

Meanwhile, working from home will remain the default position.

The first minister said that over the last 24 hours 161 new Covid cases had been recorded, and that the level of infection was accelerating.

Opposition leader Ruth Davidson urged people in Scotland to download the new test and protect app, launched earlier in the day as one measure everybody with a smartphone could use to help combat the virus.

Ruth Davidson says the "sobering news" of cases rising is a "reality check" that there will be "no swift return to normality".  She says she has personally downloaded the new Protect Scotland app, but has warned that some people are not able to use the technology.

UKHospitality responded to the measures in the Scottish Government’s Route Map update announcement.

UKHospitality’s Executive Director for Scotland, Willie Macleod, said:  “It is encouraging that the Government has heeded our calls to avoid measures that would have been overly intrusive for our customers. Wearing a face covering when entering and leaving the venue means that guests will still be able to enjoy their food and drinks in a comfortable, unencumbered manner, which is vital to a venue’s offer.

“Welcome, too, is the incremental easing for attendees at wedding receptions and wakes. These may be relatively small steps but nevertheless represent progress.

“While group sizes in hospitality venues have, disappointingly, been reduced - despite no evident problems arising under the cap of eight people from three households - we appreciate the public health objective and will continue to play our proactive part in ensuring the safety of our staff and customers.”

(This article has been updated with UKHospitality remarks since first being posted)

 

The problem of littering in the Highlands and Islands has been raised in the Scottish Parliament by MSP Donald Cameron.

Mr Cameron pressed Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon on what support the Scottish Government will provide to communities in his region during a debate in the chamber yesterday (Wednesday 9thSeptember).

Speaking later Mr Cameron said: “Although the summer is drawing to a close, and visitor numbers starting to fall, we can’t let this matter slip otherwise we will be facing the same problems next year.

“While the local authorities in my region are doing all they can to deal with the vast amounts of litter and waste being left behind, frankly they have been overwhelmed by the scale of the problem in some areas.

“It is crucial that next week’s national summit, which is being convened by VisitScotland, comes up with an action plan and that ministers provide appropriate levels of support.

“Local communities must not be left to cope with a second tsunami of rubbish in 2021.”

This week marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, running from Monday 7th September and including World Suicide Prevention Day today (Thursday 10 September).

This year’s theme for Suicide Prevention Week is ‘Talking Saves Lives’, says NHS Western Isles.

At any one time around 1 in 25 people are contemplating suicide. Many people in Scotland have been affected by suicide in some way – whether it’s themselves, a loved one, or someone they know. Suicide is of concern to all of us. It is a leading cause of death among young people, with men three times more likely to take their own lives compared to women.

Thanks to the efforts of many, we have made progress in reducing the number of people who die by suicide. In 2018, there were 784 suicides in Scotland. However, the simple truth is you’re more likely to encounter someone who needs a suicide intervention than physical first aid.

As part of World Suicide Prevention Day, Scotland is launching an exciting new commitment to making Scotland the most supportive nation in the world.

On the 10th September, Scotland will declare that #suicide is not inevitable & #TogetherWeCanSaveLives

The United to Prevent Suicide campaign is a new refreshed approach to preventing suicide as set out in Scotland’s National Suicide Prevention Action Plan. It is clear that suicide prevention involves all of us. We have to be confident to talk about suicide; confident to connect someone to the right support. Language is important – talking about suicide isn’t a trigger, it can help save a life, and we must continue to tackle stigma around suicide.

NHS Western Isles and our local partners are proud to join the global movement to raise awareness of #SuicidePrevention in recognition of the key message that it needs all of us to join the movement for change. Key messaging will be shared across the week itself and in the weeks that follow there will be a number of ways in which everyone can also demonstrate their commitment to #UnitedToPreventSuicide by developing a supportive culture within our own communities. The emotional impact across the Western Isles is felt in families, friends and communities bereaved by suicide and is devastating, and can have long lasting negative effects on those left behind.

NHS Western wants to raise awareness of the issues that affect people and which can sometimes lead them to think about taking their own life and to share resources which increase the confidence of individuals to support anyone in distress, by directing them to the specialist help they need at that time. The campaign encourages people to take all signs of distress seriously, even if it seems a person is living a normal life. It also assures people that asking a person about what’s troubling them can make a positive difference. As such we continue to ask everyone to be alert to the warning signs of suicide in people close to them.

The key message is: if you’re worried about someone, such as a friend, family member or workmate, asking them directly about their feelings can help to save their life.

 

Liniclate and Stornoway libraries will begin a reduced service from Monday 14th September,Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said today (Wednesday September 9)

The phased reopening will initially involve reduced opening hours with a special “Connect & Collect” service. 

Each library will have reduced opening hours in operation, and customers can arrange to visit their local library at a specific day and time, to collect a bag of books that the library staff will have prepared for them.

Customers can connect with their local library by phone, email or through completing the online Connect & Collect form available via the library website. They can either place holds on particular items through the library catalogue they would like to get or simply tell staff what kinds of books / audio books / DVDs /  authors they enjoy.  Library staff will then put a collection of 5 items together for them which will be ready to collect at the agreed time.

Customers will also be able to return their outstanding library books at the same time.  When collecting items from libraries, customers are requested to wear face coverings (unless exempt), sanitise their hands and observe physical distancing at all times.

This will be followed by, as soon as feasible and in line with Government regulations, a gradual return to normal library services.

The library service also aim to announce a date for Tarbert Library’s reopening with the same service offer very shortly.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Libraries Manager, Kathleen Milne said, “Even though the e-Library has been available  throughout lockdown, and will continue to be available 24/7; we know from the many phone call received over the last few months, how many customers have missed the library and are desperate to get their hands on some new, physical, books to read and enjoy.

"The library will continue to promote new books through EVENTS and customers are encouraged to follow ‘wilibraries’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with any developments and to share their reading experiences.  Everyone at Western Isles Libraries is looking forward to seeing their customers again soon – they have been much missed!”

But Castlebay Library is to remain closed for the immediate future,  "We regret that we have no date for Castlebay Library to reopen at the present time, but will ensure that Barra and Vatersay communities are kept informed of any progress," an official statement said.

 

Castlebay Library is to remain closed for the immediate future, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said today (Wednesday September 9)

"We regret that we have no date for Castlebay Library to reopen at the present time, but will ensure that Barra and Vatersay communities are kept informed of any progress," an official statement said.

Meanwhile, Liniclate and Stornoway libraries will begin a reduced service from Monday 14th September.  The phased reopening will initially involve reduced opening hours at Liniclate and Stornoway libraries who will offer a special “Connect & Collect” service. 

Each library will have reduced opening hours in operation, and customers can arrange to visit their local library at a specific day and time, to collect a bag of books that the library staff will have prepared for them.

Customers can connect with their local library by phone, email or through completing the online Connect & Collect form available via the library website. They can either place holds on particular items through the library catalogue they would like to get or simply tell staff what kinds of books / audio books / DVDs /  authors they enjoy.  Library staff will then put a collection of 5 items together for them which will be ready to collect at the agreed time.

Customers will also be able to return their outstanding library books at the same time.  When collecting items from libraries, customers are requested to wear face coverings (unless exempt), sanitise their hands and observe physical distancing at all times.

This will be followed by, as soon as feasible and in line with Government regulations, a gradual return to normal library services.

The library service also aim to announce a date for Tarbert Library’s reopening with the same service offer very shortly.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Libraries Manager, Kathleen Milne said, “Even though the e-Library has been available  throughout lockdown, and will continue to be available 24/7; we know from the many phone call received over the last few months, how many customers have missed the library and are desperate to get their hands on some new, physical, books to read and enjoy.

"The library will continue to promote new books through EVENTS and customers are encouraged to follow ‘wilibraries’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with any developments and to share their reading experiences.  Everyone at Western Isles Libraries is looking forward to seeing their customers again soon – they have been much missed!”

 

SHETLAND Islands Council is set to begin exploring options for achieving “financial and political self-determination” after a motion was approved by elected members, it is reported by the Shetland News website this afternoon.

The decision was made at a meeting of the full council today (Wednesday September 9).

Twenty out of 22 councillors were in favour of the motion.

The motion had originally been signed by nine councillors, including leader Steven Coutts and convener Malcolm Bell.

Councillors were keen to stress that the motion meant options were only being explored, and that any constitutional change would see the public go to the ballot box.

More details on

https://www.shetnews.co.uk/2020/09/09/sic-to-explore-ways-of-achieving-self-determination-after-elected-members-back-motion/

Ferry passengers will be able to book sailings for October onwards with the launch of CalMac’s winter timetable this week.

Journeys for the period 19th October 2020 until 25th March 2021 can be booked from 10am tomorrow (Thursday 10th September). The timetable is live on the CalMac website today.

Customers are being encouraged to make reservations online, as it is expected that both the website and phone lines will be busier than usual at first and a queuing system will be used during high demand.

Robert Morrison, Director of Operations for CalMac, said: “The winter timetable has been released following consultation with Transport Scotland, and we look forward to welcoming passengers on board. As Scotland is still in phase three of covid restrictions, there are slight changes to some sailings and capacity is still less than usual.

“We are encouraging passengers to plan ahead as much as possible and to wear face coverings when required to do so, unless they are exempt.

"More information about the measures we are taking to keep staff and passengers safe can be found in our travel guidelines on our website.”

You can stay up to date with regular service updates and travel guidance by following @calmac_updates on Twitter.

Stornoway Running and Athletics Club will hold their first seniors post-Covid training session in the castle grounds tomorrow (Thursday 10 September) after a careful and thorough planning process to be ready for the return.

Junior meets started on 8 August, after a summer season of virtual races and training challenges designed to keep young athletes active through lockdown.

Yesterday (Tuesday) SRAC wrote to all senior members to update them on the guidance issued by governing body Scottish Athletics and the steps taken by SRAC to meet the new requirements.

In the letter, senior captains Louise Henderson and Norman Ferguson explained that Brenda Jones has taken on the role of the club’s COVID co-ordinator and that the club has carried out a risk assessment ahead of tomorrow evening’s meet.

Participating runners will be required to follow all guidance, as well as completing a contact tracing form online before the session.

During training those who attend form ‘bubbles’ of up to 12 people with a coach briefed on COVID guidance. The bubble is in place for the duration of the event or session, but participants must stay two metres apart from people outside their household on the way to and from the meet.

The club now plans to hold a weekly organised club training session each Thursday in the Castle grounds at 5.30pm. There will also continue to be online training plans available for those who would like to do more than one session a week.

The next virtual competition event is the Westside 5k, between Friday 25 and Monday 28 September. For more information go to https://www.facebook.com/Westside-Runners-Fitness- Club-146498892041399/

The picture shows young athletes during the club’s comeback mini-meet at the Smith Avenue track on 8 August (SRAC).

The number of crofts recorded in the Crofting Commission’s 2019/20 Register of Crofts (ROC) has fallen by 10,000 – because of an earlier mistake made by the commission itself.

The new figure of 16,370 crofters on the ROC was included in the commission’s annual report and accounts for 2019/20, published yesterday (Tuesday 8 September).

In the report, commissioners said: “Last year we reported there were over 26,000 crofters recorded in the ROC. This figure was incorrect, as in error we included landlords and neighbours in croft registration cases.”

The Crofting Commission’s main function is to regulate crofting so that it is fully compliant with the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993. The majority of their work consists of processing regulatory applications and recording notifications.

In the Western Isles, 6,361 crofts are recorded for the year 2019/20, of which 6,103 are tenanted. The number and ownership of crofts contrasts strongly to Orkney, where there are just 459 crofts, and to Highland, where more than 3,700 of the 9,938 registered crofts are owned outright.

The annual report shows that compliance with legal duties relating to the holding of a croft has improved over the past year. Crofters have a legal duty to complete and return an annual crofting census form and 75.5% of them did so – an increase of 6.5% on 2018.

Tenants and owner-occupiers have a legal duty to live on, or within 32km of their croft, not to misuse or neglect it and to cultivate and maintain it, or put it to another purposeful use.

Of the 686 crofters nationally reported as not complying with their duties, 465 were non-resident and 153 were not cultivating, misusing or neglecting their crofts, the others committing more than one breach of regulations.

Of concern to those interested in the future of crofting is the reported age profile of working crofters in 2019/20, when there were almost the same number of crofters over the age of 80 (1,325) as there were under 40 years of age (1,318).

The largest group was of crofters aged between 61 and 80 (5,780), followed by those in the 41-60 age group (5,453).

The full report, including performance indicators and outcomes, is available at https://www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk/userfiles/file/Annual_Report_and_Accounts/LOW-RES-4398-CC-Annual-Report-2019-20.pdf and the statistical overview at https://www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk/userfiles/file/annual_report_and_accounts/LOW-RES-4398-CC-Annual-Report-2019-20-STATS.pdf

Images from Crofting Commission annual report 2019/20.

 

Emergency workers in the Western Isles are being given well-deserved recognition for their work as the four administrations of the UK mark Emergency Services Day.

Emergency Services Day (999 Day) is a Government-backed national day across the United Kingdom, which starts at 9am on the ninth day of the ninth month, now marked as 999 day.

Although physical events marking the day have been cancelled nationally due to the Coronavirus situation, social media is set to be flooded through the day with messages of support for 999 services.

More than two million people work and volunteer in the NHS and emergency services, including 250,000 first responders. From answering emergency calls to fire-fighting, policing and saving lives at sea, they are on first call for anyone in trouble.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has paid tribute to men and women working on the emergency services frontline.

Mr Cameron, who submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament thanking our emergency workers, said: “This day, of all days, is one when we should celebrate the magnificent commitment of all our emergency workers who have excelled themselves during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our police officers, firefighters and NHS workers, are so often the unsung heroes, going well beyond the call of duty to help and protect people in distress or need.

“Our thanks go to everyone involved in our emergency services, including the friends and family of the workers, and volunteers such as special constables, whose support enable our professionals to give their best.”

Mr Cameron’s motion reads: "That the Parliament notes that 9 September 2020 is Emergency Services Day; notes that this campaign is backed by the UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, and the Northern Ireland Executive; understands that the campaign begins on the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month to symbolise the 999 number, and that it intends to show support for all of the men and women who work and volunteer in the NHS and emergency services across the whole of the UK; acknowledges that this particular year has been especially challenging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and thanks workers in all of the emergency services for risking their own lives on a daily basis to protect others."

Welovestornoway.com regularly reports on the work of island emergency services and this @999Day we want to say a huge thank you to all those who work for or volunteer in the police, fire, ambulance, NHS and search and rescue services including HM Coastguard, mountain rescue teams, first responders, first aiders and the RNLI.

This article has been updated with the action and comments of Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron since first being published.

 

 

 

 

A leatherback turtle was spotted this weekend by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

The encounter, which occurred 15 miles west of the Isle of Muck, slightly to the north CalMac's ferry route's from Locboisdale and Castlebay to Oban.

It happened on the conservation charity’s most recent acoustic expedition on board their specialised research vessel, Silurian.

The expeditions aim to collect crucial scientific data on the whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – found around the Hebrides.

Scotland’s west coast seas are globally important habitats for cetaceans, but sightings of turtles are much rarer, with just one other encounter with a leatherback turtle in over 17 years.

The turtle, which popped up just 100 metres away from the boat, startled the crew on board, none of whom had ever seen a turtle in the UK before.

Becky Dudley, HWDT Marine Biodiversity Officer said: “It was truly a once in a lifetime moment for all of us on board. The turtle did not seem to be in much of a hurry to go anywhere and we floated alongside the animal as it swam over towards, using its colossal front flippers to propel itself forward with ease. It was enormous! We could see the whole animal under the water as it glided along, taking periodic breaths, before disappearing beneath the waves. I have been sailing around the Hebrides, year-round, for over two years now. This has to be one of the most magical and surprising encounters so far, and one I will never forget.”

Leatherback turtles are the largest marine turtle in the world, reaching up to 2.5 meters in length. They are extremely recognisable by their black, leathery skin covering their carapace (shell) and the seven ridges down the shell, which give them a more hydrodynamic structure.

The leatherback turtle is truly an ocean wanderer and can be found all over the world, undertaking huge migrations across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, breeding in tropical waters and feeding in temperate waters. They feed upon jellyfish and other soft-bodied sea creatures and have downward facing spiny barbs in the oesophagus to trap their slippery prey! However, this incredible adaption has meant that they face increasing threats from marine litter such as plastic bags, which can be easily mistaken for jellyfish or balloons, and can also become trapped in their throats.

Although this sighting is rare, leather back turtles should feel right at home in Scottish waters as they have unique set of adaptations, including change in blood flow and a thick layer of fat, that allow them to have  internal control over their body temperature. This means that they are able to forage in temperatures lower than 5˚celcius. However, they do not come ashore on beaches in the UK, so if you see one of these turtles on land please inform British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).

Since 2003, Silurian has travelled over 120,000 kilometres – equivalent to almost three circumnavigations of the world. The research has advanced understanding of resident and migratory species. You can join the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust on their research expeditions next year, with trips lasting one to two weeks. Participation costs cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food, and support the charity’s research.  See www.hwdt.org for more info.

Money to help with the response to COVID-19 challenges has been announced this week by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Among more than 50 groups promoting Gaelic projects through lockdown, Bòrd na Gàidhlig said on Monday (7 September) that it would be distributing funds in the Western Isles from its COVID-19 support fund.

Horshader Development Group is to get funding to employ a project officer for their Healthy at Home initiative and the Lewis-based Robhanis Theatre Company will be recording a series of Gaelic plays to be made available as free podcasts.

Taigh Dhonnchaidh in Ness, Bragar and Arnol community trust and North Harris community trust are also to receive funding, while East Loch Roag historical society and the Barra group Dannsairean Màiri are also to receive awards, together with money made available to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Bòrd’s fund was opened earlier in the summer in response to the global pandemic, with a total of £100,000 initially available to qualifying applicants. A further £90,000 was later added to the fund for organisations to continue and expand their work online, to share resources and training and to ensure they are best placed to recover from the current situation.

Among national initiatives to have gained awards, Tional, the new virtual Gaelic music festival run by Hands Up for Trad, has also successfully applied and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will use its funding to create a new platform to provide the public with important safety information through Gaelic.

Mairi MacInnes, Bòrd na Gàidhlig chair, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for all organisations, and it fills us with enormous pride to witness the benefits of our funding for Gaelic speakers and communities throughout the country during these difficult times.

“A range of projects are now under way and we firmly believe that these will be invaluable to everybody who has the opportunity to get involved with them.”

 

Loganair’s chief executive Jonathan Hinkles has warned of a threat to the existence of regional airlines if tax reductions aren’t offered by the UK Government.

Speaking as he announced the opening of bookings for summer 2021 this morning (Wednesday 9 September), he said: “We urgently need a 'Tax Off For Take Off' equivalent campaign to help the aviation industry through this incredibly difficult recovery.

“Regional airlines and airports play a key part in UK connectivity but won't continue to exist unless a cohesive support programme from the Government, led by the reform of APD, is rapidly introduced."

Flights from mainland Scotland to all points of the compass are announced as part of the Loganair summer 2021 flight schedule which has gone on sale today.

Connections to Newquay in Cornwall, Exeter in Devon, the Channel Island of Jersey and to Bergen in Norway are among the services being offered for next summer.

A daily jet service between Glasgow and Exeter starts in March 2021, adding to Loganair's existing routes to Exeter from Edinburgh and Newcastle.

There are to be non-stop flights to Bergen in Norway from Edinburgh, Newcastle and Sumburgh and Jersey will be served from Aberdeen and Norwich.  Further Jersey routes remain under discussion with partners.

As he made the announcement, Jonathan Hinkles called for the UK Government to provide additional support at a very difficult time for the aviation sector, calling for a reduction in Air Passenger Duty for UK internal flights, particularly where passengers on domestic return trips pay double the tax of those flying out of the UK to European destinations.

He said: "We're pleased to announce our Summer 2021 schedule which will protect and enhance the UK's regional connectivity.  The earlier launch of our summer schedule is a recognition that there is demand from customers who have deferred travel plans from this summer as a result of the pandemic and who are now waiting to book for next year.

"However, recovery from the pandemic has been incredibly slow and shows every sign of remaining that way.  It is imperative that the Government now acts to provide additional support for the sector through an alleviation of Air Passenger Duty and ending of double taxation on domestic flights.” 

MSP Donald Cameron is calling for urgent action by the Scottish Government over patients in crisis over chronic pain conditions…and for everyone to take greater care of those around us who may be suffering mental anguish and contemplating suicide.

Mr Cameron, who is the Scottish Conservatives health spokesperson, spoke out after new figures showed that over half of patients waiting to be seen for the first time were having to wait beyond 18 weeks, the highest percentage in five years.

He said: "Over 2,100 patients are now failing to be seen for the first time within the SNP’s own target waiting time of 18 weeks. Only last month it was revealed that the situation has become so bad for some patients in Scotland, that they have had to travel to England for vital operations."

Mr Cameron says the situation is leaving many in agony and is threatening to spiral out of control unless SNP Ministers urgently outline how the backlog will be tackled.  “Thousands of patients, here in the Highlands and Islands, and across Scotland, are now waiting in agony for vital treatment to tackle chronic illnesses and the need for urgent action has never been more apparent.

“With health services up and running again, the SNP need to make tackling chronic pain a top priority.”

https://beta.isdscotland.org/find-publications-and-data/healthcare-resources/waiting-times/chronic-pain-waiting-times/

And Mr Cameron is urging local people to keep an eye open for people who may be having suicidal thoughts.

Mr Cameron said: “This week is Suicide Prevention Awareness Week and it reminds us to be aware of friends, relatives or neighbours who may be struggling with their mental health.

“The isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been very difficult for many of us.

“But a gentle enquiry could make all the difference to someone who may be feeling vulnerable. It’s good to know that we are not alone when it feels the walls may be closing in.

“We should also remember that young people can be badly affected and young men, in particular,  can experience a tough time.”

Mr Cameron added: “Help is always available. And NHS Inform provide an excellent sign-posting service which you can find at: www.nhsinform.scot/campaigns/suicide. “

More information on suicide prevention here: http://www.healthscotland.scot/health-topics/suicide/suicide-prevention-overview

 

 

From this week, NHS Western Isles is providing a range of Community Treatment and Care (CtaC) services from an additional venue in Stornoway.

A range of services are now being provided at Western Isles Dental Centre on the Western Isles Hospital site. These services are available mainly to patients registered to Group and Broadbay Practices in Stornoway, buy there is also capacity to accommodate appointments for patients from North Harris and Langabhat Practices (for example, for those working in Stornoway, it may be more convenient for them to get an appointment within the Dental Centre).

The CTaC service will essentially remain unchanged for patients covered by North Harris and Langabhat Practices, but patients from those areas now also have the option of receiving an appointment in Stornoway where this is convenient for them.

CTaC services currently available at the Western Isles Dental Centre include:

  • phlebotomy (making a puncture in a vein usually in the arm, with a needle, for the purpose of drawing blood);
  • dressings and wound care (including management of leg ulcers or wounds after surgery or injury, suture removal);
  • management of minor injuries;
  • basic observations and injections; and
  • some tests that may have been requested by your hospital specialist.

The CTaC service will be delivered from two treatment rooms in the Dental Centre. Nursing staff based there will provide services which patients are already familiar with receiving in their GP surgeries.

Appointments will continue as normal to be made through GP surgeries.We would ask that patients ensure they arrive on time for their appointment and that they attend alone, where possible.  "We also request that patients do not attend an appointment if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Please contact your surgery as soon as you can before your appointment if you are unable to attend for any reason."

A group of Uist islanders say homes should be the main thrust of economic development policies aimed at encouraging young people to stay in the islands.

And they say making sure that island youngsters can get a foot on the property ladder will serve the even more urgent need of protecting the survival of Gaelic language and culture.

The Uist-born campaigners, all in their twenties and early thirties, are behind an open letter which yesterday (Monday 7 September) earned national headlines. Signatories from Uist, Skye and Mull said the prevalence of second homes and holiday accommodation was creating a threat to the continuity and even the survival of small, Gaelic-speaking island communities.

The letter, addressed to anyone concerned about sustaining Highland and Island communities, said that the struggle to find somewhere to live in their home islands 'is of widespread and urgent importance' to young people.

Signed by Uist islanders including crofters, fish-farm workers, student researchers and veterinarians, it said: "As young and active members, mostly of the Uist community, we would be willing to see a trial carried out in Uist, in an effort to find a suitable solution for all of the Highlands and Islands.

"We have first-hand examples of local young people putting in offers for houses and, despite communicating to sellers the importance of population retention, cash-rich buyers often jump in front and buy houses which often have not been viewed. In the worst examples, the island has not yet been visited."

As well as losing potential accommodation for young families and local workers, the signatories said: "The cultural and historical continuum of these buildings has so often been broken: the opportunity for the community to reciprocally gain ... often lost to the unlit rooms of the part-time residency."

The letter's writer, 24-year-old musician and crofter Pàdruig Morrison of Grimsay, said today: "Coronavirus and the interest in living in rural and island locations has exacerbated an existing situation.

"Changing demographics and a break in Gaelic culture are totally intertwined. We must ensure that there's a native-speaking Gaelic community and keep it alive, which means people speaking Gaelic at home, at the shop and at school.

"There's actually a growth in jobs in the islands, with many businesses starting up, including the distilleries in Harris and Uist, and with broadband it's possible to work from home for many more companies, something that is very much in demand after coronavirus.

"So the jobs picture has now become much more optimistic – housing is the main barrier to staying here. I have many friends in their twenties who want to stay here and work but struggle to find a first home."

Grimsay is a good example of the changing picture Pàdruig describes, with the expanded busy harbour, the shellfish factory, Uist Wool spinnery, Ceann na h-Àirigh community centre and the recently launched Grimsay Boat Haven maritime heritage centre.

It's part of the reason why the group of young people are proposing Uist as a test-location for a radical approach to protecting home availability for local young people.

Pàdruig said: "There are two main streams of development that we need to look at: new-build housing and the availability of existing housing stock. We need to see some kind of regulation on the sale of houses and who they go to.

"We want people to consider, when they are selling their house, who might wish to buy it locally and we want Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Scottish Government to put policies in place that protects a certain percentage of the homes to stop them becoming holiday homes or second homes.

"It would be great if we could trial a system like Denmark and the Channel Islands have, where first refusal on homes for sale goes to young or local people."

The idea was trialled recently when a property in Uist was gifted to a local community association, which has ensured that it remains a full-time residence with a local family living there.

Pàdruig said: "If I think of all the houses sold in Grimsay in the past five years, if they had all been sold to families there would be a much bigger community here, with more kids and more people of working age."

This week's open letter said: "Home - dachaigh and dualchas - are as important as ever; but just as the infrastructural disparity between rural and urban areas is being reconciled, finally opening up a huge array of work opportunities in the Highlands and Islands, a new barrier is halting this progress."

Pàdruig said: "This is a discussion for everyone to consider, but it particularly has to be discussed by local authorities and by government. A lot of organisations say they are interested in finding out what young people think and this issue, in particular, needs to be youth-driven.

"We have enough evidence on the projections of what is happening to Gaelic and what is happening to island demographics to make the case for an initiative like this being put in place. It's worked in other places and it could work here."

The picture shows Kallin harbour in Grimsay, as busy as ever (Pàdruig Morrison). 

Face masks/coverings are going to be insisted on from tomorrow (Wednesday September 9) for all those entering hospitals on the Western Isles

NHS Western Isles says it is tomorrow introducing new arrangements in terms of the use of face masks/coverings in hospitals.

From tomorrow, in line with government guidance, face masks/coverings must be worn on entry to all three hospitals: Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh in Benbecula and St Brendan’s Hospital in Barra.

All NHS staff, visitors and anyone attending for an outpatient appointment must wear their own face covering, or face mask provided by NHS Western Isles, on entry to hospital.

Clinical face masks provided by NHS Western Isles must continue to be worn by everyone in clinical areas, with the exception of inpatients.

The new measure is a preventative step to help protect our staff, patients and visitors, due to the increased opportunity for the transmission of COVID-19 since lockdown has eased.

NHS Western Isles says: "The Western Isles have been very fortunate in having less recorded infection than most other areas, and this makes it especially important to break any possible chain of infection.  We would like to thank all staff, patients and visitors for their ongoing cooperation."

 

The walking route between Springfield Road/Smith Avenue and Matheson Road in Stornoway has been completely closed to public use, according to an announcement made by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar today (Tuesday 8 September).

The walkway between various school buildings and the back of Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais and which emerges by Matheson Hall is regularly used and crossed by school pupils and staff as an access route.

A reminder of the former route of Springfield Road before the new school was built, it has never been open for public use during school hours.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “The walkway is not available for public access due to COVID restrictions and for the safety of pupils and employees at The Nicolson Institute.

"This will remain the case until the present challenges of COVID are concluded.”

 

The organisation Long Term Conditions Hebrides has continued to provide opportunities for all its members including activities which enhance the life experiences and well-being of people living with a long-term condition, the group' AGM heard recently.

Self-management techniques, mindfulness and meditation practices, social gatherings with the purpose of offering mutual support and encouragement, development of skills – particularly IT, yoga sessions, liaising with local community groups – Neuro Hebrides –  and ongoing interaction with each other are all examples of the ways in which we have developed and enriched our group, said Gordon Scott who chairs the group.

"This has been made possible by funding received from The National Lottery Community Fund Awards for All and The Robertson Trust, to whom we are very grateful.

"A sample of the activities included during the year was supporting Neuro Hebrides at their Open Day. This took place on 8 September at Grianan Day Centre. As well as displaying information about our group, some members were on hand to answer any questions/queries about our organisation and to encourage anyone who expressed an interest to come along to our weekly group session. Gail led two Mindfulness practices - morning and afternoon-both which were well attended.

"Tuesday 19 November we welcomed Lara Murray from the Alliance to our group. After an early start on the Glasgow flight, she was met by Belle who gave a whistle stop tour of the local beaches and she was particularly impressed with the Traigh Mhor at Tolsta. Lara then joined us for our weekly session where she was happy to assist in our evaluation activities on that day. She was impressed by the work being done and could see how valuable the sessions were for everybody. Lara left with a very favourable view of our work and our island, and I know she would like to come and visit again for a longer spell.

"On Tuesday 4 February we met together at Digby’s Restaurant for a belated Christmas lunch! This opportunity to meet together socially and enjoy delicious fayre was appreciated by all!

"Our weekly two hour sessions of Self-Management and Mindfulness continued at the Fire Station with Gail Cunningham as our project facilitator.  These sessions have provided valuable support, guidance, encouragement, motivation, self-help skills along with a range of other benefits.

"With the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic we had to adjust our approach to meetings and interaction and so responded positively to this challenge by initially setting up a daily chat on a Whats App group, followed shortly thereafter by weekly meetings via Zoom.

"In spite of some initial apprehensions, this has proved highly successful. In order to support new members who have joined the group, a second session has been set up on Thursday afternoons.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Gail for her unfailing diligence, enthusiasm and support in keeping our group together and for ensuring the best interests of all are met. I would also like to thank Gordon for his invaluable IT support, setting up Zoom, sorting out IT problems adeptly and for his valued ongoing contributions to the group. Thanks also to the Fire Station for allowing us the use of one of their rooms.

"Lucy Harness continues to deliver yoga sessions on a weekly basis. This activity has been successful and appreciated by many members of the group who attend. These sessions were held at the Bridge Centre initially but are now on Zoom. I would like to thank Lucy for her efforts and also the Bridge Centre staff who have always been accommodating and helpful.

"The committee has undergone some changes in the last few months. This is inevitable at times given that members have long-term conditions but may also have other commitments. 

"Jane and Donald both resigned from the committee. They are now honorary members of our group and we will continue to welcome their advice and expertise going forward. We look forward to inviting new members this year who will bring new skills, experiences and knowledge which will contribute to and complement our efforts. Thank you also to our treasurer, Michelle, who consistently provides us with clear and concise reports to keep us all well informed and to every other member of the committee who has given willingly of their time, effort and commitment to LTCH.

"Finally, I would like to thank all members of this much valued and mutually supportive and positive group for their contributions and ongoing participation. We look forward to the next phase and development of LTCH."

 

A brand new app is now (Monday September 7) available by searching 'CnES - Sport Facilities' on Google Play or the Apple App Store.

The app can be downloaded for free to your mobile phone.

Customers will be able to book activities directly from the app, as well as find out all the latest reopening information as it happens.

Tony Wade, Sports Facilities Services Manager said: “Each of our sports facilities will have a section added on the app in the coming days.

"This will mean that we can keep all our customers up-to-date with facility news in real time, direct to their phone. All customers will need to do is enable ‘push notifications’ and they will get all our latest news, straightaway.”

“Each of our sports facilities is unique and this presents a range of challenges in reopening facilities but the app will be a great way of keeping customers informed quickly and helping us give customers information which is relevant to their local sports centre.”

CnES advises that while app is free and be straightforwardly downloaded, you will need your membership number and a four digit PIN to make a booking - contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and CnES says they will be happy to give you all the details you need.

  1. Polling will take place between the hours of 7am and 10pm on Thursday 8 October 2020 for the election of a Councillor for the Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch electoral ward, there remaining more validly nominated candidates than the number of councillors to be elected.
  2. The name, description (if any) and address of each candidate remaining validly nominated is as follows:

Electoral Ward

No. of councillors to be elected

Candidate Surname

Other Names

Description

Address

Ward 3: Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch

1

Fulton

Grant

Independent

15 Ferry Road Leverburgh Isle of Harris

HS5 3UA

 

 

Macdonald

Annie

Independent

18 Laxay, Lochs Isle of Lewis

HS2 9PJ

 

 

O’Donnell

Kris

Independent

Seaforth View 22 Airidhbhruach

Isle of Lewis HS2 9LE

 

  1. The persons entitled to vote as electors at this election are the persons registered in the Register of Electors for the Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas nan Loch electoral ward, but a person whose name is so registered may not vote if the entry in the said Register gives as the date on which the person will become of voting age a date later than the day fixed for the poll.

Signed:

Malcolm Burr,Returning Officer

Date:

7 September 2020

The P/M Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Piping Competition, supported by Point and Sandwick Trust, is to be held behind closed doors this year, with the performances from the invited pipers to be broadcast online at a later date, due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society had initially postponed the competition, originally due to be held on April 3, to November 27, but the organising committee reluctantly agreed it would be impossible in the circumstances to hold the usual live event with an audience in Stornoway.

The event is now to be held in The Piping Centre in Glasgow on November 27. There will also be a junior competition for the first time this year – held entirely virtually – with recordings of performances to to be invited from eight selected young pipers and again broadcast online at a later date.

Dr John Smith, chairman of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said: “In the current circumstances, we feel that we need to try and keep some semblance of routine by organising the only thing that we can possibly do, which is recording performances and broadcasting them on social media. We are aware that pipers at all levels will be missing the opportunity to perform both for the judges and the audiences and we know for a fact that the pipers who were invited to the Donald Macleod competition are very sad that they will not be coming to Stornoway this year, because they always enjoy it. 

“However, we feel that we have arrived at a reasonably practical solution which complies with the current regulations and we are grateful to The Piping Centre for their help and special thanks to the director, Finlay MacDonald. 

“We have negotiated with The Piping Centre to hire the main hall for the day and the pipers will attend in pairs at regular intervals and play their tunes in front of a panel of three professional judges sitting in the hall.

“The Piping Centre have run a few events in recent weeks, having undertaken a full risk assessment, and comply fully with all the regulations currently required for the Covid 19 pandemic. 

“The Lewis and Harris Piping Society are very grateful that our main sponsor, Point and Sandwick Trust, are still going to fund us to the tune of £5,000 despite the fact the competition is not taking place in Stornoway and we have given a clear undertaking that the event will be back to normal next year, all things being equal. The next Donald Macleod competition in Stornoway is planned for the 2nd of April, 2021.

“The sponsorship from Point and Sandwick Trust covers the cost of The Piping Centre hire, technical support and appearance fees for the pipers and the judges, together with prize money.”

Dr Smith added: “Together with many other piping enthusiasts throughout the land, we have been severely deprived of the most enjoyable aspect of following piping, which is listening to the live performance. Of the several events that are normally organised in the course of the year, the only one that was held this year was The Uist and Barra invitational competition, at the very beginning of March, which just got in before lockdown. 

“We always have a good attendance at the Donald Macleod competition and we are pleased to be bringing some of Donald Macleod’s music to piping fans in the area and worldwide.”

The eight pipers invited to take part this year – based on their wins on the competition circuit in the previous year – will be Willie McCallum, Gordon McCready, Sarah Muir, Connor Sinclair, Iain Speirs, Stuart Liddell, Angus MacColl and Niall Stewart. 

For the junior competition, eight of the most accomplished young players from the Outer Hebrides will be invited to submit recordings of themselves playing a piobaireachd ‘ground’, plus a march, Strathspey and reel and a hornpipe and jig, in line with the structure of the main Donald Macleod competition.

Judges for the junior event will be Ian Duncan from The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust and Iain MacCrimmon from The MacCrimmon Foundation – both organisations which also sponsor the main Donald Macleod competition – and the main prize will be a silver engraved long practice chanter, donated by McCallum Bagpipes. The closing date for submissions is November 1. 

Point and Sandwick Trust committed £25,000 to the competition over five years to ensure it could continue to be held in its home town – Pipe Major Donald Macleod being one of Stornoway’s most famous sons. He was an outstanding piper and prolific composer and the competition, now in its 27th year, was created to celebrate his musical legacy.

Point and Sandwick Trust chairman Norman Mackenzie: “It is disappointing that there will no live Donald Macleod competition in Stornoway this year, for a local audience to enjoy. However, these are not normal circumstances we are in and Point and Sandwick Trust felt it was important to support the piping society to enable them to keep the competition going, in whatever format they could.  It’s great that these pipers will still have a competition to work towards and we all look forward to enjoying the online broadcasts towards the end of the year.”

Three Westside community organisations are celebrating today (Tuesday 8 September) after learning of success in the latest round of National Lottery Community Fund awards.

Groups in Barvas, Ness and on the Galson Estate will be able to use their awards on projects which focus on wellbeing, education and food poverty within their local communities.

The Clan Macquarrie centre in Borve is to use the £10,000 they have been awarded to work with Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn on a community garden at the centre, with a polycrub and raised beds that can be enjoyed by everyone living on the community owned Galson Estate.

Barvas and Brue Community Centre has been awarded £4,218 to offer community resources including continuing their foodbank provision and additional space for the local school.

And Deepness Ltd, who already run a radio station dedicated to everything connected with dementia, plan to use £9.840 to develop a range of online educational, social and wellbeing courses to support people with dementia.

The thee Western Isles awards are part of a £5.5 million total distribution being announced for projects across Scotland. The National Lottery Community Fund is currently focusing in Scotland on those projects which are supporting organisations and communities to respond to the challenge of COVID-19. To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk.

Pictures show the current Clan Macquarrie centre garden area and the Barvas and Brue foodbank, now situated inside a blue container right next to the community centre. 

 

Community-run venues across Lewis and Harris have been working hard to make re-opening possible, with the opening of Tong Community Hall announced today (Monday 7 September).

The committee said that they planned to open their doors again as from Wednesday this week (9 September), paying careful attention to Scottish Government guidelines.

The hall’s committee said: “We are so pleased that we will be opening Tong Hall again. Obviously in the current climate things will be very different and we please ask that people read the guidelines very carefully.

“Our new terms and conditions include all health and safety measures that have been put in place at the hall and also clearly lay out the responsibilities of those booking the hall.” The full conditions for use of the hall are available at tonghall.uk

Dual-purpose venues have already reopened in some locations, depending on the Scottish Government regulations affecting their operation.

They include the shop and Post Office at Ravenspoint in South Lochs, laundrette and charity shop at Kinloch Historical Society, leisure facilities at Sporsnis in Ness and the museum, shop and café at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis in North Dell.

And some community-run halls have been taking advantage of good weather and an empty hall to update and improve their premises.

A working party at the Clan Macquarrie centre in Borve said they’d made ‘a noticeable difference’ after a day tidying, painting and weeding.

Picture shows committee of Clan Macquarrie community centre during their working party day.

 

Castlebay Sports Centre

A Comhairle Spokesperson said, "A successful microbiological pool water test has been completed which will allow for the completion of staff training updates. Customers will be updated later this week with progress but we are hopeful that we will be in a position to reopen the Pool and Gym w/c 14th September in line with the original Scottish Government proposed dates for the reopening of indoor leisure facilities.

“We are currently working on finalising operational arrangements. The Pool will operate similarly to Liniclate Sports Centre in offering lane swimming and timetabled family group swimming. Again, more detailed information on how this will work will follow. After three weeks, we will reassess the timetable in line with the latest guidance and informed by customer usage. To comply with the national guidance around ventilation, the capacity of the Gym and Pool will be significantly reduced. This is necessary at this stage of the Government’s Roadmap but hopefully this will be relaxed shortly. A technical solution to increase the mechanical ventilation in the Gym area in addition to using the openable windows has been identified. This work will be undertaken as soon as possible, and customers will be updated as soon as we have more information on timescales.”

Liniclate Sports Centre

Leisure staff have been working hard getting the facility ready to reopen.  A successful microbiological pool water test has been completed  which will allow for the completion of staff training updates prior to opening the Pool.  It is hoped that this will be early in w/c 14th September, in line with the original Scottish Government proposed dates for the reopening of indoor leisure facilities.

A Comhairle Spokesperson said: “For the first three weeks of reopening there will be a more limited range of services than usual as we all learn to come to terms with adapting to new ways of operation. We will be offering lane swimming with a maximum of eight swimmers per lane. These spaces will be bookable in advance and will be organised on a 'Slow' 'Medium' and 'Fast' lane principle. We will give more details about how this will operate in due course. We will also be offering Family sessions, with the pool divided up into sections bookable by family groups. Again, more detailed information on how this will work will follow. After three weeks, we will reassess the timetable in line with the latest guidance and informed by customer usage.”

On 20th August national guidance was issued by sportscotland around ventilation in indoor sports facilities. Liniclate Sports Centre is served by an air conditioning unit which has to be decommissioned in order to meet the new guidance. The Gym does not have any openable windows which means an alternative method of feeding the area with fresh air and then creating an outlet has needed to be developed. A solution has been found and equipment has been ordered but until this work has been completed the gym will not be able to open.

 

 

Harris Sports Centre

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “We are currently working on finalising operational arrangements. A successful microbiological pool water test has been completed which will allow us to complete our staff training updates. We will update customers later this week with progress but we are hopeful that we will be in a position to reopen the Pool and Gym w/c 14th September in line with the original Scottish Government proposed dates for the reopening of indoor leisure facilities.

"To comply with national guidance around ventilation, the capacity of the Gym and Pool will be significantly reduced at this stage of the Government’s Roadmap. This will be reassessed as guidance is updated in due course.”

 

 

Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais

A Comhairle spokesperson said,“Over the last two weeks we have had contractors on site undertaking works in the pool area that were postponed because of lockdown. We hope to have these completed by midweek and then have to undertake a deep clean of the pool and changing village area. Leisure staff will then need to complete training updates following five months away from the pool before we are in a position to reopen.

We hope this will be early in w/c 14th September, in line with the original Scottish Government proposed dates for the reopening of indoor leisure facilities.

For the first three weeks of reopening we will be offering a more limited range of services than usual as we all learn to come to terms with adapting to new ways of operation. We will be offering lane swimming with a maximum of ten swimmers per lane. These space will be bookable in advance and will be organised on a 'Slow' 'Medium' and 'Fast' lane principle. We will give more details about how this will operate in due course.

Swim Western Isles and the Island Games Swim Development group, who look after many of our young talented swimmers will also be allocated slots, so that they can hopefully begin to start the long road back to normality. After three weeks, we will reassess the timetable and are hopeful we can look to restart some of the more specialist groups such as Aquafit, within the very pressing constraints that we are currently working under.”

Harris Sports Centre

A Comhairle spokesperson said, “We are currently working on finalising operational arrangements. A successful microbiological pool water test has been completed which will allow us to complete our staff training updates. We will update customers later this week with progress but we are hopeful that we will be in a position to reopen the Pool and Gym w/c 14th September in line with the original Scottish Government proposed dates for the reopening of indoor leisure facilities.

To comply with national guidance around ventilation, the capacity of the Gym and Pool will be significantly reduced at this stage of the Government’s Roadmap. This will be reassessed as guidance is updated in due course.”

Liniclate Sports Centre

Leisure staff have been working hard getting the facility ready to reopen.  A successful microbiological pool water test has been completed  which will allow for the completion of staff training updates prior to opening the Pool.  It is hoped that this will be early in w/c 14th September, in line with the original Scottish Government proposed dates for the reopening of indoor leisure facilities.

A Comhairle Spokesperson said,  “For the first three weeks of reopening there will be a more limited range of services than usual as we all learn to come to terms with adapting to new ways of operation. We will be offering lane swimming with a maximum of eight swimmers per lane. These spaces will be bookable in advance and will be organised on a 'Slow' 'Medium' and 'Fast' lane principle. We will give more details about how this will operate in due course. We will also be offering Family sessions, with the pool divided up into sections bookable by family groups. Again, more detailed information on how this will work will follow. After three weeks, we will reassess the timetable in line with the latest guidance and informed by customer usage.”

On 20th August national guidance was issued by sportscotland around ventilation in indoor sports facilities. Liniclate Sports Centre is served by an air conditioning unit which has to be decommissioned in order to meet the new guidance. The Gym does not have any openable windows which means an alternative method of feeding the area with fresh air and then creating an outlet has needed to be developed. A solution has been found and equipment has been ordered but until this work has been completed the gym will not be able to open.

Castlebay Sports Centre

A Comhairle Spokesperson said, "A successful microbiological pool water test has been completed which will allow for the completion of staff training updates. Customers will be updated later this week with progress but we are hopeful that we will be in a position to reopen the Pool and Gym w/c 14th September in line with the original Scottish Government proposed dates for the reopening of indoor leisure facilities.

“We are currently working on finalising operational arrangements. The Pool will operate similarly to Liniclate Sports Centre in offering lane swimming and timetabled family group swimming. Again, more detailed information on how this will work will follow. After three weeks, we will reassess the timetable in line with the latest guidance and informed by customer usage. To comply with the national guidance around ventilation, the capacity of the Gym and Pool will be significantly reduced. This is necessary at this stage of the Government’s Roadmap but hopefully this will be relaxed shortly. A technical solution to increase the mechanical ventilation in the Gym area in addition to using the openable windows has been identified. This work will be undertaken as soon as possible, and customers will be updated as soon as we have more information on timescales.”

Traffic is now flowing again after a two-car road accident which is reported to have taken place on bends in the Stornoway-Balallan road near Soval.

The incident took place around 1.30pm.

Emergency services went to the scene of the road accident at the Soval bends, south of Leurbost on the A859.

Police said the road was closed around 2pm while the vehicles were removed from the carriageway.  The road was reopened after about 40 minutes.

 

The tourism and hospitality industry on the isle of Skye is reporting low business confidence as it moves from the summer into the autumn season.

This is the key finding from a series of nine sectoral surveys carried out on Skye in the last week of August by SkyeConnect.

In all, 180 businesses responded to the online surveys across the B&B, Self-catering, hotel,  restaurant, gallery, retail and outdoor activity sectors.

In the Bed and Breakfast sector only three-quarters of businesses responding to the survey are currently open with the vast majority operating below normal capacity. 70% of businesses report bookings for the next two months being either poor or non-existent.

Of the Hotel operators who responded to the survey 78% are operating below normal capacity. More than half of respondents claim bookings for the next two months are poor or non-existent.

However, the self-catering sector is, perhaps unsurprisingly, faring better than other accommodation providers with 96% of providers saying they are either busy or very busy and 90% reporting good or very good levels of bookings for the next two months.

Restaurants and cafes report having been busy despite reduced capacity. Half of respondents are making up for the reduced capacity by offering a take-away service. This trend is being replicated in the Hotel sector with two-thirds of respondents now offering a carry out service.

In the gallery and retail sector 60% of respondents report business being quiet or very quiet. Two-thirds say they have no, or limited confidence in business prospects for the next two months.

However, marine tour operators and outdoor activity providers have had a good second-half of the season.  Despite a reduction in capacity due to social distancing, 70% of marine tour operators and 66% of outdoor activity providers are either confident or very confident about business prospects for the next two months.

SkyeConnect’s Project Manager, Alistair Danter, says the surveys provide a useful snapshot of business confidence and provide hard evidence of the continued support the tourism and hospitality sectors will require through the Autumn and Winter.

“It is heartening to see that most sectors have been busy and able to generate income in the second half of the summer season. However, it is impossible to recoup the losses incurred during lockdown. We had hoped the tourist season might be extended this year with people looking at Autumn staycations, but our surveys show there is not much confidence around apart from in the self-catering and outdoor activity sectors where social distancing is not a significant barrier to business operation. We would encourage all businesses to promote each other by letting guests know what visitor attractions and activity providers are open. To this end SkyeConnect has created a database of businesses that are open which is available through www.myskyetime.com .

Looking further ahead, the surveys clearly demonstrate the desperate need for on-going financial support to help businesses through the winter and into spring when we hope to see a return to more normal visitor levels for the 2021 season.”

For more Skye news relating to tourism and visitors see https://www.facebook.com/theskyemagazine

A 28-year-old man is appearing in court by video-link from Stornoway police station today (Monday 7 September).

He was arrested after police were called to a disturbance at an address in the Cearns at 10pm on Sunday (6 September).

Following enquiries the man was charged with domestic assault and with drugs offences.

He’s been kept in custody for today’s court appearance.

Drink and drugs charges

Meanwhile enquiries are continuing after a car was seen to have left the road at Marybank at 2.55pm on Saturday afternoon.

The 31-year-old woman driving was arrested for failing a roadside breath test and charged with alleged drunk driving.

And police stopped a youth on Macdonald Road in Stornoway at 6.15pm on Saturday.

The 17-year-old was searched, found to be in possession of controlled drugs and is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Three drivers risk a court appearance after being charged for driving at excessive speeds around Stornoway yesterday (Sunday 6 September).

The three were charged after separate incidents as a result of police speed patrols through the afternoon and evening.

A police patrol on the A859 Creed road flagged down a driver travelling at 92 miles per hour in a 60mph zone at 4.30pm.

The 39-year-old man did not stop and has been charged with failing to stop when requested by police as well as his speeding offence. He’s been reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Also reported to the Procurator Fiscal is a 59-year-old man who was riding a motorcycle at 105mph in the same 60mph location, at 5pm on Sunday. He’s been charged with dangerous riding of a motorcycle.

And a 17-year-old man was stopped at 9.30pm yesterday on the A866 Braighe road, driving at 76mph in a 40mph zone. He’s also being reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

 

A picture of a new Bernera Bridge has been posted by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as an ‘illustrative example’ of how a replacement structure might look.

The existing bridge has been closed to vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes since 19 August, following structural assessment work which revealed dangerous weaknesses.

The weight restriction has been in place since then and has led to reorganisation of services including fuel delivery and bin collection.

A statement from the Comhairle today (Monday 7 September) said: “The Comhairle is working with local contractors and UK suppliers to determine the extent of works required and timescale for construction.”

 

Among the new arrangements needed to work round the weight restriction, the Comhairle have had to hire a bin collection lorry which can cross the bridge.

From the next refuse collection tomorrow (Tuesday 8 September) bins will be collected in two waves, since non-recyclable and food and garden waste can’t be mixed. Instead the vehicle will visit each property twice to collect the waste types separately.

In the first week after the weight limit was in place, the work-round for bin collection saw a massive community effort from island residents, Bernera Community Council and Bernera Community Association, who put muscle-power together with invaluable local knowledge to shift all the bins across the bridge for emptying on the Lewis side of the Atlantic.

Other adjustments include Scottish Fuels now using a 2000-litre bowser, starting last Wednesday (2 September) to make fuel deliveries on Bernera.

And boat-owners have been notified that marine gas oil is not currently available from the fuel tank at Kirkibost Pier. Mariners are instead advised to use one of two alternative tanks, at Miavaig pier and Carloway Pier, until the situation is resolved. 

Pictures show the Comhairle’s illustration of a possible new bridge structure, the new refuse collection vehicle (CnES) and the scene on bin collection day, 25 August (Zero Waste Western Isles).

 

After their Covid-19 hibernation, the movies are finally coming back to An Lanntair.

"From 2nd of October we shall be showing the best that Hollywood, and beyond, has to offer." says the arts centre in a statement from Kevin Smith, Cinema Programmer at An Lanntair.

"We’re opening again and giving everyone the opportunity to see the major award winning films we couldn’t show before the lockdown.  I, of course, mean the Academy Award, Palme d’Or and BAFTA winner: ‘Parasite’.  Part melodrama, part dark comedy, this film has resonated around the world with its messages about class structure and discrimination from the wry eye of director Bong Joon-ho.

"Also, we have a film that most of us could relate to in these times; about two lighthouse keepers who try to keep their sanity but only have each other for company.  ‘The Lighthouse’ is a film that delves into what it means to be lonely and has a slowly building, pressure cooker, tension that can switch between dramatic to comedic in an instance.  A very interesting film, and pertinently apt this year.

"The biggest, and most anticipated, film to reboot the cinema industry after the hiatus, is Christopher Nolans’ time twisting spy film ‘Tenet’.  Using some of the same cinematographic techniques he perfected with Inception and Interstellar, Nolan creates a story about a secret agent who has to use time itself to prevent the start of World War III.  It has been described as a Rubik’s puzzle of a film, but if you’ve ever seen Momento, you’ll understand that Nolan knows exactly what he’s doing and it shows, in this excellently choreographed movie that has to be seen on the big screen to comprehend all of Nolan’s vision.

"For our younger audiences we have both ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ and ‘Trolls World Tour’ to entertain over the weekends. These action adventures are a lot of fun and are enjoyable for all of the family.

"We also have the rescheduled ‘Alfie Boe and Michael Ball: Back Together’ concert that we will now be screening on Saturday 24th of October.  The musical duo filmed the last show of their national tour at the O2 arena, and it demonstrates their exceptional singing voices and irresistible chemistry on the stage.

"As for Hallowe'en we will be having a very special event: A horror double bill! For only £10 we’ll be showing two classic horror films that will please even the most ardent horror lover.

"From the Wes Craven, the Masters of Horror himself, we will be screening the original ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’.  The film that catapulted Freddy Krueger into the echelon of movie villains and terrified a generation every time they went to sleep.

"Then before the second film in our double bill we’ll show some trailers from classic horror films to get everyone in the mood for the comedy horror ‘The Return of the Living Dead’, the film that gave us so much of the zombie tropes that are still used in films today."

But what is changed?

First, between screenings, our auditorium will be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly by our staff.  To ensure this, along with the normal cleaning procedures, an antibacterial fogger will be used to sterilise all seats and contact areas throughout.

Second, so there is a reduced chance of cross-contamination, we would prefer that you use our online booking system.  As this will ensure that all seating adheres to the social distancing rules that the Scottish Government have implemented. This, of course, means that we have a reduced, limited seating capacity.  So we would recommend that you purchase your tickets as a group instead of individually if at all possible, as this will allow more of you to enjoy the big screen entertainment. And please remember, to meet the guidelines for Cinema in Scotland, audience members should only be gathering in groups of up to two households (including your support bubble or extended households).

Third, facemasks should be worn throughout the screening. Exceptions include children under 5 and anyone with a health condition. Customers can temporally remove facemasks if you need to eat and drink, but please ensure that you are at least two metres from anyone not in your bubble.

Fourth, An Lanntair will be supplying hand sanitiser at all entrances and ask any rubbish you produce be disposed of in one of the many bins provided.

 

The appointment of an executive headteacher covering The Nicolson Institute, Sir E Scott School and Leverhulme Primary has provoked a strong protest from the Harris Forum.

In a public statement they say: “In May 2020 Harris Forum became aware, in a letter from the Head Teacher at Sir E Scott School, Tarbert to parents, that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had instigated the Executive Headship Role for the school along with The Nicolson institute and Leverhulme Primary School. 

“The letter stated that Dr Frances Murray had been appointed to the Executive Headship position for the three schools.

“Many in the community were extremely unhappy at this move and Harris Forum sought to engage with the Parent Council to share their concerns and support them in seeking to stop this imposition.

“At that time, they were still waiting to have a meeting with Bernard Chisholm as part of his “consultation” on the implementation of Executive Headship for the school.

“This meeting eventually took place in early August, a week before the new session started."

Following this meeting and the publishing of a survey which showed that 90% of the parents who responded were opposed to the Executive Headship “proposal”, the Harris Forum wrote to CnES seeking an urgent meeting to discuss their concerns and seek assurances that the proposed implementation would not be detrimental to the education provision in Harris.

A meeting took place on Thursday September 3 and failed to allay the fears of the Forum. They say: “The head teacher of a school is a very significant figure in any community and their influence goes beyond the basic requirements for the role.  The loss of such a position from so many of our communities will be very keenly felt.

“The executive Headship programme will also result in far fewer opportunities for teachers to attain the head teacher level as none will be replaced on retirement. 

“The new “head of school” post will not be at head teacher level but at something like depute head with a small increase in salary for extra responsibilities.” 

The forum says: “We highlighted our serious concerns at the level of disruption that all this would cause to pupils, following on from the upheaval caused by Covid.  We suggested that implementing this would have been better left until the end of the school year to ensure maximum teaching opportunity for pupils. 

“In rural areas the distances involved become even more critical.  Having to travel more than 56 miles from Stornoway to attend at Leverhulme Primary may not sound too much but in winter, getting across the Clisham can be extremely challenging.  It will be even worse for those in Barra and South Uist when they have Linacleit and Castlebay linked by the one executive head – the Sound of Barra will be even more challenging.”

The current “temporary measures” are due to finish in October and, unless Councillors take steps to halt this imposition things will be made permanent.

“We are asking all councillors to look closely at what is being proposed, the significant impact it will have on job opportunities for teachers and also the negative impact on communities throughout the Western Isles,” the Forum says.    

The dispute involving welovestornoway.com about the publishing of “false info” on Covid-19 cases took a new twist at the weekend with the redating of the contentious post on the official Scot Gov website which tracks Covid-19 cases across the country.

The website now states that the information about the two “false positive” cases was available on September 2, two days before the publication of the new headline figures saying there were nine Covid-19 cases in the Outer Hebrides. 

On Friday September 4, the website was claiming that this became known that day, the same one as the figures were published on. 

In addition, the official headline figure for Covid cases in the Outer Hebrides remains at nine as the mainland lab which produced the original results has not ‘denotified’ them.  The official statement explains the figures cannot be changed unless the lab involved officially accepts the new results from tests done in the Western Isles.

No statements about test results were issued locally in advance of the publication of the new headline data on Friday.

The first six months of 2020 saw an overall fall in the number of animal welfare cases reported to authorities, according to a statement issued by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals today (Monday 7 September).

SSPCA inspectors attended 195 animal welfare jobs in the Western Isles over the period, out of a total of 36,299 across Scotland. Most recently, this included uplifting abandoned chickens from the Pentland Road last month.

The numbers in the Western Isles are in proportion to other island groups, with Orkney (pop 22,000) seeing 121 cases and Shetland (pop 23,000) 140. In the Highlands (pop 236,000) SSPCA officers attended 2,142 cases in the six-month period.

The temporary closure of all nine Scottish SPCA mainland animal rescue and rehoming centres put immense pressure on teams and resources, so an emergency foster scheme was introduced.

In the Western Isles, animals are temporarily rehomed by officers either at their own homes or with supportive foster carers who have specialist knowledge of the species concerned.

Among those working alongside the SSPCA in the islands is the new voluntary cat rescue organisation WISCK, who continued to rehome and foster abandoned cats throughout the crisis.

Among other impacts to the work of the SSPCA during the pandemic were cancelled bookings for school visits, which meant education officers were unable to meet primary and secondary school pupils. Instead, free educational resources were provided online to support home-learning.

Scottish SPCA chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said: “Our whole team has worked so hard through this unprecedented crisis, and the passion and dedication they have displayed all the way through has been truly inspirational. Even during lockdown, we were still averaging a call about an animal in need every 90 seconds, which shows the scale of demand there was for our services.

“As Scotland’s animal champions, we have a duty to continue to do our job under any circumstances to make sure pets, wildlife, farm animals and people get the help they need. Thank you so much to our partners and the public for such great support.”

 

Joni Buchanan, author and journalist, is to give this year’s prestigious Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture in Gaelic on the subject ‘Mnathan Innse Gall: am beatha, am buaidh’ (Hebridean Women: Lives of Consequence).

Drawing on Joni’s recent research, 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.  Were their lives really of so little consequence?

This lecture will challenge any such perception by analysing the many crucial roles that women have occupied in Hebridean society and why their voices have been given so little expression. It will draw on individual examples of extraordinary lives in order to confirm the more general truth that Hebridean women, and their contribution to all aspects of life in the islands and far beyond, have earned the right to wider awareness, respect and recognition.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, this year’s lecture will be pre-recorded and made available on YouTube and a local website from Thursday 22nd October.

It is also planned that the lecture will feature in a special edition of Radio nan Gàidheal’s ‘Feasgar’ programme in which Joni Buchanan will be interviewed by Cathy MacDonald – details to be announced later.

An English and Gaelic text of the lecture will also be made available in booklet form by Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc, who organise the annual lecture in partnership with e-Sgoil, CnES, the Islands Book Trust, and Angus Macleod’s family.

Donnie Morrison, chairman of Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc, said: ‘We are delighted that Joni has agreed to give this year’s lecture on a much-neglected subject which I am sure will be of great interest to many people. Despite the unusual circumstances caused by the pandemic, we thought it important to ensure the lecture went ahead, albeit not in front of a live audience, and we are most grateful to Radio nan Gàidheal for facilitating this year’s special arrangements.’

For further details about the lecture and how to access it, please contact John Randall of Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc  at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is organising a series of community conversations on Gaelic’s future as a community language in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Tiree.

Consultations will establish an open forum to discuss and determine appropriate actions in securing the language within the islands.

The recent publication of a comprehensive sociolinguistic study into the use of Gaelic in the vernacular island communities, titled ‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Communities’, concluded that the language will fall into obsolescence unless significant changes are made in approach and strategy.

Alasdair Allan MSP is working with the authors of the study from the Soillse research team based at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and a cross-party group of MSPs.

This report was devastatingly clear in its conclusions. "The marginal levels of societal and familial transmission of Gaelic, combined with low levels of youth socialisation through Gaelic, are clear indicators of the peripheralisation of the Gaelic-speaking networks in the islands.

"These remaining Gaelic networks will not survive anywhere to any appreciable extent, under current circumstances, beyond this decade.

"Given that the Gaels are now experiencing the final social phase of ethnolinguistic erasure, the limited relevance of Gaelic bodies and their current policy initiatives are now a significant hindrance to the Gaelic group in efforts to engage positively with challenging circumstances."

Eight community meetings will take place in the late autumn across Na h-Eileanan Siar, Skye and Tiree to engage island residents and organisations. Residents will also have the option to submit written opinions as part of the process.

As well as discussions about Gaelic usage in the home and community, the meetings will also gauge opinion on whether a Gaelic community cooperative – Urras na Gàidhlig – could be an appropriate structure to coordinate and drive forward local development actions under the direct control of the Gaelic-speaking community.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The language’s visible decline in community and family usage is a serious concern to everyone working to foster a thriving, sustainable society in the Western Isles. The language forms a vital part of the cultural ecosystem which informs our shared identity, values and wellbeing.

“Against the continued loss of Gaelic, however, I am aware of extensive support and goodwill for the language amongst islands residents. We need to engage all parties in ensuring that future solutions are rooted within the community.

“Where do we want to see Gaelic in the next decade? We need to have a broad conversation about the language’s future and determine appropriate steps to get us where we want to be. Ultimately, this should start and end with the community, with the government playing a crucial role in supporting them to realise this.”

Meeting locations will include the isles of Lewis, Harris, North Uist, South Uist, Barra, Tiree and the community of Staffin in the Isle of Skye, and dates will be forthcoming. Due to COVID-19 government public health guidelines, the exact form of the meetings, whether hybrid or virtual, is still under consideration.

A research digest of The Gaelic Crisis book is available here: https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/t4-media/one-web/university/research/lsi/research-digest-gearr-iris-rannsachaidh-/Summary-Research-Note-on-The-Gaelic-Crisis_English.pdf

The final conclusion of the UK's exit from the European Union in at the start of 2021 is a bigger threat than ever to crofting, to markets and for crofters’ livestock, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

There must be no compromise on food standards in any future trade deal with the EU, stated Angus MacNeil as he questioned the Secretary of State for International Trade in Parliament on Thursday September 3.

Angus MacNeil asked Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss for clarification on an issue which is causing anxiety within the farming and crofting industry, escalated further by misrepresentation of the position of the National Farmers’ Union by the Scottish Tory Leader Douglas Ross.

Mr MacNeil said: “We are either facing a hard-deal Brexit or a no-deal Brexit and as result food and farming are taking on really greater importance.

“It’s an issue which has caused near meltdown for the new and already failing Tory leader in Scotland with the National Farmers’ Union giving them the yellow card for misleading and leaving farmers fuming.

“So I wonder will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to ease farmer’s anger and consumer’s anxiety and state categorically that there will be no trading of food standards or compromise of the high food’s standards that now go on supermarket shelves for any trade deal whatsoever.

Rt Hon Truss replied: “I can absolutely give…that assurance and I would point out that NFU Scotland sit as part of our Trade and Agriculture Commission looking at future trade policy.”

Speaking afterwards Mr MacNeil said: “Brexit is, of course, a big threat to crofting, to markets and for crofters’ livestock.

“Another threat, of course is the arrival on our shelves of food that doesn’t meet current standards and undercuts the high quality meats and other products and replaces our agricultural products with products that have been raised with growth hormones or greater use of antibiotics or a number of other practices in milk and elsewhere that we are not currently tolerating.

“As we strive for high quality in our food, the UK Government might be tempted to give this away such is the weakened position of their hand post Brexit in trade negotiations.”

There's been a new plea to the Scottish Government from the Presbytery of the Outer Hebrides of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) about the continuing restrictions on church services.

At their meeting by teleconference on 4th August, the Presbytery of the Outer Hebrides heard reports from the congregations within the Presbytery regarding the resumption of public worship following the easing of restrictions due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

All six congregations have now resumed services, and while the Presbytery are most thankful to the Lord for this, they continue to be concerned at the government guidance which has a seemingly arbitrary limit of 50 people gathering in any place of worship at one time, whatever the size of the building.

The Presbytery are very concerned at the content of the Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) resource which is being introduced into schools in Scotland.

"It is quite likely that many parents are unaware of this distasteful and wholly inappropriate material, which undermines Biblical teaching on the family, marriage, chastity, sexual identity and the sanctity of life, and that it is available to teachers and is possibly being used in the instruction of their children," says the recent press statement from David Blunt, the Clerk to Presbytery.

The Presbytery have written to the Director of Education, Skills and Children’s Services at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and to the members of the Comhairle’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee, urging the Committee to recommend to the schools for which they have responsibility that they do not use the RSHP resource, and pointing the Committee to far more suitable material.

Welovestornoway.com found itself accused of spreading “false info” today (Friday September 4) as a result of accurately reporting information from the Scottish Government website on Covid-19.

Editor Fred Silver says: ”We have been providing a service to local communities for months, throughout the pandemic, summarising the figures available on https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-daily-data-for-scotland so that our readers could easily access a basic level information about the incidence of Covid-19 in the Highlands, Islands and throughout Scotland.

“Today we reported that there had been two additional cases of Covid-19 in the Western Isles. This was based on the part of the above website that we usually use for this information – as shown in the image below.”

About 90 minutes later, following publication on-line, the editor was successively informed by NHS Western Isles, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and a local care home, that there was a caveat buried in a different section of the official website, as shown below. It states: “On 4 September, we have been informed by NHS Western Isles that they have retested the 2 people who had positive results from the UK Government lab and found them negative. However, all positive tests reported are included in the figures unless there is a formal denotification of a result that reported then positive result.”

Following the welovestornoway.com report, the following statement was issued by NHS Western Isles:

“NHS Western Isles can confirm that two individuals in the Western Isles received ‘false positive’ test results this week.

“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. 

“We wish to reassure our local communities that public health risk-assess each result and all such tests are thoroughly investigated.”

Editor Fred Silver said: “After 45 years as a journalist and editor, I deeply resent being accused of spreading "false info” when it has been derived directly from a Government website which will continue, for internal bureaucratic reasons, to state an incorrect figure.

“As a result, we will no longer be publishing regular data on local, regional or national Covid-19 cases.

"I apologise to readers for the obvious concern this report on welovestornoway.com will have caused." 

THE officially confirmed number of coronavirus cases on the Western Isles is now 9, says the Scottish Government, today, Friday, September 4.

The last previous official new case was in early June. 

Nationally there were:

  • 159 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is 1.6% of newly-tested individuals.
  • 0 new reported deaths of someone who has tested positive. 
  • Highland Region has had 445 cases, a rise of 13 from yesterday, following a rise of 11 the day before.
  • Orkney has had 17 cases. Shetland has had 56 cases.

So far, there have been 2440 (last updated 04.09.20) coronavirus tests reported as conducted in the Western Isles.

For regular updates see https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=1884

A total of 612,990 Scottish tests have been concluded so far.  Of these:

  • 21,048 tests were positive, an increase of  159, or 0.8%.
  • 12,167 of the cases were in the Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian areas, an increase of 106 or 0.9%

A total of 2496 patients in Scotland who tested positive for coronavirus are now reported to have died.

In total, 4228 deaths have been registered in Scotland where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

There were 258 people in Scottish hospitals last night with confirmed COVID-19 (including 4 in intensive care).

School education

On Wednesday 2 September 2020, provisional figures show that:

  • there were 14,228 pupils absent either for all or part of the school day because of COVID-19 related reasons.
  • the overall attendance rate at local authority primary, secondary and special schools was 88.7%
  • % of school openings where pupils were not in school for COVID-19 related reasons was 2.0%, and for non COVID -19 related reasons was 9.3%.

4.9.2020


In terms of incidence of positive cases per 10,000 population, the comparative figures - all rounded slightly - are:

  • Scotland: 36.7/10,000
  • Shetland Isles: 24.3/10,000
  • Highland: 17.2/10,000
  • Orkney Isles: 7.2/10,000
  • Outer Hebrides: 2.5/10,000

(This figures are calculated by welovestornoway.com to give readers a sense of regional variations.  They were last revised on Saturday August 29). 

Monitoring work undertaken on behalf of Food Standards Scotland has identified that the high levels of shellfish toxins identified in Loch Erisort in Lewis on July 2 have returned to safe levels.

The warning against eating shellfish from this area has now been lifted.

 

Any Island employer who is able to, should work with the Scottish Government to create more opportunities that recognise the valuable contribution our young people have to make in growing our economy.

That's the view of Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan who has welcomed a new £60million Youth Guarantee announced in the Programme for Government, which guarantees everyone in the Western Isles aged 16-24, a job, a place in education or a place in training.

The new partnership between the Scottish Government and Scotland’s employers is backed by £60 million of government investment, which will be broken down as follows:

  • £30 million through local authorities to help local partnerships to deliver employability support for young people
  • £10 million to create additional opportunities in colleges
  • £10 million additional funding for Developing the Young Workforce, the Scottish Government’s internationally recognised Youth Employment Strategy
  • £10 million to support pathways to apprenticeships

This autumn, the Scottish Government will also launch the National Transition Training Fund, which is backed by initial funding of £25 million and will help up to 10,000 people of all ages retrain for jobs in growth sectors.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “While Governments have rightly taken unprecedented action to protect workers and businesses through this pandemic, it’s vital that young people are not left behind.

“This SNP government is absolutely determined that youth unemployment will not become the legacy of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The new £60 million Youth Guarantee, announced in the First Minister’s Programme for Government this week, will guarantee every young person in the islands aged 16-24 a job, a place in training, or a place in education.

"This is backed by additional funding for employers to recruit and retain apprentices, and the new Job Start Payment to help with the costs associated with starting a new job.

“These steps to support for those most adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are most welcome, and the SNP will continue to work to ensure every young person is given the opportunity to succeed."

There's been a local economic gain of more than £56,000 from the UK Government's “Eat Out to Help Out” discount restaurant meals scheme

According to figures released by the UK Government, the “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme has gone down very well in the Western Isles with 9,000 meals claimed so far.  Not all restaurants have filed all their returns, so the final totals will be higher.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “I am delighted that so many people took advantage of the Chancellor’s scheme and that as many as 45 establishments participated.

“We all know that this has been a very challenging time for the hospitality industry so it is great news that local businesses have received this level of support.

“I very much hope that even though the scheme has ended, customers will continue to support their local restaurants and cafes which do so much to contribute to our worldwide reputation for hospitality.”

The figures for the Western Isles are provided below. The full tables can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eat-out-to-help-out-scheme-claims-by-parliamentary-constituency

Constituency

Total number of registered restaurants

Total number of meals claimed for

Total amount of discount claimed (£)

Average discount per meal (£)

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar

             45

               9,000

                  56,000

               6.59

 

 

 

 

The complex and long-running scheme to replace the bridge on the access road to the Lews Castle and Stornoway Golf Club from Willowglen Road takes another step forward next week with another overnight closure to enable another link to be put in place

In its official announcement Comhairle nan Eilean Siar states: "In accordance with the requirements for maintaining and inspecting its bridge assets, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar propose to install the second half of replacement precast culvert units at the Castle Access Road culvert adjacent to the Golf Club under evening road closure between the hours of 21.00pm and 01.00am.

"Closure is scheduled for Tuesday 8 September 2020.

"The access road shall be closed to traffic between these hours with temporary access available along the saw mill road with allowance only for emergency vehicles to pass through.

"Comhairle nan Eilean Siar apologise for any inconvenience."

Sixteen nurses have become the first cohort to graduate from an innovative midwifery pilot programme.

The University of the Highlands and Islands’ shortened midwifery programme was launched in January 2019 to help meet the needs of communities across the north of Scotland.

The postgraduate diploma, developed in partnership with NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles, NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland, was designed to enable registered nurses to become fully qualified midwives in 20 months.

The first cohort of students finished their studies at the end of August and the final cohort will complete the course next summer.

The students learned through a combination of face-to-face classes at the Centre for Health Science in Inverness, online study via the university’s virtual learning environment and placements with NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles, NHS Orkney and NHS Grampian, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian and NHS Fife, in urban, remote and rural island-practice areas.

They also assisted during the coronavirus pandemic by starting their final placements early to support the NHS workforce. The university’s department of nursing and midwifery celebrated the students’ final day with a special virtual event on Friday 28 August.

The event included messages of support from Professor Annetta Smith, Head of the department of nursing and midwifery, heads of midwifery and nurse directors of NHS Highland, Western Isles and NHS Orkney, and farewell songs by Joanne Murray-Stewart, an award winning Gaelic singer and midwife, who also sang on the first day of the course in January 2019.

Caitlin Murray (28) from Peebles, is one of the students who completed the course. She said: “The last 20 months have been a rollercoaster of a journey which has seen me in five different health boards for placement. I believe this insight into midwifery care in different areas of Scotland will put me and my classmates at huge advantage moving into our career as we have learnt to adapt to various ways of working and picking up on valuable skills.

"My last placement has seen me back in my community placement of Skye which has been amazing. I am very grateful to the university for giving me a place on the course as you have helped me achieve my dream of qualifying as midwife. I will soon be beginning a full-time midwifery position with the community team in Fort William.”

Mary Burnside, Deputy Director of Midwifery in NHS Highland said: “We are delighted to see newly qualified midwives graduate in Highland from the 20-month programme and look forward to welcoming them to the NHS Highland maternity services team.”

Wendy Jessiman, the university’s Lead Midwife for Education, said: “As the only shortened programme in Scotland, we are delighted that all students finishing the programme will be employed in NHS Highland, NHS Western Isles and NHS Orkney. The variety of placements and support from the Boards and midwives across Scotland has prepared students to provide excellent midwifery care in remote, rural, urban and island contexts. We wish them all well in their midwifery careers.” 

Western Isles aviation enthusiasts are trying to shift today’s cloud cover by sheer willpower, with the promise of a spectacular flypast by US Marine Corps stealth jets late this afternoon (Thursday 3 September).

Ten Lockheed F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) – also known as the ‘Wake Island Avengers’ – are due to fly over the islands en-route to RAF Marham in Norfolk, where the RAF’s own F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft are stationed.

The American squadron is to fly from the newly commissioned British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, alongside RAF 617 Squadron. It will be the first time that two operational F-35 squadrons have operated simultaneously from a British aircraft carrier.

Before they can take up position on the flight deck, the US planes and crew have to complete their 14-day COVID-19 quarantine period and a further period of preparation.

After that, HMS Queen Elizabeth tweeted yesterday (Tuesday) that they intended to ‘cover the whole deck with aircraft’ for the autumn exercises GroupEx and NATO’s Joint Warrior – which takes place in the sea and air off the west coast of Scotland.

The USMC F-35 Lightnings were due to fly over the islands yesterday as they made the staged journey from their own home base at Yuma Arizona, via Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station in South Carolina, USA.

Strong winds delayed their departure and they are now scheduled to pass overhead in two waves, about 35 minutes apart, late this afternoon or early this evening. Once in the UK they are expected to remain for a couple of months of operations and co-operative training.

Pictures show the US squadron in flight last week (USAF Sergeant Becky Cleveland) and RAF 617 Squadron F-35s on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth (Royal Navy).

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have taken delivery of a small refuse collection vehicle which is permitted to cross the Bernera Bridge under the current 7.5T weight restriction.

CnES says: "Please present your bins for collection by 8am on Tuesday 8th September, bins will be serviced throughout the day.

"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."

 

Safety lessons should be learned by fishermen after the drowning of a creel fisherman in Loch Carnan, South Uist, last summer.

That’s the view of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) which has today (Thursday 3 September) published their report and further guidance into the death of creel fisherman Michael Monk, who was found unconscious in the water on 24 July 2019.

Mr Monk was the owner and skipper of the single-handed creel fishing boat May C. He was found face down and unconscious in the sea by the crew of the fishing vessel, Sparkling Star at about 12.30pm on 24 July 2019.

Despite being recovered from the water by Sparkling Star’s crew and treated at the shore by Scottish Ambulance personnel, May C’s skipper could not be resuscitated.

The MAIB said in today’s report: “Although the exact circumstances of the accident are unknown, it is most likely that May C’s skipper fell overboard when trying to clear the boat’s propeller of weed or other fouling.

“The two crewmen of the boat that found May C’s skipper were unable to recover him into their own boat but managed to move him to a fish farm, where they recovered him onto the walkway to commence CPR.

“Unable to revive him, they then took him to a nearby jetty where an ambulance was in attendance. Despite being taken ashore, May C’s skipper could not be resuscitated and the post-mortem examination established that he had drowned.

“The weather conditions were fine with calm seas and a gentle breeze; the sea temperature was 14°C.”

The MAIB said that, although the exact circumstances of the accident were unknown because the skipper’s fall overboard was not witnessed, the boat’s engine was found in the raised position, so it is most likely that he fell overboard and drowned while trying to clear an obstruction from the propeller.

Contributing safety factors included that the skipper was not wearing his personal flotation device (PFD) or carrying his personal locator beacon (PLB) when he fell in the sea.

A safety flyer has been produced today (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/912015/2020-16-MayC-Flyer.pdf) in direct response to the Loch Carnan incident. It says: “Single-handed fishing operations are extremely hazardous, primarily because there is no-one there to help if you get into difficulties.

“It is important to recognise the severe hazard associated with falling overboard. The best way to combat this is to ensure that every precaution has been taken to prevent going in the sea in the first place, and if that does happen, then measures are in place to increase your chances of survival and rescue.

“Wearing a Personal Flotation Device and carrying a Personal Locator Beacon aids survival and ensures you have a reliable method of raising the alarm to get help.”

The full accident report is available at https://www.gov.uk/maib-reports/man-overboard-from-single-handed-creel-boat-may-c-with-loss-of-1-life.

The MAIB also drew attention to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) existing publications, The fisherman’s safety guide (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/882707/Fishermans_safety_guide_2020_amendment_1.pdf) and safety guidance for lone fishermen (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/293404/single_handed_operation.pdf).

The pictures show the fishing vessel May C and a reconstruction of what may have happened to cause the accident (MAIB).

 

More public sector jobs should be created in the Islands, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan told the Scottish Parliament earlier today (Wednesday September 2)

Alasdair Allan also gave his backing to the Programme for Government unveiled this week by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Programme for Government contains a number of commitments aimed at ensuring a strong economic recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. Under the commitments, all young people in Scotland aged 16 to 24 will be guaranteed a job, education, apprenticeship or formal training through a new £60 million government scheme.

By this autumn, a £100 million Green Jobs fund will be launched to help up to 10,000 people of all ages retrain for jobs in growth sectors such as renewables.

The SNP government has also announced a new £10 million Tenant Hardship Fund, which will open later this year and offer interest-free loans to those unable to access other forms of support for their housing costs.

A comprehensive independent review of adult social care will also take place – setting out options for the creation of a National Care Service.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I very much welcome the commitments announced in the Programme for Government this week. These protect people’s livelihoods, guarantee opportunities for all our young people and point the way to a future with better, greener jobs as Scotland looks to becoming a net-zero country.

“At the same time that we are considering the long-term cultural and economic changes brought by the pandemic, there is continuing anxiety about the shortage of working-age people in many rural communities. There needs to be more and more opportunities for people in the public sector to work either from home or from hot desks in rurally-based offices, or more likely, a combination of both. Just as importantly, it implies advertising people’s rights to do this, and planning for what this might mean in some of our most fragile communities.

“Unfortunately, the Scottish Government continues to fight coronavirus with one hand tied behind its back. Westminster’s plans to end to the furlough scheme prematurely and crash out of the EU without a deal later this year, will be deeply damaging."

There's a new scheme to support households suffering from fuel poverty, explains the Hebridean Housing Partnership.

Adjusting to restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for all of us – however, studies have shown that the most vulnerable groups will be amongst the hardest hit.  HHP says:"One area we want to help, is by providing some assistance to those who are struggling with fuel poverty. Using funding secured from the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund, via Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), we can help residents in the HS1 area with their fuel costs.

"You do not need to be a HHP tenant to apply but you will need to meet certain criteria, e.g. pay for your energy via a top up meter, be part of shielding or high risk group, furloughed/made redundant or experiencing fuel poverty (where energy costs exceed 10% of net income), as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This list is not exhaustive and individual circumstances will be considered.

"If you think you meet the criteria, please fill out the application form which can be found on our website at the link below, and we may be able to give a max of £49 credit towards your energy costs. Once submitted, your application will be processed the following working day. Vouchers will be issued by email as standard but other arrangements can be made, if required. 

"Whilst this particular funding is for those in the HS1 area, funding has also been distributed to organisations across the Outer Hebrides. Residents in other areas can contact their local community council or other community groups to find out what help is available in their area."

Further details and the application form can be found at: https://www.hebrideanhousing.co.uk/fuel-voucher/

 

Doorstep conmen are striking again on the Islands, exploiting the way people are now more often at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trading Standards staff at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are urging residents to say "No" to doorstep sellers, after they have received reports of sellers currently operating in the Islands.

A spokesperson said, “Our advice is never to deal with anyone who cold calls at your door, just say “No thanks” and shut the door. 

"Never let them into your home, this is very important especially in the times we find ourselves in during a pandemic. 

"Please keep an eye out for vulnerable neighbours, particularly anyone who lives alone who may find it difficult to deal with uninvited callers.

We want to encourage all residents to display “No uninvited sales people” signage.

"If you have signage and a seller still knocks on your door they may be committing an offence under Consumer Protection Regulations.  “No uninvited sales” signage can be printed or you can contact Trading Standards on 01851 822694 to get one posted to you”.

To report doorstep sellers please contact Trading Standards on 01851 822694 or Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

 

The first and only vessel to have called in to Stornoway during the 2020 cruise season is now playing host to a cruise party of a completely different kind.

Hurtigruten’s brand-new hybrid fuel vessel MS Fridtjof Nansen is reported to have become the floating hotel for the cast of the next Mission Impossible movie, starring Tom Cruise.

The Fridtjof Nansen called into Stornoway on 28 February as part of a round-Britain promotion and familiarisation tour. She was presented with a plaque commemorating her maiden visit by harbourmaster Scott Campbell.

Since the beginning of August the ship, currently moored off at the head of a fjord near the village of Hellesylt in south-west Norway, has been taken over by the cast and crew of Mission Impossible 7.

Hollywood star Tom Cruise is said to be keen to prevent any further disruption to the filming schedule for the blockbuster movie, which has already been shut down since March during lockdown.

The news website Norway Today reported that two ships had been rented for the whole of August and September, one as a hotel and the other potentially as a location for some elements of the filming.

Fridtjof Nansen’s sister ship, Roald Amundsen, is currently embroiled in political and medical debate after a significant outbreak of Covid-19 among her crew last month.

She was due to visit Stornoway on Monday 14 September after Hurtigruten undertook what was described as ‘an accelerated return’ to their cruise schedule following the worldwide lockdown on cruising.

That was cut short after 62 passengers and crew were tested positive for Covid-19. Tests on board the Fridtjof Nansen showed all passengers and crew on that vessel to be clear of the virus.

Pictures show the Fridtjof Nansen in Stornoway on 28 February (Stornoway Shipping Services) and her current scenic location at Hellesylt in Norway (Creative Commons/Sergey Ashmarin).

Stornoway police are asking for public help after vandalism was reported at Lews Castle College UHI.

The college reported damage caused to a downpipe, bin and other external fittings at around 7pm on Saturday 29 August.

Anyone with any information on the incident is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH990/20.

Western Isles Community Society, the not-for-profit organisation that manages the Western Isles Lottery, has submitted a Planning Application to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for permission to floodlight the south face of Stornoway Town Hall.

This project will be the group’s most ambitious to date, since the launch of the Western Isles Lottery in August 2017.

Proceeds from the local Lottery have funded the annual Christmas Lights Displays in the town centre for the last three years and the Team are hoping to be able to switch on the proposed Town Hall floodlighting at the same time as this year’s light display, scheduled for Friday 4th December 2020.

In agreement with CnES, the majority of the lights will stay on until the end of January 2021 to give the town much-needed cheer throughout the first dark month of the year.

Janet Paterson of the Lottery Team explained: “There is no doubt the sight of coloured lighting in the town brings a smile to people’s faces during the festive season. 

“We have already installed permanent lighting on the Bridge at the entrance of the Castle Grounds and along Bayhead. The project we are now hoping to embark upon is another year-round improvement but one which will give a significant ‘wow’ factor to the town.

“We have worked with a professional lighting design firm to ensure we plan and install the most suitable equipment for our climate and types which will create the best effect.  We give sincere thanks to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar who have also fully guided and supported us to get to this stage of the planning”.

Tony Robson, Chair of Western Isles Community Society explained: “The project entails an amount  of initial civil and electrical works which will be undertaken by Breedon Hebrides and ACE Electrical Services respectively. 

“After the installation of equipment, the lighting would be remotely controlled and programmed, colour changing to mark a number of events throughout the year.  Some examples are Burns Night in January, Valentine’s Day in February, St Patrick’s Day in March, Hebridean Celtic Festival in July and Remembrance Day in November.”

The overall project comprises of four stages with the South face comprising Stage 1.  Support for the Western Isles Lottery continues to grow, and the Team hope to carry out further stages of the project through time.

To support the Western Isles Lottery you can log onto www.westernisleslottery.co.uk or telephone the Support Line on 0300 30 20 444 to purchase tickets.

So far, supporters have shared over £80,000 in weekly cash prizes for their efforts. That is a win-win situation for the communities of the Western Isles.

 

The sail training vessel Pelican of London is taking shelter from strong winds in Stornoway harbour today (Wednesday 2 September), on a specially retimetabled ocean science mission.

The tall ship is being described as ‘the world’s most exciting classroom’, as it sails from its home port at Sharpness in Gloucestershire, around the coast of the UK, to return to London.

The vessel’s owners, Adventure under Sail, said that their UK circumnavigation voyage during August and September 2020 met all of the Covid-19 guidelines whilst still delivering adventure at sea and a unique scientific programme.

The students and scientists on board are allowed to come ashore, but no visitors will be allowed to board the vessel.

The Pelican was built in Le Havre, France in 1948 as a double-beamed Arctic trawler. In the 1960s she was sold to a Norwegian owner, who subsequently went to prison for trafficking a whole cargo of vodka from Finland.

Pelican became an excise sale and was later bought for reconstruction as a sail training vessel in Britain. She’s now a four-masted Barquentine setting 11 sails and capable of making 7.5 knots under power or 10 knots under sail.

By complete contrast, still in port is the luxury motor yacht Hanse Explorer, a German-owned private charter expedition yacht with 15 crew and 12 guests aboard.

Hanse Explorer arrived into Stornoway from Oban last week as part of one of the few expedition charters to go ahead this season. On Sunday she sailed for Rockall, with the intention of landing there, but was unable to land – although passengers did succeed in touching the rocks.

Yesterday (Tuesday) the expedition was in St Kilda and she is now sitting out the weather in Stornoway harbour with the intention of departing tomorrow.

Pictures show the Pelican of London heading for Stornoway on Monday (Tall Ship Pelican) and yesterday in Stornoway harbour (Guido Blokland) and the Hanse Explorer in Stornoway late last week (Mark Nicolson).

 

Customers at Stornoway’s McNeill’s pub have demonstrated the world-famous warmth of the islands, with a gift that has travelled more than 10,000 miles to help another community.

McNeill’s regulars banded together earlier this year to raise funds for firefighting in New South Wales, Australia, as bushfires raged across the state and daily pictures on the news showed the devastation.

And this week the Rural Fire Brigade (RFB) at Bulli, north of Wollongong in New South Wales, sent their warm thanks from a surprised and touched volunteer team on the other side of the world.

McNeill’s manager Liz Neilson said: “This came about because we’ve had a lovely couple from the Bulli area of New South Wales, who have visited us regularly over several years for a month during our winter.

“Maureen and Mark were here when news of the Australian bushfires came in and, since we regularly do have fundraisers at the pub, we put a tin on the bar and set ourselves the target of £500 for their local fire department.”

The resulting donation reached Bulli RFB’s bank account on Monday 24 August and the team posted on Facebook to express their gratitude. They said: “It’s 16,861 kilometres or 10,476 miles from Bulli to Stornoway, and we have been completely gobsmacked by a most generous donation of $1000 (£500) from the punters in the little pub called McNeill’s. 

“It’s amazing to know that people so far away were touched by what they saw and cared enough about the suffering of others so far away to kick into action, put their hands into their pockets and share what they could with us.

“Such generosity towards a bunch of complete strangers literally over the other side of the globe is humbling. Thanks and gratitude from the family at Bulli Rural Fire Brigade to the family of McNeill’s in Stornoway. One day someone will pop in for a pint to say so in person, it looks like a cracking place to be!”

The Bulli fire crews have been active over the past few weeks training individuals in village firefighting, response driving and using chainsaws. They’ve also trained new crew members in bush firefighter skills and turned out to multiple calls to road accidents, as well as spending the night attending to trees blocking main roads.

Lawrence Wood, captain of Bulli RFB said today (Wednesday 2 September): “Having looked at how far Stornoway is from Bulli we are very surprised and humbled by the donation from the wonderful people at McNeill’s.

“The locals could have given their money to the RNLI, a fellow voluntary organisation who are just as deserving, and it’s with this in mind that we are truly thankful for what we have received.

“We will definitely put it to good use to support both ours and surrounding communities this upcoming fire season, especially as, due to COVID, our normal fundraising activity will be reduced this year.

“At the moment there are some lovely mild spring days in the low to mid 20ºc range and cool nights of around 15ºc. There’s been some rain, but we do need a lot more to really get the moisture back into the lower layers of the soil and there are some places not far inland from us that are still in drought.

“We are beginning our fire season preparation by doing some hazard reduction burning, designed to take out the dead undergrowth and reduce the fuel load, when the weather allows.

“The fire season in our area runs from October to March, which coincides with the hottest and driest part of our year, and where the potential for lightning strikes starting major fires is high.”

That makes it all the more timely that the McNeill’s donation has just arrived and the pub’s customers are pleased their donation has been so well-received.

Liz Neilson said: “Our customers are extremely generous and we’re very fond of our regular Bulli visitors Mark and Maureen, so we are really happy to have been able to help out their local fire crews.”

The pictures show Bulli fire crews at work during the bushfire season in February 2020 (Bulli RFS).

 

Outer Hebrides Tourism may be able to benefit from new funding being made available to help the tourist industry recover from the impact of the pandemic lockdown.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is to invest £3m over the next three years in tourism destination management organisations like OHT as part of the agency’s support for the sector’s recovery.

DMOs are formalised membership organisations representing local tourism providers, with many involved in regional level partnership working.

HIE says the funding has been "ringfenced and is mainly targeted at strategically important DMOs in the Highlands and Islands that already have established relationships with the agency’s area teams. Specific projects and DMOs to benefit will be determined over time through relationships between DMOs and our area teams."

In recent weeks DMOs have focused on co-ordination and communication among communities and local tourism providers as the they reopen to visitors. They have also helped provide clarity on government guidelines.

The role of DMOs is expected to become more pivotal as the sector continues to reopen, and the region’s destinations and communities welcome back more visitors.

The increasingly challenging task of securing operational funding has been exacerbated by the loss of commercial revenue over the past few months

The HIE funding will build on this to help make sure they are sufficiently resourced to play a vital role in the recovery of tourism across the Highlands and Islands.

It will be administered by the agency’s area teams and targeted at supporting strategically important activities. These could include collaboration projects, member representation and networking, as well as community engagement and support and responsible management of destinations.

Carroll Buxton, HIE’s deputy chief executive, said: “Tourism is central to our regional economy and a vital source of rural employment. DMOs provide valuable co-ordinated support for the sector, tailored to the specific needs of their areas. It’s clear that the industry will become even more reliant on these groups as we progress through the recovery stages.

“Our role is to help them to be as effective as possible in this process. We have approved this investment to complement wider public sector support for DMOs in the region from organisations such as VisitScotland and from local authorities. We look forward to working with all our partners to achieve a successful and sustainable recovery of our tourism sector.”

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “A safe and strong recovery for all of our communities will be key to the future success of Scotland, and we have worked closely with HIE, and our other enterprise agencies, to minimise the impact of this pandemic.

“Place is at the heart of our vision for 21st Century tourism in Scotland and our destination management organisations will play an important role in making that vision a reality."

On Merchant Navy Day, Thursday 3 September, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will fly the Red Ensign at its headquarters on Sandwick Road to raise awareness of the UK’s ongoing dependence on Merchant Navy seafarers.

The Comhairle is supporting a nationwide call from the Seafarers UK charity and the Merchant Navy Association for the UK Merchant Navy’s official flag to be flown on public buildings and landmark flagstaffs.

The charity’s president, HRH The Earl of Wessex, has endorsed the campaign, saying: ‘On this Merchant Navy Day, I very much hope you will support this campaign to remember the sacrifices, salute the courage and support the future of the often unsung personnel of our Merchant Navy.

The UK relies on Merchant Navy seafarers for 95% of our imports, including half the food we eat. The UK has the largest ports industry in Europe. 75% of our exports (by volume) are shipped from UK ports, some of which are supporting the campaign by encouraging visiting ships to sound their horns at 10am on 3 September.

https://www.seafarers.uk/merchant-navy-fund/

Scottish Crofting Federation and The MacRobert Trust invite the nomination of young crofters for the award of Young Crofter of the Year 2020.

"We are looking for young folk of 40 years or less who are crofting in a sustainable and enterprising way and who play an active part in their crofting community or make a great ambassador for crofting. Are you that crofter? Do you know that crofter?" they say.

The winner will be presented in December with the Euan MacRae Memorial Quaich.

From past experience, the prestige of winning the award is very helpful for the recipient.

If you wish to propose yourself or someone you know please contact SCF HQ for a nomination form or download from www.crofting.org.

Submissions are invited from now until 18th October.

Sandwick Bay Candles today (Tuesday 1 September) sees the public launch for the biggest order they have yet landed – and it has given them a post-Covid boost of energy.

International company Beanies Flavour Coffee (https://beaniesflavourco.co.uk) placed an order for thousands of coffee-jar candles and, with great teamwork from everyone at Sandwick Bay Candles, the first batch of the order was packed up and sent off, ready for today’s launch.

Beanies, founded in the Yorkshire town of Darlington in 2012, exports flavoured coffee to over 30 countries worldwide, including to stockists in Iceland, the USA and to New Zealand – the birthplace of Sandwick Bay founder Megan Macdonald.

Megan said: “This all came about because I included one of Beanies Flavour Coffee jars in my subscription box in July and got chatting to the company’s owner, who said to me: ‘Hey, could you make candles?’

“All their coffee is flavoured, so they sent me a set of the flavours they make and I picked some to match with a candle fragrance, which is poured and set into their own jars.

“The flavours they chose from my samples were gingerbread, cherry bakewell and sticky toffee and we think we’ve matched the way their coffee flavours smell pretty exactly.

“It really is a big thing for a company on a wee island like we are to get a big order like this, and it has taken a lot of teamwork for us to pull together the order and get it ready for despatch.”

Working on production at their premises on James Street, Stornoway were (pictured left to right) Emma Macaulay, who has been with the company since it started in 2016, Aimee Castle, temporary worker Caroline Henderson, Kate Muir, Megan herself and Donna Rice. Megan's husband Donald Macdonald has also been working hard on production.

Beanies Flavour Coffee started trailing the new gift product last week with a social media teaser which said: “When Head Bean was waxing lyrical about new flavours he had a wick-ed idea which set a flame alight in his mind. Look out next week for something very new and very exciting from Beanies - any guesses?”

Megan said: “We’ve worked really hard as a team on this order and now we’re going to have to wait and see how they sell and what else we can do for this great customer.

“The initial order was for 3,000 candles but, depending on what it leads to, I am considering whether to create another job and I definitely need more space, so a premises move might be on the cards. This is really a big deal for the islands, especially in a year like this.”

 

The gardens of Lews Castle will be the focus for a Channel 5 camera crew tomorrow (Wednesday 2 September), as the history of the castle garden’s plant life is explored.

Filming for Channel 5’s Secret Scotland programme is expected to explore the unusual link between a hand-painted mural within the castle itself and the plant species which grew in the conservatory and grounds.

The TV interest has been triggered by restoration work, including the current Parks for People project, which is seeing garden and grounds restoration with funding from the Heritage Lottery fund, among other sources.

One aspect of the story is the link between fern murals in Lady Matheson’s morning room and the plants which used to grow in the castle conservatories, roughly where the current Museum nan Eilean is.

According to expert research by members of Stornoway Historical Society, the mural and the conservatory were both driven by a fad known as pteridomania – a fanatical love of ferns which was prevalent throughout the Victorian age.

Lews Castle’s conservatory held numerous examples of these, including New Zealand tree ferns, at least one of which reportedly survived in the open for several years after the conservatories were demolished in the late 1940s. 

But two murals in in what was once Lady Matheson’s morning room are now the only remaining evidence of the fern species. Badly damaged during the castle’s years as a military hospital, college and school, they were painstakingly restored by conservators using images taken by photographer George Washington Wilson in the 19th century and preserved in the archives at the University of Aberdeen.

The species represented were also catalogued by garden enthusiast John Downie, who visited Stornoway in 1856 and published his observations and a list of plants in the Gardeners Chronicle and the Agricultural Gazette of that year.

Stornoway Historical Society chair Malcolm Macdonald said: “They are going to try to restore the gardens, as much as possible, to how they were in Lord and Lady Matheson’s time.

“From November 2013 to May 2014 the Stornoway Historical Society had a working group established, with the remit to research the history of the Lews Castle, lodges, glasshouses and gardens.

“It is heartening for the society to see the gardens now being restored and containing the species of plants and flowers that were there in 1856.”

An image of the fern mural in Lady Matheson's morning room after restoration (Tiger/Creative Commons) and a 19th century postcard showing the conservatory of the castle still in use.
 

The first appearance in recorded history of breeding hen harriers in Lewis was described yesterday (Monday 31 August) as ‘a conservationist’s dream’ by RSPB Scotland’s Western Isles representative.

But RSPB spokesman Robin Reid also sounded a warning note about the pressure created for the new population by the proposed new Stornoway wind farm, which impinges on their new territory.

In a blog post published on the RSPB site yesterday, Robin described how the newly established hen harrier population in Lewis is a cause for celebration among wildlife lovers.

Although hen harriers are relatively common in the Uists, they had been absent in Lewis until the first nest was located in 2015. The species has obviously taken hold and it is now estimated that there are more than 10 pairs breeding on the island.

Reestablishment of the elusive bird could have come in response to changes in land management. Hen harriers usually nest in deep heather and, as sheep numbers have decreased on Lewis over the last 20 years, heather has recovered from grazing and now provides nesting sites and more habitat for prey species such as meadow pipits.

Robin Reid said: “It’s not often in conservation that we are able to report on the appearance of a new population of a scarce bird species. But, on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland’s largest island, hen harriers have established breeding for the first time in recorded history.

“The hen harrier has long been one of my favourite birds so experiencing and documenting the arrival of breeding harriers near me has been particularly exciting. This elegant bird seems most at home slicing through the breeze as it quarters low over the ground in search of prey.

“Males are particularly eye-catching, with their displays over prospective nesting areas on bright spring days an unmistakable spectacle. Once breeding is underway, the male delivers prey to his partner through an aerial food pass, with the more camouflaged female delivering the prey to the nest.”

The appearance of the birds in Lewis is even more important because they have been persecuted on grouse moors for decades, with tagged birds still prone to disappear under mysterious circumstances.

Their status is described in the RSPB blog as ‘precarious and declining’ across Scotland, making the new Lewis population even more important and extending their breeding range to the north-west.

Robin said: “As with many conservation stories, it’s not all good news for harriers on Lewis. The core area where the harriers have chosen to breed is the site of the proposed Stornoway Wind Farm, a large 35 turbine proposal which is currently at application stage.

“The RSPB has responded to this planning proposal with concerns that the wind farm poses a threat to the harriers both from collisions with turbines and disturbance from the construction and operation of this large development. 

“We have asked for the removal of a number of turbines which are closest to the breeding and roosting sites of hen harriers and other sensitive species. This would mean that the renewable energy project could potentially go ahead while reducing the impacts on this new and fragile hen harrier population.”

The picture shows hen harrier fledgling chicks on the nest in Lewis (Robin Reid).

 

Communities across the Islands can gain from two renewed grant funding sources from today (Tuesday September 1)

The Western Isles Development Trust is inviting applications from community groups for funding for projects with a focus on alleviating fuel poverty and promoting renewable energy.

And the West Coast’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are set to benefit from the latest round of the CalMac Community Fund.

From October 1st, the Fund is seeking applications from non-profit organisations which make a difference to local communities by tackling social isolation, poor mental health, loneliness and/or poverty.

Groups operating across the CalMac network can apply for an award from the fund from between £500 and £2,000.

In 2019, the CalMac Community Fund supported 76 groups across the west coast, benefiting the lives of children and young people. Projects included access to swimming, Highland dancing, sailing and video skills.

Gordon McKillop, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for CalMac, said: “The CalMac Community Fund was created to make a difference to those most in need across our West Coast communities. It is also a fantastic way for us to connect with our communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic placed a huge strain on people’s lives and there has been a lot of great community work going on to help those affected. We would love to hear more about these projects and would encourage those eligible to apply for an award.

“The Community Fund was really well received when it was originally launched and we were able to help 76 groups. I am looking forward to hearing more about the great work that is taking place to help those in need.”

Awards will split across six regional areas:

  • Lewis, Harris and Ullapool
  • Uist and Barra
  • Skye, Raasay, the Small Isles and Mallaig
  • Oban and the Inner Hebrides
  • Southern Hebrides
  • Firth of Clyde

Eligibility

Your organisation can apply if:

  • You are not for profit and registered to an island or port served by CalMac
  • You have a governing document or constitution
  • You have an independent bank account
  • You have two or more unrelated board members

How to Apply

Applications can be made online from October 1st by visiting www.calmac.co.uk/community-fund

WESTERN ISLES DEVELOPMENT TRUST

The Western Isles Development Trust (“WIDT”) invites applications from community groups for funding for projects with a focus on alleviating fuel poverty and promoting renewable energy. 

Since April 2016 it has committed over £352,000 in grant payments and loan funding to promote these objectives.  Recent beneficiaries include: Coll Community Development Trust, Lewis; Uist and Barra Food Bank; Garadh a Bagh a Tuath, Barra and Leverburgh Hall Committee, Harris.

Following the successful uptake of the Small Grants Scheme in 2019, where £40,000 was distributed to community bodies across the Western Isles, WIDT is now launching the Small Projects Fund for 2020 to distribute a further £40,000 from 1 September 2020. 

Applications are invited from community groups for a maximum of £2,000 in grant funding.  In order to be eligible the application must meet at least one of the WIDT’s objectives (as set out in its Articles of Association and published on the website) and show benefit to the community.  Once the fund has been expended it will close until September 2021.

 Full details of the fund and the application form can be found at the website.  A list of beneficiaries of the 2019 Small Grant Scheme is also available.

  • You have an open membership
  • You have two signatories
  • You will spend and report on an award within 12 months

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

This report has been extended greatly since its orginal posting

A new taste has been added to the premium brands emerging from the Western Isles – canned Lewis water.

Announced today (Monday September 30th) is the online launch of ‘Larkfire’, described as ‘wild water for whisky’ and sourced from land belonging to the Stornoway Trust. The water has been developed with co-operation from the Trust, who will receive a percentage of the can price of £1.

The company’s website says: “We travelled across the length and breadth of Scotland looking for the perfect water to mix with whisky. We consulted master blenders, professors, chemists and geologists. We learned that Lewis was made up of some of the oldest rock in the world, Lewisian gneiss, and that this rock was metamorphic and insoluble making the water very soft.

“We discovered that by mixing the incredibly soft and pure water from Lewis with whisky, we could help unleash the whisky’s depth of flavour and its true majesty.

“We also saw a way to help an island community. Over a whisky or two (with local water) we worked with The Stornoway Trust to bring Larkfire water to your glass. We believe that all whiskies are improved with the addition of our very soft, wild water from the Isle of Lewis.”

Co-founder James McIntosh added: “In Edinburgh and London you often see people add regular tap water to an expensive scotch – the problem is tap water has been recycled several times before it even reaches your glass, and chlorine and fluoride are added, interfering with the delicate flavours found in whisky. Put simply, tap water shouldn’t go anywhere near a good scotch. Mixing Larkfire with whisky creates a natural chemistry – complementing the whisky and unlocking its hidden complexities, creating a drink that is more enjoyable with greater depth.”

The water is available at a minimum order of 24 cans, for £24, from www.larkfire.com. There’s a £4 delivery charge.

Aggression, vandalism and other misbehaviour are causing problems for police and the public in Lews Castle Grounds, and police now plan an active campaign to address the issue.

An anti-social behaviour campaign aimed at the large number of predominantly young people who are causing the problems is to be launched in the near future.

There will be increased police patrols and a proactive campaign to target anti-social activities including drinking in the castle grounds.

Stornoway police also say that anyone who suffers consequences or distress as a result of the behaviour should report the incident to them on the non-emergency number 101.

A vehicle has been taken from a 34-year-old driver after police stopped him in Stornoway town centre and found that he had no insurance.

The man was stopped at 11.35pm on Sunday and the vehicle was confiscated. The man will also be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

A 24-year-old man was arrested in Castle Street, Stornoway at 1.30am on Saturday morning (September 28th) after police observed him behaving abusively.

He was cautioned and charged and kept in police custody until sober. He’ll be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Late on Saturday night three men aged between 26 and 34 were arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer. They also were kept in custody until sober and are to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

A new taste has been added to the premium brands emerging from the Western Isles – canned Lewis water.

Announced today (Monday September 30th) is the online launch of ‘Larkfire’, described as ‘wild water for whisky’ and sourced from land belonging to the Stornoway Trust. The water has been developed with co-operation from the Trust, who will receive a percentage of the can price of £1.

The company’s website says: “We travelled across the length and breadth of Scotland looking for the perfect water to mix with whisky. We consulted master blenders, professors, chemists and geologists. We learned that Lewis was made up of some of the oldest rock in the world, Lewisian gneiss, and that this rock was metamorphic and insoluble making the water very soft.

“We discovered that by mixing the incredibly soft and pure water from Lewis with whisky, we could help unleash the whisky’s depth of flavour and its true majesty.

“We also saw a way to help an island community. Over a whisky or two (with local water) we worked with The Stornoway Trust to bring Larkfire water to your glass. We believe that all whiskies are improved with the addition of our very soft, wild water from the Isle of Lewis.”

Co-founder James McIntosh added: “In Edinburgh and London you often see people add regular tap water to an expensive scotch – the problem is tap water has been recycled several times before it even reaches your glass, and chlorine and fluoride are added, interfering with the delicate flavours found in whisky. Put simply, tap water shouldn’t go anywhere near a good scotch. Mixing Larkfire with whisky creates a natural chemistry – complementing the whisky and unlocking its hidden complexities, creating a drink that is more enjoyable with greater depth.”

The water is available at a minimum order of 24 cans, for £24, from www.larkfire.com. There’s a £4 delivery charge.

Rhoda Grant MSP urges more people in the Highlands and Islands to join the stem cell register, following her attendance at a reception in parliament marking Blood Cancer Awareness month. 

The reception celebrated the number of potential stem cell donors in the Highlands and Islands on the Anthony Nolan register, which uses its register to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer patients in desperate need of a stem cell transplant. It also carries out vital research to make stem cell transplants more successful, and supports patients through their transplant journeys.  In the Highlands and Islands 8,187 potential stem cell donors are registered with Anthony Nolan; 23% of these donors are men aged 16-30, and the average age is 33.

Now, Mrs Grant is encouraging more people from the Highlands and Islands, particularly men aged 16-30 and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, to register as stem cell donors to make sure that a match is available for everyone in need of a transplant. While anyone on the register could be a match for someone with blood cancer, men aged 16-30 are most likely to be asked to donate. They provide more than 50% of donations yet make up just 18% of the register. There is also a shortage of donors from non-white and mixed-race backgrounds.

Rhoda Grant said: “I am very proud that the Highlands and Islands has 8,187 potential donors on the register, any one of whom could offer the only chance of giving someone with blood cancer a second chance at life. Donating stem cells is straightforward but it could make an enormous difference to someone with no other chance of a cure.

“I would especially like to commend the great work of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in engaging local communities, particularly secondary schools across Scotland. They’ve recruited more than fifty people who have gone on to donate. Their steadfast commitment over the past ten years has had a truly lifesaving impact.”

For more information on Anthony Nolan visit anthonynolan.org/join

A youth club has begun meeting again in the Sandwick area, and has received start-up funding of £1,000 from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.

Sandwick Youth Club meets in the Sandwick Community Hall and is for all youngsters aged eight to 12 who live within the SHARE (Sandwick Hall and Recreation Enterprise) Association area, which covers Steinish through to Melbost.

The youth club meets on a Friday night during term time and all youngsters are welcome to come along and join by just filling in a form. All parents are welcome to stay too and share any ideas they may have for activities.

The club makes use of all the upstairs rooms in the Sandwick Hall, from 6.30pm to 8pm, and is attended by around 20 young people each night, although around 35 young people are members.

It is run by a committee of eight with a further 10 parent helpers assisting on a rota basis.

The focus is on games and activities plus arts and crafts, and music. There is also unstructured play time, where young people can just hang out, along with a tuck shop and free fresh fruit.

The small amount of profit the tuck shop makes goes back into paying for other club activities, such as a Halloween party, and the club is about to start buying games equipment, having done some canvassing of opinion and taken advice from Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs Association on what would be suitable.

Sandy Morrison, deputy chair of SHARE, said it was obvious from all the red faces at the end of every Friday night that the youngsters “love” the youth club.

In general, he said, half of them will “gravitate to the hall and kick a football” but no one is forced to play sport if they don’t want to. The club has acquired an electronic drum kit, keyboards and a nail varnish kit to help entertain some of the others.

The youth club restarted in April 2019 after a break of a few years, triggered by renovations being carried out on the hall. And the start-up grant of £1,000 from Point and Sandwick Trust, which operates the award-winning Beinn Ghrideag wind farm for the benefit of the community, meant the club started off on a good footing.

Sandy said: “The money from Point and Sandwick got us started up without a financial burden over our heads – that’s the basics of it. We could have started without their support but we would have been worrying about having a couple of pounds for this and a couple of pounds for that. 

“Their start-up fund will allow us to run for a year but we still want the children to go out and do their own fundraising – bag packing or whatever – so that they’re raising the money themselves for their outings and trips.”

Sandy said the youth club was a great antidote to excessive use of technology such as mobile phones. “We’ve only seen one child pick up a mobile phone in the whole time and that was only to charge it. To me, keeping the kids away from gadgets is brilliant.”

He added that clubs like this recreated a little bit of what island life used to be like for youngsters.

“We didn’t realise how lucky we were growing up,” he said. “We had the YM and the Acres open every night. Now, you’ve got a lot more structured activities in the town but the only place they’ve got to just hang out is The Shed. There’s nothing open all the time for them.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil has requested a meeting with the UK Energy Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, and Ofgem to discuss the way forward for island renewable projects. This is following the outcome of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) Allocation Round 3, which now raises questions about the viability of an interconnector to the Outer Hebrides.

Commenting, Angus MacNeil MP said:

"It would seem that the UK Government and its Energy regulator Ofgem are not working together.  Ofgem require 369MW for the transmission link, however, the two Lewis wind farms, which were successful in CfD Round 3, total 240MW, way below what is required by Ofgem.

“I have written to Energy Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng MP to request a meeting and I have asked that Ofgem also attend. 

“The UK Government claims it wants to move from carbon to cleaner energy, our islands have the best wind resource in Europe and the inter-connector is vital for island renewable energy projects.  The UK Government is not close to delivering on its claims and intentions but a joined-up approach to island renewables would help change that."

Tomorrow (October 1st) representatives of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will be in Stornoway Town Hall to answer questions from the fishing community, and to talk about new and existing requirements for their boats. The event, which is one of seven stops of the roadshow, will take place from midday until 3pm. 

This follows work to develop a new Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels, which picks up on Marine Accident Investigation Branch recommendations to improve safety for all fishermen.

Over the last ten years, 46 people have died on fishing vessels of less than 15 metres, and the MCA is working with others to try to reduce the risk involved in what is considered the most dangerous industry in the UK.    

Ian Blair from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said: ‘We’re putting a lot of effort into this to ensure we meet and speak with as many people in the fishing industry as we can about what’s changed and what the new proposals are. Fishing is the most dangerous industry in the UK and together we have to do everything we can to help reduce the risks to those whom carry out this incredible work.’

Full details, including venues, dates and times will be updated at http://hmcoastguard.blogspot.com/.

The last Loopallu festival closed on Saturday (September 28th) with Western Isles bands featuring heavily on the final day.

Stornoway sensation Peat & Diesel and the iconic Vatersay Boys started the ceilidh early on Saturday with what one fan called ‘possibly the most entertaining ferry crossing ever’, as they regaled CalMac passengers with tunes from the Loch Seaforth’s lounge.

Also on stage on Saturday were Lewis band Astrid, currently in the midst of a tour and with a new CD, Fall Stand Dance, garnering rave reviews.

Loopallu has been running for 15 years in Ullapool, creating a dedicated fanbase and a considerable buzz around the eclectic mix of performance – one year Franz Ferdinand and the Ullapool Pipe Band appeared on the same bill.

News that the festival might have to end in 2017 caused consternation, but a change of location allowed a couple of years’ reprieve.

This year’s last hurrah really is farewell, though, as the small town is unable to find places to stay for all of the festival-goers at what’s been dubbed ‘the best little festival in the west’.

There was a final message from organisers after the last chorus on Saturday night. “That's all folks. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for 15 fantastic years. Loopallu is finally dead. Long live Loopallu!”

Picture shows one last tune at one last festival from Peat and Diesel on Saturday evening. (Loopallu).

 

 

Laxdale School has become the first school in Lewis and Harris to be awarded SportScotland’s gold school sport award.

The award celebrates not just attainment of recognised levels of physical activity – including two hours a week of physical education, but other achievements such as opportunities to compete and chances for pupils to lead, coach and influence physical activity at their school.

Gold award schools must also have a sport committee led by pupils, which has led to innovations at Laxdale such as ‘no football Fridays’ and pupil-led physical activity with a warm-up, activity and cool-down.

The school heard news of their award on Thursday (26th September) and were quick to include it in the school blog, where activities including octopus, rounders and even toilet tag featured alongside more traditional sporting activities such as unihoc and football.

A schools spokesman said they were ‘absolutely over the moon’ at the news and added: “This was a huge focus project of the 2018/19 session, and without the support and input of our entire school community it would not have happened.”

 

A group of students from Pendleton in South Carolina have been enjoying a weekend of amazing experiences in Lewis, thanks to the continuing international friendship between their school and the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.

The exchange visit has now continued for so many years that some participants who were students on the first exchange are returning as teachers for their respective schools.

The group of teachers and students were warmly greeted as they came off the ferry on Wednesday evening (September 25th) and have been staying in the homes of their exchange hosts and attending some lessons at the Nicolson.

But they’ve also been treated to a wealth of very island experiences, from a bonfire on the beach at Gearranan Blackhouse Village to an opportunity to hand-feed the alpacas at Callanish.

They began their visit as special guests at Thursday night’s concert by the Royal Regiment of Scotland band, who performed with young musicians from the islands at Lewis Sports Centre.

Tomorrow (Monday September 30th) the group will have a private tour of the Iolaire exhibition which recently concluded at Stornoway Town Hall. Hosted by Stornoway Historical Society, they’ll learn about the centenary of the island’s greatest historical tragedy.

And tomorrow evening there’s a final fling dinner at the Nicolson Institute, with each host family providing a ‘pot luck’ dish to say farewell to their guests before they leave in Tuesday morning’s ferry.

Students from Stornoway are expected to return the exchange visit to South Carolina in spring next year.

Pictures show the students being greeted at Stornoway ferry terminal and taking part in some of the activities during the weekend (Alison MacDonald)

The last out-of-date flares collection day of 2019 is to be held at HM Coastguard’s Stornoway station next weekend.

Coastguard officers are inviting mariners and fishermen to bring time-expired pyrotechnics in on Saturday October 5th between 10am and 4pm.

A one-off collection is also being held for the Uists at the HM Coastguard Benbecula Station on Saturday 19th October – also from 10am to 4pm.

Contractors EPC are due to arrive in the Western Isles later in the month to destroy the items, held in safe storage at the Coastguard station after being handed in.

A Coastguard spokesman said: “Please ensure you dispose of these items correctly. They can be highly dangerous when not handled correctly.

“If you find any of these items discarded on the beach, please don’t touch them, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

Do you sing, dance, draw, make things or do something else special that you could share with others? 

Then join our Fun Palace!

For the very first time, Fun Palaces will be taking place at Stornoway from 10am-4pm on Saturday 5th October. 

This is part of Fun Palaces 2019, a free, nationwide campaign for culture at the heart of community and community at the heart of culture happening over the weekend of the 5 & 6 October 2019.

There will be different things happening at each library including; art & craft sessions, textiles, virtual reality experiences & games, origami bookmark-making as well as 3D-design and printing.  But we are still looking for more lovely members of the community who would like to join in and volunteer to share their skills and talents with others on the day. 

Each Fun Palace celebrates the unique skills and passions of local people – run by, for and with the local community. Since 2014 a total of 1367 Fun Palaces have been made across the UK and worldwide by 32,800 local people (‘Makers’) with 450,000 taking part. This year will be the sixth Fun Palaces weekend, and the first for the Outer Hebrides.

Fun Palaces create events that bring together arts, science, craft, tech, digital, heritage and sports activities – but above all people – to work together, create together, have funtogether, and in doing so, connect our own communities, from the grassroots up.

Eilidh Maclean, Library Development Officer at Liniclate Library said: “We are really excited to be holding our very first Fun Palace and hope that it is something that will happen every year.  It is an opportunity for communities to get together to share their interests, skills and talents with others and we would love people to get in touch if they feel they have something to share with others.  We want the library to be buzzing that day!

Follow the Western Isles Libraries Facebook page to find out more about what will be happening.   For further information or to volunteer to take part, please contact:

  • Stornoway Library:   
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.        
  • 01851 822744

Tributes poured in at the end of September 2019 after the news broke of the sad passing of former Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councillor Mairi Bremner.

Born in September 1945, Mrs Bremner was one of the most prominent figures in Uist and Western Isles life over many years and was still active in a number of public roles.  She was a passionate advocate for the Gaelic language and culture. Her funeral took place on Friday September 29th in St Michael’s Church, Ardkenneth, South Uist.

Mairi was formerly a primary school teacher and ran her own business with her husband Robert for many years.

She was a councillor with CnES for 24 years, representing the former Iochdar ward, and chaired the Social Work committee from 1986-2003 when she stood down as a councillor.  She was also Vice-Chair of the Policy & Resources committee as well as holding many other prominent positions including Chair of Human Resources and being a Comhairle representative on COSLA.

Mairi also served as a non-Executive Director of the Western Isles Health Board and on Comunn na Gàidhlig’s board.

She was the longest serving Board Member of the Hebridean Housing Partnership, as well as being involved in smaller community organisations.  For instance, she acted as Gaelic adjudicator at Mòd Ionadail Uibhist 2019.

In the past she was a director of Tagsa Uibhist, Pròiseact nan Ealan and of the UK Committee for European Bureau of Lesser used Languages.

Earlier this year she was involved in a public campaign to get women more involved in local politics – as there are no longer any female councillors on CnES.  At the time she said she was saddened by the absence of women on the Comhairle, the only local authority in the UK with no female representatives.  "It grieves me because I think women have a better understanding of people's needs and wishes," she said.  “I also think women are more approachable.  I felt that I was approached more, and by people from outwith my own area for a lot of things because they felt like they could talk to a woman."

Convener of the Comhairle Norman A Macdonald, said: “Mairi was a tremendous voice for her community, serving in distinguished roles on the Comhairle, most notably as Chair of Social Work.

"Mairi was a robust campaigner for her community and for the islands and she was full of compassion and concern for the most vulnerable in our community.  She was also a leading figure locally and nationally in Health and Care issues. 

"Our thoughts at this sad time are with Mairi’s husband of over 50 years, Robert, her family and her many friends.”

In comments on Monday September 23rd, the Hebridean Housing Partnership said: “Today marks a very sad occasion for us as a Partnership as we learned of the sudden passing of one of our longest serving Board members, Mairi Bremner.

Chairman Mr.  Norman Macleod said: “It was indeed with much sadness that we heard our dear friend and Board member Mairi Bremner passed away following an unfortunate incident some days ago in Glasgow.

"Mairi was appointed at our AGM in September 2009 and was a hard working volunteer member.  A passionate and diligent contributor, HHP and the wider community were very well served by Mairi during her ten years on the Board.

"She will be sorely missed by us, but more so by her family especially by her husband Robert and her two sons of whom she spoke often.”

Chief Executive Dena Macleod said: “It is hard to take in that Mairi is no longer with us.  She was a vibrant character who brought so much more to us than her board skills; she brought humour, a huge heart for the people in our community, wisdom and compassion.

"Mairi appeared to have an enviable, unbounded level of enthusiasm and was always eager to encourage whoever came across her path.  I will miss that voice of encouragement and the endless stories of her beloved dog, Bingo.”

Mairi served as a Board Member for 10 years and was only recently re-elected to serve another term.  Mairi's commitment, knowledge and experience was truly valued by the HHP board.  Such was her varied experience that she excelled in her role as Chair of Audit & Risk Committee.

“We join many across the community in sending our sincere condolences to Mairi’s husband, Robert, and their sons, Aeneas and Steven, along with Mairi’s wider family, and many friends and colleagues who remain in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

The Lord-Lieutenant of the Western Isles, Donald Martin was a close colleague of Mairi Bremner during her time at the Comhairle and during her Chairmanship of Comunn na Gaidhlig. 

Paying tribute to her enormous contribution to the Gaelic language and culture he described her as being “instrumental in promoting the Comhairle’s Bilingual Policy in the early days of the Council.  As Chair of the Social Work Committee she pioneered the use of Gaelic at Council meetings by encouraging anyone with a knowledge of the language to use it.  

“Very often she would reprimand a Councillor or officer with the words “Cuin a chaill thu do chuid Gàidhlig” (“When did you lose your Gaelic”).  

Having had an early career as a teacher, she was a passionate supporter of bilingual education and promoted the language at international level through her work on the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages.  As Chairman of CnaG, Mairi championed many community and youth initiatives such as the Sradagan youth groups and the gaelic schools’ debates.

Mairi dedicated her life to the service of others and was always ready to provide encouragement and advice.  Her legacy through the numerous bodies which she so dutifully served will have been to have made a significant difference to the lives of many. 

She was a popular and regular participant on Gaelic radio and television programmes where she displayed her considerable qualities as an engaging, informative, and entertaining contributor.  Sàr Ghàidheal dha-rìreabh air am bidh ionndrainn mhòr. 

Nominations are being sought for the vacancies on the Community Councils as listed below.

 

 

Community Council

Number of Vacancies

North Lochs

4

Pairc

9

Kinloch

7

North Harris

5

Scalpay

9

South Harris

4

Berneray

7

North Uist

5

Benbecula

12

Iochdar

3

Bornish

7

Lochboisdale

9

Eriskay

9

Northbay

7

Castlebay

5

 

Ness

9

 

Airidhantuim

7

 

Barvas and Brue

12

 

Shawbost

2

 

Carloway

9

 

Breasclete

6

 

Bernera

8

 

Uig

7

 

Back

8

 

Tong

8

 

North Tolsta

12

 

Laxdale

10

 

Stornoway

7

 

Sandwick

9

 

Point

6

To be eligible for election to a Community Council a person must be 16 or over and resident in and registered as a local government elector in the Community Council area to which election is being sought.

Each nominee for election must be supported by a proposer who must be resident within and registered as a local government elector in the Community Council area to which election is being sought.

Nomination papers may be obtained from the following addresses and should be delivered to the Returning Officer at one of the following addresses or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. not later than 4pm on Wednesday 9 October 2019.

  •                 Council Offices, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2BW
  •                 Council Offices, Tarbert, Isle of Harris, HS3 3DF
  •                 Council Offices, Balivanich, Isle of Benbecula, HS7 5LA
  •                 Council Offices, Castlebay, Isle of Barra, HS9 5XD

Nomination papers are also available on the Comhairle’s website: https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/your-council/elections-and-voting/community-council-elections/

Should more nominations than the remaining vacancies be received for any Community Council an election will be held. Those nominated in the first round of nominations will not be subject to election as they are deemed to be appointed as Members of the Community Council.

A spokesperson said: “Community Councils enable activities which promote the well-being of their communities. Community Councils are the most local level of elected representation and can empower Communities in realising their aims and aspirations”

Poppyscotland recently launched an exciting free new mobile resource for schools and events and they are coming to visit schools on Lewis.

The times and places are:

  • Monday 7th October – Sgoil an Rubha
  • Tuesday 8th October – Laxdale Primary
  • Wednesday 9th October – The Nicolson Institute

Poppyscotland provides life-changing support to the Armed Forces community.

Bud is a truck that transforms into a mobile community space, comprising a mini poppy factory, micro-museum and with interactive learning opportunities. It is an interactive experience that encourages visitors to create their personal remembrance journey through exploring the exhibits.  It is helping us keep remembrance relevant all year round.

Bud is travelling Scotland sharing Poppyscotland’s archive, veterans’ stories and the poppy’s history as a catalyst for challenging assumptions and creating conversations.

The 18-tonne interactive learning space dedicated to the poppy, began touring schools and events in May this year.  Bud will be on the road for more than 220 days and will visit all 32 local authority areas in Scotland over the course of the next three years as well as attend varied events across Scotland.

Visitors can make their own poppies using the same techniques that have been used by the veterans who work at Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory.  

Poppyscotland Chief Executive, Mark Bibbey said: “At the heart of every poppy is a story and that’s why we created Bud - to make sure those stories are told, and to help people explore and understand the importance of the poppy.

“After months of planning, it’s fantastic to see Bud take to the roads of Scotland, visiting communities across the length and breadth of the country. The team work very hard and have early starts, long days travelling as well as the physical set-up of our mobile micro-museum in different places every day.  

“Over the next four years, Bud will play an important role in exploring the history of remembrance and we are looking forward to welcoming more people on board.”

Bud will continue to tour the country throughout the year. More than 50,000 Scots are expected to engage with Bud over the course of the campaign.

To book Bud or to access the supporting learning resources, please visit www.poppybud.org.uk.

To donate and to learn more about forthcoming fundraising events, visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk/

Fast-growing Tarbert-based company Essence of Harris – which includes outlets in Inverness and Aberdeen – has come home with another major business award. 

The company won the won the ‘Outstanding Performing Small Business’ award at the 2019 Highland Business Awards, part of the seventh Highland Business Week

The awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of businesses and individuals throughout the region. 

Inverness Chamber of Commerce is the largest and most ambitious independent business organisation based in the Highlands & Islands. It actively campaigns for investment in digital and transport infrastructure, to ensure that the specific needs of our region’s business community are met.

The Chamber actively collaborates with key partners across the Highlands & Islands including a wide range of public sector partners and other Chambers of Commerce. 

Highland Business Awards took place at the Drumossie Hotel, Old Perth Road, Inverness, yesterday (Friday 27th September)

Beth Shannon, the Marketing and Communications Manager for Essence of Harris, said last night: “We are absolutely delighted to be bringing the award for ‘Outstanding Performing Small Business’ back to Harris today – we are over the moon!

“I felt very proud to accept it on behalf of the team in Harris, Inverness and Aberdeen. A lovely surprise for all of us.

“A big thank you to Inverness Chamber of Commerce for a lovely event - we are heading home with smiles on our faces. #HighlandBizWeek 

Business founder Jamie McGowan is in China at present on a business marketing trip to the city of Shenzhen and other areas of the country.  Jamie had earlier been in New Delhi in Inida.  He told welovestornoway.com: "I am in China at moment but this just happened in Inverness, I am so proud of the team."

Another winner at the ceremony was multi-award-winner Gaelforce Group – founded in the 1980s in Stornoway by Stuart Graham and now a worldwide company based in Inverness.  They took the prize as Best Newcomer to Exporting.

Car seized from no-licence driver

A car has been seized from a man who continued to drive after his driving licence was revoked.

The 53-year-old man lost his car after police stopped him in Balallan and found him to be driving without insurance.

After his arrest it was found that he had previously had his driving licence revoked and he is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal for a decision on how he should now be dealt with.

 

Drink-driver for court

A woman stopped for drink-driving was found to have broken a number of road traffic regulations and will go to court in October.

The 26-year-old woman was stopped in Upper Bayble at 5.20pm on Wednesday (September 25th) and found to have an excessive amount of alcohol in her system.

Due to the level of alcohol and other offences to be taken into consideration, she’s been released on an undertaking to appear in court on October 15th charged with a variety of road traffic offences.

A group of Danish students making a film triggered a major emergency response while they were filming off North Uist on Thursday (September 26th).

The students were spotted in the water and a person in trouble was reported to Stornoway Coastguard, who put a response plan into action at 2.56pm.

Rescue helicopter R948, Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat and two Coastguard Rescue Teams were scrambled and were en-route when the students contacted Coastguards to explain the situation.

All the teams were stood down at 3.23pm. The film crew has today (Friday) advised Stornoway Coastguard that they will be filming once again, avoiding a possible repetition of the false alarm.

Coastguard Rescue Teams from Ness and Bragar were called to Port of Ness on Wednesday afternoon (September 25th) after a woman broke her ankle on the coastal path.

The teams and area commander Murdo Macaulay were asked for support at 4.40pm as the woman was on rough ground and Scottish Ambulance was unable to get to her.

The all-terrain vehicle, with two trained operators from Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team, was taken to Port and teams carried the woman by stretcher out to the road, from where she was taken onwards by ambulance to Western Isles Hospital.

All teams were stood down after the incident closed at 6.46pm.

Picture of the Coastguard and ambulance teams awaiting the return of the ATV and crews is from HM Coastguard Western Isles Skye and Lochaber.

Stornoway drivers are still failing to heed warnings about parking and driving restrictions on Point Street in the town centre, according to Stornoway Police.

The road is closed to drivers without specific permits between 10.30am and 6pm Monday to Saturday and parking between those times is not permitted.

Between 10th and 26th September nine drivers have been issued with fixed penalties after being caught driving illegally on the pedestrianised street.

Western Isles police now have the mobile technology to issue penalty notices on the spot and will soon be able to print out the tickets too. The penalty for the offence is £50.

A new climate change group has been established in the Outer Hebrides as climate-change protests by young people again took place across the Isles from Castlebay to Stornoway.

The Climate Change Group had its first meeting yesterday (Thursday September 26th), starting the process of developing actions and targets around climate issues for subsequent inclusion in the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership (OHCPP) Local Outcome Improvement Plan.

The new group has broad representation from public bodies throughout the Outer Hebrides.

Members of the group include: Scottish Natural Heritage, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, NHS Western Isles, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, University of Highlands and Islands, Members of Scottish Youth Parliament, Tighean Innse Gall, Hebridean Housing Partnership, Community Land Sector, Third Sector Interface, and Western Isles Emergency Planning Group.

David Maclennan, Climate Change Group Chair, said: ”Whilst climate change is a global issue, impacts in Scotland, and in the Outer Hebrides, are already apparent.

"We can expect to see more extreme weather events in the future – so we need to take steps to reduce our own carbon emissions and get ready to respond to a changing climate and environment.

“The new Climate Change Group will work towards improving our understanding of climate change in the Outer Hebrides, and developing actions and plans which will help us to adapt to the changing climate for the benefit of the community, the economy and our natural environment.

"As part of this process, we will seek opportunities for local engagement so we can hear directly from people throughout the islands.”

A new climate change group has been established in the Outer Hebrides.

The Climate Change Group had its first meeting yesterday (Thursday September 26th), starting the process of developing actions and targets around climate issues for subsequent inclusion in the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership (OHCPP) Local Outcome Improvement Plan.

The new group has broad representation from public bodies throughout the Outer Hebrides.

Members of the group include: Scottish Natural Heritage, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, NHS Western Isles, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, University of Highlands and Islands, Members of Scottish Youth Parliament, Tighean Innse Gall, Hebridean Housing Partnership, Community Land Sector, Third Sector Interface, and Western Isles Emergency Planning Group.

David Maclennan, Climate Change Group Chair, said: ”Whilst climate change is a global issue, impacts in Scotland, and in the Outer Hebrides, are already apparent.

"We can expect to see more extreme weather events in the future – so we need to take steps to reduce our own carbon emissions and get ready to respond to a changing climate and environment.

“The new Climate Change Group will work towards improving our understanding of climate change in the Outer Hebrides, and developing actions and plans which will help us to adapt to the changing climate for the benefit of the community, the economy and our natural environment.

"As part of this process, we will seek opportunities for local engagement so we can hear directly from people throughout the islands.”

Young musicians from Lewis and Harris played to a storm of applause and appreciation last night (Thursday September 26th) when they joined a top-class military band to perform.

The band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland have been in Stornoway since Tuesday and, alongside performances at a street parade on Tuesday evening and a ceilidh on Wednesday, they have been working with school pupils to prepare a full-scale performance for the public.

Last night a near-full Lewis Sports Centre enjoyed a feast of music ranging from Highland tunes and Scottish anthems to military marches from the regimental  band, but it was the contribution of Lewis and Harris youngsters, local singers and music tutors which earned the highest praise of the night.

Lewis and Harris youth pipe band and the Nicolson Institute pipe band first took the floor under the direction of pipers Ashleigh Macdonald, Anna Murray and David Maclennan, with the Nicolson institute band then joining the Regimental band for the whole of the second half of the performance.

Also seated amongst the professional musicians for the second half of the concert were the Lewis and Harris Youth Band, under the direction of Gavin Wood, who had brought the whole project together alongside the military band’s musical director Major James Marshall.

Their offerings included a roof-raising rendition of the Emerson Lake and Palmer classic ‘Fanfare for the common man’ and a new piece, premiered in Stornoway and written by cellist and composer Neil Johnstone of Balallan.

His rousing new march ‘Colin Scott Mackenzie of Stornoway’ was arranged by Evatt Gibson of the Royal Regiment of Scotland band for this performance and celebrates the contribution of Colin Scott Mackenzie senior to military band music.

Former sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie junior, who was in the audience, told welovestornoway.com: “My father was a trumpeter in the army and the band he belonged to – the Stornoway-based band of the Ross and Cromarty Mountain Battery – was the first military brass band in the UK. I didn’t know that, Gavin found it out.”

The piece was played with vigour by the united forces of youth and military musicians, to be followed by a Gaelic song sung by the Nicolson Institute choir (conductor Avril Allen) and the emotional ‘hymn to the fallen’ with vocals by the Stornoway singers.

Major Marshall described the singing as ‘sublime’ and director of education Bernard Chisholm spoke of his intense pride in the island’s young musicians when he offered the vote of thanks. He paid tribute to music teachers and tutors working far beyond their contracted hours to support and encourage young talent, and said the islands’ young musicians had ‘beaten the band’ with the night’s performance.

Pictures show the Royal Regimental Band with young people from Lewis and Harris during the night’s performance (Annie Delin).

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, Bedersaig

Steve Brough of 1 Bells Road has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 3 Bedersaig. The house is to consist of one bedroom, one bathroom and an open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area. Work is to include creating parking suitable for two cars. 

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, Uig

Tina and Ian Burgess have applied for planning permission to build a new house at 17 Crowlista.  Work is to include creating a new access and installing an air source heat pump. The house is to consist of one bedroom, one bathroom, an open plan kitchen/living/dining area, and a utility room. The external walls are to be clad in larch and the roof is to be made of corrugated metal. 

New machinery store

Robert Maclennan of 15c Coll has applied for planning permission to build a machinery store at 15 Coll. The store is to be an agricultural building 18.25 metres long, 10 metres wide and 4.97 metres high. It is to be made of dark grey box profile. 

New sign, Ness

Airidhantuim Community Council has applied for planning permission to erect a sign at the museum facility at Cross, Ness. The sign is to be an aluminium-backed, double-sided fixed sign board. It is to be 750mm by 1500mm. 

 

Scotland will now have the most ambitious statutory targets in the world and its contribution to climate change is planned to end within a generation.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said this was the outcome of the Climate Change Bill, which he had supported.

The landmark legislation commits Scotland to becoming a net-zero society by 2045 – five years before the rest of the UK and in line with the advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change.

The Scottish Government also adopted an ambitious new target to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 – the toughest statutory target of any country in the world.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“Scotland is rightly recognised as a world-leader in tackling climate change – we were one of the first countries to declare a climate emergency, and the SNP is now leading by example by committing to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

“Ending our contribution to climate change will enable us to grow our economy and productivity, and improve the wellbeing of everyone who lives here. We only have to look at the very real threat presented by rising sea levels to communities in Uist to see just how important this issue is.

“While Westminster is consumed by chaos and the Tories have abandoned any pretence of a domestic agenda, the SNP government is ready and willing to take necessary steps to improve people’s lives and take the action scientists tell us is necessary.

“Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity, and the defining political issue for all of us. We have a moral duty to future generations to tackle climate change now and the forthcoming Climate Change Bill delivers on that commitment.” 

Trustees of Bethesda Care Home and Hospice have expressed disappointment after discovering that the Integration Joint Board (IJB) is not discussing their funding arrangements at their board meeting today (Thursday September 26th).

But IJB chief officer Ron Culley says that a process is underway, and there is no decision that can be made at this stage.

Today’s meeting is the first full meeting of the IJB since Bethesda rejected an improved offer of funding alongside a service-level agreement (SLA) on the delivery of their hospice and end-of-life care.

Bethesda has four hospice beds and has been actively campaigning for an improved funding arrangement, stating that a minimum additional £100,000 per year is needed.

Instead, Bethesda received and rejected an offer from the IJB in August, offering an SLA with a funding uplift of £10,000, or 5.35%, backdated to April 1st 2019, and a further annual increase for two years, in line with increases awarded to NHS Western Isles by Scottish Government, currently predicted to be 2.5%.

The IJB added the flexibility that they would reopen negotiations about the funding provided to Bethesda if there were two successive years of deficit, but the new funding arrangement would be contingent on agreeing the new SLA for hospice care.

Despite the controversy surrounding the funding agreement, Bethesda trustees noted that today’s IJB board meeting contains no agenda item covering the issue, and that only the Chief Officer’s report made mention of the current situation.

On Monday Bethesda circulated a detailed summary to all board members and councillors, in which they described the £10,000 offer as ‘totally unacceptable’ and asked why the issue was not to be discussed today.

They said: “Having been assured that the funding proposal would be submitted to the March 2019 IJB meeting, then the June 2019 meeting and then the September 2019 meeting, we now find that there is no proposal or discussion permitted at this forthcoming meeting….

“As predicted and notified to the IJB a number of months ago, Bethesda accounts for the year to March 2019 show a deficit in the running costs….We note from the email circulated by Ian Burgess and Gordon Jamieson to all NHS staff that it states that the NHS have paid 50% of the running costs of the Hospice over the years. Our records and our annual audited accounts very clearly state that this is not the case. This is the reason the Bethesda Trustees and Management continue this dispute.”

Accounts filed by Bethesda with the Scottish charity regulator OSCR show four years in which income has exceeded expenditure, the trend continuing despite income dropping and costs increasing in the year to 2018. Trustees report that in the year to March 2019 accounts show a deficit in running costs – these have not yet been published by OSCR.

Bethesda trustees state: “Bethesda Care Home and Hospice Accounts on the OSCR website simply confirm that at present we are a financially viable organisation.”

The high-temperature debate between Bethesda and the local funding partners has drawn attention from Scottish Government ministers, after Bethesda asked their supporters to lobby local MSP Alasdair Allan and Cabinet Minister for Health Jeane Freeman MSP on their behalf.

A meeting was held in Stornoway on August 29th, when Minister for Public Health Joe Fitzpatrick was visiting the islands on other business. He and other government officials then met the IJB chief officer, Alasdair Allan MSP and health board chief executive Gordon Jamieson.

IJB chief officer Ron Culley reports: “It was a positive meeting which allowed for a helpful exchange of information and a discussion about how best we move forward. All parties were agreed that we get back to a position of dialogue, engaging with our strategic agenda on palliative care.

“We have always been committed to further dialogue and it was agreed that we'd meet again with the Bethesda leadership as a matter of priority, and that Scottish Government officials would join that conversation to support a process of resolution. It was agreed that the focus will be about delivering sustainability moving forward rather than a debate about the past.”

But no date has yet been proposed for the follow-up meeting, and Bethesda trustees believe they are being excluded from the process.

In Monday’s email they state: “The meeting …was not attended by any representatives from Bethesda, no-one from Bethesda was invited to this meeting, so the views presented to the Scottish Government would have been those of the IJB/NHS Western Isles, very one-sided.

“….The Chief Officer’s report makes no reference to ongoing talks or reopening negotiations with Bethesda.  Since the rejection of the offer from the IJB there has been no contact with Bethesda to explore ways forward."

In a statement to welovestornoway.com, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Independent hospices provide essential palliative and end-of-life care to people across Scotland, and integration authorities invest millions of pounds annually in supporting this vital work.

“Scottish Government officials recently visited Stornoway to hear from the parties involved and have offered support to facilitate discussions around how best to plan and deliver palliative care services that meets the needs of people in the Western Isles.”

Under discussion at the IJB meeting today are issues including the Western Isles carers’ strategy, mental health services, dementia support, flu vaccination, primary care services and the new residential care development at Goathill.

• Graphic shows income and expenditure figures reported by Bethesda Care Home and Hospice SCIO (source, OSCR Scottish Charity Regulator).

The Scottish Salmon Company, one of the Outer Hebrides biggest employers, has been acquired by a firm in the Faroe Islands in a £516m deal.

Bakkafrost will take a 69% shareholding in the Edinburgh-based company from the current majority owner, the private equity firm Northern Link. The stake is valued at £356m and the offer will trigger a mandatory offer for the remaining equity.

Bakkafrost is a salmon farming company based in Glyvrar on the island of Eysturoy. It is the largest fish farming company in the Faroe Islands, and one of the biggest private employer in the islands. 

Bakkafrost is one of the world's most vertically integrated salmon farming companies. Bakkafrost controls all aspects of production - from feed to finished value added products. This ensures unrivalled traceability and consistent high quality.

The Scottish Salmon Company, which has been quoted up to now on the Oslo stock exchange, operates from 60 sites and has more than 600 employees in total, including at a variety of sites on the Western Isles. It owns exclusive genetic rights to grow Native Hebridean Salmon, which it claims is “stronger, leaner, and noticeably firmer” than Atlantic salmon. It has an extensive social marketing programme, including support for the Western Isles teams attending the International Islands Games.

The company is the second-largest salmon farming firm by harvest volume in Scotland, producing 29,913 metric tons  of salmon in 2018 and 18,463 metric tonnes of salmon in the first half of 2019. It reported net operating revenues of £111.8 million for the first half of this year.

SSC CEO Craig Anderson said: “The board of SSC considers this offer to be in the best interest of all shareholders as it realises the material value that has been created after nine successive quarters of growth."

The new owner expects significant savings from supplying its own fish food to SSC farms.

Bakkafrost CEO Regin Jacobsen said: “The Scottish Salmon Company represents an attractive acquisition at this juncture providing exposure to the attractive and premium Scottish salmon farming region with potential for synergies and transfer of best practices.”

In a statement, the company said it is committed to a positive partnership with local Scottish communities and to working within Scotland’s existing regulations for salmon farming – with the caveat that it will seek to “strengthen” those regulations.

“Bakkafrost is committed to strong cooperation with local communities and authorities and hopes to stimulate employment through significant investment in the business. Additionally, Bakkafrost is committed to ongoing work to strengthen the Scottish regulatory framework,” it said.

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has awarded a £14.3 million contract to civil engineering and building contractor, RJ McLeod Limited, to carry out upgrade works at Tarbert Ferry Terminal in Harris.

The infrastructure upgrade work at Tarbert is part of the Skye Triangle Infrastructure Project, which involves significant harbour upgrades at the three ports at Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig.  The work is designed to improve and modernise harbour facilities and prepare the way for new vessels.

 Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the announcement.  Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said: “We warmly welcome the announcement of this significant upgrade to the Ferry Terminal in Harris. This will complement the construction works at Lochmaddy, scheduled for January 2020.

“Whilst ferry services in the islands face many challenges, it is good to see that, as well as improving facilities and infrastructure which will benefit the travelling public, this development should also provide much needed local employment directly and indirectly through engagement with the local supply chain.”

RJ McLeod will be responsible for completing all civil engineering works for the initial phase of the harbour upgrade project, including pier reconstruction and extension, land reclamation and seabed dredging.  The work will commence in October 2019 and is expected to be completed in spring 2021.  CalMac will continue to operate ferry services during the works.

A new terminal building will be constructed after the completion of the civil engineering works.  This will be procured separately, at a later date.

Tenders for the construction works at Lochmaddy terminal - which is controlled by CnES -  are due by Tuesday 1 October 2019 and it is hoped that the Comhairle will be in a position to award the contract by the beginning of November 2019 with a start on site currently scheduled for January 2020. 

Completion is expected in January 2021.

The best of produce from near and far 27/09/2019

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

 

£1.65

 

Butternut Squash   

 

£2.40

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£2.80

 

Cauliflower

 

£1.95

 

Romanesco

 

£1.95

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.35

 

Fennel

 

£1.35

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Organic Chard

 

£2.50

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.95

 

New Season Dirty Carrots

 

£2.40

 

Ginger

 

£5.00

 

Horseradish

 

£15.00

 

Jerusalem Artichokes

 

£4.50

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mixed Squash

 

£2.50

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£2.95

 

Duke of York

 

£1.55

 

Kerr’s Pink

 

£1.95

 

Roosters

 

£1.85

 

Runner Beans

 

£4.50

 

Shallots

 

£4.95

 

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

 

Organic Lettuce Leaves

 

£2.25

 

Cucumber

 

£1.00

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£3.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.50

 

Scottish Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Tomatoes (Plum Vine)

 

£3.95

 

Mixed Cherry Tomatoes

 

£6.50

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Cox Apples (UK)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Royal Winsor

 

4 for £1.50

 

Russets

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Clementine’s

 

3 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.90

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Raspberries (west Hardmuir)

 

£3.50

 

Satsumas

 

5 for £1.50

 

Marjory Plums

 

6 for £1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Blueberries (West Hardmuir Fruit Farm)

 

£15.00

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Scotch Bonnet Chillies

 

£19.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

Artizan in Church Street, Stornoway, is only one of many venues in the Islands for the world's greatest coffee morning, tomorrow (Friday September 29th) and Saturday.

The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is Macmillan’s biggest fundraising event for people facing cancer.

They ask people all over the UK to host their own Coffee Mornings and donations on the day are made to Macmillan.

Last year alone they raised more than £27 million and say that together we can make this another successful year.

The first ever Coffee Morning happened way back in 1990. It was a rather small affair with a simple idea: guests would gather over coffee and donate the cost of their cuppa to Macmillan in the process. It was so effective, they did it again the next year – only this time nationally. Since then, Coffee Morning has raised over £200 million for Macmillan.

Badminton is returning competitively to Lewis with a new start tomorrow (Friday September 27th) in Ionad Spòrs Lèodhas.
Organisers believe this is the first league set-up to be organised for a long time and say they are "just trying to get badminton back on the scene!"
The league will run every fortnight for six nights.
So far, it has been a success in getting a response and managed to fill all 24 spaces that are available, 
Organisers say that: "Format is a fair for all, no partner required to enter, rotation of doubles partners every night, bottom of league get relegated and top of league get promotion.
"Person with most points at the end of the league is crowned champion!"
The first night of badminton will be on Friday 27th September, 7pm-9pm at the Lewis Sports Centre in Stornoway.

To mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan attended a reception in Holyrood, to celebrate the number of potential stem cell donors in the Western Isles on the Anthony Nolan register.

This achievement was marked by Anthony Nolan on Thursday 19 September, as part of its Communities vs Blood Cancer campaign, which shines a spotlight on vital work being done locally to ensure that every patient in need of a stem cell transplant can find a lifesaving donor.

In the Western Isles, 217 potential stem cell donors are registered with Anthony Nolan. 14% of these donors are men aged 16-30, and the average age is 36.

In total, more than 760,000 people in the UK are on the Anthony Nolan register, any of whom could be a match for someone with blood cancer and asked to donate their stem cells to give a patient a second chance of life.

Now, Alasdair is encouraging more people from the islands, particularly men aged 16-30 and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, to register as stem cell donors and make sure that a match is available for everyone in need of a transplant. While anyone on the register could be a match for someone with blood cancer, men aged 16-30 are most likely to be asked to donate. They provide more than 50% of donations yet make up just 18% of the register. There is also a shortage of donors from non-white and mixed-race backgrounds.

Alasdair also had the chance to meet with representatives of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) including Ally Boyle. Ally initiated a groundbreaking partnership with Anthony Nolan in 2009, while he was Area Commander of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, after being diagnosed with myelodysplasia (a type of blood cancer). They have recruited thousands of lifesavers to the register, predominantly through their innovative SFRS Education Programme, which sees SFRS volunteers deliver inspiring educational presentations about stem cell, blood and organ donation to 16- to 18-year-olds across Scotland, including The Nicolson Institute and Sir E. Scott School.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“I am very proud that the Western Isles has 217 donors on the register, any one of whom could offer the only chance of giving someone with blood cancer a second chance at life. Donating stem cells is straightforward but it could make an enormous difference to someone with no other chance of a cure.

“I would especially like to commend the great work of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in engaging local communities, particularly secondary schools across Scotland. They’ve recruited more than fifty people who have gone on to donate. Their steadfast commitment over the past ten years has had a truly lifesaving impact.”

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said:“In the last year 12 selfless people from the Western Isles joined the Anthony Nolan register, each one representing hope for patients with blood cancer, and blood disorders, in need of matching stem cell donors.

“This Blood Cancer Awareness Month residents can be proud of all the lifesavers in your community. To everyone from the islands who has taken the decision to join the register, thank you. We rely on young people aged 16-30 joining the register now to save lives in the future. Without you, there is no cure.”

For more information on Anthony Nolan visit anthonynolan.org/join.

Anthony Nolan uses its register to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer patients in desperate need of a stem cell transplant. It also carries out vital research to make stem cell transplants more successful, and supports patients through their transplant journeys. (Anthony Nolan changed its name in 2001 and is no longer known as Anthony Nolan Trust.)

  • About 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant from a donor every year
  • 90% of donors donate through PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection). This is a simple, outpatient procedure similar to giving blood
  • We need more young men to sign up, as they are most likely to be chosen to donate but make up just 18% of the register
  • We need more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to sign up. Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match. This drops dramatically to around 20% (one in five of transplant recipients) if you're from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background.
  • Blood cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK and the third biggest cancer killer. It accounts for 9% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in the UK.
  • It costs £40 to add each new donor to the register so we always need financial support
  • To join the Anthony Nolan register, you must be 16-30 and healthy.  Anthony Nolan’s world-leading Research Institute has shown younger donors offer better survival rates for patients.

NHS Western Isles has welcomed the recent report by Healthcare Improvement Scotland, following an unannounced safe and clean inspection visit to Western Isles Hospital.

The inspection of Western Isles Hospital took place on July 15 and 16, and the report was published on Tuesday September 24th.

The inspection team visited the hospital to meet patients and staff, inspect wards, assess cleanliness and to check that the hospital meets national standards.

Feedback from patients was particularly encouraging, with all patients interviewed during the visit stating that the ‘standard of cleanliness on the ward is always good’ and ‘the equipment used by staff is always clean’.

All patients thought that toilets, showers and bedroom areas were kept very clean, and regarded the cleaning routine as very thorough.

What NHS Western Isles did particularly well

  • There was good staff compliance and knowledge of standard infection control precautions.
  • The standard of domestic cleaning was good.
  • Feedback from patients was positive.

What they could do better:

  • The recording of staff training.
  • Cleanliness and maintenance of patient equipment.

Inspectors found that ward staff had a good level of knowledge and understanding of the various standard infection control precautions. The management of patients who were in isolation for infection prevention and control reasons was also reported as ‘good’, and inspectors noted that each area carried out monthly standard infection