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).

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.

 

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.

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. 

 

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)

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.”.

 

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.”

 

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.

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.

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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

 

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.

.

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.

 

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

 

 

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.

 

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."

 

 

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.

 

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

 

 

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.

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.”

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.

 

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).

 

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.”

 

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.

 

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/

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 control precaution audits, which includes hand hygiene and ward cleanliness.

In all wards inspected, all patients spoken to said that nursing staff always cleaned their hands before attending to them and wore disposable gloves and aprons as appropriate. Patients meanwhile reported that assistance for cleaning their hands was readily available when requested.

he standard of environmental cleanliness was also found to be good and the storage areas were generally clean and tidy with items stored off the floor.

Inspectors noted that each patient bed space had a cleaning schedule in place which included cleaning and checking of mattresses. These were seen to be completed, however, inspectors noted that some of the mattresses needed replaced.

NHS Western Isles can confirm that all mattresses identified as requiring replacement during the visit have since been replaced and there is an ongoing rolling programme in place to replace mattresses.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, said: “NHS Western Isles welcomes this report, which highlights positive feedback from patients, a good standard of domestic cleaning and good staff compliance and knowledge of infection control precautions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff for their hard work and dedication to ensure standards of safety and cleanliness are continually high.

“We also welcome the opportunities for improvement highlighted, and I’m pleased to report that we have already addressed the vast majority of actions in our action plan.”

Ian Smith, Head of Quality of Care, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said:  “During our inspection we found good staff compliance and knowledge of infection control precautions, and the standard of domestic cleaning was good.

"However, NHS Western Isles must ensure equipment and mattresses are safe and clean, and must improve the recording of staff training.”

The full inspection report is available to view at:

http://www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/our_work/inspecting_and_regulating_care/hei_western_isles_reports/western_isles_sep_19.aspx

Local people and businesses in the wider Newton industrial estate area in Stornoway are today (Wednesday September 25th) getting the chance to see how Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are hoping to work with D. R. Macleod Ltd to create infrastructure that will enable new facilities, buildings and roads.

Plans to show these developments are being hosted at D.R. Macleod’s offices on Island Road, Stornoway today (Wednesday 25th September) from 4pm to 6pm.

Members of the public, businesses and any interested parties are encouraged to come along to see and discuss the plans for a vacant and derelict site within the area.  The Council is looking for feedback on the proposals before any consideration is given to planning applications.  In addition, there is a hope that the derelict land involved will attract Scottish Government support for a scheme that brought it into productive use.

The aim is for this development would bring a disused site into purposeful use, providing new, modern commercial facilities for both new and existing businesses in the Western Isles.

The Comhairle’s Chairman of Sustainable Communities, Donald Crichton said earlier: “We are very encouraged to hear of the new plans for Phase 2 of Stornoway Regeneration. 

"Following on from existing works being carried out at Goat Island and the transformation of former mill buildings in Newton, these targeted interventions will create more jobs, infrastructure and visually improve the area.”

 

A flu immunisation programme is due to start at the beginning of October.

Free influenza vaccinations will be offered to people with health conditions, who are at greater risk from the effects of flu, including those people with conditions such as heart problems, emphysema, diabetes or liver or kidney disease.

The free vaccination is also being offered to children aged two to five years old and primary school pupils, those aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, and health and social care workers.

Letters will shortly be sent out to remind those eligible to make an appointment at their local GP practice.

Letters will be issued by local GP practices and patients should contact their local practice to make a suitable appointment. In line with the new GP contract and primary care reform, vaccinations will now be carried out by community nurses within GP Practices rather than by practice nurses.

Flu is a very infectious disease which can have serious consequences and can be fatal. Those who have chronic conditions should ensure that they are immunised again with this year’s vaccine.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, said: “Flu can cause severe health complications and 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 and even if you were immunised against flu last winter it is important to receive the vaccine again, as the viruses change each season.”

Primary pupils throughout the islands will be offered the flu vaccination administered by the local school nursing team during October and November.

Pupils take the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray, avoiding the need for an injection, and consent forms will be sent to all primary pupils, with parents and carers urged to return consent and ensure their child is protected against flu this winter.

Children aged two (on September 1 2019) to five years old are also offered a free flu immunisation – again taken as a pain-free nasal spray – and will be invited to their local GP practice for vaccination.

Pregnant women are more at risk of flu-related complications and need extra protection as flu infection during pregnancy can be very harmful both to mother and baby.

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.

Another day, another mission for the Scottish Emergency Rescue Association and their Stornoway group in particular.

At the weekend, they begin another 2,200-mile journey from Stornoway to Nisporeni in Moldova with another reconditioned and re-equipped fire engine, and also an ambulance.

The group say: “The amount of support we have had over the past months have been amazing.”

Many representatives of those supporters were present yesterday when the latest fire engine and its equipment was unveiled. (The ambulance in the photograph is not the one actually going to Moldova.)

The group say on Facebook: “A massive thanks to Norrie and his team [at Norrie’s Garage] for servicing the appliance by fitting new fan belts, oil change etc. 

"Thanks to Nomie’s Garage for welding the windscreen of our appliance, saves us hundreds of £s. 

“Thanks to Highland Fuels who donated their day’s takings at the Lochs Show as well as stress tractors, pens and coffee mugs.

“And thanks to the Lochs Show for allowing SERA to be part of the car raffle and to Jon Hearach Memorial Ltd for a cheque of £150 to help us get some much-needed equipment for our trip.  And also to Macaulay Askernish Ltd.

“Massive thanks the Home Improvement Centre, Bells Road, Stornoway.  This is the second year they have supplied us with portable lighting, tools, toolboxes etc.  SERA would also like to thank HIC’s suppliers, Davie Crawford and John Craig of Toolbank for this much appreciated donation. These tools will play a major part in RTCs, saving lives for years to come

“Many thanks to Stornoway Free Church, Kenneth Street for raising funds for Blythswood and SERA at their soup and pudding lunch.”

And there have been many more supporters, great and small.

Ian Murray explained that it was his seventh trip to Moldova and emphasised the level of equipment which had been available to the Moldovan crews was negligible before the missions began.  They accessed burning buildings without breathing apparatus, the only safety precautions being to crawl into the properties with a rope attached, so they could be pulled out if they became unconscious.  Now SERA had a unit in Edinburgh which checked breathing apparatus being withdrawn in Scotland – it gave 20 minutes of activity for the firefighters and was being replaced with units giving 30 minutes.  The older apparatus was then being sent to Moldova.  Other equipment being supplies included tools to make rescuing the victims of car accidents easier – and the ambulance is intended to travel with the firemen to accidents and make it possible for the victims to be rushed to hospital.

Local support had been needed to supply all the equipment on the reconditioned fire appliance – everything from hoses to wooden blocks to enable vehicles wheels to be immobilised.

 

 

Incidents of recorded crime had risen in Western Isles by fifteen times the national average between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron (Conservative) spoke out after official Scottish Government figures were revealed

He said that the SNP Government in Edinburgh must do more to tackle rising crime in the Western Isles.

“In the last recorded twelve months there were 384 crimes across our area which was an increase of 15%, far higher than the rise experienced across the rest of the country.

“We think of the Western Isles as a relatively low-crime area so this is a concerning development, particularly as crimes of dishonesty showed an even greater percentage increase.

“Our police deserve all the help we can give them but, ultimately, it is up to the SNP Government to provide them with the support and resources they need to do their job.

“Judging by these results, it is evident that they need to do far more to help our police tackle this upsurge in criminal activity.”

The crime statistics are available here: : https://www.gov.scot/publications/recorded-crime-scotland-2018-19

The first Western Isles Young Leaders Youth Conference took place today (Tuesday 24th September) at the Cabarfeidh Hotel in Stornoway.

Organised by young volunteers and Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs), the event saw young leaders, volunteers and activists from across Lewis and Harris come together for a morning of presentations and discussion.

The conference opened with an inspirational talk from John Loughton, a global youth leader, social entrepreneur and campaigner. John spoke about his own background, growing up in Edinburgh and some of the experiences which had changed his life for the better.

Next up was an input from Rebecca Hutchison, Trainee Clinical Associate in Applied Psychology with NHS Western Isles. Rebecca is working with Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and led a discussion on the important topic of mental health.

William MacDonald and Donald MacLeod from the Comhairle’s Education department presented a workshop on Guidance in schools, getting input from the young people on which topics were most relevant to them.

The final session of the busy conference was on a pertinent issue – climate change. To introduce this theme from an island perspective, the short film An Dràsta was shown. This film was made over the summer by a group of young islanders, supported by staff from Galson Estate Trust and Carloway Estate Trust and funded through the Climate Challenge Fund and the Scottish Government’s Greener Scotland project. The film looks specifically at the effects of climate change on the Western Isles.

The film was followed by a short presentation on renewable energy from Rod Read, kite turbine inventor of Windswept and Interesting Ltd, then Maria and Sakshi, MSYPs for the Western Isles, introduced the Scottish Youth Parliament’s new national campaign ‘Pack it up, Pack it in’. The campaign centres around reducing pollution levels in Scotland and the MSYPs got valuable feedback on what climate change means to the young people of the islands.

The next steps for MSYPs Sakshi, Maria and volunteer Kelly, who organised the Young Leader’s Conference, is to plan a similar conference with young volunteers and leaders in Uist and Barra.

Through these events, these young leaders will look at how young people across the islands have their voices heard and are able to have input into the decision-making processes which affect their lives.

 

Angus Brendan MacNeil is today (Tuesday September 24th) heading back to London to re-enter the House of Commons after speaker John Bercow called for Parliament to be reconvened.

Tomorrow’s sitting comes after the UK Supreme Court’s ruling that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully when he shut down Parliament last week.

Na-h-Eileanan an Iar MP Mr MacNeil said: “Today’s ruling in the Supreme Court is welcome news. The Government must be held to account over its damaging Brexit plans.”

He told welovestornoway.com: “The goings-on are amazing – only in the worst of banana republics do things happen that then actually don’t happen.

“Parliament wasn’t actually prorogued. The Queen was misled by the Prime Minister and, given the gravity of that, he should resign. The fact that he won’t speaks volumes about the situation to which the UK has sunk.

“The reality is that Brexit is an horrendously bad idea. The mess today is political, the carnage in the coming weeks will be economic from this ill-conceived and extremely badly-planned idea.”

Western Isles Hospital has been making urgent improvements to the cleanliness and maintenance of patient equipment, based on an inspectorate report published today (Tuesday September 24th).

Healthcare Improvement Scotland made an unannounced visit to the hospital in mid-July, the first inspection since September 2015. No warning was given to staff or health board executives about the visit of the team on July 15th and 16th.

Inspectors visited medical wards 1 and 2, surgical ward, maternity, Erisort and the emergency department. Based on previous visits, they paid particular attention to infection control policies and staff education and to standards of decontamination.

They found good staff compliance and knowledge of standard infection control precautions and described the standard of domestic cleaning as good. Feedback from patients on cleanliness was also positive.

But recording protocols and the cleanliness and maintenance of patient equipment fell short of the required standards, leading to five requirements and two recommendations for improvement.

NHS Western Isles board chairman Ian Burgess and chief executive Gordon Jamieson signed off on an approved action plan to address the issues on September 10th. In it, infection control measures such as frequent running of lesser-used water taps and the recording of these precautions are planned.

Decontamination standards and policies over the cleaning of sanitary fittings and mattresses as well as improved recording of cleaning procedures are detailed in the inspection report, which concludes: “We expect NHS Western Isles to carry out the actions described in its improvement action plan to address the issues we raised during this inspection. We would like to thank NHS Western Isles and, in particular, all staff and patients at the Western Isles Hospital for their assistance during the inspection.”

NHS Western Isles had completed most of the actions proposed in the report by the end of August, including removing and replacing contaminated mattresses and changing the cleaning agent used on sanitary fittings.

The full report and action plan are available at http://www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/our_work/inspecting_and_regulating_care/hei_western_isles_reports/western_isles_sep_19.aspx

Lewis and Harris Auction Mart have issued a plea to cattle producers to book early for the October sale of cattle – with no other opportunity to sell cattle locally this year.

The traditional closing show of the season, the Christmas show and sale in November, is not to be held this year, with the last sale of sheep to be held on October 17th before the uncertainty of the Brexit deadline bites.

In a notice published yesterday (Monday September 23rd) the mart directors said: “The only Stornoway cattle sale of 2019 will be held on Tuesday 8th October. The Mart committee would appreciate early booking to allow for haulage and ferries to be organised. Producers planning to sell later in the season should book for this sale.”

The mart at Steinish saw a busy and successful sale of lambs and sheep on Wednesday last week, with a near-capacity 3,988 sheep of all classes passing under the hammer of Dingwall and Highland Marts auctioneers.

A report published by the auctioneers states that all classes exceeded sellers’ expectations, with 2,846 store lambs averaging £37.50 – up £3.65 on the year – and a top price of £78 gross twice for a pen of mules from 5 Shulishader, Point and a pen of cross lambs from 14A West Tarbert, Harris.

Gimmers sold to £100 gross for a pair of mules from 5 Shulishader and 989 ewes and feeding sheep sold to £72 gross for Beltex-cross ewes from 11A New Shawbost.

The next sale is of rams on Monday October 7th, booking closing next Monday, September 30th. All sales can be booked at https://lewisandharrisauctionmart.co.uk/index.html

What’s Ons at the Kinloch Community Hub, Old School, Balallan, for the month of October

Traditional Céilidh

Where:            Old School, Balallan

When:              Friday 4 October

Time:               7pm

Entry:               Adults £5        Concessions £3           Under 5s FREE

An evening of performances with pupils from Sgoil nan Loch, the Lochs Gaelic Choir, Barvas Trad Music Sessions, and other local artists.

*Our building capacity is limited to 100 people, please call orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to express your interest in attending.

Discovery Film Festival

Where:            Old School, Balallan

When:              Monday 7 & 14 October

Time:               2pm  -  4pm

Entry:               FREE

A series of short films for wee ones (3+) and their families, with activities and crafts for after.

Refreshments provided.

Emergency Life Support Training

Where:            Old School, Balallan

When:              Monday 7 October

Time:               6pm  -  8pm

Entry:               FREE

A hands on session with volunteers from Lucky2bhere, where participants will gain the confidence to administer life support and use a defibrillator.

This training is ideal for anyone who is interested in learning how to use a defibrillator, or for those wishing to have a refresher.

Còmhradh anns a’ Chafaidh

Where:            Old School, Balallan

When:              Thursday 17 October

Time:               11am – 1pm

Entry:               £4

Our Chatting in the Café lunches are designed to be social, affordable and informative.

We will have boxes of reminiscence material on the subject of Crofting, provided by Western Isles Libraries.  Catch up with old friends, make new ones, and share your memories of crofting in Kinloch!

Purvai Concert

Where:            Old School, Balallan

When:              Friday 25 October

Time:               7.30pm

Entry:               £15

An evening of Indian Classical music, which includes a welcome drink of Isle of Harris Gin, Indian Buffet, and a Heritage Talk on Colin Mackenzie – the first Surveyor General of India, and the inspiration behind the music of Purvai.  Dinner, drink and a show, all for only £15!!!

Highlands & Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is helping the charity RNIB Scotland mark National Eye Health Week this week by urging people to go for a free eye examination at their local optometrist.

To highlight the message, RNIB Scotland has produced a series of special coasters featuring iconic Scottish landmarks as seen through different sight loss conditions.

Images include Edinburgh Castle (as seen through age-related macular degeneration), the Callanish Stones (as seen through diabetic retinopathy) the Dundee Victoria and Albert Museum (as seen through glaucoma) and Buchanan Street in Glasgow (as seen through cataracts).

Rhoda Grant MSP has agreed to help distribute these images in the Highlands and Islands region. She said “I am pleased to be given the opportunity from RNIB to help raise awareness of these issues.  Many people throughout the Highlands and Islands could well be suffering with some of these conditions without actually realising it.

“One of the images is Callanish Stones in the Western Isles.  Many people visit this iconic site daily and this image shows how people suffering diabetic retinopathy may see the Stones.

Mrs Grant concluded “These images are startling for those of us who are fortunate enough to have retained good eyesight but who knows what lies round the corner.  I hope therefore this will encourage everyone to make that visit to their local optometrist to get a free eye check.

Cate Vallis, policy and campaigns officer for RNIB Scotland, said: "With many sight loss conditions, damage to vision can be arrested or even reversed if the symptoms are detected early enough. Glaucoma, for example, can usually be successfully treated. That's why it's so very important that people do get their eyes examined every two years.

"Our coasters are just one way of getting this message out to more people. The distorted images of the Scottish landmarks will hopefully make them think a little more about what we might miss if we lose our sight."

National Eye Health Week runs from Monday, 23 September 2019 – Sunday, 29 September 2019

 

The shooting season started with a win for 16-year-old Andrew Hughson on Saturday (September 21st) at the Aline Forest base of Harris Gun Club.

Andrew triumphed in a shoot-off with Peter Don Smith to take home the down-the-line Harris Gun Club trophy.

It’s an excellent start for Andrew, who needs to accumulate as many high scores as he can, to be in with a chance of selection for the Scottish team. Any high-scoring wins between now and May, with a minimum of five wins, will put him in line for selection.

The picture shows Andrew with his trophy on Saturday (Harris Gun Club).

Members of the public and workers in the Newton area of Stornoway will get a chance on Wednesday (25th September) to see plans to transform part of the area.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are working with haulage firm and landowner D.R. Macleod to develop infrastructure that will create new facilities, buildings and roads.

An exhibition of plans of these developments will be hosted at DR Macleod’s offices on Island Road, Stornoway on Wednesday 25th September from 4pm to 6pm.

Members of the public, businesses and any interested parties are encouraged to come along to see and discuss the plans for a vacant and derelict site within the area.

D.R. Macleod, who will be the developer lead in what is being termed the Newton Gateway project, said:  “Newton Gateway is a new development proposal intended as a key driver in the regeneration of the Newton area.

"This development would bring a disused site into purposeful use, providing new, modern commercial facilities for both new and existing businesses in the Western Isles.

"We believe the proposed development would bring a vitally needed boost to the local economy and the surrounding area, encouraging new ventures and growth of existing businesses whilst providing a significant boost to employment.”

The Comhairle’s Chairman of Sustainable Communities, Donald Crichton said: “We are very encouraged to hear of the new plans for Phase 2 of Stornoway Regeneration. 

"Following on from existing works being carried out at Goat Island and the transformation of former mill buildings in Newton, these targeted interventions will create more jobs, infrastructure and visually improve the area.”

The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Economic Development service is to support the economic and social regeneration of the Outer Hebrides. The Comhairle says it is keen to work with businesses and organisations that seek to create the right economic conditions to improve infrastructure and community wellbeing.

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has been developing a Revised Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels which proposes new requirements for new and existing vessels.

This follows recommendations from the Marine Accident Investigation Board to improve safety on small fishing vessels.

The MCA is holding a roadshow in Stornoway Town Hall on Tuesday 1st October from noon-3pm.

Local MP Angus MacNeil MP said: “I am pleased to see that the MCA is consulting on the Revised Small Fishing Vessel Code and that they are looking for fishermen to share their thoughts and provide input into this consultation.

“Safety at sea must always be priority and improving safety features on fishing boats is vital.

“The MCA will be holding a roadshow in the Stornoway Town Hall on Tuesday 1st October between 12 noon and 3pm and I would encourage fishermen to attend."

 

 

A 19-year-old singer from Barra will be performing at a Celtic festival in Canada.

Claire Frances MacNeill is one of six Gaelic singers invited to perform at Celtic Colours, a festival to be held in Canada next month.

The singers and researchers are part of this year's Fuaran group, a heritage initiative established by Fèisean nan Gàidheal to encourage a new generation of Gaelic speakers and singers to actively engage in the research and collection of Gaelic songs in their local area.

 

Fuaran will join forces with similar Gaelic mentorship youth group from Cape Breton, Na Gaisgich Òga which means The Young Heroes, for two special collaborative concerts at the Gaelic College in St Ann's, Cape Breton and Christmas Island.

 

Earlier this year, Fuaran recorded some of the songs they collected from communities across Scotland. This recording, accompanied by translations, background information and videos of the recording process, will be available on the Fuaran website, bringing the total number of songs collected since the beginning of the Fuaran project to 32.

During the process, the researchers discovered many interesting stories and songs, some of which are relatively unknown. Claire Frances researched and collected a song called "Coitearan Bhatarsaigh", a song in praise of the Raiders in their struggle to win over the land rights to Vatersay in 1908. Claire Frances came across it in a collection of Dòmhnall Mac na Ceàrdaich songs, a relatively unknown Gaelic author who died aged 46.

Karen Oakley, Fèisean nan Gàidheal Development Officer, said: "We are delighted that our Fuaran participants have been invited to perform at the internationally renowned Celtic Colours festival. They are very excited to be showcasing the songs they have researched over the past several months, and especially as the shows they are involved in have already sold out. The trip is also a brilliant opportunity for our young people to meet like-minded Gaelic speakers from the other side of the Atlantic. Programmes like Na Gaisgich Òga are well-established and I'm sure both groups will gain a lot from this shared experience".

Fuaran will be performing at "It's Not Just a Fèis" on Saturday 12 October on Christmas Island and on Sunday 13 October at "The Young Heroes: Na Gaisgich Òga" at the Gaelic College, St Ann's.

For more information about Fuaran, please visit www.feisean.org/fuaran

Tributes have poured in since news broke of the sad passing of former Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councillor Mairi Bremner.

The Comhairle flags at offices in Balivanich and Stornoway were flying at half-mast as a tribute on Monday September 23rd.

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.

It is understood that her death resulted from a freak outcome to a tripping accident after leaving a bus in Glasgow about ten days ago.

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 many other prominent positions including Chair of Human Resources and as 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 released late yesterday afternoon (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 ten 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.

(This report has been updated with material from CnES and HHP since first being published early today)

 

Six people were issued with fixed penalties for road traffic offences between Friday (September 20th) and today, Sunday.

Police issued the penalties for offences which included driving while using a mobile phone and failing to use a seatbelt.

The drivers were all stopped in the Stornoway area by Western Isles police.

 

The 2019 Ness Tractor Run on Saturday (September 21st) could not have enjoyed a better day for a very worthwhile cause.

In all, 58 tractors turned out to trundle the route up to Port and back to Cross, making a fine spectacle and raising plenty of noise on the route.

The total collected on the day was £2,467 – and every penny will go to support the local family of baby Daniel, who has still to face further operations and hospital treatment.

Parents Craig Macleod and Catherine Kennedy say they are very appreciative of the community's support and help for Daniel's upcoming hospital visits, which mean weeks away from home either in Glasgow or Manchester.

Collecting buckets were out at Cross Hall, at Commun Eachdraidh Nis, where refreshments were served after the run, and at local businesses including the Old Barn Bar and Cross Inn and the Wobbly Dog, both of whom who donated 10% of their takings.

The organisers of the run thanked everyone who turned out with their tractors for the run and especially Kirsty and Eilidh for collecting the money, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for traffic control, Tanky and Iain Macsween for directing the parking and to all who took photos and videos.

You can see film and more pictures of the event at

https://www.facebook.com/NessTractorRun

Picture shows tractors ready to roll (Ness Tractor Run)

 

It was an afternoon of two halves at Bayhead on Saturday (September 21st) with one hard-fought win and a disappointing defeat for Stornoway rugby players.

On a blazing hot day of sunshine Stornoway Ladies RFC were first on the pitch against Inverness Craig Dunain Ladies, and despite their best effort succumbed 7- 52 to allow the visitors a three-in-a-row winning streak.

The men’s match against Huntly RFC was their opening league fixture of the season.

A close-fought match looked to be going badly with a 17-0 scoreline at half-time, but resilient play won the day and the home side ran out 28-24 bonus point winners, with the Huntly side leaving the island with a losing bonus point. 

Tries came from Aiden Millar, Iain MacKinnon, Shaun Smith and Jeff MacDonald and Iain Mackinnon added points from four conversions.

Stornoway RFC’s next game is on the 5th October at home to Craig Dunain in the quarter final of the Caledonia North Bowl.

The picture shows the Bayhead pitch as the ladies were warming up on Saturday (Stornoway Ladies RFC).

 

The year 2020 will give tourists the opportunity to immerse themselves in the coasts and waters of the west of Scotland, and Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) is one of 22 tourism organisations joining up to help them take the plunge.

The new campaign is to be launched next week (Wednesday September 25th) thanks to a £40,000 VisitScotland growth fund award.

The campaign will be active across all tourism providers throughout 2020 and kicks off with a special focus by bloggers.

Adventures Around Scotland (https://www.adventuresaroundscotland.com) will focus on Lewis and Harris from 25th to 28th September.

Uist and Barra will be highlighted from September 27th at Travels with a Kilt (https://travelswithakilt.com/scottish-island-holidays/).

Under the tagline ‘immerse your senses’, the campaign will promote the west of Scotland as a must-visit destination and encourage visitors to get into or on to the water.

Scotland celebrates a Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020 and tourism businesses are being encouraged to see the 12-month campaign as a chance to get the attention of adventure seekers and curious travellers from around the UK.

The campaign will focus on boat trips exploring wildlife, uninhabited islands and stunning scenery, island hopping with CalMac, special visitor trails featuring snorkeling, sea kayaking, seafood, whisky, whales and dolphins and adventure activities including wild swimming, surfing and paddlesports.

Rob Mackinnon, chief executive of OHT, said: “The West Coast Waters campaign is a great opportunity for visitors from other parts of Scotland and further afield to explore the diversity along Scotland’s west coast. Each of the islands within the Outer Hebrides and our neighbours has its own individual character but all offer a traditional warm welcome.”

Tourism businesses can read the full campaign plan and get access to support materials at https://westcoastwaters.co.uk/assets/pdf/WCW_Interactive_Toolkit_20190918-v1.pdf

The Mackenzie takeover of Lewis in the early 17th Century was the subject of this year’s Colm Cille Lecture, organised by Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe and sponsored by Point and Sandwick Trust, by Dr Aonghas MacCoinnich, University of Glasgow. 

His original advertised topic was “Their longed-for wish and expected prey, the Clan Mackenzie and their plantation of Lewis, 1610-1700”, a subject that Dr MacCoinnich has researched in considerable depth, but this was cut back to 1610-1630 from the start of the talk and abbreviated still further, as Dr MacCoinnich explained, because of the amount of material to be covered.

Aonghas MacCoinnich is a Niseach whose parents still live in Ness.  He now lives in Glasgow where he is a lecturer in Celtic History at the University of Glasgow.  He graduated MA in History and Gaelic at the University of Aberdeen in 1999 and did his PhD there (in Gaelic) in 2005 on the emergence of the Mackenzie Clan, from 1466-1637. 

He is interested in all aspects of the history and culture of the Highlands and Islands with a specific focus on the period between the end of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century.  Dr MacCoinnich has researched, lectured and written extensively on Celtic history, culture and language and in 2015 he wrote a book on “Plantation and Civility in the North Atlantic World; the Case of the Northern Hebrides, 1570-1639”.

Dr MacCoinnich started the lecture by setting the Mackenzies in the context of the last years of the Macleod lordship and emphasised how it was the internecine divisions in the Macleod lordship that allowed the Mackenzies to triumph, while this process involved conquest, application of the law and the skilful use of dynastic marriages to ensure compliance and loyalty.

He also sketched in the disastrous fate of the Fife Adventurers – who could not grasp the complexity of the society around them – or perhaps disdained to believe it could have any complexity.

Dr MacCoinnich also emphasised the way the Mackenzies, anxious to develop the wealth of their expanded realm, called on expertise from outside the region – from the Netherlands, for example, in relation to fishing – and made Stornoway even more part of a trading network around the costs of Scotland.  Just as the Macleod realm had included lands on both sides of the Minch – also including the isle of Raasay – so the Mackenzies linked their possessions by sea.

The free lecture was held on Friday 20th September in Ionad Stoodie, Garrabost. 

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 houses, Scarista 

Robin Bennett of 9 Scarista has applied for planning permission to erect one new house at  9c Scarista and another new house at 9b Scarista. 

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

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

Prior notification of new polycrub, Borve

Murray Graham of 30 Borve has given prior notification of their intention to commence non-residential, farm-related building works at 30 Fivepenny, Borve. The plan is to construct a polycrub twelve metres long, three metres tall and four metres wide. 

Change of use of building, Stornoway

Obh Obh Ltd has applied for planning permission to change the use of a building at 4a Inaclete from a cafe (Acres Cafe) to offices and a TV sound studio and edit suite. Work would consist of creating three additional rooms within the existing building. 

New polycrub, Sandwick 

Murdo Macleod of 23 Lower Sandwick has applied for planning permission to erect a polycrub at 23 Lower Sandwick. The polycrub is to be four metres by seven metres.

 

Staff at the Iceland shop in Cromwell Street have been reassured their work will continue.

The Co-operative Group said in statement yesterday (Friday September 20th) that: “We are pleased to have worked with Retail Hebrides Ltd to agree the purchase of its Iceland store on Stornoway.

"Our acquisition and refit programme forms a fundamental part of our food strategy and our aim is for stores to be at the heart of local life, creating stronger communities and offering great quality products conveniently, when and where our members and customers need them.

"Iceland staff will transfer over to the Co-op and we will be relocating our existing Cromwell Street Co-op and team into this site in order to provide a more modern convenience store to better serve the needs of the local community. 

"We will be speaking with both teams over the next few weeks and working hard to amalgamate them across the island's two Co-ops.”

Earlier Retail Hebrides Ltd said: "We would like to Inform all our customers that today we received confirmation that the Co-operative group have acquired our business, Retail Hebrides Ltd.

"We have a sale on in store of up to 20% off a large selection of our products. These products are 'when it’s gone, it’s gone!'

"We would like to sincerely thank you for shopping with us and are extremely grateful for the support you have shown us."

Even by lunchtime on Saturday, many of the shelves and displays were empty.

A celebration of the 1919 Land Settlement (Scotland) Act will take place at a centenary event between 26 and 28 September 2019 in Balallan.

The conference is being organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for History in collaboration with the Centre for Scotland’s Land Futures and the Historical Geography Research Group.

Dr Iain Robertson, Reader at the university’s Centre for History, talked about its current relevance today: “Despite its wide-reaching significance, the 1919 Land Settlement (Scotland) Act is neither as well-known nor celebrated as other key pieces of land legislation, such as the 1886 Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act and the 2003 Land Reform (Scotland) Act.

“By marking its centenary, we have a great one-off opportunity to bring together academia with the local community to celebrate both the huge impact the Act had on Highland land and society and its legacy. We celebrate also the fact that the Act was part of a global impetus aimed at the restoration of a sense of balance in social relations around land and its ownership”.

The 1919 act led directly to the creation of new crofting townships and the revival of existing ones across the Highlands and Islands. It created the conditions for the community buyout movement and part of its legacy today is the ongoing transformation of Highland landownership.

Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the Highlands and Islands, Jim Hunter, is the keynote speaker at the opening dinner on Thursday 26 September. He said: “I’m very pleased to be involved in this commemoration of a hard fought for piece of legislation that brought people back to many places left deserted by the Clearances."

"Now that the community land movement’s looking to get repeopling going again, not least in places like Ulva, it’s all the more important that we learn lessons from what was brought about so successfully in 1919 and in the years that followed.”

The event will also feature a second keynote by Professor Ewen Cameron (University of Edinburgh) and contributions from the local community and artists. 

Field trips to West Harris with the West Harris Trust and in South Lochs are being offered.

Registration is open to book a place at the full conference, field trips or individual sessions - visit www.uhi.ac.uk.

More details: http://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/today-at-lcc-uhi-bv/14767-conference-on-crofting-law-change

The internationally-renowned Hebridean Celtic Festival has been named as a finalist in the Best Cultural Event category in the annual Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA).

HebCelt picked up the title in 2014 and 2017 and last year won the national category at the Scottish Thistle Awards.

The 2019 Hebridean Celtic Festival, held from 17-20 July, was praised by artists, audience and supporters as one of the best ever.

More than 30 acts, including headliners KT Tunstall, Tide Lines and The Shires, took to the stage over four days with attendances reaching 18,000.

Festival director Caroline MacLennan said: “We are thrilled to be shortlisted for a HITA award again in a competition where we have been successful previously.

“HebCelt is a major force for the islands economically, culturally, socially and environmentally and it is always pleasing that the hard work of the mainly volunteer effort to stage the event is recognised.”

An independent economic assessment of HebCelt showed that more than half (56 per cent) of its audience comes from outside Lewis and Harris, including from Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. About 70 per cent of these are returning visitors, underlining the festival’s importance to tourism.

Overall, HebCelt directly generates net income of around £2 million annually and has now brought in about £30 million since it began.

HebCelt is renowned for promoting traditional music and the indigenous Gaelic language and culture as well as being champions of environmental and gender equality causes.

Early bird weekend tickets for the 2020 arena shows, on 15-18 July next year, are available from the festival website www.hebceltfest.com

Following the close of nominations 19 Community Councils across na h-Eileanan an Iar were established. 

Those Community Councils and the new members are listed below. 

A further round of nominations will take place to fill all remaining vacancies.

ESTABLISHED COMMUNITY COUNCILS

Aridhantuim

Murdo Smith

Zoe Brown

Donnie Macdonald

Murdo Nicholson

Kenneth Graham

 

Back

Andrew Morrison

Catherine MacInnes

Margaret-Ann Maciver 

Sara Maciver

 

Bernera

Kevin Long

Susan Long

Catherine Ruth Macleod

Virginia Jane Allum

 

Breasclete

Christina Murray

Angus Smith

Angus MacKenzie

Kenneth John MacLennan

Noreen MacDonald

John Smith

 

Kinloch

Colin John Brand

Iain M. Maciver

Sandra Macdonald

Peter MacLennan

Kenneth Roderick Mackay

 

North Lochs

Ian E. MacAskill

Margaret Smith

Robert MacKenzie

Sarah McIver

Sarah Macdonald

William Bruce Mackenzie

Annabel Margaret Mackay

Joanne Mitchell

 

Point

Christopher T Mackenzie

Donald Macritchie

Norman MacLeod

Angusina (Zena) Stewart

Alexander John Murray

Angus Lamont

 

Shawbost

Ian McCulloch

Roderick Morrison

Kathleen Macrae

Marion Mackay

Eddie Hallahan

Joan Mackay

Euan Donald Macleod

Donald Smith

Donald MacDonald

Kerri Smith

 

Stornoway

Joan Muir

Katie Laing

Melinda Gillen

Jane Hepburn MacMillan

Susanne Erbida

 

Tong

Josephine M Mansfield-Townsend

Hazel Mansfield

Julie McLeman

Norman Morrison

 

Uig

Winifred Christine Greer

Graham Attrill

Lois G. Darley

Christine Mackenzie

Catriona Maclean

 

North Harris

Karen Macdonald

Catherine Macdonald

John Macleod

Robert Mackinnon

Diana Maclennan

Mary M. Macleod

Agnes Morrison

 

South Harris

Alan Angus Ross

Kenneth Macleod

John R Maclean

Kathryn P Campbell

Effie Macleod

Caroline Emma Chaffer

Marion Morrison

Stephen Alexander Mackinnon

 

Berneray

Ian F Hoyle

Malcolm John Gibson

Donald Maclean

Eilidh Carr

Emily Hicks

 

Bornish

Murdoch MacRury

Donald John Macdonald

Joan MacInnes

Catherine MacDonald

Marie Campbell

 

Iochdar

Angela Brass

Peter Bird

Morag A Macaulay

Ronald MacPhee

Anne Bird

Maria McGoldrick

Neil Macpherson

Donald J Steele

Neil Johnstone

 

North Uist

John Macdonald

Sarah Macdonald

Joan Ferguson

Effie Rodger

Donald Angus MacLennan

Donald Ewan Morrison

Raghnall MacIain

 

Castlebay and Vatersay

Jonathan MacNeil

Paul McGuire

Brian Currie

Iain MacNeil

Kenneth Maclean

Catriona Denehy

Alastair Campbell

 

Northbay

Theresa Irving

Neil MacLennan

Michael A Macleod

Iain Dewar

Isa Maclean

Stornoway Historical Society is adding extra days for its exhibition of Iolaire memorabilia and documents.

The historical society has had the display on offer at their offices in Stornoway Town Hall throughout the summer, and added extra dates today (Friday September 20th) and tomorrow to provide a chance for cruise passengers to learn more about the tragedy.

An additional day has now been added on Monday 30th September at the request of visitors coming from Pendleton, Stornoway’s twin town in South Carolina.

Opening hours today, tomorrow and on Monday 30th are 11am - 5pm. The exhibition is accessible from the historical society’s own entrance, opposite the Harbour Kitchen restaurant, with a signboard on the pavement outside when open.

The signs are good for an excellent day of Rugby at Bayhead tomorrow (Saturday September 21st) with an excellent weather forecast and both women’s and men’s teams in action and in excellent form.

Stornoway Ladies will be kicking off at 2.15pm against Inverness Craig Dunain Ladies, the team who helped their development with a pre-season friendly two weeks ago.

The result on that occasion went Craig Dunain’s way, but Stornoway Ladies are riding high after their first league result against Huntly Ladies on August 31st, when they left the pitch with a glorious 36-10 win under their belt.

The men’s team from Huntly are the worthy opposition for Stornoway RFC senior team, kicking off at 4pm at Bayhead. The team are still feeling fine after a titanic victory over Banff RFC 34-31 two weeks ago put them one step closer to the Caledonia regional bowl (north).

Tomorrow’s match opens the league season in the Tennent’s Caledonia north region league division 3, after last week’s match against Lossiemouth was postponed due to the appalling weather.

Pics show Stornoway Ladies during a half-time team talk with manager Angus ‘Bubble’ Mackay during their first league match in August (Innes Maclean) and the men’s team during a league match early this year.

The coach who led Lewis and Harris women’s football team to glory has been honoured with a high accolade from the Scottish Football Association and the wider football community.

Euan ‘Moley’ Macleod was named People’s Choice with merit at the Scottish FA’s grassroots award ceremony, in association with the Sunday Mail and McDonalds.

The awards were presented at a ceremony last night (Thursday September 19th) after voting closed the previous day. Euan had already won a grassroots award for the North region, putting him in contention for the overall People’s Choice award - the only one selected by public vote.

In the citation for his nomination, the Scottish FA said: “Euan works tirelessly to nurture and develop girl's and women’s football in the Western Isles. He manages and coaches the Lewis & Harris Women’s Football team as well as the women’s football team who represent the Western Isles at the International Island games…He has successfully taken teams to three World Island Games and has not only dedicated time during the run up to the event, but sourced a huge amount of local sponsorship and funding to reduce the cost for the players.

“He plans morning gym sessions, training sessions and weekends away to the mainland to play games and dedicates a huge amount of time off the pitch to ensure the club and the Island has the resources available to play competitive football while running the club efficiently.”

Commenting after receiving the award, Euan said: “Gee Whiz. I could not be prouder. Everyone from the Western Isles, this is our award. Any number of coaches from the WI could have been in my shoes tonight, I am just the lucky guy, who is part of the most unbelievable team. Thank you everyone who voted.”
Euan is pictured at the award ceremony last night (Scottish FA).

Baggage allowances for passengers flying on the lowest fare with Loganair are to be reduced to just 15kg of booked luggage, it was confirmed today (Friday September 20th).

The news first emerged on Wednesday (September 18th) as Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles spoke to a transport forum meeting in Shetland. He told attendees there that baggage allowed at the standard ‘Fly’ fare will be reduced to 15kg from the current 20kg, although the allowance on the higher FlyFlex fare will be increased to 23kg.

Mr Hinkles said that he did not expect the change to make a significant difference to passengers. He told the transport forum: “Looking at it, the average weight of a bag checked in at a Loganair flight is nine kilos, so we are not expecting this to have a major impact.”

Baggage allowances currently displayed on the Loganair website remain at 20kg for both fly and FlyFlex passengers, and at 30kg for FlyFlex+ passengers.

A Loganair spokesman told welovestornoway.com today: "We will be making alterations to our baggage policy in the coming weeks as part of a menu of changes to our customer offering. Our website will be updated with details once these are confirmed. Loganair continues to be the only UK-based airline which offers a free baggage allowance."

For onward travellers making a connection to a second Loganair service, the higher of the two baggage allowances will apply throughout the entire journey and exceptions already made for customers including medical travel and students will remain in place.

Shetland’s travel forum were also told that Loganair is well ahead with the replacement of Saab 2000 and 340s aircraft. Larger ATR42 planes are to be introduced by next summer, bringing more seat availability at lower fares.

Stornoway’s summer cruise season has reached a glorious finale today (Friday September 20th), with blue skies and sunshine for the unexpected presence of the last two ships of 2019.


The Seabourn Ovation, positioned in the outer anchorage, was booked to arrive today and has brought 554 passengers, mostly from the US, together with 416 crew.

It’s her maiden visit to the Western Isles and she was visited by harbourmaster Scott Campbell this morning for the presentation of a plaque by Stornoway Port Authority.

The Hebridean Princess, alongside at pier no 3, was not expected until tomorrow. The small luxury liner is a regular visitor to the islands, this being her seventh and final call of the season.

Stornoway Shipping Services  act as agents for the majority of the cruise visitors to the port. SSS spokesman Alastair Macarthur told welovestornoway.com today: “Today’s visits see the 2019 season to a successful conclusion. There have been just a few late call-offs and we have otherwise had a good season with a lot of satisfied passengers and cruise operators.”

Pictures show Seabourn Ovation with her tenders in the outer anchorage and Hebridean Princess alongside pier no 3 today (Annie Delin).

The Muaitheabhal Wind Farm - promoted by Uisenis Power Limited - has been successful in the UK Contracts for Difference auction.

A CfD has been awarded to one other developer in the Outer Hebrides - Druim Leathann Windfarm, at Tolsta. 

However, Lewis Windpower was unsuccessful in their bid for the Stornoway Windfarm.

In a statement today (Friday September 20th) responding to the notification of the outcome of the third Contract for Difference Allocation round, Mark Vyvyan-Robinson, Lewis Wind Power director, said: “Obviously, we are all incredibly disappointed not to have secured a Contract for Difference after a huge amount of work by the team to make the project as competitive as possible.

“We now need to take some time to look at all the options for the project, and to assess what we believe to be the best way forward for the wind farm. We will keep our partners and the local community updated as we work our way through these options.”

Almost exactly three years Lewis Wind Power (LWP), a joint venture between Amec Foster Wheeler and EDF Energy Renewables, bought the Uisenis Wind Farm project.  The wind farm has planning consent for the development of 45 turbines with a maximum capacity of 189 MW. This would be enough to power 125,000+ homes.

But then in May this year, LWP transferred ownership of the Uisenis project to the Oppenheim family, owners of Eishken estate where the project is situated, and it is now controlled by a company based in Liechtenstein.

The CfD scheme is the UK Government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation and the awarding of contracts to local developers will provide them with the confidence to build out their projects.

Councillor Roddie MacKay, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “It is good news that two out of three local developers have achieved a CfD. 

"It is hugely disappointing, however, that Stornoway Wind Farm  has not achieved a CfD.  We will be speaking to developers to understand how they wish to proceed in light of this news.  We will be speaking to SSE and Ofgem to see what their proposals are to connect the CfD projects and the pipeline projects to the grid. 

"We will also be urgently engaging with the UK Government to ensure they make good on their promise to deliver an inter-connector to the Outer Hebrides.”

Commenting on the outcome of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) Allocation Round 3, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil MP said: "Whilst it is good news that two Lewis wind farms have been successful in CfD Round 3 it is disappointing that Lewis Wind Power has not achieved a CfD.

"The strike price of between £39 -£41 is exceedingly low and this combined with the failure of Lewis Wind Power to make the list raises questions about the viability of a Hebridean Interconnector.

“At just 240 MW the two successful applications, Tolsta and Eishken, are well below the 369-400MW needed for the Interconnector to the mainland. Orkney and Shetland fared no better with Orkney’s two successful applications reaching only 37MW of the 135MW needed and Shetland seeing no successful applications at all.

“Scottish Islands have the best wind resources in Europe and this is a missed opportunity. This is not good news for the UK ‘s move from carbon to cleaner energy. While young people campaign all over the country to protect the climate the UK government fail again to make best use of our natural resources  It would appear that far from working together Ofgem and the UK Government have no joined up thinking and appear to have competing aims.

“I have already spoken to SSE this morning and I will also be contacting Ofgem. At this stage it is unclear what impact this decision will have on Island renewables but is undoubtedly disappointing for those unsuccessful applicants. The UK Government and Ofgem have to get their act together if decarbonisation is to successfully happen.”

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan also expressed his disappointment at the results of the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) Allocation Round 3.

“I am disappointed at the outcome of this UK government CfD auction round.  The race to the bottom caused by this convoluted process has meant that this outcome has potentially very serious implications for the Western Isles Interconnector and the renewable energy ambitions across the island communities.

“I will continue to raise my concerns regarding this outcome, and process, directly with the relevant UK Ministers and agencies.  As will my Westminster colleague, Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, whose work is largely responsible for the island developers being able to bid at all.”

“I will also liaise with the relevant Scottish Ministers and agencies who continue to press the UK agencies to help fulfil the renewable energy ambitions of the islands of Scotland.”

While welcoming news of the Druim Leathann project’s success, The Stornoway Trust said it is disappointed that Lewis Wind Power has not been successful in securing a contract. It was always the case that this would be a highly competitive exercise, and it is unfortunate that LWP were not amongst the successful bidders.  Nonetheless, the Trust welcomes the fact that in addition to Druim Leathann, the Uisinis project has been successful in its bid.

Trust Chairman, Norman A Maciver commented: ‘We were aware of the fact that remote island wind projects were competing against others which do not share the disadvantages faced by island communities. It was not a level playing field in that sense. Shetland’s Viking project is – ostensibly – in the same situation as the Stornoway Wind Farm, and we sympathise with them, given their community’s £10 million expenditure to get to this point’.

The result of the auction is unsettling for projected community renewable energy plans in the Western Isles.

Norman A Maciver continued:‘One of our concerns as landlord has always been the pivotal contribution that the Stornoway Wind Farm project makes to the case for the interconnector, upon which these and other anticipated community wind farm schemes depend. Aside from the economic benefits inherent in the development, it would open the door for community and other alternative energy projects to be established. As things stand, the future looks a lot less certain for remote island wind now, though, given today’s outcome’.

The way ahead may not become clear until sufficient time has elapsed for reflection on today’s disappointing news.  What is clear, however, is that the community can be assured that Stornoway Trust will continue working with other stakeholders in the search for a solution to allow island wind to best deliver its untapped potential.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said:“I’m proud to see Scotland firmly at the heart of the UK’s green revolution. With half of the 12 successful projects in the latest round of the UK Government’s flagship renewables support scheme being Scottish, we are leading the way in developing renewable energies and harnessing the economic growth benefits and creation of highly skilled jobs this brings.

“This is the latest in a long line of examples of how the UK Government is building a more prosperous Scotland within a strong United Kingdom. A little more than a week ago we announced Rosyth would play a key role in building the Royal Navy’s new Type 31 frigates in a huge boost to the world-renowned Scottish shipbuilding sector.

“And just days before that came the fabulous news that, following extensive UK Government support, Glasgow had been chosen to host the crucial COP26 climate change conference."

This report has been updated more than once since first publication to include additional material

Today, 20 September 2019, people across the world – including Stornoway – are joining the Global Climate Strike and urging our decision-makers to take immediate climate action.

The Global Climate Strike on 20 September is a form of protest against the current climate crisis, and the lack of action from our global leaders.

Young people from The Nicolson Institute will be joining the event with a protest outside the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – but everyone is welcome to join from 9am onwards.

Last night a large number of people attended the first public screening of An-Dràsta! on Thursday 19th September at Clan MacQuarrie Centre in Borgh.  The event included stalls from organisations like Tighean Innse Gall and Scottish Natural Heritage and food created specially in a sustainable manner.

The film has been made by young people from The Nicolson Institute during their summer holidays and focuses on the impact of the climate emergency in the Outer Hebrides.

They hope that it can be used to encourage conversations about climate change throughout the islands.

The film makers were George Begent, Isi Oliver, Sakshi Ortchison, Vasundhara Ortchison, Rachel Ross-Jordan, Stuart Smith, Sarah Maciver, Ruth Mackay, Molly Mackenzie – with assistance from Keith Morrison of the Wee Studio, Fiona Rennie and Louise Senior.

An-Dràsta! was produced with as part of Urras Oigreachd Ghabhsainn and Urras Oigreachd Chàrlabhaigh community LED by Energy Champions project which is supported by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund.

The evening began with a talk from Ben Inglis-Grant, SNH’s Peatland ACTION Project Officer hosted by Urras Oigreachd Chàrlabhaigh.

Funding for a new peatland restoration project which aims to improve water quality, tackle climate change and help protect Black Throated Divers and Great Skua in the Outer Hebrides was confirmed in celebration of International Bog Day on July 28.

Working alongside Scottish Water, Soval Estate and Ranish Common Grazings Committee, the Peatland ACTION project is starting on restoring 11 hectares of damaged and eroding peatland within the Loch Orasaigh drinking water catchment area which serves the North Lochs Water Treatment Works.

At a cost of £1,700 a hectare, the scheme offers a relatively inexpensive way of tackling climate change, as well as potentially reducing water treatment costs by minimising the amount of peat being washed into the loch - helping secure a strategically important drinking water supply in the Outer Hebrides.  It will also help preserve the local environment, with a recent survey confirming the loch is home to two of Scotland’s protected species – Black Throated Divers and Great Skua.

Ben Inglis-Grant said: “Around 80% of Scotland’s peatlands are estimated to be damaged, through man-made drainage and other land-use pressures as well as natural erosion taking place.

“By restoring our peat-lands they can begin actively functioning as they should, by storing water and capturing carbon.

“Peatland Action aims to make a difference across the length and breadth of Scotland and by working together with Scottish Water in this remote area, we can deliver multiple benefits to both people and nature, from carbon capture to clean drinking water and supporting natural ecosystems, which are so intrinsic to our existence.

“These kind of nature-based solutions are also integral to tackling the climate emergency we are all facing.”

The Peatland ACTION Project is a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) initiative, funded by Scottish Government, to capture carbon by restoring Scotland’s peatlands.

The showing of An-Dràsta! followed – giving insights into the situation throughout the Islands.  The film-makers then took part in a Q & A session.

Towards the end of the event Sakshi Ortchison, one of the film-makers and also a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, spoke to the audience. She explained that for more than a year now, schoolchildren around the world had been striking for climate change. In May there was a protest in Stornoway.  This was part of worldwide events which had helped persuade the UN to hold another climate summit next week.  She and Maria McGoldrick, from South Uist, the other MSYP, attended a meeting of the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership meeting about climate change.  “They recognised climate change was an issue here in the Western Isles but they weren’t sure how to tackle it.  We want to push them to announce a climate emergency.” She added: “Something needs to happen, something need to be done.”

She appealed for adults to stand up for “our planet and our home” with the young people today outside the Council headquarters. 

 

Scottish Water is hosting two open events for residents between Marybank, Laxdale, Back and Tolsta, to find out about planned work to upgrade the water network that serves communities north of Stornoway.­ 

Customers are invited to come along to speak to the project team on Wednesday, September 25 at Back Community Centre between 11am and 1pm or at Laxdale Community Hall between 4pm and 7pm. 

The £9.3 million project involves the construction of around 21km of new water mains, a new pumping station at Back and a new water storage tank at Tolsta. The project as a whole is expected to be completed by summer 2021.

The work will be carried out on Scottish Water’s behalf by its alliance partner Caledonian Water Alliance (CWA) and their subcontractor Macaulay Askernish, and is expected to begin next month. 

Road traffic management will be put in place on a phased basis as work progresses to allow the work to be carried out safely. 

Scottish Water Corporate Affairs Manager Gavin Steel said: “The investment we are making is important to improve the security of water supply for our customers north of Stornoway so they continue to enjoy clear, fresh great-tasting drinking water in the years ahead. 

“These open events are an opportunity for residents to find out more about the project and how we are proposing to carry out the work, as well as to talk to our project team about any questions or concerns they may have.

“We recognise that there will be some short-term disruption associated with this work. With our alliance partner CWA  we want to minimise this as far as possible while delivering long term improvement for our customers.”

Following a number of requests for evening appointments, Barra Medical Practice will be open until 6pm on Wednesday 25th September.

The Practice has stated that if there is a demand, this will be offered on a more regular basis.

Contact the Practice on 810282 to book an appointment.

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative

87 Cromwell St, Stornoway HS1 2DG  01851 707219

Treatments and Therapies

SEPTEMBER 2019

Monday 23rd                 Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Tuesday 24th                 Indian Head Massage / Reflexology

Wednesday 25th            Dieticians

Thursday 26th                Macmillan Coffee Morning AM

                                    Counselling - Marina Sinclair PM

 

OCTOBER 2019

Thursday 3rd                  Hebrides Harmony Choir – Evening

Saturday 5th                  Oncology Massage

 

Monday 7th                   Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Tuesday 8th                   Counselling – Dolina Grant

Wednesday 9th            Indian Head Massage AM

Friday 11th                    Reiki – Heather Baillie

 

Monday 14th                 Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Thursday 17th              Counselling - Marina Sinclair AM

 

Monday 21st                 Reiki – Heather Baillie AM

                                   Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Tuesday 22nd             Indian Head Massage

                                  Candle Making Workshop

Thursday 24th               Counselling - Marina Sinclair

 

Monday 28th                 Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Tuesday 29th                 Gentle Movement

Thursday 31st                Dieticians

 
87 Cromwell St, Stornoway
HS1 2DG
Phone: 01851 707219

 

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative

87 Cromwell St, Stornoway HS1 2DG  01851 707219

Treatments and Therapies

 

OCTOBER 2019

Thursday 3rd                  Hebrides Harmony Choir – Evening

Saturday 5th                  Oncology Massage

 

Monday 7th                   Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Tuesday 8th                   Counselling – Dolina Grant

Wednesday 9th            Indian Head Massage AM

Friday 11th                    Reiki – Heather Baillie

 

Monday 14th                 Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Thursday 17th              Counselling - Marina Sinclair AM

 

Monday 21st                 Reiki – Heather Baillie AM

                                   Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Tuesday 22nd             Indian Head Massage

                                  Candle Making Workshop

Thursday 24th               Counselling - Marina Sinclair

 

Monday 28th                 Hebrides Harmony Choir PM

Tuesday 29th                 Gentle Movement

Thursday 31st                Dieticians

 
87 Cromwell St, Stornoway
HS1 2DG
Phone: 01851 707219

 

The best of produce from near and far 20/09/2019

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)

 

£2.90

 

Cauliflower

 

£1.95

 

Romanesco

 

£1.95

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.35

 

Fennel

 

£1.35

 

Small Garlic

 

£0.65

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Organic Chard

 

£2.50

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.95

 

New Season Dirty Carrots

 

£2.30

 

Ginger

 

£5.00

 

Horseradish

 

£15.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mixed Squash

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£2.95

 

Duke of York

 

£1.55

 

Roosters

 

£1.85

 

Shallots

 

£5.35

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

White Turnip

 

£3.35

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Organic Lettuce Leaves

 

£2.25

 

Cucumber

 

£1.15

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.25

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.50

 

Scottish Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Tomatoes (Plum Vine)

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Cox Apple (UK)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Spartan Apples (UK)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Worcester Apples (UK)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.50

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Clementines

 

3 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.90

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£2.25

 

Nectarines

 

3 for £1.50

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.50

 

Peaches

 

3 for £1.50

 

Donut Peaches

 

3 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Raspberries (west Hardmuir)

 

£3.50

 

Satsumas

 

5 for £1.50

 

Victoria Plums

 

8 for £1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Blueberries (West Hardmuir Fruit Farm)

 

£16.00

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

A 57-year-old man appeared at Stornoway Sheriff Court from custody yesterday (Wednesday September 18th) after being found drink-driving.

The man was stopped by police in Lochs on Tuesday afternoon at 2.30pm and was cautioned and charged.

He was kept in custody and appeared in court yesterday.

An unusual-looking supertrawler currently working in the Minch is carrying out survey work on behalf of her operators.

The Dirk Dirk has been operating east of Lewis since last week, with a crew change on Monday (September 16th) which included putting a surveyor aboard.

Dirk Dirk is a 95-metre factory ship operated by the Dutch company Parlevliet and Van der Plas, which specialises in supplying fish for human consumption to the low-income African market and to zoos around the world for fish-eating animals.

Their fleet includes eight vessels dedicated to pelagic fishing, where shoals of fish including herring are located with the help of echo-sounding equipment. Catch is frozen and stored on board to maximise freshness.

Their usual fishing grounds include areas west and north of the islands, in the North Atlantic and Arctic seas. The company’s website says: “We fish without causing damage to the seabed, and without disturbing the ecological system. We have built an excellent reputation for sustainable fishing, and are proud to have achieved MSC certification for our North Sea herring and North Atlantic herring fisheries.

“As an active member of the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association, we work closely together with international scientists, environmental organisations, governments and fisheries management bodies, to ensure that accurate research provides the information necessary to ensure sustainable fisheries and effective fish stock management, including the prevention of unintentional bycatch, in all waters where we operate.”

Pictures show Dirk Dirk’s survey track today (Thursday) (Marine Traffic) and a picture of the vessel taken in Stornoway harbour during Monday night’s crew change (Gordy Maclean).

Small fishing vessels are the focus of a new code of practice due to be introduced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, in a bid to make the water a safer place to be for all fishermen.

An MCA roadshow announced on Monday (16th October) will bring proposals for the new code to fishing ports including Stornoway.

Introducing ideas for the new code of practice, the MCA said: “Over the last 10 years, 46 people have died on small fishing vessels, so the MAIB (Marine Accident Investigation Branch) have made several recommendations to improve your safety.”

The recommendations cover the construction, stability and machinery of small vessels, electrical work, crew protection and man overboard recovery.

These are in addition to regulations under ILO 188: for all vessels, which came into force at the end of 2018. They cover responsibility for the operation of the vessel, training, manning, hours of rest and issues around medical care, among other topics.

The roadshow consulting on the new code of practice will come to Stornoway Town Hall at 12.15pm on Tuesday October 1st. Meanwhile you can find out more about the proposals via the MCA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MCA/

(Picture, MCA)

A total of 90 individual projects have had over £300,000 invested by Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust).

The landmark achievement was reached following a recent £10,000 award to a new group, taking the Urras investment figure over the £300,000 mark.

New group, “Còmhla,” has been set up by a group of local parents/carers with caring responsibilities for children with additional support needs.

The group have received funding and have already established group training activities and have a series of guest speakers attending their fortnightly meetings. The group is chaired by parent Sarah Campbell, who commented: “The support received from the Urras will make a significant and positive difference to lives. We are grateful for the support and help provided by the Urras team to get things off the ground.”

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) was established in 2007 following a buyout of the land by local residents. The estate runs to 56,000 acres, almost entirely under crofting tenure, encompassing 22 townships, from Upper Barvas to Port of Ness.

The Trust has set themselves five key priorities for sustainable development: poverty relief; training and education; housing; improved infrastructure and communication; and, protection and
conservation of the environment.

A key part of their activities in achieving this re-vitalisation is through their community investment fund, financed by the profits of a three-turbine windfarm on the estate, and which provides crucial support to various community groups in the area.

The fund is divided into four main strands: support up to £1,000, £5,000 and £10,000, plus a growth fund for projects of scale.

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn Chair Agnes Rennie said: “The Community Investment Programme offers support to various groups and this most recent award is an excellent example of funding support, but also advice and guidance to establish a group to ensure there is support in an area where there is currently a significant gap.”

In recent months the Urras also provided, through its growth fund initiative, assistance of £80,000 towards the re-development of Comunn Eachdraidh Nis, the local historical society.

The total building project was in excess of £1 million, involving several funding partners, with the Urras also providing crucial back-up support in terms of project management.

The refurbished facilities at the former Cross Primary School site now boasts a new frontage, extended café, additional exhibition space and archive.

A film that promises to take viewers on an emotional journey will be shown at An Lanntair this month.

SaF05, the last in a trilogy of films from Charlotte Prodger, will be shown on Friday 27 September at 6:30pm. 

The screening will be accompanied by a talk from Birmingham based curator, Seán Elder, who will introduce the new single-channel video by the 2018 Turner Prize-winning artists. 

SaF05, named after a maned lioness that figures in the work as a cipher for queer attachment and desire, was commissioned by the Scotland + Venice partnership for the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia where it is currently screening until the end of November. The work was curated by Linsey Young in partnership with Cove Park, Argyll and Bute, where Prodger developed her first ideas for the commission.

This autobiographical cycle traces the accumulation of affinities, desires and losses that form a self as it moves forward in time.

Head of Visual Arts & Literature at An Lanntair, Roddy Murray, said: "It’s exciting to be linked simultaneously in time to Scotland + Venice via art and technology.

"Charlotte Prodger's film is very personal and a response to issues of identity and gender-fluidity.

"I am delighted we have the opportunity to screen the film at An Lanntair and share this work with our audiences.”

The screening will also include a short trailer documenting the project development made by Martin Clark which will be introduced by Amanda Catto, Chair of the Scotland + Venice partnership and Head of Visual Arts at Creative Scotland.

Tickets are available here: https://tinyurl.com/yxd69sol

Image by Patrick Staff.

Local youngsters are set to benefit from a new programme that aims to build new life skills while supporting local charities.

Students at the Nicolson Institute, Sir E Scott School and Barra High School will be benefiting from a programme that empowers young people to make a difference in their local communities and develop new skills.

The active citizenship programme is part of a partnership between CalMac and the The Wood Foundation's Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) and will be delivered across a total of 11 schools in CalMac's area of operations.

Pupils from participating schools form teams to research social issues in their area and the charities working to address them. They then make a case for their chosen charity as to why they should receive a £3000 grant to help with their work.

 

As part of its support CalMac staff will have an opportunity to mentor young people throughout the project's delivery.

Launching the partnership at St Columba's High School in Gourock, CalMac's Director of Human Resources, Christine Roberts said: "From a personal development point of view YPI gives our staff the opportunity to share their skills and get involved with a project that will ultimately benefit their own community.

"Ultimately supporting YPI gives us a chance to make positive impacts by empowering young people to make a real difference where they live.

"Taking part in the programme builds students' team work skills and confidence, improves presentation and project planning skills and gets them involved more in their local community."

More than 170,000 young people from across the country have taken part in YPI since it was introduced in Scotland in 2008.

 

 

Picture shows: Last year's winning YPI team from St Columba's High School, Gourock with CalMac's Director of HR, Christine Roberts and the Wood Foundation's Deputy Director, Jonathan Christie at the partnership launch.

 

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has highlighted newly released figures which show that NHS Western Isles and NHS Highland have the highest rates of delayed discharge in Scotland. They stood at 25.3% and 15.5% compared to a Scottish average of 8.5%.

The figures for 2018/19 were released by the Information Services Division of NHS Scotland on Tuesday 17th September.

Mr Cameron said: “While the statistics indicate that NHS Highland and NHS Western Isles have the highest rates of delayed discharge, we should be cautious before leaping to conclusions.

“There may be factors relating to geography, the age profile of patients, and the availability of care homes, which have influenced the results.

“Nevertheless, the overall picture in Scotland is that the SNP’s promises to eradicate delayed discharges have come to absolutely nothing as they are back up to more than half a million days, an increase of 6% in just one year.

"This means that people who should not have been in hospital occupied almost 9% of beds in NHS Scotland over the last year.

“It is a cause for concern that people may be staying in hospital longer than necessary, and I will certainly be in contact with the relevant authorities in the region to see if there is more that could be done to reduce the discharge times.”

The full report is available on - https://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Health-and-Social-Community-Care/Publications/2019-09-17/2019-09-17-DelayedDischarges-Annual-Report.pdf?

The table referred to by Donald Cameron is figure 7 on page 11 of the report.

 

Inspection and Review - Sgoil a’ Bhac and Sgoil Araich Loch a Tuath, Isle of Lewis, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

The following is an extract from the published letter for the above establishment.

Key strengths of the school

  • In classrooms, playrooms and beyond, staff and children enjoy positive, caring and supportive relationships. This contributes to children having a strong sense of belonging to their school and sgoil àraich.
  • Partners such as parents, the community, church, employers and organisations make important and productive contributions to children’s wellbeing, learning and achievements.
  • Children are confident, articulate and support each other well. They have positive attitudes to their learning. The school’s focus on Gaelic is helping children be bilingual and appreciate the language’s value to their future aspirations.

The following areas for improvement were identified and discussed with the headteacher and a representative from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

  • Continue to extend and improve the strategic leadership of change and improvement to encompass all aspects of Sgoil a’ Bhac and Sgoil Àraich Loch a Tuath. This should guide and direct achieving well-paced outcomes for children.
  • Develop further the curriculum so that children build appropriately on their knowledge, skills and understanding, and attain to their full potential. A high priority is to develop a programme for health and wellbeing, and writing in Gaelic.
  • Build on the most effective practice in learning, teaching, immersion and assessment to embed this as consistent practice for all children. This should include having a strategic overview of how well assessment and moderation is evidencing the achievement of each level of Curriculum for Excellence.

What happens at the end of the inspection?

As a result of our inspection findings we think that the school needs additional support and more time to make necessary improvements.

We will liaise with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar regarding the school’s capacity to improve.

We will return to carry out a further inspection of the school within a year of the publication of this letter.

We will discuss with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar the details of this inspection.

The full published letter is available on the Education Scotland website or by clicking this link.

 

The ‘Walk on Hebrides’ project is launching a bi-monthly community walk in Tiumpanhead in October. 

The walks will take place on the first and third Monday of each month, meeting at the Tiumpanhead Community Centre at 2pm.  Everyone is welcome to join in.

The walk on the first Monday of the month will be a short walk; anything from 10 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how far the group wishes to walk.

The walk on the third Monday of the month will be longer (about 1 hour).  Everyone is welcome to join in and the route is buggy friendly.

You do not need to register beforehand, just come along on the day.

For more information on Tiumpanhead community walks please contact: Jana Grimm, Walk Leader. Tel: 07901 706 872 or visit Facebook ‘Tiumpan Head Community Association’

 

Positive signs that population decline could be reversed are being seen in island communities, according to a consortium of researchers.

An Islands Revival Declaration published yesterday (Tuesday September 17th) gives examples of population growth in Scottish islands which go against ideas that island populations are in decline.

Collaboration between the James Hutton Institute, Scotland's Rural College, Community Development Lens (CoDeL) and Community Land Scotland, with input from over 20 island stakeholders led to the declaration being formulated during a two-day workshop at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye at the end of August, when 33 participants discussed the findings of the current research.

It follows an islands revival blog, launched in May, which gathered information on positive projects in which young people were involved. Examples contributed included the work of Pairc Playgroup in Lewis, the West Harris Trust and Galson Estate Trust.

Yesterday’s declaration says:“We affirm that there is credible evidence of ‘green shoots’ of population turnaround in the Scottish islands, which as yet does not show up in official statistics.

“This is illustrated by a number of examples of population growth in islands, such as those cited in the Islands Revival blog.

“It is supported by the changing perceptions of younger, economically active people, especially out-migrant islanders, who increasingly consider their birthplace as a place to return to, and at an earlier stage in their lives. Connectivity (especially social media) is playing an important role in popularising this attitude.”

The statement goes on to list contributing factors to this changed perception, including local control of territorial assets (land and marine), accompanied by good governance, and strong community leadership.

They also credit increasing interest, among many young people, in exploring enterprising ways of living and the use of media in promoting role models and success stories.

And they conclude: “The above seem to be, collectively, delivering a gradual but clear shift in the consensus about the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of living on islands versus those of living in or near a city.”

The visit of the Royal Regiment of Scotland next week will mean some road closures as the Scots band parades through town on Tuesday evening (September 24th).

Perceval Square and the fishermen’s car park will be closed between 5.30 and 8pm that evening, and there will be road closures between 7 and 8pm including Cromwell Street, North Beach, Quay Street, Castle Street, Bank Street and Church Street.

The parade and performance by the band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland is the first public event in a three day visit to Stornoway which will see the full band accompanied by the 2ndBattalion of Scots Pipes and Drums and a ceilidh band.

The Scots Band supports the British Army and the state at all ceremonial occasions in Scotland, including royal garden parties, state banquets and guards of honour at the Palace of Holyrood, Edinburgh and Stirling castles and Balmoral. All members of the band are full-time musicians and also fully trained soldiers

Their visit to Stornoway includes hosting events and workshops in schools as well as public performances. All of these are free, but money raised on the door will go towards the local music service and the Corps of Army Music Trust.

The parade on Tuesday 24thleads off from Stornoway Port Authority Offices at 7pm. On Wednesday 25than open ceilidh at Stornoway Town Hall starts at 7.30pm and on Thursday evening a concert at Lewis Sports Centre also features pipes and drums from local bands including the Lewis and Harris Youth Concert Band, Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band, The Nicolson Institute Choir and others.

 

Tickets for this event and for the ceilidh are free, but must be booked via https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/band-of-royal-regiment-of-scotland-and-friends-in-concert-tickets-65406451457

 

The Iceland store in Cromwell Street, Stornoway - run as a franchise-stye operation by Retail Hebrides Ltd - is being bought by the Cooperative stores group, it is understood.

It's believed a formal announcement may be made tomorrow (Thursday September 19th).

Then the store will trade as Iceland for about a month before closing for conversion into a Co-operative food store. 

This is almost exactly two years since news first broke that a new supermarket outlet was coming to Stornoway to revive the long vacant town centre shopping spot once occupied by the long-gone Presto group.

The opening followed extensive renovation and repair work on the building. The new store – which was formerly occupied by the WeeW business – followed the ‘New Format’ look and style pioneered by Iceland in Clapham in 2016,, but it was to be under the control of the newly-formed local company, which was intended to enable it to be flexible to local needs and adaptable to local suppliers.

Three Lewis businesses are celebrating today (Wednesday September 18th) after hearing news that their products have been awarded one of this year’s Great Taste Awards.

Great Taste, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, is the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink.

It has been described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world and the Great Taste logo gives food-lovers a sign to trust when buying quality food and
drink.

Charlie Barleys, under their formal name as Charles Macleod Butchers received no less than three of the tasty endorsements – two stars for their iconic black pudding and a simply delicious one-star award for both their white pudding and haggis.

A spokesperson said: “We are thrilled to have received Great Taste Awards for our black pudding, white pudding and haggis this year - a great honour to belong to such a prestigious group of products!”

Uig Lodge Smoked Salmon has received a star for their hand-sliced side of salmon and Stag Bakeries Cajun Water Biscuits have also earned them a star. The light, crisp water-biscuits have a balanced bite and a warm flavour using Cajun spice.

A spokesman for Stag Bakeries said: “We’re delighted to have won a star for a new product introduced in 2019. It keeps our run going of winning a Great Taste Award every year since 2002 and we are very pleased that the judges enjoyed the product.”

The awards were decided after over 500 judges came together at 75 judging days from March through to early July. 12,772 products were rated, with 1,326 foods grabbing two stars and 3,409 awarded a one-star stamp.

A Newmarket couple yesterday (Tuesday September 17th) celebrated an 82nd wedding anniversary – although not all the years were their own.

Duncan and Catherine Macleod in fact celebrated their own 55th anniversary, but Catherine’s parents, Donald and Christina Grant, were married on the same day in 1937.

The date was not a coincidence, as Catherine told welovestornoway.com: “We only picked the date as a way to get round my mother, who thought I was too young to wed. My Dad thought it was lovely of us to pick that date and I was a daddy’s girl. We also got engaged on the same day as them, but we honestly didn’t know that!”

Catherine’s dad, a Skye man, was a piper and shinty-player who worked as a bus driver. Her mother was born in Glasgow and brought up in Leurbost, returning to Glasgow aged eight and speaking only Gaelic. She later did office work and had a family of two boys and an only daughter, Catherine.

When she got engaged, Catherine was working for a Glasgow travel agents and Duncan was a marine engineer at Yarrow’s shipbuilders. A new job with ICI in Dumfries meant he was travelling up to Glasgow to see his fiancée, so a quick marriage was agreed.

A few years later the Macleods, with their young family of three sons – Duncan Iain, Grant and Colin – moved to Lewis when Duncan got work with Lewis Offshore. They settled in the home in Newmarket where they still stay and Catherine found work as a secretary at Laxdale School.

Catherine’s parents also moved to Lewis in 1975 and stayed in Garrabost until they passed away, Donald in 1995 and Christina in 2008. They also had been married for more than 55 years.

The ‘young’ couple, who married at Grant Street Free Church in Glasgow in 1964, now have 10 grandchildren as well as three sons, the youngest of whom, Colin, has been keeping them on their toes with his exploits swimming the Minch.

They celebrated their anniversary last night with a dinner with friends and will be getting together with family over the weekend.

Pictures show Catherine and Duncan Macleod getting married on September 17th 1964, and

Catherine’s parents Donald and Christina on the same date in 1937.

Duncan and Catherine are also shown with some of their 10 grandchildren earlier this year (family pictures).

A Point councillor has found an unusual way to pay tribute to the charity which is providing so much for his elderly mother – he’s going to jump out of plane in aid of Alzheimer Scotland.

Norman ‘ Norrie Tomsh” Macdonald is in fact planning an 18,000 foot skydive, the highest jump in the world, during an otherwise relaxing week of golf with friends.

“A crowd of Stornoway golf folk are going on a big trip to Orlando, Florida, where we are going to be playing on TPC Sawgrass, a championship course with an iconic 17th hole which is practically on an island, surrounded by water.

“We’ll be playing golf on alternate days, so on our ‘down’ days we had planned various things such as visiting Cape Canaveral and someone suggested the sky dive. Three of us – Bob Rankin, Allan Macleod and myself are diving and I thought, as long as I’m jumping out of a plane, why not do it for charity?”

The tandem skydive is at Titusville in Florida. Norrie has picked Alzheimer Scotland to support because of his experience with his mother’s illness, which he describes as ‘a fog’ which has come down over her in recent years. Murdina Macleod (Murdag a’ mhate) was a teacher at Aird School for many years, and is well-known to the many children who passed through her hands during a long career.

Norrie told welovestornoway.com: “She can still remember every pupil she ever taught. She’s old school, very proper, believes in discipline and tuts about grammar and punctuation, in English and in Gaelic.”

In his regular column in the West Highland Free Press recently Norrie wrote: “Dementia has robbed her of her independence, her ability to cope on her own and … a little bit of her dignity. From jumping into her car, picking up her friends and going shopping…she is now totally dependent on Joey (Macaskill), her wonderful carer and, to a much lesser extent, her immediates and her ‘weakest link’, me.”

Three visits a week to the Alzheimer Scotland group at Grianan in Stornoway keep Murdag active and alert and, Norrie says: “In all honesty, I don’t know where we’d be without them over the past 12 months.”

For that reason, and because his own daughter Karen Macdonald is the Alzheimer Scotland fundraiser, he’s aiming to raise £1,500 with his jump, and is already half way there.

Characteristically sharp about his effort, Norrie says: “All I have to do is fall out of a plane, which doesn’t take much. They’re looking at changing the electoral representation for local authorities anyway, down to two councillors from three. Maybe they’ll get it sooner than they think.”

You can support Norrie’s fundraising for Alzheimer Scotland at this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/norrietjumpsfromaplane

 

A man who was reportedly a supply teacher at The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway is to appear in court next month (October) charged with sexual offences.

Police Scotland today (Wednesday September 18 th ) confirmed that a 60-year-old man has been charged with sexual offences and is due to appear at Stornoway Sheriff Court in October 2019.

He had been working as a supply teacher at an un-named Lewis school, widely reported to be the Nicolson Institute.

A spokesman for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said that they were aware of the charges and had taken appropriate steps.

This year’s prestigious Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture will be given by well-known businessman and broadcaster Kenny Matheson at 7.30pm on Thursday 24th October at Pairc School, Gravir, South Lochs, with the title ‘The Leverhulme Initiative – An Opportunity Lost or a Narrow Escape for Lewis and Harris?’.

Kenny, who is from Gravir and now based in Aberdeen, will speak in English and assess, with the benefit of a hundred years hindsight, the reasons for Leverhulme’s failure and what lessons can be drawn for recent and current debates about the economic future of Lewis and Harris.

Addressing the question in the lecture title, Kenny said: ‘I thought it might be appropriate in the first instance to take a little time to try and understand something about the type of man William Lever, the first Viscount Leverhulme, was and what made him tick.

Secondly, I will explore the significance of his timing before thirdly speculating on whether his grand plan was fundamentally flawed and as such doomed to failure from the beginning or whether a different approach might have produced an altogether different outcome.

"I will then try fourthly to consider what lessons, if any, have been learned and applied in the intervening decades before fifthly and finally posing the question whether the historical controversies surrounding Leverhulme’s ideas remain relevant to more recent and current debates about the types of commercial activities which may or may not be compatible with the traditional ethos of the island.’

The lecture series is arranged by Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc in partnership with e-Sgoil, the CnES Multi-Media Unit, the Islands Book Trust, and Angus Macleod’s family. The lecture will be live-streamed over the internet and will be shown in the e-Sgoil headquarters at 44 Francis Street, Stornoway, and possibly other venues.

Attendance at Pairc School is free, and all are welcome. Refreshments will be provided. We expect a big turnout for what is sure to be a thought-provoking lecture and a memorable occasion. For further details, please contact John Randall at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

This year’s Colm Cille Lecture is by Dr Aonghas MacCoinnich, University of Glasgow. 

The lecture will be held on Friday 20th September in Ionad Stoodie, Garrabost. 

Dr Aonghas MacCoinnich's topic is “Their longed for wish and expected prey.  The Clan Mackenzie and their plantation of Lewis, 1610-1700”, a subject that Dr MacCoinnich has researched in considerable depth.

It is a fascinating topic and of considerable relevance to Lewis at a time when Eaglais na h-Aoidhe was a major religious establishment in the area. 

There are many Mackenzies buried in the graveyard at Eaglais na h-Aoidhe including a few notable ones such as Alexander Mackenzie, eldest son of Murdoch Mackenzie, the Postmaster of Stornoway, Colonel Colin Mackenzie of the Madras Engineers and Surveyor General of All India, Barbara Mackenzie, the second daughter of Colin Mackenzie of Kildun and Norman Mackenzie of Garrabost who died in the Iolaire Disaster. 

Aonghas MacCoinnich is a Niseach whose parents still live in Ness.  He now lives in Glasgow where he is a lecturer in Celtic History at the University of Glasgow.  He graduated MA in History and Gaelic at the University of Aberdeen in 1999 and did his PhD there (in Gaelic) in 2005 on the emergence of the Mackenzie Clan, from 1466-1637.  He is interested in all aspects of the history and culture of the Highlands and Islands with a specific focus on the period between the end of the 16th century and the end of the 18th century.  Dr MacCoinnich has researched, lectured and written extensively on Celtic history, culture and language and in 2015 he wrote a book on “Plantation and Civility in the North Atlantic World; the Case of the Northern Hebrides, 1570-1639”.

The doors will be open from 6.30pm, so come early to meet Aonghas and catch-up with people. 

The lecture will start at 7.30pm.  Afterwards there will be a cuppa and the chance of a blether. 

Everyone is welcome, the lecture is free – so come along and bring your friends.

A new shipment of aid is being prepared to leave Stornoway for Eastern Europe next week.

But this time the humanitarian gift is not of furniture, clothes and schoolbooks, but of lifesaving fire and rescue equipment, and the skills to use it.

Three former Stornoway firefighters have spent the past months working with Blythswood Care and SERA – the Scottish Emergency Rescue Association – to prepare a 12-tonne Mercedes fire appliance for the long journey to Moldova.

Mechanic Ian Murray, electrician David Campbell and council greenkeeper Alec Maclennan will be taking annual leave from Wednesday September 25th and joining up with a SERA convoy in Edinburgh as they drive two fire engines and two ambulances the 2,200 miles to Nisporeni in Moldova.

The retired Stornoway fire appliance was made available for the charity effort by Fire Scotland, as Ian explained to welovestornoway.com: “It’s like updating your phone – the phone still works but you might want the additional capabilities of a new model. When that happens with fire appliances they still have thousands of hours use in them, but they may not be up to current standards here and are decommissioned by Fire Scotland.

“We have been fortunate to get access to three such appliances to prepare for deliver from Stornoway over the past three years, and over 500 sets of breathing apparatus have already gone over to Eastern Europe.”

The importance of such equipment can’t be overstated. Ian explained that Moldovan fire services can be available in larger communities but not in rural places, comparable to having a service in Stornoway, but not in Ness or Leverburgh. In SERA’s first year of operation (2007) a young girl drowned in a river on the very day the Scottish team arrived in Serbia – firefighters did not have the equipment to carry out a rescue nor recover the young girl's body from the river.

Returning in 2008 with fire engines, an ambulance and water rescue equipment, the SERA team were met by a Serbian firefighter who had driven for three hours to tell of a rescue of a father and three children trapped in a car in a river. Before the equipment and training had been donated, he said that the children would have certainly died and possibly the father as well.

A spokesman for SERA said: “This was the reason he drove three hours each way just to say thank you and the night we decided that we can't stop what we were doing.”

The Stornoway team has been involved in the annual aid convoy for several years, and Ian himself has made the trip seven times. But much of the work is done well before the team even get their refurbished vehicle to the Stornoway ferry.

Ian said: “Bringing the redundant fire equipment to Stornoway means the combined efforts of the island business community can go towards a mammoth servicing and upgrading task. Not just the appliance itself, but redundant Fire Scotland equipment such as water pumps, road traffic trauma kits, uniforms and breathing apparatus will be taken over and the ambulances will meet the need for transport to take casualties to medical help.

“We’ve had tremendous help from island people with servicing, body-work and raising funds to buy additional essentials like generators. The work we have all done on the appliance and equipment means it’s good to carry on for 10 years of useful life. All that is possible thanks to donations of funds and services from numerous local businesses and organisations.”

Leaving Stornoway on Wednesday September 25th, this year the three Stornoway men will be part of a 13-man team who will travel from Edinburgh via Hull and Rotterdam, driving four-hour shifts round the clock until they reach Nisporeni on the evening of Sunday September 29th. On Monday 30th they start training up to 40 firefighters in the use of ladders, breathing apparatus and road traffic collision equipment.

On Friday night (October 4th) a formal reception will be held after a gathering where newly-trained firefighters demonstrate their skills for the mayor, council leader, Moldovan fire service leaders and the British ambassador to Moldova. Keys to each donated vehicle will be formally handed over to the new crews.

Representing the community of Stornoway will be Cllr Charlie Nicolson, who is a trustee of SERA and who heads to Moldova by air next week, with a programme of additional work including the distribution of aid to schools and community centres.

The Stornoway fire team will fly back to Glasgow on Saturday October 5th, reaching Stornoway the next day and going back to work on Monday, but Ian says the hard-working team would not have it any other way.

He told welovestornoway.com: “I love it. It’s so rewarding meeting the guys and becoming friends with them. I have learnt a few words of the language and I keep in touch with them on social media. Even here at home it’s really rewarding – everybody seems to want to get involved, which is amazing.”

Pictures show some of the fire and rescue equipment heading for Moldova (SERA) and Stornoway team members Alex Maclennan (left) and David Campbell with the Mercedes fire engine and one of many donations from local businesses (Ian Murray).

Four options have been identified as ways to improve Barra and Vatersay services and facilities.

The study is exploring the feasibility of integrating health, social care, learning and community services and facilities on Barra and Vatersay and the provision of a single combined campus in Castlebay.

The options included:

  • New-build integrated facility combining health, social care, learning and community facilities (including Comhairle services and Police Scotland) into a single campus
  • Integrated facility with retained elements from existing Castlebay School, e.g. Sports Hall, Swimming Pool and Reception area
  • Standalone St Brendan’s Health and Social Care Hub by NHSWI on currently proposed site, and standalone school and community facilities by CnES on the existing school site
  • Collaborative approach (NHSWI and CnES) to project development (design, procurement and construction) but on existing separate sites.

A series of engagement events were held this week, providing the community with an update of the options and a chance to share their views.

Gordon Jamieson, NHS Eileanan Siar Chief Executive, said: “Continuing engagement with stakeholders has been a priority for us throughout the Study and we are very pleased with the level of interest in the proposals from the outset. A significant amount of work has been undertaken in developing the four options and we welcomed the opportunity to provide further updates this week through the Study Advisory Group and the public drop-in sessions. All the feedback provided will contribute to our evaluation of the options and inform the selection of a preferred option."

Malcolm Burr, the Comhairle’s Chief Executive, confirmed: “In parallel to last week’s welcome announcement by Scottish Government of their allocation of funding towards the improvement of learning facilities on Barra and Vatersay, the Comhairle remains committed to working with NHSWI in, as part of the Feasibility Study, exploring the feasibility of a public sector integration model and the provision of a single integrated community campus in Castlebay."

“Whilst much is still to be done in evaluating the feasibility of the four options, including analyses of particularly challenging aspects such as construction methodology and the financial and programme implications of such major developments in Castlebay, both organisations look forward to being able to identify and then develop and deliver the preferred option for what is a hugely significant investment by the Scottish Government, NHSWI and the Comhairle in public sector facilities for the communities on Barra and Vatersay."

Ofgem are expected to publish a decision on the Final Needs Case for the Western Isles in Autumn 2019.

In March this year, Ofgem announced that they were minded to reject the proposal by SSEN to build a 600MW transmission link to the Western Isles.

The company favoured a 450MW link and subsequently launched a consultation seeking the views of stakeholders and the public.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said: “When Ofgem announced in March that they were minded to favour a 450MW transmission link instead of a 600MW link, I appealed to Ofgem to think again and do what is best for the environment and the economy.

“Approval of a 600MW link is crucial for development in our islands, which have the strongest wind resource in Europe.

“The UK Government have set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050, constructing an adequate link to the Hebrides will help that aim. I have repeatedly raised this matter with Ofgem and the UK Government and I hope Ofgem will listen and make the right decision this Autumn.”

A coffee shop set up at the Ardmhor ferry terminal is celebrating the end of a successful first season, with coffee causing a stir in the highest circles.

Ardmhor Coffee at the Wee Ferry Terminal has been designated an official pit-stop on the Hebridean Way, with walkers and cyclists praising the delicious bakes, perfect coffee and wealth of healthy options available for weary Hebridean Wayers.

Manager Sharon Cox, who has six years experience running the Barra Airport Café with husband Mick, says she first thought of starting the café as the ferry terminal was looking “a bit sad”.

She told welovestornoway.com: “I have been really pleased with the amount of Hebridean Wayers, cyclists and walkers, using us as an official Hebridean Way pit stop and overwhelmed by the kind and lovely messages of support and compliments on my baking and coffees.

“I am aiming the business at the Heb Wayers as they are increasing in numbers. My home-baking – baked on site in my wee kitchen – vegan snacks, whey protein shakes and energy bars, all seem to be appreciated after a tough day on the Heb Way.”

Sharon is still contemplating what hours would best suit winter opening, but for now is open from 8.30am to 4pm five days a week – closed Sundays and one other day, which is always advised on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Ardmhor-Coffee-At-The-Wee-Ferry-Terminal-1185469631632689/

And she’s looking forward to next season, when she has ideas for possible expansion of the menu, as well as possible star support from the Black Isle…

Sharon said: “I was thrilled to have been visited by the Vandyke Brothers (based in Cromarty) – famous Scottish coffee bean roasters. They loved my oat milk flat whites and said they were really impressed with my barista skills, my coffee and the fact that I offer a choice of three dairy alternative milks – and by the fact that I am a tiny independent coffee shop all the way out here.

“They have contacted me to offer advice and support if I need it to expand my ideas and I’m really looking forward to next season, excitedly looking at some new foodie and drink ideas.”

The date has been announced for a training event to help bring Western Isles generations together, helping to create a better and fairer society.

The Glasgow-based charity Generations Working Together provides information, delivers support and encourages involvement to benefit all of Scotland’s generations, by working, learning, volunteering and living together. Their vision is that all generations in Scotland will work together to create a better and fairer country for all.

There’s already an island-based network that meets twice a year to plan ways in which organisations can bring the youngest and oldest together, with ideas shared across health, education, environmental and residential living initiatives.

Local network co-ordinator Ashleigh Macaskill told welovestornoway.com: “We have members in organisations including residential homes, schools, the Comhairle, NHS Western Isles and the Volunteer Centre.

“Intergenerational working is something we are getting better at, with activities ranging from ceilidhs to schools visiting residential homes/ Traditionally, interaction between the generations happened naturally, but modern life has made the generations more segregated and we’re trying to think about ways to bring back the contact between people of all ages.”

The next intergenerational training session in Stornoway is set for Tuesday 5th November at the Bridge Centre and will see chief executive Alison Clyde updating network members and others on new ideas and initiatives. More information and booking is at https://generationsworkingtogether.org/events-training/intergenerational-training-for-trainers-and-practitioners-updated-edition-05-11-2019

Actors Dolina MacLennan, John Stahl, Elspeth Turner and Daibhidh Walker will join musician Mairi Campbell in an exclusive work-in-progress performance of theatre show Soil and Soul at An Lanntair on Wednesday 30 October.

Alan Bissett, the award-winning playwright, novelist and creator of The Moira Monologues, is adapting Alastair McIntosh’s acclaimed book, which describes how McIntosh’s upbringing on the Isle of Lewis shaped his life’s work as a prominent environmental and land rights activist. The project is being produced by Lewis-based arts organisation sruth-mara. The performance at An Lanntair will follow a week of rehearsals at Aras Nam Fir Chlis in Uig, with Uig-based theatre director Laura Cameron-Lewis, and will take place on the opening night of Faclan: the Hebridean Book Festival.

Brought up on Lewis, Dolina MacLennan famously became one of Edinburgh’s first pub folk singers, performed Gaelic songs in a Scottish Ballet production, and forged friendships with the likes of Hamish Henderson, Norman McCaig, Sorley MacLean and Hugh MacDiarmid. She starred in ground-breaking 7:84 Scotland production, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, and has had a distinguished career in Gaelic broadcasting.

John Stahl is a veteran TV and theatre actor best known for his roles in Game of Thrones and the long-running TV series High Road. Other notable roles include Inspector Reed in the 1995 television series Resort to Murder, and Danny Boyle’s 2011 Royal National Theatre production of Frankenstein, in which he appeared alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.

Elspeth Turner is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. An actor and a writer, she has worked with various theatre companies in the UK and North America, including National Theatre of Scotland, Magnetic North, and Eastern Angles. She can be seen in the forthcoming feature film, Riptide. Her new play, Savage Nation, is currently in development.

Daibhidh Walker has been acting for over 20 years, in TV, radio and theatre, and is originally from South Uist. Some of his recent credits include Bannan, Outlander, Da la sa Damhair, and Rough Magik, and he has also worked on Gaelic versions of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s dream. His voice can be heard on various Gaelic cartoons.

Mairi Campbell, already announced as part of the cast for the show, has received six national music awards including Instrumentalist of the Year (2017), Tutor of the Year (2016) and Scots Singer of The Year (2008) at Na Trad Awards. Her voice has been heard worldwide thanks to her version of Auld Lang Syne, with David Francis as the Cast being used in the pivotal New Year’s Eve scene of the blockbuster movie Sex and the City. Mairi’s portfolio encompasses concerts, music theatre productions and education work. Her own show Auld Lang Syne is coming to An Lanntair in January and her voice can currently be heard in the venue’s #winterinthewild campaign trailer.

Laura Cameron-Lewis (Director) trained at Dartington College of Arts and is a former artistic director of Fringe First award-winning company Highway Diner, creating shows for the Arches and the Traverse among other venues. She worked as Assistant Director on the Royal Lyceum Theatre’s 2016 production of The Iliad, and has worked as a director with Shona Reppe, Camille O’Sullivan and Jenna Watt.

Andrew Eaton-Lewis, Producer of Soil and Soul, said: “We are delighted to confirm this cast of incredibly gifted and experienced performers. All five of our cast were already familiar with Alastair’s book and are excited about the potential of this project. We feel very privileged to have them on board as we begin to explore the possibilities of Alan’s script and prepare to share it with an audience for the first time.”

Soil and Soul’s high profile admirers include Thom Yorke of Radiohead, journalist and activist George Monbiot, who has called it “a world-changing book”, and Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue, who has described Alastair as “a living prophet”. The Sunday Herald likened Soil & Soul to Naomi Klein’s international bestseller No Logo.

Tickets for Soil and Soul are on sale now and can be booked online or by calling An Lanntair’s box office on 01851 708480

Faclan the Hebridean Book Festival will run from Wednesday 30 October to Saturday 2 November and is supported by Creative Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and Outer Hebrides LEADER. This year’s festival theme is Human Nature and the programme includes Julie Brook’s breath-taking environmental art, Dan Richards’ journeys to the world’s remote places, Margaret Fay Shaw’s pioneering island photography, Niall Iain Macdonald’s epic solo attempt to row the Atlantic, and cult musician Momus who brings his ‘Unreliable Tour Guide’ to the Hebrides for the first time.

A major project to restore the historic stained glass windows at St Columba’s Church in Stornoway was completed last week, following years of dedicated fundraising by the congregation. 

The work was made possible by a £50,000 pledge from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, to allow the project to finally go ahead after seven years of church fundraising.

Stained glass artisans began work on the £150,000 project back in May and did it in three phases. The final window was installed on Thursday, making a significant difference to the appearance of the Parish Church. The project also meant the more recent secondary glazing, which was supposed to protect the stained glass but caused as many problems as it solved, could be taken down, allowing more light to flood into the church. 

Rev William Heenan, the minister at St Columba’s, said he hoped that would be a metaphor for light going out to the community from within the church.

He said: “It’s a project that was long overdue. We’ve been saving money the whole seven years I’ve been here, putting it aside because we knew it was a job we were going to have to do, sooner rather than later. The big window was assessed as ‘critical’ in 2008 but they hadn’t managed to get onto it.

“Once we started the ball rolling, it’s been a long drawn-out process, dealing with the General Trustees, dealing with the architectural people, and the fact it’s a listed building means everything had to be replaced as was. But when you see the finished product, back to its original, I think it speaks for itself. I couldn’t believe the difference.”

He added: “There was secondary glazing on the outside, supposedly to protect the stained glass, but it was part of the problem because there wasn’t sufficient ventilation, hence the condensation corroded the stay bars, which were cast iron, and then they expanded and cracked some of the stone work which meant we had to get the stone masons. That meant it was a bigger budget than we had originally anticipated and had budgeted for.”

The windows were taken out and transported to Rainbow Glass Studios in Prestwick, where they were restored to their former glory. 

It is a happy ending to St Columba’s campaign to raise the money for the windows. They had been holding ‘days of giving’ twice a year, which had consistently been raising nearly £20,000 a year. They were also been awarded a £30,000 grant and £90,000 loan from The Church of Scotland General Trustees towards the work. Point and Sandwick Trust, which runs the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm, will be giving the church £50,000 over five years, to help with their repayments.

The condition of the windows has been assessed as “poor” to “critical” and Point and Sandwick agreed to support the restoration project because of the unique position St Columba’s occupies in the community as the Parish Church.

Point and Sandwick Trust board member Gordon Mackay, also a member of St Columba’s Church, said: “The island has benefited from ongoing donations given by the Trust for a variety of different causes. The workmanship carried out on the windows is excellent and has been finished to an extremely high standard, and will hopefully be enjoyed for many more years to come. Also I would like to say on behalf of the congregation a very big thank you to PST.”

Graham Morrison, St Columba’s Session Clerk, said the windows were “lovely”, adding: “They are all I expected and more.”

St Columba’s Church – a commission for Francis Humberson Mackenzie of Seaforth – was finished around 1794, with the stained glass windows installed during refurbishment in 1885, which also included the addition of the transept.

All the windows, with the exception of the big west window which was severely damaged during in a storm in 1946, had stood strong. But, as the Clerk said: “Leaded windows, like all other structures have a finite lifetime, and these have served well but are now in sore need of refurbishment.”

This west window, the one upstairs at the back of the church, had been assessed as being in the poorest state, ‘critical’, and was restored in the first phase of work, along with the south-facing windows. 

Collectively, the windows displayed two ecclesiastical roundels, which were alternated and repeated around the church. The west window was the only one which did not match, as it had been repaired with materials available in 1946. Now, though, it is perfectly in keeping and benefitting from most of the sunlight.

As well as restoring the windows to their 1885 state, the project also involved a stone mason from Aberdeen repairing broken sections of sandstone around the windows. 

The Clerk said: “The congregation have been saving hard and they are making a big commitment into the future to repay the loan. The Point and Sandwick grant will be a big help to us.”

Rev Heenan said it was “a building we’ve been entrusted with to look after for future generations”. However, he also added: “But at the end of the day, it’s still only a building. A church is not stones and mortar and glass – it’s people. And hopefully the physically renovation of the windows will be symbolic for God’s doing in people’s hearts and lives and in building relationships with himself and with one another wishing the congregation.

“The fact that there’s more physical light coming into the building, hopefully there will be more spiritual light going out into the community. From the inside out, as well as the outside in.”

St Columba’s have received a number of other significant donations towards the project, namely £10,000 from Third Sector Hebrides and £3,000 from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s development fund in addition to the grant and loan from the General Trustees.

The congregation will be repaying the loan and Point and Sandwick Trust will give £10,000 a year to help with the repayments.

“That will meet just under half of our repayments,” said the Clerk. “This grant from Point and Sandwick will be a significant help to the congregation.” 

As they admired the artisans’ work, Rev Heenan remarked: “To think of the technology today… that they managed to do these windows on the island in 1885…”

The church was originally built to replace St Columba’s Ui Church at Aignish and St Lennan’s in the old centre of Stornoway. St Lennan’s once stood on a site between Point Street and North Beach Street, extending from where the Crown Hotel now stands towards Bank Street.

At the time St Columba’s was built, there were no streets around it and the church stood alone on the hill outside the village of Stornoway. 

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 memorial garden, Castlebay

The Eilidh Macleod Memorial Trust has applied for planning permission to create a memorial garden with sculpture, bench and footpath at Bentangaval, Castlebay. 

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

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

Change of use of building, Breasclete

Urras an Taighe Mhòir has applied for planning permission to change the use of the residential flats at 1 Cnoc Mor, Breaslete, into a community archive and exhibition space,  The flats were previously designated as residential under the ownership of Hebridean Housing Partnership but have been unoccupied for some time. 

New house and access, Barvas

Ann Morrison of 25 Heatherhill, Barvas, has applied for planning permission to erect a house and create a new access at 31 Loch Street, Barvas. The house is to consist of two bedrooms, an open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area, a bathroom and a utility room. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars. 

Alteration and extension of house, Carloway

Devana Investments Ltd, based in Aberdeenshire, has applied for planning permission to alter and extend the house at Tigh A’Bhealaich, Knock, Carloway. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars. The house is to be developed into a four bedroom dwelling with an open plan kitchen/dining/living area, four bathrooms, a sunroom and a utility room. 

New house, Coll

Iain Roxburgh of 42 Upper  Coll has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 42B Upper Coll. Work is to include creating a new access to the public road. 

 

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, Finsbay

Rebekah Globe of 1 Mission House, Finsbay, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 3 Borsham, Finsbay. Work is to include creating a new access off the main road and installing a septic tank and soak-away below the property. 

New camping pods, Rodel

John Sumner of 259 Cresses Road, High Wycombe, has applied for planning permission to erect three camping pods at 15 Rodel. Work is to include installing a septic tank and associated drainage system and creating a new access to the main road and parking suitable for six cars. 

Change of use of building, Scalpay

Philip Johnson of 5 Rosedale Mews, Ravenshead, Nottingham, has applied for planning permission to change the use of the former dental centre at Health Centre, Scalpay, to a dwelling house. Work is also to include creating parking suitable for two cars. The house will consist of one bedroom, a kitchen/dining room, a lounge, toilet and porch. No alterations will be made to the floor plan or the outside of the building. 

The Between Islands project, originated by An Lanntair in Stornoway, and which aims to explore the culture and heritage links between the Western and Northern Isles, is launching its latest initiative in Orkney later this month.

Funded through the LEADER 2014-2020 regional cooperation scheme, this latest series of events will see lecturers from each Island UHI campus undertake a public talk in a neighbouring area.  

The first of these will be undertaken by Professor Frank Rennie from the Outer Hebrides, who will be delivering his lecture in Kirkwall. Entitled ‘Space, Place, and Grace: Perspectives of a nisomaniac’, it explores the topic of what makes a place special or unique.

Dr Rennie explains: “Through the lens of a small crofting village in the west of the Isle of Lewis, we can look at the evolution of a location and what makes it distinct. From the earliest recorded time, as it became a home to a unique combination of plants, animals, and human families, the natural and social history of this place is analysed.

“Using many elements of the landscape that are found in north and west of Scotland – the brochs, and the remnants of Iron Age, Viking, and Gaelic cultures, the village can be compared to other island settlements, as well as being set apart.

“The exceptional amalgamation of ideas, cultures, and habitats to be found in this one small place gives a rich insight into the heritage and history of a distinctive community over thousands of years. In doing so, it also challenges many of the current stereotypes of ‘remoteness’ and ‘barrenness’ to celebrate the magnificence of the human ecology of small Atlantic islands.”

Project coordinator Alex Macdonald added: “As we launched the musical element of the Between Islands programme at the Orkney Folk Festival in May, I am delighted we are able to begin our lecture series here, too.

“With financial support from LEADER, and invaluable assistance from our contacts in each UHI campus, we are able to illustrate the main aims of the project, which are to encourage collaboration through collectively promoting our culture and heritage.”

The lecture series will continue with a talk by Professor Donna Heddle of Orkney UHI at the Faclan book festival in Stornoway in November, with a third lecture involving Shetland UHI planned for the summer of 2020.

Professor Frank Rennie will be undertaking his lecture in the King Street Halls in Kirkwall on Wednesday 25th September at 7pm.

Admission is free and all are welcome.

Donald Cameron,  MSP for the Highlands and Islands, added a dash of pink to his usual attire to support Breast Cancer Now’s wear it pinkfundraiser, which takes place on Friday 18 October.

Since launching in 2002, wear it pink has had an enormous impact on the lives of those affected by breast cancer, raising over £33 million to date. Mr Cameron is calling for his constituents to join him, by signing up for wear it pink and helping to fund world-class breast cancer research and life changing support for those affected by the disease.

Mr Cameron joined fellow MSP, Rachael Hamilton, and Alison Tait, who has been affected by breast cancer, at the Scottish Parliament to highlight the event.

Mr Cameron, said: “Every year in Scotland, around 4,700 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and over 1,000 women die of the disease. I applaud the efforts of those who are taking actions which are contributing  to reduce the number of cases .

“And that’s why I’m encouraging people across the Highlands and Islands to take part in Breast Cancer Now’s Wear It Pink day on Friday 18th October. 

“The money raised by this wonderful event has such a huge impact, allowing Breast Cancer Now to fund vital research and support for those living with a diagnosis. If you can, please put a cross in the diary on 18th October, 'wear it pink' that day,  and support this very important cause.”

Alison Tait, 49 from Edinburgh, is a single parent living with incurable secondary breast cancer. Commenting on why she is supporting this year’s wear it pink day she said:   “Being diagnosed with secondary breast cancer turns your world upside down. Breast Cancer Now does incredible work that makes a real difference for people like me who are living with this disease.

“In May 2018, I helped Breast Cancer Now to launch the Perjeta Now campaign in Scotland. It successfully made this extraordinary drug routinely available to women in Scotland living with incurable secondary breast cancer - giving them nearly 16 months of extra life compared to other treatments.

“Fundraising events like wear it pink help to support Breast Cancer Now’s invaluable work and I would like to encourage people across Scotland to get involved and donate what you can.”

Anyone can take part in wear it pink. Some people will choose to hold a cake sale, while others will opt to organise a raffle and some will arrange a pink fancy dress day at their school or workplace. No matter how people chose to wear it pink, all the money raised will help to fund vital breast cancer research and support.

Wear it pink on 18 October and raise funds for breast cancer research and support. Visit wearitpink.org to register and claim your free fundraising pack.

 

The man who died in a road crash in Carloway last week has been named by police.

He was 72-year-old Philip Walker from Anglesey in Wales.  Mr Walker had been visiting the area on holiday.

The incident happened around 10.30am on Wednesday 11 September when Mr Walker's campervan and a Ford Transit van collided between Carloway Bridge and the Doune Braes Hotel.

The female passenger from the campervan and two occupants of the van were all uninjured.

Mr Walker's family released a statement through Police Scotland, saying: "We are grateful for everybody who assisted at the scene, the love and support provided by staff at Western Isles Hospital and the assistance provided by the wider community in the Isle of Lewis in the days following."

Sergeant David Miller from the Road Policing Unit in Dingwall said: “Our thoughts remain with Mr Walker's family and friends at this difficult time.

"Our enquiries remain ongoing and we are continuing to urge anyone who may have witnessed the collision or who has any other information to come forward.

"This includes anyone who may have seen either vehicle prior to the incident or who may have dashcam footage.

“Anyone with information that may assist our investigation should contact Police Scotland through 101, quoting reference 965 of September 11."

The deadline for nominations to the 30 Community Councils in the Western Isles falls at 4pm tomorrow, September 17th.
Community councils are voluntary organisations set up by statute and run by local residents on behalf of the community. Up to 12 community councillors in each area meet regularly to discuss local projects and events, issues of concern and local planning.
In recent years all but three of the 30 districts have had a community council, with Barvas, Stornoway and Laxdale the only areas which have not been represented. A community council is constituted if there are four or more valid nominations.
If a community has more than 12 nominations, elections will be held on Tuesday 8th October. To stand as a community councillor or vote in the election you must reside in the local area and be named on the electoral register. 16 and 17-year-olds in each community council area who are on the electoral register are also entitled to stand for the community council and vote in any election.
Nomination papers and further information are available via https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/your-council/community-councils/community-council-elections/

With the cruise season drawing to a close, there’s an unexpected boost to visitor numbers this afternoon (Monday September 16th).

The cruise ship Amadea is to make an unscheduled visit to Stornoway, bringing over 500 passengers ashore.

The stylish Japanese-built vessel is operated by German tour company Phoenix Reisen and was last renovated in 2016. She’s pictured here on her last visit to Stornoway, the same year, by Morris Macleod.

Today she is due at anchor at 3pm and will depart at 9pm. All her excursions are conducted in German.

Staff from Uig’s innovative community shop are off to London today (Monday September 16th) as they take their place at an awards ceremony widely regarded as ‘The Oscars’ of the grocery retail sector.

The shop at Timsgarry has been shortlisted as independent community retailer of the year at the Retail Industry Awards, which reward excellence and outstanding achievement across a broad range of categories. It’s the only time of year the whole industry gets together to recognise the smallest independent retailers alongside the largest supermarket groups.

The community-owned shop offers a wide range of groceries and everyday essentials, as well as fuel on a 24/7 basis using an external payment terminal.

The Uig team will be at the Grade II listed setting of The Brewery on Chiswell Street, near the Barbican in central London, to hear whether they’ve topped their category. With other shortlisted businesses coming from Northumberland, Kircaldy, Belfast and Lancashire they admit that any winner will be a worthy one, having excelled in serving their local community wherever they are in the UK.

In a social media statement yesterday the shop managers said: “This is it! The edge of the world goes to the heart of the city, as our community-owned shop travels to London.

“Excitement is outweighed by pride in our remote community achieving such recognition. Uig has already benefited from the exposure and the fantastic London experience will, no doubt, provide ideas and inspiration to help our community shop realise its vision for the future.”

The awards trip means Uig’s Post Office services will be unavailable this week until Thursday, although stamps can be bought at the shop counter during the rest of the week. Uig shop has also reverted to winter hours from today – 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday.

An online public consultation has been launched as the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland considers changes to ward boundaries in the Western Isles.

The Review of Electoral Arrangements for the na h-Eileanan an Iar council area will recommend to Scottish Ministers the number of councillors and ward boundaries for Western Isles council. At present they are proposing a council of 28 representatives, three less than we have currently.

A public consultation on the proposal, launched last week (10th September), is set to run until 2nd December at https://consult.lgbc-scotland.gov.uk/reviews/na-h-eileanan-an-iar-electoral-review/

Proposals being put forward for consultation take into account minor amendments proposed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar during an earlier stage of the consultation.

The LGBCS said in its introduction to the survey: “One of the main reasons we undertake reviews is that the population, and therefore the electorate, of any local authority area is constantly changing, with migration into or out of areas as well as within the same area.

“As a result of these changes, some councillors may represent considerably more or fewer electors than other councillors in the same council area.

“The Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 introduced the use of one- or two-member wards where a ward contains an inhabited island, in addition to the current multi-member ward system.

The Act requires us to review the six Councils containing inhabited islands, including Na h-Eileanan an Iar, as soon as possible.

“We expect our recommendations, if accepted, to be in place for the next local government elections in May 2022.”

The morning ferry became a pilgrimage special at the end of last week (Thursday 12th September) as islanders headed for Oban to venerate the sacred relics of a favourite saint.

The relics of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux arrived at St Columba’s Cathedral in Oban on Thursday during a three-week tour of Scotland.

Writer and poet Donald S Murray took to the stage in Uig, Isle of Lewis, last night (Saturday September 14th) with a musician from Shetland, a choir from Harris, a singer from Achmore and Aberdeen…and his long-time musical collaborator, Iain ‘Costello’ Maciver.

Donald – now living in Shetland but originating in Lewis – was putting on a unique show of words and music which reflect the Iolaire disaster and its aftermath.

Originally derived from readings of his novel As the Women Lay Dreaming – set in the context of the 1919 Iolaire tragedy in which 201 men died just a few metres from the shore off Holm near Stornoway – the performance has developed to include a range of work, including a rendition of a work by Murdo Macfarlane – the Melbost bard – entitled A-raoir Reubadh an Iolaire – by Donna Dale.

The event in Uig Community Centre is – so far – the only island venue for the stage version of  “As the Women Lay Dreaming” and was only the second time that the entire concept had been performed.

Songs and music will be provided by Iain ‘Costello’ MacIver accompanied by Còisir Bhan Na Hearadh as well as Shetland-based musician Donald Anderson and Donna Dale who is from Achmore but now based in Aberdeen.

The book ‘As the Women Lay Dreaming’ has been shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award and highly commended in the Sir Walter Scott Historical Fiction Award.

Donald said: ”I was very much looking forward to hearing this material performed where it belongs - on the Isle of Lewis, in an area which was so deeply affected by the Iolaire disaster.

“So far it has been very well received in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and at book festivals on the mainland. It was time it came home.”

The readings included some new poems which Donald has composed that are inspired by the railway from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and particularly the tiny request stop at Achanalt between Garve and Achnasheen.  This collection is due to published in the Spring.

At the end of the performance, Donald thanked Brian Wilson and Joni Buchanan for their support to hold the event; the musicians and singers; those involved in running the community centre; and the audience for turning out on a very stormy night which at some stages of the performance had the battering noise of winds on the roof and walls as a slight reminder of the night of the tragedy itself. 

Luskentyre Beach has come out as one of the top 20 beaches in all of Europe in the latest TripAdvisor survey.

And it was one of only four of the selected beaches to get a 5/5 rating.

The travel and eating-out booking website says: “For all of the world-class cities and cultural attractions Europe has to offer, its beaches are equally amazing and shouldn’t be overlooked.

“At TripAdvisor, we set out to identify some of the best beachside getaways in Europe for all types of travellers—from classic staples in Greece, Spain, Italy and Croatia to underrated gems in the UK, Turkey, and beyond.

“Each spot on our list had to have some stellar TripAdvisor reviews, as well as comfortable and affordable accommodations nearby.

“Visit one of these jaw-dropping European beaches and you’ll be in awe of the stunning views and scenery.

“The best part is, many of Europe’s finest beaches are located in incredible destinations—like the charming town of Tropea in Italy’s Calabria region or the seaside stunner of Saint-Malo in France’s Brittany region.

“Luskentyre, located on The Isle of Harris, is not a typical European beach but will mesmerise you with its beauty.

"With miles and miles of white sand and stunning green-blue waters—it’s a breath-taking Scottish landscape worth seeing. Spend the day wandering the wide open space and finish it off with a visit to the nearby Isle of Harris Distillery.”

One TripAdvisor reviewer said: “I’ve been to beaches all around the world, but nothing could prepare me for this place…it’s completely unspoiled and on another level of beauty! White and gold sands, all shades of blue ocean and 360 degree views.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, pledged to support the RAF Benevolent Fund, the Royal Air Force’s leading welfare charity, in their drive to reach even more RAF veterans in need.

It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people are in urgent need of what could be life-changing support, but they are often unaware that such help is available or that they might be eligible for it. Recognising there is a limited time to help these veterans, the campaign’s main aim is to reach them before it is too late.

Research carried out by the charity estimates that 35% of us (one in three) know of someone who has served in the RAF and therefore the Join the Search. Change a Life. campaign calls on us all to reach out to those men and women who served as regulars or reservists or did their National Service in the RAF. Many are too proud to ask for help when they need it most or simply do not know that the RAF Benevolent Fund is here to support them.

Mr Stewart, who was a member of Westminster’s Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme for two sessions, said: “The RAF Benevolent Fund has launched a major new campaign in its centenary year urging the country to help repay the debt we all owe to the RAF veterans and their families who urgently need help. In particular, we need to reach out to the National Service and Second World War veterans, before it's too late. They put on the uniform of our country when we needed them to, the least we can do is be there for them when they themselves need our help.

The RAF Benevolent Fund offers a wide range of support, from financial grants for one-off and day-to-day costs, respite breaks and emotional support. Last year it spent £21M supporting 53,000 members of the RAF Family across the globe.

In Scotland they spent over £1M (£1.13M) supporting 290 people directly with support ranging from housing to Care Home top up fees, mobility and adaptations in the home so individuals can live more independently. They also supported thousands more with grants provided to other organisations such as Scottish Veterans Residences, National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, and RAF Widows Association.

The campaign was launched at the end of June and to date more than 5,700 people have been in touch with the Fund seeking information, 4,300 of which have been welfare specific. More than half of those have come from family members or friends of an RAF service person or spouse, 41% has come from the individual themselves and requests for help have come from as far as Canada and South Africa.

The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is the RAF’s leading welfare charity. We exist to support current and former members of the RAF, their partners and dependants, whenever they need us. We are loyal, generous, and always there. In 2018 we spent £20.9m supporting more than 53,000 members of the RAF Family. For more information visit: rafbf.org | Twitter: twitter.com/RAFBF

Gluasad Comhla is a successful project run by Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) in partnership with Lewis Citizens Advice Service, The Shed, The Foyer and WIAMH and working with GP’s in Langabhat Medical Practice to help people whose health is being affected by living in homes that are hard to heat.

The project began in March 2018 and initially was limited to the Langabhat Medical Practice area but TIG are delighted to announce that they have been successful in securing additional funding to allow the project to be rolled out across the Western Isles and will continue running until March 31st 2020.

People who have taken part have benefited from a range of things such as increased income through disability benefits, new heating installations, internal wall and room in the room insulation, disabled adaptations and home safety checks. TIG act as a single point of contact for anyone who has a long term health condition to make the process as streamlined as possible.

The project has been evaluated by Salford University and TIG are excited to invite you to an event on their findings and to demonstrate how you can benefit from this project.  Come along to hear about the problems of fuel poverty throughout our islands, particularly for those with long term health conditions, and how Gluasad Comhla are helping to address this. 

The programme runs from 9am-1pm on 25th of September in the Tonga Suite, Caladh Inn, Stornoway and there will be a session at An Caladh, Balivanich at 10.15am on the 26th of September.

Please telephone Tighean Innse Gall on 01851 706121 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to indicate your interest in attending.

 

There’s disruption to weekend events and ferry timetables due to gales forecast through tomorrow (Saturday September 14th).

Tomorrow’s morning sailings between Stornoway and Ullapool have been cancelled, with a yellow alert for further possible disruption or cancellation.

There’s disruption to weekend events and ferry timetables due to gales forecast through tomorrow (Saturday September 14th).

Tomorrow’s sailings between Stornoway and Ullapool are currently under review, with a yellow alert for possible disruption or cancellation.

Morning sailings across the Sound of Harris have been cancelled, with a review scheduled at 11.30am tomorrow regarding later sailings. The timetable for services between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy has been revised.

Sailings between Castlebay and Oban have been cancelled and sailings on the Sound of Barra are liable to disruption.

Meanwhile some social activities have also been postponed or cancelled because of the forecast. Traigh Mhor Trekking have cancelled all lessons and rides on Saturday and a beach clean at Barvas and Brue scheduled as part of Hebridean International

Film Festival has been postponed to Saturday September 21st.

A rowing boat which was designed to cross the Atlantic from New York to Stornoway washed up on a beach in the Western Isles yesterday (Thursday September 12th) – 15 months and 3,000 miles after being abandoned at sea.

The rowing boat ALBA has made her own way almost to the doorstep of the man who set out from the east coast of the USA in her shelter in May 2018. Niall Iain Macdonald had intended to row NY2SY, solo across the Atlantic between New York and Stornoway, to raise funds for the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

But he was forced to abandon ship two weeks into the epic crossing after a storm on June 15th 2018 and was rescued at sea by the Dutch cargo vessel MS Dolfijngracht, after issuing a mayday call. He was taken to Canada, from where he returned home to Scotland, his boat left drifting in the North Atlantic. At the time, he wrote: “Now my row is over and my boat is abandoned at sea. She will continue her own journey which will end somewhere, sometime. It's a horrible feeling to have to leave your boat behind…”

Yesterday the ALBA came home, washed up on a beach at Askernish in South Uist, relatively intact, having drifted across the Atlantic on her own. She was photographed and retrieved from the water ahead of tomorrow’s forecast storm by Angus Steele.

Announcing the astonishing discovery this morning, Niall Ian said: “Hello old friend. My boat was found yesterday. She came ashore on the beach at Askernish, South Uist - almost made it home.”

Many followers have commented on the boat’s seeming determination to be reunited with its owner by landing so close to Stornoway. Niall Iain himself underlined the remarkable coincidence: “My maternal granny was from Askernish, my mum was brought up nearby in Daliburgh.” One supporter simply commented: “us islanders always find our way home!”

Next month’s Faclan: Hebridean book festival features Niall Iain as one of the headline speakers. He will share his testimony of two dramatic attempts to row the Atlantic and why he did it, with previously unseen film footage.

The attempt to row from NY2SY has so far raised £24,000 for SAMH and the donations page is still live. You can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ny2sy

The pictures show ALBA on the beach at Askernish yesterday (Angus Steele) and leaving Norfolk, Virginia at the start of the 2018 voyage (Niall Iain Macdonald).

A truckload of aid which left Stornoway at the end of August has today (Friday September 13th) crossed the border into Moldova.

The aid truck packed by supporters of Blythswood on August 30th includes 26 pallets of furniture, clothes and other necessities, including bikes, sewing machines and a consignment of insulation boards destined for a children’s home in the impoverished rural area of Ungheni.

Principal organiser Charlie Nicolson will be heading out to Nisporeni soon to work with volunteers from the church Biserica Sfanta Treime, distributing the aid to those who need it in rural areas.

Charlie’s a regular and popular visitor to the area with more than 50 trips completed – although he’s lost count of how many times he has actually travelled over. He’ll be greeted by Pastor Alex Ulinici and will stay at ‘the friendship flat’, established by Blythswood volunteers in Nisporeni and now used by international aid workers from as far away as New Zealand.

Charlie told welovestornoway.com today: “The area we work in, Nisporeni, is a couple of hours outside Moldova’s capital city, Chisnau. It has a similar size of population to the Western Isles and we work with the churches there to find out what is most needed.

“This year we were told that the children’s home has a terrible problem with condensation, so we have had a generous donation of insulation boards from TIG and these will be installed at the home. We’ve also sent clothing, hand-knitted items, books and other essentials all given by people from the Western Isles and loaded up in Stornoway last month.

“I’ll be working with volunteers to deliver aid at schools and community groups and during my visit I also spend some time with the British ambassador to Moldova, discussing other projects such as the Blythswood shoebox appeal.

“The friendship flat is one example of a practical project we set up. People from the Netherlands and other countries now also use it as a base. Last week a dentist from Ireland was staying there to offer free dental treatment clinics.

“There are very firm links now between Nisporeni and Stornoway.  Because of their connection to the islands they have a street called ‘Strada Stornoway’ which is the second main street in the town, with the library, police station and special school on it and with plaques celebrating our friendship.

“It’s that kind of thing that shows how much has happened as a result of a little seed, sowed here in the islands.”

 

Private Landlords who commit to providing affordable housing should be given the same financial support as housing associations to improve the energy efficiency of their properties says Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the rural business association.

In its response to the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (Scotland) Regulations 2019, SLE has said that of the six financial support options currently advertised on the Home Energy Scotland website, only one could be used by many of the private landlords offering affordable homes to rent in rural Scotland.

The energy efficiency regulations aim to improve the energy efficiency of homes in the private rented sector and to make all our buildings warmer, greener and more efficient, supporting efforts towards eradicating fuel poverty, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as contributing to sustainable economic growth.

Stephen Young, Head of Policy at Scottish Land & Estates said: “Improving the energy efficiency of homes is vitally important to help keep bills low for tenants and fight climate change. But in order to do this, many properties require substantial amounts of money spent on them.

“That’s why we are calling for the Scottish Government to ensure that private landlords who provide affordable homes to rent have access to the same pots of money as housing associations and other public sector landlords.

“Private landlords in rural Scotland, many of whom are our members, are often the only providers of affordable homes to rent in their area. If they are unable to meet energy efficiency standards without financial help, there is a risk that landlords will no longer offer their properties as affordable homes to rent. This could have a knock-on negative impact on the ability of local businesses to recruit staff. Subsequently causing the number of people using local schools, bus services and other local services and amenities to decline, putting these services at risk.”

SLE is also calling for greater clarity on how the regulations will work in practice and have raised serious concerns about the methodology used in Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessments.

Stephen Young said: “We continue to raise concerns that the method used for calculating EPC is not fit for purpose. It is based on an ‘average’ home, and just does not sufficiently account for things like efficient off-grid heating or the construction type of many properties in rural areas. 

"These flaws are well documented and need to be address if the EPC is to be the main regulatory tool to improve energy efficiency across the private rented sector housing stock in Scotland.”

Case studies highlighting the work of SLE members in providing affordable homes to rural Scotland can be found on the SLE website.

 

The sight of an alien craft in the skies above Stornoway took aircraft spotters by surprise yesterday (Thursday September 12th), but there was a straightforward explanation.

Aviation engineer Jason Spinks captured this shot of a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber as it flew over Stornoway airport early yesterday evening.

Sightings of the uniquely-designed US military craft have been made around the UK in recent days, as the US Air Force continues training exercises from RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

Jason told welovestornoway.com: “They’ve been over for the last two days, but this was the only time I managed to catch it.”

The US Air Force has been in training with the RAF, with the B-2s flying sorties over the Norwegian sea. They are temporarily stationed at RAF Fairford, where the long runway and climate-controlled hangars provide suitable facilities for them.

Pictures show the Stealth Bomber in the sky over Stornoway yesterday (Jason Spinks) and a library image of the aircraft on exercise over the UK (MoD).

Donald Cameron, the Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP, has warmly welcomed the decision by the UK Government that they propose there will be two-year post-study work visas for international students.

Mr Cameron said: “Scottish Conservatives have argued for this change and the announcement shows that the UK Government is listening.

“This is good news for University of the Highlands and Islands partners like Lews Castle College in the Western Isles, and West Highland College in Lochaber, which are seeking to attract students from overseas.

“Through UHI, our region offers distinctive courses in wonderful locations and I am sure that this announcement will help us attract even more international students in the future.”

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said of the announcement: “This is a very significant and positive announcement for Scottish and UK universities and one that has long had overwhelming cross-party support in Scotland as well as support from staff, students and Scotland’s business community.

"We’ll want to look closely at the detail  behind today’s announcement but a two-year post-study work visa will start to put the UK back on a competitive footing when it comes to international student recruitment.

"The potential impact of this will be felt much more widely than our universities; it is sure to make a positive contribution to Scotland’s demographic challenges and to Scotland’s economy in the medium and long term.

"It’s also a positive start to a much-needed change of messaging from the UK Government to the rest of the world.”

However, the influential immigration campaign group Migration Watch UK objected to the plan.  Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: This unwise and retrograde step will likely lead to foreign graduates staying on to stack shelves, as happened before.

"Our universities are attracting a record number of overseas students so there is no need to devalue a study visa by turning it into a backdoor route for working here.

 

Bùth Bharraigh is making plans to celebrate their sixth birthday, looking forward with determination and positivity.

Six years ago yesterday (Wednesday September 11th) the directors learnt that their lease application had been successful, at the end of November they got the keys to the shop and by Christmas they were set up and welcoming customers.

The setting up took a big effort from volunteers to decorate and fit the shop interior, but the effort was willingly given and continues to this day.

The Bùth has a volunteer workforce of 12 and a board of seven directors, all committed to offering as wide a range of services and products as possible.

Two years ago they took on the role of tourist information following the closure of the VisitScotland tourist office and now they have a year-round flow of visitors and residents browsing maps, crafts, organic foods and fresh veg, among many other products.

The business is still there despite controversy over the lease of their premises, which have been ear-marked for demolition by landlords Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. During this year’s visitor season directors were given 28 days to put together a business case for a move down to the Co-op site.

Managing director Sarah MacLean said: “The site is half a mile in the wrong direction for tourist traffic, smaller and four times the price. We don’t want to move down there, so instead we have completed an asset transfer request to put the current premises into our own ownership. Now we’ll wait to see what they say.

“Obviously we would like to work with CnES, but if they say no to our request to take ownership of our premises we will go to the Scottish Government. Our location here is crucial – we have too many producers and tourism businesses relying on us, too much at stake.”

Sarah’s view was endorsed recently when the Bùth was listed by Country Life magazine as one of the 22 best village shops in Britain – one of only two in Scotland. Country Life said: “Set up in 2013 to ‘create opportunities for islanders’, this shop stocks more than 80 producers, provides a laundrette, hot drinks and free wi-fi. It’s always open when the Oban ferry docks to assist tourists, ‘whatever time that might be’.”

The accolade has been added to a string of others including winner of the rural business awards social enterprise in 2016 and finalist in 2017’s Scottish social enterprise of the year awards.

As the sixth birthday draws near, a celebratory party is being planned for some time around October 17th, although nothing concrete is yet planned for the occasion. Keep an eye on shop notices for more information nearer the time.


Pictures show the inside of Bùth Bharraigh soon after taking ownership six years ago, and volunteer Tiernan Barry serving a customer in the busy shop this summer (Bùth Bharraigh).

A forecast of strong south-westerly winds on Saturday (September 14th) has led CalMac to advise early travel for Barra passengers.
South-south-westerly winds could gust close to 60mph between 10am and 2pm on Saturday, leaving the Castlebay Oban service liable to cancellation or disruption at short notice.
A CalMac spokesman said the direction of the wind was a particular issue for the Barra sailing, causing less impact elsewhere in the Western Isles. A review will be undertaken at 4pm tomorrow (Friday 13th).
CalMac suggests that passengers wishing to travel on Saturday 14th consider travelling on Friday 13th instead.

Road Policing Officers are appealing for information after a 72 year-old man died following a road crash near Carloway community centre yesterday (Wednesday 11 September). 

Around 10.30am yesterday, police were called to a report of a road crash involving a Ford Transit van and a camper van. 

The 72 year-old driver of the camper van was taken by ambulance to Western Isles Hospital, where he died earlier today (Thursday 12 September).

The 60 year-old female passenger in the camper van, the 51 year-old driver of the Ford Transit van and his 31 year-old male passenger were uninjured.

Sergeant David Miller from the Road Policing Department based at Dingwall Police Station is appealing for any information.  He said:  “Our enquiries are ongoing into the cause of this crash, and we are appealing to any witnesses, or anyone driving on that road around the time of the crash who has dash-cam to contact us. 

“Anyone with information that may assist our investigation should contact Police Scotland through 101 quoting reference number 0965 of 11 September 2019.”

The A858 between the Doune Braes hotel and Carloway bridge remained closed in both directions until 3am this morning, with queues of local traffic building up in the evening as people returned home from town.

Western Isles police co-ordinated the multi-agency emergency response, with teams of firefighters from Shawbost and Stornoway attending as well as Scottish Ambulance.

A diversion was put in place via Pentland Road as the road was closed following the accident.

The victim was airlifted to Western Isles hospital by Coastguard helicopter R948, which had been on exercise over the north Minch when emergency services were tasked.

Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team were called to man the landing site in Stornoway, while police, fire crews from Shawbost and Stornoway and an ambulance attended the accident itself.

The pictures show rescue helicopter R948 leaving the scene of the accident (Alasdair MacMillan) and coastguard and ambulance personnel awaiting its arrival at WI Hospital (HM Coastguard Western Isles Skye and Lochaber).

 

Today (Thursday September 12) saw the official unveiling by Scottish Water of their high tech drinking water tap – a modern day water fountain – outside An Lanntair's building in central Stornoway.

As part of Scottish Water’s Your Water Your Life campaign, the Stornoway tap is the twelfth to be installed so far, with a total of 70 planned to appear across Scotland over the next 18 months.

The whole aim of this campaign is to highlight the vital role water plays in the lives of people across Scotland.

The taps offer passers-by the perfect pit stop to refill reusable water bottles water.

Filling up directly from the tap, rather than buying bottled water, is not only good for customers health, but comes with the added benefit of being good for their pocket and the environment. 

"We are delighted to be launching one in Stornoway," they said.

Present for the event were some pupils from Back Primary School, members of the band Peat & Diesel, CEO Elly Fletcher as a representative for An Lanntair , Councillor Iain Macaulay from CnES and some of Scottish Water's own staff.  

Peatlemania reached the heights of government yesterday (Wednesday September 11th) with a mention by a Scottish cabinet minister during an intense session at Holyrood.

The name-check for Stornoway band Peat & Diesel came in the unlikely context of a parliamentary question on the judicial process examining the legality of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of the UK parliament.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan had spoken during portfolio questions, asking Cabinet Secretary for Constitutional Relations Mike Russell whether he believed the UK government should: “spend more time preparing for the recall of parliament and less time making outrageous remarks about Scotland’s judges and judicial system.”

The Cabinet Secretary agreed that the remarks were outrageous and commented: “If I may use a song title from the estimable band Peat & Diesel from the member’s own constituency; this may be the way the Tories do it, but it’s not the way we do it in Scotland, let alone the Western Isles.”

The unexpected name-check for Peat & Diesel was televised on Scottish Parliament TV and has been viewed almost 2,000 times since being shared by Dr Allan on social media.

The mention in parliament was greeted with amazement by the band members, with Keith Morrison of Wee Studio in Stornoway, where the band are currently recording their second album, describing it as “a proud