A rush of bookings as CalMac opened its online booking system at 9am today (Tuesday 30 June) brought the system to its knees and crashed the website.

Today saw the re-opening of online bookings for the ‘shoulder’ timetable which is being operated between tomorrow (Wednesday 1 July) and 14 July, with significantly reduced capacity on all sailings due to Covid-19 precautions on board the ferries.

A flood of booking attempts as the system went live crashed the site, presenting online bookers with an error message when they attempted booking.

Although it was swiftly operational again, CalMac now warns customers of delays trying to place bookings.

A message on their site and through social media says: “We are experiencing an extremely high volume of calls and traffic to our website. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Our team is working through the queue and will respond to you as soon as we can.”

A further timetable is to be operated on the normal summer schedule from 15 July until 18 October, coinciding with the timings of the Scottish Government's route map, which guides the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions.

CalMac said in their latest customer information that this timetable will be published on 2 July and bookings will open on a rolling two-week window from that date. For example, at 9am on 2 July bookings will be open up to 15 July, at 9am on 3 July bookings will be open up to 16 July, and so on.

Social distancing measures aboard all vessels will mean strictly limited capacity, based on the number of passengers that can be safely carried within the guidelines in force.

For this reason CalMac also advises that foot passengers make advance reservations.

 

A long-time servant to the community was paid a special tribute as the Armed Forces Week flag was lowered in Perceval Square last night (Monday 29 June).

The funeral of Roddy Moffat, who served with the Royal Air Force and in the Merchant Navy, takes place today (Tuesday) at Crossbost cemetery. He was formerly chairman of the Royal Air Force Association and later chairman of the civilian committee of the Air Training Corps. He was also standard bearer nationally for the nuclear test mission.

Captain Callum Newton of the Salvation Army said: “He served his community loyally until the day he died and we respect him, we salute him today for his service. I know from many conversations with Roddy what an effort he gave for his nation in serving on the nuclear test mission. He saw some amazing things but also suffered health implications from that, along with his comrades.”

The Armed Forces Week flag was lowered at 7.30pm to the strains of the last post, watched by representatives of all the forces associations, training corps and 7 Scots regiment. Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles Donald Martin and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar convenor Councillor Norman Macdonald were also present.

The convenor spoke of the invaluable work done by the armed forces. He said: “We are hugely indebted to the armed forces who are serving the country not just in terms of protecting us but also in the effort that they made through Covid-19 in supporting the NHS.”

Pictures show the flag being lowered by Francis Jefferson of the Royal British Legion as bugler plays the last post and armed forces representatives salute (Thomas Stewart).

 

The introduction of the 'unlockdown' Phase 2 public bus services has been delayed until tomorrow, Wednesday 1 July, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

Timetables for these services will now be available from today, Tuesday 30 June 2020.  Moving to Phase 2 provides increased services but capacity remains significantly limited to allow for physical distancing.  In Phase 2, travel at peak times is still to be discouraged unless travelling to and from work.

The delay to the start of this service has been due to the need to ensure that the services currently being provided for key workers can be integrated with the new services.

To manage safe numbers, passengers wishing to use the Phase 2 public bus services will be required to book a seat for the majority of services.

Timetables and contact details for your local bus operator are available on the Comhairle website- https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/roads-travel-and-parking/public-transport/

Please remember that face coverings are now compulsory on any form of public transport and passengers will only be permitted to travel on public transport if they are wearing appropriate face covering.  Exceptions will apply, such as young children or for those with health conditions for whom a face covering would be inappropriate.  Passengers will be expected to provide their own face coverings. Where a screen has been provided, the driver will not be required to wear a face covering.

Good hygiene regimes remain important to protect against Covid-19.  Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others.  It is vital that passengers do not see facemasks as an alternative, but as an addition to other measures such as social distancing, hand washing and disinfection of surfaces frequently touched by other people. Following social distancing and hand washing guidelines is more effective than wearing a mask.

It is hoped that the country will soon be moving to Phase 3 and this will allow further extension of public bus services and an eventual return to normal service timetables.  We would like to thank all bus passengers for their patience during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

A total of ten drivers, including one from Stornoway, have been arrested in connection with drink or drug driving in the Highlands, following the first weekend of Police Scotland’s two-week summer drink and drug driving operation.

The operation runs until Sunday 12 July, with officers from the Road Policing Division carrying out intelligence-led high visibility patrols to deter and detect people who put others at risk by drink or drug driving.

Four men, aged between 20 and 44, failed the roadside drug test and have been arrested in relation to alleged drug driving. Two of these men were arrested in Inverness, one in Aviemore and one in Alness.

Six drink drivers were also stopped over the course of the weekend. A 26-year-old woman was stopped in Alness and a 46-year-old woman provided a positive breath test and was taken to hospital for treatment to minor injuries after being involved in a one vehicle collision on the A832 near Muir of Ord. Four men, aged between 23 and 47, were also arrested with two being arrested in Inverness, one in Golspie and one in Stornoway. Five have been charged and will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal in due course. The sixth driver was arrested pending further enquiries.

Inspector Donnie Mackinnon from the Road Policing Division based in Dingwall said: “It is extremely disappointing to see these figures for the first weekend of the campaign and highlights that there are still people who appear willing to take risks and place themselves, and others, in danger.

“It is a message we will continue to enforce: driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is entirely unacceptable, the consequences of which can be catastrophic so please make the sensible decision to think twice and don’t do it.

“If you have information or concerns about anyone who may be drink or drug driving, please call us on 101. Information from the public can help take dangerous drivers off the road and also helps us to identify areas where we may need to increase proactive patrols.”

Two men are to appear in court this afternoon (Monday 29 June) after separate incidents of violence in the early hours of Saturday (27 June).

Police were called to an address in Bragar at 3am on Saturday where a disturbance had been reported. Following further enquiries a 49-year-old man was arrested and charged with threatening and abusive behaviour and is in custody in Stornoway.

At 4.55am on Saturday police were called to an address in Stornoway, where another 49-year-old man was arrested and charged with assault. He was also brought into custody in Stornoway.

Both men are to appear at Inverness Sheriff Court from Stornoway by video-link later today.

 

Drivers found breaking law

A driver has had his vehicle removed from him by police after being stopped on Macaulay Road in Stornoway on Friday night.

The car was stopped at 10pm on Friday and the 48-year-old man was found to be driving without insurance and outwith the conditions of his licence.

His car was seized and he is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal, with a court appearance due at a later date.

In a separate incident, police stopped a car on the A859 south of Leurbost on Friday at 5.20pm and found that he was driving outwith his licence conditions.

The 38-year-old man was reported to the Procurator Fiscal and is to appear in court at a date yet to be fixed.

 

The main road through Achmore was closed for two hours on Friday evening (26 June) after a single-vehicle accident in which an elderly man was injured.

Emergency services were called to the village of Achmore at 5pm, to reports that a vehicle had left the main A858 road and was off the carriageway and on its roof.

The 81-year-old driver was carefully extracted from the vehicle by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, while police kept the road closed from 5.15 to 7.15pm. A diversion via the Pentland Road was put in place.

No other vehicle was involved and there were no passengers.

The man was taken to Western Isles Hospital by a Scottish Ambulance crew. His injuries were described as minor and he was discharged the following day.

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

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

Extension of quarry, Lochs Road

A & C Maciver has applied for planning permission to extend the quarry at Creed enterprise park. 

Polycrub, Tong

Marina Maciver of 3 Aird Tong has given prior notification of farm-related building works at 61 New Street, North Tolsta. The polycrub is to be 10 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres tall. 

Change of use of building, Ness

Monika Mayer of 23 Adabrock has applied for planning permission to change the use of the building at 23 Adabrook, Ness, from domestic garage to non-domestic residential accommodation. 

Change of use of building, Carloway

Anna Mary Macleod of An Acasrsaid, 2 Knock, Carloway has applied for planning permission to change the use of the former fish farm building at Carloway Pier, Knock, Carloway to a house. 

New house, Bernera

Brenda Jones of 26 Rathad a Mhaoir, Plasterfield, Stornoway has applied for planning permission to build a house at 24E Valasay, Bernera. The house is to have two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen/dining/living area. Work is to include the installation of an air source heat pump and creation of three parking spaces. 

 

If you don’t live, work or exercise anywhere in Point, then you’ve missed a genuine lockdown treat – and it’s too late to do anything about it now!

Because yesterday (Saturday 27 June) was the last day that 80-year-old Betty Grigor placed a sturdy plastic box at her front gate in Broker, full of freshly-baked lockdown treats for anyone to take.

Betty has been baking every day since lockdown began, creating treat-sized packages for posties, home carers, neighbours and people taking exercise around her village.

A soldier in the Salvation Army, Betty had been missing her role as a baker for the Stornoway Corp’s regular lunches since she had to start self-isolating the week before lockdown – and she was left with a whole batch of marmalade which she had already made to raise funds for the Salvation Army.

“I just put the jars outside the gate with a wee notice that said ‘help yourself’,” said Betty. “First one went, the next day a couple more and then, before I knew it, they’d all gone, so I thought I might start baking.

“I’m so used to doing things that I knew I had to continue. When I get up, the first thing I do is to switch on the oven and I get everything baked and packaged up ready for the day ahead. Then I go to bed every night thinking about what I’ll bake tomorrow.”

For twelve weeks individual cakes, scones, pancakes and traybakes have flowed out of Betty’s door. Packaged up in bags of two, the cakes are then popped into the box that’s become known locally as ‘Betty’s bun box’.

Dog-walkers, horse-riders and delivery drivers are among those who have spotted the tempting offer, while some neighbours on their daily walk or run have even tailored their route to make sure they pass her gate.

“I’ve only missed two days when it was really windy,” said Betty. “The cakes stay dry in the box and it’s easy enough for anyone to lift a bag out, with no need to touch anything.”

But as lockdown is lifted and the shops start to open again, Betty feels it’s time to stop. She finished with a flourish on Saturday, filling her box of cakes as usual and putting out a donations tin for the Salvation Army, which collected £243.30 in the course of the day.

Not just donations, but messages of gratitude and affection came from the many people who have enjoyed Betty’s baking, with tributes like: “Betty's cakes have supported us through lockdown. We will miss them” and “What a lovely gesture from a lovely lady – thank you for your kindness, Betty.”

Betty’s daughter Linda Macdonald had her own tribute for the many people who’ve supported her mum. She said: “My mum has been humbled and deeply touched by everyone’s generosity and overwhelmed by the cards and good wishes she’s received.

“I’m sure Betty’s lockdown bun box will be remembered fondly as a small bit of humanity in some strange and trying times for us all. As a family we would like to thank the community for your support.”

Betty herself said: “I know I shouldn’t say it, when you think of how difficult Coronavirus has been for everybody, but it has given me time to enjoy my life a wee bit and it’s been no hardship to me, because I’ve been busy.”

Picture shows Betty at the gate of her home in Broker on Saturday morning, with orange buns and pancakes on offer.

 

Visitors can once again ‘stroll’ through An Lanntair’s main gallery as the islands’ arts centre presents a series of Virtual Galleries online.

The cyberspace galleries take a look back at exhibitions presented when An Lanntair resided in Stornoway Town Hall, as well as a selection of current works created by young people in lockdown as part of the Sketchbook Project.

An Lanntair says it  is delighted to present online Tom McKendrick’s ‘Submarine’ exhibition, which opened in September 1991. The Steve Dilworth virtual gallery features works from his 1992 ‘Acts of Faith’ show; and there is also a look back to the Mary Morrison and Sandra Kennedy exhibition of that year.

The virtual galleries allow another view of the ‘Visions in the Wind: Japanese Kites’ exhibition, first presented in An Lanntair in January 1993; as well as taking a second look at the photographic art of Mark Johnston, originally exhibited in 1996.

Online visitors can pan around each gallery simply using the mouse or controller arrows on screen, can view on full screen, and can zoom in and out of the individual works, as well as click on information icons to find out more about each work.

An Lanntair’s Virtual Galleries can be found online at www.lanntair.com.

Images - Screenshot of virtual galleries An Lanntair Sketchbook Project and Visions in the Wind exhibitions

 

A bit of damage with the thunder and lightning the other day and the size of those hailstones in Point was incredible.

Ruaraidh and I have just finished making our strawberry jam without pectin and so far it's looking good.

In this week we have our Local Strawberries, Flat Peaches, Nectarines, Bunched Carrots, Ayrshire Potatoes as well as all our usual Fruit and Veg.

Please can orders be in before 12.30 on Monday

Have a Lovely Weekend and Thank you

Iona and Ruaraidh

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

Or call 07771 645238 to place your order

 

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Aubergine

 

£1.85

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.10

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.30

 

Round Green Cabbage

 

£2.20

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.30

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.70

 

Garlic (Large)

 

£0.95

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

Chinese Leaves

 

£2.75

 

Local Fennel Fronds, bunch

 

0.85

 

New Season, Bunched Carrots, come with Ferns, approx. Weight 500grms

 

£2.55

 

White Cabbage

 

£2.60

 

Corn on Cob each

 

£1.50

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Scottish Washed Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£4.95

 

Bunched Beetroot

 

£2.70

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks

 

£3.95

 

Mushrooms

 

£5.00

 

Onions (New Season New Zealand White)

 

£1.75

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus Potatoes

 

£1.95

 

New Season Pembrokeshire Potatoes

 

£2.75

 

 

Jersey Royals

 

£2.85

 

Ayrshire New Season Epicure

 

£3.35

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.75

 

Sweet Potato

 

£3.25

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.65

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.75

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.85

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.90

 

Cherries

 

£12.00

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

VeggieBox Strawberries

340gr punnet (Limited Supply)

 

£3.40

 

Blueberries   120gr Punnet, possible doubt on supply

 

£2.75

 

Flat (Doughnut) Peaches

 

3 for £1.75

 

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £2.10

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.80

 

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.75

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.65

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.60

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £2.10

 

Pears

 

3 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

 

£2.40

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Green Jalapeños

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£3.95

 

 

Available

PER JAR

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Orange and Lemon

hint of Whiskey,

with Ginger

Rhubarb and Ginger

Rhubarb jam

Rhubarb and Strawberry

Strawberry Jam

Raspberry Jam

 

(6)

(6)

(5)

(1)

(4)

(6)

(6)

(4)

(6)

 

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

£4.50

£4.50

 

Fruit Cake

(16)

£4.50

Per Cake,

 

4 Plain Scones

(20)

£3.25

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Local Eggs ½ Dozen

( Supply can be limited)

(30)

£2.25

 

 

Following the release of new national guidance, it will be a requirement for all staff, patients attending for appointments, and visitors to wear a face mask in clinical areas in hospitals in the Western Isles from Monday (June 29).

It is important to point out that there is still no current evidence of sustained transmission of Covid-19 within or across the Western Isles, but this new measure is being introduced as a precautionary step, says NHS Western Isles.

"Existing visiting restrictions remain in place in our hospitals. However, from Monday, any visitors or those attending for appointments at Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh in Benbecula and St Brendan’s in Barra, will be asked on arrival at hospital to remove any face coverings they are wearing.

"Masks, along with alcohol based hand rub and bins will be located outside clinical departments in the hospitals."

NHS Western Isles Nurse & AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, stated: “This new measure is important because it is recognised that some people are unaware that they have the virus and do not have any symptoms. The use of face masks in clinical areas will help to prevent transmission of the virus from the person wearing the face mask to other people.”

Mr Findlay added: “There will be occasions when staff may have to remove masks in clinical areas when communicating with patients who have a cognitive impairment, or people who require to lip read. In these cases, physical distancing will be maintained.

“There will also be certain exemptions in terms of those who will not have to wear masks, such children; or anyone with a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering.”

There will be prominent signage around NHS Western Isles premises providing information about hand hygiene, physical distancing requirements and departments where there is controlled access e.g. maximum number of people in the department at a time.

"NHS Western Isles is constantly monitoring guidance and will ensure compliance with new measures, recommendations and best practice to protect our patients and staff.

"We would like to thank our local communities in advance of this new measure, for their ongoing support and compliance with new ways of working, to help ensure the safety of our local communities and our NHS staff."

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to pay tribute to Katie Campbell for the hard work and dedication she has shown in 45 years working in Sgoil Dhalabroig’s canteen.

In that time Katie, who continues to work in the school canteen, has catered for generations of school children and served over 1.8 million meals for the children and staff who have passed through the school.

Head teacher Jane MacIntyre said, "All staff and pupils from Sgoil Dhalabroig would like say a huge heartfelt thank you to Katie Campbell who has for 45 years been a key part of our school.

"Everyone has fond memories of their favourite meal Katie serves, be it lentil soup, spaghetti Bolognese or crispy chicken and we cannot wait to get back in August to try them again!

"Sincere thanks Katie, from all at Sgoil Dhalabroig both past and present."

Sgoil Dhalabroig yesterday (Friday 26 June) held a presentation for Katie in recognition of her years of service.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Care Homes are working hard to have a protocol in place for Care Home visiting by Friday 3rd July, the council says.

This comes after the announcement by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman that some visiting restrictions will be eased on that date.

This phased reintroduction of visiting to care homes does not signify a return to normal with several restrictions still in place. Residents will be able to have one named "key visitor", they will have to stay outdoors, maintain physical distancing and wear a face mask for the duration of their visit.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “Discussions are taking place with Care Home Managers about how to approach this easing of restrictions in the safest manner possible regarding infection control.

"We are confident that a protocol for visiting will be in place for each Care Home by July 3rd and we will be in touch with families early next week with further information.”

There are those who say Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are, from time to time, a teensy bit slow to react to events.

That certainly could not be said yesterday (Friday June 26) as the Council and its contractors swung into action to reconnect the two parts of the single-track lifeline road to the village of Rhenigidale in Harris after it was swept away by the impact of the rainfall during the storm on Thursday evening.

As you can see from the photograph below, even the toughest off-road vehicle was going to face a slight challenge from the yawning chasm!

The workforce and CnES kept people informed of progress via social media as the work to bridge the gap commenced.

 

Around midday yesterday this was the slightly foggy scene after planning had been completed and work was starting.

The infilling progressed.

The new section of roadway begins to take shape.

And finally after about seven hours, CnES announced on Twitter yesterday evening that: "The temporary works on the Rhenigidale road are now complete and it is open to traffic.

"Thanks to all CnES staff and contractors for a great team effort and to the community for their patience and understanding."

And - departing from our usual journalistic standoffishness - we will congratulate all involved as well!

Photographs from CnES and Kate Langley

 

The Scottish Civic Trust launched a new rainy day activity on Wednesday (24 June) with the first 11 templates in their cut:fold:build paper model series.

The 11 models launched on their website on Wednesday include no less than three significant buildings from Lewis – Stornoway ferry terminal, AnLanntair arts centre and the chapel of St Moluag in Eoropaidh, Ness.

The build-your-own models are available for free download from https://www.scottishcivictrust.org.uk/cut-fold-build/. Ranging from Tesco’s supermarket in Dingwall to a croft-house in Shetland, they’re designed to while away some of the remaining days of self-isolation with constructive activity.

The models were designed as a legacy project from the Doors Open days 2019 and are part-financed by the Outer Hebrides Leader programme. The Scottish Civic Trust are also looking for an artist to jazz up the designs and make them more ‘kid-friendly’.

Pictured are three finished models of Lewis buildings

A man is appearing in court in Inverness by video-link from Stornoway police station today (Friday 26 June) after being kept in custody since last night.

The 22-year-old was found to be in breach of bail conditions last night at 11pm, when he assaulted police officers during his arrest.

Disturbance in Marybank

Police were called to Marybank close to midnight on Wednesday night, when residents reported a disturbance.

A 24-year-old man was charged with assault after police investigations and is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal. He’s due to appear in court at a later dat.

Four speeding in Lochs

Western Isles police are continuing patrols in response to residents’ concerns in the South Lochs area.

Four drivers were detected speeding in the 40mph zone in the village of Airidhbhruaich during patrols yesterday (Thursday 25 June).

Three of the drivers received fixed penalties and the fourth is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Storm-lovers were not disappointed with last night’s (Thursday 25 June) extreme weather, described as the most spectacular display of lightning and thunder for many years.


New weather warning for Saturday
The Met Office has issued a new weather warning covering the Western Isles for most of the day on Saturday (27 June).
The warning is for heavy rain and sharp showers between 9am and 10pm, potentially leading to spray on roads and some flooding.


But some islanders are counting the cost this morning, with reported damage including power loss, flood damage and road wash outs, as well as numerous home broadband hubs and routers blown out by lightning travelling along the telecoms network.

A section of the Rhenigidale Road near the Maaruig village junction has been washed out following an apparent flood and lightning strike which reportedly melted a section of the water pipe.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are this morning (Friday) on site assessing the situation, but have already said that repairs are likely to take days and that they are looking at contingency plans for local residents. There are currently no diversions.

Householders in the Direcleit and Cluer areas of Harris have been without power since shortly after 9pm last night, when two separate transformer faults were caused by lightning strikes.

In Lewis there are reports of power loss in Valtos and Barvas, with engineers on their way to assess the situation.

A spokesperson for Scottish and Southern Electricity Network said that the islands are still under a risk of lightning and temporary repairs will be used at all locations until the risk has passed.

Most islanders experienced power flickers and short-term power loss during yesterday afternoon and evening, which SSEN said was a result of the buffering built into the mains supply to prevent major outages.

The lightning display during the thunderstorm was impressive and long-lasting, with over 4,000 strikes recorded over Skye and the Western Isles by 10pm.

Damage to roads has been reported in a number of locations as torrential rainfall flooded the system and escaped overloaded pipes, lifting the road surface.

Some of the other weather effects were highly localised. Giant hailstones falling in Point were recorded in Garrabost and Bayble, while other areas had no hail at all, and residents in Tolsta and Tong were able to watch the lightning storm over Point and Broad Bay, while they themselves were under a deluge of rain.

More thunderstorms are forecast during this afternoon and evening, although there are currently no Met Office warnings in force for the Eilean Siar region.

Our pictures show: Lightning over Ness (Dell-licious-Ness), Lemreway (Kenny Mackay) and South Uist (Loz Shaw), flooding in Bain Square, Stornoway (uncredited) and giant hailstones in Point (Anneline Macleod), road washed out at the Maaruig village junction (David Phillips) and water damage on Springfield Road, Stornoway (Richard Galloway).

 

 

 

The Matthew Woodman Foundation recently donated a water cooler to the Western Isles Hospital’s Emergency Department for use with staff and patients, as well as a portable TV trolley stand to the Hospital’s Paediatric Bay. 

The Foundation was established by Kimberley Woodman in memory of her young son Matthew, who died in August 2018 on the island, aged only 20 months with an undiagnosed heart condition

Kimberley, who has family connections to the island, said "As you can imagine this was an extremely difficult time for me, my family and my friends. However the support we received was overwhelming. In his memory, I set up the Matthew Woodman Foundation in hope of paying back and helping others who are going through a scary time in life."

Lachlan MacPherson, NHS Western Isles Hospitals Manager, said: “On behalf of NHS Western Isles and our hospital teams, I would like to sincerely thank Kimberley and the Foundation for their kind and generous donations.”

Pictured are Roddy MacKenzie (Emergency Department), Lachlan MacPherson (Hospitals Manager), and Kaleigh McKechnie with her sons Arran and Lewis (representing the Matthew Woodman Foundation).

A surname has been corrected in this caption since the article was published. 

There’s a strong chance of lightning strikes during an unusually strong forecast thunderstorm this afternoon (Thursday 25 June), with the Western Isles in the line of fire.

A renewed weather warning from the Met Office updated just after 11am warns of potential damage to buildings from floodwater and lightning strikes, and of hail, strong winds and possible impacts including power interruptions, during a warning period between 4pm today and 9am tomorrow.

The forecasting page convectiveweather.co.uk anticipates an ‘active day’ for lightning, with a severe risk of strikes by early afternoon, especially near Lewis and Harris.

They say there will be ‘multiple outbreaks of thunderstorms (mostly elevated) at various times during this forecast period’ which extends until 6am on Friday morning.

The same forecasting site says that its ‘severe’ level of predicted activity has been produced “primarily for the threat for locally large, damaging hail. Some localised surface water flooding may also occur. Surface-based storms that do manage to develop over the mainland will drift generally to the north or north-north-west, potentially moving across parts of the Hebrides during the evening hours.”

Hailstones shared to the Western Isles Weather Faecbook page today by Morag Sinclair and Anneline Macleod - taken on Point.

 

New support announced today (Thursday 25 June) will increase the availability of online learning across different subjects and support digital inclusion across Scotland.

Education Scotland is expanding its close working with e-Sgoil, who will train a number of additional teachers from local authorities to provide online lessons which learners in the senior phase across Scotland can access via Glow.

These online lessons will help to support and augment the work of classroom teachers across the country in their local arrangements for schools reopening on 11 August and also for reinforcing learning.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney outlined the partnership offer to develop a strong national e-learning provision in his update to Parliament on Tuesday 23 June.

Under the plans, developed in partnership by e-Sgoil, Education Scotland, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and Scottish Government, all local authorities and schools in Scotland will be able to access live lessons on a range of subjects, and will take shared ownership for delivering these.

A rich and varied range of lessons will be taught live by these experienced and qualified educators, all with national safeguarding checks, and will be recorded to ensure that pupils have further opportunities to learn. This will increase the availability of learning opportunities for pupils, with a focus initially on lessons to help those following national qualification courses in the senior phase. Partners are working to ensure that a wide range of certificated courses in both English and Gaelic medium education will be available to learners in the senior phase from 11 August 2020.

Since the school closures Education Scotland, the national improvement agency for education, has been working closely with local authorities, teachers and parents to support the education system in a number of ways.  This includes creating a well-received online resource bank of learning activities aimed at a variety of ages, introducing new newsletters for parents and educators, and delivering a range of very popular webinars and support sessions for practitioners to support young people to continue with their learning and make progress.  

E-Sgoil was established in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in 2016 to provide a wider and more equitable choice of subjects for pupils, to support the expansion of Gaelic medium education and develop a network of staff who are able to deliver online learning in all subject areas throughout Scotland.  During the current term and school closures, e-Sgoil extended its offer to schools across Scotland and many learners benefited.  This new offer will build further on that development, involving more local authorities, schools and teachers.

Gayle Gorman, HM Chief Inspector and Chief Executive of Education Scotland, said: “Education Scotland will play an integral role in the national plan published by the First Minister to reopen Scotland’s schools, and we have been working closely with our partners to consider the best ways to help support continuity in young people’s learning in Term 4 and the new session ahead."

Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education and Children’s Services, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “eSgoil, over recent weeks, has expanded its provision and is currently supporting approximately 3,500 students.  The opportunity to work with all Scottish Local Authorities, Education Scotland, Scottish Government and partners to provide a national on-line school will enable eSgoil to deliver, across a wide range of subjects, a more comprehensive curriculum and accreditation offer at both Primary and Secondary School level.  eSgoil will continue to support and complement Local Authorities to provide a more flexible and personalised curriculum offer for learners.  I am confident that this approach to learning will become a permanent feature of Scottish Education.”

Carrie Lindsay, Executive Director for Education & Children’s Services, Fife Council and President of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) said: “It's good to see the pioneering work that started in our island communities be able to support our work across Scotland, Esgoil has worked well in the more remote and Northerly parts of Scotland, it now has the opportunity to support far beyond any geographical parameters.”

Education Secretary John Swinney said: “The new national e-learning provision from eSgoil and Education Scotland will enable pupils in the senior phase to access a broad range of high quality lessons devised by qualified teachers trained in online learning. These new online lessons – as well as the 70,000 laptops we are giving to children and young people who need them the most – will help to support and augment the work being done by classroom teachers across the country.”

Dr Bill Beveridge, Director of SCHOLAR, said: “e-Sgoil have demonstrated just how effectively, with access to high-quality online course materials, a thriving online learning community can be created. The techniques they have developed allow young people to take full advantage of the benefits that digital learning technology can bring whilst also placing a high premium on the importance of developing and maintaining supportive teacher-learner relationships.”

[SCHOLAR is the not-for-profit partnership between the Association of Directors of Education for Scotland and Heriot-Watt University that provides online learning resources to support blended and independent learning for over 150,000 learners attending schools and colleges throughout Scotland.]

Fhiona Mackay, Director of SCILT, Scotland’s National centre for Languages, said: “Working with e-Sgoil over the period of school closure has given SCILT the unique opportunity to support the learning of thousands of youngsters across the country from P1-S6.  We’ve been able to provide them with high quality real time teaching that has either supported the work provided by their schools or encouraged them to use the time to learn a new, lesser-taught language that wouldn’t otherwise have been offered to them. It has been a very positive and rewarding experience, giving SCILT staff a new set of skills that we can share with the profession and a much deeper understanding of how effective online teaching can be.”

Daniel Barrie, Education and Learning Manager at Keep Scotland Beautiful, commented: “We have been delighted to work with E-Sgoil and other partner organisations to deliver online, real time, interactive teaching courses directly to young people and teachers across the country. We have been thrilled with the positive response and uptake for the courses we offered during term four. We look forward to building on this and supporting the return to school."

An Lanntair is proud to display banners and posters created by Outer Hebrides’ residents in support of Black Lives Matter, the arts centre says.

Joining a movement which has seen people collectively rise up around the world in protest against racial injustice and violence, An Lanntair sincerely thank all who contributed to making our islands’ voice heard.

Elly Fletcher, Chief Executive of An Lanntair, said: “We are proud to display these banners in support of Black Lives Matter, created by local people from across the islands.

“Here at An Lanntair we stand in solidarity with all those working to eradicate racism throughout the world. Now it is more important than ever to join together and fight racial injustice, and everyone, including all of us here in the Outer Hebrides, has a crucial role to play.”

Submissions to An Lanntair’s Black Lives Matter display include a Gaelic banner created by Lewis artist and filmmaker Calum Angus Mackay. Calum Angus’ 2019 feature documentary ‘Mathair a Chiunn-Suidhe’ (The President’s Mother) sparked international interest; and he has previously explored one community’s struggle to open the Outer Hebrides’ first Mosque in documentary ‘Eilannaich Phacastan’ (Pakistan Islanders).

Calum Angus commented: “Stornoway, and the Hebrides, are a long way from the epicentre of Black Lives Matter. Yet, we are at liberty to open our eyes a little wider to ensure empathy and understanding is not lost at this pivotal point in time.”

Currently on display outside An Lanntair, Calum Angus’ Black Lives Matter ‘vocal graffiti’ work – ‘Chaneil sinne cho fìor-gheal’ (We are not that pure white) – raises the assumed notions of purity. It carries ‘a truly poignant and beautiful’ Gaelic phrase ‘Tarraing d’anail’, which literally translates as ‘draw breath’.

“The reality that being the most ‘pure’ or the most extreme is a very precarious place to be,” Calum Angus expanded. “Cultural diversity and an open acceptance of race should not have to be fought so hard for in the 21st century.”

An Lanntair CE Elly Fletcher added: “We at An Lanntair will continue to promote and to celebrate diversity in our work across our programme and activities; and we will strive to do more, to reach out and to inform and develop ourselves and our organisation in all that we do.”

 

A Scotland-wide warning has been issued by the Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII), the UK body for examining and accrediting indoor and outdoor playground inspectors, regarding the re-opening all outdoor playgrounds in Scotland on Monday 29th June.

Jon Dalton, Board Member of the RPII, said: “While we are pleased that the Scottish Government have announced the date for the re-opening of outdoor playgrounds in Scotland on Monday 29th June, we are aware that some owners and operators of playground facilities have halted safety inspections of playgrounds altogether during the lockdown period.

"The Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII) is calling for all playground owners in Scotland to make sure they have carried out an in-depth inspection prior to the re-opening of any facility and ensure that all inspection schedules are brought fully up to date.

The RPII is expecting playgrounds to be very heavily used during the Scottish summer holidays and the eagerness of the public to start using them again, so it is vital that playgrounds are thoroughly inspected to ensure a satisfactory level of safety is in place.

Owners and operators of playground facilities also have a responsibility to open playgrounds safely and remove any temporary barriers that may have been put up during lockdown which may also be hazardous.”

The RPII is providing the following guidance for families that plan to visit a playground safely:

1.     If the playground facility you visit has not yet officially been opened, please do not attempt to use, or access the equipment or area.

2.     Do not remove any temporary barriers to the playground or plastic fencing or unravel any swing seats or cables that may have been secured to put them out of use – this must be done safely by the owner or operator of the facility.

3.     Follow the current social distance guidelines when visiting and encourage your children to do the same.

4.     If the playground is busy, consider coming back at a later time. Talk to your children about this possibility before visiting.

5.     Wash your and your children’s  hands before and after visiting. Take hand sanitiser with you and consider taking a bottle of water for if your children’s hands get covered in mud. Ensure your children are using hand sanitiser frequently.

6.     Follow and adhere to all current government advice in addition to the above guidance.

The Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII) www.playinspectors.com  is the UK body for examining, accrediting, and certificating inflatable, indoor and outdoor playground inspectors to ensure that playground safety standards are adhered to and is endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Azores islands are welcoming the return of tourism.

Executive Director of the Azores Tourism Board, Luís Capdeville Botelho, says: “The Azores Islands are delighted to have been recognised by the European Best Destination Organisation as the safest place to travel in light of the pandemic and can today proudly declare the islands COVID-19 free, with no active cases reported.

"This pandemic has put life into perspective for us all, no matter where we live, which language we speak and what we believe in. It has taught us that nothing can be taken for granted and that it took us to pause as a human race in order to come through the dark times.

"From now on we are sure that people will cherish the safety of the Azores Islands, a destination which has always prided itself on its commitment to welcoming visitors with open arms, with their wellbeing at the forefront of our minds.

“We are immensely proud of the swift action taken by the Portuguese government, tourism industry and local establishments here on the islands to ensure that we can return to a state of normality, with the upmost safety measures in place to maintain this.

"The Azores islands is the perfect destination for travellers who have a preference for nature experiences and for products such as hiking, whale watching, local cuisine and historical traditions.

"The measures which continue to remain in place are designed to keep every single person who visits the island safe and well, with minimal impact to their experience.

"We thank everybody for their patience and cooperation to sit back, pause and reflect on the travels they could experience after the height of the pandemic – for that time is now, and we cannot wait to see you here once more.”

NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are raising awareness of important scam prevention advice across our communities, in relation to the Scottish Contact Tracing Programme.

The NHS Scotland Contact Tracing Programme is extremely important in the fight against coronavirus and it’s vital the public get on board with it.

Unfortunately, criminals will exploit every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people of their money, or steal their personal details.

Health boards have a variety of mechanisms in place to reassure people that Contact Tracers are legitimate, including call back options, visible numbers, and specific location and date information.

To help protect yourself from any such scam be aware that contact tracers WILL:

  • get in touch by phone call or text message.
  • introduce themselves, state the reason for their call, and will always identify the call recipient by name.
  • only ask for information about your movements and the people you have been in close physical proximity to.

Contact tracers will NEVER:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them.
  • ask you to make any form of payment, including a charitable donation.
  • ask for any details about your medical history.
  • ask for any details about your bank account.
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts.
  • ask you for passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs on the phone.
  • ask you to purchase a product or attempt to sell you anything.
  • ask you to download any software to your device or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet.

​If you are in any doubt, hang up and contact your local Covid Response Team directly as they will be able to answer any queries you may have. 

Tel. 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are raising awareness of important scam prevention advice across our communities, in relation to the Scottish Contact Tracing Programme.

The NHS Scotland Contact Tracing Programme is extremely important in the fight against coronavirus and it’s vital the public get on board with it.

Unfortunately, criminals will exploit every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people of their money, or steal their personal details.

Health boards have a variety of mechanisms in place to reassure people that Contact Tracers are legitimate, including call back options, visible numbers, and specific location and date information.

To help protect yourself from any such scam be aware that contact tracers WILL:

  • get in touch by phone call or text message.
  • introduce themselves, state the reason for their call, and will always identify the call recipient by name.
  • only ask for information about your movements and the people you have been in close physical proximity to.

Contact tracers will NEVER:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them.
  • ask you to make any form of payment, including a charitable donation.
  • ask for any details about your medical history.
  • ask for any details about your bank account.
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts.
  • ask you for passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs on the phone.
  • ask you to purchase a product or attempt to sell you anything.
  • ask you to download any software to your device or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet.

​If you are in any doubt, hang up and contact your local Covid Response Team directly as they will be able to answer any queries you may have. 

Tel. 01851 601151 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Scaladale youth activities centre is ready for a soft-re-opening in July as Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs Association take careful steps back to post-virus normality.

The first activity that will bring the centre back to life will be a revised and socially-distanced version of the National Lottery-funded young leaders programme.

Twelve young people aged between 14 and 18 from across Lewis and Harris were selected in September 2019 for their attitude towards leadership, team working and enthusiasm for the outdoors. They’re taking part in a three-year programme which has so far included all of the outdoor activities that Scaladale delivers through taster days, and they have had training in mountain bike instructing and outdoor first aid. Unfortunately, their accredited training has suffered due to the pandemic. Soon after they all completed their first aid training, activity was suspended due to lockdown. Many of them would have achieved their mountain bike assistant instructor certificate by now but instead, like everyone, they’ve been confined to home-based activities.

Now their training is to be resumed, with activities delivered in socially-distanced groups of four instead of the whole group of 12 as before. Scaladale centre manager Kate Lewis said: “We will start with socially distanced kayak training, working with just four of them at a time, but ensuring that we see them all regularly.

“They will learn all the basic kayaking techniques, as well as group management and foundation safety and rescue. We will be preparing them for assisting on Scaladale activity days and making the appropriate industry-recognised qualifications available to them wherever possible.

“The young people will also gain experience of assisting on climbing sessions later this summer, as this is another activity that Scaladale can safely offer within the current COVID 19 restrictions and guidelines.

“The Lottery have funded the first year of their programme, but we intend for them to continue next year by volunteering on real sessions. This way they get lots of valuable experience, which, coupled with their new qualifications, will mean that we can begin paying them to work for us in their third year.

Our current full-time instructor, Calum Blane, was once a Scaladale young leader and our seasonal instructor last summer, Finlay Emmott, also started through the programme.

“We are currently seeking funding to start another YL cohort for next year. We think home-grown instructors are the best instructors and it also fulfils LHYCA's aims perfectly, engaging our young people in our amazing environment here in the Hebrides and teaching them some exciting and fun ways of making a living from it.”

The picture shows the young leaders during mountain bike training in the grounds of Lews Castle in February this year (LHYCA).

 

The Western Isles are included among a large swathe of UK regions under a Met Office yellow warning from tomorrow afternoon (Thursday 25 June) with thunderstorms forecast from 4pm Thursday until 9am on Friday.

The Met Office says the storms could cause flooding and other disruption in some places the length of western Britain, with a chance of damage to homes or businesses from hail, strong winds, heavy rainfall and lightning strikes, potentially causing power cuts.

 

Western Isles police are asking for public help after a cyclist was forced off the road by an oncoming vehicle on Monday morning (22 June).

The incident happened at about 8.30am on Monday on the A857 Barvas Moor, near the weather station.

The cyclist was travelling north when a beige coloured saloon car – possibly a Mercedes – travelling south, pulled out and into the northbound carriageway to overtake a light-coloured pick-up.

The cyclist was reportedly forced to take evasive action as a result of the overtaking manoeuvre and was obliged to leave the road to avoid a head-on collision.

The cyclist was physically uninjured, but was left very shaken and distressed by the incident.

Police are keen to identify the drivers of both vehicles reported to have been on the road at the time. 

If you witnessed, or have any information regarding this incident, please contact Stornoway Police Station by telephoning 101 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and quoting reference NH692/20.

Chief inspector Ian Graham said: “On a daily basis, roads in the Western Isles will be affected by one or more factors that requires consideration and a safe, appropriate response from road users. 

“These include, but are not limited to, cyclists and pedestrians, livestock including horses, slow moving vehicles of differing sizes such as HGVs, recreational vehicles and mobility scooters and weather.

“Overtaking is a high-risk manoeuvre for both drivers and riders because it can put the overtaking vehicle into the path of oncoming traffic, often at high speeds.

“If there is a head-on collision, the speed of both vehicles combines to create a much more severe impact – cyclists, pedestrians, livestock and riders are unprotected from the force of the collision.

“Adhering to some simple rules when overtaking can keep all road users safe and avoid the tragedy of serious and fatal road traffic collisions.

“Consider if it’s necessary.  Is it worth the risk? How much time will you really save?

“Is it safe?  Check signs, road-markings, hazards, spacing.  Never try to overtake unless you have clear visibility of both lanes of the road ahead.

“Drop back slightly, check again, then if safe, signal and pull out. This will give you space and time for a final check before committing to the manoeuvre and provide a safe space for you to move back into if the circumstances have changed.

“Keep checking the road and your mirrors. If there’s an unexpected hazard, you’ll need to drop back quickly and safely.”

Two men have been charged with vandalism after extensive damage was caused to a car outside an address in Cearn Taransay, Stornoway

The owner of the car, a Vauxhall Corsa, reported that damage had been done to his car at 3.45am yesterday (Tuesday 23 June).

The car had been extensively damaged with most windows smashed and the vehicle left strewn with broken glass and with a block of masonry, which had apparently been used to break the windows.

Following police investigations yesterday, two men aged 20 and 25 were arrested later in the day, cautioned and charged with vandalism.

They are both to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Local artist, Calum Martin, hosted the Comhairle Cèilidh on Saturday night and managed to raise over £700 for the local branch of Macmillan Cancer Support, taking their total to over £2000.

Over 1000 viewers joined the cèilidh (with over 16,000 total views) to watch Calum perform and showed their appreciation by donating to the local charity.

Calum commented: “I would like to thank everyone who donated to the fundraising page and I am pleased to announce that we have reached our goal of £2000. Macmillan Cancer Support do incredible work and it is a charity which is very close to my heart, it means a lot to be able to donate to their cause.

“I think that the cèilidhs are a fantastic idea, it has been brilliant to interact with the viewers and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I retired from performing many years ago so it has been great to play old songs and get in touch with people from back in the day. I think the cèilidhs have helped keep people positive during these difficult times and I am looking forward to performing again soon.”

Chair of the local Macmillan Cancer Support Group Maggie Martin said: “All of us at Macmillan Cancer Support Western Isles are absolutely delighted with the way Calum's Ceilidh helped boost our fundraising for our STOIRM CD. After Saturday night we saw so many donations flood in and by Sunday we had reached our target amount which was amazing.

“These are difficult times but people’s generosity always amazes us not only with money but with time. These cèilidhs are lifting everyone’s spirits young and old, the Comhairle should be very proud.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleased to be able to provide a platform for so many talented local artists. The Comhairle would also like to thank the artists and everyone near and far who continues to show support to those who perform on the page.

Anyone wishing to donate to the local Macmillan Cancer Support group can still do so here: https://tinyurl.com/yaamxq9j

 

Protests are being made about how limitations on ferry traffic will places islanders at a disadvantage comparid to mainland areas with road and rail services.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today Tuesday June 23)  met virtually with Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP to discuss ferry services to the Western Isles.

Ferry travel to the Western Isles has been restricted since 22 March. Last week it was announced that CalMac will be moving from a winter-style timetable from 1 July to a ‘shoulder’ timetable over subsequent weeks, with an aim to match the expected return of tourism by July 15. Physical distancing measures will mean reduced capacity across the network and concerns have been raised over how that reduced capacity will be managed.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Many jobs in the islands depend on tourism, so we all need to see the industry operating again here as soon as it is safe.

“At the same time however, people in the islands who have been in lockdown for four months have a legitimate concern to be sure that they can get a ferry ticket to see family members again, now that this is an accepted reason to use the ferry.

“Today’s meeting with ferries minister Paul Wheelhouse was very useful and it became much clearer what the plans are for booking tickets going forward.

“While exact details are to be confirmed, at the end of this month, ferry tickets will only be booked out for either one or two weeks at a time. Which of these it is will be confirmed in the next couple of days. This will, I hope, prevent the ferry becoming booked out for weeks into the future, and will allow the situation to be reviewed regularly to ensure islanders are getting fair access to ferry services.

“20% of places on the ferry will be kept back so that they can be accessed on a “show and go” basis, which is most likely to of use to local residents.

“This is a changing picture, but with restrictions on ferry capacity being eased in coming weeks, I hope that we are now seeing a clearer picture of how the ferries will operate, and how a balance will be struck to ensure safety, maintain a lifeline service, and restart our local economy as soon as that is safe.”

Meanwhile Outer Hebrides Tourism said that at their webinar last week, many members asked to express their views on the lack of ferry capacity.  The general view is being expressed in a letter to mainland and islands decision-makers and influencer.

The OHT members welcome the unlockdown so far but say: "It is therefore disappointing to learn that the ferry capacity to the Outer Hebrides this summer will prevent my business from being able to re-open like those on the mainland, and ferry capacity is being used as a way of extending the lockdown on the islands."

We "do not understand why the Government is being inconsistent in imposing stricter requirements on ferries than other means of  public transport.   This clearly discriminates against island businesses, and would therefore expect the Government to provide support to affected businesses, and urge you to seek commitments from the Government on this matter.  As is often the case, decisions about ferries are strangling economic activity on the islands. "
 

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron has welcomed the U-turn on schooling announced by Education Secretary John Swinney.

Mr Cameron said: “I am delighted that parents and teachers finally have clarity about what the future holds for their children when schools return in August.

“This change in policy was desperately needed. Had the SNP persisted with their muddled plans, it would have caused huge harm to the prospects of many children here in the Highlands and Islands, and across Scotland.

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, Policy Lead for Education on Argyll and Bute Council, added: “Now that John Swinney has performed his U-turn he needs urgently to put in place the resources that will allow us to get our schools back to work.

 “He cannot just offload responsibility on to local authorities like Argyll and Bute Council which the SNP have systematically underfunded over the last 13 years.

“I am very proud of our teachers who have worked flexibly, and with ingenuity,  to meet the needs of their children. There have been some amazing examples of how they have risen to the challenge with outstanding leadership from our headteachers."

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray, has described John Swinney’s statement in parliament, on a return to full-time schooling from August, as ‘the mother and father of ministerial climb downs’ after they were drastically changed in the last week.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills addressed the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, announcing that the Scottish Government is now working towards and planning for pupils to return to classes full-time in August.

Until today, Mr Swinney had said just half of pupils would attend school at any one time in a ‘blended learning’ model, which just 10 days ago he said could last for an entire year.

Questioning the Cabinet Secretary, Iain Gray said: “We asked for a route map back to schools – it turns out, we’d been on a mystery tour.

“If we can deliver this safely, it is very welcome news. But what a fine mess this is.

“There are still more questions than answers. What, if any, social distancing will be required in the classroom? That question wasn’t answered, and indeed on school transport too.

“What protective measures, PPE, deep cleaning, and testing will be required to keep teachers and staff safe?”

The Education Secretary has now agreed to publish the evidence that this new plan is based on.

Goathill and Springfield residents are the latest to benefit from the availability of food vouchers for vulnerable individuals and families.

Councillor Charlie Nicolson announced today (Tuesday 23 June) that the Goathill and Springfield Residents Association had been successful in attracting support from the Corra Foundation’s community wellbeing fund.

The award means they can offer £25 food vouchers to vulnerable individuals and families over the next few months, with the additional benefit that they will be supporting local businesses.

Anyone who wants to request vouchers can contact the residents association executive committee in complete confidence. Contact numbers are: Dan Mcleman on 07867 774660, Laura Jayne Davis on 07849 023322 or Councillor Charlie Nicolson on 01851 703325.

A spokesman for the residents association said: “We are very thankful to the Corra Foundation community wellbeing fund for this amazing support for Goathill and Springfield in these very challenging times.

Cllr Nicolson said: "This wonderful support for vulnerable individuals and families in our area adds to the support that the association committee is giving together with other agencies, community groups and businesses helping our community.” 

 

The Calanais Visitor Centre, gateway to the iconic Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis, turns 25 years old on 30th June 2020 and is looking for locals and visitors alike to participate in a virtual celebration!

In the COVID-19 pandemic, the Calanais Visitor Centre has been closed since March and plans to celebrate this milestone with visitors this summer have been cancelled. The team at Calanais will be celebrating virtually and need help from visitors from far and wide to share their happiest moments for a virtual event.

Normally the Calanais Visitor Centre welcomes more than 50,000 visitors into the building each year, and around 130,000 visitors visited the Calanais Standing Stones in 2019. The team at the Calanais Visitor Centre are looking to reach out to anyone who loves Calanais and the Standing Stones to share their love of the site, area and people through photographs and memories. This will culminate in a video celebration shared across social media.

Chair of Urras nan Tursachan, Donald Macarthur said, ‘With the ongoing pandemic, we miss seeing old and new faces coming through our doors and marveling at the stone circle.

"We would love as many people as possible to get involved uploading a photo and sharing their memory with us. Whether you visited us in a gale, wrapped up in your waterproofs, or travelled across the world to see the Calanais Standing Stones, we’d love to see photos and videos of your smiling faces as you visited us here at the Calanais Visitor Centre and the Stones. In the meantime, from all of us at the Visitor Centre we cannot wait to welcome you back when it is safe to do so.’

Board Member, Dr Alison Sheridan FBA FRSE FSA FSA Scot said: ‘A quarter of a century may not be long in the 5000-year long life of Tursachan Chalanais, but during that time the Calanais Visitor Centre has welcomed, educated, entertained and inspired over a million visitors from all around the world – and has nourished them too, with tasty treats from the café. Long may it flourish!’

You can find more information here on Urras nan Tursachan here – www.urrasnantursachan.com

You can find more information on the Calanais Visitor Centre here – www.callanishvisitorcentre.co.uk

 

Emergency timetable restrictions are to be lifted from ferry services for the Hebrides next week, the BBC has reported this afternoon (Monday June 22).

But continued social distancing measures will see capacity being significantly reduced.

In a letter to MSPs and Scottish MPs which appears not to be publicly available, Energy, Connectivity and Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse is quoted as saying ferries would move away from emergency timetables during Phase 2 of the easing of Scotland's lockdown.  He says 2m physical distancing measures will remain in place on all boats in line with current scientific advice.

For CalMac, its Clyde and Hebrides passenger ferries will be reduced to about 17-18% of normal capacity, said Mr Wheelhouse.

CalMac is to move to a winter-style timetable from 1 July, before increasing services with an aim to "match the expected return of tourism" by 15 July.

People have been asked to make journeys only if they are necessary.  Travelling to and from islands to visit family is acceptable under Phase 2, but the minister said journeys for leisure and recreation were not being encouraged.

Mr Wheelhouse says ferry operators were not being asked to enforce lockdown restrictions, adding that was the role of police.  "We will, however, rely upon our operators to help us to communicate and reinforce Scottish Ministers' policy, and upon individual travellers making responsible judgements.  This is consistent with the approach being adopted across other public transport modes throughout Scotland."

Travellers claiming they need to use ferries for essential travel are no longer being asked to provide proof of key worker or island resident status, say CalMac.

In a letter to councillors, CalMac’s managing director Robbie Drummond has today (Monday 22 June) said the new approach will be to inform, but not to enforce regulations about travel for essential reasons only.

Mr Drummond wrote: “As part of Phase 2 of the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, the First Minister announced changes in the criteria of who is allowed to travel to islands. Scottish Government guidance is that travel to the islands should remain for essential reasons only or to visit family.

“Travel to the islands is not yet open for leisure or recreation but we will no longer be seeking proof from passengers to allow them to travel given the additional element of being allowed to visit family.

“Our position on this will be to inform and not enforce. We will be encouraging all passengers to ensure their journey is meeting the guidelines set by the Scottish Government and to consider if they are taking a space away from an essential worker or island resident.”

Mr Drummond’s statement also included further information about the use of face-coverings on ferries. Information about these will be prominently displayed and all customer-facing staff will be required to wear a face-mask, but CalMac will not enforce the wearing of coverings by passengers.

Mr Drummond said: “There are a number of reasons why some passengers cannot wear a face covering and it is not for our staff to challenge this or seek proof.”

 

An epic attempt by two tiny fundraisers has already broken its target for Stornoway’s Salvation Army Corps.

Two-year-old equestrian Pheobe Morrison and her ancient Shetland pony Pepsi plan to walk the five miles between Aird and Knock to raise funds for the Salvation Army’s life-saver food bank supplies.

They have already hit and broken through their £475 fundraising total and are now above £500, with five days to go before they set out on the determined five-mile ride through Point.

Neither Pheobe nor Pepsi have ever gone so far, but they’ve been in daily practice over the past couple of weeks from their home in Sulisiadar. They’ll be setting off at 10am on Saturday 27 June and are asking drivers to give them extra space and slow down to avoid startling either horse or rider.

Mum Kayleigh Jacques and dad Ewen Morrison are going along for safety and support and they’re travelling with the good wishes of the whole Stornoway Corps of the Salvation Army.

Lt Callum Newton of Stornoway Salvation Army was taken by surprise when he read on We Love Stornoway that the pair would be raising funds as a thank you for all the help the family has received over the Coronavirus lockdown.

He said: “We think it is fantastic! Thank you so much to toddler and horse duo Pheobe and Pepsi for making an extra special effort to help us to support others at this time.”

You can help add to the total for the Salvation Army’s local funds at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kayleigh-Jacques2

Pictures show Pheobe ready for action and with Pepsi in training for the trot (Kayleigh Jacques).

 

The Newmarket play area and walk has this morning (Monday 22 June) given the good news that it will be ready to reopen next week, following the Scottish government announcement that play areas can re-open on Monday 29 June.

The volunteers who run the park were forced to cordon off all its play equipment on 21 April after a period when they relied on people’s compliance to keep the park open.

At that time they said: “We had hoped that it wouldn't come to this but unfortunately as some folk are still using the play equipment against government guidelines we have decided to cordon off the equipment for the time being.”

Next week the yellow striped hazard tape will come down and the swings will be unlocked, after volunteers have finished setting up sanitiser stations around the park ready for the re-open.

But they said today: “Please remember that social distancing is still required (whether you agree with it or not) and if not adhered to then it may mean the equipment will have to be closed again. Please use the hand sanitisers provided and stay safe. Looking forward to seeing the park in use again. “

The pictures show Newmarket play area in use before the pandemic and cordoned off area at present.

 

There were a number of charges for young drivers around Stornoway over the weekend.

Police on routine patrol on Friday (19 June) found three drivers in separate incidents who were contravening road traffic regulations.

A 17-year-old youth is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal after being found driving in Marybank without a licence or insurance.

In the same area a 22-year-old man was issued with a fixed penalty after being found driving without insurance.

And a 21-year-old man was issued with a fixed penalty for careless and inconsiderate driving in Stornoway town centre.

 

There’s rising anxiety across Lewis and Harris as the date approaches when tourism could resume in the Western Isles.

Some are convinced that quiet island voices are at risk of getting shouted down in the bigger push to open up for a limited season, projected to start from 15 July, when CalMac may also re-open online bookings.

While Visit Outer Hebrides calls the resumption of tourism on 15 July ‘welcome news’, their own survey among island accommodation providers reportedly shows a third of island B&Bs do not plan to re-open in 2020. However, they confirm that most hotels, self-catering and campsites are looking to open.

But some businesses who depend on tourism income say they would prefer to lose a complete season than to expose their community to the risk of Covid-19.  Gearannan Blackhouse Village has put a statement on their website saying that they are closed to visitors until further notice, but will start taking bookings for 2021 soon. They say their closure is ‘for the wellbeing of all.’

B&Bs who have already announced their intention to remain closed include Seal View bed and breakfast in Berneray, who said yesterday (Saturday 20 June): “We feel, based on what we know now, that this is the right decision in order to protect our community, our guests and ourselves.” 

An informal survey carried out by Ness crofter and tourism provider Donald ‘Sweeny’ Macsween fielded over 1,000 responses from island residents and non-residents.

He asked: “Curious about any silent majority. What do folk think? Should travel restrictions to Scottish islands be eased?”

In response, over 79% said they wanted to keep travel restrictions in place – and that included over 220 island residents.

Sweeny said the results strongly reinforced his own preference, which is to scrap the 2020 season and keep the islands better protected against the transmission of infection. He himself will not be re-opening his croft to tourism this year.

He said: “We’ve had next to no cases in the islands and I wouldn’t want to threaten all we’ve gained by introducing the virus later in the year. We’ve an older population and, even though we’re a dispersed rural area in Lewis and Harris, there are potential transmission points in Stornoway itself which everyone uses for shopping and services.

“I wouldn’t be prepared to stand here taking tourists’ money and potentially threatening the lives of people around me. I don’t want to be attracting tourists to Ness and having them use our facilities, because I’ve got to live with that on my conscience if I am indirectly responsible for the virus coming here.

“No individual in the tourism industry that I have spoken to wants to open up and there’s a risk of a backlash from visitors themselves if they come this year and find facilities and attractions closed and a mixed reception from islanders. There’s the potential for longer-term damage to the industry.”

In South Harris, weaver Rebecca Hutton of Taobh Tuath Tweeds also took to social media to question whether opening up the islands was the right path – and was overwhelmed with messages of support from what she calls ‘the silent majority.’

One of those who responded to Rebecca said: “After spending many years dealing with visitors to our islands I would hope that most people who profess to love our islands and their people would allow us one season to sort ourselves out and keep ourselves safe. We will hopefully still be here next year to welcome them all, so please allow us this time.”

Another said: “If Covid rips through the islands, we can say goodbye to many of the Gaelic indigenous population and more. Until people can feel entirely safe, the ferries should not be transporting the bug across the Minch. Life is precious, don’t let anyone whip it away from you in favour of a summer's income.”

Speaking to welovestornoway.com last week, Rebecca said: “All I keep hearing is that we need to open up the tourism, ferries and hotels, but when I used Facebook to air my concerns about opening up regardless of the consequences a lot of people contacted me to say that they agree with me, but don’t think that they can say anything in public about it.

“My own business is affected and it’s going to be a struggle without the tourism, but if the only voice we’re hearing is that of the larger business owners, somebody needs to ask ‘what about everybody else?’

“It’s the island way not to speak out, not to put your head above the parapet, but that means those quiet voices are not going to get heard.

“We have been very lucky to have only had seven confirmed cases here and, with a disproportionately elderly and vulnerable population, increasing ferry capacity seems to be foolish and tempting fate.

“I am sympathetic with those businesses who are suffering financially at the moment and have been unable to access financial support, but instead of shouting about increasing ferry capacity, why not come together and lobby for better, more inclusive financial support so that we can then all do our bit to protect our fragile community?”

“I'm not saying this is easy, far from it! There will be those out there right now who are faced with the choice of deciding between saving their livelihoods and protecting their neighbours. 

“My business welcomes tourists and visitors, and the money they spend with me, but I'd rather see my own business fail than stand at a graveside.”

There’s evidence that prospective visitors hear and understand island concerns. One used the Visit Outer Hebrides Twitter feed to say: “We’re due to visit Harris at the end of July but wouldn’t want to come if islanders are uncomfortable with tourists arriving. We’d rather respect people and delay if that’s what is wanted.”

Another pledged: “I will only come back to the Outer Hebrides when local people tell me that’s what they want. I do hope I can visit again this year, but I will respect any decision.”

Pictures show crofter Donald ‘Sweeny’ Macsween with a party of visitors in 2019, weaver Rebecca Hutton with celebrity visitors George and Larry Lamb and Seal View B&B, Berneray, which will remain closed this year.

Correction:The results of the Visit Outer Hebrides survey were incorrectly included in the first version of this report which has now been modified to take account of this

 

Barra Lifeboat was called out in the early hours of this morning (Sunday 21 June) to assist a fishing vessel in trouble off Lochmaddy.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call at 4am saying that the vessel, with four crew aboard, was having difficulties in moderate to rough seas, with south-easterly winds at close to gale force 7.

Barra RNLI Lifeboat crew launched at 4.15am and reached the position, two miles north-east of Lochmaddy, at 6.30am. They were soon joined by the Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) Ievoli Black, which had been on patrol in the Minch.

A nearby vessel had already taken the casualty under tow and the RNLI and ETV provided safety cover as the team headed for Lochmaddy, where the casualty was brought alongside and made safe.

The casualty vessel was tied up by 11.30am and the RNLI crew turned for Castlebay, reaching their home port at 2.15 this afternoon after a ten-hour shout.

CalMac has introduced revised guidance for ferry travellers following the latest announcement on movement to phase 2 of lockdown restrictions by the Scottish Government.

On Friday (19 June)  the ferry company announced that their essential lifeline timetable on all routes is to remain in place until 30 June, signalling the potential for revisions to the emergency timetable from 1 July.

Following the lead given by Transport Scotland, from tomorrow (Monday 22 June) face-coverings will become mandatory on all public transport, including enclosed areas of ferries.

While passenger capacity will be severely constrained by social distancing measures on all ferries, there is to be some relaxation on the rules for who can travel, including permission for those travelling to visit family to do so, subject to Scottish Government advice.

However, CalMac are asking all intending passengers to be responsible when considering travel. Your decision to travel could impact someone else's ability to travel - for example key workers and those travelling for medical reasons.

 

With Lockdown now easing a bit,  it turns out if I got rid of Ruaraidh I could go and visit my grandson Ronan theres a thought, not sure Ruaraidh is to keen on this idea.

As Lockdown is now easing we are starting the preparations for the Stall to return to Perceval Square in July on a Thursday – we will also continue with orders and deliveries as we have been doing

More info will follow as we progress with the preparations.

In this week we have local Gooseberries, local Fennel Fronds, Ayrshire Potatoes, Bunched Carrots ( Lovely and tasty), Flat Peaches, Nectarines and Cherries.

Please have your orders in before 12.30 on Monday

Iona, at The Veggie Box

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

Or call 07771 645238 to place your order

 

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Aubergine

 

£1.85

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.25

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.30

 

Round Green Cabbage

 

£2.20

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.50

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.70

 

Garlic (Large)

 

£0.95

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

Chinese Leaves

 

£2.75

 

Local Fennel Fronds, bunch

 

0.85

 

New Season, Bunched Carrots, come with Ferns, approx. Weight 500grms

 

£2.55

 

White Cabbage

 

£2.60

 

Corn on Cob each

 

£1.50

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Scottish Washed Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£5.45

 

Bunched Beetroot

 

£2.70

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks

 

£3.95

 

Mushrooms

 

£5.00

 

Onions (New Season New Zealand White)

 

£1.75

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus Potatoes

 

£1.95

 

New Season Pembrokeshire Potatoes

 

£3.20

 

 

Jersey Royals

 

£3.25

 

Ayrshire New Season Epicure

 

£3.75

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.75

 

Sweet Potato

 

£3.25

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.65

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.85

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.85

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.90

 

Cherries

 

£12.00

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

VeggieBox Strawberries

340gr punnet (Limited Supply)

 

£3.40

 

VeggieBox Gooseberries (250gr Punnet) Limited Supply

 

£2.95

 

Blueberries   120gr Punnet

 

£2.75

 

Flat (Doughnut) Peaches

 

3 for £1.75

 

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £2.10

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.80

 

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.75

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.65

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.60

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £2.10

 

Pears

 

3 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

 

£2.55

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Green Jalapeños

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.35

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£3.95

 

 

Available

PER JAR

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Orange and Lemon

hint of Whiskey,

with Ginger

Rhubarb and Ginger

Rhubarb jam

Strawberry Jam

Raspberry Jam

 

(5)

(7)

(5)

(2)

 (4)

(3)

(5)

(7)

 

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

£4.50

 

 

Gingerbread

(16)

£4.50

Per Cake,

 

4 Plain Scones

(20)

£3.25

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Local Eggs ½ Dozen

( Supply can be limited)

(30)

£2.25

 

 

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, Northbay

Michael MacNeil of Rhu Ard, 12 Ardveenish, Northbay, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 12B Ardveenish. Work is to include the installation of a septic tank.

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

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

New agricultural building, Northton

Susan Ward of 24 Northton has given prior notification to erect an agricultural building at 24 Northton. The building is to be 11 metres long, 8 metres wide and 5 metres tall.

Restore and extend building, Leverburgh 

Jan Visser of Whale House, 1 Strond, Leverburgh, has applied for planning permission to restore and extend a stone shell to form a detached house at 1 Strond Road, Leverburgh. Work is also to include the construction of a shed and creation of an access and parking spaces. An air source heat pump will also be installed. The house will consist of two bedrooms, a bathroom, a dining room and a kitchen.  

 

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

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

Housing development, Barvas

Calmac Construction Ltd has applied for planning permission to erect eight semi-detached houses in Barvas. Work is to include installing air source heat pumps and creating associated service connections and an access road. A footpath will also be created with nine lampposts to meet the existing footpath at the Barvas junction. There is to be four two-bedroom houses, two one-bedroom houses and two three-bedroom houses.

New telecommunications mast, Lochs

Wilkinson-Helsby has applied for planning permission to a erect a 20 metre telecommunications mast and associated infrastructure at Druim Nam Bacan Mast, Ranish. Work is also to include creating an access track.

New dish antennae, Radio Station, Marybank

Rapid Computers Ltd has applied for planning permission to install integrated dish antennae on an existing BT Radio Mast at Radio Station, Bennadrove Road, Marybank. 

New polycarbonate tunnel, Uig

Donella Macdonald of 10A Reef, Uig, has applied for planning permission to erect a polycarbonate tunnel at 10A Reef, Uig. The tunnel is to be 9.6 metres long, 4 metres wide and 2.6 metres tall and is to be used to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit.

New access and hardstanding, Coll

Sean Macleod of Kames House, Hill Street, North Tolsta, has applied for planning permission to create a access and hard standing at 47A Coll. 

New agricultural building

Alison Jacques of 7 Carishader, Uig, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building – a Nissen hut - at 7 Carishader, Uig.

New agricultural storage building

Mark Macleod of 11 Druim Na H-Athadh has applied for planning permission to erect a building for the storage of agricultural implements at 1 Dalmore. The building is to be 12 metres long, 12 metres wide and 5 metres tall.

New polycrub, 23 North Shawbost

Neil Mackay of 23 North Shawbost has applied for planning permission to erect a polycrub at 23 North Shawbost. The polycrub is to be 10 metres long, 4 metres wide and 2.55 metres tall. 

New polycarbonate tunnel, Tong

Ronald Maclean of Tong Farm, Tong, has applied for planning permission to erect a polycarbonate tunnel at Tong Farm, Tong. The tunnel is to be 10 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres tall. 

Demolition and extension, Tolstachaolais

Mairi Macritchie of Tigh na Bruaich has applied for planning permission to demolish the existing porch and erect a sun lounge extension at Tigh na Bruaich, Tolstachaolais. 

Upgrade telecommunications apparatus, Lower Shader

EE Ltd has applied for planning permission to upgrade the telecommunications apparatus at Communications Mast, Lower Shader. 

New agricultural building, Point

Gordon Mackay of 9 Swordale, Point, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 9 Swordale, Point. The building is to be 10 metres long, 8 metres wide and 5 metres tall. 

New access road and hardstanding, Sandwick

Rosemary Macritchie of 19 Lower Sandwick has applied for planning permission to create an access road and a hardstanding for croft access at 19 Lower Sandwick.

Point and Sandwick Trust have this week completed delivery of protective face visors to all care homes and hospitals in the Western Isles.

The kit has now been supplied for the seven local authority care homes, three private care homes and the three hospitals in Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra. 

Tony Robson, PST’s engineering consultant, delivered the final batches of visors to Bethesda Care Home and Hospice and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on Wednesday – a move which came almost 15 years to the day after the community wind farm organisation held its first public meeting.

Calum Macdonald, the former Western Isles MP who developed Point and Sandwick Trust’s wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag, said it was satisfying to see the positive impacts that have resulted from their success in developing the 100 per cent community owned wind farm. 

He said: “This project shows the benefits of partnership working – in this case between PST and Lews Castle College – as well as the benefits of being able to return the profits generated by the wind farm back to the community.” 

As previously reported, PST and staff at Lews Castle College have created the protective visors by producing plastic headbands in a 3D printer at the college’s Innovation Centre. This special printer was bought when PST sponsored the expansion of the Innovation Centre with the donation of £20,000 and around 500 of these headbands have now been produced and distributed. 

The headbands are turned into visors by the addition of disposable plastic sheets which clip on to the headbands to form face shields. PST and the College worked with NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to make these visors – the headbands plus many packs of disposable sheets – available for all frontline health and care workers in the Western Isles.

Tony Robson said it was “a pleasure” to have worked on the project with college staff, especially engineering lecturer Iain F Macdonald, who managed the printing of the PPE.

“It’s been good, working together and doing something which is clearly appreciated and assisting in this difficult situation,” said Tony.

Donald McIntosh, manager of Blar Buidhe Care Home in Stornoway, thanked PST and Lews Castle College for the provision of the visors.  “It’s a great help to all the staff working in Blar Buidhe, enabling us to keep safe and keep well while providing care to our residents. It’s hugely appreciated and being put to good use.”

Calum Macdonald said the response to the pandemic had demonstrated the wind farm has delivered a new community resilience. “The self-belief in the community has been boosted and a good proof of that is the terrific work that we did with the Lews Castle College in producing the PPE visors for all the hospitals and care homes in the Western Isles. Not only did we have the 3D printer available, which we had funded, but we also had the organisational capacity to use it to provide essential kit for the whole of the Western Isles.”

“We would never have dreamed of organising something like that before, but now we have the confidence and the capacity to step into the breach ourselves when something like the coronavirus pandemic happens and not just wait for official agencies to do something.”

It is not an outcome that Calum could have envisaged when he was addressing the first public meeting of the newly incorporated Point and Sandwick Power almost exactly 15 years ago – in Bayble School on June 14, 2005 – but it could not be more welcome.

“All my best hopes and ambitions for the wind farm have borne fruit, have been delivered. So I’m really delighted that, 15 years on, we can say that all the effort – all that hard struggle in the first 10 years – was really worthwhile.”

Testing for both staff and service users for COVID-19 has occurred throughout the social care sector during the pandemic and all tests thus far have returned as negative, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said on Friday (June 19).

The service has now entered its second week of sample testing of care home staff. The uptake has been very positive with a significant majority of residential staff now tested.

"The high volume of negative test returns has provided further evidence of the likely R rating in the community and allows us to begin planning for some easing of the restrictions within care homes between residents, whilst continuing to ensue social distancing," says CnES.

From next week the testing regime will likely change to utilizing the UK Testing Portal, where staff will self-test and the tests will be couriered to a mainland testing centre. Should there be a positive test, then Public Health will be notified in addition to the individual being tested, and a planning meeting will be convened.

Residential Care – Services Update

Following the introduction of lockdown, there were immediate changes to work practices and immediate challenges to service delivery within the care sector.

Upon the implementation of lockdown, a process of restricting all but essential visitors to care homes was introduced. With visits no longer possible the use of virtual technology has been promoted and encouraged to enable families to maintain contact with residents.

Working with partner agencies, the service has had to respond to the requirements stipulated by the Scottish Government. Along with the implementation of other measures this has resulted in changes to the physical environment of care homes.

There is daily contact with care homes by either a Quality Improvement Officer or Health Practitioner, and daily updates are reported to the oversight team, using a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) status framework. All care homes are currently rated green for all clinical and care aspects.

Staffing levels were adversely affected at the earliest stages of the pandemic. However, with the closure of Day services, the Day Care Service workforce was redeployed, including residential services. Employees met the challenge admirably.

A public appeal for people to come forward and support social care services was made. As a result of this we have recruited additional staff and we see this as an opportunity to attract people into the care profession.

Home Care

Due to the age profile of the Home Care workforce, the service was immediately adversely impacted by the pandemic. Thanks must go to the families who stepped in and assumed all or part of care packages.

With more of the workforce having returned to work, and through the recruitment of additional relief staff, the service is managing to resume these points of care. However as the economy begins to restart many of the family members who have taken on care responsibilities as well as the temporary relief staff will now be returning to other work. With these changes the provision of points of care will once again become challenging.

Currently we are working on a reduced respite capacity as we support hospital and community pressures, however we recognize the need to support informal carers and will be working with commissioning colleagues to review and reinstate respite provision.

Personal Protective Equipment

There has been a focus on infection prevention and control measures throughout all care homes.  Staff use PPE, aprons, gloves and masks routinely in our care homes as part of the infection prevention and control measures.  There is a robust system in place to access PPE supplies with hubs strategically placed across our island communities.

The 3 local PPE Hubs were set up in Stornoway (Lewis and Harris) Uist and Barra. Stock is delivered from the NSS National Distribution Centre to the three local Hubs and kept on site. Each Hub is open for business between 9am-5pm, Mon - Fri. Care homes, care at home and private providers are able to access stock if they are unable to source PPE through their usual supply.

Private paid and unpaid carers were also added to the group that could receive stock. Over 400 potential users could access stock and this was monitored each week though NSS and our local Health and Social Care Partnership. The hub successfully continues to provide PPE to those providing social care support in the community.

Learning Disability Service

For those living in the Core and Cluster Service, where they live in the community in their own supported tenancy, lockdown has proven to be a challenging experience.  The employees supporting these service users have been very flexible in their work patterns to ensure supports have continued where possible.

Residents of Ardseileach, have enjoyed getting outside into the garden area when weather permits. Residents have adjusted well to staff wearing personal protective equipment. Resources such as social stories were used to help residents understand COVID – 19 and the measures put in place to prevent and control infection.

Although day services were reduced as per Scottish Government advice, the service did offer care at home if families were not able to provide care or access basic needs due to caring responsibilities while day centres were closed. Wellbeing phone calls for families were introduced to ensure that service users and families felt in touch with their service and to try to reduce the likelihood of crisis.

Day services partially restarted following the route map of phase one on the 16th of June. Day services buildings have been adapted to ensure safe distancing and easy to read information about infection prevention and control, PPE and Covid-19 is readily available and displayed.

A morning service incorporating social distancing and one-to-one activities has been introduced and will be reviewed on a three week cycle. Service users receive Social stories and activities are focussed on infection control, PPE and information on Corona Virus alongside usual activities.

 

Stornoway police are investigating an incident of vandalism at The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.

It’s been reported that a window in the rear courtyard area of the school was smashed sometime between late afternoon on Sunday 14 June and the morning of Monday 15 June.

Anyone with knows anything about this incident, or who may have seen or heard anything unusual, is requested to contact Stornoway police using the non-emergency number 101.

 

A change in the programme for the Comhairle’s online performances will see the sunshine of California beamed into the living rooms of the Western Isles this evening (Friday 19 June).

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has arranged for their online cèilidh at 9pm to be delivered ‘as live’ from the home of Donnie ‘Large’ Macdonald in Citrus Heights, California.

Songs, music and stories are ready to entertain the islands, replacing the planned performance of Fiddler on the Roof, which has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Gaelic and traditional singer Donnie has his own extensive following and has promised island favourites such as Kisimul’s Galley and thoughts of Stornoway, as well as some tunes specially imported from America.

Donnie’s ceilidh tonight will be followed on Saturday evening by a ceilidh with Calum Martin, also starting at 9pm. All events can be found live at https://www.facebook.com/pg/comhairlenaneileansiar/events/

Armed Forces Week will be marked in a much different way this year, with a live stream of both the flag-raising and flag-lowering ceremonies in Stornoway.

And the importance of the event is being reiterated by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, even as they encourage continued social distancing and urge people to stay away from participation in person.

Comhairle Convener Councillor Norman A MacDonald, said: "Although this year's events will be slightly different to previous years, it is very important that we remember those who are currently serving in the forces and those who gave their lives for the freedom that we enjoy today."

The week begins on Monday (22 June) with a flag-raising in Perceval Square at 10am and concludes at 7.30pm on Monday 29 June with the lowering of the flag.

Both the events will be streamed live on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/comhairlenaneileansiar/

 

Western Isles police are continuing a road safety and speeding campaign focusing on drivers using speed-limited roads in rural areas outside Stornoway.

In response to community concerns in Balallan and Airidhbhruaich a police patrol was in place yesterday (Thursday 18 June) and two drivers were charged with offences.

A 43-year-old man was stopped in the 40mph zone of the A859 in Balallan, after being detected driving well in excess of the speed limit.

A 21-year-old man was stopped driving a quad bike on the main road without insurance and was also charged with a driving licence offence.

Both men are to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Sports facilities run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar throughout the Western Isles remain closed because of national COVID-19 restrictions, the Council has reiterated.

And if they reopen, they will be subject to further restrictions rather than returning to the pre-pandemic arrangements.

Sports Facilities Services Manager Tony Wade said: “Although we have been blessed by generally great weather since lockdown began, we know that many people have been missing their regular exercise routine in the gym, pool etc.

"Over the coming weeks, we will be following guidance from the Scottish Government, sportscotland and national sporting organisations to prepare for the time we can look to reopen our sports facilities.

"Although, as in many aspects of our lives at present, there is great uncertainty about when things may change, one certainty is that the 'new normal' for sport will be very different in the near future.

"There will be restrictions on the numbers of users able to access facilities to meet social distancing guidelines for example; activities will need to be booked in advance to ensure customer and staff safety - and there will be many more areas where new processes will be needed to be put in place. We are also already contacting sports clubs informally about how things may work for them and this process will continue over the next few weeks, as national guidance emerges.

"These changes and new ways of doing things will be shared with all our customers in due course but we can't wait for the day when we can open our doors and see all those familiar faces again!”

There was some light-hearted and artistic cheer for hospital staff yesterday morning (Wednesday June 17).

John Robert Campbell, pictured with his mum, cheered up Consultant Mr Zaki and staff from Western Isles Hospital's Outpatient Department with his fantastic NHS Rainbow drawing on his plastercast.

"Well done John Robert - we hope you get well soon," said NHS Western Isles on Twitter.

E-SGOIL TEACHING PEDAGOGY LIVE Q&A – 3PM TODAY

The COVID-19 lockdown has required that all pupils and teachers adapt to online learning and teaching. This has resulted in a great deal of interest in e-Sgoil's established model of lesson delivery.

e-Sgoil are hosting a livestream Q&A session especially for teaching staff focusing on aspects of pedagogy associated with remote, face-to-face teaching. Panel members will share some of their own experiences to date and will share strategies that they have found to be particularly effective.

The event will be streamed live both on the e-Sgoil website at http://www.e-sgoil.com/e-sgoills180620/ and also through the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Facebook page. This session is scheduled to run from 3-4pm today, Thursday 18th June.

Questions can be submitted beforehand to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or can also be asked once the session is underway.

 

Scottish Water engineers have just (12.30pm, today Thursday June 18) completed a repair to a burst water main in Grimshader which led to a number of customers being without water supply this morning.

The problem was caused by a section of overground bypass pipe, itself put in to solve an underground disruption to the main pipe which could not be traced.

A coupling on the overland pipe had come adrift, causing engineers to switch off supply while they fixed the break.

The pipe has now been secured and water turned back on, but some customers may find that the water takes longer to reach addresses on higher ground or towards the end of the supply pipe.

Scottish Water apologised for inconvenience to customers and said that the water supply will gradually return to normal.

 

Writer and poet Donald S Murray has won a major prize in this year’s Society of Authors Awards.

Donald, originally from north Lewis but now based in Shetland, won the Paul Torday Memorial Prize for his novel set amid the Iolaire tragedy, 'As the Women Lay Dreaming'.

Sarah Waters, Paul Torday memorial prize judge, said: “Just a few pages into As the Women Lay it’s a book that’s big with beauty, poetry and heart.

“A wonderful achievement, a brilliant blend of fact and fiction, full of memorable images and singing lines of prose.”

Donald was among 32 winners announced today (Thursday June 18), with nine awards being picked up.

The awards – which are judged by authors – have a shared prize fund of £100,000, making it the UK’s biggest.



Donald’s award, for author's of first novels who are over-60, came with a prize of £1,000. He said this morning that he found it difficult to absorb that he had won such major recognition.

Society of Authors’ chair Joanne Harris said: “We’ve always said that receiving an SoA Award can be transformational for an author. They aren’t about promoting big corporate sponsors.

“They don’t seek out one big winner and say ‘this one’s best of all’. Each year, they reward the breadth and depth of books and words, and reward authors at the start of their careers as well as those well established.

“This year, as the health crisis makes authors’ precarious careers even more of a challenge to sustain, it is more important than ever to celebrate the work of today’s 32 winners.”

There is a chance to see Donald today at 2pm (Thursday June 18) on https://www2.societyofauthors.org/awards2020/

That event includes music by Ceitlin Lilidh from South Dell and the paintings of Margaret Ferguson.

http://www.donaldsmurray.co.uk

 

Stornoway police are investigating an allegation of vandalism to a parked car on Willowglen Road, Stornoway.

The car is believed to have been damaged between Saturday 6 June and Wednesday 10 June. Anyone with information is requested to contact police on the non-emergency number 101,  quoting incident number NH/649/20.

An allegation of threatening behaviour from Wednesday 10 June is also under investigation by Stornoway police.  At 10.30pm on that date a man is alleged to have jumped out in front of a car on Perceval Road in Stornoway, aiming a kick at the vehicle.

Anyone with information on this incident is requested to contact police quoting incident number NH/654/20.

Concern about people living on the islands being unable to travel to the mainland even after lockdown starts to be lifted have been raised with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan raised the issue of access to ferry services for islanders at First Minister’s Questions yesterday (Wednesday June 17) 

Since 22 March, ferry travel has not been permitted unless the traveller can demonstrate they have an essential reason for travelling or are a key worker. People will be able to travel beyond their local area in Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s 'routemap out of lockdown', and a provisional date of 15 July has been given for tourism to resume.

Social distancing measures will constrain ferry capacity and there are concerns that islanders may find it difficult to access ferry tickets at the point that travel is permitted again.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Islanders have not seen their families and friends on the mainland since March. They have understood the health reasons for this and have strongly supported the restrictions.

“The lockdown has been necessary, but it has also brought great strains to peoples’ personal lives. It is important that, at whatever point it is considered safe to change the present travel advice about ferries, islanders have some kind of opportunity to book what will likely be a limited supply of ferry tickets, perhaps on some priority basis.

“The overriding priority when it comes to this issue has to be ensuring that the reintroduction of ferry travel is safe, and I am grateful for the First Minister’s recognition of the need to manage the situation in such a way that ensures islanders are not disadvantaged.”

The First Minister told the MSP:  “We are working with ferry operators to identify measures to ensure passenger and crew safety when travelling, while observing 2m distancing on vessels. Capacity will obviously be reduced by the measures, but we are putting in place plans to manage that. That work includes consideration of how the booking systems of CalMac Ferries and NorthLink Ferries might be used to help to manage demand. Further details will be available in the transport transition plan and from the operators, as we move through the phases of easing lockdown.”

“I fully understand how important it is that islanders be able to access the lifeline ferry services on which, of course, they depend for getting to and from the mainland - in particular, to see their families. They rightly want to enjoy the same freedoms that others will be able to start enjoying as we ease out of lockdown. Like all aspects of the situation, that requires careful consideration to make sure that people can move safely and without risk to themselves and others.

“There are practical considerations about safety that mean that capacity will be reduced by the measures that must be in place, which must be managed to ensure that islanders are not disadvantaged. That is a key consideration that CalMac, Transport Scotland and the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, are looking at.

“Crucially, there is, and will continue to be, on-going engagement with island communities to determine the best way forward. The involvement of people who actually live on our islands, including Alasdair Allan and his constituents, is absolutely key.”

If you are at all concerned about a cancer sign or symptom, NHS Western Isles is encouraging you not to delay and contact your GP for advice as soon as possible.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of screening programmes have been temporarily paused. 

And the latest research has found individuals are less likely to contact their GP at this present time, with many concerned about their safety, or unsure what to expect if they do go.

NHS Western Isles would like to reassure islanders that contacting your GP can be the best way to get any potential cancer symptoms checked - as the earlier cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.

Dr Frank McAuley, NHS Western Isles Medical Director, said, “The NHS is here for you, so don’t ignore the warning signs.  You are not being a burden, you are looking after yourself and our NHS by seeking help.

"Please don’t put your health at risk. Your community pharmacy, ophthalmologist, and your GP are open, please contact them for advice or with concerns that are not COVID-19 related.

"If you notice a deterioration in your health or the health of someone in your household, call your GP in normal hours, 111 out of hours, or in an emergency dial 999.

 Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • breast changes
  • bladder changes
  • bleeding or bruising, for no known reason
  • bowel changes 
  • cough 
  • eating problems
  • fatigue that is severe and lasts
  • fever or night sweats for no known reason
  • mouth changes
  • neurological problems
  • skin changes
  • swelling or lumps 
  • weight gain or weight loss for no known reason

Find out more about cancer signs and symptoms at www.getcheckedearly.org 

The restaurant and café at the the Harris & Lewis Smokehouse on Sandwick Road will not reopen after the end of lockdown.

On their social media today. (Wednesday June 17) the company said: "We have made the difficult decision not to reopen the Harris & Lewis Smokehouse Restaurant following its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Smokehouse will continue to run as a development facility."

There had been discussions earlier the year about the production area being expanded by taking over land on sites adjacent to the building which was too cramped to encompass all the planned developments of new products.   

The company went on: “We are currently consulting with affected employees and, where possible, will look for opportunities to redeploy them elsewhere in the business.

A meeting at the Smokehouse in happier times

"Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any queries regarding restaurant gift vouchers.

The Smokehouse is part of the Scottish Salmon Company which is fully engaged in all stages from smolt production through freshwater andmarine farming to processing, as well as sales and marketing activities. They produce over 33,000 tonnes of the finest quality Scottish Salmon and export to 20 countries around the world, from North America to the Far East. They employ over 650 staff across remote and rural communities and are passionately committed to the environmental, cultural and economic sustainability of rural Scotland and are one of the biggest employers in the Outer Hebrides. 

Last year it was taken over by a firm in the Faroe Islands, for more than £500m.  Bakkafrost agreed to take on 69% of the shareholding from the then majority owner, investment fund Northern Link.

There was sadness on Facebook as people reacted to the news.

  • "Absolutely gutted for all involved. I’m so glad I got to eat there & it really was spectacular service. A sad day for all the staff."
  • "Sorry to hear this ...lovely place to eat.
  • This is so sad. Hope staff manage to be redeployed as they were wonderful. Food outstanding."
  • "Oh what a shame we loved to visit for brunch on our shopping trips up from Harris. Will we still be able to buy the salmon? If so how?"
  • "Big loss for the island so very sorry to be reading this…tough times ahead for everybody, unfortunately."
  • "Sorry to hear this. We enjoyed your breakfasts."

Writing on the Harris and Lewis Smokehouse Facebook page, John Alexander Smith, from Stornoway, said:"It's sad as the town invests in new infrastructure for tourism: the marina and the new port developments that the supporting and necessary service infrastructure is not going to match up to the challenge.

"The restaurant was a great showcase for local seafood, local produce and culinary skills. I think that understanding the true benefit of added value services are sometimes only realised when they are gone.

"I was excited to see this innovation and investment. It was a real spotlight on fresh local produce - from farming production and smoking to having the confidence to take that final step to meeting the end customer was enlightened indeed.

"But perhaps a new opportunity exists to repurpose for the benefit of the industry in the creation of a culinary training centre focusing on Scottish salmon, seafood and excellence in training chefs and buyers in the necessary skills to maximise the benefits of Scottish salmon and. Seafood. and through that process keep the Hebrides on the international culinary map."

 

A reader in Stornoway has reported a scam phone call. 

The receiver of the phone call did not have broadband, yet the call claimed that her broadband was going to be disconnected. 

She was told to phone 0441 866 66028 in order to resolve the issue. 

She has been called by the same people three times today. 

Another reader contacted us to says: "This is definitely a scam. I received the same call yesterday. Also similar call on Sunday claiming to be from Amazon Prime. I do not have any broadband or Amazon Prime."

 

Stornoway police are asking for public help in tracing vandals after two separate incidents of damage in the Cearns area over recent days.

Overnight yesterday (Tuesday 16 June) and into this morning, the front nearside window of a Citroen C2 was smashed outside an address on Cearn Bhororaidh.

Police are appealing for any witnesses to the incident.

It was the second vandalism within a few days in the Cearns area – around 3am on Sunday 14 June a kitchen window was smashed at an address at Cearn Tharansaidh.

Anyone with any information in relation to either incident is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111, if they wish to remain anonymous.

 

Residents of the Parkend, Holm and Mackenzie estate area have been offered new support in hard times, as the Corra Foundation’s community wellbeing fund provides food vouchers for vulnerable people

The grant announced today (Wednesday 17 June) by Parkend, Holm and Mackenzie Estate residents association (PHAME) means that £25 food vouchers will be made available to individuals and families over the next few months.

Councillor Charlie Nicolson said: “We wish to thank the Corra Foundation for this wonderful support for vulnerable individuals and families in our area.

"It adds to the support that the association committee is already giving, with other agencies, community groups and businesses working together and helping the area of Parkend, Holm and Mackenzie Estate in these very challenging times.”

The £25 vouchers will be given in response to requests, which will be treated in the utmost confidence, to any of the following: PHAME chair Roddie Mackenzie 07876 374995,  Donnie ‘Uig’ Smith, treasurer, 07867 861098 and Cllr Charlie Nicolson 01851 703325 or any committee member or area volunteer.

When First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that open water swimming was among the activities now allowed under easing of restrictions, she probably didn’t have Lilly the cat in mind.

But Lilly, according to her owners, has always been her own cat and, if it’s hot, cooling off in the sea near her home in Sandwick seems to her like an excellent idea.

Four-year-old Lilly is a former rescue cat who belongs to Megan Macdonald of Sandwick Bay Candles and her family.

Megan said: “She’s hilarious and a bit mad, which fits in well with our family. She regularly goes out on the paddleboard or kayak with us. It was such a beautiful night on Monday (15 June) that we went off to the beach and, as usual, she went with us.

“Next thing we knew she was in the water swimming. When I said ‘I’ve never seen her do that before!’ my husband said he’d seen it once before.”

Lilly, as might be expected, remained a cool cat and doesn’t even mind that her water antics were filmed – and have been viewed almost 5,000 times already!

You can find Lilly’s swim video at https://www.facebook.com/sandwickbaycandles/videos/194818515131808/

Picture – Lilly on one of her earlier waterborne adventures (Megan Macdonald).

 

Schedules on the single daily lifeline flight between Glasgow and Barra are in disruption over the next few weeks, as Loganair wrestles with logistics during the period of ‘unlockdown’.

And there’s concern in Barra that anxieties have been unnecessarily raised by implementing a ‘dramatic’ change to the timetable without notice or consultation among islanders themselves.

On Monday (15 June) islanders learnt that their single daily service was apparently being discontinued with immediate effect, leading to an alarmed response from Councillor Donald Manford, who immediately wrote to Transport Scotland posing a series of questions.

Among them, he asked why there had been no ‘discussion, consultation, consideration or information’ ahead of the announcement that Barra and Tiree services are to be combined to facilitate re-introduction of services between Stornoway, Benbecula and mainland airports.

Loganair’s timetable shows a change to the Barra-Glasgow service to include a one-stop flight (via Tiree) on some legs of the journey, adding approximately 30 minutes to some journey times.

Cllr Manford’s lobbying yielded an immediate response and explanation from Michael Matheson MSP, Scottish Government cabinet secretary for transport.

Responding via na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan, he said: “We have been reviewing the skeleton service on a monthly basis. As part of the last review, island stakeholders highlighted the increasing problem for NHS patients in using the ferry in the absence of the Stornoway-Inverness air service.

“In response to this, from 15 June we have introduced a daily Stornoway-Inverness service. To accommodate the Stornoway-Inverness service within aircraft capacity required an adjustment to other services. The Glasgow-Tiree service that was combined with Glasgow-Campbeltown will now be combined with Glasgow-Barra.”

Loganair says that this arrangement is currently expected to be in place for three weeks, until Sunday 5 July, with Barra’s direct service to and from Glasgow reinstated on 6 July.

The airline has provided supporting figures showing that flights between Barra and Glasgow have barely been used by passengers, with an average of two passengers a day on the Glasgow-Barra flight and some flights being made with no passengers. In the first 14 days of June, 28 passengers travelled to Barra and 34 made the return trip.

Mr Matheson said: “The alternative to how we’re proceeding would have been the increasing number of NHS patients continuing to use the freight ferry to travel to Inverness for treatment until 6 July at the earliest. On balance, we took the view that the reintroduction of a Stornoway-to-Inverness service was preferable.

“Given the low number of passengers impacted by the timetable changes we did not speak to individual communities within the Western Isles.”

Councillor Manford said yesterday (Tuesday 16 June) that the response was ‘hugely important and welcome.’
But, he said: “I must add that this fear and concern could have been avoided with consultation or just information.” Cabinet secretary Michael Matheson has offered a telephone conversation with Cllr Manford to clarify any outstanding issues.

Picture shows Barra’s beach landing strip – the daily flight has departed empty of passengers on some trips during the Coronavirus lockdown (Loganair).

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the launch by Crown Estate Scotland last week of the ScotWind Offshore Wind Leasing Round. 

Investors and developers can now take the first steps in obtaining a Lease Agreement to build Offshore Wind Farms in identified ‘Areas of Deployment’ around Scotland.

Three of these Areas of Deployment – N2, N3 and N4 – are in the Hebridean Marine Region and hold the potential to create jobs in the Outer Hebrides Supply Chain and to bring considerable benefit to island communities.

Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “This is a major step forward for the islands.  We have been working closely with Marine Scotland to ensure that their new Sectoral Plan for Offshore Wind includes Areas of Deployment around the Outer Hebrides and now Crown Estate Scotland are offering seabed leases in these Areas.  We have the best wind resource in Europe and some world leading energy companies are already showing strong interest in these Hebridean areas.

“As Crown Estate Scotland’s proposals for Offshore Wind leasing were being developed, the Comhairle consistently called for the maximisation of local supply chain content in Offshore Wind deployments around the islands and I am pleased that Crown Estate Scotland has responded to this by including a requirement for Supply Chain Development Statements in their Lease Agreements. 

"We expect these Statements to support the growth of the island Supply Chain to meet the demands of Offshore Wind developers around the Outer Hebrides.  As the UK drives towards Net Zero (Greenhouse Gas emissions) by 2050 – 2045 for Scotland – and Government and industry develop a strategic economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic,”

“The conditions are right for the Outer Hebrides to lead the UK into a new, low carbon future.  With developers, we will now look at all routes to market for electricity from these deployments, ranging from direct Grid export to onshore Electricity-to-Hydrogen schemes”.

The entire ScotWind Leasing Round will bring investment of more than £8 billion in conventional, bottom-fixed Offshore Wind and emerging Floating Offshore Wind technology which is not constrained by water depths. 

Deployment in Hebridean waters is anticipated from 2026 onwards and will rebalance Offshore Wind opportunities which, historically, have gravitated towards the east coast of Scotland and the North Sea.

The picture shows some of the turbines at the Beatrice windfarm – where some of the pilings were fabricated at Arnish – and the Crown Estate Scotland map outlining potential offshore sites near Lewis.

Tuesday 16th June 2020: Since putting all its usual classroom based lessons and activities online, Gaelic arts organisation, Fèisean nan Gàidheal (FnG) has provided free lessons to 1,718 people across Scotland and further afield.

Activities on offer have included Gaelic song and game sessions, drama tips and games, Gaelic conversation classes, CLPL training for teachers, and fiddle and accordion lessons, with participants from all over Scotland and even a few from Canada.

Fèisgoil, the formal education strand of FnG, reorganised several aspects of the service to ensure youngsters across Scotland were still benefitting from the Gaelic tuition usually provided in the classroom. Through the service it organises music tuition through the Youth Music Initiative and teaches Gaelic language to support GLE and 1+2 languages. Organisers have been overwhelmed at the response to some of the Fèisgoil activities, with demand exceeding expectation and have fully embraced the Bòrd na Gàidhlig hashtag #cleachdiaigantaigh with most of the focus on the GME sector and supporting families with direct access to live interactive sessions.

The Hùb Hàb early years theatre-in-education project is one of those delivered through Fèisgoil. Aimed at the 3-5 year age group but also suitable for young primary school children, during lockdown, the theatre production focuses on lending a helping hand at home, including Gaelic action songs all sung by Ellen Macdonald (singer with Sian and Dàimh), all written by Fèisgoil staff. These were offered to Gaelic Medium Education classes and have been extremely well received, with all slots booked out within a few hours. Around 150 children and their parents are benefitting from one of the 10 online session every week for 8 weeks.

One of the main projects delivered by Fèisgoil, is Blasad Gàidhlig. Blasad Gàidhlig, meaning a taste of Gaelic, was developed to support the 1+2 language part of the Curriculum for Excellence and supports local councils in delivering their Gaelic language plan in nurseries and primary schools. During lockdown, in a bid to encourage speaking the language at home, particularly in those homes where Gaelic is not normally spoken on a daily basis, children in GME have been enjoying song and game sessions with Fèisgoil tutors. Children from Glasgow to Barra and Inverness to Lewis have taken part. Demand was so high for the sessions, additional tutors had to be brought in to meet demand.

Similarly, a waiting list was opened almost immediately following the launch of a brand-new initiative, Caraidean Còmhraidh (Blether Buddies). In response to comments made by several parents, Fèisgoil has undertaken to lead a conversation-based project for groups of friends of primary-age children. These friendship groups are paired with a young adult Gaelic speaker for informal conversation.

Fèisgoil is also collaborating with the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) on Wee Summer Sing, a series of song sessions every weekday morning for the next five weeks, culminating in the Gaelic Wee Summer Sing from 29th June – 3rd July, led by Eilidh Mackenzie.

And it hasn’t just been children who have benefitted from the new online offering from the organisation. Glasgow City Council is also engaging with experienced Fèisgoil tutors in one-to-one support for GLPS teachers. CLPL (career-long professional learning) sessions have been running for the past 8 weeks with teachers who have been involved with the Blasad Gàidhlig sessions in their schools, in order to continue their learning of the language.

Fluent secondary pupils and young adults have been able to engage with Gaelic speakers on an international platform through Café Bheairteis. Held every Friday afternoon online, each week there is a new guest to start the conversation and share their stories. Past guests, all fluent Gaelic speakers, have included professional footballers Roddy Macgregor and Calum Ferguson, BBC weather presenter Kirsteen Macdonald and husband, James Graham, CEO of An Comunn Gàidhealach, wild swimmer, adventurer and filmmaker, Calum Maclean, Commonwealth cyclist Kerry Macphee, female singing trio, Sian and fiddler and presenter of BBC Alba upcylcing show, Dreachd Ùr, Shona Masson. Upcoming guests will be announced with Niteworks closing this first term of the online Café and organisers are delighted to have been joined in the Café sessions by young folk living on both sides of the Atlantic. There is also a more formal strand of the project, Beairteas, which sees presentations and Q&As on different topics, offering youngsters the rare opportunity to hear in-depth talks from all walks of life.  To date this has included sessions as varied as the role of Gaelic speaking Highlanders in the First World War, led by Skye man Murdo Beaton and couturier Sandra Murray talking through the processes involved in high-end fashion.

These sessions have not only provided valuable learning experiences for a wide range of age groups across Scotland but have also provided much needed income for many freelance tutors and musicians across Scotland, one of the hardest hit groups of individuals during this pandemic. With no indication of when musicians will be able to get back to work, or when visiting specialist tutors will be able to get back into classrooms, the online work provided by organisations such as FnG, has been very welcome.

Eilidh Mackenzie, Fèisgoil manager, commented: “Every change in circumstance brings new opportunity and at Fèisgoil we have been keen to embrace the potential partnership between not just schools and Fèisean nan Gàidheal but also families themselves.”

“We fully appreciate the difficult circumstances in which many families and individual young people now find themselves and we are determined to help engagement in the Gaelic Arts continue and even flourish through these unusual times.  We are very grateful to the continued support we receive from some Local Authorities as well as our tutor group and individual schools.”

Steven Kellow, Projects and Funding Officer, Bòrd na Gàidhlig added: “We are delighted to see the overwhelming response to Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s online sessions as part of the #cleachdiaigantaigh initiative and to see so many young people engaging in the Gaelic language and culture during this time.  These types of sessions are crucial to young people with Gaelic and who may not have the opportunity to use the language at home out with school hours.”

Other activities offered by Fèisean nan Gàidheal have included song sessions with Calum Alex Macmillan, workshops on the history of songs with Margaret Stewart and learning Gaelic expressions with Alec ‘Bhaltos’ Macdonald. For further information about the schedule of online events please visit www.feisean.org and check out the Facebook page where you will find information about how to book onto upcoming events. If you would like to find out more about Fèisgoil and its offering for schools, please get in touch with Eilidh Mackenzie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is urging the owners of Bed and Breakfast businesses to consider applying for support if they have suffered financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Cameron is one of several MSPs who successfully lobbied the Scottish Government to change its funding rules to allow businesses which lack a separate business bank account to apply for financial support.

The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “Bed and breakfast businesses make a substantial contribution to the economy of the Highlands and Islands which is so reliant on hospitality and tourism.

“Without them, we would all be substantially worse off.

“It is good news that there is now a funding pot available to help these businesses get through this very difficult period so that they will be in place to offer a warm welcome to visitors when they start returning in the, hopefully, not too distant future.

“The funding will be administered by local authorities and I would like to thank council officials for all the work they have done to help their communities get through this crisis.”

 

Monday 15th June was a very special day for David Thomson, a number of people in Carloway, and all at the charity Lucky2BHere.

Yesterday was David's  'Re-Birthday'  celebrated with a family picnic in a park, near his home in Nicaragua a seen above.

One year ago, David had a cardiac arrest while on holiday on the Western Isles.

His life was saved by a Lucky2BHere Defibrillator and the quick thinking folk of Carloway, who called the ambulance, brought the defib, assisted the passing doctors (volunteering at the scene) and comforted David's daughter Eva.

"Saving David's life truly was an incredible team effort!" says the group.

David had hoped to mark the day back on the Western Isles but he instead called round everyone in Carloway involved that day to again express his sincere thanks.
 
David's story is best told in his own words, (as shared last year): https://www.facebook.com/lucky2bhere/videos/743312459500970/

Lucky2Bhere was established in 2007 by Ross Cowie who had experienced a cardiac arrest and was lucky in that an ambulance was nearby on the evening of the arrest and was able to use lifesaving equipment in their possession. As a result of his experience he decided to raise funds to purchase a defibrillator for the Skye Camanachd Shinty Club in Portree.

A committee was established to raise funds to buy a defibrillator for the social club and train people to use it. From these beginnings L2BH grew in a way that had not been predicted.

Initially Lucky2BHere provided defibrillators and emergency life support training on Skye and the immediate mainland. There is now a complete network throughout the Outer Hebrides.

Earlier this afternoon, Tuesday June 16, this week's session of the Scottish Parliament was opened with Time for Reflection by Rev James MacIver of Stornoway Free Church.

Mr MacIver was invited to deliver Time for Reflection by Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan.

Time for Reflection opens business in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament, and is presented by invited speakers from different faith communities every week. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the address was delivered via video link.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“I was delighted to be able to nominate Rev MacIver to deliver this week’s Time for Reflection and address the chamber of the Scottish Parliament.

“He is a respected and well-known figure, and his address was characteristically thought-provoking and relevant to the issues that society and the world at large face.”

A clip of the address can be found at:

https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/time-for-reflection-june-16-2020

  

The Nicolson Institute was delighted to present the musical Fiddler on the Roof last June, which tells the tale of poor people who suffer from religious and racial persecution and are ultimately forced to flee their homes.  Using music, song and humour to bring life to this serious story, pupils gained insight into the suffering of the Jewish community in Imperial Russia during the pogroms of 1905.

This year the school had scheduled The Wizard of Oz to be performed over three evenings, from 10th to 12th June but sadly these performances had to be postponed due to Covid 19 restrictions.

To celebrate the achievement of all pupils involved in last year’s musical, the school are releasing this never before viewed video of the full performance of Fiddler on the Roof 2019 on Friday 19th June at 9pm. 

The performance will be available to watch on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Facebook Page.

The Nicolson Institute would like to thank all pupils and staff involved, and also Andrew Yearly for producing the video.

THE officially confirmed number of coronavirus cases on the Western Isles is no longer available from the Scottish Government, today, Wednesday, June 15 along with other regional and island details.

This is because of major changes in the collection and aggregation of data.

However, we have known from NHS Western Isles for a week now that the total is now 7. 

In addition, Shetland NHS had announced an additional case bringing its total to 55.

So far, there have been 895 coronavirus tests reported as conducted in the Western Isles. [17.06.2020]  For regular updates see https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=1884

A total of 216,743 Scottish tests have been concluded so far.  Of these:

  • 18,066 tests were positive. That's up 21 from yesterday, a rise of less than 0.1%.

On June 13 there were 3885 tests carried out by NHS Scotland in hospitals, care homes or in the community, making a total of 228,060 COVID-19 tests through NHS labs to date.

1148 drive-through and mobile tests were carried out by the Regional Testing Centres in Scotland bringing the total to 79,858.

A total of 2462 patients in Scotland who tested positive for coronavirus are now reported to have died. This is 9 more than the previous day.

There were 553 people in Scottish hospitals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (including 24 in intensive care). 

  1. There is a display of figures for the spread of the disease at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-tests-and-cases-in-scotland/
  2. There are also analytical graphs and information from across the world at https://www.travellingtabby.com/scotland-coronavirus-tracker/

17.06.2020


In terms of incidence of positive cases per 10,000 population, the comparative figures - all rounded slightly - are:

  • Scotland: 28.6/10,000
  • Shetland Isles: 24/10,000
  • Highland: 14.5/10,000
  • Orkney Isles: 3.6/10,000
  • Outer Hebrides: 2.6/10,000

(This figures were calculated by welovestornoway.com to give readers a sense of regional variations.  They were last revised on Saturday June 13)

A number of people have been arrested in connection with drink and drug drive offences after a weekend of action across the Highland and Islands area, led by the Road Policing Division.

Two were stopped on the Isle of Lewis where a 16-year-old boy was also charged in connection with theft of a vehicle and other road traffic offences.

Police Scotland officers from Road Policing teams were joined by colleagues from the Alcohol and Violence Reduction Unit and community policing teams to target illegal driving behaviour as part of the division’s commitment to improving road safety.

This weekend’s activity resulted in eight men, aged between 19 and 51, being arrested in connection with alleged drug driving after failing roadside drug tests. One of the drivers, a 22-year-old man, was stopped twice in Inverness over the course of the weekend and has been arrested with separate drug driving offences.

Enquiries into these alleged drug driving offences remain ongoing until further forensic results are concluded. Four of the drug drivers were stopped in Inverness, one in Dingwall, one in Badenoch, one in Skye and one in Shetland.

Additionally, four men aged between 16 and 31 and a 26-year-old woman were stopped for alleged drink driving offences. Two of the drivers were stopped on the Isle of Lewis, one in the Muir of Ord, one in Dingwall and one in Shetland. All have been arrested and charged and will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal in due course. The 16-year-old boy who was stopped on the Isle of Lewis has also been charged in connection with theft of a vehicle and other road traffic offences.

PC Calum Macaulay from the Road Policing team at Dingwall said: “We all have a part to play in keeping ourselves and others on the road safe. Anyone who drink or drug drives puts their safety, and that of innocent members of the public, at significant risk.

“The consequences of drink or drug driving can be fatal; we cannot be clearer about the dangers and it simply isn’t worth the risk. When caught drink or drug driving, you face losing your licence, potentially your job and you could even be imprisoned.

“Please think about your safety and that of others before getting behind the wheel. Particularly during this difficult time, we should all be looking out for each other and being safe. If you have concerns about someone drink or drug driving, please contact us so we can take action.

Bryony Beck from Elgin, who is studying for an MSc in sustainable rural development through Lews Castle College UHI, is a leading light in a campaign to increase the level of support available for women interested in science, technology, engineering and maths careers.

Now a group of students at the University of the Highlands and Islands have issued a call to find organisations and individuals who can partner with them to support women interested in science, technology, engineering and maths careers.

The university’s STEM Femmes group works across the university partnership to provide networking opportunitiesand support and to promote science, technology, engineering and maths subjects to the next generation of women.

Bryony is one of the university’s STEM Femmes champions. She says: “My plans are to connect female students across the STEM online student networks and get them more involved in campus events through video-conferencing and social media. I am also hoping to set up an online module for female STEM students on our virtual learning environment so it provides an area for online students to network and discuss.”

The university’s STEM Femmes group received national recognition earlier this year. Equate Scotland, an organisation which promotes and encourages the advancement of women in science, engineering, technology and the built environment, presented the group with its student-institution partnership award. 

Members of the group are looking to expand their network by collaborating with professionals, businesses and community groups across the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire.

Stuart Hall, the university’s Equality and Diversity Advisor, explains: “The University of the Highlands and Islands aims to support a diverse and prosperous region. We would love to hear from anyone working in STEM disciplines, whether as educators, innovators or employers, who feel we can work together to maximise our impact in supporting women in STEM.

"Collaborative projects may include podcasts, workshops, promotions, research and events - anything where groups feel they can use or provide a platform, a network, advice or that they could benefit from enthusiastic role models and ambassadors to fly the flag for women in STEM.”

To find out more about STEM Femmes or to offer support, email Stuart Hall at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A film shot entirely on location in Uist has been chosen as one of the official selection for the Cannes International Film Festival 2020.

Limbo is Scottish filmmaker Ben Sharrock's second film, focussing the lens on a small group of Syrian refugees waiting for asylum on a Scottish island. It’s to be shown as part of a re-imagined online Marché du Film from 22 June, replacing the traditional festival in the south of France with an entirely online experience.

Limbo stars Amir El-Masry as Omar, a Syrian musician separated from his family and waiting to learn whether he will be granted asylum. Together with his friends Farhad (Vikash Bhai), Wasef (Ola Orebiyi) and Abedi (Kwabena Ansah) he takes an eccentric crash-course in British culture in what Screen Scotland has described as ‘a funny and poignant cross-cultural satire, that subtly sews together the hardship and hope of the refugee experience.’

Also featuring are a number of non-actor refugees and islanders, as well as the unique landscape of Uist, through which Omar wanders as he ponders his future.

Described as having been filmed under ‘almost impossible conditions’ in winter 2018, the filming had to contend with constantly changing weather including gales.

Producer Irune Gurtubai said: “We shot in winter in the Uists under at times impossible conditions, and now more than ever we feel that it was all worth it. We are proud of the amazing cast and hardy crew that made Limbo possible, as well as the great support we received from Screen Scotland, BFI and Film4. Film-making really is a team effort so we will be sending many thank-you notes in the coming days.”

The film received £500,000 to enable filming entirely in Uist, generating a significant spend in the screen and wider economy in Scotland.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call from a concerned member of the public earlier today (Sunday 14 June) after two surfers were apparently lost out to sea off the Valtos peninsula.

The two surfers had been seen from the beach at Cliff, but the observer called the Coastguard at 12noon when a sea mist came in and they were lost to view.

Miavaig and Breasclete Coastguard Rescue Teams were called to attend and were at the scene by 12.20pm, but the first informant reported that the surfers had returned to shore safe and well and had since left the area.

The call was classified as a false alarm with good intent and all teams were stood down and back to base by 1pm.

Two men are to appear at Inverness Sheriff Court tomorrow (Monday 15 July) using the video-link which has become almost routine at Stornoway Police Station in recent weeks.

The men were charged after separate incidents in the Stornoway area on Friday and Saturday evenings and are in custody awaiting their court appearances.

Police were called to Marybank at 11pm on Friday, where a 38-year-old man was causing a breach of the peace. He was charged with that and with assaulting police officers during the incident.

At 8.30pm on Saturday police were called to a report of a vehicle theft from an address in Stornoway. The vehicle and occupant were traced around 11.20pm and the 21-year-old driver was arrested and charged with theft of a motor vehicle, various road traffic offences and resisting arrest.

I hope you're all enjoying the weather, the sunshine has brought our Strawberries on and we would hope to have some ready this week.

Unfortunately it's very unlikely that we will be able to have enough Strawberries for all the orders, but what we will try to do is make sure that those that didn't get Strawberries this week will be at the front of the queue next week.

The strawberries will also be available at Willie John's butchers on a Saturday.

Asparagus is on the list this week but it's coming to an end and one of those things that may or may not be available.

Similarly cherries are available but the quality can sometimes vary, I got 2kg this week to try and there aren't very many left.

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

Or call 07771 645238 to place your order

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

UK Asparagus

 

£4.35 bunch

 

Aubergine

 

£1.85

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.25

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.40

 

Round Green Cabbage

 

£2.25

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.55

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.70

 

Garlic

 

£0.65

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

Chinese Leaves

 

£2.90

 

Local Fennel Fronds, bunch

 

0.85

 

New Season, Bunched Carrots, come with Ferns, approx. Weight 500g

 

£2.85

 

White Cabbage

 

£2.65

 

Corn on Cob each

 

£1.50

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Scottish Washed Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£5.40

 

Bunched Beetroot

 

£2.75

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks

 

£3.90

 

Mushrooms

 

£5.00

 

Onions (New Season New Zealand White)

 

£1.75

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus Potatoes

 

£2.10

 

New Season Pembrokeshire Potatoes

 

£3.25

 

 

Jersey Royals

 

£3.50

 

Ayrshire New Season Epicure

 

£3.95

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.75

 

Sweet Potato

 

£3.25

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.65

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.50

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.80

 

Cherries

 

£15.00

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

VeggieBox Strawberries

340gr punnet

 

£3.40

 

Blueberries   120gr Punnet

 

£2.50

 

Flat (Doughnut) Peaches

 

3 for £1.80

 

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £2.10

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.80

 

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.55

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.65

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.60

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £2.10

 

Pears

 

3 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

 

£2.40

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Green Jalapeños

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.35

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£3.95

 

 

Available

PER JAR

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Orange and Lemon

hint of Whiskey,

with Ginger

Rhubarb and Ginger

Rhubarb jam

Strawberry Jam

Raspberry Jam

Apricot Jam

 

(4)

(6)

(5)

(6)

 (5)

(5)

(8)

(8)

(3)

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

£4.50

£5.50

 

 

Lemon Drizzle

(16)

£4.50

Per Cake,

 

4 Fruit Scones

(20)

£3.25

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Local Eggs ½ Dozen

( Supply can be limited)

(30)

£2.25

 

 

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Western Isles economy and health service has been highlighted by Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron, Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

The latest figures from HMRC show a total of 2,600 jobs protected across the islands alone, out of that a total of 628,200 people across Scotland on the so-called 'furlough' or job retention scheme scheme.

Mr Cameron said: “These figures from the job retention scheme for the Western Isles are quite remarkable and highlight the support provided by the UK Government in order to protect jobs here and across Scotland. As we know, the Western Isles, which have a high dependence on tourism, are extremely vulnerable to the economic impact of the pandemic, so these measures are incredibly important for us."

And he has pointed out how dramatically use of the Isles NHS dropped over recent months - on April 5, there were only 38 attendances at the Western isles Hospital Accident & Emergency department, compared to a normal day last June of 168.

He said: “It’s clear that many people, out of concern for the NHS being overwhelmed, decided not to present to A&E at the height of the emergency and the numbers are only now beginning to return to a semblance of normality, although there is a long way to go yet.

“Our priority now must be to ensure that the NHS continues to receive the support it requires  as we move through the next phases of our response to the pandemic.”

NHS BOARD

HOSPITAL

A&E JUNE 9, 2019

LOWEST A&E DURING COVID-19

A&E May 31 2020

Ayrshire and Arran

University Hospital Ayr

805

274 (29 March 2020)

643

Ayrshire and Arran

University Hospital Crosshouse

1,503

642 (29 March 2020)

1,201

Borders

Borders General Hospital

659

279 (5 April 2020)

505

Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary

705

282 (29 March 2020)

496

Dumfries and Galloway

Galloway Community Hospital

238

109 (April 19 2020)

209

Fife

Victoria Hospital

1,251

486 (April 12 2020)

1,022

Forth Valley

Forth Valley Royal Hospital

1,324

508 (April 12 2020)

780

Grampian

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

1,194

577 (March 29 2020)

774

Grampian

Dr Gray’s Hospital

464

219 (5 April 2020)

355

Grampian

Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital

376

103 (5 April 2020)3

186

Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Glasgow Royal Infirmary

1,902

577 (29 March 2020)

1,191

Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Inverclyde Royal Hospital

639

223 (12 April 2020)

416

Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Royal Alexandra Hospital

1,340

382 (5 April 2020)

871

Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Royal Hospital for Children

1,302

205 (29 March 2020)

647

Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

2,037

782 (29 March 2020)

1,623

Highland

Belford Hospital

228

37 (29 March 2020)

91

Highland

Caithness General Hospital

171

80 (5 April 2020)

141

Highland

Lorn and Islands Hospital

199

47 (29 March 2020)1

95

Highland

Raigmore Hospital

722

275 (5 April 2020)

521

Lanarkshire

Hairmyres Hospital

1,399

494 (5 April 2020)

1,009

Lanarkshire

Monklands General District Hospital

1,401

587 (5 April 2020)

1,041

Lanarkshire

Wishaw General Hospital

1,437

617 (29 March 2020)

1,232

Lothian

Royal Hospital for Sick Children

927

428 (12 April 2020)

569

Lothian

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France

2,559

1,116 (29 March 2020)2

1,865

Lothian

St John’s

1,174

506 (12 April 2020)

879

Orkney

Balfour Hospital

148

47 (April 5 2020)

67

Shetland

Gilbert Bain Hospital

158

53 (29 March 2020)

83

Tayside

Ninewells Hospital

1,023

415 (29 March 2020)

831

Tayside

Perth Royal Infirmary

576

154 (29 March 2020)

378

Western Isles

Western Isles Hospital

168

38 (5 April 2020)

83

 https://beta.isdscotland.org/find-publications-and-data/health-services/hospital-care/nhs-performs-weekly-update-of-emergency-department-activity-and-waiting-time-statistics/

 

A lot has changed since we signed up for this year's Dundee Kiltwalk, writes Marie Mackenzie.

"This time sadly we walk in memory of Michael G Mackenzie who passed away on the 23rd December 2019.  Michael was an amazing husband and father, he is a great loss to our family."

In addition, amid the pandemic, the Dundee Kiltwalk has now become a 'virtual event' so after much discussion with various people "we are now going to incorporate our Kiltwalk into our daily exercise and walk within our local community of Lochs," she explains.

"We will don our kilts and set off at 10am on Saturday 4th July and walk from the northern junction of the B897 along past Grimshader, down Schoolhill, along through Crossbost and Leurbost finally finishing outside Sgoil nan Loch.

"This is a distance of 8.5 miles and not quite the same length as the Big Stroll but the best we can do safely within the limitations. We welcome supporters along the way but ask that everyone adheres to the social distancing guidelines that are in place on the day."

Michael was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Mutliforme in January 2018, and he was given around 16 months to live at that time and warned he was unlikely to return to work or a normal life. "Our world was turned upside down." However, Michael had surgery several days after diagnosis to remove as much of the brain tumour as possible and this was followed up by combined radio/chemotherapy over six weeks as an inpatient at the Beatson Institute in Glasgow.

"Michael then went straight back to work as normal, he didn't see his cancer as a fight or a battle to win, merely an inconvenience that sometimes kept him away from work for clinic visits in Glasgow. He would take chemo with his breakfast and then go to meet guests to take them fishing for the day, that's the kind of guy he was!"

Sadly, Michael's tumour regrew in 2019, he had more surgery and went back to work whilst taking a gruelling new chemotherapy regime. He worked right up until the end of November 2019.

"We really appreciate all the support we have already had with this year's fundraising especially those who donated in return for cakes when we didn't know if we would even get to walk!

"Remember all the funds are for the Beatson Cancer Charity who make a huge difference to many islanders whose loved ones are having cancer treatment in Glasgow, plus donating via the Kiltwalk ensures that an extra 50% will be added on by the Hunter Foundation."

Raising funds for The Beatson Cancer Charity - please donate here and for the Brainstrust - please donate here.

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement of extra financial help for students facing financial hardship over the summer months.

The Scottish Government has brought forward early access to £11.4 million of discretionary funds - which will be administered by colleges and universities - to support higher education students.

Students are, under UK government rules, unable to claim Universal Credit or other benefits.

Scottish students studying in Europe as part of EU Portability or historically arranged schemes will also be able to access a £100,000 emergency fund administered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Many students in the Western Isles will have expected to find paid work over the summer, often in our hospitality or tourism sectors, to cover their rent or save for the following term. Through no fault of their own, they are now unable to do so.

"This Scottish Government support will be welcome news for those students who rely on part-time jobs after coming home over the summer months, and who could find it difficult to cover their living costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"No student should face financial hardship as a result of this crisis - and these new measures will support students until the start of the next academic year when bursary, grant and loan payments will begin again."

 

LONDON (12 June 2020) --- Following the temporary suspension of flights as part of the restrictions to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, Pegasus Airlines’ international flights will be resuming on 13 June 2020 with flights to Germany, followed by the gradual resumption of flights between Turkey and several European destinations from 15 June 2020.

As part of its partial resumption of flights between Turkey and England in the first phase in June, Pegasus will be operating a daily flight between London Stansted and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen between 16 and 29 June, and a one-off direct flight between London Stansted and Izmir on 15 June 2020. 

Pegasus will also be restoring some flights between Turkey and Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands.  The schedule will be gradually increased further in the next phase, subject to the approvals of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in Turkey.

For flights arriving in Turkey, health checks will be carried out on passengers entering the country. PCR tests will be performed free of charge in cases where symptoms are identified during the health check and wherever deemed necessary.  The Turkish Ministry of Health also requires passengers who enter Turkey to abide by a 14-day quarantine in their homes or designated address upon arrival.

For more information on Pegasus Airlines’ flight schedule and requirements for flying visit www.flypgs.com.

A variety of events were held to commemorate yesterday Friday June 12 the battle at St Valéry in June 1940.

Here's a www.welovestornoway.com video of events in Kinloch and Tarbert

https://youtu.be/vELvyafSkT4

Other events are shown here

https://www.facebook.com/comhairlenaneileansiar/videos/2719519114821495/

Other reports are shown

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17211-pipers-mark-st-valery-80-years-on

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17213-st-valery-80-years-on

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17208-memories-of-st-valery-prison-camp-ordeal

 

 

This week Laxdale Primary School organised a virtual Sports Week for their pupils with the finale taking place today. School staff came up with the idea to try and make up for the children missing out on the Sports Week they would normally have due to Lockdown Restrictions.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to thank all the school staff across the Western Isles who are going the extra mile to keep children engaged and entertained during Lockdown.

Laxdale Primary School Teacher Lorraine Morrison said: “We as a school were so aware that the children have been working hard at laptops and missing out on so much of our planned sporting activities scheduled this term.  We always have a Sports Week so as a staff Stephen Campbell, Kaye Anne Afrin and I were tasked with devising a 'Virtual Sports Week' for the whole school.

"In keeping with our ethos of a growth mindset, our emphasis was on individuals doing their best and trying to better themselves and learn new skills.  We coined the slogan - Never give up, be your best, you’re a champion!  It is also in Gaelic.  We devised challenges based on the Active Schools model but we added extra activities and devoted a day to each theme.

"We have encouraged lots of photos and videos to be shared of participation and it has been lovely to see them all making such an effort.  The creative elements and activities have ranged from making podiums, medals, race numbers to flags and it is hoped to have them all on display together on the Friday when the children will hold their very own sports day, selecting 2 challenges from each previous day and trying them again and finishing with an awards ceremony. Please visit the pages to see the efforts the pupils have made. “

The link to the Facebook page is - https://www.facebook.com/LaxdalePrimary/

The link to the School website is - https://laxdaleprimaryschool.co.uk/virtual-sports-week

 

Monitoring work undertaken on behalf of Food Standards Scotland has continued to identify raised levels of shellfish toxins in Traigh Mhor in Barra.

Eating shellfish such as cockles, oysters, palourdes, mussels or razor fish from these areas may pose a risk to human health and notices to warn the public and casual gatherers have been posted at various locations on the shore.

Commercial shellfish harvesters in these areas have been contacted by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and steps taken to postpone harvesting until algae levels subside.

It is a sensible precaution to avoid eating shellfish from these areas until further notice.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is continuing to monitor the situation and warning notices will be removed when it improves.

A small, socially distanced crowd gathered by the war memorial in Tarbert this afternoon at 2pm as the Heroes of St Valéry were remembered today (Friday 12 June) on the 80th anniversary of the ‘other’ Dunkirk, at which the forgotten army of the 51st Division, including the Seaforth Highlanders, made their stand.

St Valéry was a sacrificial rearguard action defending the retreating British forces as they escaped mainland Europe from the beaches of Dunkirk.

Pipers in Stornoway and at Kinloch were among those who joined an international tribute, with pipers in 16 countries playing the tune Heroes of St Valéry.

The tune was written by Pipe Major Donald Maclean of Balantrushal in Lewis, himself one of the 10,000 members of the 51st battalion captured at St Valéry. They were subsequently marched through Belgium and Holland to East Prussia (now part of Poland) where those who survived the march were kept as prisoners-of-war.

And at Tarbert War Memorial the Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles, Donald Martin, paid his own tribute to soldiers including his uncle, Private Donald Martin, after whom he was named. Pte Martin was killed in action at Abbéville on 4 June 1940 and is pictured below. 

The event was co-ordinated by John Murdo Morrison and included prayers, and a playing of the Last Post by Karen Logue, as well as piping by Hamish Scott. 

Donald Martin said: "Today’s low-key event, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the surrender of the 51st Highland Division at St Valery, is a poignant and personal occasion for me. 

"My uncle, Pte Donald Martin after whom I am named, was killed in action on 4 June 1940 during the 4th Battalion attack on the Abbéville bridgehead at Huchennville. He served in B Coy of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, whose commanding officer Captain Fincastle of Borve Lodge, Harris was also killed in the onslaught. Several other Harris men were killed or severely wounded.

"My grandparents, Duncan and Mary Martin of Bunavoneadar – Donald’s parents - were not informed of his death until April 1941, some ten months after he was killed.  They received a letter from Lt William R Robertson of Tarbert writing from a POW camp in Germany. 

"Lt Robertson was the only surviving officer of B Coy and was taken to a Prisoner of War camp in Germany following the 51st Highland Division’s surrender on 12 June.  In his letter he explained that my uncle was severely wounded on the morning of 4 June 1940 and died in a Field Dressing Station as a result of his wounds.  He is buried in the London Cemetery Extension, Longueval, Somme, France and in September 2013, my wife Sandra and I paid a very emotional visit to his grave – the first time any member of the family had the opportunity of visiting his grave. His headstone has the following inscription from the Book of Proverbs – Chap 4 v 3

“For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother”

The following memorial was inserted in the Stornoway Gazette in June 1942, in memory of Donald who gave his life for King and Country at the age of 20 years on 4 June 1940.

He sleeps not in his native land

But ‘neath some foreign sky;

So far from those who loved him best

In a hero’s grave he lies.

Sleep on darling Donald, in your far-off grave

A grave we might never see;

But as long as life and memories last

We will remember thee.

Sadly, very few of the veterans of St Valery are still alive to mark this 80th anniversary, which makes it all the more important that we and the generations that follow us never forget the sacrifice they made.  We owe it to them that they will never become the forgotten Heroes of St Valery."

 Speaking ahead of the commemorations, Gordon Michie of Poppy Scotland, said: “St Valéry represents a hugely significant moment in our nation’s history, and it is vitally important that the bravery and sacrifice of the ‘Forgotten 51st’ is forgotten no more.”

 

 

Fish farm workers and local residents banded together earlier today (Friday 12 June) to come to the aid of a pod of pilot whales stranding on the shore near Lochboisdale in South Uist.

The pod of 15 pilot whales had been in the bay at Lochboisdale throughout Thursday and were under observation by Uist Sea Tours, who found them early this morning ashore and entangled in seaweed among the rocks.

Rescuers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) were called as were workers from Mowi in Lochboisdale, who sent a boat and crew of three to the site.

Up to 20 local residents, including local children, worked together, sometimes chest-deep in the sea, to battle against sea tangle and get the large creatures into deeper water. Eight whales were seen to begin swimming once distanced from the rocks.

A spokesman for Uist Sea Tours said: “We managed to get eight of them back out to deeper water. We are hopeful that they carry on out to sea but are concerned that they might not. 

“A big shout out to Mowi for their help. Those eight have a chance of survival thanks to their assistance.”

It was later reported that three of the whales had died and at least two were injured and remained stranded. Marine animal specialists remained on scene to decide on the best course of action.

The pictures show people working from the Mowi boat and from the shore to get the whales out into the water (Uist Sea Tours).

 

News that Lewis and Harris Youth Club Association (LHYCA) has been awarded funding for a project to be run in 2021 has brought positivity and hope after a long period of uncertainty.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) announced on Monday (8 June) that LHYCA is one of 24 projects to be awarded funding as part of the Plunge In! Coasts and Waters Community fund, planned to mark 2020 as the year of Scotland’s coasts and waters.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a halt to youth and tourism projects throughout the islands, SNH has spent time discussing future planning with projects which would have been active this summer.

Kate Lewis, manager of the Scaladale Centre, said: “About half of the projects SNH had decided to fund have been put back into summer 2021, including ours. It’s really helpful that this can happen because it means we can plan the project for early summer next year and that’s something we really need – secure bookings and projects for next year.”

LHYCA has been awarded almost £3,000 towards the North Harris Snorkel Trail, which will now be delivered in 2021. Students from The Nicolson Institute and Sir E Scott school in Tarbert will be invited to participate in snorkelling training at the indoor pools in Stornoway and Tarbert towards the end of next summer term.

They will then be encouraged to snorkel at each of the venues on the North Harris snorkelling trail during the summer holidays. The grant will include funding for a reprint of the trail leaflet and a launch event.

Kate said: “We hope to launch the summer trail at Huisinis with an event for the children, their families and anyone else who would like to participate – information about what they might see, a snorkel taster in the sea and a barbecue on the beach.

“Huisinis is a great environment for snorkelling. Not only does it have seagrass meadows which are protected but you will find seahorses and pipefish there, it’s a really exciting environment to snorkel in.”

The additional benefit of receiving the funding for the Scaladale Centre is the positivity it creates around the future. Kate said: “We’re really grateful to have been told in advance that we will get this funding. It means the survival of the Scaladale Centre and the work we do involving young people in outdoor activities to get them together, create social opportunities and build their confidence.

“The SNH funding is helping to secure our future and to ensure that children in Lewis and Harris will be able to learn about our marine environment.”

SNH Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said: “The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably impacted on the ability of some projects to get underway this summer, but we look forward to supporting them to deliver their activities into 2021.

“I am sure that through their creativity and enthusiasm they will secure a real and lasting legacy for the year, connecting more people with our coasts and waters in communities up and down the country.”

Testing the water off Huisinis late last year (Kate Lewis).

Seahorses are just some of the treasures to be found in seagrass meadows off the North Harris coast (the Seahorse Trust)

Seafarers and oil-workers should be tested for Covid-19 each time they return to the islands from a period at sea, according to Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil said he had contacted NHS Western Isles chairman and chief executive, Ian Burgess and Gordon Jamieson, to ask them to use their available capacity to offer tests to oil workers and seafarers as standard on their return to the islands. 

He said: "It would seem a sensible and responsible approach to make sure that no asymptomatic carriers are coming in. From soundings with oil workers and seafarers, as well as their families, there is great support for this. It would provide, not least, peace of mind but to ensure Covid-19 is kept at bay in our communities.

“I hope NHS Western Isles takes the opportunity to offer this, I am sure it would be welcomed by many of those returning home after working away for a period of weeks."

The Heroes of St Valéry were remembered today (Friday 12 June) on the 80th anniversary of the ‘other’ Dunkirk, at which the forgotten army of the 51st Division, including the Seaforth Highlanders, made their stand.

St Valéry was the rearguard action defending the retreating British forces as they escaped mainland Europe from the beaches of Dunkirk.

Pipers in Stornoway and at Kinloch were among those who joined an international tribute, with pipers in 16 countries playing the tune Heroes of St Valéry at 10am this morning.

The tune was written by Pipe Major Donald Maclean of Balantrushal in Lewis, himself one of the 10,000 members of the 51st battalion captured at St Valéry. They were subsequently marched through Belgium and Holland to East Prussia (now part of Poland) where those who survived the march were kept as Prisoners-of-War in the Stalags, or work camps, run by the Nazi regime.

Among the pipers playing today was Larry Ferguson, who took up his post at the Kinloch war memorial just before 10am.

Larry said: “From my village of Laxay three men left to fight in the 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders and all of them were captured at St Valéry. Thankfully all three of them returned after five years as prisoners of war.

“From 30 Laxay my uncles Donald ‘Dolly’ and Angus Ferguson went to serve in the Seaforths. There was also John ‘Polcain’ Macdonald of 19 Laxay.

“Angus was a piper who had been a regular soldier before the war and was on his way home, having decided to leave the army, when war was declared in 1939. He came off the boat at Stornoway and police Sergeant MacPhail ordered him to return to his unit immediately.

“He borrowed a bike to cycle home to Laxay and see his family. The police officer turned a blind eye, making him promise to report back before the boat sailed the next morning. Angus cycled the 15 miles to see his family and reported for duty the next morning.”

After being captured at St Valéry on 12 June 1940, Angus played a pivotal role in the lives of many of the men who were being marched from France to Prussia. Over the years Larry has heard first-hand stories from veterans of the battle who returned to Lewis.

He said: “I was told by more than one person that it was thanks to Angus that they kept marching and survived, because he played the pipes and kept them going. Otherwise they would have fallen by the side of the road on the way to Poland.”

Today was not the first time that Larry has played the tune Heroes of St Valéry as a tribute – ten years ago he was at St Valéry itself, piping before veterans of the actual battle. Their memories of events at the battle gave particular poignancy to Larry’s piping tribute today.

His playing this morning came at the same time as students from The Nicolson Institute’s pipe and brass bands played the same commemorative tune at the Clock Tower in Stornoway.

Angus MacNeil MP and Alasdair Allan MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar have both laid motions, respectively, to the House of Commons and Scottish Parliament this week to remember the 80th anniversary on June 12th 1940 of the capture of 10,000 men of the 51st Highland Division taken prisoner near St Valery en Caux, six days after the Dunkirk evacuations. The 51st Highland Division were attached to French defence forces.

Angus MacNeil said:  “It is important that we remember those who tragically lost their lives when they were forced to surrender, after they had been left behind following Dunkirk, as they were fighting with the French at the time in defending the retreat from the Somme. Later, in 1941, 134 of the 219 returned escapees to Britain were from the 51st Highland Division, of this three men were from Ballachullish who used Gaelic to confuse the Germans to convince them that they were from a part of the Soviet Union.

“The bravery and heroism of the soldiers is most notably captured in the memorial in St Valery en Caux “La a bhlair is math na cairdean” - “On the day of battle it is good to have friends/relations”.

"A gripping account of events at St Valery, capture and captivity is given in the book by Donald John MacDonald of South Uist "Fo Sgail a Swastika" (Under the Shadow of the Swastika) and I would recommend it for anyone interested in further reading about the 51st Highland Division.”

Alasdair Allan said: “While the anniversary of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk draws significant national attention, what happened to members of the British Expeditionary Force who were left behind in France is less well known.

“The soldiers of the 51st Highland Division, made up of men from the Western Isles, North and West Coast of Scotland, were charged with the task of recapturing a strategic position on the Somme after the rest of the Allied Forces had been evacuated. Under heavy bombardment, outflanked and greatly outnumbered by Rommel’s 7th Panzers, the 51st fought a retreat to the coastal town of St Valery where, when all hopes of evacuation faded, they were forced to surrender.

“Their story deserves much greater prominence. On the 80th anniversary of their capture, it is important that we remember the courage of 51st Highland Division, the sacrifice of the fallen, and the suffering endured by captured soldiers who would spend the next five years as prisoners of war.”

Today’s commemorations have also been welcomed by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.  Mr Cameron, who submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament last week marking the anniversary, said: “The tributes that have been paid to the heroes of St Valery here in the Highlands and Islands, and across the world, have been very moving.

“It is striking how those sacrifices made by an earlier generation have struck a chord and generated such a heartful response today, the 80th anniversary.

“We will never forget what was done on our behalf and I’m sure the tradition of pipers playing Donald Maclean’s tune will endure for many years to come.

“It is difficult to imagine a more fitting tribute than the sound of the pipes on an occasion like this.”

Picture: Larry Ferguson piping at Kinloch war memorial today

Flights between Stornoway and Inverness restart on Monday (June 15) with one return flight each day – Monday to Friday - surrounded by a matrix of health restrictions to limit person-to-person contact to the minimum.

Since 30 March, the Scottish Government has contracted Loganair to operate daily services between the islands and the mainland to maintain essential connectivity. Flights to Inverness will be added to Loganair’s emergency schedule from Monday 15 June. The route had been suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: “This is very welcome news, especially for cancer patients in Lewis and Harris who have been making long and arduous journeys by road and sea to Inverness and back while the plane service has been suspended.

“I have been raising this issue with the Scottish Government in recent weeks, as I know this has been extraordinarily difficult for many patients and their families.

“There is still a long way to go before we return to anything like a normal air service in the islands, but this is an important and careful step.”

One major requirement is to wear a mask onboard, says Loganair.  "This is a requirement with the exception of infants and small children, or those suffering from a medical condition such as asthma that means you are unable to wear one. This is in accordance with UK and Scottish Government advice that face-masks should be worn on public transport or in enclosed public places.

"Any type of mask is accepted, medical or dust. However in recognition that these items have been difficult to source, Loganair will provide masks as you board your aircraft if you do not have one.
"Wear your mask until you leave the terminal building and do not leave them on the aircraft"

"We also recommend you wear a mask before entering the airport, where possible. For some airports this may be compulsory and you should check with your airport before travelling if it is a requirement and if they are providing masks or require you to bring your own."

It is compulsory to certify at check-in, either online or at the airport, that you or members of your household have not recently displayed symptoms of Covid-19 prior to travelling with us. Neither

  • A new, continuous cough
  • A fever
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

At the airport, the confirmation is simply verbal and if you're checking-in online then by doing so you are certifying you and members of your household have not recently displayed any symptoms.

Loganair says of its health-control measures: "The measures put in place are considered to be those which are most practical to follow whilst also ensuring maximum protection for our customers. It's important you familiarise yourself with these measures before travelling.

"Before your flight, you must regularly check our advice and that of the airports you’ll visit on your journey.  Measures may change over the coming days and weeks to continue the fight against Covid-19.

'It’s really important that you do check and follow advice from your airports - you might not be able to travel if you arrive too late or don’t meet their requirements, and we can’t take responsibility for your journey if this happens.   Thank you for following these measures so that you can help protect yourself and others around you.

'We’ve been working with our airport partners to ensure that our check-in desks have extra shielding in place to increase social distancing and protect you and our staff.
Self-Scan Gates

"We've worked with our airport partners to ensure self-scan gates are widely compatible with our print at home boarding passes and those downloaded via our app.
You will find these on your way to security and also when you board the aircraft, reducing the need for contact with airport staff.

'We've introduced new auto seat allocation to ensure middle seats on our aircraft remain empty for social-distancing where possible. Where aircraft are more than two-thirds full, we’ll manually allocate your seat at the airport to make the best use of the on-board space for social-distancing.

'The new online seat allocation process still allows for seat selection at online check-in, but if a flight is busier then you might need to receive your seat allocation at the airport.

'At Loganair we pride ourselves on the cleanliness of our aircraft, we have always firmly believed that you should rightly expect to travel in a clean and tidy environment. However, we've intensified our nightly disinfectant deep-cleans for our aircraft and put in place new procedures to cover all touch-points.

'We've regretfully had to say goodbye to our Harris Tweed head-rests for now, along with our in-flight service and our in-flight magazine. Don't worry though - we'll ensure they return when the time is right.

'The removal of our in-flight service has allowed for enhanced cleaning between flights with disinfectant wipes being used to clean all main touch-points before boarding for our next departure.

'As a regional airline, Loganair's aircraft are smaller than many that fly further afield, therefore queues at boarding areas are uncommon. However, to reduce the risk of unnecessary close social-contact, we're working with our ground teams to ensure our aircraft are boarded by row.  When your zone is called you may present for boarding, otherwise, we ask you to remain seated and not proceed to board at the gate.

'It is simple to check-in online or via our app, here you can print your boarding pass or download it to your phone. If you are not travelling with a hold-bag, this removes the requirement to proceed to the check-in area of the airport and will minimise crowding and help with social-distancing.  You can do this up to 3 hours before departure and we request that our customers who are not travelling with a hold-bag avoid using check-in at the airport.

'We recommend you wash your hands before entering the airport, please check airport-specific advice for any requirements they may have.  We will provide hand sanitiser as you board your flight in the event you do not have your own.  As soon as you are seated, we ask you to use the sanitiser before fastening your seat belt."

Councillor Roddie Mackay writes in his regular Comhairle Leaders Statement:

The last couple of weeks has seen a lot of development work in preparation for growing activity as lockdown eases. The work being undertaken by the team in the education department and all staff across the islands in getting ready to receive pupils back to school in as safe a manner as possible is very detailed and onerous but they are working away together to sort buildings, access, teaching, travel and support.

The change of focus to recovery as a theme is now taking shape in the council and plans are in place around a number of different services which we provide including transport, waste, care, education and business restart.

Throughout this past couple of months the COVID- 19 Group which was set up in the Comhairle in response to the pandemic has held twice weekly meetings which involved Heads of Service across the Comhairle, and this has helped ensure we have had a coordinated and joined up approach throughout this period. ]

Staff have done really well in all areas as they respond to the needs of the community they serve and in particular the Care for People Group has been very effective in delivering a terrific service for our vulnerable, our cared for and our shielded people and this has been complemented by the huge volunteer effort which we’ve referred to previously.

The press and communications team have done an excellent job in keeping us all well informed and up to date along the way,  and this will continue as government update their guidance, and activity across a range of areas increases nationally and locally.

I have to say it was really good to hear some ‘new sounds’ around town this week including the contractors plant at the rebuilding of the wall at Lews Castle, the mowers cutting the grass on the Castle Green, grounds maintenance teams out and about with strimmers and of course the sound of a golf ball being struck. It really is good to see things opening up a bit and it will be good for our local contractors, who are getting their sites ready at the minute, to get up and running again. They, like all of us, remain aware of the risks involved and have detailed plans in place to ensure that they continue to observe government guidelines as they return to work.

Of course, there are other sounds which we are becoming very used to and which we might well miss when we have passed this difficult period and these are the fantastic sounds we get each weekend via e ceilidh and individual performers. What talent we have on our islands! I won’t list them all and you will have your favourites but on every occasion that I’ve tuned in it has been really enjoyable and should give us all a wee lift and a reason to smile. Well done to everyone involved in organising these events and well done to all the performers who have given their time ... we really appreciate your talents.

If we all, as we have done throughout the lockdown period so far, keep acting responsibly as a community, follow the guidance as it is laid out by government and use common sense and sound judgement as activity increases, then I am sure we can keep our islands safe so that we can continue to enjoy all the benefits which many of us are thankful that we have, here in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles would like to shine a spotlight on their excellent Laboratory today (11th June) which, readers will scarcely need reminding, is Biomedical Science Day.

The Laboratory team - one of whom is photographed at work - has worked tirelessly in recent months learning how to use new kit, working different hours and dealing with new Personal Protective Equipment.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson said: “The contribution of our Laboratory team cannot and should not be underestimated.

"These dedicated staff have worked quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes, providing a vital service, expertise, advice and dedication to our local population to help ensure we are prepared to deal with Covid19.

"I would like to mark their significant contribution today and thank them on behalf of the Board, organisation and wider community.” 

For further information on Biomedical Science Day visit: www.ibms.org/biomedical-science-day/

The national forces welfare charity PoppyScotland has launched educational resources for Scottish children to ensure commemoration of the Second World War battle that led to 10,000 mainly Scottish soldiers being captured.

The incredible bravery of the 51st Highland Division, which remained on the Continent after the Dunkirk evacuations to fight at St Valéry-en-Caux, has largely been forgotten.

But from tonight (Thursday 11 June) daily lesson plans and other learning events will encourage Scottish youngsters to learn about the part their ancestors played in defending the retreat of British forces from occupied Europe in 1940.

At 8pm tonight (Thursday) there will be the first of two special broadcasts of critically acclaimed play The Beaches of St Valéry. That’s followed at 11am tomorrow by an interactive Facebook Live lesson and a second broadcast of the play on Friday at 3pm.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch of the new learning resources created by PoppyScotland, Scottish Government minister for children and young people Maree Todd MSP said: “Barely a town, village or hamlet in the Highlands was unaffected by the events at St Valéry in June 1940, yet many today are unaware of its significance.

“At a time when parents and carers are doing an incredible job to keep our young people learning at home, the St Valéry materials are an excellent additional resource, and offer fascinating insight into the events at St Valéry 80 years ago this week.”

The men of the 51st Division who were captured or killed at St Valéry included 90 Lewismen, whose stories are told in a book by Achmore historian Magaidh Smith. St Valery Memories includes research on prisoners of war and diary accounts by men from the Isle of Lewis during their four years in captivity.

The television play The Beaches of St Valéry was written and directed by Dr Stuart Hepburn of the University of Stirling and stars Ron Donachie, James Rottger and Ashley Smith, it was first performed as part of ‘A Pie, A Pint and A Play’ at Glasgow’s Oran Mor in March.

Dr Hepburn said: “Learning about St Valéry has been a passion of mine since 1999. The play began life as a film script and I went on to do a PhD on St Valéry, so it’s wonderful to see the remarkable story of the 51st Highland Division getting the national recognition it deserves.”

The live broadcast can be viewed at 8pm tonight (Thursday) and 3pm tomorrow at this site: https://www.facebook.com/Poppyscotland

The picture shows a scene from The Beaches of St Valéry at Oran Mor, Glasgow in March (PoppyScotland).

Whilst the Lewis Carnival will not be going ahead this year, the Carnival's bunting was put up today (Thursday 11 June) in order to bring a little summertime cheer to Stornoway. 

The bunting was kindly put up by Hebrides Alpha, with Robert Sinclair who heads Hebrides Alpha cheerfully telling welovestornoway.com: "It certainly brightens the place up!"

Tomorrow Friday June 12 is the 80th Anniversary of the battle at St Valéry-en-Caux in northern France which saw the capture of thousands of Allied troops during World War II.

There will be a short commemorative ceremony at the Clock Tower outside The Nicolson Institute on Friday at 10am where members of the school's pipe and brass bands will play.

The appropriate social distancing will be adhered to, with the musicians being 5m apart, rather than 2m, as guidelines for players of such instruments dictate.

Other members of the school's bands will mark the anniversary elsewhere on the island.

The ceremony will be live streamed on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Facebook page at 10am to allow people to watch from home.

The Convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Norman A. Macdonald, said: “It is important that we join the Poppy Scotland Commemorations on Friday to mark the 80th Anniversary of the battle at St Valéry.

Many Lewismen, including former pupils of The Nicolson Institute served in the regiments in this division and saw action at St Valéry. The commemorative ceremony at The Nicolson Institute is especially appropriate given that many former pupils were involved.

"I would like to thank the school's Instrumental Tutors for their organisation of this commemoration and the school’s talented musicians for giving up their time to take part.”

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17168-heroes-of-st-valery-remembered

 

Photo: capture from Virtual Helsinki by VR-Studio Zoan

On Friday 12th June, The City of Helsinki will celebrate its birthday with a programme of online cultural events curated in collaboration with its citizens, taking place in the city’s digital twin - Virtual Helsinki - and culminating in a performance from Helsinki-born artist ALMA. The Finnish singer songwriter has generated over 150 million combined Spotify streams since the release of her acclaimed debut EP and is known worldwide for collaborations with Miley Cyrus and Tove Lo. ALMA will perform music from her debut album Have U Seen Her?.

Audiences can tune in to the live performance with a smartphone or computer, choose an avatar and interact with ALMA in her enchanted “dreamscape” world inspired by growing up in Helsinki but created entirely from her imagination.The event is a collaboration between ALMA, creative director Taito Kawata, The City of Helsinki and Zoan. Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori, said: “Helsinki Day is one of our biggest urban festivals and traditionally a communal celebration for the birthday of the capital city. This year we are proud to host ALMA in Virtual Helsinki. Having her historic concert as part of the festival programming makes this year even more special.”

The Helsinki Day festivities are part of the city’s ongoing efforts to celebrate the versatile creativity, freedom and innovation found in the city. The performance will take place in ALMA’s dreamlike virtual world and will feature cultural landmarks powered by Virtual Helsinki including the Amos Rex museum, which is currently showing Generation 2020, an exhibition presenting the works of over 80 young Finnish artists.  

Artist, ALMA, said: “Playing a VR show of this scale this was something I didn’t even know was possible to do! Something I've never done and something my fans probably haven't ever seen before! It’s the debut show of my album ‘Have U Seen Her?’ I’m so excited to share it like this. It’s amazing to be able to invite fans to step into the dreamworld we’re crafted digitally from my imagination.  Absolutely thrilled that the city of Helsinki is supporting my music and even more special that it’s happening on Helsinki Day! Welcome to my dreams and nightmares people! It's gonna’ be unreal!”​

The performance follows the success of the city’s virtual May Day event, which saw Finnish rap stars JVG perform for a live audience of 700,000 people, over 10% of Finland’s population.

Helsinki, which was crowned as the most innovative region in the EU by the European Commission in 2019 and awarded the European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2019, is at the forefront of technical innovation. With a democratic approach to data and knowledge sharing, the city operates much like a city-wide test bed. By facilitating public and private collaborations the city is demonstrating how policies like open data and digital twins can benefit citizens and visitors alike.

Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori, said: “Helsinki’s mission is to be the most functional city in the world. Under these extraordinary circumstances, this is more important than ever. Virtual Helsinki demonstrates how important it is for cities to be agile and adaptive, and how a crisis can be used as a driver for technical innovation and creativity.

While Virtual Helsinki has been used to create an alternative way of experiencing Helsinki and special communal moments this Spring, the platform is also now contributing to Helsinki’s creative economy by showing us that art and culture can still be created and celebrated by all during an international lockdown.

The Alma Cyber Concert can be experience online on:

  • Friday 12th June from 7pm (BST) / 9pm EEST

Access is via the below website, no headset is required

The city’s digital twin - Virtual Helsinki - is the result of a long-term strategic view into how the city uses its data, and the culmination of a two year partnership with VR studio Zoan.

Virtual Helsinki Day is the latest event to take place in Virtual Helsinki, following the unprecedented success of the virtual May Day concert which saw over 700,000 people tune into the virtual gig with Finnish rap stars JVG, totalling over 1.4million views by the end of the weekend.

In addition to the Virtual Helsinki Day event, the Virtual Helsinki initiative has recreated experiences of the city’s most famous landmarks through virtual reality to provide an opportunity for Helsinki to be experienced without the dependence on carbon intensive travel.

While VR and 360-degree videos are used as a marketing tool by many destinations, Virtual Helsinki goes a step further, allowing visitors to move about freely in the digital simulation of Helsinki to explore at their own pace and create their own experiences in past, present and future time. 

Through this virtual city, users can experience different parts of Helsinki, as well as participate in activities such as concert, exhibitions, meetings, and events. Virtual travellers can visit the historical centre of Senate Square, the home of famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and archipelago island Lonna Island. Destinations and landmarks will be added to the experience over the coming months including Vallisaari Island.

Virtual Helsinki is a major initiative forming one part of the City of Helsinki’s overarching digital strategy, which sets ambitions for the city to become the virtual capital of the world. The initiative is the culmination of a longstanding partnership with Helsinki-based studio Zoan. A digital twin of Helsinki has been built in Unreal Engine using 3D modelling from open data provided by the city, Zoan merged this with a series of drawings, hand-crafted modelling and imagery to create one of the world’s most realistic VR experiences. Zoan was awarded second prize at the 2019 Unreal Awards: Experience Design for the design of Virtual Helsinki. 

In the future, Virtual Helsinki will also serve as a digital platform that will enable service providers to run their businesses through the platform.

Helsinki has ambitious goals in the pioneering and promoting of sustainable tourism, aiming to become a carbon neutral city by 2035. In developing Virtual Helsinki, Helsinki recognises the unique role that cities play in creating solutions to enable changes in lifestyles to address the global climate crisis.

Virtual visit to Amos Rex with several artworks of Generation 2020 exhibition: www.myhelsinki.fi/virtualhelsinki  

Virtual Helsinki, Sound of the Seasons can be experienced on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSBdj2foLQU&feature=youtu.be

Image

Moments of Italian weekend in Vilnius © GoVilnius

This summer Lithuanian tourists may experience global travel without leaving their home country.

Every second weekend the Lithuanian capital Vilnius celebrates one of the world cultures.

The first weekend, dedicated to Italian culture, proved a success.

June 10th, 2020. As international travel is still restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Vilnius decided to bring the world to Lithuania. Throughout the summer, the colours, aromas and sounds of one of the world cultures are going to create a unique experience for local tourists. The slogan of the event says that "vacation abroad is now offered in Vilnius."

Lithuanians will gain knowledge of foreign lands by just visiting their capital. The Italian weekend has already swept through Vilnius, and the cultures of India, the USA, France, Spain, Germany and Japan are next on the list.

"Once again we take creative way to sustain the tourism during the global COVID-19 pandemic," says Remigijus Šimašius, the mayor of Vilnius. "It is important to open the world experience to people who miss travel. That's why we started this project. We want to provide positive emotions, such as the joy of travel and discovery of new cultures, in a healthy and safe environment".

Many Vilnius tour operators, restaurants, hotels, transports operators and other businesses, local communities and artists joined their efforts to create these unique experiences. The presentations of foreign cultures include food experiences, concerts and exhibitions, educational events, special projects for children, thematic guided tours and other attractions.

"Businesses not only create unique special programmes and events for our project, but also adjust their prices, making the services more affordable to local tourists," - explained Inga Romanovskienė, director of the official tourism agency of the city, Go Vilnius.

"Quality hotels provide a unique opportunity to test their services. Thanks to railway, bus and parking operators, Vilnius becomes more open and easy to reach during these weekends".

She pointed out the success of the Italian weekend, which attracted hundreds of visitors to Vilnius. The presentation of Vespa scooters and the Venetian-carnival-themed performance in the artistic neighborhood of Užupis were the most popular highlights of the weekend. Italian-themed family events, concerts and restaurants serving special dishes all were favoured by visitors.

Due to quarantine and gathering restrictions, the events were dispersed around the city. This arrangement ensured that event attendee numbers did not exceed recommended limits. Hundreds of people enjoyed guided tours and other events while observing all necessary health requirements.

On June 19-21 Vilnius will host an Indian-themed weekend, with the USA-themed and French weekends following in July.

Divisions were emerging this evening (Wednesday  June 10) between island residents concerned about the threat of Covid-19 cases coming from the mainland and those involved in planning the reopening of the economy post-lockdown.
Islanders took to social media to say they had received emails from airline Loganair talking of additional flights starting - and others stated they knew no one who was in favour of weakening controls.
One claimed that Fergus Ewing was in talks with CalMac to increase ferry capacity in the lead up to 15th July. “Islanders have been mislead by Michael Matheson’s promise that it would be in consultation with islanders. It’s an absolutely stupid move and going to heighten tensions between islanders and the tourism industry.” It was stated.
This announcement came as the Shetland Isles also announced they had a new Covid-19 case - the first since 20 April.  That brings their total to 55.
NHS Shetland consultant in public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said “all appropriate follow up will be taken to contain the spread of the virus.” Reflecting the delays which mean the Western Isles latest case still has not shown up in the Scottish Government figures, Dr Laidlaw said that because of the number of different testing routes – through the NHS laboratory; the UK Government expanded testing scheme and private labs – it was not clear that all new cases will show up in the Scottish Government’s daily published updates, or that there may be a reporting time lag for some of them.
Commenting after the Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing confirmed that the Scottish Government hoped tourism businesses might be able to reopen from 15th July, Alasdair Allan MSP said:  “The date given is provisional and is obviously going to depend on the circumstances at the time, such as the infection rate, and scientific advice. However, I hope it at least gives tourism businesses in the islands something to work towards and prepare for.
“We will need to carefully examine how the Western Isles reintroduces tourism, given the constraints on ferry capacity that social distancing measures will bring, and the need to ensure that islanders have their own transport needs respected. I continue to have discussions with Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse about how this will be done, and much will obviously depend on what health advice is given about when people should be using island ferries and planes in future.
“It is important to stress that this date is not guaranteed, and it will only go ahead if it is safe to do so. If the events of the last few months have taught us anything, it is that anything can happen and we have to be prepared to be flexible.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “I am pleased that the Scottish Government has finally made an announcement that offers some hope to a beleaguered sector which has felt neglected.
“Ministers need to follow up, and get on the front foot, so that the necessary preparations for rescuing some of the summer season can take place.
“It will need to be done with due care so as to reassure communities in the more remote parts of the region that the necessity for preventing any possible spread of the virus is also taken into account.”
Rural tourism and hospitality businesses are primed to assist Scotland’s economic recovery if reopening goes ahead next month.
Stephen Young, Head of Policy at Scottish Land & Estates said: “The intended resumption of tourism and hospitality on July 15 is hugely welcome news for Scotland’s rural economy. Progress still needs to be maintained in the fight against COVID-19 but this indicative target provides a date which businesses can work towards.
“We recently established that 90% of 250 rural businesses we surveyed felt they were well-equipped to reopen safely. The Scottish Government has said it will publish guidance next week for the tourism and hospitality sectors and this should hopefully provide even greater confidence for the restart.
“It would be our preference to see self-catering or caravan sites open earlier if possible but we acknowledge that government faces a delicate balance to move at the correct pace of reopening, especially with its stated objective of tourism and transport sectors resuming in tandem. Rural areas are helped by having more space and most guests will travel by private transport to accommodation so an opportunity does exist to expedite the resumption of rural tourism.”
UKHospitality has also welcomed confirmation that Scottish hospitality and tourism businesses will be able to open from 15 July. 
UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland, Willie Macleod said: “It’s good to have some clarity from the Scottish Government and a real sense that we are moving towards the reopening of hospitality and tourism businesses. “Recognising that there may be a need to change dates and timing in the interests of health and safety, it will take time, weeks in some cases, for businesses to get back in working order, communicate with customers, handle bookings, arrange staffing and order supplies, so this lead-time is very helpful. UKH has developed detailed guidelines to assist businesses to reopen and looks forward to the publication of the Scottish Government’s own guidance on 18 June.
“Consumer confidence is going to be vital to businesses as the sector reopens. Hospitality and tourism businesses in Scotland have been hammered very hard and trading will be tricky once they reopen. Social distancing measures will be in place and businesses will only be able to operate at a fraction of normal capacity.
“It’s therefore vital that we get as much support as possible. A positive and very visible campaign from the Scottish Government to encourage customers to get back out and support businesses is needed. We need it to make the case for supporting two vital pillars of the Scottish economy that have been hit seriously hard over the past few months."

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society is this month holding a virtual piping competition for the first time in its history – inviting entries from any players under the age of 18 anywhere in the Outer Hebrides, from the Butt to Barra. There is a varied selection of categories, from chanter beginners to piobaireachd on the pipes, to encourage every level of player to take part.

Eight judges will be assessing the performances, to be submitted by June 19, and the Piping Society is delighted to announce a highly acclaimed panel of judges for the competition. It is sponsored by community wind farm organisation Point and Sandwick Trust, which is covering all the costs.

The judges will include Iain Speirs, Glenn Brown, Finlay Johnston, Donald MacPhee, Sarah Muir, Callum Beaumont, Decker Forrest and Roddy MacLeod MBE — many of whom were due to perform at the prestigious invitational P/M Donald Macleod Memorial Piping Competition earlier this year, until it had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Once the performances have been assessed and the results announced – hopefully in a ‘live broadcast’ later in the month — all the competitors will get feedback from the judges, to help inform their playing and their practice going forward. It is hoped that some of the performances will be shared on the Piping Society’s Facebook page too, later on.

Organising competitions for young learners is at the heart of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society’s ethos. Its founding principles stated the object of the Society should be “to promote, in the interests of social welfare, the encouragement of piping in all of its aspects with particular emphasis in the fields of tuition, competition and recital.”

Ashley MacDonald, Piping Secretary of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society as well as a piping instructor and Director of the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band, explained the thinking behind going online.

She said: “The reason we decided to have a virtual competition is to keep children motivated and give them something to aim towards. Most of our senior pupils would be on exam leave just now so it gives them a chance to concentrate on piping. All youngsters from primary to secondary are working extremely hard during these circumstances, so this competition will hopefully take their mind of any worries they may have and will allow them to relax and have some fun participating in a competition to keep them going.

“Usually at this time of year, most children would be preparing for competitions anyway. This will be a great practice tool for them and an opportunity for them to be heard by some of the best pipers in the world and as an added bonus receive any tips from them. This competition is open to anyone in the Western Isle U-18 from the Butt to Barra.”

Entries are to be submitted via The Lewis and Harris Piping Society website — address lhpsoc.com/competition — and by clicking on the orange button to ‘Enter the Competition’. 

To register, competitors should fill out the online entry form. They will then receive an email receipt with a competitor number and links for uploading performances. The recordings should be filmed on a mobile phone or video camera and each recording should begin by displaying a piece of paper with their name, competitor number and a competition code. 

Once the recording is complete, the video should be uploaded using the links sent by the Piping Society. Judges will then review the performances, using agreed criteria, and award prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th places. 

Categories are as follows: 

  • Chanter – Beginner; Novice and Advanced.
  • Piping – Primary Novice Pipes, 2/4 March Four Parts; Primary Novice Pipes Freestyle (any tune); Secondary Novice Pipes 2/4 March Four Parts; Secondary Novice Freestyle (any tune).
  • Under 16 all four-parted tunes or more – 2/4 March; Strathspey and Reel Four Parts; Jig; Hornpipe; Ceol Mor (Ground and First Variation); Freestyle (any tune).
  • U-18 all four-parted tunes or more – March, Strathspey and Reel (break in the march if you wish); Hornpipe and Jig; Ceol Mor and Freestyle (any tune).

There are a number of rules for the virtual competition, including that any players who can play the pipes are not permitted to enter the chanter competitions. The rules are on the competition’s web page and competitors should ensure they read all the rules closely and in full.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Ashley MacDonald, Piping Secretary on 07919101011. You can also follow the Piping Society on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LewisPiping/

ends

THE officially confirmed number of coronavirus cases on the Western Isles still remains at 6, according to the Scottish Government today, Sunday June 14.

However, we have known from NHS Western Isles for several days now that the total is now 7. 

In addition, Shetland NHS has announced an additional case bringing its total to 55, yet its official figure remains at 54. 

In Orkney, the total remains at 8.

The "official national coronavirus figures" were confirmed at 2pm today.

So far, there have been 848 coronavirus tests reported as conducted in the Western Isles. [14.06.2020]  For regular updates see https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=1884

The total number of positive cases reported from across Highland Region is 341, the same as for 3 days.  There were still 7 people in hospital in Highland with the condition overnight.

A total of 137,638 Scottish tests have been concluded so far.  Of these:

  • 15,755 tests were positive. That's up 25 from yesterday, a rise of 0.15%.
  • In all, 8852 of the cases were in the Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian areas. That's up 14 from yesterday, a rise of 0.15%.

On June 13 there were 3138 tests carried out by NHS Scotland in hospitals, care homes or in the community, making a total of 217,614 COVID-19 tests through NHS labs to date.

No updated figures for drive-through and mobile tests carried out by the Regional Testing Centres in Scotland.

A total of 2448 patients in Scotland who tested positive for coronavirus are now reported to have died. This is 1 more than the previous day.

There were 575 people in Scottish hospitals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (including 15 in intensive care). 

  1. There is a display of figures for the spread of the disease at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-tests-and-cases-in-scotland/
  2. There are also analytical graphs and information from across the world at https://www.travellingtabby.com/scotland-coronavirus-tracker/

14.06.2020


In terms of incidence of positive cases per 10,000 population, the comparative figures - all rounded slightly - are:

  • Scotland: 28.6/10,000
  • Shetland Isles: 24/10,000
  • Highland: 14.5/10,000
  • Orkney Isles: 3.6/10,000
  • Outer Hebrides: 2.6/10,000

(This figures were calculated by welovestornoway.com to give readers a sense of regional variations.  They were last revised on Saturday June 13)

 

 

 

The delivery of a transformer for the new Stornoway electricity substation has marked a ‘major milestone’ in the development, according to Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks.

The new transformer came off the ferry on a heavy load carrier last month, at the end of a 1,500-mile-long trip by land and sea from the manufacturers in Linz, Austria.

After over 40 years of service Stornoway Substation is reaching the end of its operational working life and is being replaced to maintain a secure and reliable supply for Lewis and across the wider Western Isles network.

The new substation, once complete, will form a vital part of the electrical infrastructure on the Western Isles as well as being a hub for all existing electrical connections on the Isle of Lewis

Project Manager, Ivan Murphy said: “This project is critical to make sure we maintain security of supply to Lewis and the wider Western Isles network.  The team have been working hard over the last months, in very challenging circumstances, to make sure we meet our deadline to complete the build ahead of the winter storm season.

“There were definitely some sleepless nights as we planned the delivery, coordinating all the different parties involved, including the German authorities. This was coupled with the challenge of doing everything remotely, as I am currently working from home in the Highlands, following Government guidelines on social distancing.

“The new transformer will make a huge difference to the reliability of the electricity network on the Western Isles and, I am delighted it made it here safely. With the transformer now on-site and most of the primary plant now installed, we are well on track for the new substation to be complete and operational ready for winter.”

The project team are now focused on the final push to complete all the electrical works on site and also carry out essential upgrades at Harris substation to allow the energisation of the new substation later this year.

The picture shows the new transformer in situ within the new substation (SSEN).

Crown Estate Scotland, manager of Scotland’s seabed, has today (Wednesday 10 June) announced the launch of the first round of offshore wind leasing in Scottish waters for a decade.

From 6am this morning, investors and developers will be able to register interest in obtaining an ‘option agreement’ with Crown Estate Scotland. These can then lead to the signing of leases to build offshore wind farms in one of the areas of seabed outlined as suitable, which include three sites to the north and west of the Isle of Lewis.

The multi-billion-pound investment opportunity is described as forming: “a major part of Scotland’s green recovery.” 

Investment in what is to be called ScotWind Leasing could surpass £8bn and will allow companies at the cutting edge of offshore renewables to apply to build new generation offshore wind farms.

It’s thought that with the total of 17 locations around Scotland’s coasts, ScotWind could deliver more than enough green electricity to power every Scottish household, saving the creation of 6 million tonnes of CO2 per year. 

The announcement also teases ‘measures to promote and enhance the supply chain to help ensure projects can be developed’, seen as a nod to the continued debate on an interconnector to serve the islands’ onshore renewables sector.  

John Robertson, Crown Estate Scotland’s head of energy and infrastructure said: “Today is a huge step forward in kick-starting Scotland’s green recovery, meeting net zero targets and bringing multi-billion pound investments to benefit communities across the nation.  

“Offshore wind is currently one of the cheapest forms of new electricity generation and Scotland is perfectly poised to host major new projects, with a well-established energy skills sector as well as some of the best natural marine resources in Europe.”  

Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: “The launch of ScotWind – the first offshore wind leasing round to be administered in Scotland – is a very important milestone for Crown Estate Scotland and Scottish Ministers, but also marks another pivotal moment for the development of our offshore wind sector and also presents an opportunity to help develop our strategic economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As we emerge from the crisis, we have a chance to re-imagine the Scotland around us, and to begin building a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy, one in which wellbeing, fair work and social justice are prioritised. 

“Our seas are host to some of the best offshore wind resources in the world, supporting the continuing growth and expansion of the sector. We want to harness this huge resource for our energy system, unlocking significant investment in the supply chain to create more green jobs across the sector and, importantly, to do so in a way that gives due regard to our marine environment and other marine activities.  

“My colleagues and I encourage all interested applicants to get involved in ScotWind, to bring forward projects which will help us drive forward Scotland’s green recovery and our transition to becoming a net-zero society by 2045.”

The picture shows some of the turbines at the Beatrice windfarm – where some of the pilings were fabricated at Arnish – and the Crown Estate Scotland map outlining potential offshore sites near Lewis.

 

Lews Castle College UHI are looking for a talented and experienced people-leader to serve as the new chair for their board of management.

An academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands, the college provides courses to students in Lewis, North Uist, Benbecula and Barra.    

The college board and its committees use their experience, knowledge and commitment to contribute to the College’s strategic direction, governance and continued development. 

The voluntary chair of the board of management must have a strong commitment to Further and Higher Education.

A college spokesperson said: “Your input can make a real difference to the education and prospects of our learners and their wellbeing as well as contributing to the success of our island communities and more widely to the whole University of the Highlands region, as we look to recover and develop from the impact of Covid-19. 

“A minimum time commitment of approximately 14 hours per month is required: the role requires attendance at four board meetings a year (usually early evening) and members may also be asked to join sub-committees, which also meet three to four times a year.”

Although the role is voluntary, reasonable out-of-pocket expenses are reimbursed. The appointment will be for four years in the first instance. To apply visit the college’s Vacancies page where you will find the role description and application packs.

Completed application forms are to be returned by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 5pm on Friday 26 June.

 

 

Just to prove their work is not just about coasts…there was an early start about 7.30am today (Wednesday June 10) for the Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team who were called to assist the Scottish Ambulance Service with transfer of a fallen mountain biker in Lews Castle Grounds.

Murdo Macaulay, the local Area Commander for HM Coastguard, said their Viking All Terrain Vehicle was "proving itself a flexible asset once again."

"Wishing the casualty quick recovery," he said on Twitter. 

The rider was a woman in her 20s and was taken to Western Isles Hospital for treatment.

Photographs from the Stornoway Coastguard Rescue team

An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway stands in solidarity with the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

They say: "As people collectively rise up around the world in protest against racial injustice and violence, we, like many of our fellow islanders, feel compelled to support and to contribute.

"We may not be able to travel to protest – but we can make our voices heard.

"An Lanntair would like to invite our local community to make and submit to us their own banners in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"We are asking you to help us and together we can speak up and stand for human rights and anti-racism. We want to provide a platform to let all our voices shout from.

"You can either send in cloth banners that we will hang on our building, or photographs of your own self-designed banners which we will then reprint and display in our window poster boxes.

"Please send your banners to us by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by post to: An Lanntair, Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2DS.

"We will display banners as we receive them, but ask if you could try to send them as soon as you can, up until June 19th."

The image used as a photograph above has been created by Lewis artist Alice Macleod. It is available to buy as a physical artwork or as a download from her website – www.alicemacprints.co.uk – with 100% of proceeds from this work being donated to @standuptoracismuk

Stornoway police are asking for public help with the recovery of a mountain bike which has been taken from a shed on Island Road without permission.

The theft was reported yesterday (Tuesday 9 June) of a white mountain bike of unknown make, with front and rear lights and a combination padlock, which has been taken sometime between April and the time when it was noticed to be missing on Friday 5 June.

Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the bike is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH 643/20.

 

Here's a link to a video statement from Gordon Jamieson, chief executive of NHS Western Isles, covering the new case of Coronavirus on the Islands and also talking about efforts being made to re-establish some aspects of dental care and other services. 

https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1270460989650038784?s=21


Angus MacNeil MP is today (Wednesday June 10) reminding constituents of the new Test & Protect system which went live in the Western Isles last week. Anyone over the age of five who displays symptoms of coronavirus can now get tested by contacting a local telephone number and attending an appointment in Stornoway, Balivanich or Castlebay.

Mr MacNeil said‘It is important in this phase of the pandemic, as lockdown is gradually eased, that anyone who thinks they may have symptoms of coronavirus comes forward for testing.

Anyone in the Western Isles with a new persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in sense of smell or taste should phone 01851 601 151 to arrange a test. An online booking form is also available at: https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195)

‘This is particularly important for those who have recently travelled from their work as seamen, in the oil and gas industry or have been off the island for any other essential reason. Do not ignore symptoms which could put yourself, your family and other islanders at risk, also as many people are asymptomatic it could be argued that getting tested for even the slightest symptoms is a social good to family and community especially as there is testing capacity available.

‘Maintaining social distancing, washing hands and staying at home as much as possible are all important ways to prevent the spread of the virus.  If you have symptoms immediately self-isolating with your household and arranging a test is the best way of protecting everyone at this time.


NHS Western Isles has been notified today (Tuesday June 9), via the UK Notification System, of a seventh case of Covid-19 in an Isle of Lewis resident.

The individual remains well and is self-isolating at home.

Contacts have been identified and are being contacted in line with the new national Test & Protect policy.

The officially confirmed number of coronavirus cases on the Western Isles had remained at six for more than 7 weeks.

So far, there have been 755 coronavirus tests reported as conducted in the Western Isles. [09.06.2020]  For regular updates see https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=1884

Figures issued by the Scottish Government at 2pm today (Tuesday) showed that are still 54 cases recorded in Shetland, where the total has remained unchanged for more than a month. In Orkney, the total remains at 8. There was a single additional on Orkney a fortnight ago, after the total had remained static for several weeks. 

The total number of positive cases reported from across Highland Region yesterday (Tuesday June 9) is 340, the same as the previous day  There were 8 people in hospital in Highland with the condition.

A total of 128,495 Scottish tests have been concluded so far.  Of these:

  • 15,653 tests were positive. That's up 14 from yesterday, a rise of less than 0.1%.
  • In all, 8785 of the cases were in the Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian areas. That's up 10 from yesterday, a rise of 0.1%.

On June 6 there were 3059 tests carried out by NHS Scotland in hospitals, care homes or in the community, making a total of 199,005 COVID-19 tests through NHS labs to date.

In addition, there were 1503 drive-through and mobile tests carried out by the Regional Testing Centres in Scotland bringing the total to 69,219 tests to date.

A total of 2422 patients in Scotland who tested positive for coronavirus are now reported to have died. This is seven more than the previous day. There were 641 people in Scottish hospitals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (including 21 in intensive care).

For Western Isles residents who develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection, both a local phoneline (01851 601 151) and online form are now available to help them book a test.

The Scottish Government’s Test & Protect scheme was launched last week and is based on testing for anyone over five years of age who has symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include a new, persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in sense of taste or smell.

In response to the national scheme, NHS Western Isles has expanded access to testing using mainland laboratory services.  Local testing arrangements remain in place for specific eligible groups such as people admitted to hospital and health, social care and emergency services workers.

Any Western Isles resident with symptoms can book a test via the local phoneline: 01851 601 151. The phoneline is staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.

An online booking form is now also available from the NHS Western Isles Coronavirus website at: https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/ ‘Public & Carers’, ‘Facts & Support’, ‘COVID-19 Testing’ (directly at: https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195) or by visiting NHS Inform.

As part of Test & Protect, people with symptoms will be advised to self-isolate until results are available.  Should a test show that the virus is present, NHS Western Isles will ask the individual to identify any people at increased risk of exposure to the virus through close contact with them.

These contacts will then be telephoned and have an individualised discussion about what they need to do to break the chain of transmission of the virus, and what assistance is available to help them do this.

 (This article has been extensively updated with additional background details since first being posted)

Next Monday (15th June) at 14:50, businesses from across the Highlands & Islands are invited to take part in an hour-long online FSB Q&A Meeting with Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy & Tourism.

FSB research shows that the Highlands & Islands and Argyll’s dependence on its visitor economy – tourism & hospitality – means that Lockdown has left this already fragile region more vulnerable economically than the rest of Scotland. Unsurprisingly, as time passes so businesses from across the region are increasingly seeking clarity on a wide range of issues vital to their survival.

With Phase 2 of the unlocking process due shortly, the FSB believes that this is the perfect time for smaller businesses to question Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy & Tourism, and MSP for Inverness & Nairn, on what the Scottish Government is doing to support businesses over the next year.

The FSB’s Highlands & Islands Area Leader and director of the Kylesku Hotel, Tanja Lister, said,“We know how anxious businesses are becoming about their abilities to survive in this new world and, given that the virus is unpredictable, they clearly want as much clarity as possible so that they can plan their survival strategies once unlocking takes place.

“In particular, they want to know when and how unlocking will take place, what they must do to comply with distancing protocols, how local communities will be persuaded that the time is right to unlock, and the nature of the Government-backed business support that will be put in place to carry the regional economy though to next Easter and beyond.

“Nobody should think that businesses can go from nought to 60 in a few days – it will take a long time for them to recover, and many will need ongoing support from governments, public agencies, other businesses and, very importantly, the general public, for many months to come.

“We know how heavily engaged Mr Ewing is in his vital role and we are delighted that he is giving up his time to take questions on Monday. This is the perfect time for him to meet Highlands & Islands businesses and we are looking forward to a very productive hour with him.”

Questions must be submitted in advance and we will ask as many as we can in the allotted time. Participants can also submit comments during the meeting using Zoom’s ‘Chat’ function.

The event is free and open to all businesses. Those wishing to find out more and register should look at the FSB Highlands & Islands Facebook page - @FSB.Highlands.Islands

Tourism bodies are renewing their advice to holiday-makers to cross the Western Isles off their travel list for this summer.

In a statement published yesterday (Monday 8 June) Visit Outer Hebrides has responded to numerous enquiries asking whether a visit to the Outer Hebrides is still possible. 

They said: “Although restrictions have eased slightly, we still remain in lockdown. The Scottish Government have published a route map out of the Coronavirus crisis and we think it will be be highly unlikely that restrictions will be eased until later in the summer.”

Even when islands do lift restrictions, they say, ferries and planes will have limited capacity to ensure social distancing measures are in place. Currently, Calmac ferries and Loganair have been instructed by the government only to carry freight, islanders and those with genuine essential reasons to travel.

Last week (Wednesday 3 June) CalMac issued updated advice to travellers, in which they said: “We are continuing to work with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to implement travel and transport guidelines. The current essential lifeline timetable will remain in operation (and) no future bookings will be available until at least 30 June.  

“We will continue to take our lead from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, while working closely with the communities we serve. When we agree the next phase of our timetable, it will still look very different to our service during normal times while we implement social distancing measures. It will remain focused on the priority lifeline services and the changing needs and welfare of island communities.  

“The current official advice remains to stay at home as much as possible,  stay local and only travel if your journey is essential. Travel to our islands continues to be for essential reasons only.”

Visit Outer Hebrides advice to travellers is: “If you have a booking between now to mid-July, please contact your accommodation provider as soon as possible. Many places are helping people to move their bookings to later in the year, or into 2021 where that is not possible."

Picture: Traigh Ghearadha, Tolsta (Visit Outer Hebrides).

 

"It is with deep regret that we announce the death of our co-founder, principal investor and friend, Ian Taylor, after a long battle with cancer," Harris Tweed Hebrides, based at the mill in Shawbost, says in a statement today (Tuesday June 9)

They say: "Ian was a remarkable individual – extraordinarily successful in his professional career as a trader and generous with his time and wealth in support of myriad causes. It was the great good fortune of Harris Tweed and our islands’ economy that he was prepared to invest in the industry at its lowest ebb in 2007. His involvement went far beyond that original investment which made the creation of Harris Tweed Hebrides and the re-opening of Shawbost mill possible. Ian brought with him huge enthusiasm and business acumen. He visited Lewis whenever possible and was always available to offer unfailingly good advice."

Brian Wilson, chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, above centre, said: “Ian (right) was a friend for more than 20 years and the cruel illness to which he finally succumbed has robbed us of a man at the peak of his powers who had so much more to offer on many fronts.

“Ian’s father was from Ayrshire and, from when I first got to know him, he said if there was ever anything useful he could do in Scotland, to let him know. When the crisis arose in 2007 for Harris Tweed and I was asked to help, I knew instinctively that Ian would respond positively which, of course, he did.

“Everyone involved in Harris Tweed Hebrides and the wider community owes him a huge debt of gratitude and we will respect his memory for everything he has contributed and made possible”.

Ian Angus Mackenzie, chief executive of Harris Tweed Hebrides, (pictured above left)  said: “Without Ian's backing this company, and possibly the Harris Tweed industry, would not exist. He provided the funding to purchase the mill and the working capital to get the company started -  in his own words  'not to make money but because it is the right thing to do'.

“It was a brave thing to do when one remembers the position the industry was in at that time. Ian was delighted by the success of the company and took a keen interest in all our activities. His enthusiasm and drive were an inspiration to us all and we will miss him greatly.

“Ian was an extraordinary individual, hugely successful in his professional life but very down-to-earth and friendly to all. He was probably the most impressive person I have ever dealt with”.

Preparations for childcare in South Lochs, Kinloch and North Lochs have been boosted by an announcement of funding from the Scottish Government and European-backed Aspiring Communities Fund.

It was announced on Sunday (7 June) that Pairc Playgroup in Kershader, South Lochs, has been awarded £96,940 to help expand childcare provision, in a grant allocation that was held back when it was originally due to be announced in March, because of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

Pairc Playgroup Manager Kayleigh MacKillop said: “The project will support high quality, out-of-school and holiday club child care, which we offer all year round, including funded places. At the same time it supports geographically remote, socially-isolated children and families, who have limited access to facilities, to engage with out-of-school activities.”

The project addresses the gap in free activities for primary school children, reducing inequality and helping children to grow in confidence and self-esteem. When daily life starts up again, plans have been put in place for socially-distanced activity which more than matches new requirements for safe practice. 

Kayleigh said: "The Aspiring Communities Fund will help us provide childcare for our priority areas of Pairc, Kinloch and North Lochs between October 2020 and July 2022.

"Births are declining in the Pairc area and, because there are less families in our immediate area, we will be able to open up and expand to families in Kinloch and further, where there may previously have been issues such as transport to reach our childcare in Kershader.

"Our activity already lays heavy emphasis on outdoor play and physically active fresh air activities, which make a huge difference when it comes to ensuring that facilities are safe for children to use without becoming exposed to possible infection."

From August, the group plan to offer forest days using the Laxay Showground and Laxay woodland as the venues. At last summer's Hebridean Forest Club, 34 families shared outdoor activities including treasure hunts, bug safaris and outdoor cooking.

Plans are now being laid to offer forest days on Wednesdays and Fridays from August and families are already signed up to take part. Families can use 30-hour government funded spaces for three and four-year-olds and some eligible two-year-olds.

Kayleigh said: "Our mission is to encourage children to explore and develop a sense of self. Social distancing can be achieved outdoors in the forest and parents can use their funded childcare hours for young children, although holidays clubs are open to children from up to 16 years."

Meanwhile work is continuing to prepare the spaces at the nursery in Kershader for re-opening in August. Upcoming changes include rebranding the service, launching a website and buying a minibus to help with transport to and from childcare and outings.

The minibus has been funded in part by Tescos Bags of Help appeal and also has support from Pairc Social Club, the previous Pairc Community Council group, Western Isles Development Trust and Peter MacLennan of Laxay. 

Inside Pairc Playgroup, preparation work has been continuing for re-opening under Covid-safe regulations, with minimal, easily-cleaned furniture and resources.

But it’s the outdoor activity that already makes this project different. Kayleigh said: "Our real selling point as a childcare service is that we've already been working with children outside, in all weathers and locations, for some time now.

“We're hoping that our approach is what families want when it comes to keeping children safe, healthy and positively stimulated during their pre-school years."

Find out more about what's on offer from Pairc Playgroup and Laxay Forest Days at https://www.facebook.com/PaircPlaygroup/

Pictures show children busy during last summer's Hebridean Forest Club.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart is to retire at the next Scottish Parliament election.

Mr Stewart is one of a small band of Scottish politicians who have served as a councillor, an MP and as an MSP.

He became the first Labour MP to represent the former constituency of Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber in 1997, doubling his majority in 2001 before losing his seat to Liberal-Democrat Danny Alexander in 2005.  In 2007 he re-entered politics as a Highlands and Islands Labour MSP on the regional list, and was elected for a further two terms, the latest ending next year at the coming election. Mr Stewart's 65th birthday is the day before polling day.

“For me, retiring is a bitter sweet moment,” said Mr Stewart today (Tuesday June 9).  “I’ve been dedicated to politics and the Labour Party for most of my life. I’ve met thousands of people, worked cross-party with countless politicians, been on the doorstep with many activists for Westminster and Scottish Parliament elections and I don’t regret a moment of it  It’s been a privilege to serve Inverness and the Highlands and Islands throughout my career.”

The MSP is best known for his campaigning work on road safety, initially becoming involved in fighting for a Graduated Driving Licence for young drivers after the death of two 17-year-olds in a tragic accident in Inverness in 2010.  In 2018, after an eight-year campaign and cross-party support from the Scottish Parliament, he was delighted when the UK Government finally decided to pilot Graduated Driving Licences.

As well as collecting awards for his work from road safety group Brake, he has continued to speak up and support residents campaigning for road safety improvements, for instance, getting behind the need for new crossings and speed restrictions.

During his three terms in the Scottish Parliament, he has lodged two successful Member’s Bills - one on dangerous buildings, allowing councils to step in and recoup costs if property is in a dangerous state. The second, for installing fire sprinklers in all new social housing, should come to fruition next year with the implementation of new Scottish Government regulations.

He has represented Scotland twice as a Scottish Diabetes Champion and continues to support improvements for diabetics as part of this role as Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister.

As a Westminster MP, he fought and won the campaign to have Inverness recognised as a city – in 2000 it was one of six created to mark the new millennium.

His Labour Highlands and Islands MSP colleague, Rhoda Grant, said she will be sad to see him go.  “David is a dedicated politician and a good friend, always willing to fight for his constituents and not afraid to launch campaigns to achieve his goal,” she said.

“He has achieved respect from across the parliamentary divide which is no mean feat in today’s political world. He will have hard shoes to fill and will be a great miss to the Parliament, however I will continue to seek his advice and use his knowledge built up during a lifetime of public service.”

Highland Councillor, Jimmy Gray, a life-long friend, added: “David is a well kent face in the region. He’s someone that people can relate to, whether that’s in his support of Inverness Caley Thistle or in his more serious work with constituent cases.  He has made it his aim to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and that’s a good record for a politician.”

Born and bred in Inverness and a former Inverness High School pupil, Mr Stewart started his political career after moving to Dumfries when, in 1984, he won a council seat in Nithsdale serving two years.

When he moved back to Inverness as a social worker, he became a Labour Councillor for Inverness District Council’s Park Ward from 1988 to 1996, going on to be the area’s first Labour MP in 1997. In his time at Westminster, he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Scottish Secretary, Alistair Darling. Under the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme he was one of the first politicians to visit troops in Iraq and became an honorary Wing Commander for the RAF under the scheme.

From 2005 to 2007 he was Assistant Director, Rural Affairs, for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

In the Scottish Parliament he has served in several senior roles, from Labour Chief Whip, a four-year stint as Convener of the Public Petitions Committee, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Eradication of Poverty and Inequality and is currently Shadow Minister for Public Health. He is also a senior member of the Corporate Body which looks after the Parliament’s property, services and staff.

Mr Stewart is a long-time Inverness Caledonian Thistle fan, chairman of charity, the Inverness Caley Thistle Trust. He is also a director of the Scottish Cot Death Trust - Mr Stewart and his wife Linda lost their youngest son, eight-month-old Liam, to cot death in 1991 and were supported by the trust.

Linda works for the University of the Highlands and Islands and is a previous Chair of the Scottish Labour Party.  Son Andrew is a neuro-scientist in California and daughter Kirsty runs a leisure business with her partner in Inverness.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron says this year’s Carers Week, which began yesterday (Monday 8th June), has a special resonance because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Cameron said: “Each year, during June, we mark Carers Week, which reminds us of the contribution so many people make by taking on unpaid caring roles to look after some of our most vulnerable citizens.

“This year, due to the pandemic, we have seen an extraordinary extension of that activity.

“It‘s been heartening that so many volunteers have stepped forward to help those who require support, many of them in the ‘shielded’ category, perhaps by shopping, keeping in touch by phone, or even just by taking out the bins.

“In some cases, they have taken the place of relatives or friends, who have themselves been unable to keep caring because of the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

“These simple acts of kindness and thoughtfulness can make a world of difference to people who have found themselves isolated, in need, and, perhaps, lonely.

“We owe a great debt of thanks to everyone who has helped and brought our communities together during this time of need, also not forgetting those who have been taking on caring responsibilities sometimes over many years.”

 

Thousands of Highland soldiers who fought overwhelming German forces in 1940 at St Valéry-en-Caux on the Channel coast, have been remembered by MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.

Friday June 12 will be the 80th Anniversary of the 51st Highland Division’s surrender at St Valéry and the occasion will be marked by pipers and other musicians joining up to play The Heroes of St Valéry, a piping tune composed by a veteran of the battle.

Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron, who proposed a motion to the Scottish Parliament highlighting the commemoration, said that St Valéry was, in some respects, the “forgotten Dunkirk”.

“Hundreds of pipers across Scotland and indeed the world will join together on Friday to remember events at St Valéry in 1940.  Unlike at Dunkirk a few days earlier, it proved impossible at St Valéry to evacuate the troops due to the weather and the proximity of German artillery. As a result, thousands of soldiers, who had spent weeks fighting gallantly, went on to spend years as prisoners-of-war.

“Winston Churchill called it a ‘most brutal disaster’, and the loss of so many of our young fighting men was felt keenly across the Highlands and Islands, with very few communities left untouched.

“Five years later, the reformed Highland Division re-entered St Valery as liberators, appropriately to the sound of the pipes.

“It’s surely equally appropriate on Friday that we commemorate this anniversary with a tune composed by Donald Maclean, a piper with the 51st Highland Division, who was himself captured at St Valéry and spent years in captivity.”

The motion states: "That the Parliament acknowledges that 12 June 2020 will be the 80th Anniversary of the 51st Highland Division’s surrender at St Valery in 1940; remembers the sacrifice of the soldiers of that Division, many of whom died or spent years as prisoners of war; recalls that the soldiers involved were forced to surrender to German forces at 10am on 12 June 1940 and included men of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, the Black Watch, the Gordon Highlanders, the Seaforth Highlanders, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, RAMC, RASC, RA and other supporting and attached troops from other parts of the UK, and supports the calls made by the Legion Scotland, Poppy Scotland and the Royal Caledonian Education Trust for pipers and other musicians to play The Heroes of St Valery at 10am on 12 June in recognition of the sacrifice made by those who died."

The story of Malcolm Mackenzie from Point is told here –

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17154-his-love-of-justice-cost-him-his-life

Angus MacNeil MP is encouraging businesses to register their employees for furlough before the scheme closes for employee registration on Wednesday.

The furlough scheme was introduced in March to protect 80% of staff wages, while the scheme was originally due to end on June 30th, it has now been extended to October 31st. However, the deadline for registering employees remains June 10th.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is important that businesses must act before Wednesday 10th June to ensure that their employees are registered for furlough or they will lose out on the scheme.

“As businesses need flexibility it would make sense for the UK Government to extend the deadline for registering employees as they have extended the scheme itself, however, as things stand June 10th is the deadline businesses should work towards to ensure they are registered.

“In May I wrote to the Chancellor asking him to ensure that the scheme would be extended in each devolved nation depending on health grounds alone without his financial penalties. As it is important that due to different roadmaps on easing lockdown, Scotland may require the scheme to run longer.”

On Tuesday 9th June at 2pm, Education, Skills and Children’s Services staff will hold a live stream discussion forum for pupils, parents, staff and members of the wider community.

The stream will be broadcast on the Comhairle’s Facebook page and also on the e-Sgoil website http://www.e-sgoil.com/cnes-edu-090820/.

Viewers will be able to submit questions in advance by private messaging the Comhairle Facebook page, or commenting on the live feed during the livestream.

The focus of discussion will be the measures that the Comhairle, with assistance from a range of partner organisations, is taking to prepare for the safe return of employees and pupils across the Western Isles over the coming months.

The live stream will be chaired by Colin George Morrison, Media Co-ordinator, and will feature a panel – some of whom will be connecting remotely – including the Director of Education, Skills & Children’s Services, alongside service officers and headteachers.

 

A video-link to Inverness Sheriff Court this morning (Monday 8 June) will see five people appearing from Stornoway police station after a series of incidents at the weekend.

All five of those charged are in custody after arrest at locations in Stornoway, Barra and Benbecula.

A 32-year-old woman is charged with possession of a knife and a disorder offence after an incident on Plantation Road, Stornoway at 10.15pm on Friday (5 June).

Also charged following a separate incident outside an address on Mackenzie Avenue, Stornoway is a 30-year-old man. He was arrested following a disturbance at 11.30pm on Friday and is charged with possession of a knife and a disorder offence.

Police were called to a disturbance at a dwelling in Balivanich on Saturday at 7.30am, where a man aged 25 was arrested and charged with assault to severe injury. He was brought to Stornoway and is appearing before the court by video-link today.

A 22-year-old man was arrested within Lews Castle Grounds at 10pm on Saturday and is charged with breach of bail conditions.

And breach of bail was the charge made against a 26-year-old man arrested in Barra in the early hours of Friday morning. He was also brought to Stornoway and has been in custody throughout the weekend awaiting his court appearance today.

 

There’s a new chance to get a clear view of one of the largest aircraft in the RAF fleet today (Monday 8 June) with training operations in the skies over Stornoway.

The Atlas A400M (Airbus) is undertaking essential training over Glasgow and Stornoway. According to home base RAF Brize Norton, they are “necessary, routine, flights and not connected with RAF support to the UK's fight against Coronavirus.”

There have been several chances to view the massive aircraft over recent weeks, with aviation enthusiasts vying to get clear shots of the planes carrying out ‘touch and go’ practice runs at Stornoway airport.

Weather has not always been on the side of the photographers, but good visibility today means a chance of some excellent views.

The Atlas has a wingspan of 139 feet and a payload of 37 tonnes which is sufficient to carry 116 fully-equipped troops, vehicles, a Chinook helicopter or a mixed load for up to 2,000 nautical miles.

It can land on semi-prepared or unprepared runways and a distinctive flying feature is its contra-rotating propellors. These are clearly apparent when it is undergoing low approaches, such as those likely to be seen today.

(Picture by Jason Spinks from last week's visit).

 

GMB, the union for aviation staff, has described the UK government's plans to introduce self-quarantine for UK arrivals as ‘ill thought out’.

From today (Monday 08 June) arrivals to the UK will be expected to quarantine for 14 days save for a list of exempted professions. GMB believes the move lacks scientific evidence and will be disastrous for the aviation industry and the economy in Scotland.

The union has launched the Save Our Airports campaign with six key demands which include extending the 80% furlough scheme for another 12 months, a financial package to support the aviation industry and a commitment to work with unions to deliver a way forward for the industry.

In 2018 the aviation industry supported almost 23,000 jobs in Scotland and contributed more than £240 million to the economy. The gross median salary of an air transport worker in 2018 was around £30,000. 

In recent weeks many of these workers have been risking their own health facilitating cargo flights containing vital medical, food supplies and PPE to aid in the national effort against Covid 19 infections.

The union argue that airports are of huge significance to regional economies; providing highly skilled jobs which are often difficult to replicate, whilst also contributing to the creation of almost 126,000 supply chain jobs.

GMB national officer Nadine Houghton said: “The UK Government’s plans for self-quarantining arrivals to the UK will prove disastrous for an already beleaguered aviation industry. This is a populist move, made without any real scientific evidence or consultation with the industry and unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the sector.

“Many people forget the huge significance of the aviation industry to the economy of Scotland and the impact this quarantine will have on much needed jobs here.

“Aviation jobs aren’t just about airlines, cabin crew and pilots; the aviation industry provides important supply chain jobs to baggage handlers, security, fire crews, taxi drivers and retail workers. 

“If the UK government doesn’t end this ill-thought-out policy and step in with a bespoke financial package for aviation then thousands of regional aviation jobs will be lost. It’s not too late for the UK government to act.” 

Under the new rules, which came into effect at midnight, anyone arriving by plane, ferry or train - including UK nationals - has to provide an address where they will self-isolate and face fines of up to £1,000 if they do not follow the rules.  UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said the laws are designed "to prevent a second wave" of coronavirus.

Anyone arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man does not have to complete the form or enter quarantine.  This has led to suggestions that people wishing to evade the rules simply have to travel via Dublin airport.

There are also exemptions for workers in some industries such as road haulage and medical professionals who are providing essential care.

All other travellers have to fill in a "public health passenger locator" form on arrival. If they are unable to provide an address, the government will arrange accommodation at the traveller's expense. However, the travellers, who are not being checked for infections, are still permitted to use public transport to get to these locations.

The government has argued that the quarantine rules are science-based and would help limit the risk of a second wave as restrictions on movement are eased.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, said: “We all want to return to normal as quickly as possible. But this cannot be at the expense of lives. The science is clear that if we limit the risk of new cases being brought in from abroad, we can help stop a devastating second wave.

“That is why the measures coming into force today are necessary. They will help control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Posters spelling out the new requirements for travellers will be displayed at all UK ports and airports. Airlines will be expected to notify passengers of the rules, but not to enforce them.

The director general of Border Force, Paul Lincoln, said officials were “prepared and ready for the new measures which are being enacted at the UK border today”.

Major airlines, including Ryanair and British Airways, are taking the UK Government to court to challenge the restrictions.

There are a number of groups who are exempt, including:
■   Road haulage and freight workers
■   Medical and care professionals providing essential healthcare
■   Those arriving for pre-arranged medical treatment
■   Passengers in transit, if they do not pass through border control
■   Seasonal agricultural workers if they self-isolate where they are working
■   UK residents who ordinarily travel overseas at least once a week for work

The date which would have seen Hebridean Pride 2020, Saturday 6 June, didn’t go unmarked in Stornoway despite the forced cancellation of the event along with all other cultural gatherings.

An Lanntair was one of the organisations making mention of their own partnership with the event, with photographs from Pride 2019 on their Facebook page.

A spokesperson said: “One of the things we are so very proud of here at An Lanntair our partnership with Hebridean Pride. We have loved working together to help get this incredible and important movement off the ground in our community over recent years. 

“We're sad to not be celebrating together today, but we're already looking forward to coming back bigger and brighter next year!”

June is Pride Month and information is being shared on virtual events via the An Lanntair page and via Hebridean Pride’s own page at https://www.facebook.com/HebrideanPride

You can also check Pink Saltire for information at https://pinksaltire.com/coronavirus/ and LGBT Youth Scotland for all sorts of support and info for LGBTI young people, including a live chat service.

 

A whisky tasting club which set up just weeks before island social life shut down has successfully held its first tasting event.

The Western Isles Whisky Club was created by island whisky enthusiasts Jim Allan and David Graham in February, with its first tasting event planned to be held in Stornoway on 30 March, but cancelled as lockdown commenced.

Now the group’s taken its activities online, with a virtual tasting session successfully run on Zoom for 12 members of the club on Friday evening (5 June).

Those attending sampled drams including a 16-year-old single malt and a limited edition bottling to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II.

The final ‘wild card’ of the night was a mystery dram which turned out to be a single malt from the Nantou Distillery in Taiwan. Whisky specialist Jim Allan said: “This sweet and delicate whisky was a bit of a surprise to those sampling it and demonstrated that good whisky does exist outside Scotland, so the Scotch whisky industry cannot rest on its laurels and let everyone else catch up, we need to keep producing the best single malt in the world.”

The event was enough of a success for a second tasting to be planned on 26 June. Western Isles Whisky Club is a membership group run through a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/235861180743315/.

Almost £617,000 is to be shared between six groups in the Western Isles, as the fifth round of funds are awarded from the Aspiring Communities Fund.

Launched by the Scottish Government in 2017, the fund brings European Union money into Scotland to tackle poverty and facilitate growth in disadvantaged and fragile rural communities.

Regional development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has today (Sunday 7 June) announced a total of £1.5million to be distributed among 11 projects in the region, with each island of the Western Isles seeing its share of the awards.

In Lewis, An Lanntair arts centre is to get £175,858 to support the Stepping Stones project and Carloway Community Association receives £75,550 for their project, Building Brighter Futures. Pairc Playgroup is to receive almost £97,000 for the expansion of their community-run nursery.

The West Harris Trust has £102,004 to spend on a community participation project and in South Uist Ceòlas Uibhist will have £116,155 to spend on ‘Crossing Over’ to enhance inclusion and integration in all forms of activity.

And in Barra, Garadh a Bhagh a Tuath has been awarded £50,232 for their initiative Growing the Garadh.

The round of awards was initially approved just before the Covid-19 lockdown, but announcement delayed as emergency measures were put in place to help protect communities during the pandemic.

HIE is now starting work with project leaders to ensure that the benefits planned by each community can be delivered within and despite the pandemic.        

Scottish Government communities secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said: “We know that local communities understand best where funding can make a difference in their own areas.

“I am confident that each of these great projects will support people to tackle the disadvantages they face and will have a long-lasting, positive impact on people’s lives and the communities they live in – many of which have been impacted by the non-health harms caused by Covid-19.”

Starting Monday 15 June, travellers from Iceland and Denmark will no longer be required to enter self-quarantine after arriving in the Faroe Islands, reports www.local.fo.

Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, Minister of Health tells Hvat.fo that the plan is to require travellers to provide proof of their good health.

"Travellers should provide proof that they’ve been tested for the virus. The result should be negative and no older than two days. We’re also working on making it possible for them to take a test upon arrival. This is what we’re currently working on, and we’ll have more information about this next week", he says.

Earlier the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, Bárður á Steig Nielsen announced that they would reopen their borders for travellers from Iceland and allow more travellers from the other countries in the Danish realm starting 15 June. In addition to that, travellers will, from that point on, no longer be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

As a result Faroese airline Atlantic Airways will be increasing the number of flights to and from Vágar Airport starting mid-June.  Jóhanna á Bergi, the airline’s CEO, says they will be flying between Vágar and Copenhagen every day instead of only four times a week. The airline will also be reinstating their flights between Vágar and Iceland and Vágar and Billund. For a long time they were down to three flights – all of them between Vágar and Copenhagen.

This drastic reduction in flights is reflected in the newest statistics showing the number of travellers coming through Vágar Airport.  In May 2020, Vágar Airport saw a 91.9 percent reduction in the number of travellers coming through the airport compared to May of last year.  In May 2019 the number of travellers was 40.474 – this May, the number was down to 3.273, including the traffic on domestic helicopter routes, which has also been reduced by almost two thirds.

More than six weeks have passed since the last cases in the Faroe Islands were discovered on 22 April, and the last 3.733 tests conducted  – about 40 percent – have all come back negative.

On Thursday June 4, the Ministry of Health announced that they have now conducted more than 10.000 tests – 10.003 to be exact.  Chief medical officer Lars Fodgaard Møller has said that one cannot equate the number of tests to the number of people tested, as some have been tested more than once.  However, if one assumes that people have only been tested once, that would mean the Faroese health authorities have tested 19 per cent of the population (which was 52.428 on 1 April).

Thousands of £s poured into the appeal on behalf of Stornoway RNLI during the last 48 hours of the appeal on Friday and Saturday June 5-6.

This was via a justgiving page organised by RNLI Branch chair John Maclennan.

The aim was to help the branch to make up all the losses caused by the way lockdown has prevented fund-raising and closed its shop. 

On Thursday afternoon, there was £15,875 from 524 supporters – and when the appeal closed late last night, the total was £19,510 from 638 donors.  www.welovestornoway.com supported this final drive with additional social media posts on Twitter (@weloveSY) and via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/welovestornoway)

Yet John's original modest aim was £500 just four weeks ago.

Originally John – who was employed by the Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commission and Stornoway Port Authority for 27 years from 1983 and served as Chief Executive from 1996 until his retirement in 2010 – decided to cycle his way to some funds for the organisation.

John said then: "I have been a supporter of the Stornoway Lifeboat since becoming a crew member back in 1971. Currently I serve as Chairman of the Stornoway Branch.

"It was my intention to ask for sponsorship for cycling from Stornoway to Carloway via Breasclete and back on 9th May 2020 - my 70th birthday.  "However, the forecast was not too good for Saturday , so I completed the 37 mile cycle trip on Wednesday May 6."

"I am justifiably proud of the men and women who continue to man our Lifeboat as well as those who work tirelessly on the shore-side and fund raising. Above all, the Lifeboat Institution is wholly dependent on voluntary contributions."

John says that whilst the bulk of the donations originate in Lewis there have also been generous donations from Harris, Uist, and family and friends throughout Scotland, the UK and as far away as America. There have also been many donations simply handed to him in the street or dropped off at his home.

As he constantly updated the target of the fundraising - the final taget was £17,000 which was still massively exceeded - he commented: "I am really struggling for words to express the deep gratitude and sense of such supportive encouragement which all of us at Stornoway Lifeboat Station feel.  So each one of us at RNLI Stornoway Branch say a huge and sincere thank you to each one of you who has raised this money."




 

The SNP government in Edinburgh has been urged to “dig deeper” to fund the fight against coronavirus.

Earlier Holyrood’s finance committee heard how the Welsh Government have reallocated more than £500 million, despite being smaller than Scotland while SNP ministers, so far, have redeployed around only £250 million in budget revisions.  Meanwhile more than £10 billion has been provided for Scotland by the UK Government.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary, Donald Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP,  said: “With more than £10 billion paid out, there’s no question about the UK Government’s commitment to mitigating the impact of Covid-19 here in the Highlands and Islands and across Scotland.

“Now it’s the SNP’s turn to dig deeper to help workers and businesses, especially in the region I represent with its many hospitality and tourism firms, some of which are facing the loss of an entire year’s income.

“This can’t just be a case of the UK Government stumping up the cash and then SNP politicians asking for more despite their own government being so slow to transfer funding to agencies like our councils which are actually providing much of the real support to local residents, businesses and workers.

“There are plenty of funding commitments which can now be reallocated, like the expansion of free childcare.

“Holyrood is one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world – it’s time the SNP started using those levers to help in this fight.”

Analysis by the Scottish Conservatives found that the £255.2 million which has been redeployed comes from an overall budget in the relevant portfolios of £3.29 billion. That means the cash redeployed amounts to less than eight per cent.

Below is a table showing the before and after of budget repurposing by portfolio:

Budgets

Original Budget £m

Redeployed £m

Housing (p15)

1092.1

105

Rail Services (p52)

1262.1

20

Concessionary Fares (p53)

303.8

92

Ferry Services (p56)

255.1

11.7

Fisheries (p70)

5.9

0.5

Social Security (p85)

368.5

26

Total

 

255.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Scottish Government, Summer Budget Revision, 27 May 2020, link)

 

What a miserable few days it's been, and mud everywhere again. It looks like the woolies are back on and the heating brr.

In this week we we hope to have the bunched carrots (sorry about last week just one of those things), Corn on the Cob, Flat Peaches (Donut), Ayrshire Potatoes, Cauliflower, Chinese Leaves, Local Bay Leaves as well as all the usual Fruit and Veg.
 
Asparagus is coming to the end of the season so this could be our last week with it.
 
We will also have Margaret's Fruit Cake, Scones, Strawberry, Raspberry Jams , Marmalades and Tablet.
 
Yet again if we could have your orders in before 12.30 on Monday 8th June please.
 
Have a lovely Weekend even though it's raining 
 
Thank you
 
Iona and Ruaraidh
 

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

UK Asparagus

 

£4.15 bunch

 

Aubergine

 

£1.85

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.35

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.40

 

Round Green Cabbage

 

£2.40

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.70

 

Garlic

 

£0.65

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

Chines Leaves

 

£2.90

 

Local Fennel Fronds, bunch

 

0.85

 

New Season, Bunched Carrots, come with Ferns, approx. Weight 500grms

 

£2.95

 

White Cabbage

 

£2.65

 

Corn on Cob each

 

£1.50

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Scottish Washed Carrots

 

£1.95

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£5.40

 

Bunched Beetroot

 

£2.75

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks

 

£3.90

 

Mushrooms

 

£5.00

 

Onions (New Season New Zealand White)

 

£1.75

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus Potatoes

 

£2.10

 

New Season Pembrokeshire Potatoes

 

£3.50

 

 

Jersey Royals

 

£3.75

 

Ayrshire New Season Epicure

 

£4.50

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.65

 

Sweet Potato

 

£3.10

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.65

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.50

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.80

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Blueberries   120gr Punnet

 

£2.50

 

Flat (Doughnut) Peaches

 

3 for £1.80

 

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £2.10

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.80

 

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.55

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.65

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.60

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £1.80

 

Pears

 

3 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Piel de Sapo Melon

 

£2.55

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Green Jalapeños

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.35

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£3.95

 

 

Available

PER JAR

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Orange and Lemon

hint of Whiskey,

Rhubarb and Ginger

Rhubarb jam

Strawberry Jam

Raspberry Jam

 

(10)

(6)

(7)

(6)

 (6)

(10)

(10)

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

£4.50

 

 

Fruit Cake

(16)

£4.50

Per Cake,

 

4 Plain Scones

(20)

£3.25

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Local Eggs ½ Dozen

(Supply can be limited)

(30)

£2.25

 

The Veggie Box

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

Or call 07771 645238 to place your order

A Point man has been brought face to face with part of his family history as the 80th anniversary approaches of the battle at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, in France, on 12 June 1940.

Next Friday (12 June) the ‘forgotten army’ of Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, including many Lewismen, are being commemorated with socially-distanced events including a tribute by over 200 pipers from 16 countries.

Saint-Valéry-en-Caux is near Dieppe on the French coast north of Le Havre and was almost totally destroyed in the battle between French and Scottish forces, and invading Nazi forces commanded by Erwin Rommel, later leader of the Afrika Corps. 

The 80th anniversary has particular resonance for Donald M M Macleod of Aird, who now stays in Stornoway. He was born in 1946 and named after his uncle, Malcolm ‘Clicks’ Mackenzie, who died as a prisoner-of-war exactly two years before his own birth.  His uncle was one of thousands taken prisoner after the battle.

Donald had only family anecdotes and a few historic documents to complete his story but for a recent contact from a Polish primary school teacher.  Donald saw an enquiry on the Point Facebook noticeboard from historical researcher Magaidh Smith of Kinloch. She had written an account of the experiences of Lewis men at St Valéry which led Sylwia Kaszuba, a teacher of English in a primary school in Miłoradz, Poland, to contact her.

The Nazi Stalag XX2A and XXB work camps were in Sylwia’s home town of Malbork (formerly Marienburg in East Prussia) and she set her students a history topic, researching 15 Britons who were part of the life of their village in 1944.

Sylwia said: “A few years ago a local man told me that during the war some British soldiers lived in Miłoradz. It seemed very interesting to me.  I decided to find out how was it possible and we as a group managed to prove that during the WW2 in our small village Miłoradz (Mielenz) there was a work party of British soldiers.

“A lot of British prisoners-of-war were Scots from the 51st Highland Division captured at St Valéry in 1940. There were about 15 PoWs working in Miłoradz on farms and at the bakers. PoWs were polite, helpful and very young men. I think it is very sad that so many young British soldiers were captive in Stalag XXB.”

Among this group, Malcolm Mackenzie was a mature soldier, physically tough and someone who must have seemed a father-figure to some.

Donald said: “On 11 September 1944 Malcolm was shot dead by a German guard. A friend and fellow prisoner of war visited Malcolm’s mother following repatriation and recalled the events of that fateful day.

“It seems they were part of a group of prisoners engaged in felling timber under the supervision of German guards. The guards were harassing a young English solder who was not fit to work due to a bad leg injury. Malcolm stepped in to remonstrate and was shot on the spot.”

The same former PoW later wrote of Malcolm Mackenzie in the Stornoway Gazette: “He was the life and soul of the camp, always popular and willing to help. There were many young soldiers in the camp and Mackenzie always set them a good example. In the early days in France when these lads were first under fire, Mackenzie’s courage and coolness was an inspiration to them.”

Other comrades said of him: “His love of justice cost him his life.”

A letter of sympathy to the family dated 14 September 1944 was received from Company Sergeant Major James Fulton, who served with Malcolm for more than 20 years. CSM Fulton writes: “I know it will be a comfort to your heart and mind that your son was buried in full accordance with customs of the Christian church. Rev N Maclean officiated at the funeral, wreaths were provided and borne to the graveside by friends.”.

Rev Norman Maclean was camp chaplain and he also wrote to Malcolm’s mother, confirming he officiated at Malcolm’s funeral and saying: “Comrades played the Last Post and Reveille, flowers were laid, and his coffin was draped with his own flag.”

On 26 January 1945 Malcolm’s mother received formal confirmation of his death from the War Office.  In April 1946 the War Office confirmed that he was buried in Marienwerden Cemetery. Subsequent correspondence in April 1949 showed that he was reinterred in Malbork Military Cemetery.

Donald said: “It struck me how hard this must have been for his mother and the family. It took a long time before they heard officially that he had died and then just a few years later it was all resurrected for them with the confirmation of his reinterment.”

It was at Malbork war cemetery that Sylwia had found Malcolm’s gravestone, inscribed in Gaelic with the words ‘Gus am bris an la agus na teich na sgailean’ (Until the day breaks and the shadows flee).

Donald has sent Sylwia a photograph of Malcolm, to be placed as a tribute against the headstone and complete the journey which began when the career soldier left Aird in 1939 to fight in the Second World War.

Donald said: “It is fitting, as we approach the 80th anniversary of St Valéry, that we are able to recall this story and others, and remember the sacrifice these brave young men made and the suffering they endured on the march to Poland and during five years of captivity.

“There is so little mention of St Valéry in war histories, compared to Dunkirk, and it’s good that more people now appreciate their sacrifice”.

“The people in Poland have been so interested in my uncle’s story and I am very grateful to Sylwia for what she has done, and for what Magaidh has done researching the stories.”

Sylwia said: “Nothing is left of Stalag XXB – the last brick buildings were demolished in 2008. Today there is a memorial, and many POWs lie at the Commonwealth Cemetery in Malbork.

“I try to tell as many people as possible about the Stalag and British soldiers but as I'm not a historian I do it in a bit different way. I tell the story of individual soldiers, guards or workers. It is much more valuable in my opinion and captures the imagination.

“Last year in June with a group of my friends we managed to put a memorial in Miłoradz. It is dedicated to British PoWs who worked in Miłoradz and those who died during the Long March 1945. We also started a Hall of Memory here.

“Thanks to the internet, I met Maggie Smith and thanks to Maggie and Donald I have put the puzzles together. I think now I know the sad story of Malcolm ‘Clicks’ Mackenzie. He was a brave and a strong man who could survive the death march but was shot in September 1944.

“The day before he died, Malcolm wrote in a letter to his family ‘We are all looking forward to the day when we regain our freedom and with God's help we will return home.’  I have visited his grave. Please tell the locals from your area that we haven't forgotten about your brave soldiers who came to the Continent and were in captivity in Malbork.”


  • At 10am on Friday 12 June, pipers from all over the world will play the tune Heroes of St Valery by Pipe Major Donald MacLean of 5 Balantrushal, who also served with the Seaforth Highlanders and was taken prisoner at St Valery. Among those pipers will be Larry Ferguson, who will play at Kinloch War Memorial and pipers from the Nicolson Institute, who will play at the clock tower at the school. Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles Donald Martin will attend a memorial at Tarbert War Memorial in the afternoon.
  • Malcolm’s story and others from Stalag XXB can be read on Sylwia’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Forgotten-Heroes-commando-of-Stalag-XX-B-in-MielenzMi%C5%82oradz-324799508295736/
  • St Valery Memories, by Magaidh Smith, includes research on prisoners of war from the 51st Division at St Valery-en-Caux in 1940 and diary accounts by men from the Isle of Lewis during their four years in captivity. It is available from Magaidh Smith,16b Achmore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., at a cost of £8 (£10 by post).
  • The pictures show: Malcolm Mackenzie in the 1930s as an army boxer and with a PoW work-gang felling trees at Miłoradz in 1944 (Malcolm is on the left). Also shown is Malcolm’s Commonwealth War Grave at Malbork, the memorial placed by Sylwia and her friends near to the site of Stalag XXB and the hall of memory which she has created using materials researched by her school students. Donald M M Macleod is pictured with the portrait of his uncle.

 

For Western Isles residents who develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection, both a local phoneline (01851 601 151) and online form are now available to help them book a test, NHS Western Isles announced yesterday evening (Friday June 5).

The Scottish Government’s Test and Protect scheme was launched last week and is based on testing for anyone over five years of age who has symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include a new, persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in sense of taste or smell.

In response to the national scheme, NHS Western Isles has expanded access to testing using mainland laboratory services.  Local testing arrangements remain in place for specific eligible groups such as people admitted to hospital and health, social care and emergency services workers.

Any Western Isles resident with symptoms can book a test via the local phoneline: 01851 601 151. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.

An online booking form is now also available from the NHS Western Isles Coronavirus website at: https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/ ‘Public & Carers’, ‘Facts & Support’, ‘COVID-19 Testing’ (directly at: https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195) or by visiting NHS Inform.

As part of Test and Protect, people with symptoms will be advised to self-isolate until results are available.  Should a test show that the virus is present, NHS Western Isles will ask the individual to identify any people at increased risk of exposure to the virus through close contact with them.

These contacts will then be telephoned and have an individualised discussion about what they need to do to break the chain of transmission of the virus, and what assistance is available to help them do this.

 

 

Bus services in the Western Isles are starting to prepare for reviving a kind of timetabled service…albeit with restrictions and limitations imposed by the national rules on coronavirus controls.

Under lockdown, open access public bus services in the Western Isles were withdrawn to allow a focus on the provision of transport for key workers without access to their own means of transport.

During this period, all bus services users were identified key workers who are provided safe transport on a request basis and service timetables are provided on a bespoke basis for the needs of these passengers, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

This has allowed bus operators to control passenger numbers and keep physical distancing to acceptable levels.  The reduced number of runs has allowed bus drivers, who are also key workers, to operate shift patterns which have increased resilience.

The need to travel by bus for shopping was met by the development of support services from the Comhairle and community partners who are able to help with the delivery of food.  Food deliveries are available free of charge for those who are shielding.

The current phase 1 guidance for reducing the impact of lockdown allows for some easing of travel restrictions but still advises that travel distances are restricted to areas close to local communities.  As there has been a small increase in the number of businesses returning to work, requests for access to work transport has been extended where practicable to non-key workers. Initially, this is on the same basis as the bookable service provided for key workers and bus services still have limited coverage.

Phase 1 also suggests that preparation should be made to move on to Phase 2 which recommends that Public Transport services should move to operating increased services but with capacity significantly limited to allow for physical distancing.  Travel at peak times is still to be discouraged.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar says that, "prior to lockdown, public bus services in the Western Isles operated primarily on a ‘hail and ride’ basis.  Clearly, a return to this arrangement would not allow fair and safe management of physical distancing capacity restrictions.  It is therefore considered that the next step when moving to Phase 2, will be to allow increased access to public bus services while maintaining control of passenger numbers.  This would be achieved by extending the scope of the current booking system but also moving closer to a regular timetabled service.

"As there will be more passengers travelling on these services, passengers will be asked to wear face coverings when using public transport due to the increased risk of close contact when travelling on a bus.  Passengers will be expected to provide their own face coverings.

"Operators will be asked to display prominent signage on buses making it clear that physical distancing should be maintained and that face coverings should be worn.  Although face coverings are yet not required by law, it is being promoted as a precautionary measure for the health and safety of passengers and staff.

"Exceptions currently apply, such as young children or for those with health conditions for whom a face covering would be inappropriate.

"If there is a change to the guidance to make face coverings compulsory, passengers will only be permitted to travel on public transport if they are wearing appropriate face covering."

 

Crime has soared across Scotland as the lockdown restrictions were reduced, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone told today’s coronavirus briefing (Friday June 5)

He joined First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch for the briefing.

He said: "I know the role of the police, the coercive authority policing at times exercises in the name of our fellow citizens to protect us all, will rightly be subject to robust scrutiny, focus and challenge. I welcome that, I welcome open and direct conversations about policing, it is absolutely vital for democracy and fairness.

"Like everyone, as Chief Constable and as a man, I was shocked and distressed by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent events that transpired and continue to transpire in the United States. Racism in all forms is disgraceful and unacceptable. 

"I fully understand the desire of people in Scotland to make their voices heard this weekend over racial injustice. The right to be heard; to protest; to campaign, is of vital importance and policing has a key role in enabling, supporting such freedoms to be exercised fully and safely.

"Our duty in policing is to enable you to have your voice heard in a way that is safe for you and safe for others. Please do so in a way that does not risk spreading coronavirus. Policing in Scotland will help in this regard.

"I know there are a number of planned events this weekend and we are in touch with some of the people involved in organising them to try to help them do that in a safe manner. As Chief Constable, I urge everyone to follow the regulations and guidance, as the majority of people have thankfully done over the last 10 weeks; to keep themselves and others safe and to prevent the spread of coronavirus."

He went on: "The small changes made last week following 10 weeks of strict lockdown rules, did coincide with particularly good weather and, in my judgement, perhaps did lead to some people feeling and acting a bit demob happy. Gatherings at parks, beaches, beauty spots were concerning, leading policing to make a little over 2,000 separate dispersals over the 72 hour weekend period.

"At the same time, we saw non-coronavirus related crime returning to levels which are more in line with business as usual, and in fact we made over 1,000 arrests, none of them in relation to coronavirus regulations, placing acute demand on policing. 

"We continued to have high levels of engagement with people last weekend to offer advice and, in most cases that was met with support and co-operation.  I pay tribute to everyone who is working together to save lives.

"I don’t think the weather is to be quite as good this weekend, but I would ask that people do not travel to beauty spots and, crucially, do not hold house parties or gatherings indoors. The police service will take very robust action in that regard because it is vital to control the spread of the virus."

He concluded: "It is essential that everyone sticks with it, sticks to the rules. Do the right thing to prevent the virus spreading.  If we don’t, more of what is currently guidance may be brought into legislation. If that is the case, Police Scotland will continue to act in a fair and proportionate manner.  Our approach won’t change. We will always work with the people to do the right thing.

We will rely on consent and co-operation, act with courtesy, but we will take enforcement measures when necessary."

An emergency planning team formed as lockdown began has seen its first rotation of personnel, with the departure of two military liaison officers posted to NHS Western Isles.

Majors Ed Cobham and Jamie Dullaghan left the island yesterday (Thursday 4 June) having been attached to NHS Western Isles since March as part of the Covid-19 response.

They have been working alongside logistics and emergency planners from the NHS, Western Isles Emergency Planning Group (WIEPG) and Coastguard Maritime Operations Officers (MOOs).

The team of eight have been working from a logistics co-ordination cell at the offices of NHS Western Isles, working according to strict social distancing guidelines and planning the logistics and resource management necessary to prepare the island-wide response for Covid-19.

Major Cobham and Major Dullaghan have helped to put in place response protocols such as the Puma helicopter capability for airlifting Covid-19 patients using the Epipod isolation units.

They departed yesterday with the thanks of the whole emergency planning community.

The team now welcome Captain Malcolm Dalzel-Job from the Stornoway-based 7 Scots as the new military liaison officer.

The picture shows:

  • Back row, from left, Major Ed Cobham, Major Jamie Dullaghan, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service group manager Gavin Hammond (chair of WIEPG) and Tom Laverty, emergency planning officer NHS Western Isles.
  • Front row: HM Coastguard maritime operations specialist Paul Tunstall and senior maritime operations officers Michele Mackay, Margaret Mackay and Irene Macritichie.

 

An Lanntair is offering a commission to one artist to decorate – in the round – the art centre’s Round Room area as the art centre look towards reopening when government COVID-19 restrictions allow.

The Round Room area of An Lanntair’s current café/bar space, which has a large opening entrance facing the auditorium doors, is an informal space. An Lanntair seeks to commission an artist to ‘Paint It Over’ and radically transform this space using acrylic paint directly on the walls, surfaces, ceiling and floor. They are looking for clear ideas which will consider the use of the space, and a design which will envelop the room as one piece of art.

"We welcome submissions from artists and ask for three examples of your work in jpeg format; along with up to five examples of the technique, style or concept for the manner in which you would paint the Round Room.
 
"We ask that submissions provide an illustration of how the Round Room space would look when completed, and include an estimate of materials, costings, and hours of work required to complete the commission. An Lanntair will cover the cost of all materials and pay a fee to the selected artist.

"An Lanntair will cover the cost of all materials and pay a fee to the selected artist. We will also promote the successful commissioned works through our website and social media."

All submissions should be sent to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Please also contact Sandra for any further information.   Deadline for submissions: 5pm, 26th June 2020.

They will aim to inform successful applicants by the end of July 2020.

An Lanntair is supported by Creative Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Point & Sandwick Trust.

 

 

 

 

 

Across the Western Isles a total of 687 enterprises have received £7.3m in Covid-19 grant assistance, the most recent figures show.

But 160 more are waiting for the payouts.  And this is the pattern across Scotland. 

Now the Scottish Conservatives have expressed concern that too many businesses are not receiving the financial support they deserve.

Shadow finance secretary and regional MSP Donald Cameron said: “These figures show progress on getting emergency cash to businesses has stalled across Scotland, with 15,000 still waiting for support.

“This is a major concern because we will not be able to turn the corner and revive the economy after the pandemic if businesses have collapsed in the meantime, despite the fact that our hard-working council workers are doing their very best to get vital cash out to vulnerable businesses.”

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, added: “Many businesses in my region are suffering from severe cash-flow problems exacerbated by the collapse in visitor numbers which are so important to the Highlands and Islands.

“We simply need to see greater urgency in helping them get through this.”

The number of firms whose applications haven’t been approved has now remained steady for two weeks, despite a significant slowing in those applying.

Statistics released yesterday (Thursday June 4) revealed 15,217 were still waiting for the much-needed support.

Below is the number of grants which have been approved by council area:

Applications Received and Grants Awarded as at 2nd June 2020

       

Local Authority

Applications Received

Number of Grants Awarded

Value of Grants Awarded (£m)

Aberdeen City

2,092

1,722

£21.37

Aberdeenshire

3,794

3,287

£37.22

Angus

2,077

1,700

£18.42

Argyll and Bute

3,236

2,759

£29.42

Clackmannanshire 

693

566

£6.19

City of Edinburgh

7,186

6,499

£83.82

Dumfries and Galloway

4,047

3,437

£36.09

Dundee City

2,370

1,990

£22.75

East Ayrshire

1,965

1,621

£17.66

East Dunbartonshire

1,126

976

£10.97

East Lothian 

1,453

1,328

£15.11

East Renfrewshire

826

695

£8.21

Falkirk

2,242

1,887

£21.22

Fife 

4,948

4,104

£46.29

Glasgow City 

9,757

7,422

£88.21

Highland 

6,317

5,510

£60.00

Inverclyde 

994

781

£8.61

Midlothian 

968

864

£10.16

Moray

1,710

1,471

£16.10

Na h-Eileanan Siar 

847

687

£7.30

North Ayrshire 

2,270

1,943

£21.11

North Lanarkshire

3,945

3,081

£33.43

Orkney Islands 

733

545

£5.94

Perth & Kinross

3,849

2,969

£32.51

Renfrewshire 

2,670

2,023

£22.90

Scottish Borders 

3,061

2,271

£24.77

Shetland Islands 

734

651

£7.20

South Ayrshire 

2,114

1,714

£19.51

South Lanarkshire

3,762

3,179

£35.77

Stirling 

2,327

1,850

£21.31

West Dunbartonshire

1,329

1,071

£12.06

West Lothian

2,397

2,019

£22.94

Total

87,839

72,622

£824.54

 

 

SCOTLAND’s firefighters are calling on communities to help stop preventable deaths in house fires – by making a five-minute phone call.

Make the Call is a hard-hitting appeal to carers, family, friends and of those who are at risk of serious injury or even death because of an accidental fire in their home.

The latest statistics show that more than 20 people who are over the age of 50, smoke and also either live alone, have mobility issues or use medical oxygen have already been injured, some seriously, by such fires between January 1 and April 30 this year. Tragically, 12 of those people passed away.

SFRS is now appealing to communities across Scotland to help save a life and consider home fire safety when checking in on vulnerable neighbours, patients, friends and family members during lockdown and to put them in touch with SFRS wherever possible using the free Home Fire Safety Visit phoneline.

Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens said: “These tragic deaths, and the injuries suffered by others, are often completely preventable.  We investigate every fire that we attend, to understand, how the fire started and developed, how could it have been avoided and could it have been prevented entirely.

“The answer is all too often yes, that fire could have been prevented, and that person would have avoided injury or sadly, death.  But the greatest challenge for us has always been reaching the most vulnerable people in our communities to make sure they have the life-saving advice and support that they need.

“That is why we are issuing a nationwide call to action – if you know someone who is over 50 and smokes and lives alone, has mobility issues or uses medical oxygen– we need you to help us reach them.

“Make the call to us and we can ensure that the people who may be at risk get the fire safety advice and support that they need to help them stay safe in the home during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.”

The national campaign has been launched following the sharp increase in the number of people who have passed away following fires in homes across Scotland.

Many of the people who passed away were not known to the SFRS which can offer guidance, advice and free Home Fire Safety Visits to carers and family or directly to those at greatest risk.

Advice or a visit can be sought through the national phoneline – a five-minute process which will see the caller receive a return call from their local fire station to offer advice, or where appropriate, a physical visit.

ACO Stevens said: “There has been a rise in the number of people who have died because of fires in the home, and while such increases are not unprecedented, we must reach out now to prevent further tragedy. We are clearly seeing that the people who are at greatest risk may already be living alone, isolated and we are not in touch with them.

“During lockdown there is a real opportunity to change that, as so many people are already reaching out to neighbours and family to check on them and ensure they have shopping and supplies – particularly if that person is shielding.

“We know that they are at risk, but we don’t know who they are or where they are. You might, however, and you can put us in touch with them.

“If you are a carer or family then you can refer them to us on their behalf – if you are a neighbour or a concerned friend you must ask them for their consent before you refer them.

“Call them, check in with them if you can and adhere to social distancing guidelines, and encourage them to seek our advice or ask if you can call us on their behalf – our staff are trained and equipped to offer the best advice possible.”

SFRS had suspended its free Home Fire Safety Visit initiative during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic to support virus suppression, and protect communities and staff from the risk of infection. However, following the launch of the Make the Call campaign, the service will carry out limited and targeted visits to those most at risk from fire in their homes.

ACO Stevens said: “We take the safety of our communities and crews very seriously, and we have taken every precaution to ensure that our staff use the correct personal protective equipment to visit homes and apply appropriate guidelines and procedures to ensure that they and the members of the public in the house adhere to social distancing guidelines

“Each visit will be subject to a risk assessment first, and where a visit is not possible, due to coronavirus guidelines or other reasons, we can offer tailored advice over the phone and guide a carer, family member or the person themselves through a virtual home fire safety visit. But to do that, we need you to Make the Call, and put them in touch with us.”

Anyone who wants to book a free Home Fire Safety Visit can call 0800 731 999 or text ‘fire’ to 80800.

 

 

A tiny duo are all set for a huge effort to raise funds for the life-changing work of the Salvation Army.

Toddler Pheobe of Sulisiadar, Point is not yet two years old, but her best pal Pepsi the Shetland pony is nearly 30 and, between the two of them, they are pretty sure they can make a big effort for fundraising.

With mum Kayleigh Jacques and dad Ewen Morrison they aim to cover the five miles from Aird to Knock, on a sponsored trot that will stretch both of them to the limit.

Kayleigh said: “It’s the furthest either of them have ever been, but Pheobe has been riding Pepsi since she was just one year old and she is very comfortable on his back.

“Pepsi is slow and he’s old, but he’s pretty fit. We’ve been doing two-mile training walks and I have started him on some supplement for his joints, plus he’s getting some bootees to protect his feet on the road.”

Pheobe has been around horses since before she could walk and does her share of the tasks – feeding her pony carrots and pointing out where there is horse poo that her mum needs to pick up.

The family decided to make the fundraising effort as a thank you to the Salvation Army for the support they have been giving during a time when work, and income, has been lacking for many.

Kayleigh said: “The food and baby supplies have been a real life-saver, not just for us but for many families with young children. It’s an amazing thing that they do for people and we wanted to give them something back.

“We got Pepsi for Pheobe a year ago and they have become best friends, so we think they would like to do something together and hopefully it will do some good as well as making memories for Pheobe.”

Pheobe and Pesi’s trot will start from Aird in Point at 10am on Saturday 27 June and she hopes to have reached his new grazing in Knock by about 1pm. Mum and dad will be along, with the whole family wearing high visibility clothing.

Please pass them wide and slow and don’t forget to make a donation either into the bucket they will be carrying or at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kayleigh-jacques2

Pictures show Pheobe and her best friend Pepsi getting into fine fettle for their challenge (Kayleigh Jacques).

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to thank the dedicated volunteers who sit on the Children’s Panel for the Western Isles. The children’s hearings system is unique to Scotland.  It relies on volunteers who give their time to undertake extensive, rigorous training and then sit on hearings as panel members.

These volunteers have shown great dedication and during lockdown they have adapted to ensure this vital system does not suffer as a result of the current situation.

Children’s Panel Member Tim Langley said: “Panel members are used to, and trained for, face-to-face hearings where it is easier to communicate with children and parents, which helps panel members make better-informed decisions.  It was a great wrench to then have to conduct hearings by Vscene, but Children’s Hearings Scotland provided comprehensive guidance, and the close-knit group of local panel members rose well to the challenge, although not all had the technology available.

 "These are emergency measures, and no one is suggesting that they are an ideal substitute for face-to-face hearings, but they enable us to continue to make vital, urgent decisions to keep children safe and to protect their wellbeing. We do it because we all feel that we are making a positive difference to children’s lives.”

The longest serving member of the Children’s Panel is Lorna Macaulay who has been a member for 22 years. She said: “It is vital that Children’s Hearings continue all year round and we all knew we had to find a way to adapt to the current situation.  The Scottish Children's Reporter Administration and Children’s Hearings Scotland have done an excellent job in quickly setting up a system through Vscene which has allowed us to carry out hearings safely. They really do deserve credit as we have been able to carry out hearings with panel members across the Western Isles with no problems.

"I have found the change really comfortable and although it is very different to how we would usually work it certainly hasn’t led to any disadvantage and is working effectively. I think in some ways it is better for the families as they are in the comfort of their own home during the hearing. “

*****

Comhairle thanks Island volunteers

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to thank volunteers across the Western Isles for all the vital work they do in our Communities. To mark Volunteer Week from the 1st to the 7th of June the Comhairle has been sharing some of the brilliant work being done by island volunteers on Social Media.

These Social Media posts have been met with great support and gratitude from the wider community for the work being done by island volunteers. The Comhairle has not been able to feature everyone and recognises that the social media coverage only highlights a small number of the brilliant volunteer projects currently on going in the Western Isles.

The Convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Norman A. Macdonald, said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers who work all year round to provide support to people in our communities. Their work has never been so important and during Lockdown they have stepped up once again. The fact that so many people have been willing to volunteer during our fight against this virus, is a clear indication of the strong sense of identity and togetherness that is present in Western isles Communities.

"We also recognise that there are many other volunteers who are in vulnerable or shielding groups at the moment who would love to help but can’t. We thank them too for their efforts throughout the year.”

Morag Duncan is a Spiritual Care volunteer at the Western Isles Hospital

NHS Western Isles would like to express sincere and widespread thanks to all our team of volunteers. We wouldn’t be who we are as an organisation without the support of our excellent volunteers.

NHS Western Isles is proud to celebrate our wonderful volunteers on Volunteers Week (1 – 7 June) and we would like to thank each and every one of them for the support they have provided over the years #VolunteersWeekScot

Volunteers’ Week takes place from 1 – 7 June every year. It’s a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK.

NHS Western Isles has 70 volunteers serving across the organisation, an increase of around 50 per cent in just two years.

Our volunteers are based in a variety of settings across our primary and secondary care services. Some examples of volunteers include: a group of Paths To Health Walk Leaders that are now in place in all of the rural districts; experienced and keen gardeners who have come forward to volunteer in the Hospital Garden, in partnership with the Stornoway Rotary Club; and our outstanding League of Friends volunteers who present a friendly and welcoming face at the Western Isles Hospital Teabar.

We also have volunteers who support our patients within their own homes, for example, a group of Breastfeeding Network Peer Supporters who were trained in the autumn last year in conjunction with the Health Visitors and Breastfeeding Network UK. This excellent service has continued, using remote access, during this period of lockdown.

We would also pay thanks to the sterling work that our lay representatives fulfil on key committees. The gathered professional wisdom and skills deployed in their former careers is crucial to the success of our committees.

NHS Western Isles Vice Chair Gill McCannon said: “We at NHS Western Isles are grateful for the dedication and hard work of all of our volunteers. Volunteering is about working side by side with others, connecting with your community and making a difference, which you certainly do.”

Spiritual Care volunteers are skilled and trained in listening and responding to the needs of patients in acute care in NHS hospitals across Scotland. They offer support to people of all faiths and those of no faith.

Morag Duncan, a native of Benbecula, has been living in Stornoway for 28 years and is a Spiritual Care volunteer at the Western Isles Hospital.

Morag explains: “I love being around people and I’m involved with many organisations in a volunteering capacity.”

Morag has been engaged in volunteering activities, in all types of settings, since she was a young woman. She has been a befriender for most of her adult life and said that the feeling of being able to help someone is unlike any other.

Morag volunteers in a specific and very important role within the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, and has been part of the volunteering team for five years. She supports patients every Sunday to attend the hospital chapel Sunday service.

Morag liaises with Helen Gallacher, the Hospital Chaplain, to find out which patients within the hospital would like to attend the chapel service each Sunday. She also organises any wheelchairs that may be needed to transport the patients from each ward to the chapel.

The strong relationship she has with staff is very important to meeting patients’ needs.  She explains: “The needs of the patients vary from requiring medical equipment to go with them to the service, down to needing blankets to retain a comfortable temperature or needing glasses to read the service hymns.”

It takes a fair bit of coordinating but the benefits for the patients are very visible for all involved in their care.

Morag says: “Many inpatients I engage with have been unable to share public worship with other people for a long period of time, sometimes years, due to loneliness and isolation. The joy it brings them to be a part of this worship is very heartening.”

With regard to the staff-volunteer relationship within the hospital, she says that the volunteer team at the hospital is fantastic. She explains that the staff give great encouragement to every volunteer, and that the clinical staff very much appreciate and support the added value the volunteers bring to the hospital as a whole.

Finally, reflecting on what impact her volunteering has had on her personally, Morag says: “Helping others has always been part of my life and I often feel I can intuitively see the need in others. I often feel like I make people’s days a little better and that I actually get more from it than the patients do.”

 

An original composition by a music teacher from The Nicolson Institute is to get its premiere tomorrow afternoon (Friday June 5)  – and everyone will be able to listen.

Avril Allen from Back is also the conductor and arranger for Coisir Sgir a’Bhac, who regularly bring home silverware from the Royal National Mòd.

In lockdown she’s been using her time not only to conduct online lessons with her students, but to compose original music which she entered for an online challenge run by the Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble.

The challenge was to create a new piece of music, written for a specific instrument, and to complete and submit it within the week for performance by Red Note Ensemble as part of their Digital Noisy Nights – YouTube performances scheduled for 3pm each Friday in June.

Avril said: “Each applicant was asked to write for a specific instrument and I was asked to write for flute. I wrote a piece for alto flute, larger and more mellow than concert flute, and based it on the legend of Eimhir, the Mermaid of Assynte.

“In the legend, the Macleods enlist ‘Clootie’ (the devil) to help them build Ardvreck Castle and he demands the hand of the clan chief’s daughter, Eimhir, as his price.

“When Auld Clootie comes to claim his bride she jumps from the highest tower of the castle but, instead of crashing to her death on the rocks, her goodness and purity of heart allow her to be transformed into a mermaid who will live for ever in the deep caverns at the foot of the loch.

“Clootie in his rage tears the area apart, shaking the planet to its core, but he never finds Eimhir. My piece does not tell the story, but explores the emotions felt by Eimhir and the anger and rage of Auld Clootie.

“I love old Scottish legends – which is probably why I love Gaelic music so much!”

Avril’s composition is to be performed for the first time tomorrow by Ruth Morley, flute tutor at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a member of the Red Note Ensemble.

Described by the Times newspaper as ‘a Scottish success story’ Red Note Ensemble performs classics of contemporary music, commissions new music, develops the work of new and emerging composers from around the world, and finds new ways of performing and presenting contemporary music to attract new audiences. 

During lockdown they’ve come up with the concept of ‘digital noisy nights’, planning online performances every Friday and requesting new compositions for specific instruments to form the programme.

You can tune in for the first performance of Avril’s new work at 3pm tomorrow at https://youtu.be/PVr7RGvTrII

The pictures show Avril Allen at Stornoway harbour and Red Note Ensemble, with flautist Ruth Morley centre.

 

A man has appeared in court after an incident in Marybank late on Monday night (1 June).

Police were called to the area just before midnight on Monday following reports that a man was creating a disturbance.

The 38-year-old man had fallen from a bicycle, but when police went to his assistance he became aggressive and was later arrested for police assault and taken into custody.

He appeared at Inverness Sheriff Court by video-link on Tuesday morning and was released on bail.

 

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has welcomed the research report produced by Scottish Government which makes it clear that a Brexit extension is essential to Scotland’s economy.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is, quite rightly, absorbing considerable resources from all our national governments”, said Yvonne White, chair of the crofters’ federation.

There is no doubt that it is impossible to conclude a comprehensive trade deal with the European Union before the end of 2020. It is therefore essential that the UK government agrees a two-year extension to the transition period with the EU.

“SCF welcomes the Scottish Government’s well-researched evidence of the impact of leaving the EU too quickly and applaud their work on this. We entirely support the stance taken, that the UK Government must apply for a two-year extension to the transition period.

"This is too important and affects the economic wellbeing of too many people for the negotiations to be rushed to meet a self-imposed and arbitrary deadline.”

Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is backing calls that the SNP Government supports Scottish fishermen against the EU demands for access to our waters.

Mr Cameron said: “Coastal communities around the Highlands and Islands will be dismayed by the defeatist and negative attitude of the SNP to this issue.

“SNP ministers are always predicting doom and gloom. If they really were friends of our fishing sector, ministers would be getting behind the UK Government and supporting our moves to becoming an independent coastal nation once again.

“The question remains. Does the SNP government stand with our Scottish fishermen and the UK Government in holding firm against these unreasonable demands, or are they on the side of the EU27 who want our fish before negotiation?”

But Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has called on the UK government to extend the Brexit transition period in light of the coronavirus pandemic – with new analysis showing billions of pounds could be wiped from the Scottish economy.

The transition arrangements currently keep the UK close to the EU and can be extended for two years – beyond 31 December - if the UK Government asks for an extension by the end of this month.

But a new study from the Scottish Government says if an extension is not agreed, Scottish GDP could be up to 1.1% lower after two years. The cumulative loss of economic activity from leaving the EU would be up to £3 billion over those two years – on top of the devastating effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The paper indicates there will be further major costs from Brexit for years to come, and also highlights that without an extension or having a free trade deal in place, Scotland’s agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing sectors will be especially badly hit.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:“Coronavirus is causing enormous economic disruption and people rightly expect government to be putting all of its energy into protecting public health and the Scottish economy.

“It would be reckless in the extreme for the UK government to allow us to crash out of the transition period at the end of this year.

“The SNP believe the best future for Scotland is as an independent member of the EU. But regardless of your opinion on Brexit or independence, it makes no sense to crash out of the European single market at the same time we are trying to get to grips with coronavirus.

“The islands’ economy was already going to be disproportionately hit by crashing out of the single market. But right now, island businesses are focused on securing their future – they simply don’t have the capacity to prepare for Brexit on top of a pandemic.

“The UK government must do the sensible thing, protect jobs in the islands and extend the transition period.”

(Additional comment has been added to this article since it was first posted.)

 

 

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has awarded over £50,000 to communities across the Highlands and Islands to support the response to the coronavirus crisis.

Among 27 projects supported through SSEN's Resilient Communities Fund are awards to provide food and materials to vulnerable people and community-run projects including befriending schemes and communication initiatives.

Castlebay Community Council in Barra is using SSEN funding to support a home delivery service, food bank, telephone service for adults with additional support needs, free hand sanitiser for vulnerable people and key workers and virtual craft sessions.

Katie Denehy of Castlebay Community Council, said: "SSEN funds are going to various community groups who are helping to support the most vulnerable and isolated people in our rural community. This fund will help make a huge difference and is greatly appreciated and received."

Also being supported are food delivery services co-ordinated by Iochdar, North Uist and Bornish Community Councils, a lifting cushion and iPads for elderly people in Great Bernera and radios in South Harris. PPE equipment and volunteer expenses are also being supported throughout the islands

Nik Wheeler, head of SSEN's Highlands and Islands region, said: "Our teams have always been part of the communities we serve, and over the past few months we've been working hard to keep the power flowing to the homes, businesses, care homes and hospitals across our region, as everyone knows how important electricity is in the nation's fight against coronavirus.  

"It's been heart-warming to see how quickly communities have rallied together to look out for each other and support those most vulnerable, so I'm pleased our repurposed Resilient Communities Fund will help in their ongoing response, reaching different communities across the Western Isles." 

Since its launch in 2015, SSEN's Resilient Communities Fund has provided over £2.7 million to build resilience and protect those most vulnerable.  The criteria for this year's fund was changed following consultation with SSEN stakeholder groups, who strongly supported opening the fund early and targeting coronavirus response.

 

In keeping with many NHS Western Isles services, the Dental Department will soon be increasing services.

Social Distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) rules have meant that, over the past number of weeks, only the most urgent dental emergencies have been seen.

From Monday, June 8, 2020, the emergency service for Lewis and Harris will move back to the Western Isles Dental Centre in Stornoway. It had temporarily relocated to Castleview Dental Practice on Cromwell Street. The additional space means more staff and more patients can be accommodated, allowing us to offer more appointments.

No routine care will be available yet, but it will be possible to see a wider range of problems (including lost fillings and broken dentures), depending on demand.

The General Practice, Castleview Dental Clinic, remains closed and patients of the practice will be seen by the emergency service until further notice. The practice will make an announcement soon about reopening.

NHS Western Isles Director of Dental Services, Colin Robertson, said: “NHS Western Isles Dental Department has followed the detailed, expert guidance available to ensure the safety of both staff and patients is maintained. We are keen to see more patients, but would ask the public to help us with some simple steps.

“Please call for an appointment first, and if possible come alone. Hand sanitizer is available, and we've made ample room for social distancing. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the practice is scheduled throughout the day.”

Patients should note that the Western Isles Dental Centre car park is unavailable. Patients should park in Western Isles Hospital car park. The Dental Centre car park is being used by the COVID-19 testing team, who work in a segregated part of the dental building.

Dental patients should make use of the front entrance which is dedicated exclusively to dental patients.

Mr Robertson added:  "I am pleased to say the Dental Centre will also be able to safely support the Covid Testing team. The building has been divided to allow this important public service to occupy part of ground floor, whilst all dental treatment will be delivered upstairs."

For Lewis and Harris all dental all calls should be made to 01851 707500, except out of hours, when patients should call NHS24 on 111.

Arrangements in the Southern Isles are unchanged: patients in Uist and Benbecula should continue to call 01870 602178. For Barra, the number is 01871 810400.

West coast ferry operator CalMac is to further extend its essential travel only timetable until at least 30 June.

No future bookings will be taken until after this date as the company continues to work with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to implement future travel and transport guidelines.

"‘We will continue to take our lead from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, while working closely with the communities we serve. When we agree the next phase of our timetable, it will still look very different to our service during normal times, and will remain focused on the priority lifeline services and the changing needs and welfare of island communities,’ said CalMac’s Managing Director, Robbie Drummond.

Current official advice remains to stay at home as much as possible, stay local and only travel if your journey is essential.

In line with Scottish Government guidelines, travel to islands continues to be for essential reasons only. The islands are not yet open for recreational purposes and should also not be used by anyone travelling for recreation, including to second homes.

‘Where your journey is essential, please follow the updated advice on how to travel safely,' added Robbie. That advice can be found here: https://www.calmac.co.uk/covid19/faqs/what-can-you-do

CalMac is committed to updating customers as soon as details of a future timetable is available via the website and through social media channels.
 
A full FAQ section has been developed on the website and can be viewed at: https://www.calmac.co.uk/covid19/f

For Western Isles residents who develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection, a local phoneline – 01851 601151 - has been launched to help them book a test.

The Scottish Government’s Test and Protect scheme was launched last week and is based on testing for anyone over five years of age who has symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include a new, persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in sense of taste or smell.

In response to the national scheme, NHS Western Isles has expanded access to testing using mainland laboratory services.  Local testing arrangements remain in place for specific eligible groups such as people admitted to hospital and health, social care and emergency services workers.

Any Western Isles resident with symptoms can now book a test via the local phoneline: 01851 601151. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, stated: “When a Western Isles resident calls the phoneline, an NHS Western Isles member of staff will ask for details of the person to be tested, including name, contact information and symptoms. If appropriate, they will then arrange an appointment for a test. 

"The test will be arranged at one of the community assessment hubs located in Stornoway, Balivanich and Castlebay, with most of these tests being sent to the mainland for processing.  Results will be returned to NHS Western Isles, who will contact the residents individually once results are received back.

“As part of Test & Protect, people with symptoms will be advised to self-isolate until results are available.  Should a test show that the virus is present, NHS Western Isles will ask the individual to identify any people at increased risk of exposure to the virus through close contact with them. These contacts will then be telephoned and have an individualised discussion about what they need to do to break the chain of transmission of the virus, and what assistance is available to help them do this.”

Different arrangement to widen access to testing have been required for the Western Isles, and other Island Board areas, as regional drive-through and mobile testing units from the UK Government testing scheme are not accessible to our residents. 

NHS Western Isles staff have been working extremely hard with national agencies to secure an effective system for local residents that we are satisfied will ensure equitable access to testing arrangements said NHS Western Isles.

Angus MacNeil MP said in a media release: "“I am pleased to see that facilities will be available locally in Stornoway, Balivanich and Castlebay to enable Island residents to be tested for Coronavirus and I would urge anyone with symptoms to call this new phone line.

“We are fortunate in the Islands to have had only a small number of confirmed cases and none for a number of weeks but that does not mean that the virus is not present in our area.

“Anyone who has symptoms- a high temperature, a new persistent cough or loss or change in sense of smell or taste – should contact this number as soon as possible to get a test and follow the advice to self- isolate with their household until the result is known. This will help to maintain the safety of our families, friends and neighbours from this illness.

“The message is simple: don't hesitate if any symptoms present themselves."

(Commens from Angus MacNeil MP have been added since this article was first posted.)

 

Stornoway police have issued a witness appeal after a ‘hit and run’ accident damaged a car yesterday evening (Tuesday 2 June).

The white A-class Mercedes car was parked in the Co-op car park at Macaulay Road when it was damaged, between 5.50 and 6pm yesterday.

The damage was to the rear bumper and rear driver side quarter panel.

Anyone who may have seen this taking place, or who has any information in relation to the incident, is asked to contact Stornoway police using the non-emergency number 101 and quoting incident number NH/613/20.

Lockdown didn’t stop the ninth Western Isles Guide and Scout Competition going ahead on Saturday May 30 … but this year it was an ONLINE instead of an OUTDOOR event.

Teams from Stornoway Guides, Laxdale Scouts and Girlguiding Harris worked their way round five virtual bases on Zoom using their fitness, knowledge, map skills, imagination and teamwork to collect points.

In the end the team from Girlguiding Harris edged out the 2019 winners, Stornoway Guides, to secure the Western Isles Guide and Scout Competition trophy for 2020.

Thanks to all our leaders without whom the event wouldn’t be possible.

Next year we hope to be back in the Castle Grounds in the sunshine!

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is reminding the public to continue respecting social distancing measures which remain in place despite the easing of Coronavirus restrictions.

Their message on Twitter and on Facebook was accompanied by a photograph saying this was the scene at Bayble Pier on Monday (June 1) .

They said: "We all have a responsibility to maintain the good practice which has thus far prevented the spread of Covid-19 in the Western Isles. The Comhairle has signs on all its piers. The public are reminded to pay attention to these safety notices."

On welovestornoway.com social media viewers commented that this behaviour risked a second wave of Covid-19 infection. 

From last Friday in Scotland, members of two different households were allowed to meet up outdoors if you maintain social distancing. Groups cannot be bigger than eight, and people are "strongly recommended" not to meet more than one other household per day. Limits on the time spent outside for exercise were removed.

Murdo Macaulay, Area Commander with HM Coastguard Rescue Service added his own warning to the Council pleas. "Jumping into water of unknown depth whether off a pier or rocks is a hazardous activity. There are people killed and injured every summer doing this. We attended Bayble this weekend. Please stop and think."

Primary school pupils in Uist have been writing letters to a number of befriending networks on the island to help support people during lockdown. 

The children were also aware of elderly community members and decided to write to them as they knew they would appreciate a friendly letter during the lockdown period.

The pupils of Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath, Sgoil Bhaile a' Mhanaich, Sgoil an Iochdair and Sgoil Dhalabroig were encouraged to write letters to people living in care homes as part of the National Literacy Trust Dear New Friend initiative.

However, as the children have built relationships with a number of inter-generational groups throughout the islands, the schools took the initiative one step further and focused on writing to a number of befriending networks already established in Uist including Caraidean Uibhist, Tagsa and Cuimhne.

Executive Head of Uist Primary Schools Anne Graham said: “Inter-generational connections such as Armchair Athletics and Tagsa Sensory Garden project are something the Uist Primary Schools have developed over the last few years and we recognise it as one of the most valuable things that we have established here.  We know that the receiving of a letter can really give someone a huge lift in their period of confinement and we endeavour to promote the skills of letter writing in every child. A Sgoil Bhaile a' Mhanaich pupil became aware of a Benbecula lady, Mrs MacSween, stranded in Australia.  She was due home in April but is unable to travel due to restrictions.  Due to her situation, Shonnie in PG4 decided to write a Gaelic letter to her knowing that this may be of a comfort to her to receive a letter in her mother tongue whilst away from home."

Nicola E Finlayson from the Isle of Lewis did a 31-day challenge for Mental Health Awareness month in aid of Autism Eilean Siar.
Nicola set herself a target of raising £1000. She is delighted to announce that she has completed her challenge - and raised a total of £1045. Nicola said that she is "over the moon" that people in the community sponsored her, she says she can't believe she reached her target and more. She added that on the last day of her walk she got a bit emotional but is happy she completed the walking challenge.
Nicola would like to thank you all for your generous donations throughout her challenge. It is greatly appreciated.
Pictured here Nicola presenting the final total to Claire Morris on behalf of Autism Eilean Siar.
Claire along with other members of Autism Eilean Siar said that that they are overwhelmed by the amount Nicola has managed to raise during lockdown. "She has walked everyday in all weathers and they are very grateful for all her efforts. She really is a star."

People who live in villages in Point and Sandwick are being invited to take part in a photographic project to capture the strange but historic times we have been going through with lockdown.

As households continue to “stay at home”, albeit with more relaxed rules, photographer Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos Photography has begun taking ‘doorstep photos’ to mark the moment. The portraits can literally be ‘on the doorstep’ or in the garden and can either be posed or show an outside activity such as gardening, to illustrate how people and families have been passing the time at home.

The project has been organised and funded by community wind farm organisation Point and Sandwick Trust, as a lighter aspect to its efforts to combat the Covid-19 crisis, and as part of its mission to enhance the cultural wellbeing of the area.  Cultural wellbeing is one of four areas of development for PST. The others are social, educational and environmental wellbeing.

Inviting households to get involved, Point and Sandwick Trust chair Norman Mackenzie explained the thinking behind the project. “We are currently living through the most dangerous pandemic in living memory and whilst the ongoing contribution of PST and the reality of lockdown in terms of testing, social distancing, economic impact and so on are widely recorded, a light-hearted photographic record of how our community coped and pulled together to get through this period will be a significant contribution to the historic record.

“Hopefully, once Sandie has completed her work, we will be able to arrange a ‘virtual’ exhibition that will help to raise our spirits and boost our commitment to stick together through what we hope will be the final months of this very strange period.”

Sandie said the photos would be made available, free of charge, to anyone who took part in the project, with its aim of creating a historic record of people in lockdown.  Anyone who takes part, giving consent for the photos to be used in an exhibition and on websites and social media, will get a downloadable link – which can also then be emailed to loved ones.

Sandie added: “I’ve got a long lens and it’s socially distanced….”

One family who have already taken part is the Smith family from Upper Bayble – mum Annice, dad David and children Lucas and Annie.   Annie has thoroughly enjoyed the time at home with the children and said it was “nice to have” their family portrait to mark the moment. 

“It’s part of history,” she said. “The children, the memories they’re going to have, the experience of it all… you can’t describe it. It’s strange, surreal.

“We’ve been able to slow down and just breathe. But we’ve been fortunate on the island, in that it didn’t really hit us. The ones who had the virus have got better and it’s been contained. It is a different story up here.”

Anyone else interested in taking part in the portrait project, is asked to contact Sandie directly to make an arrangement. Contact her via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mobile 07749 693000 or via her Facebook page, @sandiephotos.stornoway. Her website is www.SandiePhotos.com.

Organisers at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar were absolutely staggered by the response from pupils, parents and teachers who were asked to prepare and contribute items for the first e-Cèilidh nan Òg event last Friday 29th Ma.

e-Ceilidh nan Òg involved a series of broadcasts across Facebook and Vimeo which showcased musical submissions from across the Western Isles, highlighting the talent of a wide selection of the island’s young musicians.

Co-hosted by Iain “Costello” Maciver and Penny Burgess, the broadcast featured Gaelic songs and fantastic pieces on fiddle, guitar, accordion and many more.

As well as a selection of performances from young musicians, Friday also saw the broadcast of play along and sing along sessions with Iain Maciver, Rhona Johnstone, Anna Black, Esther Macdonald, and Penny Burgess.

While educating and entertaining the schoolchildren of the Western Isles, these sessions were also well received by care homes and the elderly.

Event coordinator Rhona Johnstone said: "We were absolutely staggered by the response from pupils, parents and teachers who were asked to prepare and contribute items for the e e-Cèilidh nan Òg event. This was so large that we had too much material to broadcast in the one day and as a result we will be running subsequent shorter e-Ceilidh na Og broadcasts in June and August, with the first of these on Friday 19th June, to ensure that all the videos which were sent in to us will be shown.

"With the overwhelming number of contributions received and over 5000 views online this clearly shows the success of e-Ceilidh nan Og and the strength of support that there is for our Gaelic language and culture."

With hosts Willie Campbell, Iain “Castello” Maciver and Iain Mackinnon, the fortnightly e-Cèilidh broadcasts have racked up a watch time of over 70,000 minutes, with peak live viewers of 440 on the Comhairle Facebook page and viewers tuning in from as far afield as Qatar and California.

This Saturday 6th June at 7.30pm Peat ‘n’ Diesel drummer Uilleam Macleod will be joined by some very special guests as he hosts what promises to be another successful broadcast.

A major change to Scottish Government policy on support for Bed & Breakfast operators during the coronavirus crisis is being welcomed in the Western Isles.

Rhoda Grant MSP says: “This is a welcome move from the Scottish Government and it will help many B&B’s within the Highlands and Islands throughout this difficult time – albeit not for long.

“B&B businesses have been closed now for months and they will most likely miss the majority of their busy summer season, where most of these business owners earn a large portion of their yearly income.

Mrs Grant continued: “Should they have to remain closed, the Scottish Government will need to provide further help so that these businesses can open next season. I will continue to monitor the situation and I encourage anyone affected to get in touch.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has also welcomed the inclusion of small B&Bs into the Scottish Government Business Support Fund.  “This is a very welcome and important expansion of the Scottish Government’s Business Support Fund.

“B&Bs are a major part of the tourism sector in the Western Isles and I have been raising with Scottish Ministers the fact that too many of them have been falling through the cracks.

“While this funding will obviously not replace income lost as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on this year’s tourist season, I hope it does go some way towards helping island B&Bs.”

The Federation for Small Businesses Highlands & Islands Development Manager, David Richardson, said: “I have been approached by a range of long-established and well known B&B operators during this crisis, all very concerned that they were missing out on Scottish Government support because they did not have business bank accounts.

“There is absolutely no reason why they should, and it seemed very unfair that they were being refused funding on a technicality.

“FSB Scotland is campaigning hard to ensure that cracks in the support mechanism for smaller business are filled in, and we are sure that right across the Highlands & Islands, many, many B&B operators will be drawing a huge sigh of relief at this news.”

Businesses across the country have now been awarded more than £100 million through the Scottish Government Business Support Fund.

The scheme, announced by Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop at the end of April, has to date helped more than 2,500 businesses and 4,160 self-employed people.

Now the fund, which started with £100 million of grant support for individuals and companies affected by COVID-19 and has since been topped up to £185 million, is being expanded.

Small B&Bs, who were ineligible for other support due to not having a business bank account, will be able to apply for a share of £3 million of funding which has been re-purposed from the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund.

This funding for small B&Bs will be administered by local authorities and applications are expected to open on 15 June.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said yesterday (Tuesday June 2): “On 30 April, we launched a £100 million package across three business support funds offering targeted support to the creative, tourism and hospitality sector, SMEs which are vital to their local economies, and the newly self-employed.

“One month on and we have awarded more than £104 million of grants supporting over 2,500 businesses and 4,160 self-employed people.

“We have topped up these funding streams by a further £85 million given the volume of  applications received, and these additional funds will enable us to reach more businesses in need.

“Today I announced that £3 million of the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund allocation will be re-purposed to support B&Bs who were ineligible for other support due to not having a business bank account.

“These businesses are an important part of Scotland’s tourism sector, particularly in rural areas, yet were not eligible for support from the hardship fund. I hope this change will help ensure they are ready to welcome visitors once again as soon as circumstances allow.

“This support is not available to equivalent businesses in the rest of the UK and is another example of how the Scottish Government is reacting to meet the needs of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.”

The funds which make up the £185 million support package are as follows:

  • £34 million Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund, managed by local authorities, allocated to the newly self-employed who are ineligible for UK support (as they became self-employed since April 2019) but are facing hardship. As of 15 June, £3 million of the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund allocation will be re-purposed to support B&Bs who were ineligible for other support due to not having a business bank account
  • £30 million Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, managed by the Enterprise Agencies with support from Creative Scotland and VisitScotland for small and micro creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of business rates grants of up to £25K 
  • £120 million Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, managed by the Enterprise Agencies providing bespoke grants and wrap-around business support to viable but vulnerable SMEs who are vital to the local or national economic foundations of Scotland

The Scottish Government is also providing £1 million to top up Creative Scotland’s Bridging Bursaries scheme in the not-for-profit sector.
The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund and the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund have now closed to applications.
The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund remains open.
Businesses can visit FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot for the latest information on funding opportunities.

(Further reaction to the announcement has been added to this article since it was first published)

SEEKING AN OPERATOR FOR AN LANNTAIR’S CAFÉ BAR

Deadline for Initial Expressions of Interest: 5pm Friday 5th June 2020

An Lanntair is seeking Initial Expressions of Interest from businesses or organisations interested in operating its Café Bar.

We are looking for a partner who will buy into and genuinely share our core values as a charity and as the major Arts Centre for the island.

  • Free to enter
  • Open and inclusive
  • We celebrate diversity and equality
  • A community space and meeting place
  • A creative space
  • A Gaelic hub
  • A truly integrated catering offer with our arts programme
  • Open all day / all evening
  • A social and welcoming space for young people, as well as the wider population
  • Welcoming to tourists – a first port of call, a hub for visitors to the islands

Interested parties are invited to send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request an Information Pack. 

Please read all the information provided in the Information Pack, and then submit an Initial Expression of Interest by email by Friday 5th June 2020.

An Lanntair is the ‘go to’ arts and cultural Gaelic hub for the islands, and we would like to see a vibrant Café Bar offer in place to support this. An Lanntair believes this needs to be a true partnership and a close working relationship will be critical, with both parties contributing positively towards achieving the most attractive and effective operation.

We are looking to find a partner who can help us achieve the following key objectives:

  • For the Café Bar to be a vibrant, diverse and active social ‘hub’, where local people, visitors and other public users feel welcome and are provided with the highest quality service.
  • For the Café Bar to be an integral element of the proposition at the centre, to support and help to draw audiences.
  • For the Café Bar to make a positive financial contribution towards An Lanntair Charity.

The Information Pack summarises what An Lanntair is about, the expectations for the Café Bar and catering at the centre, and explains to prospective partners the process and rules of engagement for expressing interest in this opportunity. It sets out the following information:

  • Summary of Call for Expressions of Interest
  • Overview of An Lanntair
  • The Café Bar opportunity
  • Responsibilities
  • Timescale
  • How to Submit an Expression of Interest

Please email Elly Fletcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information

From tomorrow, Wednesday 3rd June, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will allow pickups, vans and vehicles towing trailers to use the Creed Park Household Waste Recycling Centre and the Rueval Household Waste Recycling Centre.

However, these Household Waste Recycling Centres will remain open for cars only on Saturdays.

A spokesperson, said: “Due to the sensible and prudent use of these facilities by the public since reopening, we are pleased to now be in a position to permit pickups, vans and vehicles towing trailers on weekdays as of tomorrow.

“Should the site be very busy, those with pickups, vans and vehicles towing trailers may be asked to return later as priority will be given to standard domestic vehicles.

"However, nobody will be turned away if the site is quiet. We would ask all users to be patient and to show consideration to others when using our sites.

“Please remember that that Government travel restrictions still apply.  You should only visit a Household Waste Recycling Centre when it is absolutely essential for you to dispose of items that cannot safely be stored at home, and you should not visit more than once per week.

“There will be significant changes to the way that our Household Waste Recycling Centres operate.  This is primarily for the safety of the public and our staff.”

Further information is available on the Comhairle website: https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/coronavirus/services-updates-and-contacts/waste-services/

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to thank the people of the Western Isles for their continued support of the Social Media Activities Programme.

Last weekend saw 30,000 tune in once again, as Norrie “Tago” Maciver and Calum Martin hosted online ceilidhs.

The programme has been designed to help keep people entertained during lockdown and was launched at the start of April. The high levels of engagement have continued and it has been great to see our community engaging with eachother online while enjoying the wide variety of talented artists we have in the Western Isles.

Lead singer of Skipinnish Norrie “Tago” Maciver said: “I have been doing live shows every weekend since lockdown started but my first concert for the Comhairle was one of the best I have done. It was great to play to all the folk back home in Lewis and the feedback from everyone was just amazing. I love interacting with the listeners and answering their questions.”

This week there will be Iain Costello live on Friday night at 9pm and Willie Campbell live at 9pm on Saturday. There will also by a new mystery quiz master for the weekly quiz on Thursday at 7:30pm.

Stornoway RNLI was called to launch the lifeboat Tom Sanderson yesterday evening (Monday 1 June) to reports of a vessel broken down and fog-bound in the middle of Broad Bay.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre took the call at 6.40pm from the sole occupant of a 7.7 metre fishing boat which had suffered a mechanical breakdown as haar rolled across the bay early in the evening.

The RNLI lifeboat crew launched at 7.20pm and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team were also tasked to Brevig pier to provide land-based assistance, although visibility from the shore was extremely poor.

The small fishing boat was taken in tow towards the shore and then handed into the care of fellow fishing vessel Rachel Star, which escorted the casualty to the pier in shallow water.

The RNLI and CRT teams were stood down and the lifeboat returned to pier by 10.30pm last night with all safe.

Picture – fog rolls across Broad Bay yesterday afternoon, from a film by James Lynn.

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has submitted views to the first part of the Crofting Agriculture Grant Scheme review, asking for it to be extended to all crops including trees.

“This scheme is very important to crofters and to the local economy”, said Yvonne White, chair of the crofters’ federation. “It is a well-used development mechanism and provides a very valuable contribution to crofting land-based production, so that crofts can prosper and contribute to rural economies and population retention. If there has been any lack of use, as was the case some years ago, it has been because of restrictions within the scheme rules. If the scheme is designed to be pragmatic it will be well used. Indeed the budget could be increased, and every penny would be contributing significantly to the wellbeing of rural communities. We therefore welcome this review and the aim of ensuring that the scheme works well.”

This scheme provides grants for crofters to make improvements to their crofts and help to sustain their businesses. Funding can be used for capital projects, such as the construction or improvement of agricultural buildings. Funding for eligible capital projects can cover all aspects of the project, including the cost of materials, transportation of materials, costs of contractors and the crofter’s own labour. The total amount of grant aid a crofter can apply for in any two year period is up to £25,000, or a group of crofters up to £125,000.

Ms White continued, “SCF’s view is that this scheme should help any croft land-based production. In the past it was perhaps easier to classify croft work as ‘agriculture’ and so call the scheme an agricultural grant scheme. Croft production is diverse and it is Scottish Government policy to encourage this, so the scheme should therefore reflect this policy. If a crofter is engaged in land-based production operations not classified as ‘agricultural’ in the strictest sense, they should still be able to apply for those items currently eligible for grant aid. For example horticultural production is included, which we welcome, and we recommend that this be widened to include growing flowers and other ornamental plants. We also recommend the introduction of support to bee-keeping. In the same vein we would recommend the inclusion of forest products and aquaculture.”

Ms White went on to explain, “Forest production would not include woodland creation or management, for which other schemes offer assistance, rather the operations involved in processing forest products as a business, for example sawing and drying timber for construction or fuel. Trees are a crop as much as cereals or grass. Aquaculture would only include the business of on-croft farming of aquatic food, for example, trout, carp, molluscs, crustaceans and plants.

“The eligibility of works and equipment supported should be universal across all land-based production operations”, Ms White concluded. “We suspect that uptake of these extensions would at first be quite low and a trial period could ascertain usage. If the budget available is surpassed, we think an increase in budget should be considered rather than a decrease in eligible crofting operations.”

During these difficult and uncertain times, it is important to keep active in order to stay healthy, says NHS Western Isles.

For this reason, the Gentle Movement classes that were established before lockdown, are now being offered by NHS Western Isles, virtually, on Zoom.

Being active can help many aspects of our health, not just our physical health. It aids in keeping our minds healthy and in a time where there are a lot of people struggling with their mental health due to not seeing family or friends and not being able to get outside or socialise, they rely on physical activity more than ever. People who are vulnerable or in recovery for medical reasons, that perhaps cannot get out for a walk outside unaided, can also undertake these classes in the comfort of their own home.

The classes, which are provided by Marion Matheson, NHS Western Isles Health Improvement Practitioner, are all free to join and last approximately 45 minutes.

Classes, which are open to anyone living within the Outer Hebrides, are held each Monday from noon, each Tuesday from 2pm and each Wednesday from 4pm.

Marion, who is also trained in the MacMillan ‘Move More’ programme, said: “There are many benefits to taking part in the Gentle Movement class. This includes the improvement to balance, aiding sleeping patterns and soothing aches and pains as well as promoting mindfulness/relaxation.

“The classes can help someone who is recovering from medical treatment, or is inactive and provides benefits to those who may be feeling isolated during this time. We are also aware that the class has not only improved people’s mental and physical health, but has also established a support network and lasting friendships.”

“However, we also understand that getting to grips with the internet can be daunting for many, so would urge anyone who has any difficulties or concerns to contact me so we can test the connections beforehand.”

For further information, or if you would like to join this group, please contact Marion direct by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephoning: 01870 602588.

 

Debate Night will return to BBC Scotland with a 'virtual audience' as restrictions remain in place for the coronavirus outbreak - and there’s a Western Isles focus on Wednesday June 10.
The studio panel will face questions via video link from members of the public in living rooms around Scotland.
Presenter Stephen Jardine is inviting people to apply to take part in the political discussion programme.
He said: "Debate Night is the only place where people are regularly able to put their questions and experiences directly to Scotland's policymakers in their own words.
"Despite the restrictions in place we are determined to continue giving people the opportunity to question those in charge.”
Maybe you are a key worker, have been self-isolating or your work has been affected by Coronavirus; whatever your situation, the BBC wants you to apply and be part of the discussion.
Debate Night will be set up to ensure social distancing between the panel of politicians and public figures in the studio.
The first programme on Wednesday 29 April is open to audience applications from across Scotland.
It will then go on a virtual tour of the country, with audience video links from a different area each week.
On Wednesday 10th June they’re planning to have an audience from the Western Isles and North Highlands.  The studio panel will face questions from members of the public at home via mobile or PC, and we’re trying to encourage as many people to apply to join our video audience.
Residents are invited to apply to be part of the small video audience, via laptop or PC, to join the discussion and put their questions and concerns to Scotland's politicians and public figures. The BBC welcome applications from members of the general public applying as themselves and not as representatives of a company or organisation.  
Apply now by visiting www.bbc.co.uk/debatenight and clicking ‘Join the Audience’.
Previous episodes are available to watch via BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000htfx

The Counselling and Family Mediation Western Isles (CFMWI) and Fèis an Rudha (Point Gaelic Festival) are among the 230 groups in the UK to receive this year’s Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can achieve in the UK. 

To mark the Awards, representatives from both groups will attend The Queen’s Royal Garden Party in July 2021 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh along with other Scottish recipients of this year’s Awards. 

The Awards will be presented to the groups by HM Lord-Lieutenant of the Western Isles Donald Martin at ceremonies in Stornoway and Point later this year. 

Mr Martin said “I was delighted that the two nominations from the Western Isles had been successful in gaining these well-deserved Awards.  Both groups are an excellent example of the important contribution of our volunteers in providing much valued services and making a difference within their communities.  This is the second year in succession that volunteers from the Western Isles have been honoured with this prestigious Award.  We have so many voluntary groups in our islands doing excellent work and I hope to see more nominations from the Western Isles next year. The closing date for the next round is 25 September 2020 and more information is available on .http://qavs.culture..gov.uk ”.

Since its establishment in 1990, Counselling & Family Mediation Western Isles has been providing a confidential and free counselling and mediation service through professionally trained volunteer counsellors and mediators to families, adults and young people throughout the Western Isles.  The Chair of the Board, Catriona Stewart said “The Board of CFM Western Isles is extremely proud of the service provided to our communities by our professionally trained volunteers ably managed by our service manager, Christine MacKechnie. The service is funded nationally by Relationship Scotland via Scottish Government grant and supplemented by local funding from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles. The increasing demand for our services across the Western Isles both for adults and our young people has meant that we are presently training, to Diploma Level, six new volunteer counsellors to join our six fully trained counsellors and two mediators.  

“This training is supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in accordance with the Scottish Government’s announcement to ensure there are additional counsellors available in schools.  There were over 500 enquiries to the service over the last year and most progressed to either counselling or mediation sessions. Flexible working is key to the delivery of our services and our counsellors have been using various technologies to support clients for a number of years now. Skype, Zoom and telephone meetings ensure continuity of counselling regardless of where clients may live across our island chain.

“This is particularly important in the provision of counselling to children and young people who for various reasons are not able to visit our premises. The confidential service provided by our counsellors and mediators is vital to the wellbeing of many people in our communities and is recognised as such by professionals in health services, social services and education services. As a Board we are indebted to all our staff for their dedication and commitment to CFM Western Isles”.

Christine MacKechnie, MBE who has been service manager of CFMWI since 2008 added “It has been both a privilege and a pleasure to be part of CFM Western Isles for the past 12 years.  Our volunteers, through the training they receive, deliver an extremely professional service to our clients.  We know how stressful it can be for people who find themselves in need of our service, the respect and compassion shown by our volunteers goes a long way in helping our clients find their way through a variety of life’s difficulties.   Their compassion, respect and kindness is an inspiration to us all. Our volunteers show dedication and commitment at all times to our clients, colleagues and the organisation, treating everyone with respect and kindness. To be recognised in this way is a most fitting tribute to their work within our community”.

Fèis an Rubha was re-established in 2012, following an initial run of three years from 2006-2008.  The Fèis provides high quality and professional tutoring in Gaelic traditional music, drama and singing for the young people of the Point community in Lewis during an annual week-long summer Fèis.  The Fèis is organised by a committee of volunteers, with support from their parent organisation, Fèisean nan Gàidheal.  Most of the committee are working parents, many of whom give up a week of their annual leave to help out during Fèis week. 

Over the years, Fèis an Rubha has expanded, with over 50 children, from ages 3 to 14, attending most years. Although an emphasis is put on Gaelic language, the Fèis is open to all, not just to children in Gaelic-medium education. The final concert on the Friday night of the Fèis is always well attended by the wider community, and the children gain confidence from public performance of what they have learnt during the week. 

Even though the Fèis participation fees are relatively low, the committee were aware that even this was beyond the budget of some families, especially those with several children who would want to participate.  In order to ensure that children were not excluded on financial grounds, Fèis an Rubha approached the Point and Sandwick Trust, and the resulting grant from PST has allowed them to offer free places at the Fèis for families on low income for the past two years.

Unrelated to the main work of the Fèis but supported by the Fèis committee and funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, is Taigh Cèilidh an Rubha, a monthly Gaelic event aimed at bringing older and younger Gaelic speakers together in an informal setting for singing, dancing, local history and storytelling. 

Anne Macaulay, who chairs the Fèis, said “We are delighted and honoured that the work of our committee has been recognised in this way.  We have been supported through the years by Fèisean nan Gàidheal, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as well as the Point and Sandwick Trust and we thank them all for helping us to continue and expand on the work done by Fèis an Rubha”.

Since the Award was introduced in 2002 four groups in the Western Isles have received the Award – The Eoropie Play Park (GAIN) in 2004; Sporsnis in 2011; Comunn Eachdraidh Nis and Garadh a’ Bhagh a’ Tuath in 2019

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities.  It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee and winners are announced each year on 2 June – the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation.  Award winners this year are from a diverse background which includes community shops, cultural and environmental groups, refugee and vulnerable people centres and community arts centres.

Counselling and Family Mediation – Western Isles, a group of volunteers based in Stornoway have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

The organisation was established in 1990 and offers various services including a generic Counselling services for couples and individuals, a counselling services for children and young people, a family mediation services and relationship therapy throughout the Western Isles and Outer Hebrides.  Their clients are given the therapeutic space to express their difficulties and be assured they are being heard by a counsellor or mediator in a safe and non-judgemental environment.

Counselling and Family Mediation – Western Isles is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, including a community shop in Cornwall, an environmental group in Swansea, a group working with refugees and vulnerable people in Stirling and a thriving community arts centre in County Down.

Representatives of Counselling and Mediation – Western Isles will receive the award from the Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers from the group will be invited to a garden party at Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Christine MacKechnie the Service Manager of CFM Western Isles, says: "I am delighted that the hard work and commitment of our volunteers has been recognised in this way, it is a fitting tribute to an exceptional group of professionally trained counsellors and mediators.

This year there were 230 recipients of The Queen’s Award Voluntary Service from across the UK. More information on the recipients and the Award can be found at ​https://www.gov.uk/queens-award-for-voluntary-service

Any group of two or more people that has participated in voluntary work for more than three years can be nominated for the award. Full details on how to nominate are available at ​https://qavs.culture.gov.uk/. Nominations for the 2021 awards close on 25 September 2020.

 

Parents of children aged four to five are being encouraged to apply for the Scottish Government’s Best Start Grant by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

A one-off £250 payment is currently open to eligible families, with a child who was born between 1st March 2015 and 29th February 2016, who will be starting primary school later this year. 

The School Age payment can be used for anything from a new pair of school shoes or arts and crafts materials for children.

The payment is part of the Scottish Government’s Best Start Grant, a package of three payments for families in receipt of eligible benefits – including Universal Credit and Housing Benefit – to help at key stages in a child’s life.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Covering the costs of a child starting school can be tough on family finances, especially in the current climate.

“The Scottish Government’s school age payment offers low income families, or those who receive support like Universal Credit, a £250 payment around the time children start at primary school.

“We’re absolutely determined that every child, regardless of circumstances, gets the best start in life.

"In these unprecedented and difficult times, I’d encourage families across the Western Isles to check what other financial support they may be eligible for too – such as school clothing grants or free school meals.”

Eligible parents of children born between 1 March 2015 and 29 Feb 2016 can access the payment, whether their child is attending school or not.

People can apply for the payment between 1 June 2020 and 28 February 2021.

Parents who are home-schooling or who have decided to defer their child’s entry to Primary 1 until next year, should still apply for the payment by 28 February 2021.

A parent or carer of a child may be eligible if they receive any of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC)
  • Working Tax Credit.

Applicants under the age of 18, and parents aged 18 or 19 who are dependent on someone who is receiving benefits for them, do not need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit.

The payment doesn’t affect other benefits and there is no cap on the number of children that can be supported.

Best Start Grant is a package of three payments to support families during the key stages in a child’s life.

People can apply for all three Best Start Grant payments along with Best Start Foods on one simple online application form.

Find out more information and apply at mygov.scot/beststart or call 0800 182 2222 and request a call back.

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has paid tribute to volunteers who have helped the NHS and local communities in the Western Isles as Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) begins.

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the contribution and work of millions of volunteers who give up their time to help others.

During this pandemic, volunteers have signed up to help in record numbers through the Scotland Cares initiative – over 53,000 in one month – joining the thousands of people who were already helping, either with one of Scotland’s many voluntary and community sector groups or informally with neighbours.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“Volunteers’ Week gives us a chance to celebrate the contributions of volunteers who have made such a huge difference to life in the Western Isles.

“I have often said before that I think every week is volunteers week in the Western Isles, as we have an exceptional record of volunteering and voluntary work. Many people in the islands have now taken on Covid-19 related volunteering roles to help communities deal with the many consequences of the coronavirus, and it’s more important than ever to show our appreciation for their hard work.

“I want to say massive thank you to all of the volunteers who have helped, and continue to help, the NHS and their local communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Volunteers will be critical in our efforts to support and rebuild our communities, and I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we are all appreciative and grateful to those who are ensuring people get the help and support they need."

 

Monitoring work undertaken on behalf of Food Standards Scotland has identified raised levels of shellfish toxins in Traigh Mhor in Barra.

Eating shellfish such as cockles, mussels, oysters or razor fish from these areas may pose a risk to human health and notices to warn the public and casual gatherers have been posted at various locations on the shore.

Commercial shellfish harvesters in these areas have been contacted by the Comhairle and steps taken to postpone harvesting until algae levels subside.

It is a sensible precaution to avoid eating shellfish from these areas until further notice.

The council is monitoring the situation and will remove warning notices when it improves.

The Community LED by Energy Champions project, run as a partnership between Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh (UOC) and Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (UOG), has now come to a close. 

Between April 2018 and March 2020, the Community LED team delivered a plethora of positive, energy-related results for members of the two communities, in the form of home visits, training days, informative events and workshops.  

Individuals across the demographic benefited from these visits and sessions, with some receiving official qualifications and training as a direct result of their involvement.  Additionally, 319 homes across the two Estates gained advice on how to make their homes more energy efficient.

Prior to the Community LED by Energy Champions project, both UOC and UOG had previously been involved in a similar development, delivered by Tighean Innse Gall.  This preceding project had provided LED lightbulbs and home energy advice to residents on the Estates. However, as a result of excellent uptake and long waiting lists for visits, clear demand for these services within the community was demonstrated. 

Community consultation carried out by the Trusts only further reiterated that fuel poverty and climate change were important subjects in the lives of people on the Estates.  It was felt that the Community Led by Energy Champions project could build upon this demand, creating more home visits across the estates.  Therefore, funding was sought from the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF).  With dedicated staff employed to deliver the project in-house, and a Project Administrator joining on a part-time basis for the last 13 months of the development, the team could focus fully on delivering the project targets and goals.  Significant energy achievements have been made as a result, with lasting legacies.      

Home visits carried out by the project staff focused on helping households to cut down on energy bills and make homes more efficient.  These visits have made individuals more aware of their usage and of methods to help save carbon, which will have many lasting benefits, outwith the obvious economic ones.

Individuals who participated in carbon literacy training are now able to provide advice to colleagues and family alike, enabling them to better refer others to key associated services.  And aside from these achievements, the Community LED by Energy Champions project also enabled 36 volunteers, many of them young people, to gain film-making and editing experience through creating a bilingual documentary called ‘An-Dràsta’ (Now!).

‘An-Dràsta’, which focussed on the effects of and responses to climate change in the Outer Hebrides, is the only documentary of its kind, making it a valuable resource.  It has gone on to be screened at several notable events, including the Highlands and Islands Enterprise network meeting.  In February 2020, the film won a prestigious FilmG award in the Dùthchais as Fheàrr category, which explores the connection between the Gaelic language and the environment.  This aspect of the project has created strong vocational outputs for the young people involved, with one saying: “I learnt loads of different things about filming”.  Civic engagement amongst them has also increased as a result.

Further praise has been echoed from partners involved in the overall project.  Kathleen Macdonald of Community Energy Scotland said: “Community Energy Scotland would like to highlight our support for the Community LED project and all it has achieved since it began.  It has showcased the drive and desire for community groups to take the real and serious issues being faced by individuals within their communities and try and positively impact on these”.  Rachel Elliott of Scottish Water added: “By working directly with the community, Carloway Estate Trust [were] able to give personalised advice, ensuring residents [got] the advice and water saving devices that they will get the most benefit from.”

From the results listed, it is clear that the project has delivered significant outputs for local residents, and some food for thought for wider audiences.  Economic and educational benefit surrounding carbon literacy will have a lasting impact on people’s behaviour towards their energy usage, which will only benefit future generations. 

Pictured: Carloway Project Officer Ally Maciver, Galson Project Officer Louise Senior, and Project Administrator Abigail Leach.


 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil will not risk catching and spreading coronavirus by travelling back and forth from London and has therefore taken the decision not to travel to Westminster when Parliament returns tomorrow Tuesday June 2.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “The removal of the virtual parliament discriminates against Scottish MPs who are now being forced to choose between breaking the lockdown or attending Westminster.

“The Leader of the House of Commons has stated that Parliament would be Covid-19 secure by 2nd June.  We do not have the evidence of this, but evidence to the contrary;  Public Health England has deemed the voting lobbies unsafe for voting and the Speaker of the House of Commons has issued a letter to all MPs, in which he says that based on the latest professional advice from Public Health England, the House simply cannot conduct votes safely via the lobbies.

“The hybrid system that was in place was working well for remote participation and voting, committees will continue to operate with this virtual system so why can't the chamber?  "It is crazy to expect MPs to travel from all over Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland into London.

“This decision is purely to line up Boris Johnson’s baying MPs behind him in an effort to cover up his shortcomings at the Despatch Box and I will not dance to Johnson’s tune and put my constituents at risk.”

The SNP leader in the Commons, the Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford has been under constant attack on Twitter for travelling back to Skye after the last Parliamentary session ended - even though that's where his home is.

Stornoway swimmer Kara Hanlon is continuing on form with a stunning clutch of three gold medals at this weekend’s Scottish Open National Swimming Championships in Aberdeen.

22-year-old Kara, who now swims with the Edinburgh University team, took gold in the women’s 50m breaststroke this afternoon (Sunday 30th June) to add to a gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke on Friday and another in the 200m breaststroke on Saturday.

A lone fisherman got into trouble on Saturday morning (June 29th) when his boat ran aground while he was trying to clear a fouled propeller.

The small fishing vessel Ceol na Mara was off Loch Garenin in Carloway when the propeller became fouled and the vessel drifted while he was attempting a repair.

A lone fisherman got into trouble on Saturday morning (June 29th) when his boat ran aground while he was trying to clear a fouled propeller.

The small fishing vessel Ceol na Mara was off Loch Garenin in Carloway when the propeller became fouled and the vessel drifted while he was attempting a repair.

A 20-year-old woman is to appear in court after smashing her car up in a single-vehicle road accident in Point this morning (Sunday June 30th).

The woman knocked on a door in Shulishader looking for assistance, just before 5am this morning, reporting that her car had left the road. Police were called and the woman was processed and taken to Stornoway police station, where she was charged with drink-driving.

On Friday 21st June there was a large gathering in the Tarbert Community Centre to mark the retiral of Morag Munro as co-ordinator of Crossroads (Harris). 

This was a role Morag carried out, unpaid, for 34 years following a year of hard graft to set the scheme up. 

On Friday 21st June there was a large gathering in the Tarbert Community Centre to mark the retiral of Morag Munro as co-ordinator of Crossroads (Harris). 

This was a role Morag carried out, unpaid, for 34 years following a year of hard graft to set the scheme up. 

Lewis Wind Power, developers of the Stornoway Wind Farm, will be headline sponsors of the first Marathon Hebrides, which takes place on 10th August.

The sold-out event, which has an international field of participants, is the only marathon-distance event to be held in the Outer Hebrides. 

Air Traffic Controllers in the Highlands and Islands are reviving their industrial action against Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, throwing doubt over flights from tomorrow (Saturday June 29th)

David Avery, negotiations officer for Prospect - the union which represents the ATCs, said:“Prospect members in HIAL have overwhelmingly rejected the revised pay offer made by HIAL.

"The work-to-rule which was suspended during the ballot will restart tomorrow (Saturday 29 June).

Barra Atlantic gin has been named a finalist in the Scottish Gin Awards.

The gin is shortlisted in the London Dry Gin of the Year Category, along with Isle of Harris Gin.

Winners are due to be announced in October.

Harris gin is also in the running for its taste experience, while the Isle of Harris Distillery is also shortlisted as growth business of the year, exporter of the year and as the Scottish gin destination of the year.

The Isle of Harris Distillery is in the running for no less than four awards at the finals of the Scottish Gin Awards, due to be announced in October.

Harris gin is in the running for its taste experience, listed together with Barra Atlantic gin as the London dry gin of the year, while the Isle of Harris distillery is also shortlisted as growth business of the year, exporter of the year and as the Scottish gin destination of the year.

Breasclete and Bargar Coastguard Rescue Teams were called to the rescue yesterday evening (Thursday June 27th) when a woman fell and broke her ankle while visiting Carloway Broch.

Lewis-based firm Porteous Architecture LLP has won a major national award.

This was part of the 2019 Saltire Society Housing Design Awards held on Tuesday 25 June.

They were presented by the Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Nick Barley, who chaired the judging panel and the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart.

A new trail launched today (Friday 28 June) will link whale-watching sites on Lewis, Harris, Skye, Barra and beyond.

The initiative, which includes over 30 sites, aims to showcase Scotland's west coast as a top destination for low-impact marine wildlife watching from land.

A new trail launched today (Friday 28 June) will link whale-watching sites on Lewis, Harris, Skye, Barra and beyond.

The initiative, which includes over 30 sites, aims to showcase Scotland's west coast as a top destination for low-impact marine wildlife watching from land.

Launched by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, the trail includes lighthouses at the Butt of Lewis on the Isle of Lewis, Eilean Glas on the Isle of Scalpay, and the UK mainland’s most westerly point at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse.

 

Summer is here! Marked by the school holidays starting and the first of the summer shows and events kicking off this weekend.

Here is a quick guide to what's on and when, simply click on an event listed below to find out further details AND don't forget our 'Upcoming Events' calendar for everything else that is happening across Lewis and Harris.

The arrival of a Tesla electric car on site will help highlight a campaign to provide climate change and energy saving advice to thousands of people attending the Hebridean Celtic Festival.

HebCelt, which is being held this year from 17-20 July, is renowned for its green credentials relating to the sustainable use of resources, reducing emissions and waste and raising awareness of environmental matters.

A two-car collision on the Clisham left two visitors to the island in hospital yesterday afternoon (Wednesday June 27th).

Emergency services were called to the A859 just south of the Clisham summit at 5pm, where the two cars had been involved in an accident. One vehicle, with a man and woman from Skye travelling in it, left the road and rolled down a steep embankment, coming to rest on its roof.

A two-car collision on the Clisham left two visitors to the island in hospital yesterday afternoon (Wednesday June 27th).

Emergency services were called to the A859 just south of the Clisham summit at 5pm, where the two cars had been involved in an accident. One vehicle, with a man and woman from Skye travelling in it, left the road and rolled down a steep embankment, coming to rest on its roof.


The staff sergeant who mans 7 Scots base at Stornoway Drill Hall was today (Thursday June 27th) taking pride of place at the Last Post ceremony in Canberra, Australia.

Sgt Tommy Stewart, known to his colleagues in 7 Scots as ‘Batco’, is on holiday in Australia with his wife, Kenna. While visiting the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, he had asked permission to lay a memorial cross for a Scottish-born soldier killed in action while serving with Australian forces at Gallipoli.



Hebridean Celtic Festival is paying tribute to the distinctive island phenomenon of ‘Peatlemania’, with Stornoway band Peat & Diesel to be offered an extra event in the Festival programme.

HebCelt organisers have set a ‘meet the band’ event for the island heroes, scheduled between 2 and 3pm on Wednesday 17th July at Stornoway Town Hall.

Festival director Caroline Maclennan said: “Peat & Diesel have been generating a huge amount of buzz and we are very aware of the huge appeal they have, particularly locally and among young fans.

An event commemorating the Iolaire tragedy at the Edinburgh International Book Festival has sold out within a day of tickets going on sale – to the astonishment of Stornoway author and historian Malcolm Macdonald.

Malcolm was co-author – with the late Donald John Macleod – of the authoritative book The Darkest Dawn, published in November last year by Stornoway-based publishers Acair as part of the centenary commemorations of the tragedy.

A man has appeared in court in Stornoway after police were called to an address in Parkend at 8pm on Monday (June 24th) to reports of a disturbance.

The 34-year-old was found to be in breach of bail conditions set following an earlier offence and appeared in court from custody on Tuesday, where he gave a guilty plea and was fined, as well as being reminded of his bail conditions, which are to continue.

Faclan: the Hebridean Book Festival today (Thursday June 27th) reveals this year’s programme, with events running at An Lanntair arts centre from Wednesday 30 October to Saturday 2 November.

The festival’s theme this year 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
  • Cult musician Momus brings his ‘Unreliable Tour Guide’ to Stornoway
  • Faclan Fringe returns for 2nd year, supported by Outer Hebrides LEADER
  • The festival’s acclaimed children’s programme, Faclan Òg.

The current Islands bus services will be reduced in August, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar confirmed yesterday (Wednesday June 26th).

At a meeting of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Members said they were committed to protecting front line transport services in partnership with the communities of the Western Isles. 

Bus operators had been asked to tender for nine transport options, a number of which were left to them to redesign. The outcome of this process identified five options which were subject to a process of Community Conversation and online consultation.

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil yesterday afternoon met Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is currently imprisoned in Iran. 

Richard is supporting her fight for justice with a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London.

A flock of up to 30 microlight and single-pilot aircraft are due to descend on Stornoway tomorrow afternoon (Thursday June 27th), as the town becomes one of the stopping points on a round-UK charity fundraising flight.

Between 20 and 30 of the light aircraft are taking part in Fly UK 2019, an annual challenge which, since 2005, has collected over £68,000 for the charity Children with Cancer.

The date has been announced for an emergency services event which will throw the doors of search and rescue wide open.

On Saturday 17th August, from 1pm to 4pm, Stornoway Coastguard Operations Room will be open for the first time since its major refit three years ago, providing an excellent opportunity for the public to view at first hand the latest state-of-the-art technology that contributes to search and rescue – locally, regionally and nationally.

One of the most iconic wartime planes of the recent D-Day landing commemoration is due to touch down at Stornoway airport at 1.30pm today (Wednesday June 26th).

The DC3 (Dakota) troop plane That’s All, Brother (N47TB) led the main airborne invasion of Normandy on June 6th 1944. Piloted by Lt. Col John Donalson, the plane led a force of more than 800 planes that dropped over 13,000 paratroopers into battle on the beaches of Normandy.

Councillors will tonight (Wednesday June 26th) record their congratulations for swimmer Colin Macleod, following his marathon swim across the Minch earlier this month.

Colin was dubbed ‘King of the Minch’ by his followers when he landed at Stornoway pier in the early hours of Tuesday June 11th. He had become the first man and the only islander to conquer the Minch, after swimming for 21 hours, covering 33 miles of open sea between Gairloch and Lemreway.

The passenger ferry MV Loch Seaforth was met by emergency crews in Stornoway yesterday (Monday June 24th) after a passenger was taken ill during the crossing from Ullapool.

The public are asked to nominate noteworthy individuals to be celebrated with a plaque.

Nominations have now opened for the 2019 National Commemorative Plaque scheme.  

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), who administer the scheme, are asking the public to nominate individuals from Scottish public life.

Several Barra and Vatersay projects have been awarded funding from CalMac's Community Fund.

Feis Bharraigh’s ‘Music for All’, the Gaelic arts and culture event, has been awarded £2000.  The Barra and Vatersay Junior Sports Club received £1,000 and Barra Children's Centre in support of their Children of the Sea project were awarded £2,000.

The Community Fund is open to non-profit organisations involved in activities to benefit young people in island or coastal communities.  

With little over three weeks to go to the start of this year’s HebCelt, the festival HQ opened yesterday (Monday June 24th) in Stornoway town centre, with festival workers Megan Macsween (left) and Eilidh Jenkins seen above.

Alasdair Allan MSP is encouraging Islanders to take part in the Community Conversation events being run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar regarding their planned redesign of the bus services.

 He has also written to the Comhairle to raise the concerns people have expressed to him about the short time people have been given in which to give their views.

Alasdair Allan MSP is encouraging Islanders to take part in the Community Conversation events being run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar regarding their planned redesign of the bus services.

 He has also written to the Comhairle to raise the concerns people have expressed to him about the short time people have been given in which to give their views.

Alasdair Allan MSP is encouraging Islanders to take part in the Community Conversation events being run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar regarding their planned redesign of the bus services.

He has also written to the Comhairle to raise the concerns people have expressed to him about the short time people have been given in which to give their views.

The first Marathon Hebrides is set to take place on 10 August.

The sold-out event, which has an international field of participants, is the only marathon-distance event to be held in the Outer Hebrides. 

Setting off from Talla na Mara on the Isle of Harris, runners will cover 26.2 miles of stunning beach views, undulating terrain and breath-taking scenery.

A crowd including pupils from Stornoway Primary, Laxdale Primary and the Nicolson Institute gathered today in Perceval Square in the centre of Stornoway to mark the beginning of Armed Forces Week, which culminates in Armed Forces Day 2019 which will be held on Saturday 29 June.

The Nicolson Institute pipe band opened proceedings with a musical performance which was followed by a minute’s silence.

All 24 schools in the Western Isles are receiving a Certificate of Excellence from WW100 Scotland Scottish Commemorations Panel.

The certificates are being awarded in recognition of the schools' outstanding contributions and performances in the Dìleab Project and the special HMY Iolaire 100 events.

The project saw Lewis pupils working on the loss of the Iolaire, Harris pupils focussing on World War I and Barra pupils researching emigration.  

All 24 schools in the Western Isles are receiving a Certificate of Excellence from WW100 Scotland Scottish Commemorations Panel.

The certificates are being awarded in recognition of the schools' outstanding contributions and performances in the Dìleab Project and the special HMY Iolaire 100 events.

The project saw Lewis pupils working on the loss of the Iolaire, Harris pupils focussing on World War I and Barra pupils researching emigration.  

This year’s Lewis Christian Conference is due to take place in Stornoway from Friday 28th June through to Monday 1st July.

The Conference will be held in St Columba’s Church and the speaker is to be Dr Robert Smith Jr, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, pictured above.

The Island Select U-13 & U-15 teams won their last match and now top the UK Athletics Youth Development North league, qualifying for the Scottish finals.

Stornoway Running and Athletics Club said on Facebook that they are “delighted for our fantastic youngsters who again upped the game with their performances. An amazing achievement all round!”

Former Chair of UNESCO Scotland, Malcolm Maclean, who lives in Uig, has challenged Historic Environment Scotland to update their information panel at the Calanais Stones.

He sees the wording on the panel as misleading to the 50,000+ visitors who make their way to Calanais each year and failing to do full justice to the importance of the site.

Calanais is older than Stonehenge and one of the largest, most northerly and most complex archaeological sites in the UK.

Mr Kenny Matheson, Aberdeen-based businessman and broadcaster, and a native of Gravir, is to give this year’s Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture on the evening of Thursday 24th October at Pairc School, Gravir.

The title of the lecture is: ‘The Leverhulme Initiative – An Opportunity Lost or a Narrow Escape for Lewis and Harris?’, an appropriate theme as we look back a century to Lord Leverhulme’s ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to transform the island economy.

An Lanntair Arts Centre is launching GRINNEAS NA h-ÒIGRIDH 2019 – a new chance for young Hebridean artists to exhibit their work.

On Monday 25th November, Grinneas nan Eilean the Islands’ Open exhibition returns to An Lanntair with this exciting new dimension. 

Grinneas na h-Òigridh will give under-18s the opportunity to contribute with a special section of the show dedicated to young Hebridean artists.

Ferry service provider, Caledonian MacBrayne appears to be falling short of meeting the requirements of European Union disability regulations, it is claimed.

Under regulations set out by the EU in 2012, if a passenger requires assistance with personal care then an individual accompanying them should receive travel free of charge.

Peter White, a pensioner from Sunderland, is a companion in travel for his friend and has been a regular visitor to the Western Isles for the last 30 years.

A yellow warning is in place for Eilean Siar on Sunday 23 June and Monday 24 June.

The Met Office say the warning will come into effect at 9pm on the Sunday until midnight on the Monday.

Heavy, thundery rainfall is to be expected, especially on Monday.  

The Met Office warn this could lead to flooding and travel disruption.  

A 75-year-old male was rescued at Eoligarry Beach on Wednesday 19 June.

The man had sustained a fractured femur on the beach.

Barra Coastguard Rescue team were called out to help carry the man via stretcher to the waiting ambulance.

 

Plans for Ionad Hiort - the St Kilda Centre - have taken a significant step forward with the granting of planning permission in principle for the Geodha Sgoilt site in the Uig area of Lewis.

This applies to the first phase of the project - ‘A Chiad Cheum’ -which includes a flexible new-build visitor and research centre, office space and toilets with car parking and road access.

Iain Buchanan, chairman of Ionad Hiort, said: “This is an important milestone which has involved a great deal of preparatory work. It will give confidence to potential funders with whom discussions are continuing.”

Plans for Ionad Hiort - the St Kilda Centre - have taken a significant step forward with the granting of planning permission in principle for the Geodha Sgoilt site in the Uig area of Lewis.

This applies to the first phase of the project - ‘A Chiad Cheum’ -which includes a flexible new-build visitor and research centre, office space and toilets with car parking and road access.

Iain Buchanan, chairman of Ionad Hiort, said: “This is an important milestone which has involved a great deal of preparatory work. It will give confidence to potential funders with whom discussions are continuing.”

Stornoway pharmacists KJ Macdonald want to “give back” to the local community with the installation of a defibrillator outside their Cromwell Street shop.

Shop owner Karen Macdonald said, “I became aware of an emergency incident locally where a defibrillator was needed. It made me think, if something was to occur on our premises how would we react and what would we do?”

“I didn’t know where the defibrillators were in Stornoway and in a situation like that the immediate reaction is always going to be panic.”

Child poverty in the Western Isles was the main topic of a meeting yesterday (Wednesday 19 June.)

Comhairle members were given information on the Anti-poverty and Local Child Poverty Strategy at the meeting of the Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee.

Award-winning quartet Fara (seen above in a photograph by Mike Guest) have added their support to HebCelt’s industry-leading efforts to improve gender equality among artists at music festivals.

A recent survey showed that women made up just 26 per cent of festival line-ups in the UK in 2017 and a campaign was launched to achieve a 50:50 balance by 2022.

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 holiday let, Castlebay

Mr & Mrs Macintyre of 8 Leanish have applied for planning permission to build a holiday let at 8A Leanish, Castlebay.

At the Community Conversations held during April/May 2019, it was agreed that further Community Conversations would be scheduled once the transport tender contracts were returned and evaluated.

The Comhairle held a Members’ Seminar on Thursday 23rd May 2019 to consider the tender outcomes and the financial and service implications.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has written to Transport Minister Michael Matheson MSP asking him to act and bring changes to the booking system to address capacity issues on air services – as his colleague Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP has indicated he will do for ferries.

Mr MacNeil has suggested the introduction of different time windows to the booking system of lifeline air and ferry services which would allow a percentage of seats/deckspace to be retained for booking within a shorter window of 2-4 weeks during peak times.  

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has written to Transport Minister Michael Matheson MSP asking him to act and bring changes to the booking system to address capacity issues on air services – as his colleague Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP has indicated he will do for ferries.

Mr MacNeil has suggested the introduction of different time windows to the booking system of lifeline air and ferry services which would allow a percentage of seats/deckspace to be retained for booking within a shorter window of 2-4 weeks during peak times.  

SNP Group Leader at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Gordon Murray, has written to Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP asking her to assist the local authority in hitting its green targets.

Currently the council is footing an annual bill of over £100,000 to transport recyclable waste to the mainland while at the same time trying to increase levels of recycling and reduce waste going to landfill.

Councillor Murray is asking the Scottish Government to consider allowing the additional export costs to be reclaimed from the landfill tax.

In order to give people a better understanding of the process and timescales involved for dealing with regulatory applications, the Crofting Commission have added information to their website www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk/forms-and-guidance 

This explains the timescales involved for a straightforward case and why some cases which initially seem straightforward can become complex requiring more investigation and thus increasing the processing timescales. 

Writer and poet Donald S Murray has been nominated for The Herald Scottish Culture Awards 2019. 

Donald – from the Ness district of Lewis but now living and writing in Shetland – is nominated in the Outstanding Literature category.

The islands of Barra and Benbecula are among the few seeing the turning of the demographic tide, with new population growth being recorded, according to a research statement published on Friday (June 14th).

Ruth Wilson, Andrew Copus and Ruth Mitchell are the co-authors of a report published on the website of SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes). The report, described as work in progress, suggests that some islands are bucking a wider trend for 25% population decline and one-third in the working age population by 2046.

A new project is demonstrating that population decline in the islands is not inevitable.

The project is raising the profile of "green shoots" of demographic recovery on islands in Scotland, with an ‘Islands Revival’ blog gathering observations.

The project is inviting contributions to the Islands Revival blog at https://islandsrevival.org and is looking for evidence of population turnaround, or examples of local policy or action that is reversing population decline.

Spending the longest day of the year on a motorbike might seem like no hardship for some, but when the distance to be travelled is from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, even the hardiest biker might quail.

Stornoway man Martin Pitt is taking on the challenge, though, heading off today (Tuesday June 18th) to reach the mainland and join a group of bikers planning on doing the whole length of Britain in a single day.

The new North Lewis Coastal Walk is to be launched as part of Community Land Week celebrations between August 15th and 17th.

The walk encompasses the whole of the Galson Estate and Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) will be launching it in traditional style – walking the whole 37km route.

Over 100 people turned out on Saturday (June 15th) to mark the first anniversary of the opening of the Stornoway Masjid, the first mosque serving the Muslim community of the Western Isles.

A constant stream of visitors kept the party going until 7pm, with huge quantities of food provided by donations from local businesses and individuals, including 50 naan breads and a huge vat of vegetable curry, cooked at Bangla Spice restaurant.


Two community-owned homes are almost ready for occupation in Gravir, South Lochs, with applications open for tenants until July 1st.

The two-bedroom, semi-detached homes in Carn Aonghais have been fully renovated with full insulation, underfloor heating and brand new kitchens and bathrooms by Pairc Trust – with support from a huge range of individuals and organisations.

The opening of the Hebridean Celtic Festival shop on Monday 24th June signals an acceleration of activity, with the festival itself just three weeks away.

The festival shop will once again be sited on Francis Street, at the former Gazette shop and right opposite the door of one of the main festival venues, An Lanntair.

Saturday 15th June saw the opening of 'Isle inspire': two local artists exhibitions at Morven Gallery in Barvas. Gill Thompson's 'Beachcomber' collection of collagraph prints and Donald Libby's 'Salt in the blood' display of maritime sculptures sat alongside each other picking up the colours and atmosphere of the islands.

Stornoway town centre has recently become home to a set of three very special benches.

The Western Isles Lottery Team are trialling a set of Children’s Board Game Bench Sets. 

Two are located in Perceval Square and one in An Lanntair's forecourt.


Western Isles football teams competing in the Inter-island football tournament at Ynys Mon this week will be hoping for better results from their matches today (Monday June 17th) and tomorrow, after a disappointing first round of matches.

Both the men’s and women’s teams were drawn against their Anglesey hosts in Sunday’s matches. The Western Isles men’s team opened up their campaign with a narrow 2-1 defeat, Luke Mackay scoring an early leader and the only Western Isles goal. The game was played in front of over a thousand spectators, crammed into the Holyhead Spurs stadium for what was described as ‘a cracking game on a wet and windy night’.

Police in Stornoway are currently investigating the theft and damage of a car from the area near Reef beach in the early hours of Sunday June 6th.

The silver 2008 Ford Fiesta was last seen by the owner around 5am on Sunday 6th, near the campsite where it had been parked. It was re-discovered several hours later, with significant damage, in a different part of the Uig area.

Police Scotland are appealing for anyone who may have seen the vehicle’s movements around the area, or anyone who has any other information to contact them on the non-emergency number 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they wish to remain anonymous, quoting incident number NH 784/19.

Missing girl Sophia Veart who vanished in Edinburgh on Saturday (June 15th) is report to have returned home today.

This came after police, family and friends appealed for help to find her.

Over 2,000 households in the Western Isles have had a reduction in council tax, according to new figures.

The SNP Government’s Council Tax Reduction scheme helps provides financial support to low income households.

Every week in March, £25,600 of savings were made to the total Western Isles Council tax bill.

A beach clean has been planned for tomorrow (Saturday 15 June.)

The clean up comes from CNES, ParleyAIR, Clean Coast Outer Hebrides and Surfers Against Sewage.

It has been planned for 11am and will be held at Swordale beach in Point.  


Ten-year-old Aidan Mackenzie has set himself a target for this summer – to get into training for a massive sponsored challenge in Edinburgh.

Aidan, who’s in P5 at Sgoil nan Loch, has never done a sponsored walk before, but he’s joining his mum, Mairi, on the Edinburgh Royal Bank of Scotland Kiltwalk in September.

At 10 years old, Aidan is just old enough to take on a big distance, so he and his mum are in for the 15.5 mile ‘Big Stroll.’ They’ll be raising funds for the Beatson Cancer Charity, which supports the West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, an internationally renowned cancer centre and the busiest in the UK.



Doors will be thrown open at Stornoway Masjid tomorrow afternoon (Saturday June 15th) as the community celebrates one year since the building opened for the first time.

Stornoway Mosque was opened after a massive community-driven operation to refurbish and prepare a derelict building, creating a new place of worship for the islands’ Muslim community.

In the 12 months since, the building has seen events, celebrations and regular meetings for prayer, as well as open afternoons such as this, to welcome the wider community in.

The fourth annual Midge Biters Rally starts at Stornoway Golf Club tonight (Friday June 14th) with a full line-up of activities for bikers.

Last year over 100 bikers joined the annual ride-out on the Saturday, the furthest distance travelled probably never to be beaten as a visitor from Australia joined the run.

Ferries today will be full of bikes which return to the island each year for a bike rally quite unlike those on the mainland – stunning landscapes and wide open roads in the day complemented by great company and music in the evenings.

CalMac have received recognition for their innovative Modern Apprenticeship partnership with City of Glasgow College.

The partnership picked up the top prize in the Training & Employee Retention category at the CIS Excellence Awards.

CalMac and City of Glasgow College created a 'Maritime Hospitality' Modern Apprenticeship in 2016, the first in the UK, after recognising that there was no formal training path for retail crew to get started in the industry.

With the cut of a ribbon NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson officially opened the redeveloped Central Decontamination Unit (CDU) at Western Isles Hospital yesterday, Wednesday June 12th.

The CDU is responsible for the cleaning, disinfection and sterilization of reusable medical instruments to make them safe for use on patients.

Mr Jamieson said: “As we look to the future we plan and take the necessary steps to improve the quality and sustainability of our facilities. To that end, we have extended and modernised our Central Decontamination Unit.

A ‘capable and dedicated’ Coastguard officer was recognised yesterday (Wednesday June 12th) with the award of a long-service medal after twenty years of service.

HM Coastguard’s Coastal Operations Area Commander Murdo Macaulay has responsibility for area 18, which includes the Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber.

Neolithic pottery found underwater in the lochs of Lewis will prove to be of worldwide importance, according to the diver who first uncovered the finds.

Stornoway diver Chris Murray has been diving freshwater sites in Lewis and Harris for years, convinced that evidence lies on the bed of the loch that will explain the significance of the crannogs which are scattered across the island landscape.

Now Chris’s work is drawing increasing attention from the world archaeology community, with a paper published yesterday (Wednesday June 12th) in the journal Antiquity, which credits his finds with bringing about significant change in opinion about the islands’ Neolithic history.

A joint proposal from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Galson Estate Trust could give the local community more say on what happens in their area.

The proposal is one of four projects which will see applicants take responsibility for more decisions relating to seabed, coastline and other land.

Crown Estate Scotland launched the Local Pilots Management Scheme in 2018 to create opportunities for communities to get more involved in managing parts of the Scottish Crown Estate. 

Over 30 years of search and rescue flights from Stornoway were celebrated today (Wednesday June 12th) at Bristows’ newly-renovated SAR base at Stornoway airport.

An assembled crowd of press, civic representatives and serving Coastguard officers and volunteers gathered to recognise the work carried out from the base, and the teamwork which links helicopter SAR with land and sea-based services.

The helicopter service, operated by Bristow Helicopters Ltd on behalf of HM Coastguard, has a long and proud history of saving the lives of those in need on land and at sea.

Search and rescue volunteers from Lewis and Harris were reunited today (Wednesday June 12th) with the man at the centre of one of the most exceptional rescues in the history of Stornoway Coastguard service.

Rescuers and rescued came together at an award presentation at the Bristows SAR base at Stornoway airport, as island teams received the Department for Transport’s Rescue Shield in recognition of quick-thinking, decisive action, technical skills and teamwork during the rescue, which happened on June 26th 2018.

Edinburgh hill-walker Robin Scott, then 87 years old, had fallen while walking in St Kilda and was stranded on a steep scree slope above cliffs. He remained, slipping slowly downwards and teetering over a 300-foot drop, for nearly 30 hours before rescuers pinpointed his position and came to his aid.