Stornoway police station is to see a live video link to Inverness Sheriff Court tomorrow (Monday 1 June), as four men appear in court under lockdown restrictions.

The men are in custody having been charged following a series of separate incidents in the Western Isles over the weekend.

All the incidents involved violence.

A 19-year-old man was arrested on Macaulay Road in Stornoway after police received a number of calls to the area in the early hours of Saturday morning. The man’s been charged with assault and will appear in court by video-link.

A 26-year-old man was arrested in Barra at 4am on Saturday after police were called to an address in the island. He’s been charged with assault and with threatening and abusive behaviour.

He was brought to Stornoway by road and boat through a custodial relay system and has been in custody at Stornoway police station.

Also in custody is a 41-year-old man who was arrested in Stornoway around 1am this morning (Sunday 31 May). He was charged with assault.

And a fourth man was arrested just after midnight this morning in the Willowglen Road area of Stornoway. The 22-year-old has been charged with breach of bail conditions and with police assault.

The video-link will be set up tomorrow morning at Stornoway Police Station under arrangements made to minimise travel and social contact during the Covid-19 lockdown.

 

Just THREE hours to go…a total of £19,000 raised by 627 supporters by 2041, 06.06.2020.  That's about 100 new supporters since Thursday.  All from its original modest aim of £500 just four weeks ago.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan

**************** Report from Friday June 5**************

Fundraiser John Maclennan said yesterday afternoon (Thursday June 4): "As our appeal "ebbs to its close" on Saturday this will be the last update (apart from a Vote of Thanks). 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. To date 524 of you have generously donated the magnificent sum of £15,875 This sum is especially meaningful and highly appreciated at this time of lockdown. 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."

**************** Report from Sunday May 31**************

The Stornoway RNLI coronavirus emergency appeal now (Sunday May 31) has less than a week to run after almost a month which started with the modest target of £500.
The total pledged and raised is now £13,550…with a new target of £14,000…28x higher than the original hope of John ‘Booly’ Maclennan who started this all off with a fund-raising cycle-ride to mark his 70th birthday at the start of May.
The appeal expires on Saturday June 6 so there are hopes that an even higher total could be reached, enabling the branch to make up all the losses caused by the way lockdown has prevented fund-raising and closed its shop.  Here's the fundraising link…
https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan
The previous welovestornoway.com article on the fundraiser was read 7026 times since being posted originally on May 12.
John said on Friday:”Well, folks we are on the last lap with just over a week left to run. Your response has been nothing short of overwhelming generous and all of us at the Stornoway RNLI are deeply moved and highly appreciative of your support.
“I have been reluctant to raise the "target" figure from £10,000. The total today stands at £13,090, but I will say Lifeboatmen are a superstitious bunch and don't like the number 13! So to try and help dispel the crew's superstitions I am reluctantly raising the target figure to £14,000.”
Above is a photograph which was taken on the 125th Anniversary of the Stornoway Branch of the RNLI and after a Sea Sunday Service in St Columba's in August 2012. John says: "The Stornoway Lifeboat Ladies Guild members are prominent in the photo. These are the volunteer ladies who work tirelessly all the year round fund raising for our lifeboat. They staff the shop, bake enough to feed an army, organise coffee afternoons, soup & pudding lunches, flag days, collection boxes throughout the Island etc. etc, and in a "normal" year raise thousands of £s for the Lifeboat.”
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.

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. So a heartfelt thank-you to all who have contributed."

Businesses in some parts of the UK who are making efforts to get back to business are facing a new uphill struggle - employees alarmed by stress and anxiety or simply requesting outright to be furloughed for another three months.

Workers who were furloughed back in April are being gradually invited back to work, although some are being asked to work from home. However, many small businesses are reporting major issues in getting staff back to their roles, after three months being at home.

“It’s crazy to think that after all this uncertainty and worry – that happy time arrives when you can invite staff back to work and that they don’t want to actually come back!”, says Jonathan Ratcliffe who runs office space company Offices.co.uk

Reports from SMEs include:

  • Workers being too scared to come back to work and are being signed off due to anxiety
  • Staff not wanting to come back to work, who would rather be furloughed for a bit longer
  • Employees deciding to have a change of career

“Those struggling mentally you can well understand and have my sympathy – but we have seen, first-hand, staff simply asking if they can stay on furlough for a bit longer, it’s crackers, I couldn’t believe my ears”, adds Ratcliffe.

Businesses must tread carefully and understand the employee’s rights. Employers now face the daunting challenge of rebuilding businesses across a wide variety of sectors with a lack of motivated staff due to the long spell of lockdown.

The issue is complex, and the situation is unique for every type of business and every employee.

However, as companies see demand for services increase over the next month, the issue of reintroducing staff from furlough into a routine of work is going to be a challenging one.

“I totally sympathise with everyone who has been furloughed, it’s a tough time, but we must realise the scheme cannot go on indefinitely. We want to welcome employees back with socially-distanced open arms and build our way back out of this mess”, Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk concludes.

Meanwhile UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said they welcomes pragmatic evolution of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, 

“This is a positive and pragmatic step towards reopening the economy while recognising that this recovery will take time, particularly in hospitality. Giving businesses increased flexibility from the start of July is extremely welcome as hospitality looks to reopen its doors to the public.

"The move, which UKHospitality had been calling for, will allow more people back to work on a part-time basis and help venues ensure safety for customers and staff. Flexibility is going to be crucial if businesses are to open and be economically viable with social distancing measures in place.

"The introduction of employer contributions to the scheme from August will put some businesses under particular strain, but the way it is tapered allows for a gradual adjustment. Further support for the self-employed is also helpful for many in our sector.

“The Government still needs to recognise that these costs will be difficult for hospitality businesses to bear, and consider other measures to support the sector. This must include brokering a solution on rents, with Treasury contributions if necessary, and considering further grants to support businesses to reopen.

“If we can find a solution on rents and get an extension of the grant scheme, this will mitigate much of the impact of the reduced furlough. If we do not, a very difficult Spring would become a disastrous Summer for hospitality.

“We hope the Government bears in mind that many high street businesses will be reopening in the next couple of weeks, whereas hospitality will be forced to survive for an additional month, at the very least, on this reduced form of furlough.”

Iona writes: "I hope you are all well and out enjoying this lovely weather, it's been gorgeous  the past couple of days but poor Useless he's not happy can't find a cold place to sleep. Ruaraidh will have to get the paddling pool out for him to keep him cool."

In this week we have local bunched Fennel fronds ( these will be cut a couple of days before you get them so they will look a bit withered but are still fine and will keep the flavour for cooking)

Bunched Carrots these usually come in bunches of 6 to 8 medium carrots, we are selling them by the Bunch but if you just want one or two carrots thats fine too.

Aubergine, White Cabbage,  Green Jalapeños, Bunched Beetroot, Chinese Leaves as well as all the usual Fruit and Veg.

We have Gingerbread, home-made Scones in packs of 4, Strawberry, Raspberry and Rhubarb Jam, all from Margaret.

Please can you have your orders in before 12.30 on Monday 1st of June.

June already scary thought, where has the time gone. 

Enjoy your weekend and Thank you

Iona and Ruaraidh

The Veggie Box       07810 603188           This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

UK Asparagus

 

£4.15 bunch

 

Aubergine

 

£1.85

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.40

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£2.35

 

Round Green Cabbage

 

£2.45

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.70

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

Chines Leaves

 

£2.95

 

Local Fennel Fronds, bunch

 

0.85

 

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

 

£2.95

 

White Cabbage

 

£2.65

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Broccoli (UK)

 

£5.75

 

Bunched Beetroot

 

£2.85

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£3.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (New Season New Zealand White)

 

£1.75

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus

 

£2.35

 

New Season Cornish

 

£3.75

 

Jersey Royals

 

£3.95

 

Roosters

 

£1.50

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.65

 

Sweet Potato

 

£3.10

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.60

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£5.25

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.50

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.80

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Blueberries   120gr Punnet

 

£2.50

 

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £1.80

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.80

 

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

3 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.55

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.60

 

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

 

£3.50

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£3.95

 

 

 

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)

(6)

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

£4.50

 

 

Ginger Bread

(16)

£4.50

Per Cake,

 

4 Plain Scones

 

£3.25

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Local Eggs ½ Dozen

(Supply can be limited)

(30)

£2.25

 

Scottish Water is asking customers to only use the water they need with temperatures set to continue to remain high over the coming days.

Low rainfall levels across the country mean being water efficient in and around the home will be essential to helping to keep supplies flowing.

Water sources such as reservoirs, lochs and rivers continue to be monitored to allow supplies to be distributed effectively through the network to customers’ taps.

Kes Juskowiak, national water operations manager, said householders should think about their water use during the warm, dry weather.

He said: “The forecast for the weekend and coming days is for warm, dry weather to continue. People are obviously likely to be spending more time in their gardens and I would urge customers to think about the water they use and try to use less.

“From watering the garden with sprinklers and hoses, to filling up paddling pools, we are keen to not place further demand on the public water system at this time.  

"Grass is incredibly resilient and will bounce back when the rain comes.  Hoses and sprinklers typically use about 1000 litres of water an hour, this is more than 12 baths and more than three average UK families use in a day.

“There are some simple, easy ways people can save water in and around the home and I would welcome households thinking about being as efficient as possible with this natural and precious resource.”

While it is essential that people continue to follow Government advice regarding hand-washing during the Covid-19 pandemic, Scottish Water has outlined other ways in which customers can use water efficiently.

Simple, practical steps which we encourage customers to follow include:

  • Using a watering can rather than a hose to water plants
  • Taking shorter showers
  • Using a bucket and sponge rather than a hose to wash vehicles
  • Using washing machines and dishwashers fully loaded
  • Only boil the kettle with the water you need

To help customers use water efficiently, advice is available on our website www.scottishwater.co.uk/savewater or call our customer helpline on 0800 0778778.  Businesses should speak to their licensed provider for advice.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico — May 28, 2020: San Miguel de Allende, a city known as the “Heart of Mexico” and located in the Bajio region, will enter Phase 0 of its Covid-19 Reactivation plan — activation of the local economy for the local residents — starting Monday, June 1.

During this initial phase of the plan, San Miguel will see most of the business infrastructure that affects local residents reopen, including restaurants, shopping centres, markets, public transportation, offices and more.

At this point, hotels, bars, cantinas, clubs, public or hotel pools will not yet reopen. All residents are asked to wear masks, practice social distancing and apply extensive hygiene practices.

Businesses will be required to implement international-grade sanitation protocols, including shoe-cleaning, a decrease in interior foot traffic, set-up of dispensers of antibacterial sanitizer containing 70% alcohol, provision of face masks for people without them and hourly disinfecting of public spaces.  At no point can any groups gather inside or outside public spaces.

Access to San Miguel de Allende has been closed since March to non-residents, with city police filtering all its entrances (Querétaro, Celaya-Comonfort, Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo and Dr. Mora).

Those permitted to enter must not show symptoms of Covid-19 and be essential to the needs of the recovery phase the city is currently in. San Miguel de Allende’s Mayor, Luis Alberto Villarreal García, clarified that San Miguel de Allende is not open to tourism. Phase 0 will reopen restaurants, operating at 50% capacity, and markets, at 30% capacity, for residents only. 
 
"We still haven't opened the doors to our visitors,” said Mayor Villarreal García. “San Miguel is not opening to tourism, not yet; We will do it gradually. Gradually and responsibly, as the number of infections marks us.”
 
Reinforcing the Mayor’s stance, San Miguel de Allende’s City Council has passed an ordinance stating that guest properties cannot push bookings on digital platforms until the city enters Phase 3. If they do so, said the mayor, they are putting public health at risk. 
 
During this current Phase, businesses are asked to obtain their “Health First” certification, which the city launched on May 25. The certification accredits compliance with sanitary protocols for reopening.

Hotels (which may start reopening as Phase 1), golf courses, activity centers, cultural spaces (which may open on Phase 3), must apply for the certificate at www.sanmigueldeallende.gob.mx. Businesses will have to complete a series of paperwork and training sessions and have local health and safety officials evaluate each location for certification as an establishment that puts the health and safely of its patrons first. Certification is "free but mandatory," stressed Mayor Villarreal García.
 
While recognizing the commitment of the people of San Miguel to safe recovery, the Mayor stressed that the beginning of Phase 0 does not imply a return to daily life as it was before. Rather, it is a different approach with attention to health care to avoid starting a lockdown again. "If we do it right in this first stage, we will be able to open other shops gradually,” Villarreal García said.

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

Donald Matheson of 40A Upper Coll has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building for storage of agricultural implements and material at 40A Upper Coll. The building is to be 7 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres tall. The building is to have a timber frame and 0.5mm thick box profile coating.

New domestic garage

Alan Mackay of 31A Coll has applied for planning permission erect an 8 metre by 12 metre domestic garage at 31A Coll.

The Outer Hebrides Child Protection Committee has released a poster to remind anyone with concerns that services are on hand to support vulnerable children during the COVID-19 crisis.

Tam Baillie, who chairs the Child Protection Committee said: "The well-being and protection of children and young people has remained a top priority for services in the Western Isles.

"Whilst families have coped amazingly well with lockdown restrictions, all have felt the impact to varying degrees. We know that for many families the pressures will have intensified and they need additional support.

"Our message to the community is do not hesitate to flag up any concerns about children and young people because, despite the restrictions, we are geared up to respond.  We mean it when we say, Stay safe, Stay in touch."

Chief Social Worker for the Western Isles David Gibson said: “Social Work and Children’s Services staff have been working throughout this period of ‘lockdown’ supporting families and protecting children.

"We welcome the Stay Safe, Stay In Touch message from the Outer Hebrides Child Protection Committee and urge children, families, neighbours and communities to do exactly that.

Social Work and Children’s Services will continue to be available, along with multi-agency partners in Police Scotland, NHS Western Isles, the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration and the third sector. We encourage everyone in our communities to stay safe and to stay in touch as we work together to support and protect our children and young people.”

During the COVID-19 restrictions, if you have a concern about a child, please contact -

  • Social Work Stornoway: 01851 822749
  • Balivanich : 01870 604880
  • Barra :  01871 810431
  • Out of Hours: 01851 701702
  • Police: 101

Several generations of Barra children have been encouraged, led and stimulated to a lifetime love of reading by Castlebay community librarian Linda Mackinnon, who retires on June 11th after 36 years at her post.

And whatever the changes we have seen in the world recently, not seeing Linda among the bookshelves at the school and community library is likely to be one of the changes most keenly felt when staff and pupils return in August.

Linda Mackinnon was, according to one colleague and former pupil ‘there with the bricks’, having started work when the library opened in 1984. Michelle Maclean, now head teacher at Castlebay primary school, said: “I was a pupil at the school when Linda was first librarian and she has not changed one single bit in the whole time I have known her – in the way she presents herself or in the enthusiasm that she has for books and children.

“She has always been really supportive of the primary children, passionate about the library and the children using it. Her library is in the heart of the school, so the kids are in and out all the time.

“She helps us to organise book hunts in the library, puts together bundles of books ready for us to use for our school topics and organises World Book Day so that children can come in and vote for their favourite book, with voting slips and pencils all ready like a little election.”

School secretary Mairi Campbell is one of Linda’s contemporaries and passes through the school library every day on the way to the school office. She’s also a personal friend and sees Linda every day, and she has seen how times have changed while Linda has been in the job

She said: “I moved home to Barra in 1979 and the new school opened in 1983, which is when Linda started in the library. It was pen and paper that she used then and, when computers were introduced, she said 'Oh no, I'll stick with my pen and paper.' That didn't last – she became a whizz kid with the computer and there’s no pen and paper now.

“She is an amazing person and fantastic at her job – the children love her and she loves them. She is so keen to ensure that they are encouraged to read.”

Linda’s enthusiasm for books isn’t just limited to literature for children – she also keeps all the generations in Barra supplied with reading material matched to their interests.

Mairi said: “She has a huge passion for reading and it’s her own pastime too – she will quite happily spend hours reading. That shows when it comes to meeting the needs of library-users of all generations. She knows what people like and she is always picking books for them and thinking of other things that they would like.”

Linda’s passion for her job and for the people who come in to choose a good read has placed the library at the absolute heart of the Barra community, according to Western Isles head of libraries Kathleen Milne.

She said: “Linda is a born librarian, she just loves books. She knows what people like and her knowledge of children’s books is just extraordinary. Her mind is like a reference system – she knows where everything is kept and how to find something that would suit any reader.

“Her support for the children is fantastic. She is always encouraging them to read and suggesting what they could try.”

Retirement at a time of social distancing means there won’t be an event on June 11th – although staff are determined the day will not go unmarked. A proper send-off for Linda is planned when lockdown is lifted and people are free to gather and show their appreciation of everything she has done for the island’s readers.

In retirement, according to friend and colleague Mairi Campbell, she’s likely to spend more time appreciating her other passion, football. And, she says: “She’s a real sun-worshipper, so I can imagine her in a sun-lounger with a book in her hand and her cat by her side. We’ll definitely miss her, but it’s not as if she is going away from the island. I am sure we will be seeing her among the bookshelves still!”

 

A Western Isles system to ensure local residents have full and direct access to the UK Government Testing Scheme will be fully implemented next week, says NHS Western Isles.

The national testing system, which introduces testing and contract tracing to anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 over the age of five was launched this week. Symptoms of COVID-19 include a new, persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in taste or smell.

The national testing system is separate to the local testing arrangements, which remain in place and are working effectively in the Western Isles.

Eligible Western Isles residents can currently access the national system through NHSInform by a system of postal self tests. To ensure full access to the scheme, NHS Western Isles will be launching an enhancement next week, whereby those with COVID-19 symptoms, can go online/telephone to book a test locally.

These tests will be carried out by healthcare staff in the Western Isles and will be processed on the mainland. Results will be returned to NHS Western Isles, who will contact patients individually once results are received back.

Different arrangements have been required for the Western Isles, and other island Board areas, as regional drive through and mobile testing units 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 the national testing arrangements.

Details of the online booking form and telephone details to book a test will be communicated next week. In the meantime, postal self test kits are available by going online to NHSInform.

 

Police have issued a stern warning today (Friday May 29th) following the Scottish Government's announcement about changes to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Highlands & Islands Division Superintendent Iain MacLelland said: "The regulations are clear: people should only leave the house for very limited purposes – for example for basic necessities, for exercise or recreation, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done from home.

"The Chief Constable has made it clear that we are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to protect the NHS and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.

"Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance and encourage compliance. We will use enforcement as a last resort only where there is a clear breach of the legislation.

"We recognise that people have made significant sacrifices until now and while the temptation may be to head straight for one of our beauty spots, we would ask people to use their judgement and avoid going to places which are normally busy during the good weather.

"Complying with the legislation about meeting only one other household outdoors at any one time and following the Scottish Government's guidance about avoiding travelling long distances will stop our parks, beaches, lochs and hills from becoming over-crowded and help ensure appropriate physical distancing is maintained, reducing the spread of coronavirus.

"We want people to enjoy our outdoor spaces safely and our officers will be robustly tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in our communities."

Dr Ken Oates, NHS Highland's Interim Director of Public Health, added: “I would like to thank everyone across the NHS Highland area for their response to the lockdown measures that were put in place. These efforts, which we know will have been challenging, have really helped us in our response to the pandemic.

“Lockdown restrictions have eased slightly but we must not be complacent as the virus has not gone away. I would ask everyone to still adhere to the measures which have been put in place which include staying at home as much as possible and adhering to physical distancing when they are outdoors, especially if you are taking the opportunity to spend time with another household.

“These measures are still very important to ensure we can restrict the spread of this virus as much as possible.”

Ferry operator CalMac is reinforcing the essential travel to islands only message on the back of the latest Scottish Government advice.

CalMac will be continuing its checks on people travelling for non-essential reasons with port and ferry staff asking for proof that they are an island resident, or evidence that they are a key worker, before being allowed to board.

With good weather forecast this weekend and the relaxing of some lockdown rules, CalMac expects an increase in people trying to travel, particularly to islands in the Clyde.

‘As the First Minister made very clear yesterday travel to islands continues to be for essential reasons only, they are not open for recreational purposes and people trying to board for a day trip will be turned away,’ said CalMac’s Director of Operations, Robert Morrison.

‘Likewise, people with island second homes should not be travelling and we would ask them to be responsible before trying to board.

"The good weather may tempt people to get out and about, but I would urge everyone to continue to follow government guidelines and stay away from the islands.'

Passenger and vehicle numbers are down 95% across CalMac’s 28 routes as the majority of people have respected the advice to stay away for now.

Her Majesty’s Coastguard is warning people not to take risks at the coast this weekend.

The warning comes as lockdown eases in various parts of the country meaning coastal exercise and visits are allowed.

And with the weather set to be scorching in most of the country, many people will take the opportunity to visit the coast. However, the usual risks the coast poses have been amplified as local authorities and land owners may not have had the opportunity to make their usual safety provisions and the majority of beaches will not currently be lifeguarded. 

Anyone going to a beach should take personal responsibility, avoid the dangers and keep themselves safe.

Three people died last weekend in separate incidents and HM Coastguard says there’s a real danger more there could be more fatalities in the next few days.

Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: ‘We can’t emphasise this enough - the sea has no respect for whether you’re local or not, whether you’re experienced or not – the sea is unmerciful if it catches you out.’

‘But help us to help you. We know how beautiful the coast is but it’s deadly if you get it wrong and your choices might put your family and friends at risk as well as yourself. And every time our frontline responders respond – as they always do and always will – they’re put at risk too.’

‘Please. #BeBeachSafe Check tide times. Remember the sea has currents and rip tides that can’t easily be seen. Leave inflatables at home. Check your kit before you go onto the water. Make sure you have fully charged phones or other means of contact. Look out for each other. But above all, please keep safe and if you get into trouble and call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Don’t make this weekend’s trip to the coast memorable for all the wrong reasons.’

The construction of major infrastructure projects in the Western Isles is preparing to restart.

This is consistent with Scottish Government guidance set out in its recent route-map and follows yesterday's (Thursday May 28th) announcement by the First Minister of the move to its Phase 1 of Covid recovery. 

Talks are also to be held about the impact of this on public transport to and from the Islands.

The Scottish Government has agreed a phased and incremental approach to the restart process with those involved in the industries concerned.

This starts with the preparation of construction sites to put in place risk mitigation measures including physical distancing, enhanced hygiene by installing new or expanded site welfare and toilet facilities, one-way systems and marking 2m distancing throughout the site.

Subject to the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive and of the respective construction Contracts being met, subsequent stages of the construction sector restart plan, comprising a phased return of a proportion of the workforce and the restart of construction activity, are, in turn, subject to further consultation between and the agreement of the government and industry leaders.

In any case, activity will not commence for at least a further two weeks after the publication of any such agreement and subsequent updated advice.

A further consideration for the islands' construction sector will be access to ferry and air services which have been the subject of restrictions since March.  The Comhairle is currently liaising with Transport Scotland on the matter and it has been confirmed by the government that appropriate changes to timetabling arrangements for and access to ferry services will only be implemented following engagement with island authorities.

 A Comhairle spokesman confirmed, "The Comhairle, in collaboration with partner organisations including Hebridean Housing Partnership, will continue to adhere to Scottish Government guidance in all matters associated with the move from the lockdown".

"Projects including the new care home and social housing at Goathill, Stornoway, the improvements to Lochmaddy Pier, North Uist, and the provision of extended Early Years provision at Stornoway Primary are major investment projects for the Western Isles. 

"The construction activity arising from these projects makes a significant contribution to the economy of the islands and we are glad that this will be able to restart in an incremental and safe manner".

"The initial stages, likely to be commenced week commencing 1 June, involve preparing sites to enable the introduction of safe systems of work and enhanced hygiene measures, and will involve very small teams of contractors' personnel moving back to the sites.

"We look forward to further guidance from the government over the coming days regarding the ‘soft-start’ of construction works, which we currently anticipate being in the second half of June. 

"Similarly, we expect it to comprise, in the initial stages, small numbers of specific staff and subcontractors and the use of island-based site personnel wherever practicable.”

 

This week, I want to focus on the fantastic work which has been ongoing in our Education system and pay particular thanks to all the parents/guardians, pupils, teachers and all our education employees, across the Western Isles, for their continued response to the COVID-19 crisis, says Councillor Roddie Mackay, leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in a statement sent out at 08.57 this morning (Friday May 29).

The Response from teachers and education employees

The support that teachers and education employees have provided, from the announcement of the lockdown, the supervision and feedback to all pupils through online learning and physical resource packs, and maintaining provision and support for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers throughout the last few months, has been nothing short of outstanding.

Teachers do what they do because they love their jobs and get great satisfaction from contributing to the learning experience of pupils and indeed every single one of our employees in Education has stepped up to the plate during this crisis.

I would like to pay tribute to the response from parents and pupils which has been equally outstanding. This week I was very pleased to hear that the average total attendance at our school hubs, throughout the Western Isles, has been in the region of 100 pupils which is about 4% of the total pupil population.

The remaining 96% are, of course, learning from home and we have seen very high levels of engagement based on weekly reporting form schools with over 92% of learners engaging with teachers’ learning content each week since the lockdown begun.

We appreciate that it has not been an easy task for you all to navigate and interact through the various platforms and resources, but throughout all of that Education and learning has continued. That is something which you should all be very proud of.

Looking Ahead

In terms of planning for the re-opening of schools, officers and HTs are preparing for schools to re-open to pupils on 11 August in-line with national announcements. We are planning for school staff to begin to return to schools from the week beginning 8th June to start preparing for the return of pupils and the planning of learning approaches to be used in August.

The provision for the children of key workers will continue throughout June and we also continue to prepare and develop the local delivery plan for the reopening of school buildings and that will be shared in the coming days.

I would like to assure you that we are working hard to plan to support the recovery process in full collaboration with you as a community of school leaders. Your commitment as parents, guardians and teachers to supporting all of the children, young people and families in the Western Isles is unquestioned and we intend to ensure that as we move through to the next phase of this crisis, that we continue to do so together.

Conclusion

We remain committed to keeping everyone updated at the earliest possible opportunity and we will continue to do so through press releases, radio broadcasts, TV, social media and other means.

In addition, we have arranged for another Education Livestream Q+A session and details of that will be issued early next week. This will be another opportunity for parents, pupils and education employees to garner more information on the current situation which, as we all appreciate, is very fluid and changing on an almost daily basis.

As we follow the guidance provided by Government regarding the potential gradual easing of lockdown it is more important than ever that we maintain the good practice we have all followed over these last few weeks, apply common sense to all that we do and maintain the great community spirit we have shown so far in these challenging times. 

Extremely high demand is expected from local people when some recycling centres reopen in the Western Isles next week, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said this morning (Friday May 29).

So traffic control and booing systems are being put in place as well as other limitations.

This came after the Scottish Government confirmed that there has been a revision to guidance on travel.

So Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will reopen the Creed Park Household Waste Recycling Centre for essential use only from Monday 1 June and the Rueval Household Waste Recycling Centre from Tuesday 2 June.

They say: "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.  We would ask all users to be patient and to show consideration to others when using our sites.

"As the sites have been closed for a significant period, demand is likely to be very high initially and traffic management measures will be in place.  We would ask all householders to be patient as there are likely to be significant queues and backlogs during the first few days of opening.  If you can wait until later in the week it is likely that you will be able to access the recycling centre with less delay.

"Please remember that for the first two week of operating, only private cars will be allowed access to HWRC sites.  Vans, pick-ups and trailers will not be permitted to access the site until Tuesday 16th June, and we will be introducing an on-line pre booking system for such vehicles – more details on the booking system will be circulated in the coming days."

The following rules will be in place:

  • Cars-only are permitted to use the above sites for the first two weeks – no vans, pick-ups or trailers will be permitted entry
  • Only one vehicle allowed entry to site at any one time
  • To avoid overcrowding we will be operating a queuing system for vehicles
  • To avoid traffic management issues, there will be a cut-off point for vehicles to queue to enter our sites, you may be asked to come back at a different time if the queue becomes too long
  • While queuing, please remain in your vehicle, with your engine switched off while stationary
  • Please follow all signage and verbal instructions from our staff at all times
  • Please have your waste sorted before arriving, to help our recycling centres operate as efficiently as possible
  • To maintain social distancing, staff will not be able to help you deposit your waste items, so ensure you only bring what you can manage yourself
  • Please wash your hands before and after attending.
  • You must follow the Government guidance on social distancing and stay at least 2 metres apart at all times
  • If you or anyone else in your household has Coronavirus symptoms, or has been asked to self-isolate, DO NOT attend any of our recycling centres

Opening Hours for Comhairle Household Waste Recycling Centres

Creed Park HWRC, Creed Enterprise Park, Lochs Rd, Isle of Lewis, HS2 9JB

01/06/20 – 07/06/20          Mon – Sat       9am – 5pm

08/06/20 onwards             Tue – Fri          9am – 5pm     

                                       Saturdays        9am – 4pm

Rueval HWRC, Market Stance, Benbecula, HS7 5LA

02/06/20 onwards Tue – Thu        8.30am – 4.30pm        Fri – Sat                  8.30am – 4pm

Habost HWRC / Urgha HWRC / Garrygall HWRC

Opening Hours to be confirmed – please regularly check the Comhairle’s webpages for updates

Cars with Trailers / Pickups / Vans

From week commencing 15th June, Cars with Trailers, Pickups and Vans will be permitted to use the above sites for the disposal of Household Waste provided they have a valid booking in place.

Full details of the new booking system will be provided in the coming days – please regularly check the Comhairle’s web pages for updates.

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called on NHS Western Isles to give reassurances to the public that full Test & Protect procedures are in place for use in the Western Isles.

The call comes ahead of tomorrow’s launch (Friday May 29th) of the Scottish Government Test & Protect scheme which is a central part of the exit from lockdown into phase 1.

Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, said tonight: “Test & Protect is a key part of the Scottish Government’s strategy to ease lockdown and the accompanying restrictions which we have all necessarily, and rightly, had to endure. Scottish Government guidance is that we should follow procedures as outlined in the launch of the T&P scheme for tomorrow. We are also being told to advise our communities to do so.

“Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director, stated earlier this week that all 14 Health Boards will have the capacity to implement T&P procedures from Friday 29th May.

"I am not convinced that this is the case in the Western Isles and I am seeking urgent reassurances from NHS Western Isles that they are fully equipped, have all measures in place and that they are prepared in order to continue to fulfil their part in protecting the residents of the Western Isles.

“I want to ensure that people in the Western Isles are treated at least the same as people in the rest of Scotland, otherwise we are effectively being discriminated against. Our communities, which have been magnificent during this pandemic, deserve no less. Anything else means we are being treated as second class citizens in our own country.”

Earlier NHS Western Isles stated that it continues to use local arrangements to test a wide variety of individuals in line with Government policy, and around 550 tests for COVID-19 have been taken in the Western Isles to date.  

They said: "We welcome today’s launch of the wider (UK) national testing system, which introduces testing and contract tracing to anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 over the age of five. Symptoms of COVID-19 include a new, persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in taste or smell.

"The national testing system promoted this week is separate to the local testing arrangements. NHS Western Isles is in ongoing discussions with national organisations to ensure arrangements are in place for local access to the UK government scheme.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, stated: “Locally we are focusing our testing on people who are unwell with possible COVID-19 symptoms, including health, social care and emergency service workers, or members of their households. We are also testing people coming in to hospital or moving to care homes.

“On the mainland, there are both regional testing centres and local mobile testing units in place for the wider testing of anyone with symptoms over the age of five.

“We are working hard to arrange access to the national testing service, which will be communicated out to our communities very shortly.”

She added: “NHS Western Isles already has arrangements in place to commence contact tracing with the next confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Western Isles.”

The national testing arrangements on the Western Isles will involve local contact arrangements for those with symptoms, and these arrangements are currently being put in place. If symptoms worsen or last more than seven days, individuals shpuld contact NHS24 on 111.

Under the Test & Protect approach, if the test result is positive, individuals will be asked to provide details of all recent close contacts to NHS Western Isles contact tracer. This will be done confidentially and is a vital step in slowing the spread of the virus.

Those who are contacted will then be asked to isolate for 14 days to keep their community and loved ones safe, and they will be offered a test if appropriate.

The 14 day period is needed because if they have the virus, it may take that length of time for it to develop into an illness. Alongside Test & Protect, continuing to keep two metres apart from others when outside as well as regular handwashing and good cough hygiene remains vital in helping to reduce the spread of the virus.

NHS Western Isles local testing covers the following groups (in priority order, as per national guidance):

·       Hospital admissions (possible COVID)

·       Any patient in hospital with new or worsening symptoms

·       Any symptomatic resident or staff member in a care home

·       Symptomatic health, social care or category 1 workers, or household members, to facilitate return to work

·       Admissions to care homes from home, hospital or another location

·       Elderly hospital admissions (on admission and at four-day intervals)

·       Any other patients admitted to hospital may be offered testing by admitting team as part of local COVID-19 overview

·       Primary care may offer testing to people with symptoms of COVID-19

 

The branch of Alzheimer Scotland in the Western Isles is giving "massive thanks" to the Co-operative Store in Macaulay Road for adding to Donald’s MacInnes' Sweetie Hamper prize draw.

"These chocolate baskets look amazing!! More lucky winner and remember we can post in UK.  Don’t forget to enter before 8th June!!

Please follow the link below and leave your full name – it's £2 a ticket and multiple tickets will be entered so £10 buys = 5 chances 

 
Donald explains: "I have donated this sweetie hamper for a prize draw to raise funds and to mark Dementia Awareness Week  (1st -7th June).  Just now every penny counts!! The draw will take place on the afternoon of Monday 8th June 2020 and winner will be announced on the Alzheimer Scotland Western Isles Facebook page so grab your chance now!"

Please remember to leave your full name including middle names/nicknames please so you can be contacted. (Don’t leave the entry as anonymous – unless you don't want to win a prize!).

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar harbours will return open port access to local leisure craft users today (Friday 29th May 2020) in line with Scottish Government guidelines laid out for Phase 1 easing of current lockdown restrictions.

Individual users are to ensure they continue to adhere to all Scottish Government legislation and guidelines.

Due to the unmanned nature of Comhairle harbours, users must take all necessary precautions in ensuring their own health and safety both in terms of COVID-19 and other general risks associated with waterborne activities.

The RNLI in Scotland has reacted to the Scottish Government’s plans for easing lockdown with an important safety warning.

The government plans which will permit people to travel short distances, limited to five miles within their local area, for exercise including allowing outdoor swimming, kayaking and angling have prompted the lifesaving charity to call for the public to stay safe.

“With an unusually warm spring coupled with the easing of a lockdown which has seen many of us unable to visit our favourite beaches, we expect many people to be eager to hit the coast.” said Jacob Davies, RNLI Lifesaving Manager for Scotland.

“However, just because the lockdown restrictions are being relaxed does not mean our coasts are safe, the dangers that have always been there remain. We ask those who are local to beaches to continue to be aware of the inherent dangers and to avoid taking risks.

“Scotland’s air temperature may be warming up but the sea temperature remains consistently chilly all year, jumping or falling into cold water or spending longer periods than normal submerged in the water can lead to, potentially fatal, cold water shock.”

Michael Avril, Scotland’s Water Safety Lead for the RNLI and Chair of Water Safety Scotland added: “The Scottish public need to remember the following safety advice: Stay in familiar surroundings, follow Scottish Government advice of remaining within five miles of your home, don’t put yourself, your family and emergency services at risk by taking risks or assuming it ‘won’t happen to you’.

“If you do see someone at risk call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

The message from the RNLI in Scotland is clear, an easing of lockdown does not mean an instantly safer coast and water temperatures remain dangerously cold.

 

A new multi-partner project led by National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is exploring the potential to use electric heat demand in some areas of Scotland to soak up surplus wind generation, rather than wind farms being paid to reduce their output.

The ‘4D Heat’ project – which is funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) and also includes partners Delta-EE, Everoze and PassivSystems – aims to find a way to match the flexible demand from electric heat to occasions when wind farms are generating too much power, without impacting on the distribution network.

Work will focus on an off-gas grid area in northern Scotland with high proportions of electrified residential heating, and homes with potential to switch to electric heating. It’s estimated there are currently around 380,000 such homes in Scotland which could move to a range of electric heating solutions, from storage heaters to air or ground source heat pumps.

Earlier this year the Scottish government announced plans to ensure all new homes use renewable or low carbon heating from 2024, accelerating the need to understand the impact of increased uptake in electric heating on distribution networks.

The six-month 4D Heat project starts this month with an initial focus on the potential and feasibility of smartly-control electric heating to help solve network constraints.

Kate Jones, Project Manager for SSEN, said: “SSEN is delighted to be partnering on this project which will look at how people’s homes can be made warm and comfortable, whilst making best use of the energy available. This project will also investigate how smart electric heating can help to balance the grid, which as the network operator we would welcome, to help keep costs low for everyone.”

Cian McLeavey-Reville, innovation strategy manager at ESO, said: "If we can prove the feasibility of this concept, it will be a huge win-win for the transition of our energy sector. Reducing the amount of wind curtailed, as well as improving the business case for low-carbon electric heat, would be a major step forward on our path to a net zero carbon economy.”

Matthew Myers, Senior Analyst at Delta-EE, leading the research with Everoze and PassivSystems, said:m“This is a great example of how customers can play a role in the energy transition, with their heating systems automatically adjusting to help avoid wind generation having to be paid to switch off.

"It helps to decarbonise, makes use of digital technology, uses distributed resources, and democratises the energy system through customers having a bigger role. Hence the name of the project: 4D Heat.”

 

Families are reminded that their local Health Visiting team is continuing frontline community work across the Outer Hebrides, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, the team continues to support families, maintaining frequent contact, building therapeutic relationships and providing a crucial role in providing support and advice to children and families, says NHS Western Isles.

Home visits have had to be reduced, but Health Visitors remain in the community doing face to face consultations as needed.   Providing swift support is key, and despite restrictions on face-to-face contact, local staff have adapted to ensure families in need are able to receive the care and advice they require

From increased telephone consultations and video calls to provide high quality care and support, to risk assessments over the phone before visiting to ensure use of the correct PPE, keeping children and families safe is a top priority.

Raising a new baby can be a stressful and challenging time in normal circumstances, and many new mothers rely on Health Visitors as a key source and primary contact to help answer their questions, and support their babies and children with appropriate development. Health Visitors continue to provide practical advice and support for topics relating to breastfeeding, nutrition, safety – including safe sleeping arrangements, illnesses and mental health, among others.  Health Visitors continue to advise families to attend childhood immunisation appointments and if possible arrange delivery of health start vitamins drops for the under 5’s if required.

As well as the child’s physical and mental wellbeing, Health Visitors work with families to ensure they have access to any services that they may require, including for urgent needs such as financial aid or for food banks in the area. Health Visitors also continue to contact/visit families with additional support needs, for example to support postnatal depression, parenting advice, and also in partnership with third sector agencies and social work for child protection support plan

It is acknowledged that family life has changed massively since the pandemic began, and many families are under even more pressure than normal. Having a new baby is a huge transition and at this time most parents don’t have the support they would normally rely on. Parents and or families can feel isolated and overwhelmed.  Having somebody to turn to during this time is extremely important and contributes to the ongoing safety and well-being of their children.

The way Health Visitors engage with patients may have changed due to COVID-19, but they are all still here, and continue to work within the communities to help families access the services they need, while providing them with practical advice and support to ensure the best outcomes for their children.  To contact your Health Visitor, parents are asked to use the office number given to them and/or the individual mobile numbers.

Alternatively, you can e-mail the Health Visiting Team at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron yesterday (Wednesday 27th May) reminded decision-makers in Holyrood that crofters and farmers have worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic – while Comhairle nan Eilean Siar stated their activities should be minimised.

Mr Cameron, the Scottish Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary, submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament drawing attention to the contribution the agricultural sector has made during the current crisis.

Mr Cameron said: “Many people in the sector were surprised when Nicola Sturgeon recently announced that people in agriculture could go back to work on May 28th.

“Of course, our farmers and crofters have been working non-stop throughout the pandemic.

“In fact, the last couple of months has been extremely busy with lambing and calving, not to mention sowing crops.

“Keeping the nation fed is an essential service and our farmers and crofters are critical to providing food and produce across the UK.

“I make no apology for pointing that out to the politicians and bureaucrats down in Holyrood.

”Our crofters and farmers deserve our respect as well as our thanks."

Mr Cameron’s motion reads: "That the Parliament recognises the important contribution to the national effort against COVID-19 being made by Scotland's farmers, crofters and growers; acknowledges that, while many sectors of the economy continue to be in a temporary pause, much of the agricultural sector has continued unabated to produce food and manage land; understands the importance of agriculture and believes that, too often, farmers, crofters and growers carry out their work with little appreciation; wishes everyone involved in the agricultural sector well over the coming period and beyond, and thanks them for everything that they do."

However, CnES said in a media release yesterday: "Crofters are advised to minimise moving and gathering animals unless it is essential or it is for welfare-related activities like shearing. 

"Crofters should adopt good hygiene practices and if people from more than one household are involved in activities then they should plan their activities to ensure that they can practice social distancing. 

"Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be considered in line with any national guidance.  Similar rules apply to related animal activities including vets attending stock, farriers coming on to the island, and hauliers taking stock on and off the islands.

"Peat is still commonly used to provide fuel for households in the islands, therefore peat-cutting is allowed under the current restrictions. If people from more than one household are involved, then they should plan their activities to ensure that they can practice social distancing."

CnES adds, however, that the rules will change as the lockdown is relaxed and crofters are reminded to follow the latest Scottish Government advice which can be found at: www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19.

 

Community wind farm organisation Point and Sandwick Trust has launched a new delivery, meals on wheels and befriending service in its latest effort to support the community in the fight against Covid-19. 

Three new members of staff have been appointed to make the deliveries and check in by telephone on the wellbeing of people in need in the Point and Sandwick area. 

Peter McNeill and Matthew Smith have been appointed as delivery drivers, while Sandra Macleod has been appointed as co-ordinator of the service. They will be in post for several months and the jobs have been funded by grants to Point and Sandwick Trust from the Corra Foundation and the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund via Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

A flyer informing households of the service has been produced and will drop through every letterbox in the Point and Sandwick area presently. It has two vital phone numbers on it – one for arranging the free delivery of groceries and the other for community wellbeing support. This second number is a telephone befriending service and the way for people to request the delivery of freshly cooked meals to their door.

Call 01851 871286 to organise grocery delivery and 07385 711473 for wellbeing support. Both lines are open 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday. 

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “PST are delighted to expand our Covid-19 Community Support to include a daily cooked food delivery and befriending service with funding from the Corra Foundation, and are pleased to welcome three new members to the PST staff to set up and deliver the services.

“This service is free and available to anyone in need in the Point and Sandwick area and is supported by our partners at Point Community Council and Sandwick Community Council. 

“A leaflet with details about how to access the two services — grocery delivery using local shops, and the new cooked food service — will pop through the letterbox in every occupied house in the Point and Sandwick area in the next few days.

“The services will be delivered with regard to the latest NHS Western Isles and Government Covid-19 guidelines, and the safe handling of cooked food.

“We will be using our volunteers to keep in close touch with community activists to deliver some aspects of both services. Updates will be posted regularly on our popular Facebook page and our website as the services develop.”

The grocery delivery service aims to help those residents who are self-isolating, unable to get to the shops due to transport difficulties or who have any other circumstances that have been exacerbated by the pandemic lockdown. 

The drivers will safely pick up and deliver shopping that has been ordered and prepaid from local stores including Blackhouse Bakery, Buth an Rubha, Macleod & Macleod Butchers, WJ Macdonald Butchers and Islander Shellfish. They will also be helping with deliveries from the food bank. 

Residents should order directly with the shops, advise them it will be a PST delivery and then call the delivery line number to confirm. Call before 1pm and the drivers will do their best to make the delivery the same day. 

The organisation is also offering support to help ease lockdown loneliness through the telephone befriending service and can supply freshly cooked meals – prepared by The Chief Cook. People can get in touch either on their own behalf or on someone else’s – the aim is to make sure that everyone who needs help gets it – and the organisation will do its best to help, free of charge.

Women's football in the Western Isles is getting more promotion than ever, thanks to support from CalMac's Community Fund.

More than 140 young women from across the islands took part in the first every primary age women's football association festival of football, held in Leverburgh before lockdown began.

Lewis and Harris Women’s Football Association coach Euan ‘Moley’ Macleod said: “Our projects have enabled girls from throughout the Western Isles to meet and compete against each other. In Leverburgh we had girls and teams attending from Ness and Barra. In total we had over 60 girls in attendance with ten coaches.

“The CalMac award has not only enabled the young female footballers to play more football this past year, but hopefully for many years to come.”

As a way of sustaining the sport, LHWFA proactively encourages players to become coaches. Players coming up to age 16 are encouraged to volunteer as lead coaches during primary sessions.

Once the girls turn 16, the club pays for them to gain their SFA coaching qualifications. CalMac support last year enabled the association to pay travel expenses for four girls to attain their SFA club coach award in Dingwall.

CalMac's Community Fund supports numerous non-profit organisations in the mainland ports and islands the company serves. Last year the fund was designed to benefit the lives of children and young people living in west coast communities, with awards between £500 and £2,000 on offer.

Applications were judged by a screening panel of young people recruited from across the company's network, in partnership with Young Scot and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's community learning and development team.

CalMac's corporate social responsibility manager, Gordon McKillop, said: “I'm delighted we have been able to support the growth in girl's football in the Western Isles. We have helped lay the foundations for sustainable growth of the sport across the islands in the future.”

 

Travel to and from the Western Isles is likely to be ‘significantly constrained’ as Scotland begins to ease out of lockdown, according to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson MSP.

But Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has emphasised that there have, as yet, been no specific discussions on restrictions to ferry travel in the immediate future.

Mr Matheson was speaking during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood yesterday (Tuesday 26 May) described as a ‘hybrid meeting’ and attended in person by some MSPs and remotely by others.

During his presentation to Parliament, the cabinet secretary provided an update on the development of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 transport transition plan and revealed that discussions had taken place yesterday morning between Scottish island authorities and Transport Scotland on the subject of planning how transport restrictions will be managed into the future.

He said: “The virus is still with us, and if we move too quickly or without appropriate diligence, it could rapidly run out of control again. In that context, our transport transition plan must be dynamic and capable of evolving as lockdown measures are gradually eased. ….. Our transport transition plan will present a careful and measured approach to a fluid situation in which we must continue to adopt the behaviours that have brought us to this point.”

Mr Matheson was questioned by Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan, attending the session remotely from his home in Lewis. Dr Allan specifically raised the issue of travel restrictions to and from the Western Isles.

He asked: “The travel restrictions on ferries to and from the Western Isles have played an important part in containing the spread of the virus in the islands. With the publication last week of the route map for moving out of lockdown, how will the travel restrictions to the islands fit into that route map? Can the cabinet secretary give an assurance that any discussions between Transport Scotland and ferry operators about timetables for this summer will reflect the need for any changes to be gradual and done with great care?”

The Cabinet Secretary responded: “The transport transition plan sits alongside the route map, which the First Minister set out last Thursday. As we move through the phases in the route map, the transition plan will adapt to make sure that we address transport needs that might be required to meet any increase in demand. That will include ferry services to our island communities.

“We are acutely aware of some of the concerns and issues that our island communities have about any changes to the timetable arrangements. Only this morning, a discussion took place between Transport Scotland and our island authorities to explore that issue. I assure the member that, before any changes are made to the timetabling arrangements for ferry services, there will be engagement with the island authorities to look at the issues and to ensure that any changes are introduced appropriately.

“Ferry capacity is likely to be significantly constrained through physical distancing. CalMac estimates that its network will be constrained to something like 17 to 18 per cent capacity because of physical distancing. That will have a significant impact on who can use our ferry services. It is part of our thinking and planning for making sure that any increase in demand for ferry services reflects the needs of our island communities. I give the member that assurance and will continue with that engagement as we move through the phases of the route map.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this morning (Wednesday 27 May) issued a statement saying: “There was no meeting yesterday to discuss specific restrictions on ferry travel. However, the Comhairle meets Transport Scotland and ministers on a regular basis to discuss issues related to ferry and air travel. 

“Currently there remain no plans to ease travel restrictions on journeys to or from the Western Isles. The Comhairle will communicate any update on this as it has done throughout the pandemic.”

Dr Allan said earlier today: “I was pleased to receive an assurance that, before any changes are made, there will be engagement with the island authorities to look at these issues and to ensure that any changes are introduced appropriately.

“The need for physical distancing on ferries will reduce capacity on the network to around 18% of normal levels. This will have a serious impact on who is able to travel and means that access to the islands will have to be carefully managed for some time.” 

Ferry operator CalMac has been operating a reduced essential lifeline timetable since 27 March which is set to continue until 14 June. Travel to the islands has been restricted to essential journeys only since 22 March with only residents or key workers able to travel.

Photography, artefacts, archives and videos are being used to bring the historical collections of the Outer Hebrides to life.

That's how Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Heritage Service has been busy of late.

Those with an interest in history, culture and Gaelic language have had plenty to watch, see and hear on the Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean social media pages as part of its response to COVID-19.

In common with museums across the country, the doors to Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean in both its venues are currently closed - but staff have been busy cataloguing, archiving, and photographing objects and archives. 

They are then sharing some of this work on social media to provide people with access to collections that are in storage and - in some cases - too fragile to be on permanent display.

With an increasing awareness of mental health issues during lockdown, it’s worth remembering that heritage has a role to play in raising people’s spirits - especially during the current crisis. Nostalgia and looking back on our own lives can help, as the past can teach us how to cope or manage different situations in the present. Our heritage can also make us feel connected to people even if we aren’t physically present with them as we still have shared memories. Talking about that with others in phone calls or video chats can brighten our days with everyone stuck at home.

Looking at the history of previous pandemics can also inform today’s scientists about what to do and what not to do. Before the discovery of disinfectant, burning clothing and furniture was needed to stop the spread of infections. That was a common sight outside the houses of tuberculosis (TB) sufferers and victims across the Islands until the 1950s when antibiotics came into action against that ancient scourge.

Some of the most popular posts have been the old milk bottles from local dairies, the two hand grenades, people creating their own mini museums, the Gibson letters and posts relating to the Dualchas na Mara/ Heritage of the Sea project, in particular the piratical ‘piece of eight’ and the fisherman’s jumper.

Visitor Services Officer Isabel Maclachlan said: “There is something for all the staff to get involved with; the Visitor Assistants who would normally welcome people to the museum have been working on a project to transcribe hundreds of letters from the Gibson collection, so that we can make these fascinating resources available to everyone, and supporting the Dualchas na Mara project by creating colouring pages for children.”

Through the Dualchas na Mara project, funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Museums Galleries Scotland, people with an interest in maritime heritage can find out more about the Museum and Archive’s maritime collections - including the work of the herring gutters and the local fishing boat, ‘The Muirneag’. The project has had to move to create online content, which includes retelling old Gaelic traditional stories and creating a video about Gaelic sea-related words for those learning.

‘Hebridean Connections’ -  already an online digital archive - has seen many more people using its website for family history enquiries and our archaeology service continues to provide advice and guidance on planning and archaeological sites. The Museum and Archive service are also still providing general advice and answering enquiries.

While the museums and archives remain closed, keep up to date with what the Heritage Team are working on by following Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A new YouTube channel has also been launched where you can find all the videos created.

Gibson Collection web page http://blogserver.cne-siar.gov.uk/wp-archivist/

 

A family of feral cats have become unlikely screen stars after sparking an emergency rescue operation this month.

Cat rescue group WISCK (Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens) got an emergency call from staff at the BASF Pharma works at Callanish two weeks ago, seeking help with an unusual feline problem.

Production supervisor Jack Gearty said: “We were planning the lift and replacement of a 25-tonne tank when one of our engineers came into reception to say that a cat had run right in front of him while he was getting the site ready.

“A few of us went down and found that there was a litter of kittens, tucked into an alcove in the wall right behind the cage that holds the gas bottles. There was a crane coming the next day and if Ross hadn’t seen the mother cat, we wouldn’t have known they were there until we had heavy machinery virtually on top of where they were.”

Jack called Karen Cowan at WISCK and she and fellow-volunteer Iain Maciver went down to the Callanish site with traps and cages.

Karen said: “When we got there we realised it was two litters, as the kittens were very different sizes, though unusually though they were all together. Having set a trap we waited and watched and saw two very similar cats going back and forth to the babies. 

“Thankfully we eventually managed to trap both adults and get them and all six babies into care. This was the most worrying stage as we didn’t know if the mums would accept the kittens having been moved, or even which kittens belonged to which mother!

“After a worrying few hours, where both adults completely ignored the kittens and we feared we may have to step in and bottle feed them, both mums started to feed all the kittens together.”

In fact the adult cats wanted to have as little as possible to do with the humans who rescued them from injury or separation, but they were clearly absolutely devoted to each other. 

Karen believes they are mother and daughter who had litters close together and are sharing childcare – but keeping an eye on them proved challenging, and that’s where a bit of screen-time proved an ideal way to provide eyes-on care without adding to the stress for the feral mums.

She said: “This very unique little family seem to be doing well now and the adults are both eating. They are so sweet together but just to keep an eye on things we’ve moved the Catcam into their pen for the moment.”

The result has been a series of heart-melting videos showing a unique view of feral cats cuddling up, feeding their kits and even playing together. You can see one of them on our Facebook page and view more at https://www.facebook.com/westernislessupportforcatsandkittens/

The BASF family are just a few of a tidal wave of feral kittens (currently 32) born in May in the care of the Stornoway-based cat rescue group. WISCK was formed to support the feral, stray and unwated cats of the islands after the national charity Cats Protection withdrew from Stornoway late in 2019.

Entirely dependent on public generosity to feed, shelter and rescue cats, the group accepts donations via Paypal at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Karen and the WISCK volunteers are keeping a close eye on the BASF babies, which will eventually be socialised by volunteer foster-carers before being made available for new homes.

Staff at BASF have been given warm congratulations for alerting the rescuers, as Karen said: “Thank you so much to everyone at BASF for alerting us to this family and for being so caring about their wellbeing.”

And BASF’s Jack Gearty said he’s now hyper-aware of cats around the company buildings. “I’ve never noticed them much before, but everyone here is concerned – we’re all into cats and now we’re noticing them around the place.

“I know we’ve never had any issues with mice in the building, even though both we and the fish-farm next door keep the kind of materials that might attract them, so if there is a feral colony around, they’re obviously doing a good job!”

The pictures show the BASF cat family in their nest behind the gas bottles (Jack Gearty) and in care with Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens (WISCK).

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has made additional allocation within the Foundation Apprenticeship Programme to meet the changing demand which COVID-19 has brought.

Foundation Apprenticeships provide the appropriate underpinning knowledge and experience to enable young people to progress to a modern and graduate apprenticeship programmes within the local economy and nationally.

Additional spaces have been made available on the following seven Foundation Apprenticeships, they will be available to pupils entering S4 and S5 in 2020 - in Castlebay School, Sgoil Lionacleit, Sir E Scott School and The Nicolson Institute.

Business Skill

If you like ICT, Business Management and working with people, a career in business might be for you.

Creative & Digital Media

(delivered in both English and Gàidhlig)

Does working in film, TV, Radio, publishing, or on computer games and online media appeal to you? If so, why not gain skills and qualifications in creative & digital media.

Engineering

If you would like to be involved in engineering-operations and systems, then this is the apprenticeship for you.

Food and Drink Technologies

The growing food and drink industry locally and nationally serves a wide selection of exciting career opportunities from food science to environmental health.

Social Services Children and Young People

With a huge demand for skilled people in this sector with ample job opportunities and career progression pathways open on completion of the programme.

Social Services and HealthCare

Are you interested in a career in caring? This could be the one for you - get real life experience in the care sector that will allow you to work in the industry straight from school, progress to an SVQ 3 through the Modern Apprenticeship, or progress to a vocational degree such as Nursing or Social Work.

ICT Software

This is a career designed to meet the ever changing digital world. Gain the skills, qualification and work experience that will equip you to work in the industry, move into a Modern Apprenticeship or go on to Further/Higher Education.

Gaelic

To meet the local employment opportunities, the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and HealthCare, ChildCare and Creative Digital Media is offered through both the medium of English and Gaelic.

One Year Delivery Model

This year, CnES are offering one year Foundation Apprenticeships in Business, Social Services and HealthCare and ChildCare. These have been chosen as a direct response to the needs of these sectors and to equip our pupils with the skills and accreditation required to meet the future job opportunities in our communities.

Councillor Angus McCormack, Chairman of Education, Skills and Children’s Services said:  “This funding, supported by our charter development programme with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Bòrd na Gàidhlig (BnG), Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) programme and European Structural Funding (ESF) funding application, provides a major opportunity for local economic development, education, training and employment opportunities for our young people. I would encourage young people who may be looking to go to university or into graduate placements, to consider the exciting opportunities that are presented through this scheme.

“For each of the past five years, young people have left CnES schools with SQA vocational qualifications at SCQF5 at three times the national average.  Concordantly post-school positive and sustained destinations, particularly into employment and university, are high.”

Dolina Smith, Apprenticeship Manager said:“Foundation Apprenticeships offer young people in the Western Isles the chance to develop the future skills needed to grow the local economy.  They also provide a new and innovative career pathway which encourages more young people to stay on the islands with the offer of a job closer to home.  Foundation Apprenticeships are closing the gap between the classroom and the workplace, with pupils realising the benefits of work-based learning. Employers are telling us that pupils who have taken a Foundation Apprenticeship are more job ready and better qualified candidates for apprenticeships and jobs.”

Anyone interested can get in touch via phone or email:

01851 822840

07866 915153

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

An Lanntair would like to commission two artists to produce works to help redesign some of the art centre’s spaces as we look towards reopening when government COVID-19 restrictions allow.

"We will be replacing our two current wall-based artworks in the café/bar area with new vinyl decals, and would like to commission two artists to produce two separate artworks – with one displayed in the harbour room (pictured here with the current piece, by artist, Paul Kenny) and the other opposite the bar.

"We would welcome submissions from artists around any theme, and especially from those who would like to propose work based on or inspired by artwork they have developed or produced during lockdown.

"Work can be in any visual medium (such as printmaking, painting, collage and photography) as long as it can be reproduced as a print measuring 6.4m x 2.2m.

"An Lanntair will cover the costs of the production of the image, the install, and will also promote the successful commissioned image through our website and social media. The fee for each image will be a one-off payment to the artist of £600, with the artist retaining all copyright and rights to the image.

"Submissions should be sent in jpeg format, file sizes for submissions should be under 1mb each (however a highly quality resolution images will be requested if selected), with file names including the artist name and title of the work. There is a maximum of three images per applicant."

All entries should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Deadline for entries: 5pm, 26th June 2020.

We will aim to inform successful applicants by the end of July 2020.

 

Our apologies for the downtime!  A few recent articles and items are now missing because we have had to restore from a back-up but we will get them back up online as soon as possible!

Apologies for a continued delay as we search out the items were lost. 

Thanks to everyone for your patience as we have caught up with the need to update news and information posts…a reminder of the tremendous amount of material which we upload and sent out to you each day.

                                                                                                                                                         

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has joined calls for Dominic Cummings to resign.

At an extraordinary press conference in the Downing Street garden on Monday night (May 25), Cummings admitted to a series of breaches of lockdown.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“Every day I get calls or emails from people who can’t travel because of the lockdown guidance. There are heart-wrenching stories from those who can’t come to the aid of friends and family, or see loved ones for the last time. Islanders have made enormous emotional and economic sacrifices over the last few months to obey the rules and help save lives.

“The fact that Boris Johnson's most senior adviser was breaking these rules, possibly on multiple occasions, means he should have no place in government. He should have resigned but instead he showed no contrition and refused to say sorry for his behaviour which has left millions of people - who have been sticking to the rules - justifiably furious

“People must have confidence that the Tory government is following its own rules - not being investigated by the police for breaking them. As Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: 'There cannot be one rule for bosses and another for everyone else.’

“In Scotland, the clear public health advice has not changed. The Scottish Government will review the current rules on Thursday and hopefully this will lead to a gradual easing of some restrictions, evidence permitting. However, for now, people in the Western Isles should continue to stay at home - it really is helping to save lives.”

 

The University of the Highlands and Islands intends to start the autumn term as planned.

UHI has confirmed that it intends to start its autumn term on the usual dates, with the majority of higher education students beginning their studies on Monday 7 September. Further education students will also start at the times they usually would through their individual partner colleges and institutions.

The university partnership, which delivers educational opportunities to learners across the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire and beyond, will draw on its experience in blended learning to run courses in line with Scottish Government public health guidance. The approach will combine video conferencing and remote learning technologies as well as face-to-face teaching where possible and appropriate.

The decision was agreed by all 14 principals of the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership at a meeting last week.

Professor Crichton Lang, the university’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, explained: “We have been developing and delivering our courses to students across our partnership and the world for over 20 years, connecting our students and our communities. We have established proven ways of learning through technology, delivering an active and personalised experience to our students who are supported through our university partnership of colleges and research institutions.

“We will continue to draw on this experience and knowledge to deliver courses in the autumn term using our blended approach to teaching. This includes using video conferencing, inventive remote learning technologies and some face-to-face teaching where it is safe and important to do so.

“We will be working hard to share our existing expertise, knowledge and practical learning to enhance the delivery of all courses across further and higher education, while still adhering and adapting to changing government guidelines. Our priority is to provide a safe learning environment for all of our staff and students.”

The university has also worked with the Highlands and Islands Students' Association and Comann nan Oileanach at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI to agree that there will be no graduation ceremonies, either in person or virtually, during 2020. Students who finish their courses this year will still receive official confirmation of their awards from the awarding body, with higher education students having their awards conferred and graduating in absentia. The university partnership is planning to organise events for 2021 which will enable graduates and guests to celebrate when it is safe to do so.

The university is still welcoming applications for courses starting in September.

To find out about the range of opportunities available across the partnership or take part in an online open event, visit www.uhi.ac.uk.

1 – 7 June is Volunteers Week and Volunteer Centre Western Isles would like to encourage all local groups and organisations to say 'Thank You' to their volunteers for their time and work throughout the year.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role of volunteers in our communities – take time to say thank you this Volunteers Week.

Visit www.volunteercentrewi.org to get involved!

You can also:

  • send a Thank You e-card – volunteers_week_thank_you_cards,
  • make time to phone to say Thank You
  • say Thank You them on social media
  • download our Volunteers Week posters

Make sure your volunteers know they are appreciated this Volunteers Week!

Why not take some time think about getting creative and about different ways to thank volunteers or thank that special volunteer?

Take pics or videos for #VolunteersWeekScot and use our hashtags:

#volunteercentrewi

#volunteersweek2020

#saythankyou

#VolunteersWeekScot

 

 

Coastguard Rescue Teams throughout the Western Isles have been active over the weekend with a variety of call-outs demonstrating the range of work they can be called on to do.

On Thursday evening (21 May) members of Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team were taking part in training led by Scottish Ambulance Service on patient transport services, as part of their continuing support to NHS Western Isles for covid-19 preparations.

Earlier in the week (Tuesday 19 May) the Stornoway team had been asked to secure the hospital helicopter landing site for an incoming delivery of essential medical supplies. The helicopter was required for this delivery because fog had prevented the mail plane from delivering to Stornoway airport earlier in the day.

Just a few days later, on Friday (22 May) at 8.35pm, the team were in demand due to the weather once again, this time to assist Police Scotland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar with the closure of the Braighe causeway in high winds, with waves overtopping the road.

Griminish, Lochboisdale and Benbecula Coastguard Rescue Teams were also in action on Friday, called upon at 2pm to attend a whale stranding in Loch Eport in North Uist. The whale was confirmed as deceased and relevant authorities informed, with thanks given to the first informant. 

And Barra Coastguard Rescue Team were tasked just after 7pm on Friday to establish a landing site at Borve Machair for evacuation of an NHS patient to Glasgow by Coastguard helicopter. 

On Saturday (23 May) it was the turn of Tarbert Coastguard Rescue Team to be called upon, this time to man the landing site for uplift of a 33-year-old man who was being taken to hospital in Glasgow.

Coastguard Rescue Teams are part of HM Coastguard's land-based emergency response service, with six full-time duty officers giving incident command, operational support and training to 26 Coastguard Rescue Teams staffed by over 200 volunteer Coastguard Rescue Officers across the Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber.

They are usually tasked by Stornoway Coastguard Operations Centre and are one of the four ‘blue light’ emergency services within the UK, working closely with police, fire, ambulance, Coastguard helicopters, RNLI lifeboats, Mountain Rescue Teams and numerous other agencies as the incident requires.

The pictures are taken by Coastguard Rescue Team members and show conditions at the Braighe on Friday, the stranded whale in North Uist, patient transport training in Stornoway and the delivery of medical supplies by helicopter at Western Isles Hospital.

 

Police in Stornoway are asking for witnesses to come forward with information about damage to a fence in Upper Coll overnight on Thursday (21 May).

A strainer post and a length of fencing were damaged, apparently by collision from a vehicle, between 10pm on Thursday and 6am on Friday 22 May.

Any witnesses to the incident or anyone who can give information is asked to make contact with police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH 573/20.

 

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

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

Siting of caravan, Castlebay

Shona Gray of 19B Hardridge Road has applied for planning permission to site a twin unit caravan for use as a holiday let at 61B Tangasdale Castlebay. Work is also to consist of the construction of an access road and three parking spaces and the installation of a septic tank.

Flood protection gabion baskets, Barra Airport

Planning permission is sought to install flood protection gabion baskets at Highlands And Islands Airports Limited, Barra Airport, Eoligarry.

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

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

Replacement of antenna, Locheport

EE Ltd has applied for planning permission to swap out the existing antenna on the structure together with the addition of 6 additional feeders linking the antenna to the equipment cabinet at ground level at ESN Mast, Locheport.

Two new poles, Grimsay

SSE Networks has applied for planning permission to erect two new poles at Cean a Bhaigh-traight on Grimsay North Uist. This is part of a wider reinforcement to the network which includes: the upgrading of Eurnbank Grimsay 11kV spur from single phase 25mm to 38mm three phase from pole 94 main line to P9; additional 2 span to be erected across boggy ground to allow cable to be connected to spur to create ring network with Loch Fada; the upgrade of 11kV line from single phase 25mm to 38mm three phase from Pole 8 Baymore spur to P7 on Loch Fada 11kV spur; the moving of Loch Fada tfr pole to be back out of garden; cable termination on pole 6; installation of 11kV cable interconnector from Loch Fada to Eurnbank Grimsay; replacement of 11kV cable at Carinish Inn.

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 electricity poles, Groseclett
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks has applied for planning permission to interpole two new poles (one single pole 1a and one H-Pole 1b) on the existing 33kV overhead line at Stockinish substation, Harris at NG134942 to reinforce the network. One existing pole (pole 1) will also be replaced. All new poles and replacements will be of similar size and height of the existing overhead lines at Sub Station Groseclett.
 
Three new warehouses, Ardhasaig
Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd has applied for planning permission to erect three new warehouses at 8 Ardhasaig. Work is to include creating an additional 12 parking spaces taking the total number of spaces to 16. 
 
Extension of hardstanding, Bowglass
Irene Morrison of 2 Bowglass has applied for planning permission to create a hardstanding at Tasta n Sea Kiosk, 2 Bowglass. Work is to include creating a new access and siting a storage unit. 
 

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, Point

Stuart Macleod of 2 Portvoller, Point, has applied for planning permission to build a house at 16B Portvoller. Work is to include creating an access and parking suitable for two cars. 

New house, Lochs

Rosemary Bugler of 43 Lighthill, Back, has applied for planning permission to build a new house at 4b Habost, Lochs. The house is to consist of two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen/living/dining area and a boot room. Work is to include creating parking suitable for two cars. 

Extension, Point

Mr and Mrs MacGeoch has applied for planning permission to build an extension and renovate the existing house at 3 Flesherin. Work is to include creating a new access.  

 New agricultural building, Sandwick

Daniel Maciver of 7 Esplanade Court, Stornoway, has applied for planning permission to erect a new agricultural building at 23 East Street, Sandwick. The building is to be 8 metres long, 5 metres wide and 4 metres tall. 

New polycrub, Barvas

Calum Mackay of 9 Upper Barvas has applied for planning permission to build a polycrub at 9 Upper Barvas. The polycrub is to be 9 metres long, 4 metres wide and 2.7 metres tall. 

Renovation and extension of barn, Bragar

Donald MacPhail of 41 South Bragar has applied for planning permission to renovate and extend the existing agricultural barn at 41 South Bragar. Work will also include erecting an 8 metre long, 4 metre wide and 2.612 metre tall polycrub.

New agricultural barn, Tong

S & G Stewart has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at croft 8, Tong. The building is to be 22.86 metres long, 12.192 metres wide and 6.205 metres tall. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for five cars. 

While Vietnam weighs up declaring the country COVID-19-free after more than a month without community transmission, the declaration will come as little comfort to the hill tribes of Sapa who solely rely on international tourism for their income. (writes Taylor Edgar in Hanoi)

Without the resumption of international flights into Vietnam, the five ethnic groups living in the mountainous Lào Cai province bordering China faces a very uncertain future. The pandemic that barely touched this remote region has caused a vortex of problems for the entire community.

Lý Thị Cở, a member of the Hmong tribe and a trekking guide for the social enterprise company, ETHOS - Spirit of the Community, says the dramatic downturn in tourist numbers has impacted the entire community. And will leave people struggling with potential food shortages later in the year.

Explains Cở: “There are six people who live in our house, myself and my husband, his two younger brothers and my two children. Although we built our own house and grow our food, my income from tourism is the only money coming into the house. This income is necessary to help buy any additional food as well as essential farming materials such as fertiliser. Tourism money also supports us with buying clothes and other essentials.”

Tourism to this breathtaking mountain province stopped abruptly in March as the world finally woke up to the scale of the coronavirus.

Says Cở: “Tourism stopped abruptly in March. Tourism had been slowing slightly before that, but we went from having some travellers to none overnight. Not only did my income disappear, but all the homestays and host families lost their income too. For some people, this has been terrible. My cousin needs an eye operation, but nobody in the family had any money to pay. Fortunately, ETHOS has been helping with that and others in most need.”

The impact of the worldwide coronavirus shutdown has been dramatic in many fundamental ways in the Sapa region, not least what ends up in food bowls.

“We used to buy tofu or fish from the market a few times a week, but that isn’t an option anymore. Instead, we eat rice with vegetables we grow. Sometimes I’ll go to the forest and collect mushrooms, bamboo shoots or ferns. Many people are doing the same, so it’s getting harder and harder to find these things to eat,” comments Cở.

The experience of Cở is a microcosm of what is occurring across this entire region. With no international tourists at the moment and none for the foreseeable future, the local economy is evaporating, and not just for those people directly involved in the tourism industry. The wider fabric of life has also been affected by families choosing to stay at home rather than interact as they would typically do.

Revealing her fears for the future, Cở says: “I really miss meeting travellers and worry about many people in my community in the long term. While the disease seems to be in control in Vietnam, many many people have lost all their income. Most families here don’t have enough rice to last a full year, so as rice slowly runs out, buying more will become necessary. I worry about food shortages in the coming months.”

Even the little income generated by selling vegetables has been curtailed as tourist restaurants have closed their doors, and there’s simply no demand.

Asked when she thinks Sapa will recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cở expresses a mixture of trepidation and hope. While she has been saddened and surprised at the death toll overseas - Vietnam has yet to record a single COVID-19 death - and keen to see tourists return, Cở is apprehensive. International tourists could, she fears, unwittingly bring the virus with them as well.

The last few months have been hard going, but a more protracted shutdown of the tourism industry in this mountain province will spell real hardship ahead.

The Hmong tribe is one of 57 ethnic minorities in Vietnam. They have clung onto their lifestyle and beliefs in the face of the country’s rapid modernisation. Tourism in the Sapa area has been a mainstay of the local economy since the late 19th century. French colonists would flock to this mountain town to escape the oppressive summer heat of the capital, Hanoi.

Subsistence farming, though, growing rice and vegetables remains unchanged as do the traditional Hmong beliefs.

Comments Cở: “Many people here believe that evil spirits cause all sicknesses. In the beginning, many people came to see my father [ a shaman ] asking for his advice and protection. He gave many people necklaces to ward away bad spirits, but he also told people that this disease is different. Most people don’t fully understand it, and that’s what makes it so scary. My community doesn’t know who to ask for more information.”

With the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the Hmong are taking some solace from their traditional way of life that has remained unchanged. They plant corn in March, rice in May, and forage for food in the spring.

“This part of our lives has stayed the same, and to have something familiar has made things more bearable,” remarks Cở.

Phil Hoolihan, of ETHOS, the social community enterprise, says they have been able to support 56 families with a small $100 monthly stipend, funded mainly by previous trekking customers. However, he warns that this support can only be sustained until September. Unless there is an upturn in fortunes, the organization that has done so much to help Hmong women like Cở out of poverty will have to shut their doors too.

A day in the life of Cở before COVID-19

Cở (pronounced Ku?) has been a guide since she was very young, learning her English selling handicrafts to passing tourists on the streets of Sapa.

With the help of ETHOS, she trained to become a trekking guide and teach visitors about the Hmong culture, food, culture, and way of life.

Cở says she describes herself as a mother and farmer first, and a tour guide second.

“My life is structured around our farm, and my day to day life changes with the seasons — rainfall and temperature influence when I can plant and harvest my corn and rice. When I am not farming, I enjoy guiding people.

“For most of the year, I will guide three or four days a week. When I’m guiding, I wake up around 5 am and feed my pigs and chickens. I then cook breakfast and make my way from my village into Sapa town. The journey takes about an hour.

“I work for ETHOS, and I meet my guests at our community centres. We introduce the area first, and then I take the guests to the Sapa market to buy food ready for their adventure. Treks are always different, and I change the route and level of challenge based on the guests, their age, and their fitness. Many people like to learn along the way, so we talk. I often show people how to forage for food or explain how we make our traditional clothes from hemp and using indigo dye.

“Lunch is always with a local family, and this is a good way we help to share income in our community. I visit different host families, and they are supported financially and with good, wholesome food for hosting us.

“Homestays are always in local homes. My parents enjoy having guests stay as it’s a great way for them to earn a little money too. My mother is a herbalist, and my father is a shaman. Travellers love to hear about our beliefs and experiencing ceremonies when we have them.”

Find out more about ETHOS and Sapa in this video.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has appealed to the Government in Westminster to fast-track approval for the interconnector electricity link to the mainland in order to boost the local economy and support the sustainable development of renewable energy in the post Covid-19 world.

Leaders at the local council say that: "Approval of the Western Isles Transmission Link will unlock £2 billion of investment in Western Isles projects, contribute 500MW of green electricity generation to the UK’s drive towards Net Zero and create hundreds of jobs." 

According to the Comhairle’s Chair of Sustainable Development, Councillor Donald Crichton, “The transmission link and wind farms already consented in the Western Isles can help power Scotland to a cleaner economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

"The UK energy regulator must now approve the Western Isles Transmission Link and help Scotland and the rest of the UK to emerge from the worst economic downturn in 300 years while taking steps to meet critical climate goals”.

Alok Sharma, the UK Secretary of State for Business, has said that Renewable Energy projects will be a key part of ensuring a green and resilient economic recovery as well as reaching the UK’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (2045 in Scotland).

CnES says that "major energy players like BP and Iberdrola" are already kickstarting wind farm projects to “funnel money back through the supply chain and into jobs and to make sure that the economic recovery is based on sustainable investments”. 

Ignacia Galán, Chairman and Chief Executive of Iberdrola, says, “As we begin to emerge from the Coronavirus crisis, investment in renewables can quickly be delivered, creating jobs and offering immediate economic and environmental benefits.  This will help to support the UK’s overall recovery at this critical time”.

Councillor Crichton reflected this view for the Western Isles: “We have shovel-ready projects, consented and contracted to grid, which have been delayed for years by obscure regulatory blockages. 

"Global oil markets are collapsing and investors are turning their backs on fossil fuels in favour of renewables. 

"With unemployment set to rise post-COVID and families facing unimaginable economic challenges, now is not the time to be stalling on £2 billion of private investment for the sake of the few pence on electricity bills it will take to deliver the Western Isles Transmission Link. 

"We call on the Regulator and Government to take the necessary action.”

 

The wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) is asking people in Scotland to keep an eye out for a small but brightly-coloured butterfly, the Small Copper. Small Copper populations have fallen by a third in Scotland over the past decade, and sightings from members of the public are important in helping researchers find out what’s happening to this beautiful butterfly.

Project Officer Anthony McCluskey said: ‘Small Coppers are delightful little butterflies, and their declines in Scotland are a great concern for us. Finding out more about where they are can help us to conserve them. Observing wildlife is known to have a wide range of mental health benefits. This can be a mindful activity during these uncertain times and one which will help contribute to scientific research too.’

The butterfly can be seen in gardens and parks, and also found along paths and cycle routes so it may be seen on daily exercise outings. The charity is urging people to respect Government advice on social distancing by only recording the butterfly if they happen to find it as they take their normal exercise, and not to travel anywhere to find it.

Photograph by Mark Searle

Small Coppers can often be seen basking in sheltered sunny places, especially where there is some bare ground. Their caterpillars feed on wild sorrels, which are the smaller relatives of the dock leaves that people use to relieve nettle stings. With their wings open they are a little larger than a 50p coin, but they are easily overlooked as they are rarely seen in large numbers. The upper sides of the wings have distinctive bright orange and black markings.

Depending on the spring weather the butterfly can emerge in Scotland between the middle of April and middle of June, disappearing until late summer, when a second brood emerges. You can report your sighting of Small Coppers at www.butterfly-conservation.org/scottishsmallcopper.

This survey is being supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, through the Helping Hands for Butterflies Project.

Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to saving butterflies, moths and our environment. Their research provides advice on how to conserve and restore habitats. They run projects to protect more than 100 threatened species and we are involved in conserving hundreds of sites and reserves. www.butterfly-conservation.org

Butterfly Conservation has more than 2200 members in Scotland www.butterfly-conservation.org/scotland where we work closely with local communities, landowners, the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage and other conservation partners, to safeguard Scotland’s butterflies, moths and their habitats.

About the Helping Hands for Butterflies Project received a grant of £74,200 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with further funding being provided by Scottish Natural Heritage. The project aims to work with volunteers across Scotland to create and maintain habitats for butterflies, with a focus on central Scotland. Volunteers are also being trained to identify and record butterfly populations.

What a wind there was last night, but our fruit trees still managed to hold onto their blossom, maybe this year I'll get more than one cherry from the tree.

I love the blossom on fruit trees, it's so colourful and delicate at the same time it really brings colour to the garden.

Over the past few weeks we have noticed an increase in our delivery costs and I'm sorry to say that we will need to start charging a £1 for delivery.

I hope this is OK. It's not something we intended to do but our costs have increased.  I'm sorry.

If we can have your orders in by 12.30 on Monday 25th May, please!

Can you believe it that's us at the end of another month, soon we will be half-way through the year, unbelievable.

Vegetables

 

Price each

 Quantity

UK Asparagus

 

£4.15 bunch

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.40

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£2.35

 

Porto Cabbage

 

 

£2.45

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.45

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.65

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

Chines Leaves

 

£2.95

 

   

Price per kg

Quantity

Broccoli (UK)

 

£4.75

 

Bunched Beetroot

 

£2.85

 

 Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£3.35

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.20

 

Onions (New Season New Zealand White)

 

£1.75

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus

 

£2.30

 

New Season Cornish

 

£4.20

 

Jersey Royals

 

£4.25

 

Roosters

 

£1.35

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.65

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.60

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price per kg

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£5.30

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.50

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.80

 

Fruit

 

Price each

Quantity

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £1.80

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.80

 

Red Delicious

 

3 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.55

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.60

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.60

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £1.90

 

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

 

Courgettes

 

£3.50

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£3.95

 

 

 

PER JAR

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Orange and Lemon

Hint of Ginger,

hint of Whiskey,

Rhubarb and Ginger

Rhubarb jam

Mixed Berry Jam

Strawberry Jam

 

(10)

(6)

(8)

(7)

(6)

(15)

(6)

(5)

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

 

 Lemon Drizzle Cake

(16)

£4.50.  Per Cake,

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Local Eggs: ½ Dozen

(Supply can be limited)

(30)

£2.00

 

The Scottish Government’s plan for restarting the economy in Scotland is likely to result in business failures and lost jobs, says the UKHospitality organisation.

The plan outlines a gradual approach to easing lockdown through four flexible phases, reviewed every three weeks.

According to the plan, hospitality businesses with outdoor spaces will be permitted to reopen at Phase 2 of the plan, but those without will not be able to until Phase 3.

UKHospitality has voiced its concern that plans to reopen hospitality and tourism businesses in Scotland have been drawn up arbitrarily, with no consultation with the sector and little forethought for the impact on hospitality businesses.

UKHospitality Executive Director for Scotland, Willie Macleod said: “We are seriously concerned that the Scottish Government’s plan for reopening will do more harm than good. It appears not to be based in any logic and has the potential to create a two-tier sector with many already-hammered businesses being left behind.

“Reopening hospitality businesses should be phased according to agreed protocols to ensure healthy, hygienic and safe spaces for staff members and tourists. The Scottish Government’s plans rests on whether businesses have an outdoor space or not; not whether they are able to operate safely with social distancing guidelines in place. Subjecting businesses that do not have outdoor spaces but could operate perfectly safely to further forced closure is illogical and will do serious harm.

 “Hospitality and tourism businesses in Scotland have already been hammered by this crisis and most will have had no revenue for over three months. Many businesses have also struggled to access financial support and the larger businesses have been denied grant support altogether.

"The reality is that some businesses will not survive this crisis. The Scottish Government’s plan for reopening must ensure that every single business is given the best possible chance to survive. The route map announced does not do this"

Britain’s largest care home provider HC One has decided that they will pay full sick pay to care workers who have to self-isolate following exposure to COVID-19.  This affects the Blar Buidhe home in Stornoway.

Prior to Thursday’s (May 21) announcement, staff employed by the private care provider could only access statutory sick pay of £95.85 per week if unable to attend work having been exposed to or infected by the virus. 

Previously, GMB Scotland released results of a survey of its private care membership that showed 78% of respondents were worried about taking a test for fear of testing positive and losing money through having to take time off work.

The change of policy will benefit thousands of low paid mainly women workers.  Scotland Secretary of GMB Union, Gary Smith, said: “We have been fighting from the outset of this crisis to ensure private care workers are protected with full pay if they fall sick or must self-isolate.

“We told employers and government a testing regime is undermined if it does not go hand in hand with full sick pay, and without it tens of thousands of low paid workers, and mainly women, face poverty in sickness.

“HC One has now recognised this scandal and their decision is the right thing to do.

“The changes GMB has won for HC One workers across the country should act as a trigger for full coverage across the private care sector – no excuses.

“Everyone should now recognise the valuable work performed by this largely female workforce, but it should not have taken an unprecedented public health crisis to wake up to the shameful conditions of workers in the care sector. 

“Today’s announcement should fire the starting gun on the changes we need to see in the social care sector to ensure these workers, scandalously underpaid, are properly valued as the professionals that they are.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant was pleased when MSPs this week backed another move to give the media 100% business rates relief.

However, Mrs Grant was dismayed to discover that might mean the £3million advertising support previously announced by the Scottish Government could be taken off the table.

Mrs Grant has now written to the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, asking if she will clarify the position on advertising support to local, online and national news outlets.

This week (May 20) an amendment was passed by MSPs for current Non-Domestic Rates (Coronavirus Reliefs) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 to be extended to the media sector which would give the industry a much needed financial break.

The SNP voted against the amendment, but it was passed because Labour joined other parties to vote it through. Mrs Grant said: “I am delighted that the newspaper sector will now be able to benefit from Non-Domestic Rates Relief. However, the newspaper industry is not out of the woods yet and also needs the advertising support.

“To give with one hand and take away with another would be incredible and smacks of the Scottish Government throwing its toys out of the pram because they didn’t get their way.

“I’m hopeful the media can get both avenues of support because they certainly need it at the moment.”

Mrs Grant continued: “Not only do Public Health Notices need to be given to local news outlets as well as national ones but continued advertising support will help protect the free press and it will help protect jobs which will ultimately aid the recovery of the economy when restrictions are eased.”

Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Mike Russell, who was leading for the Government, argued during the debate: “There is a difficulty in continuing to add to the £3.5 million another £3.5 million, £4 million or £5 million. That is the simple, practical difficulty.”

According to figures cited in Parliament during the debate, this extension of rates relief will benefit the news sector by around £4 million.

This now means that premises used for the production of newspapers, and related news platforms, will now be eligible for 100% rates relief in 2020-21. 

Mrs Grant contacted the Scottish Government in April after many local media outlets contacted her calling for more support to be given to the sector as their advertising income has plummeted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Government announced on the 14th May that they will invest £3million into marketing activity in addition to the £440,000 already invested in advertising and public health messages.

The editor of EVENTS newspaper in Stornoway, Fred Silver pointed out that the remaining small newspaper companies and news websites in Scotland almost certainly enjoyed 100% small business rates relief already because of the scale of their property. Inevitably, Government advertising would go to larger corporations.  In addition, there was a risk to freedom of the press if newspapers and news websites became dependent on the spending whims of Government departments. 

The Braighe roadway between Melbost and Aignish was closed just before 21.00hrs tonight (Friday May 22) because of weather and tide conditions.

Involved in the situation were the Western Isles Police, assisted by the Stornoway Coastguard Rescue team who were on the scene for around 40 minutes before standing down and returning to base once staff from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had arrived. 

Earlier a statement from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on Twitter said: "CnES Roads team will be assisting."

This evening's High Tide was at 19.47.

Earlier, the UK Met Office issued a yellow Weather warning of wind for the Western isles. The warning covers the entire islands and came into force at 15.00 Friday afternoon and expires at 05.00 Saturday morning.

Under the revised policy for closures of the Causeway, there are no intermediate stages of opening or use of the convoy system.

One driver said on welovestornoway.com Facebook: "Bring back the Braighe Bobbys, at least they walked along the cars and told you what’s going on. Been sitting here for over an hour now looking at a council van."

Image from Western Isles Weather

Author Peter May has put his money where his heart is, donating six iPads to NHS Western Isles to facilitate its new Virtual Visiting service.

Peter, who is the author of the best-selling Lewis Trilogy of crime novels, set in and around the Isle of Lewis, also recently released the novel Lockdown, penned in 2005 but eerily predicting the lockdown that would result from a global pandemic. 

Mr May had spent time as a patient in Western Isles Hospital in the 1990s, when he was staying in Lewis during filming of the popular series Machair.

He said: “Having pledged the entire amount of the advance on my novel to the frontline of the fight against Coronavirus, I have tried wherever possible to see that a good proportion of that money goes back to the people of the Western Isles, to whom I owe so much of my success. 

“I think the Virtual Visiting scheme at the NHS hospital in Stornoway is a brilliant idea and hope that my small contribution will help keep patients and loved ones in touch. It is particularly satisfying to be able to give back to this particular hospital where I received such wonderful care during a week spent as a patient.”

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We would like to sincerely thank Mr May for this very generous and thoughtful donation.

“Our Virtual Visiting services brings patients and their families together at a time when we have unfortunately had to introduce restrictions on visiting. The feedback on the new service from patients and their families has been very positive.

“Mr May’s contribution is a very welcome addition to the service and will be of great benefit to those being cared for in hospital, particularly in helping to maintain their mental health and wellbeing.”

 

Highlands and Islands police are urging people to be on their guard against phone fraud, after three reported incidents within the last 24 hours.

People have been contacted by someone claiming to be from their bank and saying that their accounts have been compromised. They are encouraged to transfer money to a ‘safe account’ at another bank – which in reality belongs to the fraudsters.

Preventions and interventions officer Sgt Simon Hay said that police investigations were under way, and that it was important for individuals and businesses to know how to protect themselves.

Sgt Hay said: "It is a well-known tactic for scammers to alarm the account holder into believing their money is at risk and trick them into transferring their money to them. The effect can be devastating for the businesses and individuals who fall victim to these scams and I would urge everyone to be on guard at all times against this type of activity.

"The criminals who use tactics like this go to great lengths to appear legitimate, including making it appear that they are calling from the genuine number which is printed on your bank card. It is important to remember a genuine caller from your bank would never ask you to transfer money during an unsolicited call.

"Always be suspicious if someone claiming to be from your bank requests your bank or personal details - they should already have them and they wouldn't ask for them over the phone. A genuine caller will understand if you are sceptical and will not pressure you into taking immediate action.”

He recommended finding a number for the bank yourself and calling back from another phone if possible. Don’t call back on the number where the call came from. Double check numbers or call through an independently checked number, such as the main customer care number for the organisation.

If you are concerned, consider visiting your local branch instead of speaking to someone over the phone and never give out a banking password or PIN number over the phone. Finally, if you have concerns or suspicions, report them to police as soon as possible on 101. 

A blazing red sky after the sun set last night (Thursday 21 May) brought photographers out across the islands to capture exceptional views of the sky.

The unusual and spectacular sight was created by coincidental timing between sunset after a changeable day and the appearance of a rare cloud formation known as lacunosus clouds.

A spokesman for Western Isles Weather said the approaching storm which we are seeing today contributed to the atmospheric conditions.

Formed when a layer of rising warm air meets a layer of cold air, the lacunosus cloud variety is rare because it’s very short-lived, usually lasting only a few minutes. Those who took pictures had to act quickly to get a snap before the phenomenon faded and lost colour as darkness fell.

Pictures are by Seatrek at Cliff Beach, Uig; Emily Dillon at Garrabost, Point; Sine Nicolson, Broadbay; Kenny Mackay, Newton marina from Stornoway Coastguard operations centre; Annie Tempest, Rodel, Isle of Harris (Mr Puffin is a gatepost model) and Rosan Proctor, Leurbost Lochs.

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

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

Heat exchanger building, Callanish

BASF (Pharma) Callanish has applied for planning permission to erect heat exchanger building to house sea water cooling system and install pier access above MHWS line, associated with existing adjacent factory at B A S F Pharma Callanish Ltd The Factory Breasclete.

Additional development of factory, Callanish

BASF (Pharma) Callanish has applied for planning permission for additional development at the factory at B A S F Pharma Callanish Ltd The Factory Breasclete. Developments will comprise of: new factory building; solvent recovery unit; new boiler house; sprinkler pump house and tank; fire water recovery tank; bunded tank farm; walkway-bridge, connecting to the existing factory building; and new service yards and access roads.

 

New polycrub, Breasclete

Murdina Mackenzie of 28a Breasclete has applied for planning permission to erect a polycrub at 28 Breasclete. The polycrub is to be 8 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres high. 

New house, Vatisker

John Mackenzie of 45 Overton Road, Sheffield, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 39b Vatisker. Work is to include creating a new access, parking suitable for two cars and installing an air source heat pump. The two-storey house is to have three bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a living room, two bathrooms and a utility room. 

New polytunnel, Tolsta Chaolais

Jenny Allenby of 12C Tolsta Chaolais has applied for planning permission to erect a polytunnel at 12C Tolsta Chaolais.

 

 

A Met Office warning for strong winds across the Western Isles, later today and into tomorrow has been issued this morning (Friday 22 May).

The warning, published just before 10am, speaks of: “A spell of unseasonably strong south-westerly winds affecting parts of north-west Scotland, particularly the Western Isles, later today, easing during the early hours of Saturday.

“Gusts of 60-65mph are expected, with the possibility of a few gusts of 70-75mph in exposed parts of Barra, North and South Uist.”

The possible impacts over the warning period, from 3pm today until 5am tomorrow, include short-term loss of power and other services and spray or wave overtopping on coastal routes and sea fronts.

 

A Coronavirus Foodbank service has been set up by North Lochs Community Association.

Pictured above is Mairi Mackenzie handing over a cheque for £1000 to the project from Mr & Mrs Kershaw of Soval Estate.

North Lochs Community Association say on Facebook that the food bank was set up to help those in need within the community during the current crisis.

"We have available food parcels and vouchers that can be used to buy fresh foods and other essentials from Lochs Services.

"For anyone who requires this service, please call or text 07548 962704."

They assure callers that the requests will dealt with confidentially and discreetly.

North Lochs Community Association is collecting Fareshare food donations from the Citizens Adive Bureau in Stornoway.

In addition to the donation from Mr and Mrs Kershaw of Soval Estate, they have received donations from the North Lochs Community Council, CnES Councillor Angus Morrison's ward funds, Lochs Football Club Lochs Services, North Lochs Free Church, North Lochs Historical Society, the Church of Scotland, and the Silver Darlings.   "These donations will be used to provide vouchers which can only be used at Lochs Services Ltd for groceries or utilities," they say.

NLCA have also benefited from the Scottish Government's Supporting Communities Fund receiving £9000 to help run their existing Volunteer Prescription and Grocery delivery service and now also the food bank. They say: "We would like to thank all the local bodies who have helped us in setting this up, but most of all the volunteers who have been helping us since March."

 (This report has been updated with additional information since first being published.}

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has warned that parents of school-age children face many more months of disruption.
Mr Cameron issued his warning after questioning the First Minister earlier today (Thursday May 21) about what she meant by “blended” learning, which is the form of education the Scottish Government is prescribing for schools when they finally open again on 11th August.
“The primary objective has to be to keep our children safe. In her response to my question, Nicola Sturgeon said that social distancing at school would have to continue, and acknowledged that this would be very challenging for everyone concerned.
“Blending in-school learning with home-schooling is going to be very testing indeed, especially for families with one or both parents working.
"Government is going to have to invest a lot of time and effort in ensuring that the right educational support is in place and that all school-children can digitally access learning materials, which I fear is not the case at the moment.
“Minimising disruption for our children across the Highlands and Islands is going to be critical, as well as getting them back into the rhythm of school life after many months of absence.”
Today in Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the nation to explain the Scottish Government’s routemap that will guide the country out of lockdown.
The routemap gives practical examples of what people, organisations and businesses can expect to see change over time. If the evidence shows transmission of COVID-19 is under control and the number of infectious cases continue to decline the Scottish Government will consider moving to Phase 1 of the route map, following 28 May.
The NHS Scotland test, trace, isolate and support system – known as Test and Protect - will be ready for expansion in all 14 health boards from 28 May. A plan agreed between councils, professional associations and parent representatives to partially reopen schools from 11 August, subject to scientific advice that it is safe to do so, has also been published today.
Alasdair Allan MSP said: “As the First Minister indicated today, we all know that we can’t live this way forever and we all want to get back some sense of normality.
“The route map laid out today by the First Minister clearly sets out the steps that will take us there. It also leaves the door open to regional variation, if that best meets the particular circumstances and needs of the areas concerned.
“It is important to stress the need to move out of lockdown in a careful and controlled manner. There is a great deal of anxiety in island communities about inward travel, especially from urban areas, and any easing of the travel restrictions has to be done in a gradual way.
Isles MP Angus MacNeil has also welcomed the Scottish Government’s route map.  “The unpredictable nature of coronavirus makes it difficult to set exact timescales and we must take gradual steps to ensure the virus is kept under control.
“It is important to remember that we remain in lockdown and restrictions will not change before the 28th May.”
“Meanwhile together with Orkney Council Leader James Stockan we have been having exploratory discussions to develop testing with companies who might be able to offer cheaper and quicker testing.  This would ensure Covid-19 is not in our communities and that it is kept at bay, which would give further confidence after lockdown is eased.”
Under the road map, says the Outer Hebrides Chamber of Commerce (https://outerhebrideschamber.co.uk/covid-19/) :
Phase 1: Remote working remains the default. Reopened workplaces should stagger start times and flexible working. Outdoor workplaces can resume with physical distancing. Reopening of housing market with restrictions. Gradual reopening of drive-through food outlets, garden centres and plant nurseries (not cafes). Construction sector implement first two phases of its restart plan.
Phase 2: Remote working remains the default. Indoor, non-office based workplaces can resume with physical distancing (factories, warehouses, labs). Housing market restrictions relaxed. Construction sector moves to later phases of restart plan. Previously closed small retail units reopen with physical distancing. Outdoor markets, pubs and restaurants can open outdoor spaces and events such as marriages allowed with physical distancing, hygiene measures and controls on number of people.
Phase 3: Remote working remains the default. Indoor office workplaces including contact centres can reopen. Larger retail to open. Pubs and restaurants can open indoor spaces. Personal retail services including Hairdressers, Galleries, Cinemas, Gyms can all open subject to physical distancing and hygiene measures. Relaxation of restrictions on accommodation providers and live events permitted with restricted numbers and physical distancing.
Phase 4: Remote and flexible working remains encouraged. All types of workplaces would be open in line with public health advice. Shop local still encouraged. Further relaxation of events, gatherings and occasions with necessary precautions.

In the United States, this weekend – the Memorial Day holiday weekend – is considered the unofficial start of summer. To coincide with its arrival, some of the country’s 50 states are easing the lockdown restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus, while others are lifting them altogether, writes Katie Macleod.

New York City, however, remains in lockdown. The city has been at the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the USA, with 20,422 deaths and 199,392 confirmed cases. At the height of the crisis in March, hospital tents were erected in Central Park, mass graves were dug on an island in the Bronx, and the Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, arrived to support the city’s coronavirus response.

A “PAUSE,” or lockdown, was put in place across New York State on 22nd March, with all but essential businesses closed. Seven requirements, including a 14-day decline in hospitalisations and deaths, need to be met in each region of the state before the restrictions can be lifted. This means that while more rural parts of the state, like the Finger Lakes (which borders Canada), are slowly reopening this week, New York City remains closed.

The urban area of New York City also spreads into the neighbouring states of New Jersey and Connecticut (known as the Tri-State region, or the Greater New York City area), but these states are taking a slightly different approach.

In New Jersey, which has had more than 10,700 coronavirus deaths and over 150,300 positive cases, the restrictions are being altered state-wide, rather than county to county; the same rules apply in both the dense urban neighbourhoods that border Manhattan, and the farming areas that give New Jersey the nickname “the Garden State.”

Initial restrictions were lifted on 2nd May, opening golf courses and State Parks, and as of this week, shops can offer “curbside pick-up” and non-essential construction projects can resume, although residents are still advised to stay at home.

Connecticut is taking yet another approach: the state’s “Stay at Home” order ended on 20th May, with restaurants open for outdoor dining, and some shops and offices also reopening.

Beaches in all three states will open in time for the holiday weekend on 22nd May. Social distancing and mask-wearing are strongly recommended, but it is up to local council officials in each town – not the state or national government – to enforce those rules.

With New Yorkers in small city apartments already heading to the parks to make the most of warmer weather, the holiday weekend may be a sign of how easy it will be to lift restrictions safely in the weeks and months to come.

 

 

 

 

A series of low passes by a large transporter plane caused a stir in Stornoway this afternoon (Thursday 21 May), as an RAF A400 M Atlas aircraft carried out a scheduled training sortie.

RAF Brize Norton, where the fleet is stationed, posted earlier to reassure onlookers that the aircraft is engaged in essential training around Stornoway and Prestwick airports.

They said: “These are necessary, routine flights and not connected with RAF support to the UK’s fight against Coronavirus.”

The Atlas is a large-capacity transporter plane capable of carrying up to 116 fully-equipped troops, vehicles and even a Chinook helicopter, or any mixed payload up to 37 tonnes in weight, over a distance of up to 2,000 miles.

Troops and goods can be dropped by parachute, but the aircraft can also land at remote locations on short, semi-prepared or unprepared airstrips.

The pictures are by Jonathan Maclean and Annabel Campbell.

 

The sudden passing of Sammy MacLeod of The Anchorage, Ardhasaig, on Monday (18 May) at the age of 77 has taken some of the sparkle and mischief out of island community life.

Described as a legend, a gentleman and an entertainer, Sammy was known to be kind-hearted and loveable, with an eye for the ladies. In recent years he could often be found in Tarbert exchanging yarns and light-hearted banter with friends, something that was lost to the village with the coming of lockdown.

Sammy fished for lobsters for some years out of his home village of Ardhasaig, where his croft also sustained a few sheep, although his friends described him as more a man of the sea than of the land.

He was instrumental in the setting up of the McConnells fish farm at Ardhasaig, giving some of his croft to allow them to establish the buildings which are still there. Sammy also worked as a supervisor for the company and became great friends with site manager D M MacLennan – he is pictured here with D M’s wife Morag and one of the first salmon harvested from the site.

Long-time friend Neil Mackay of Northton said: “There was some opposition to the idea of fish farms in the islands then, but it puts food on the table for a lot of families and no-one had a bad word to say about Sammy himself.

“Everyone got on well with him. He was a really nice man, a good family man and a guy who would give you his last penny if he thought you needed it. He was a loveable rogue with a cheeky grin and a kind heart.”

Neil was one of four fellow musicians in the ceilidh band The Sound of Harris, in which Sammy played drums – although Neil says the craic was of a higher standard than the music – together with piper Angus Macsween and accordion players Neil and John Alex Shaw.

In his later years Sammy would mend creels for other fishermen and used to go round to the olds folks’ homes, demonstrating how he made creels before selling the creels for charity.

Sammy’s grand-daughter Karen Macdonald has spoken of the family’s great sense of loss at his sudden death, as well as thanking four paramedics who worked for over an hour to try and revive him.

She said: “Gramps had appeared on the television programme From Harris With Love and had become a bit of a local hero. People would recognise him on the street in Stornoway.

“One time when he was in the Co-op and had put all his shopping through the cash-out, he found he was without his bank card. The manager was called and he was told ‘We know who you are, we’ve seen you on the telly’. They let him take the shopping home and he called them later to pay.

“He was my world and it’s going to be so different without him. I spoke to him many times a day and would see him almost every day. He’s left a big hole in my life, and not just in mine. But we were so lucky to have him and to have the memories and the photos that we do.”

Sammy’s funeral procession is to leave his home at Ardhasaig at 12 noon tomorrow (Friday 22 May) and will pass through the village towards Tarbert, where it will pass around the streets and back to the main road for the cemetery at Luskentyre.

Piper Hamish Scott, grandson of Sammy’s friend John Murdo Morrison, is to play a lament as the hearse passes and until it moves out of sight.

Although the burial at Luskentyre can be attended by immediate family only, Karen said: “We have been asked by many if there was a way for people to pay their last respects.

"If anyone would like to stand outside as the hearse passes, to pay their last respects, they are most welcome to do so. Please bear in mind social distancing at this time.”

Sammy is survived by his children Cathie, Shonnie (Inverness), Angie (who lived with him at Ardhasaig) and Sam (Glasgow), by grand-children Karen, Roddy, Laura and Graeme and by his sister Dolly Cathie (Tarbert) and brother Roddy in Inverness.

 The pictures show Sammy at his work at the fish farm (McConnells) at a band rehearsal behind his drum kit (Angus MacSween) and during the filming of From Harris With Love (BBC Alba). All pictures supplied by the family.

 

Stornoway police are looking for the owners of a number of items of lost property that have been handed in to the police station.

Among the items found during April and May are two bikes – a well-used black child’s bike of a size for an eight to 10-year-old and a blue adult’s bike, also in a well-used condition.

Three keys are among the lost property: a small key on a black fob, a single key on a lanyard which says ‘Visit B&S’ and a CalMax fob carrying a picture and a single key.

A pair of tortoiseshell-framed glasses were handed in after being found in South Beach car park and a Disney character backpack in good condition were also found.

Also picked up were banknotes dropped at the rugby pitch on Bayhead and in the town centre.

Anyone missing any of these items should call at Stornoway police station, where they will be asked for identification and for additional descriptive information before they can reclaim their property.

A new company launched during the lockdown has found that bringing the world to a standstill provided a spur to success, even while staying at home.

In fact, Innes Harrison says that working from his kitchen table, with a view of the Atlantic, is the perfect alternative after a 30-year career at sea and in the shipyards of the world.

Innes returned to his home and family in Benside in 2017, after working in ship-building from South Korea to Copenhagen – and seldom in one place for long. Before that he worked on trawlers out of Stornoway, so the chance to stay still is one he seized with relish.

Last summer the family moved to Shawbost and the new family business, Atlantic Lights, was conceived in direct response to what he can see from the window.

Innes said: “I thought of the title before I thought of the business. I was looking out of the window and seeing the beam from the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis and the light on the Atlantic and I thought, there’s something really special about the Westside; the light, the Atlantic – Atlantic Lights.

“I started to muse about how much there is of architectural interest around the area – from the Callanish stones and the broch, the lighthouse and the blackhouses. What they all have in common is light – the lighthouse flashing, a beacon burning, the solstice connection with the stones and even the gleam from the blackhouse door when the fire is lit.”

The connections Innes was making between Atlantic Lights came together as he started making candles at home for his own interest. He experimented with paraffin wax and didn’t like the smell while it was heating, so he turned to soya wax and taught himself how to pour a nice candle.

He said: “There’s something really satisfying about the first time you pour a candle and it turns out just right – no bubbles or flaws. Then I started to think about fragrances and wanted to capture elements special to the islands.”

The business plan was growing and Innes had made tentative moves towards customers, with a view to starting out in public at this year’s summer shows and galas – then along came Coronavirus and lockdown.

Luckily, making candles is a kitchen activity – and by this time the whole family was involved, wife Sheila helping to make the candles and daughter Kara designing labels and packaging.

The only hitch was not being able to get the products showcased, but Innes still had plenty to do. He said: “I had to look into getting glass containers, wicks, packaging and plenty soy wax, whilst family members – especially Kara, Daniel, Anna and my wife, Sheila – also spent time on the design and review of all the labels and boxes.”

With stock building up in every corner of the house, it was time to launch an online shop (https://www.atlanticlights.co.uk/our-fragrances) , which went live just two weeks ago and now brings in new orders every day.

Five products each come in five fragrances from fresh Lustre (aqua minerals and sea kelp) to sweet Glint (rhubarb and rose). There’s been excellent feedback from customers, such as this from a customer in Harris: “Absolutely loving the gorgeous scents from Atlantic Lights. Our home smells amazing! Thank you very much and all the best with your new venture – you’ll shine!”

Innes said: “We have only been live a couple of weeks and we are over the moon with the response. We’ve had plenty of time to build stock, but if it wasn’t for our haulage companies and posties, we wouldn’t have been still in production.”

Now there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, with restrictions set to ease slightly, but this Lewis company will still be working hard making staying at home a refreshingly fragrant experience for customers home and away.

Pictures show the perfect lockdown business – Innes finishing candles at his kitchen table overlooking the Atlantic.

More than 90% of rural business owners in Scotland are confident they can reopen their business while safely adhering to social distancing measures.

A new survey carried out this week by Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the rural business membership organisation,  found that of the 250 businesses who responded, 56% are confident they can reopen all of their business safely while 36% stated they are confident they could reopen part of their business safely.

The survey forms part of a wider report by SLE looking into the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on farms and estates across Scotland.

This includes a third of respondents reporting a rise in rural crime such as flytipping and 20% who felt they had been adversely affected by the pandemic but were ineligible for grants.

There was little variation in confidence between types of business covered by the survey which ranged from tourism to shooting and fishing and from renewable energy to farming. However, those businesses operating in food, drink and hospitality were less optimistic about reopening all of their business – 36% stated they were confident about reopening fully, with 54% saying they were confident about reopening part of their business safely.

SLE is working with the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and regional enterprise bodies to safely restart Scotland’s rural economy and the results of this survey will help SLE in this work.

Sarah-Jane Laing, Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates said:“This survey confirms that rural businesses are ready to help restart Scotland’s rural economy safely. Over 90% of rural businesses who responded to our survey are confident they can maintain social distancing measures if they reopen all or part of their business.

“Our members want to ensure that their employees, visitors, customers and the local community remain safe and they are confident they can do this. This is great news in the short-term but the reality is that maintaining social distancing measures medium to longer term could have damaging ramifications on the future sustainability of many rural businesses. Limiting visitor numbers at tourist attractions, holiday accommodation and weddings and reducing manufacturing or processing means many rural businesses will not be operating at full capacity. Add in the uncertainty around Brexit and trade deals and all of this is likely to result in a loss of income which could jeopardise jobs in rural areas.

“Government support has been greatly welcomed and helpful to many rural businesses. However, some businesses are ineligible for the help they need. Not all issues are financial, there are environmental and personal costs too, which are harder to quantify. Great care and thought needs to be given to plan recovery and regrowth in rural areas to ensure their fragile economies continue to function in the future.  The true extent of the cost of this pandemic will be ongoing for the foreseeable future and support will need to adjust to those challenges too. That’s why the Scottish Government needs to commit to future support to help rural Scotland thrive.”

The full report can be viewed on the SLE website.

 

NHS Western Isles has this week taken significant steps to further support patients to be cared for in their home environment.

NHS Western Isles is launching a new ‘Hospital at Home’ service, which aims to provide care in the community equivalent to the care provided within hospital. It is used where a patient would normally require admission to hospital but care at home is deemed more medically appropriate.  The service can be used to support discharge from hospital, or to avoid hospital admission, whilst ensuring appropriate and safe patient care.

It will initially be piloted in Lewis and Harris, with plans to expand to Uist and Barra.

Through Hospital at Home, patients will be treated in their own place of residence (their own home, a relative’s home or a care/nursing home) rather than receiving care in hospital. The service will be managed by a dedicated team made up of a wide range of NHS Western Isles clinical staff.

There are many advantages of such an approach which have been demonstrated in various national services of a similar nature. Allowing suitable patients to be cared for in their home environment, with enhanced clinical and nursing support, will avoid the loss of mobility that often occurs with a hospital admission and allow family and other loved ones to be present with the patient during their treatment. This being especially advantageous at a time when hospital visiting has had to be severely restricted due to the risks of COVID 19.

NHS Western Isles Medical Director, Dr Frank McAuley, said: “A high proportion of older people with frailty have been shown to experience a reduction in their functional ability between admission to hospital and discharge, so this is a very beneficial approach for them. It will both prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and also help facilitate appropriate and timely discharge from hospital and avoid people having to remain in hospital unnecessarily.”

The decision on a patient’s suitability for the Hospital at Home service will be made by a Medical Consultant when a patient attends either the Emergency Department, or a Medical or Respiratory Assessment Unit; or during a patient’s stay in hospital. The range of conditions that could be managed through Hospital at Home is not prescriptive, and includes a wide range of conditions such as infections needing intravenous antibiotics, respiratory patients needing short term oxygen therapy and those requiring intravenous fluids for dehydration.

Patients will remain under the care of the hospital consultant and will be monitored on a ‘virtual ward’ within the hospital’s electronic systems.

Debra Vickers NHS Western Isles Cardiology Nurse Consultant, who along with Jane Gillion, Diabetes Lead Nurse, is leading the Hospital at Home service, said: “We are pleased to be very working closely with a wide variety of hospital and community based colleagues to develop this new service, which aims to be of benefit to our patients and their families by reducing in-hospital stays in a safe and effective manner.”

NHS Western Isles is also this week launching ‘Hot Clinics’, an initiative covering the whole of the Western Isles.

Primary Care Clinicians (GPs) now have access to a virtual Hot Clinic which allows them to get Consultant level advice on patients to support their continued care within a community setting, where safe and appropriate. GPs can send an e-mail equivalent referral into Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway. These referrals will be collated every morning (Monday to Friday) to allow the consultant of the day to review them, and provide any appropriate advice and support to the GP. A same day response will mean that appropriate investigations and treatment can be quickly commenced.

Dr McAuley commented: “The hope is that the Hot Clinics will help support primary care clinicians who are caring for vulnerable patients who may be heading towards a hospital admission and give advice to prevent this, if possible. It will also help identify patients who maybe need their hospital admission expedited.”

Commenting on the new initiatives, Dr McAuley added: “I am delighted to see these initiatives come to fruition at a time when care in the community is more important than ever with the COVID crisis. Our aim is to provide excellent care in the most homely setting possible to ensure patients can continue to be supported by family members and maintain as much independence as possible.”

 

 

 

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has given a warm welcome to restrictions on marriages taking place in Scotland being lifted.

The announcement came following the success of the Scottish Conservatives in amending legislation in the Scottish Parliament so that steps will be taken to ensure weddings and civil partnerships can go ahead.

Although there was no formal prevention in place, registrars had stopped taking weddings for fear of being overwhelmed by the volume of work in registering deaths.

Mr Cameron said: “I was very happy to give my support to this measure. There are couples around the Highlands and Islands who really want to take this next step in their lives, and now, I hope, they will be able to.

“This may seem like a small matter in the face of the continued crisis, but it is a symbol of hope for the future. There are plenty of places where couples can safely get married, with the required three other people in attendance, observing the necessary social distance."

The Scottish Conservative amendment was passed unanimously in the Scottish parliament. Ceremonies will have to be performed in accordance with attendance restrictions and social distancing measures—there can be no quick return to large weddings parties.

A social care support fund for carers experiencing loss of income due to coronavirus has also been successfully passed into emergency legislation by the Scottish Parliament. The fund was proposed by Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP and will be available to social care staff who have lost income because they are off sick, self-isolating or cannot work their usual shifts due to coronavirus. The proposal also had support from GMB Scotland and Unison Scotland.

Monica Lennon MSP said: "I am pleased the Scottish Government have u-turned and will now support my proposed fund for social care staff to avoid them falling into hardship due to coronavirus.

"Care workers are unsung heroes of this crisis. They shouldn’t be at work if they have COVID-19 because of the risk to residents and other staff, however, they should not be pushed into poverty for missing a shift in these circumstances.

"This fund is supported by trade unions and will provide vital support. This is about saving lives and livelihoods.”

 

 

A bid by the Scottish Conservatives to provide support to Scotland’s local news providers won majority support in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Wednesday May 20).

The party had put forward an amendment in Holyrood seeking increased assistance for one of the country’s most under-pressure industries.

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “The news media in my region is providing an invaluable and irreplaceable service for our communities.

“The pandemic is serving to illustrate how important that service is, as we need trusted local news sources as never before.

“We simply must not lose our local newspapers which is why action to tide them over this crisis is so important, and why they should be given the same levels of support as other key sectors which are suffering.

“I very much hope the SNP Government will accept our amendment and get behind our local newspapers and news providers.”

The local press is estimated to have lost 75 per cent of advertising revenue and 25 per cent of circulation cash because of the pandemic.

The amendment was submitted to Stage Three of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill to add: "Class 17 News publishing – Use as premises for the production of newspapers, and related news platforms."

 

Island community wind farm company Point and Sandwick Trust was today (Wednesday May 20) named as the winner of another major UK award for social enterprise.

The Trust, which owns and operates the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm near Stornoway, is the “Environmental Champion” in the NatWest SE100 Social Business Awards 2020.

The organisation was also listed for the first time in the SE100 Index, a list of the top 100 social enterprise businesses in the UK. It was among the eight organisations from that list which received an award for being “the most outstanding achievers”.

The SE100 Index and Social Business Awards are run by NatWest (owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group) and Pioneers Post every year to “name, celebrate and learn from the UK’s 100 most impressive social enterprises”.

There were a total of eight big awards. The others recognised excellence in Growth, Impact Management, Trailblazing, Social Investment, Leadership, Resilience and Storytelling.

The SE100 judges agreed that Point and Sandwick Trust was “a clear winner” in the SE100 Environmental Champion category, as a “well-structured, impactful organisation serving the local community on a range of social and environmental fronts”.

They also noted the organisation’s focus outside its immediate locality towards the wider Hebridean islands, and were impressed by its “incredible” projects which create “such tangible impact”. 

The SE100 Index is compiled to “celebrate the growth, impact and resilience of social ventures in the UK”  and Megan Peat, CEO of NatWest Social & Community Capital, congratulated “all the social enterprises who have made it onto this year”s lists”.

She added: “In such incredibly tough times, when we know many of you will be facing some significant challenges, it’s important to recognise the incredible dedication and effort that the UK’s social enterprises have shown in building business solutions to deliver a positive future for some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.”

Representatives warmly welcomed this latest recognition for their community project.

Calum Macdonald, development manager for Point and Sandwick Trust and former MP for the Western Isles, said: “This award recognises our success as a business as well as our impact as a charity and I am delighted for the whole PST team that has made it possible.

“We try to have an impact across a range of areas, including helping the local hospice, supporting the most vulnerable, helping local culture and arts, but the environment is one of our most important areas of work and we are delighted that this has been recognised by the NatWest awards.”

Angus McCormack, honorary president for Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “This wonderful award recognises the work of a dedicated board and very committed staff. It is well deserved and suitable recognition of the support community wind farms give to their communities. It exemplifies the community support offered during the Covid19 pandemic. I am delighted.”

Norman Mackenzie, chair of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “We at PST were delighted when we learned that our enterprise was to be included in the NatWest Se100 For 2020 but to be named as winners in the environment category in this prestigious competition is simply amazing and beyond expectations. This further national recognition of Point and Sandwick Trust and the work it does underlines the value of community owned enterprises and the benefit they can bring to our islands. Everyone who supports the trust should be very proud of this achievement.”

The Social Business Awards were due to have been presented at a ceremony on March 26 which was cancelled due to concerns around the coronavirus outbreak. A spokesman for the awards said they hoped that “recognising the achievements of the UK’s top social enterprises over the past year will give us all some positive news to be proud of”.

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said it was “positive news indeed” as the charity works to maximise the support available to the local community during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Such support has included the launch of an emergency community pandemic fund – to which the wind farm charity has committed all unallocated cash for this year – plus donations of £40,000 to NHS Western Isles, £15,000 total to community councils, the production in partnership with Lews Castle College UHI of PPE (protective personal equipment) to NHS and care staff, and the establishment of a co-ordinated delivery service for the Point and Sandwick area, with drivers and a co-ordinator appointed this week. 

Point and Sandwick Trust has previously won the UK Environmental Social Enterprise Award, Scottish Environmental Social Enterprise Award and the Celebrating Communities Award at the Scottish Charity Awards – all in 2018 – and Best Community Project at the Scottish Green Energy Awards in 2015.

The waterwheel in Lews Castle Grounds has once again been vandalised, provoking strong reactions from the Stornoway Trust, local councillors and members of the public.

Police are asking for any information about the incident, which saw the locked outer door of the building forced open, windows broken and the area left strewn with broken glass, bottles, cans and other rubbish.

The vandalism was reported by a passer-by on Monday (18 May) and viewed soon afterwards by Stornoway Trust factor Iain Maciver, accompanied by police officers.

Iain Maciver said: “Police are looking into this and it is going to have to be reported to the trustees. In the meantime the area has been tidied up and the door secured by our groundsman.

“It’s an ongoing problem that we have with vandalism to that area. What seemed to be a good idea at the time of its construction, has proved to be a costly and burdensome problem.

“It’s disappointing that a place that gives so much pleasure to so many people is spoiled by the behaviour of a few.”

His disappointment was shared by members of the Facebook group Our Castle Grounds, who commented on the prevalence of dumped rubbish and evidence of drinking sessions, even during lockdown.

One said: “It’s a nightmare trying to walk my dogs in the grounds at the moment due to broken glass, cans, bottles and carry-outs getting left there.”

Another added: “I wonder how these people behave at home? If they don’t behave like this, then leave the grounds alone and have some respect.”

Stornoway Councillor Charlie Nicolson said: “The evidence of drinking there was quite apparent and that is wrong in itself. Parents should know where their young people are during lockdown.

“What are they doing gathering together? The police can’t be everywhere at once and parents should know where their children are and what they are doing.”

Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity at the Waterwheel or in the surrounding area over the weekend of 16/17 May to contact them on the non-emergency number, 101, quoting incident number NH560/20.

 

A man is due to appear at Inverness Sheriff Court from custody in Stornoway this afternoon (Wednesday 20 May), using a video-link to the court room.

The 22-year-old was arrested after police were called to a disturbance on Seaforth Road in Stornoway at 11.25pm yesterday.

He was charged with police assault and resisting arrest and has been in custody overnight.

 

Drink-driver charged

Police stopped a 62-year-old man who was driving on Sandwick Road in Stornoway on Monday afternoon at 2.30pm.

The man gave a breath sample which tested positive for alcohol and was charged with drink-driving. He was taken into custody and released when sober, on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

 

Threatening and abusive behaviour

Stornoway Police were called to Cannery Road in the town yesterday afternoon, where a man was behaving in a threatening and abusive manner.

The 41-year-old was arrested and charged on his behaviour and was also found to be in breach of bail conditions set following an earlier offence. He was kept in custody until sober and released on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

 

There are signs of returning confidence in life beyond lockdown, as businesses begin to make tentative arrangements to get back to serving their customers.

Long queues of cars greeted the first re-opening of takeaway restaurants in Stornoway and there has been a similar positive response as some cafes also begin to offer hot drinks and snacks to take away.

 

Printing work from Stornoway Media Centre

And the printing department at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – where welovestornoway.com is based – is also seeing a gradual increase in orders. 

The Good Food Boutique in Stornoway, which has been operating on restricted hours and restricted customer numbers throughout lockdown, has today (Wednesday 20 May) re-opened their antipasti delicatessen counter on a trial basis.  Last week they extended their opening hours.

In Barra, café owner Sharon Penney has consulted environmental health officials before setting a reopening of the Ardmhor coffee shop for this coming Sunday (24 May).

The former manager of Barra Airport café is to sell her popular Italian-style coffee under strict conditions. She’s not able to fill or serve from reusable cups but will be using compostable Vegware takeaway cups and lids for minimum environmental impact.

Sharon said: “Our coffee is freshly ground for each cup using a beautiful blend of finest African and Brazilian beans from our Edinburgh suppliers – we can’t wait to be serving you all again!”

Some staff are also returning to work at the Fishermen’s Co-op in Stornoway, where opening hours have been extended this week, with the hope of a return to even more extensive service once Scottish Government guidance has been updated.

The first pour of candles since lockdown (Essence of Harris)

In Harris, the week started on a happy note for Essence of Harris, who had switched into emergency gear early in the lockdown with production of hand sanitiser for keyworkers and carers.

Business owner Jamie McGowan announced the return to work of Nicola from their management team on Monday (18 May), after she had been furloughed for several weeks. She followed production colleague Zoe, who returned to work from furlough last week, when the company highlight was completing their first candle pour since lockdown began.

Jamie said: “Over the last couple of months our reduced team have been working with stock they had built up previously, but we’ve been able to look forward and prepare for what lies ahead. We really must thank customers who have continued to support us through this difficult time.

“Our morning meeting looked a little different via Zoom but we’re delighted to have the management team all working together again as we plan for the months ahead.”

Also back from furlough are staff at Stornoway publishers Acair, who are returning to work at their office at An Tosgan on Seaforth Road on staggered days to maintain social distance.

Behind the scenes, some home-working has continued through lockdown, meaning the launch yesterday (Tuesday 19 May) of a new title for the publishers (available at https://www.acairbooks.com/categories/non-fiction-titles/all-non-fiction/flashes-of-memory.aspx)

Flashes of Memory, by Mary Gillanders, is a memoir of growing up among the Clyde lighthouses in the mid 20th-century. It’s described as: “a charmingly evocative account of a world governed by devotion to duty, the demands of the weather and the absolute imperative of keeping the light turning."

 

Tolsta Community Development Ltd (TCDL) is extremely grateful to have secured funding of £19,822 from the Scottish Government “Supporting Communities Fund” to support the Tolsta community during this Covid-19 crisis which is having both an emotional and financial impact on many.

HIE is distributing the Fund in the Highlands and Islands on behalf of the Scottish Government for all eligible community organisations who play a role in providing a service within communities.

On 18 March, Aileen Campbell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government announced an investment of £350 million to support local communities and households in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment comprises a range of funds to be delivered using a combination of approaches, to ensure resource is mobilised quickly to the places and people where it is needed.    

Mr Murdo Maciver, TCDL, commented that the charity had been approached by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to bid for the funding.  Tolsta is a very clos- knit community and TCDL were aware that some residents would be travelling to Stornoway during the lockdown for their weekly shop putting shoppers at risk to the Covid 19 virus, with this in mind and with the increased demand for deliveries within the village, TCDL has given the local shop, Buth Tholastaidh, the use of an extra two vans to enable a more efficient service. Two large freezers have been purchased to support the Buth with extra storage given the increase in stock.  Frozen meat packs have been sourced for the communities benefit also.  Assisting the vulnerable in the community is the main objective.

Mr Maciver further commented, “During this difficult and uncertain time, TCDL felt that local families should receive some support, as well as Coronavirus being a health crisis, it is also a financial crisis for some, therefore, TCDL is supporting households with children by providing weekly food vouchers,  they will receive a food voucher each week for the next eight weeks.”

Support is also being given to Langabhat Medical Practice in that TCDL has provided a vehicle and volunteer to collect and deliver prescriptions within our area.

The St Kilda archipelago is one of the key properties affected by the cash crisis at conservation charity National Trust for Scotland (NTS) brought on by the pandemic lockdown.

The NTS is having an emergency appeal for funds – https://www.nts.org.uk/campaigns/emergency-appeal

The NTS is the largest member organisation in Scotland - supported by more than 365,000 members and its work is funded largely by donations.

It's been reported that consideration is being given to selling the official residence of the First Minister.  Bute House in Edinburgh is one of a number of NTS properties that could come under review.  NTS bosses said earlier they stand to lose around £28million in income this year because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron says that it is vitally important for the Highlands and Islands that a Government taskforce is successful in securing the future of the NTS.

NTS is reported to have announced that 429 staff of its permanent workforce are at risk of redundancy.

Some local employees have contacted Mr Cameron to express their concern about the threat to the organisation’s future in the Highlands and Islands.

Mr Cameron said: “NTS act as custodian for the some of the most cherished landscapes and historic buildings in the Highlands and Islands, providing a vital part of our tourist infrastructure.

“Their geographical spread, with properties and holdings from Argyll to the Northern Isles, makes them hugely significant to my region.

“As we seek to rebuild the tourism sector – worth £1bn to our regional economy – we must ensure that the irreplaceable attractions cared for by NTS are secured for the nation, and we do everything possible to preserve the jobs of the local NTS workforce.”

Mr Cameron said that he is contacting  Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Fair Work, and Culture, to impress on her the importance of the charity to the region.

Among the major National Trust of Scotland sites in the Highlands and Islands region are:

  • Arduiane Gardens, Argyll
  • Inverewe Gardens
  • Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre
  • Glencoe Visitor Centre
  • Glenfinnan Monument
  • Brodie Castle, Forres
  • Isle of Canna
  • St Kilda
  • Iona
  • Fair Isle

 

A Virtual 5/10k event will take place in the first week of June to raise vital funds for The Leanne Fund.

The Leanne Fund 5/10k event has taken place in Point for the last 10 years, and is one of the charity's main fundraising events.

The current Coronavirus pandemic means this year's event will be a bit different but organisers hope runners, walkers and families will take part while continuing to follow current social distancing rules. Unlike other years, participants can take part anywhere in the world and help raise vital funds for the Leanne Fund.

The Leanne Fund is the foremost Cystic Fibrosis charity in Scotland working with individuals and families across the Highlands, Islands, Grampian and Tayside to provide vital social, practical, emotional and financial assistance to those affected by Cystic Fibrosis and their families.

Chrisetta Mitchell, Development Manager of The Leanne Fund, said: “Obviously this year a group event will not be possible, so we have adapted our event into a virtual one.  Anyone can take part in a socially distanced 5K or 10K any time between 09:00 on Monday the 1st of June and 17:00 on Saturday the 6th of June. 

"Walkers are also welcome to complete the 5k but the 10K is strictly for runners over 18.  As always we hugely encourage rainbow themed fancy dress and invite all those taking part to submit photos of their run/walk to our Facebook page or email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.” 

Every finisher will be emailed a personalised certificate showing their time and trophies will be awarded.

For more information and to enter online visit - https://www.entrycentral.com/TLFvirtual5K10K

There's been a change to Scottish Government policy over testing for coronavirus infection in care homes.

Originally, it had been felt that the available tests were too unreliable to be any help - now there will be constant testing, MSPs were told.

And Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant today (Tuesday May 19) secured an urgent meeting with a Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary in her continued bid for a Covid-19 emergency protocol for care homes.

The Highlands & Islands MSP earned the invitation after she criticised Health Secretary Jeane Freeman in the Scottish Parliament Chamber over the length of time she has taken to respond to her repeated requests for “a clear single protocol” to be drawn up to protect staff and residents from Covid-19 outbreaks.

Speaking in Chamber Rhoda said she believed lack of a protocol has been “disastrous” for care homes. Citing Home Farm Care Home in Portree on Skye where 10 residents are confirmed to have died after testing positive with Covid-19, Mrs Grant said an overwhelming level of infection was discovered when testing did eventually occur. Lack of a clear protocol has been disastrous.

And Rhoda challenged the Cabinet Secretary to disclose why it took so long to come around to the idea that testing in care homes was key to saving lives both in the homes and surrounding communities.

Rhoda said: “Since the very beginning of this crisis, Scottish Labour have repeatedly highlighted that testing in care homes is the advice of both experts in the Scotland and the World Health Organisation and other international agencies. So, can I ask the Cabinet Secretary to outline exactly what scientific advice has changed in that the government now accepts the need to carry out regular staff testing in care homes.”

It follows Jeane Freeman’s announcement yesterday that all 53,000 care home staff in Scotland would be offered routine tests in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The Health Secretary apologised to Rhoda for the delay in responding to her request for a protocol for care homes, adding “in advance of you receiving a proper response I am very happy to meet you to discuss what you think should be in an emergency protocol and to consider whether that is something that we can do to add to what’s already being done. My office will be in touch to ensure that we have that meeting as soon as possible.”

Mrs Freeman said the recent change to offer testing to staff regardless of whether there was a Covid-19 case in the care home where they work came down to a renewed understanding about the virus.

She said: “At the outset the view was if you were not symptomatic you were unlikely to be infections and the test was not reliable. That view has changed in that there is increasing evidence and debate in the scientific community about the degree to which asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals may be infectious.

"And whilst the test is not as reliable in a-symptomatic individuals as it is in those with symptoms the advice has changed.

"It now says that given there is a growing debate about the level of infectiousness of individuals who are a-symptomatic or pre-symptomatic, the use of the test in contained areas like a care home for preventative purposes, bearing in mind, you have to keep repeating it every seven days to be sure, is on balance the right thing to do – and that is why we have changed our position.”

Speaking afterwards, Rhoda said: “I welcome the change in approach but wanted to make it clear that testing on a more regular basis than just once weekly would provide greater protection to staff and residents."

Rhoda also asked when will this level of “regular” testing be available in every one of Scotland’s care homes but Jeane Freeman failed to address this point.

 

In a bid to support people, of all ages, with their learning and practicing of traditional music and Gaelic skills at home during lockdown, leading arts organisation, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, has launched a new online music tuition service, which will be free of charge to all.

Under the banner of FèisTV and with funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Creative Scotland and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, a video series of traditional music lessons, at different levels, has been created in Gaelic and English to support those with no Gaelic, learners of the language and fluent Gaelic speakers. The Oide (meaning tutor in Gaelic) series currently offers lessons in accordion, fiddle and Gaelic song, with more instruments available soon, thanks to further funding from the Scottish Government.

The lessons, which are suitable for all ages and abilities, are led by some of the most experienced traditional music tutors in the country, including accordionist Ian Smith from popular folk band, Trail West, fiddler Robbie Grieg, who plays with electronic folk band, INYAL, and singers James Graham, Eilidh Cormack (a member of female singing trio, SIAN) and Deirdre Graham. 

With more than 70 video lessons at levels appropriate for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners, this resource will provide something for everyone, allowing people to continue their musical creativity or even learn a new skill during lockdown.

Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Chief Executive, Arthur Cormack, said: “It was always our plan to develop our FèisTV resource to offer online music lessons in addition to live streaming of events.  Normally these lessons will be part of a paid subscription service, but we are delighted to offer this new service for free at this time whilst people are safely at home and looking for activities to keep themselves going.  We are grateful to the funders who have enabled us to develop this resource.”

Laura Nicolson, Project Officer at Fèisean nan Gàidheal explained: “As part of the new programme #cleachdiaigantaigh, in which we are involved together with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comunn na Gàidhlig and other Gaelic organisations, Fèisean nan Gàidheal will deliver more live events online in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, we hope people will get some enjoyment and new skills from the Oide video lessons.”

Steven Kellow, Funding & Project Officer at Bòrd na Gàidhlig said: “We welcome this resource which is extremely useful in supporting music tuition through the medium of Gaelic. Fèisean nan Gàidheal and other groups have been working hard to produce resources through the #cleachdiaigantaigh / #useitathome initiative and we are grateful for the creative opportunities like this they have delivered at this challenging time.”

The Oide video lessons can be found online at https://tv.feisean.org.

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

A man has been charged with a fire-raising offence after a moorland blaze which brought Point to a standstill two weeks ago.

The main road through the district was closed for several hours, power was cut to over 500 homes and houses in Shulishader were evacuated during the blaze, which happened on Thursday 7 May.

At the height of the fire, 28 firefighters and two fire officers with five appliances battled to contain the flames on four fronts over a stretch of moorland more than a kilometre long.

It’s now been confirmed that a 57-year-old man has been charged for an offence relating to fire-raising and will be reported to the procurator fiscal in due course.

One of the biggest stitching projects in memory is about to get into full swing in Uist, as a team of sewing enthusiasts take on the challenge of making scrubs for all of the islands’ care home staff.

Two care homes – Sacred Heart House in Daliburgh and Trianaid Care Home at Carinish, North Uist – between them employ 60 careworkers. Each needs a minimum of two sets of scrubs to rotate between shifts and, until two weeks ago, the total that they had was precisely none.

Now a team of stitchers with willing hands and time to give have stepped in to fill the need, using a supply chain co-ordinated by Vicki Manchester, Uist development worker for Volunteer Centre Western Isles.

Vicki has brought together funding from a generous benefactor, fabric from a specialist supplier, patterns printed by Stornoway Media Centre and findings from Lewis craft supplier Stitch in the Ditch of Tong, to set up what could soon become a veritable production line of care-worker clothing.

The idea was first put forward by North Uist seamstress Margaret Cowie, above, who had spotted a mainland volunteer project, For the Love of Scrubs, and wanted to do a bit to help.

Margaret said: “I got interested when my sister-in-law posted that she was washing duvet covers to make scrubs. Sheets and duvet covers make ideal material as they are poly-cotton and can be washed at 60 degrees.

“I used to sew for a job, but I’m not very fast as I am doing other things in between. I have a sewing machine, an overlocker and three colours of thread so I got going and initially made six sets of scrubs.

“They were absolutely over the moon with them, just thrilled, even though I was worried about fabric not matching and them having flowery pockets and all sorts. I posted some pictures on Facebook and a friend in Lochmaddy contacted me to say they were looking for scrubs in the Western Isles, so my next four sets were delivered to Carinish Church and they sent them on to Sacred Heart House.

“Then Trianaid decided they wanted some and sent a list of sizes and now Vicki has started to recruit a team and we have met together online to swap tips and make some decisions.”

One decision was what colour fabric to use, from a limited range available, since there’s such high demand UK-wide. The Uist team picked emerald green and all the materials are now on their way, with patterns due to arrive in Uist from Stornoway tomorrow (Tuesday 19 May).

Vicki said: “We’ve got a team of nine and rising every day, including ladies from North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist. We even have one lady in Glasgow, who is a costume maker for the TV series Outlander. She’s been furloughed so she has put her time and her studio at our disposal to start producing scrubs for Uist care-workers.”

Once all the materials arrive this week, Margaret has volunteered to cut the fabric into lengths and package it up with the right thread, tape and facings to make one set of scrubs per bundle. Some ladies are also making scrub bags – which allow a whole set to be put straight into the wash without being handled – and face masks.

Vicki calculates that the team needs to create at least 120 sets of scrubs, but she says how long the job will take is a case of ‘how long is a piece of string?’

“It depends on who we’ve got, how much time they have around childcare, home schooling and their own jobs, what time they want to put in – because after all this is voluntary.

“As far as we are concerned, as long as we have funding for the materials and volunteers to do the sewing, we will keep doing it and we’ll welcome further demand.”

Pictures show Margaret Cowie modelling one of her first completed sets of scrubs and another set waiting to be delivered in her wardrobe.

 

NHS Western Isles is continuing to deliver services in different ways, and this includes local baby massage classes!

Particularly useful to new parents during this important stage of their child's development, is baby massage. The benefits of baby massage are far reaching and include babies feeling loved and secure; having increased levels of relaxation and sleeping longer, improved body awareness and coordination, as well as massage providing relief from wind, colic, constipation and teething discomfort.

Following a trial session of online baby massage classes for parents in Uist and Barra,  NHS Western Isles Health Promotion Department and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Early Years Service are now offering the service to all parents living in the Outer Hebrides.  

Certified by the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), local instructors raise awareness with parents and carers of how baby massage can help them to feel closer to their baby, gain a deeper understanding of their baby’s behaviour, crying and body language. It can also help to provide an enjoyable opportunity of spending one-to-one time with their baby and learn a life-long parenting skill.

Alison MacDonald, NHS Western Isles Senior Health Promotion Officer, said: “Before babies are able to speak, or even actively respond to sounds and sights, they communicate with the world around them through touch. Parents and carers who take part in our baby massage classes tell us how much they enjoy attending the classes as it really is a lovely way to enjoy time with their baby and helps with bonding.”

If you are interested in taking part, or would like further information, please contact your family Health Visitor.  Alternatively, for Lewis and Harris, contact Jann Skelly, Community Staff Nurse (Health Visiting Team), by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or, for Uists and Barra, email Alison MacDonald, Senior Health Promotion Officer, at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

The people of the Western Isles are being thanked for their growing support of the Social Media Activities Programme run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Programme has been designed to help keep people entertained during lockdown and was launched at the start of April.

Since then thousands of people across the world have participated in the Activities.The past week saw engagement reach an all time high with Willie Campbell performing on Friday and Norrie Tago Maciver on Saturday; between them they amassed views of over 35,000.

Willie Campbell said: “The cèilidhs have become a Social gathering online. People interact and chat with each other while the gig’s happening and chat to the performers too, they're most certainly pulling people together during a difficult time. It has been a pleasure to contribute.”

One viewer who tuned in to watch Norrie ‘Tago’ Maciver said: “Thank you for this wonderful evening, enjoying your music from Australia. Looking forward to the next one! “

The Comhairle would like to thank all the talented individuals who have contributed towards the Activities Programme so far and appreciates their efforts to keep people entertained during these difficult times.

The week Iain ‘Costello’ Maciver will be performing at 9pm on Friday and Saturday night will see Rosie Sullivan performing at 9pm.

Sophie Marsh has also provided another excellent yoga session and Thursday’s quiz will take place at 7:30pm with a new Quiz Master.

The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Bishop Brian McGee, sent a message to the diocese on Saturday (16 May) in which he set out dates on which special masses are to be celebrated for parishes in the Western Isles.

There are 25 parishes in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, and Bishop Brian has been celebrating Mass for each in alphabetical order during the period when churches have been closed for worship.

He said: “For the past month I have been praying daily for a particular parish in our diocese. Many people have appreciated this and so I will continue the practice. 

“During these masses I intercede for the whole parish: the clergy, all who worship in the parish church and chapel(s) of ease and everyone who lives within the parish boundaries.”

The masses are live-streamed through the diocesan website and Facebook at 10am each day – today’s mass was for the parish of St Michael’s in Ardkenneth, South Uist and this week will also see mass for St Mary’s, Benbecula on Thursday and St Mary’s Bornish, South Uist, on Friday.

In Barra a special mass will be celebrated for Castlebay Parish on Tuesday 26 May and Northbay Parish on Friday 5 June.

Bishop Brian has been closely engaged with planning the safe phased opening of Catholic churches across Scotland, following a meeting of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland last week (Wednesday 13 May).

He has been appointed chair of a new COVID-19 working group, which will examine how best to meet the long-term pastoral needs of the Catholic community during the pandemic.

Bishop Brian said: “After our public masses stopped and our churches closed with almost no warning, the immediate response from our priests and parishioners across Scotland was both impressive and uplifting.

“With great ingenuity and creativity, online masses and devotions were made available throughout the country every day. Through this and other action, many vulnerable and lonely people continue to be supported in safe ways.”

“While it will be wonderful when our parishes can reopen, we recognise that parish life cannot quickly return to normal until a vaccine or a treatment is available. We do not expect this to happen until at least 2021.

“This means, that even when churches reopen, parish activities will still be greatly restricted, (we) hope to identify and publicise advice or resources to help dioceses and parishes face fresh challenges in a safe manner.

“Although not denying the difficulties which lie ahead, our group had a very positive first meeting. Early figures indicate very high numbers of viewers are watching and downloading masses and devotions online, leading us to believe that with God’s providential care, the spiritual, pastoral and catechetical work we do can actually help renew the Church in Scotland and bring growth and hope after a time of despair.”

Photograph from the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles

 

A Coastguard Rescue Team were called into action after the discovery of a marine flare on a beach in Harris.

Stornoway Coastguard received a call at 3pm on Friday (15 May) reporting that a member of the public had spotted a flare on the shore at Urgha in Harris.

Tarbert CRT were called out and identified the flare as a time-expired marine flare, which they safely boxed and removed to Stornoway for safe storage ahead of destruction by pyrotechnics experts at a later date.

Coastguard Rescue Teams across the islands were also active throughout the weekend, helping Highlands and Islands Police Division to encourage compliance with Scottish Government advice regarding the Covid-19 crisis.

Picture from HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber.

Today (Monday 18th May) marks the launch of Mental Health Awareness Week, the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health. 

The week, which is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, is in its 20th year and runs from 18-24th May. This year, the theme for the week is kindness and across the country, people will be celebrating kindness in a range of digital and creative ways within social distancing restrictions.

David Stewart MSP is backing the week and urging local people to think about how acts of kindness can help people’s mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said: “The last couple of months, with all the uncertainty of the virus and the impact of lockdown, have been an extremely stressful and worrying time for many people across the Highlands and Islands. People who may have previously felt isolated in remote and rural communities may be feeling this even more acutely at this time, so it’s important they know that support is available to them.

“We know that across the region many people have also sadly faced the pain of losing loved ones to the virus or have fallen ill themselves, while others have seen their livelihoods put at risk or incomes reduced. All of this has put additional strain on people’s mental well-being.

“This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is putting the focus on kindness as a means of helping people through the pandemic and building a better society as we emerge from it. We see many acts of kindness in the Highlands and Islands all the time, but this week is an opportunity for people to reflect on their interactions with others and how they can try and be a little kinder during this unprecedented time.”

Mark Rowland Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: “This year may be the most important week we have ever hosted, as we deal with coping and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. We must do all we can to reduce the psychological and social impacts of the pandemic which could outlast the physical symptoms of the virus.

“At time when we must socially isolate, stories of kindness have helped spread a shared sense of connection and joy. The research backs this up - kindness is deeply connected to mental health. The message this Mental Health Awareness Week is that kindness matters. It matters to our mental health and it will matter hugely in the society we build from here – one that better protects our mental health.”

How to get involved online:

  • Reflect on an act of kindness. Share your stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • Use Mental Health Foundation resources in your family, school, workplace and community to join with thousands in practising acts of kindness to yourself and others during the week 
  • Share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • For more information about this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week visit mentalhealth.org.uk/kindnessmatters or join the conversation on social media using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

 

Sunshine, smiles and a splash of pink made yesterday’s (Saturday 16 May) Women’s Cancer Challenge a virtual event to remember.

More than 225 people signed up to complete the challenge – even though it was not technically possible to enjoy the company of other runners and walkers, as has happened over previous years.

Instead the Women’s Cancer Challenge Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WomensCancerChallenge/ was packed with images of people taking to the road, the beach, the Castle grounds or their own garden path to complete a 30-minute exercise session on foot, by bike or on four paws.

The Women’s Cancer Challenge is one of the big annual fundraisers for Cancer Research UK’s Isle of Lewis branch, which like other fundraising groups has been hard hit by restrictions under Coronavirus lockdown.

Race participants look forward to the event each year, and an online poll to resolve whether the challenge should be cancelled or run virtually came up with a resounding 84% of votes in favour of holding a virtual event.

So organisers Tony and Kirsty Wade headed online, meaning that people could register and receive a race number by email, then complete their own challenge while conforming with social distancing guidelines, alone or in family groups.

Tony described the event yesterday as “quite a day” and full of stories – to which he and Kirsty added by filming a masterclass in men’s haircuts, guided by Kay from Men Only, and adding still further to the eventual total raised, to be posted in due course via social media.

All those who completed the challenge were awarded a virtual medal (pictured) to add to the already sizeable collection of race t-shirts and medals held by many who have supported the event over the years.

Pictures show Women’s Cancer Challenge participants from all over Lewis putting their best feet forward to raise funds for Cancer Research UK Isle of Lewis committee

 

CalMac have moved to reassure islanders after alarm about the potential for a sudden influx of visitors, now that some lockdown restrictions have been lifted in parts of the UK.

A rush of social media commentary, ranging from the nervous to the hostile, followed an incident last week when the Guardian newspaper inaccurately portrayed Isle of Lewis beaches as ‘open for business’ because travel restrictions were relaxed in England.

And temperatures were turned up further today (Sunday 17 May) at news that author Neil Gaiman has travelled 11,000 miles from Auckland, New Zealand to the Isle of Skye to ‘isolate’ at one of his homes.

But west coast ferry operator CalMac has moved to calm concerns in the Western Isles and other island locations served by their ferries.

CalMac's director of operations, Robert Morrison, said: “CalMac is implementing strict controls as implemented by the Scottish Government. We are actively turning people away who are not able to produce the evidence required of island residency or key worker status, and we have posters around our entire network making it clear under what circumstances you can travel.

“However, it is important to note that we do not have police or civic powers. If even stricter measures are required then this is a matter of Government policy and would require a political solution. We all have a part to play in this because the existing guidelines are clear.”

Last week the ferry company published statistics showing that 145 parties have been refused travel on CalMac vessels since lockdown started on 26 March.

The numbers include six refusals to travel at Stornoway ferry terminal, and one on the Sound of Harris route. Other would-be travellers have been advised not to attempt travel when calling CalMac’s customer service centre or ferry offices.

Passenger and vehicle numbers are reported to be down by 95% across the whole network.

And CalMac took to Twitter over the weekend to specifically explain the presence of some motorhomes in Tarbert. "Engineers will attend Tarbert to carry out essential repairs onboard the MV Hebrides on Saturday 16th May until Monday 18th May. Engineers will require motorhomes during this maintenance and these will be present at Tarbert Port."

 

Police were called to an address in Stornoway at 11.30pm last night (Saturday 16 May) where a 22-year-old man was causing a disturbance.

The man was arrested and taken into custody and is to appear in court on charges of threatening and abusive behaviour, vandalism, resisting arrest, police assault and two charges of assault.

He was kept in custody until sober and released today (Sunday) on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

 

Man charged with assault

In a separate incident on Saturday evening, police were called to Macaulay Road in Stornoway at 6.30pm, where they arrested a 32-year-old man and charged him with threatening and abusive behaviour.

He was kept in custody until sober and released on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

 

Suspicious activity reported

Police are appealing for information from residents in and around Arivruaich in Lochs, after a report was received of suspicious activity at an address in the village around midnight, overnight between Saturday and today (Sunday 17 May).

Anybody who saw a vehicle or any people, or who has any information to give about the incident, is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101.

 

A 5.2% rise in clashes between people involved in agricultural activities and main electricity supply lines has prompted a vivid warning from the main supply company.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is urging everyone across the agricultural industry to stay safe and ‘Look out, look up!’ when working near overhead power lines and poles.

The safety campaign aims to share practical advice with the farming community; helping them avoid potential incidents and accidents involving electricity infrastructure.

In the past 12 months, SSEN has seen an increase in the number of incidents on farms and fields across its network, with 910 callouts compared to 865 in the year before.

These reported  incidents, on agricultural land across SSEN’s network areas, were the result of third-parties coming  into contact with the distribution operator’s poles, overhead lines and cables, resulting in local electricity supplies being disrupted and potentially causing serious injury, or worse, to those involved.

To ensure that farmers, crofters. contractors and their teams are armed with the knowledge they need to stay safe in the field, SSEN’s safety campaign is using radio and online messaging as well as issuing the following guidance:

  • ‘Look out, look up!’ before you start work in any areas where electricity lines are present.
  • Risk assess and be aware of the height of machinery that will be in use near lines and ensure there’s plenty of clearance – remember that electricity can ‘jump’ if an object comes near enough.
  • If you do come in to contact with an overhead line or cable, stay in your cab or vehicle and try to avoid touching anything metal within it.
  • Call 105 immediately – this is the UK-wide single emergency number for power companies and is the quickest way to put you through to the correct network operator.
  • If the situation is too dangerous to stay put, for example, if the machinery is affected by fire, it’s advised that you leap out of the vehicle as high and as far as you can to avoid touching any part of the machinery or electricity network 

Ian Crawley, SSEN’s Network Operational Safety Manager, said: “Farmers, their staff and contractors are working harder than ever to maintain and manage their crops while adhering to current Government guidelines on working during the coronavirus pandemic, and here at SSEN we want to ensure that we are doing what we can to help them stay safe at the same time.

“While it’s both worrying and disappointing to see the number of farm-related incidents on the rise, the year-on-year increase is slowing down, which is hopefully a sign that the ‘Look out, look up’ campaign is having a positive impact across the farming community.

“The rural landscape may change throughout the seasons, but our ‘Look out, look up!’ message stays the same all year round, and everyone working in the field should take stock of their surroundings and the overhead lines that may run across, or into their land.

“Always take the opportunity to risk assess before any work begins – it’s a small step to take that could make all the difference; striking a pole or coming into contact with electrical equipment can have serious and potentially lethal consequences for those involved.

“SSEN wants to help its farming communities to stay accident-free throughout the year and hopes that through the ‘Look out, look up!’ campaign, it can continue to raise awareness and lower the risks associated with their invaluable work.”

SSEN is encouraging farmers and agricultural workers with any concerns relating to electrical infrastructure on their land to report this by sending a photograph directly to SSEN’s teams via the Power Track App, available to download on the App Store and Google Play Store.

If you would like further information on staying safe when working near power lines, please visit https://www.ssen.co.uk/safety/.

Some small businesses remain excluded from coronavirus aid schemes because they don't pay rates direct to local authorities.

Now Scottish Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron has demanded that the Scottish Government closes a loophole to ensure that certain small businesses receive financial support in circumstances where they pay rates in their rent but are not the ‘named’ business ratepayer.

Mr Cameron raised the issue on Thursday 14th May with Kate Forbes, Scottish Finance Secretary in the Scottish Parliament, asking that that the loophole is closed and that these Scottish businesses are not forgotten.

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said:  “Unfortunately the current position is causing many small businesses in my region, and across Scotland, extreme hardship.

“They need financial support as they are adhering to the public health restrictions necessary to keep us all safe but, as a consequence, are suffering massive falls in income.

“As the SNP Government has already performed a  U-turn on support for businesses with multiple premises after pressure was applied,  I am hopeful they will act swiftly to close this loophole, and give businesses who indirectly pay rates proper support."

The loophole currently affects a number of businesses in shared premises who are equally affected by the current economic lockdown but are usually tenants and thus not eligible for support as the named business ratepayer – for example, units in covered markets.

The UK Government has already taken steps to fix exactly this oversight in the rest of the UK. On the 2nd May the UK Government announced the 'Top-up to local business grant fund scheme' in England which has accommodated certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme and allows for the allocation of funding to be at the discretion of local authorities.

The Scottish Conservatives are advocating that the Scottish Government follows this approach and supports all Scottish businesses in the same way.

In full, Donald Cameron’s question was as follows: “Despite the best efforts of both UK and Scottish governments, it is still the case that certain types of enterprise are falling through the cracks in terms of business support. One scenario is where you have a city centre market or business park, where there is a landlord who is eligible for support as the named ratepayer, but with lots of tenants who are not eligible despite indirectly paying rates in their rent. Does the Cabinet Secretary accept this is a loophole which must be closed immediately, given the extreme hardship it is causing many small businesses across Scotland who are desperately concerned about survival? “

 

 

A survey is under way about local interest in a pop-up shop providing essentials in the Breasclete area.

Breasclete Community Association and Breasclete Community Council are working in partnership with Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh to provide support to the community during the Covid-19 situation.

Following a successful funding bid pop-up shops providing essentials have been set-up in other areas across the Carloway Estate area, we would like to gather views on the suitability of setting one up in our area.

Funding has been secured from the Scottish Government, via Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), to support the community during the COVID-19 crisis, from the Supporting Communities Fund.

If you live in the area we would love to hear from you over the coming days through our survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/QS5BSSZ.

The survey will close on Wednesday 20th May. 

Thank you all very much for all your support for the spider plants for the RNLI, thanks to Kay Falconer for supplying them, we were overwhelmed by the response and had double the orders than we had plants.

We raised £75.00 for the RNLI and the VeggieBox will round that up to £150.00, we will post the receipt on our Facebook page.

The shortage of plants highlighted another issue where we have shortages of other produce but are unable to let you know prior to the order being delivered, I'm not sure if there is an awful lot we can do about this as we don't really find out ourselves until late on, by which time the focus is on getting the orders out the door, hopefully you can just bear with us but if there is anything of particular importance to you, mark it on your order and we will do what we can.

Similarly our supplier sometimes sends replacements where what we have ordered may not be available, a case in point this week was Piel de Sapo melons instead of yellow, if you would rather not receive replacements then please just let us know and we will keep that information going forward.

By the very nature of fruit and veg, and despite our best efforts, there will be occasions where produce perhaps doesn't meet the quality it should, if this happens then please just let us know and we will refund, we would much rather hear about any issues than not.

We've marked the jam, baking, eggs and plants with the amount available, and these will be on a first come, first served basis.

We have posted photos of the nasturtiums and coriander on our Facebook page so you can take a quick look before ordering.

Have a lovely weekend

Keep Safe and Thank You

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

UK Asparagus

 

£4.15 bunch

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.55

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£2.40

 

Porto Cabbage

(Round Green)

 

£2.45

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.45

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.65

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Kale 250g

 

£2.45

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

Chines Leaves

 

£2.95

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Broccoli (UK)

 

£4.95

 

 Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£3.05

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.20

 

Onions (New Season New Zealand White)

 

£1.75

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus

 

£2.30

 

New Season Cornish

 

 

£4.45

 

 

Jersey Royals

 

£4.25

 

Roosters

 

£1.35

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.65

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.60

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£5.30

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.75

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.90

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £2.10

 

New Season Peached

 

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

 

5 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.65

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £1.90

 

Pears

 

4 for £1.50

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Piel de Sapo Melon

 

£2.55

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.50

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£4.35

 

 

 

PER JAR

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Orange and Lemon

Hint of Ginger,

hint of Whiskey,

Rhubarb and Ginger

Rhubarb jam

Mixed Berry Jam

Strawberry Jam

 

(10)

(6)

(8)

(7)

(6)

(15)

(6)

(5)

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

 

 

Fruit Cake

(16)

£4.50

Per Cake,

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Coriander in 4” Pots

 

(10)

£2.50

 

Nasturtium in 4” Pots

 

(10)

£1.75

 

Local Eggs ½ Dozen

(30)

£2.00

 

The newly appointed chair of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Alistair Dodds, says it is more important than ever that HIE continues to be ambitious for every part of the Highlands and Islands.

Alistair joined the Board of HIE in April 2014 and was appointed to chair the economic development organisation earlier this month (May 2020)

Originally from Kelso, Alistair moved to the Highlands in 1991 and now lives in Inverness.  Alistair held senior management positions in the Highland Council for 18 years in Human Resources and Corporate Governance and was Chief Executive for more than six years until August 2013.

Alistair is a Trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland (Depute Board Chair and Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee). In his HIE role, he is a member of the Court of the University of the Highlands and Islands. He is also a Board member of the Highland Print Studio.

Alistair says that since the COVID lockdown began, efforts across the region have focused on reducing the spread of the virus and meeting demand for specialist equipment, facilities and expertise.
Companies able to continue operating very quickly stepped forward to adapt and contribute to the national effort.

Distilleries started producing sanitiser. Technology and manufacturing firms began making PPE and components for equipment such as ventilators. And life sciences companies collaborated with research bodies to provide lab facilities, diagnostic expertise and PPE.

All of these organisations adapted to COVID at the same time as devising and implementing strict new measures for social distancing and protecting their employees.

Unfortunately for a great many other businesses the only option was to close or significantly scale back their operations.

It is important to recognise that the contribution those businesses have made, and are making, is as vital as the work of firms still operating. Reducing the ‘R’ number, the rate at which the virus spreads, is a crucial part of the national effort, and they are helping to achieve that. This will be essential in getting the economy moving again.

Equally, swift action by community and third sector organisations has been a key factor in ensuring that many vulnerable people are being looked after, including those in our most remote and rural areas.
As regional development agency, HIE has also had to adapt. “Over the past few months our staff have switched to home working and reshaped our priorities to help meet the changing needs of our region’s businesses and communities.

“They are also committed to ensuring the swift distribution of Scottish Government support such as the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund and the Supporting Communities Fund, bringing millions of pounds to the Highlands and Islands.

“I am acutely aware of the scale of the challenges we face, not only in relation to COVID, but in ensuring that our businesses are equipped to deal with the changes that Brexit will bring.

“I am also conscious of the strengths and opportunities that will be central to the region’s recovery to a stronger economy.”

Addressing climate change, for example, will be a major theme. Scotland’s rural regions, particularly the Highlands and Islands, offer huge potential to help the country meet its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

“We must understand and make the most of these new opportunities. Innovation, entrepreneurship, the high proportion of SMEs and a strong skills base are just some of the tremendous underlying strengths that will enable us to do so.

“For HIE, our collaboration with local authorities, other agencies and local businesses and communities will continue to be vital to our region’s recovery and to future success.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus B MacNeil is calling for the testing capacity available in the islands to be used to patrol for the Covid-19 virus in the community.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “Yesterday, together with a cross-party group of MPs and Lords, I led an online forum with politicians from the Faroes and Iceland to discuss their different approach to tackling Coronavirus.

“It turns out that the Faroese who have banished Covid-19 from the Faroe Islands are still testing and using their tests to firstly to check anyone who might have symptoms, secondly to do random testing to 3% of their population and thirdly some companies such as the large salmon company, Bakkafrost are testing all employees periodically.

“It would seem logical and sensible to me that the unused capacity that we have in the Hebrides should be doing the same, to both patrol for the virus and to see if any asymptomatic carriers are discovered.

"This assumes that our extra testing capacity is capable of doing so, if it is not capable, we have offers from Nordic friends to help out.  It would seem odd when we are ahead of the virus in the islands, to wait for the virus to come and swamp us, now is the time for action. If we get a high number of cases, it would then be too late."

Bakkafrost is the owner of the Scottish Salmon Company, one of the largest employers in the Outer Hebrides. 

 

Traigh Mhor Trekking has declared itself a Coronavirus casualty, as it today (Friday 15 May) announced a plan to downsize “for the foreseeable future.”

The horse-riding company, run by husband and wife team Leigh and Gavin Minion, was launched in August 2018 and had built up a loyal following of local riders from beginners to mature returners, as well as visitors eager to experience a ride on the long sands at Traigh Mhor in Tolsta.

Today the company announced that the impact of Coronavirus lockdown, together with the sluggish pace of financial aid to small businesses, had led them to scale back their operations.

Leigh Minion said: “We will be operating on a part-time basis as lockdown restrictions end. Lots of reasons, one being the so called promised financial aid to businesses at the national level. Governments don't really value small family businesses like ours.

“The realisation that it's going to be a very long time before visitors are welcomed back on the island – this looks like it could be the first of a number of lockdowns. That's risks we cannot afford to take. 

“I doubt if we are the first or indeed the last businesses having to make drastic measures to overcome the uncertainty of COVID. But let's be clear, that is five part-time young people out of employment or self-employment – lost work in a village of 500. 

“Anyway, a thumbs-up for the Comhairle sustainable development department for the foresight of their local COVID grants – a lifesaver which has prevented complete closure. 

“Remember we will be open again soon. Support local businesses because they support the rest of the community and help keep other people in work.”

Boots pharmacy consultation rooms across the country, including at the Stornoway branch, now offer safe spaces for victims of domestic abuse, where they can contact specialist domestic abuse services for support/advice.

The scheme, launched by the crisis support charity Hestia, is a response to the desperate situation facing many victims, who are isolating with perpetrators during lockdown.

While in the consultation room, people will have access to a number of helplines and signposting to download the free app Bright Sky which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship, or concerned about someone they know.

Lyndsey Dearlove of Hestia said: “Self-isolation offers a new method of control over victims, making it very difficult for them to seek support. By creating this space, we hope many will be able to safely access support while following government guidelines.

“Although we are in a period of lockdown and isolation, our message to victims is that domestic abuse services are open and we can help you.”

One survivor of domestic abuse said: “People who are now forced indoors with an abusive partner really need a safe haven where they can retreat to, collect their thoughts, and get support. Sometimes getting out of that bubble of abuse, which you are in at home, helps you realise that support is out there."

Chief Inspector Ian Graham, Western Isles area police commander, said: “We are aware that there is an increased risk of domestic abuse as people observe isolation and social distancing guidance, and welcome this additional support for those affected.  

“If you, or anyone you know, is being abused or are at risk of abuse, please contact Police Scotland on 101, or 999 in an emergency, or if you need support please contact Western Isles Woman’s Aid on 01851 704750, or Scotland's Domestic Abuse helpline on 0800 027 1234. 

“Further information regarding Domestic Abuse can be found at https://www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/domestic-abuse/ and https://safer.scot/"

The picture shows Western Isles police preventions and interventions officer Fiona Macleod (right) introducing the new service to Boots in Stornoway.

Nicolson Institute pupils have been working hard on their schoolwork from home, leading to international recognition for one art project.

Secondary 1 student Seumas Ferguson was one of the pupils who took part in the Getty Challenge as part of his art and design lessons - recreating a famous work of art using only materials and objects from around their own homes.

The Los Angeles Museum has already received thousands of recreations of famous artworks, which they have been posting online, but there was special recognition for Seumas’s recreation of ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ by German artist Caspar David Friedrich (c1818, pictured together with Seumas’s recreation).

Seumas put time and effort into achieving an excellent likeness in his Lewis version of the portrait, garnering hundreds of likes on Instagram and a call from the Kunsthalle Museum in Hamburg, home to the original portrait, who have featured his piece on their own Facebook page.

A Nicolson Institute spokesperson said: “The school, and especially the art and design department, are delighted that Seumas’s work has been recognised in this way, testimony to his interest and dedication.

“Since lockdown began, many S1-3 pupils have engaged with a variety of set lessons in a similar positive manner and to a high standard, and the school acknowledges the support and encouragement from parents which makes this possible.”

You can find the original challenge on the Getty Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/gettymuseum/posts

Members of the Harris Forum, which is co-ordinating support to Isle of Harris residents during the Coronavirus pandemic, are urging caution and good manners on social media – for the good of the future tourism industry.

Posting on the members-only group Harris Hub, Scalpay co-ordinator Kenny Macleod highlighted how negative comments about visitors coming to the islands during lockdown could create a feeling of hostility which would damage the recovery of the tourism industry once travel restrictions are lifted.

On Wednesday (13 May) he said: “Recently a number of issues, relating to people arriving on the islands apparently for other than essential reasons, have been highlighted.

“If you do see anyone who you feel may be breaking the rules you should pass details to the police. It is a matter for them. Resorting to social media is not a helpful tool as sometimes those arriving are actually essential workers or family members with very valid reasons to travel and be there.

“…We are very concerned at the impact that some of the comments are having, or could have, on the island economy. Frightening away potential travellers does no one any good. Whilst we understand and feel the fear that the virus raises in a community with so many vulnerable people, care has to be taken that the written word cannot be misconstrued.

“We do not wish to stifle debate or prevent anyone from expressing their own personal opinion, but ask that you consider whether what you are about to publish is in the best interests of the whole of Harris.

“Our elected representatives are aware of what is happening and are working hard to put our feelings forward and ensure our voices are heard.

“We live in a very beautiful part of the world and its popularity has been growing in recent years. We are all looking forward to accepting visitors when it is deemed safe to do so, and when suitable measures are in place to implement these safety protocols.”

Kenny’s statement echoes the words of Comhairle leader Councillor Roddie Mackay, as reported in full on welovestornoway.com today (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/16957-this-week-with-cnes-leader).

He said: “Why would people from the islands living on the mainland and in the big cities not want to return here when the restrictions are lifted? ….

"The Western Isles is truly an amazing place to live, to visit and to work, so it is little wonder that so many people want to come here.

“….The islands are not currently open for business. We continue to prioritise taking care of ourselves and each other. But when it is safe to do so, and the restrictions are eventually lifted, we will once again warmly welcome everyone to the Western Isles, whether that be to visit, to work or to stay.”

The picture is by Axel Campbell.

 

The sudden death of a man at an address in Stornoway on Monday is not being treated as suspicious, according to a statement from Police Scotland this morning (Friday 15 May).

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "On Monday 11 May, around 8.45am, police were made aware of the sudden death of a 48-year-old man within a property at Macmillan Brae in Stornoway.

"Following an investigation and a subsequent post-mortem, we can confirm that the death is not being treated as suspicious.

"A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal."

Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart have urged Third Sector organisations in the Highlands and Islands to apply to the £10million Wellbeing Fund for community and third sector organisations across Scotland.

Groups who meet the criteria of working with at risk groups with needs which are not being met; provide vital wellbeing support on issues such as mental health, personal finances, employment, housing, food, physical health and home life or; provide immediate and emerging forms of support are being urged to get applications in by the deadline of Friday 22 May 2020.

David Stewart, MSP said: “Even at the best of times Third Sector organisations are often overlooked and have to spend a significant amount of their time and resource on sourcing funding – all while providing invaluable services and support to their communities. At a time like this, when the economy is about to enter a protracted period of shrinkage due to Covid 19 measures, it is vital that out Third Sector support network is able to shore up its resources as much as possible.”

Rhoda Grant, MSP added: “We are going to need Third Sector and Community Organisations more than ever in the coming years. These organisations support mental and physical health services, tackle isolation and provide practical support for some of the most vulnerable in our society. The strength of the Highlands and Islands communities are built on community organisations, and it is only right that Government’s provide them with as much support as they need to help communities survive and recover from the effects of Covid 19. It is vital that as many groups as possible can get some benefit from this Wellbeing Fund, as no one can get it to the most needy in our community quite as effectively as the Third Sector.”

Full details on the new fund  and how to apply can be found at the following link:

https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus/funding/scottish-government/wellbeing-fund

Councillor Roddie Mackay, leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, writes: This week I have been considering the many ways in which COVID-19 has impacted each and every one of our lives. It is affecting many of our jobs, it is cancelling our pastimes and generally having a detrimental impact on our social lives. Some of these effects might linger for longer than others, of course. Thankfully, as yet, we have only had six confirmed cases of the virus – all of whom are getting on well at home - but we cannot become complacent.

We are all aware that there are many elderly people throughout the islands who may not read articles online because they simply don’t have internet access. We have utilised all sorts of communication methods to engage with people, from social media to radio and phone calls and I would once again take the opportunity to highlight the importance of verbal messaging in getting messages to people throughout – what we all recognise to be – a resilient community. It really is good to talk, so my challenge to each and every one of you this week is to pick up the phone and say hello to someone you have not spoken to for a while. I guarantee it makes a difference. Make someone laugh, make someone smile and share some of the key health messages with them if they have not already come across them.

On another note, an article on travelling to beauty spots appeared in The Guardian newspaper on Monday, alongside a photo of Loch Ròg. The Guardian subsequently – and quite rightly – apologised for that error, but the episode got me thinking – people love and want to come to the Western Isles all year round, for so many different reasons. At the moment, we – alongside our partner agencies, Scottish Government, CalMac and Loganair  – have firm restrictions in place to ensure there is no unnecessary travel. I am very clear that these restrictions must remain in place as long as it takes to ensure the safety and health of our population.

However, as we contemplate all the ways that Covid-19 could change our islands, big and small, I have also considered that the pandemic’s combined effect on public health, the economy and social behaviour may cause fundamental shifts in human geography. For example, why would people from the islands living on the mainland and in the big cities not want to return here when the restrictions are lifted? Over recent weeks, we have all seen the vast number of benefits of living in the Western Isles, ranging from the stunning coastline for some daily exercise, to the fantastic community spirit and volunteer response. The Western Isles is truly an amazing place to live, to visit and to work, so it is little wonder that so many people want to come here.

As the Comhairle Leader, it is vitally important that I do not allow looking back on what has taken place over recent weeks and months, to deflect my attention and focus away from what lies ahead of us all. At some point (hopefully soon), the lockdown will ease. Travel restrictions will eventually end, and planes and ferries will start operating full services one again. We must be prepared for that next phase. There will be many, many challenges, but one of the key ones for us will be to reboot the economy and be creative and innovative in our strategies to both provide employment for people and to step up support for local businesses and communities. Hopefully we can start that reboot soon with in-island activities gradually resuming but with travel restrictions, which have been so effective, remaining in place for longer.

For the moment, please keep up the effort; support each other where you can, remain vigilant and maintain the now established good practice of social distancing.

Our message is quite clear; the islands are not currently open for business. We continue to prioritise taking care of ourselves and each other. But when it is safe to do so, and the restrictions are eventually lifted, we will once again warmly welcome everyone to the Western Isles, whether that be to visit, to work or to stay.

The Iolaire-based novel 'As The Women Lay Dreaming' by Isles author Donald S Murray has been shortlisted for this year's Paul Torday Memorial Prize.

Donald, who now stays in Shetland said: “I feel thrilled and slightly nervous that the book has reached these dizzy heights.

“Thanks for all your support in what was sometimes an exhausting and bewildering year.

Paul Torday was a British writer and the author of the comic novel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. This was not published until he was 60 and became the winner of the 2007 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing and was serialised on BBC Radio 4. It won the Waverton Good Read Award in 2008. It was made into a popular movie in 2011, starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.

The Paul Torday Memorial Prizewinner will receive £1,000 with a set of Paul Torday's collected works. Runners-up will receive one specially selected Paul Torday novel with a commemorative book plate.

Entries must be the author's first published full length fiction work, but they can have had works published of other lengths or other genres in the past. Applicants must be aged 60 or over at the date of first print publication of the novel. The prize - part of the Society of Authors series –  is being judged by William Fiennes, Catherine Johnson and Sarah Waters.

There's more about Donald S Murray on http://www.donaldsmurray.co.uk

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil has today (Thursday May 14) hosted a meeting with Icelandic Justice Minister, Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Faroese MP Kristina Hàfoss and a group of cross-party MPs from across the UK to discuss the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Iceland and the Faroe Islands are successfully managing to control the spread of Covid-19 by continuing to Test, Trace, Isolate throughout the pandemic.

After the meeting Angus MacNeil MP said: “I am grateful to political friends in Iceland and the Faroe Islands for taking time to share their experiences in a very informative meeting on how Iceland and the Faroe Islands are leading in the testing of their population and reducing active Coronavirus cases, with the Faroe Islands having zero active cases and Iceland having just 12. The Faroe Islands have tested 16% of the population and this will continue despite having zero active cases.

“Given their continuous policy of test, trace and isolate throughout the pandemic they have managed to track the virus in its steps, in the case of Iceland all infections were traced. What these countries show is that they have used lockdown wisely by testing and tracking wherever necessary.

“Both countries maintain a strict border policy and arrivals have to quarantine for 14 days, unlike the UK who will not start this policy until June, almost 3 months after lockdown.

“Lifting lockdown was discussed and it was noted that lifting restrictions could be possible sooner in some parts of each nation as well as each nation going at a different pace. Also, Governments should have a plan in place for dealing with further hotspots/outbreaks and whether real time small lockdowns might be needed.

“The Faroes and Iceland have started to reduce their restrictions, Iceland never locked down fully and the Faroe Islands have just about lifted internal restrictions bar mass gatherings.

"From today, the Faroese social distance has reduced from 2 metres to 1 metre while in Iceland facilities such as public swimming pools will again reopen this week.”

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is seeking artwork submissions to be included in a new gallery segment of the fortnightly e-Cèilidh broadcast.

The artwork will accompany Fanaibh a s' Taigh (Stay at home) a song written by one of e-sgoil’s Gaelic singing teachers.

Local children are asked to do a painting or drawing depicting the “stay at home” message, a thank you to NHS staff & key workers or perhaps simply a rainbow.

The artwork should then be photographed by an adult and sent into the e-Cèilidh team via this This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., these pictures will then be collated and displayed in a montage on the e-Ceilidh broadcast.

In addition to artwork from local children, photographs and paintings depicting the islands have also been requested.

These pictures will again be displayed in a montage this time accompanied by the e-Cèilidh theme tune, which has been written by another of the Comhairle Instrumental Music Teachers.

If you would like to contribute, please send your photographs or photographed artwork via email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please also include the artist/photographers name and location in your email so that they can be credited in the broadcast, and for photographs please state where the photo was taken.

Next Saturday’s e-Cèilidh (23rd May) will be hosted by local musician Iain Mackinnon and will feature performances from a variety of other local artists.

Every household between Berneray and Eriskay should by now have received their copy of the Coronavirus information and services booklet published on 6 May by Uist Council of Voluntary Organisations (UCVO).

The booklet was produced ‘with a massive team effort’, according to a spokeswoman for UCVO, and gives details useful contacts and a comprehensive list of local organisations offering services, advice and support across the islands during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The spokeswoman said: “Thank you to our community partners in Third Sector Interface Western Isles for supporting the publication of this document and, most importantly, the volunteers from local third sector partners who are delivering the booklet to every home between Berneray and Eriskay.”

The booklet is primarily targeted at people who are in isolation because of Covid-19 and is also being made available as a download here https://fa59e7cc-46fa-4185-829c-68be02a6b247.filesusr.com/ugd/5ce632_e01c16d3df3d4e938df513811393a6f2.pdf and in a pull-out supplement to the May edition of Am Paipear.

It’s been given a big thumbs up by recipients, who have shown their appreciation on social media with comments like: “I received my excellent booklet this afternoon by a very stealthy delivery crew. Many thanks for the hard work” and “It’s a great resource! Well done!”

The UCVO spokeswoman said: “(These organisations) are working tirelessly to deliver essential support to people in our community during this difficult time. There are too many to mention individually, but suffice to say we are extremely fortunate to live in such a caring community.”

 

The EU-funded mPower team at NHS Western Isles has adapted its working practices in order to continue helping the elderly during the coronavirus outbreak.

mPower uses digital interventions to enable elderly people in remote areas to live safely and independently in their own homes by introducing them to various health and wellbeing technologies.

Sue Long, mPower Implementation Lead, has been working as part of the EU INTEREG VA-funded project, mPower, since its inception in November 2017.

Based in Stornoway, Sue leads the four-person team covering the whole of the Western Isles helping the elderly and those who have long-term health conditions and chronic illnesses to create wellbeing plans, in a bid to improve their day to day lives.

The mPower project has received approximately €9.2m in funding through the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). It operates across Ayrshire and Arran, Dumfries and Galloway and the Western Isles, as well as in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

Over the past two months, the team has had to adapt its ways of working to continue helping older and more vulnerable people throughout the current crisis.

Sue said: “The project is all about helping people live well and safely in their own homes and introducing them to different technologies which can support them to do so.

“One of the main things we've been focusing on over the past couple of months is keeping people connected.  All care homes across the Western Isles have been supplied with iPads by the NHS, so we've been helping residents use this technology to keep in touch with their families since people are no longer allowed to visit their relatives.  We have trained the Care Home Managers how to use a trusted NHS platform called Near Me to allow the family meetings to happen.

“Some people have very little understanding of how to use this kind of technology, so to be able to help them with it is really rewarding.  We’ve been told that after being shown how to use the iPad, one resident was so excited about seeing his family over a video call that he barely slept the night before. 

“In the past, we used to tell people about events and social groups happening in their local area so they could go out and socialise, but as that’s no longer an option, we’ve been turning to digital alternatives.

“The ‘daily ceilidh’ for residents in Bernera and Uig is a great example of this.  It’s an on-line coffee morning that takes place every day where people can come together and chat to others.

“Videoconferencing technology is also being used to remotely connect people with health professionals, so they don’t have to be seen by a doctor in person.  This is hugely helpful for people who live in remote communities across the Western Isles anyway, but it’s vital more so now than ever given current circumstances. 

“We don’t just work exclusively with the elderly.  The issues we help people with can affect all ages, for example, psychological wellbeing, which has been another key focus area for us.

“All members of our team are trained in psychological first aid, so when they’re talking to service users they know how to approach the conversation in an informed way to find out what kind of help would be most beneficial for them.  Sometimes just having an open and honest conversation with someone can make the world of difference to them. 

“I’m really proud of the work our team is doing at the moment.  We’ve certainly had to adapt, but we’re using everything at our disposal to help people in any way we can.

“We’re here to support people, whether that’s helping with anxiety, sleeping trouble or feelings of isolation.  These are all problems which are likely to be heightened just now, so it feels really good to be able to help people and make a positive difference to their lives.”

Underlining the importance of the project at this time, Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive Officer of the SEUPB said: “Through the dedication and understanding displayed by its core team, this EU-funded project is helping many of our most vulnerable and elderly citizens through the current crisis. By adapting their delivery they are ensuring that these groups stay connected with the doctors, and other healthcare professionals, to ensure that they stay physically well.

“Through the use of technology, these groups can retain that vital human contact with friends and family to help combat loneliness; something that it is so very important at this time. I am very proud of their efforts, along with the real and tangible impact they are making upon the lives of so many,” she continued.

The mPower team’s support has also been harnessed to implement other projects rapidly that NHS Western Isles had been developing to assist the response to mental wellbeing during the pandemic by rolling out a range of psychological digital Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tools.

Martin Malcolm, Head of Public Health Intelligence and Project Lead at NHS Western Isles, said: “We were already working on a number of digital projects that we felt would be helpful for people, but we were able to very quickly deploy these in response to COVID-19 with the support of the mPower Community Navigators.

“This means we’ve been able to offer immediate help to people struggling with a range of mental wellbeing problems while faced with restricted access to traditional psychological services during the pandemic.”

The mPower project is also match-funded by the Departments of Health in Northern Ireland and Ireland as well as the Scottish Government.

For more information, visit https://western-isles.mpowerhealth.eu/

To self-refer to the project or to find out more for a family member please contact the mPower Western Isles team on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01851 708022.

 
 

Artizan Café in Church Street, Stornoway, is now partially open again with full social distancing in operation.

It is now opening Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 10am to 2pm, just for takeaway drinks and bacon rolls.

The café - one of the first premises to close down completely in Stornoway as the official lockdown period began – is serving takeaway coffees and teas, soft drinks and bacon rolls.

They are only accepting contactless payments.

Western Isles Police are investigating the sudden death of a man in Stornoway on Monday (11 May).

The 48-year-old man was found to have died at an address at Macmillan Brae, where he was found around 8.45am on Monday.

His death is currently being treated as unexplained and enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.

In other police news,

Video-link court appearance

a 27-year-old man has appeared at Inverness Sheriff Court by video-link from Stornoway, after he was arrested in Benbecula at 1.42am on Sunday (10 May).

He was arrested for Police Assault after police were called to an incident and was brought to Stornoway, where he was kept in custody until his court appearance on Monday. He has now been released on bail.

Court after disturbance

Police were called to a disturbance in Stornoway at 9pm on Friday (8 May) where an 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with breach of the peace, vandalism and assault.

He was later released on an undertaking to appear in court at a later date.

 

NHS Western Isles has been awarded over €1.46million for projects aimed at supporting the health and wellbeing of those living in the Outer Hebrides.

The funding will be used by NHS Western Isles, in its role in a number of European innovation partnerships, to develop and test new services and technologies in various ways to support health and wellbeing.

The first project relates to ‘ChatPal’, which involves the development of ‘Digital Wellbeing Conversations’ to support and promote mental health and wellbeing.  €220,000 will be received for the ChatPal project over three years, to develop and test chatbot technologies. A key objective is to create and pilot a multilingual chatbot service that will provide a digital mental health service supporting project workers and skills coaches.

NHS Western Isles will be working with local stakeholders Western Isles Association for Mental Health, Penumbra and Foyer, to develop such new services to best meet local needs.

€425,000 has been received by NHS Western Isles for the second project, ‘IT4Anxiety’.  The key objective of the project is to reduce the anxiety of patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer‘s disease) or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The project, which was funded €8million in total from NWE Europe programme, will focus on the creation and implementation of innovative solutions, in particular those related to digital technology.  The project will develop and test technological solutions alongside conventional approaches to address anxiety. 

‘mPower, Healthy and Connected Communities Project’ is the third project to receive funding . An additional €1.4 million will be added to the €8.4 million original total partners’ allocation in order to strengthen and extend the shared learning for the local mPower project.  The local mPower project has been operational since 2017 and has been successfully building in area of digital health and wellbeing support.

During this time, the local mPower project has created three Community Navigator roles based across the Western Isles, who provide support through Health and Wellbeing Plans for persons facing a range of difficulties affecting their health.

This may be from loneliness, mental health difficulties, lifestyle issues or practical things such as difficulties getting to hospital appointments or in keeping their home warm.  The project also helps people with potential technologies that may assist them in improving their health.  This ranges from help with simple communication devices for maintaining social connections to home health monitoring solutions for remotely managing a health condition.

mPower has, to date, directly helped over 130 people via Wellbeing Plans or technology support.  The project has now been allocated a further €151,514 funding over the next two years to further develop learning which will be used to fund a new Improvement Advisor role and tap into knowledge experts in a range of topics to promote the project learning and build into existing practice.

Martin Malcolm, Head of Public Health Intelligence and Projects Lead at NHS Western Isles, said: “These are fantastic opportunities to harness both financial resources and international expertise to develop and test out new innovative approaches in supporting people with their health and wellbeing, which we would otherwise not be able to do. 

“It is great too that, in so doing, we will be able to create around eight exciting new job roles in such an innovative area that hopefully will stand us in great stead as we look to the future and how we sustain health and care services on the islands.”

Despite the UK's decision to leave the European Union by the end of 2020, participation in these projects is safeguarded till the end of their funded periods between 2021-2023, as confirmed by the relevant Scottish and UK Government departments. 

As partners in NPA Arctic INTERREG Project, Chatpal is led by Ulster University with partners from Lulea Institute of Technology and Norbotten Association of Local Authorities in Sweden, East Finland University, Action Mental Health, Northern Ireland and The Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland.   The project has been designed to address the identified mental health needs of people living in rural and sparsely populated areas of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Sweden and Ireland. 

 

There will be relief, albeit temporary, felt across the nation at Chancellor of the Exchequer Runak Sunni’s announcement that the furlough scheme is being extended by a further four months.  Better yet, the confirmation that the scheme will be amended to allow furloughed staff to work part-time and to let part-time staff be furloughed.  This will enable businesses to start working towards their new ‘normal’ whilst not bearing the burden of all the staff costs.

Here are the highlights and takeaways from Monday's announcement:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which began in March, has been extended until October 31st
  • Workers will continue to receive the same level of support, that is 80% of their current salary up to £2,500 per month.
  • The scheme will continue in its current functioning form until the end of July.
  • From August this scheme will be partially supported by businesses themselves – with employers contributing a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff –details of this proposal will be published by the government by the end of May.
  • With this, new flexibility will be introduced from August to get employees back to work this will include furloughed workers being able to return to work part-time.

Some facts about the scheme:

  • As of this week (beginning 11th May) 7.5 million people across the country are signed up.
  • Almost one million individual businesses are involved
  • With this extension until the end of October, the projected cost of the total support being provided is around £60 billion.

The Government also published a 50-page plan on how they propose to restart the economy which was released on Monday 11th May.  If you haven’t managed to read it yet….

The 5 key points are as follows:

  1. Work from home if you can.
  2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions if applicable – this is expected of businesses with over 50 employees.
  3. Maintain the 2 meters social distancing wherever possible.
  4. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage the transmission risk:
    1. This may include putting barriers into shared spaces
    2. Creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams (minimising the number of people in contact with each other)
    3. Ensure colleagues are facing away from each other…
  5. Reinforcing cleaning process – it goes without saying, workplaces need to be cleaned more frequently. Special attention should be given to computer keyboards, phones, door handles and other high contact objects.  Hand sanitiser or hand washing facilities should be provided by the employer at entry and exit points. 
Written by Victoria Silver
Victoria will shortly qualify as a trainee solicitor.

The UK Treasury was right yesterday (Tuesday May 12) to announce the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until the end of September, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

However, the Chancellor should also remove all the complications which he is introducing to the so-called ‘furlough” scheme, he says.

Mr MacNeil has warned that the ultimate ending of the furlough scheme must depend on health needs in each devolved nation and not be guided by the policies chosen in only one nation.

Mr MacNeil said: “Last night in the virtual Commons I asked for the Treasury support which underpins health needs to be maintained and to follow the needs of all the health policies of each devolved nation.
“Therefore, the furlough scheme has rightly been extended but it cannot end when the needs of one nation are such that it is not needed.

“Certainly, Treasury support should not be kicked away when the health policy of England dictates it is no longer required in England, this is particularly important after the Prime Ministers confusing divergence from the health policies being followed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

“The Chancellor should make clear that any health decision being made in any devolved nation can be made on health grounds alone without his financial penalties.

"We have to make sure the welfare of everyone is looked after, when their government is taking steps for public health.”

Scottish Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron has given a very warm welcome to the announcement by the Chancellor that the furlough scheme is to be extended by four months.

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “The confirmation by Rishi Sunak that the furlough is being extended is very good news for employers and their employees here in the Highlands and Islands and right across Scotland.

“This decisive action by  the Chancellor will help local businesses get through this crisis, save jobs, and be in a position to trade again when it is safe to do so.

“The United Kingdom is the sixth-largest economy in the world. We have never needed that strength more than we need it now.”

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, created by the UK Government in March 2020, helps employers who cannot maintain their current workforce because their operations have been affected by coronavirus.

It's intended to help employers retain their employees and, in doing so, protect the UK economy. 

The CJRS will continue to provide a grant to cover the lower of 80% of a staff member’s regular wage or £2,500 per month – it had been rumoured that the 80% contribution would be reduced. This includes regular wages, including non-discretionary overtime; non-discretionary fees; non-discretionary commission payments and piece rate payments. 

There will be no changes to the CJRS until the end of July 2020.  However, from August to October, although the CJRS will continue for all sectors and regions, there will be some greater flexibility.  The Government will look for employers to start sharing the costs of furloughed staff’s salaries.  It is still unclear exactly what this means in practice.

Although further details are to follow, from August, employers will be able to bring furloughed employees back into the workplace on a part-time basis.  Further guidance on the mechanics of the CJRS, post 31st July, are being promised by the Government on or before the end of May.

Meanwhile in a letter to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard  has called on the First Minister to raise awareness of legislation which protects workers from recriminations if they absent themselves from the workplace to protect themselves “in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent”.

"As the Scottish Trades Union Congress has made clear, people should not be expected to go back to work until it is fully safe to do so. That means that testing and contact tracing should be in place, alongside adequate personal protective equipment and effective enforcement measures. We must ensure guidance is agreed with trades unions and employers on a sectoral basis, and that the jobs retention scheme is continued. 
"I welcome the Scottish Government's constructive engagement with the trade unions so far, and the First Minister's statement that Scottish workers should continue to stay at home where possible.

"But it is clear that Boris Johnson's irresponsible intervention on Sunday night has caused confusion. So we are asking the Scottish Government to remind employers of their responsibilities, and remind workers of their rights - as well as the benefits of trade union membership and collective action."

Mr Leonard has called on the First Minister to make a public statement “setting out this statutory right, and reiterating the duty of employers to ensure that workplaces are safe”. He said this information should also be included in the Scottish Government’s public information films on TV.

And he says Scottish Labour supports the continuation of the furlough scheme, and has called for it to be followed by a jobs guarantee scheme.
 

A new project is being launched to support the mental health of frontline workers during the Coronavirus crisis.

Researchers at the University of the Highlands and Islands have been awarded £44,581 of Scottish Government funding to lead the initiative, which aims to use digital technologies to help NHS Highland health and social care staff cope with the impacts of COVID-19. The six-month project has been developed in response to a rapid research funding call issued by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office in March.

Dr Johannes De Kock, a digital health research fellow and clinical psychologist from the university’s division of rural health and wellbeing, will lead the initiative. He will receive support from university colleagues, Dr Sarah-Anne Munoz and Dr Mark Grindle, and from NHS Highland practitioners, Professor Stephen Leslie, Dr Frances Hines and Dr Helen Latham.

Speaking about the project, Dr De Kock explained: “Previous pandemics like SARS have shown us that the psychological toll on health and care workers can be immense. Research conducted in other countries during the COVID-19 outbreak suggests that roughly half of the frontline workforce will experience a diagnosable anxiety or mood disorder. As the pandemic continues to sweep across the globe, we know that Scotland’s health and care workforce may face similar distress.

“Our project will use digital technologies to help prevent and treat psychological distress and also aim to enhance the resilience of health and care workers during the Coronavirus crisis. Participants will work with us to create personalised mental health toolkits, which might include activities like exercise and mindfulness techniques, and will monitor their mood and anxiety levels using an app. They will receive personal feedback and information about support if they are struggling. We hope that we can mitigate some of the potential negative mental health impacts of working through COVID-19.”

Dr Sarah-Anne Munoz, who heads up the university’s division of rural health and wellbeing, added: “Health professionals in rural areas frequently work in small teams or as lone practitioners. They are often embedded in local communities and will inevitably be providing care for their friends, neighbours and loved ones. It’s important to understand how we can best support these staff through the current crisis and with any longer-term impacts on their mental wellbeing.”

Professor Stephen Leslie, a Consultant Cardiologist at NHS Highland, said: “I’m delighted to be part of this collaborative project between the University of the Highlands and Islands and NHS Highland. Understanding how we can better support staff is crucial to developing and maintaining a healthy, stable work force in the Highlands. This may help staff not just during the Covid pandemic, but through other challenging times in the future.”

Fiona Hogg, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at NHS Highland, said: “This exciting new project will complement the broader wellbeing plan for NHS Highland colleagues which includes access to an Employee Assistance Programme and telephone email and tactical support from the psychological services teams.”

The university’s rural health and wellbeing team is also looking to secure funding to work with other groups in rural areas who may be particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing, such as young people and those living with long-term conditions.

Comhairle nan Eilean has welcomed the apology from the Guardian newspaper in London about the photograph in Monday's newspaper of a beach in West Lewis with a caption encouraging people to visit it.

CnES said Facebook and Twitter that "We are pleased to see that the Guardian has done the right thing and apologised for the photo of Loch Ròg which appeared in yesterday’s paper."

CnES added that: "The message remains very clear. There continue to be restrictions on travelling to the Islands and we must see these maintained for the continued health of our population."

Earlier report here -

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/16929-newspaper-unleashes-island-backlash

Plans by Highlands and Island Airports Ltd to remove air traffic control posts to Inverness should never take-off.

That's the view of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar which has described HIAL's air traffic control centralisation proposals as short-sighted and damaging to the Islands’ economy.

HIAL has gone out to tender on its £8.5 million plans to provide the technology for the controversial centralisation of air traffic control.

Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, said: "It frankly beggars belief that HIAL are proceeding with these proposals at a time when air travel is facing such a challenging time. It is short-sighted in the extreme when we should all be working together to secure a sustainable future for air travel, tourism and Island economies. As we look to an uncertain future we should be focussing on sustaining island economies rather than centralising services and employment in already prosperous areas of the country.

"It is also the case that a dispersed service will offer greater resilience particularly as we consider the ongoing possible need for social distancing, restricted travel and future working practices. Instead of removing skilled jobs from the Islands all agencies, including HIAL, should be working to build sustainable futures. "

CnES has written to Scottish Government minsters opposing the centralisation plans and calling for a moratorium on them pending an Islands Impact Assessment.

Young people across the islands have been forced into isolation along with the rest of society during the Coronavirus outbreak.

But while for some learning is easy enough at the kitchen table, others have been challenged to keep their skills live.

Imagination has come to the fore, with every available space, technology and some unexpected props standing in for school and community facilities.

Dancers from the Kerry MacDonald School of Dance have been using remote technology and dance homework set by Kerry to keep them on their toes. One routine she has put in place uses the platform SeeSaw, used by Sgoil Lionacleit for remote learning.

Kerry has invited all 100 of her dance students across Uist and Barra to join in with ‘two stars and a wish’, where dancers film their practice and their friends give feedback on two things they did well and one that could be improved.

The positive notes that dancers get from friends keep them inspired and encourage dance practice wherever there’s a big enough space at home to go through the moves they need to perfect.

Krysta Bray from Aird Tong in Lewis is determined to let nothing stop her in her aim to make the Island Games, according to Stornoway Running and Athletics Club. She’s seen here testing herself against a makeshift set of hurdles in her back garden.

Fellow athletes from SRAC had already been put through their paces with a tough virtual circuit session set by the club for all its members last month – here’s some of the members using their back gardens as a training ground during the punishing workout.

Have you been finding creative ways to keep active with your favourite sport or activity? Why not drop us a line and let’s see how you are solving lockdown obstacles!

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

 

CalMac is to give cash support to seven Lewis-based youth groups, after what awarding judges described as an ‘impressive’ range of applications from the island.

The groups are set to benefit from the ferry operator's Community Fund, which looks for social value by supporting non-profit organisations based in a mainland port or island the company serves. All the projects supported must benefit the lives of children and young people living in west coast communities and organisations can apply for any amount between £500 and £2000. 

Back Football and Recreation Club is using their award to organise professional golf tuition for a group of sixteen young people. Louise Stewart from the club said: “We're really grateful to CalMac for this grant, which will allow us to run some junior golf tuition later this year. We have some really enthusiastic youngsters who are itching to get out onto the driving range to develop their skills.”

In Ness the group based at Taigh Dhonnchaidh identified a need for activities for children with additional support needs. Their project will provide music therapy support for this particular group, providing a safe space for them and their carers and giving them the chance to socialise on a regular basis.

Meanwhile Sporsnis will use their award to organise affordable after-school fitness sessions for local young people.

Kinloch Historical Society identified a lack of arts craft activities for young people. With support from CalMac, they now plan to set up a regular arts and crafts club.

Swim Western Isles' award will use their award to buy starting blocks to prepare their young swimmers for competitive swimming meets. The club currently has 77 young swimmers unable to get access to this type of training at the moment.

Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band are using their award to help them get uniforms for all band members, something that is currently beyond their financial reach.

And in Stornoway, Fèis Eilean an Fhraoich's award will support a year-long programme of Gaelic song, masterclass workshops and a concert celebration during this year's Fèis week.

All the applications were judged by a screening panel of young people recruited from across the company's network, in partnership with Young Scot and Erica Clark of the community learning and development department at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

CalMac's corporate social responsibility manager Gordon McKillop said: “The variety of projects put forward in Lewis really impressed the judging panel. All seven of these projects will play a big role in widening opportunities and removing barriers facing young people on the island.”

 

From the point of view of life insurance, the Outer Hebrides is the cheapest place to live in the UK, says Reassured, a life insurance comparison site.

But the Highlands are the most expensive!

Reassured says it has analysed five years of internal data.

Key findings include:

  • Customers in the Highlands pay the highest average monthly premiums in the UK at £41.53
  • The lowest average monthly premium is paid in the Outer Hebrides - £20.59
  • The average monthly premium across the UK is £24.95
  • The county of Cleveland, in the North-East of England, has the largest proportional life insurance coverage as 1,034 out of every 100,000 residents has a life insurance policy
  • Croydon has the lowest proportional life insurance coverage as only 22 out of every 100,000 residents of the South London borough is covered by life insurance.

Counties in Scotland and the North of England dominate the most-covered areas. A large number of insurance companies are headquartered in Scotland.  Nearly a quarter of the UK’s life insurance employees are based in Edinburgh. The city has been home to the UK life insurance business since 1815.

Commenting on the findings, Phil Jeynes, Head of Corporate Sales at Reassured said: “It really is eye-opening to see the differences between UK areas when it comes to life insurance coverage and average premiums. But with the UK average premium falling just short of £25 per month, it highlights life insurance could be more affordable than people think.

“To protect yourself and your loved ones, life insurance can offer financial assistance, helping to take some of the stress out of planning for the future. Each insurer uses a different underwriting process, so shop around to get the best deal for you.”

https://www.reassured.co.uk/uk-life-insurance-coverage/

UPDATE: 15.07 :::: 27.05.2020 :::: Total now £13,010!! :::: 467 supporters and 10 days to go!

UPDATE: 15.38 :::: 26.05.2020 :::: Total now £12,920!! :::: 465 supporters and 11 days to go!

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan

UPDATE: 14.19 :::: 24.05.2020 :::: Total now £12,720!! :::: 461 supporters and 13 days to go!

Generous donations continue to pour into the on-line kitty which is aiming to replace some of the thousands of £s a month which the RNLI local branch is being rendered unable to collect because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Looking back at the progress of the appeal…

UPDATE: 16.03 :::: 23.05.2020 :::: Total now £12,610!! :::: 457 supporters and there's 14 days to go!

UPDATE: 14.25  :::: 21.05.2020 :::: Total now £12,230!! ::::444 supporters and there's still 16 days to go!

UPDATE: 16.15  ::::  20.05.2020 :::: Total now £12,140 ::::

John J ‘Booly’ Maclennan - who chairs the RNLI branch in Stornoway - has now (Sunday May 17) got 397 supporters for his bid to raise funds for RNLI Stornoway and he is aiming to maintain his 100% record of contacting them all individually by email to thank them. 

So why don't we all keep making the donations and keep John writing.  You know it makes sense…and it's for a very good cause!

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan

UPDATE: 0727 15.05.2020 :::: Total now £8450!! :::: New target £9,000 :::::


John J ‘Booly’ Maclennan wants to write lots more Thank-You more messages…and the people of Stornoway and beyond are obliging him.

John - who chairs the RNLI branch in Stornoway - started out on Thursday May 7 to raise £500 for the branch via Facebook and a Justgiving Page (https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan)

And he pledged to email every donor personally to thank them…now he’s attracted more than 310 supporters and raised £6850 for the cause and has written more than 200 messages…but he’s unhappy at not having the chance to answer all the donors because some did not leave their email addresses. So if you want to be thanked - privately, of course - please contact John via https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan.

And John - with decades of experience on the lifeboats pursuing moving targets at sea - keeps moving his fund raising target. 

And welovestornoway.com is sure that the public would like to keep John writing – and the RNLI funds growing – so let’s aim even higher and keep John out of mischief with all that message-writing!  Because of JustGiving rules the page has to stay open until June 6, so there’s plenty of time still to maintain support for the local RNLI.

A younger John 'Booly" on the RNLB Arun class lifeboat Hugh William Viscount Gough which was based in Stornoway from 1973–1984.

John said today ( Thursday May 14) one week after the appeal started :"Well, folks I have never experienced a week like this in my entire life. I just cannot get over the magnitude of the response, support and donations YOU have so willingly and so generously given to our Stornoway Lifeboat. 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. SO a huge thank you to every single person who donated. YOU are the people who to date have raised £7950. Page remains open to 6th June 2020."

Earlier John said of the fund-raising achievement: "We must emphasise that it is the community that merit the credit and the RNLI's gratitude to them in these times when traditional fund raising  is suspended - e.g. the RNLI shop is closed, flag days suspended, no bag packing etc."


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 explained: "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 is 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. So a heartfelt thank-you to all who have contributed."

On Saturday May 9, John commented: "Today I hit the Big 70 - well virtually in these days of Lockdown. The Big Reality for me today is that in a short time over 120 wonderful people have seen fit to sponsor me and in so doing have so far donated over £3000 to our Stornoway Lifeboat. That is a wonderful and best birthday present. So a massive thank you to all family, friends and supporters not just in Lewis but as far away as New York, Marvig, Plocrapool, Leverburgh, Glasgow etc etc.”

And most recently John said: “As you know traditional fund raising opportunities like coffee afternoons, bag packing, flag days etc are all suspended with Covid-19. And our Gift Shop also is shut. So your donations are extra meaningful I keep raising the target figure and you guys keep beating it!”

The top photograph is one that John's brother Michael took of the Sir Max Aitken II. Says John: "I can't remember where we were going that day but it must have been an urgent shout as Calum the Cox had the handles right down immediately after slipping the moorings. That's me on the foredeck stowing the fenders." The Arun Class Sir Max Aitken II was the Stornoway lifeboat in 1984–1999.

Taylor Edgar (onlinewords.co.uk) looks at market gardening in the Falkland Isles and how a locally-based producer facing up to lockdown and pandemic emergency, supplies local population with salad vegetables despite average wind-speeds of 16 knots and average monthly temperatures of 2-9C. (Outer Hebrides – 5-14C and 10-17 knots)

Tim and Jan Miller run a market garden in the Falklands. They are now locked in a battle with the weather to keep the South Atlantic islands supplied with fresh vegetables throughout the year during the Covid-19 pandemic.

By now, they would usually be winding down their heated greenhouses for the winter and be relying on green salad imports by air from Chile. But with air links to South America hit by bans on international flights, Tim and Jan’s company are doing all they can to extend the growing season and keep the Falklands going in salad vegetables until the end of May.

A market gardener of British descent that stretches back to 1847, Tim, along with wife, Jan of Shropshire farming stock,  has operated his business on the edge of Port Stanley, the Falklands capital, for the past 30 years. Speaking to welovestornoway.com from his Stanley Growers headquarters, Tim explained: “We keep the Islands self-sufficient in salads most of the year, and grow a range of vegetables and hardy fruits. What we cannot grow,  we bulk import, so we are the main fresh produce suppliers to the retailers here as well.”

With so many people relying on Tim and Jan for their five a day, Stanley Growers have been pulling out all the stops to meet the challenges presented by Covid-19 social distancing. Despite their heroic efforts, Tim concedes that by June, most salad items will be off the menu but replaced by the basic fruit and vegetables they always have in stock. (https://www.facebook.com/Stanley-Nurseries-Garden-Centre-649403781746985)

The lockdown introduced in late March by the Falklands government did, he notes, promote them from being farmers to key workers and receiving a request to remain operational.

“Once our old and vulnerable folks were sent into isolation Jan, and I thought ‘Well - these folks still need fresh food and cannot come to us - so let’s take it to their homes instead,” Tim recalls.

“We run the Islands Garden centre with our farm shop, so we are also able to deliver their gardening needs at the same time. It does keep us busy as sometimes over 20 home deliveries a day, but it’s nice as we can chat with the folks from a few metres away for a bit, and they enjoy it.”

At the moment, it is believed the Falklands are Covid-19-free after an initial outbreak of 13 cases confined to the British Army base near Stanley airport, some 30 miles from the town. All the cases were mild symptoms and effectively isolated, with all the cases now recovered.

Since there were no testing facilities on the islands at the time, the Falklands had little option but to impose a lockdown on non-essential businesses and schools.

Now, with a three to six-day turnaround on Covid-19 tests flown to the UK and local testing now getting underway, a partial relaxation of the lockdown began on Monday with most businesses and schools reopening. Hairdressers, pubs, and restaurants remain closed, and some higher-risk islanders are being told to stay in isolation.

Comments Tim: “A benefit of a small place like ours is that in March, the doctors went through the entire population’s medical notes and contacted all those they wanted to go into isolation and away behind their doors they went, including every one of 70 years or more.”

Interestingly, the Falkland Islands have a nest egg to fall back to offset the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.  “Luckily also our government has been careful with reserves over the years and has maintained a multimillion-pound ‘Rainy Day Fund’ -  and so it can offer cash schemes to employers, the self-employed and businesses from our reserves and know we can still carry on, says Tim.

“World wool prices have crashed due to the lockdown everywhere. Our government is going to buy farmers wool at pre-pandemic prices, so they have cash - and then aim to resell the wool in a year or so. And if there’s any profit that will go back to the farmers as well.”

While they are a British Overseas Territory and inextricably linked with the UK, the Falklands are outward-looking and will be keeping an eye on other similar parts of the world for their response to the pandemic.

Commenting on how the lockdown and social distancing have impacted his company, Tim says the most significant change has been in their little staff hut. Usually, this is the venue for their daily shift meeting of the 15-strong workforce. Under two-metre social distancing, this number was reduced to four. Instead, Tim spends the first 15 minutes of each day walking the site to give instructions to each of his two to three-strong teams.

This limited contact was a fact of life, too, when five Antarctic cruise ships were allowed to dock in the Falklands after being denied entry in South America. They were allowed to offload passengers and fly them out of Stanley on pre-arranged repatriation flights with LATAM, a large Chilean airline. The ships were then refuelled and restocked so they could continue to their home ports in the US and Europe.

Since these humanitarian landings in the Falklands, ships that do call in now can only do so on a ‘no contact’ basis. Explains Tim: “Their crews have been at sea for a long time so they know they are virus-free. We, of course,  are only Covid-19 free until we get a positive. On balance, the ships’ crews fear us more than we fear them, so they stay on board!”

Supply orders are emailed ahead and transported alongside and left on pallets, which are then unloaded by the ship’s crew. All the paperwork is done electronically without the need ever to meet face to face.

And last week, Falklanders waved off the Hebridean Sky. This vessel had been chartered by the British Antarctic Survey to transport their scientists and work crews back home to the UK. It is now under passage without the passengers ever setting foot on the Falklands for the return leg.

But as others head for home, the islanders they have left behind are left to ponder the future and what a post-Covid-19 future looks like. For now, geography has at least dealt the Falklands a decent hand for their tourism industry, the second most crucial component of their economy.  In this part of the Southern Hemisphere, the 2019-2020 tourist season was, at the time of the lockdown, 95% complete. Only time will tell now if, and under what rules, cruise ship tourism can recommence next year.

The London-based Guardian newspaper has fuelled an angry uproar across Scotland after using a picture from the Isle of Lewis in its edition  today (Monday 11 May) to illustrate a story about tourism prospects for this year.

The picture, a library photograph taken originally by Lewisman Murdo Macleod, shows a beach described as being on Loch Ròg in Lewis with the caption “People will be able to drive to beauty spots from Wednesday.”

Under the headline ‘Battered tourism industry prepares to reopen amid fears of second virus wave,’ writers Mattha Busby and Jedidajah Otte speak of ‘mixed messages’ across the UK, with VisitScotland tweeting pictures of Scottish destinations using the hashtag #StayHome.

But there are no mixed messages coming from islanders, who took to social media to decry the newspaper’s use of island scenery as a call to travel.

One commenter on Facebook wondered whether the photographer himself would be happy with the use of his image in this context, while another said: “The Guardian seems to be determined to promote us as a COVID destination for some reason. Hopefully anyone that tries will get turned away by CalMac.” Another went further, suggesting that providing CalMac staff with armaments might be the way to keep the islands safe from visitors.

CalMac’s group director of communications and community engagement Stuart Wilson has given a firm endorsement to island views on Twitter, saying: “For the avoidance of doubt, anybody trying to get to the Outer Hebrides from Wednesday onwards who is not an islander or undertaking essential work will need to have an amphibious car!”

In this afternoon’s media briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP made an oblique reference to the paper’s reporting and to other reports which she described as ‘confusing’.  Ms Sturgeon said: “Can I also make a respectful plea to the media. Your scrutiny role is essential, and you perform it robustly - rightly so.

“But at a time like this - when health is at stake - all of us have a public duty too. Please make it clear to your readers, listeners and viewers what the actual situation is in different parts of the UK.

“Moving at different speeds in different parts of the UK for good, evidence-based reasons need not be a cause of confusion - indeed other countries are taking different steps in different areas at different times.

“Confusion only arises if we as politicians and the media who report on us are either unclear in what we are asking people to do - or if we give a misleading impression that decisions that apply to one nation only are actually UK wide.

“Never has the duty on political leaders to communicate clearly been greater. And in the provision of basic public health information, I hope the media will continue - as most of you have been doing - to appreciate the importance of that too.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged people to stick to the lockdown guidance in Scotland and to refrain from visiting the Western Isles.  This comes as changes to lockdown in England were announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday evening. However, with the exception of a change allowing people to go outside more than once a day to exercise, all other lockdown restrictions remain in place in Scotland.

The key message in Scotland remains Stay at Home. Reasons for leaving your homes include:

  • To shop for basic necessities – but only once a day, at the most;
  • To take exercise, alone or with your household, not in groups;
  • Medical reasons or providing care or support to a vulnerable person;
  • To travel to essential work if it absolutely cannot be done from home.                                                                                                                                                            

All social events and public gatherings of more than two people – excluding households or for essential work-related purposes – remain banned.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I have received a lot of queries and comment following the Prime Minister’s address yesterday evening, and the confusion this has caused is deeply regrettable. We have already seen a national newspaper print a photo of the Hebrides beside a caption saying that people would be able to drive to beauty spots from Wednesday. The First Minister had to set the newspaper right on television today and remind them what the rules in Scotland are.

“While the Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to make such decision for England, the guidance on lockdown in Scotland is largely unchanged. The travel restrictions to the islands also remain in effect and people should not be travelling to the islands for anything other than essential reasons.

“CalMac staff should be praised for the difficult job they are having to do in policing this. This is not something they were ever trained for, or ever thought they would have to do, but from all accounts they are doing a tremendous job under challenging circumstances.

“Having made real progress in recent weeks, our objective now must be to consolidate and solidify that progress. Restrictions will be kept under constant review, and the Scottish Government will set out a phased approach to relieving some of the pressure of lockdown as soon as it can.

“But for now, it remains vital that we continue to adhere to measures to slow down the spread of the virus. Everyone should be staying at home whenever possible."

And Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is also urging people to obey Scottish lockdown laws and not travel to beauty spots in the Islands.  The reminder specifically follows the article in today's Guardian newspaper that contained the photograph, with the caption ‘Loch Ròg on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. People will be able to drive to beauty spots from Wednesday.’ 

A spokesperson said “We would remind everyone that in Scotland it is not permissible to drive to beauty spots. There are also restrictions on travelling to the Islands and we must see these maintained for the continued health of our population.”

World War Two Veteran Donald Morrison celebrated his 97th birthday on Friday, May 8, sharing his special day with Victory in Europe Day for the 75th time.

Donald Morrison was born in Mollinginish, Harris on 8 May 1923. He attended school in Mollinginish along with his older siblings Murdo and Katy. He left school at age 14, to work with his father on a fishing boat until he joined the Merchant Navy on 3 March 1943 when he joined the ship Empire Diplomat at Kyle of Lochalsh.

He was home on leave from the Merchant Navy on 8 May 1945 when war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that the war was over. That day he had left Mollinginish early morning and was walking to Tarbert on route to Stornoway to visit his mother in hospital.

At Sunnyhill near Tarbert he met some jubilant school children who told him the school was on holiday as the war was over.  He continued his bus trip to Stornoway and recalls on his return journey seeing bonfires lit all along the way into Tarbert and on the hillside at Direcleit, above Tarbert.

He walked home from Tarbert to Mollinginish and on reaching had a celebratory dram with his father and brother Murdo who had been a Prisoner of War for five years.

Donald continued life at sea until he met his wife Mary, who comes from Kershader in South Lochs. They got married in Southport on 28 October 1953 and moved back to Harris where they have spent their entire married life. They have five children, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

His daughter Peggy Morrison explained that he still managed to celebrate in style despite the current restrictions: “My father celebrated his 97th birthday at home with my mother on Friday.  Jasmine one of his great grandchildren baked him a birthday cake and along with her brother Benjamin sang him some birthday songs while maintaining social distancing.”

This information was provided by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar who would like to wish a Donald a belated Happy Birthday - as do we all!

 

A rescue fund set up to help out a New Tolsta weaver after fire destroyed his loom and weaving shed has raised more than four times its target sum – and is still climbing.

Donald Angus Morrison lost his loom and all the tools of his trade on 30 April, when three crews of firefighters battled for hours to control raging fire which destroyed his garage and a large area of moorland nearby.

A weaver for over 17 years and a mechanic to trade, Donald Angus has been left devastated by the loss of his livelihood, with little hope of rebuilding on the scarred and contaminated land.

Friends Jordan Carberry and Catriona Maciver quickly stepped in to launch an appeal, hoping to raise a small amount to help out.

Firemen fighting the blaze

Jordan said: “Donald Angus is a much-loved and well-respected member of our community. He has done many a turn and shown great kindness not just to those in the community but those who have required vehicle repairs along with other things.

“Donald Angus’s garage to him was not just a garage but was the key to his livelihood and his own employment. All was lost in the fire and the area from which he worked can no longer be used due to the extensive damage.

“We would like to try and raise at least £2,000 as a small contribution to help him replace what was lost, and to give a helping hand to try and restore what is required to re-establish a source of income during this very difficult time.”

The appeal shot past its target of £2,000 within hours and by 14.24 today (Monday 11 May) stands at £8,706 – 435% of its target.

With 22 days still to run, the appeal can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jordan-carberry

Jordan said “It’s during times of great difficulty and loss that people show their kindness and great community support. Let’s try and repay some of that kindness that Donald Angus so willingly shared with us.”

The pictures show fire crews battling the fire on 30 April (SFRS) and the devastation left afterwards.

 

People struggling to make ends meet as jobs, businesses and income are hit by the Coronavirus crisis are getting welcome offers of shopping help.

Every needy resident of the Cearns is to get a boost from today (Monday 11 May) as £30 vouchers drop through letterboxes in the scheme.

The Cearns Community Association is delivering the vouchers to residents who meet specific criteria. Each voucher is worth £30 and can be spent in the Cearns shop on any product except tobacco products.

Barney Mackay, speaking for the community association this morning, said: “In a continuing effort to help in these difficult times the Cearns Community Association are from today introducing a one-off voucher scheme worth £30 for residents who meet agreed criteria.

“We will today be delivering 70% of these vouchers through letter boxes in the Cearns, as we try to reach those most in need. However, if you did not receive a voucher today, please visit the Cearns Shop and ask about the voucher scheme, where the staff are happy to advise.”

The Cearns scheme is one of several shopping voucher offers, some made by individuals, to support people struggling to buy basics in an uncertain time for employment and income.

In Tong, one individual has made a private offer of £25 Tesco or Co-op vouchers to anyone who needs them to buy food or household essentials.

Galson Estate Trust last week (Thursday 7 May) announced the launch of the Beagan Taic fund, a collaboration with a local church to support any resident of the Galson Estate in severe financial hardship.

Shopping vouchers will be among the help available from them, to Galson residents who ring 850393 to find out more about the new support fund.

The voucher schemes come in addition to numerous local support initiatives (as reported here https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/16922-community-strength-in-covid-struggle) with schemes offering meals, shopping deliveries and free groceries in districts around Lewis.

(This story has been considerably extended since first being published)

The goodwill flourishing in villages and districts around the Western Isles is beginning to be backed up by cash for practical projects.

Since lockdown began in March, communities have been banding together to make sure that people who are socially isolating, shielding or unwell can get the food, medicine and extra help they need.

Now community councils and village associations are getting back-up for their voluntary efforts, with recent news of cash grants coming through from the Scottish Government Supporting Communities Fund, administered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

One innovation being seen in the villages of the Broad Bay area is a clutch of yellow boxes housing new community larders, jointly planned by Ionad Loch a’ Tuath (ILT) and Back Community Council.

The two organisations heard at the beginning of May that they had been awarded a grant to run a telephone helpline and to stock the yellow larder boxes with basic foodstuffs and toiletries twice a week.

A community council spokesperson said: “This is a difficult time for everyone and many families are on reduced or no wages. The basic food and toiletries in this box are for anyone’s use. They are the Back community’s way of looking after each other.”

The district of Uig saw the first delivery of frozen meals cooked by volunteers yesterday (Saturday 9 May) after Uig Community Council’s Covid-19 response plan also got funding.

The £8,600 they were awarded helps Uig community shop with the additional cost of deliveries, as well as helping to fund the home-cooked frozen meals made by members of Uig Community Centre Association, a free fortnightly Uig News for the district and an art/activity pack for each child in the area.

As previously reported (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/16919-grants-given-for-covid-19-projects), Galson Estate Trust and Carloway Estate Trust have also received a slice of the Supporting Communities Fund. Galson Estate Trust received £9,000 to help with the costs of setting up a network of volunteers from each of its 22 villages, while Carloway Estate Trust now has £10,700 to support its co-ordinating role with Breasclete Community Association, Breasclete Community Council, Carloway Community Association and Tolsta Chaolais Village Association.

Meanwhile Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) have set the closing date for Wednesday (13 May) as they recruit two drivers for their new pick-up and delivery service. They will offer residents pick-up and delivery of groceries, medicines, butcher supplies, fish, coal, logs and bottled gas, as well as emergency food and fuel parcels.

PST received £55,600 from the Scottish Government fund to meet employment costs and to support other work they have been doing pulling together volunteer information and contacting local residents.

Stornoway’s New Wine Church, which hosts Eilean Siar Foodbank, has been awarded £9,941 to help with the increased take-up and delivery costs for their essential food parcels, which have been on offer throughout the Coronavirus outbreak.

Other organisations have had help for their efforts from local sources, with the Salvation Army’s twice-weekly Coronavirus support drop-in finding a new home after an offer from Stornoway Golf Club.

The Salvation Army opens from 12-2pm every Wednesday and Saturday to offer toiletries, baby products and groceries to anyone who needs help. Lt Callum Newton of the Stornoway Corps has reported exceptionally high take-up of the offer of help from people in and around Stornoway.

He said: “With thanks to Stornoway Golf Club who have welcomed us to their clubhouse for our usual Wednesday and Saturday Coronavirus support. The change of venue allows us to increase and better the support we are able to provide. There will be much more fresh fruit and vegetables as well as other foods, toiletries and groceries.  Come along and have a look to see if we're able to help reduce some of the extra costs that you might have come your way at this difficult time.”

The pictures show the community larders now in place around the Back area, frozen meals ready for delivery in Uig and, below, the new layout for Coronavirus support donations from the Salvation Army at Stornoway Golf Club.

 

A solemn, dignified and unpublicised event took place in Stornoway just before 3pm on Friday afternoon (May 8) to mark VE Day, 75 years after the event.
Present were Sgt Major Tommy Stewart,  7 Scots, Western Isles Army Reserve; Malcolm Macmillan, Flag Bearer - Stornoway Branch British Legion & Merchant Navy Association; Donnie Maciver, Stornoway Branch British Legion and RAFA; Gavin Woods (Bugler) Music Instructor, Education Dept; Anna Murray, (Piper) Music Instructor, Education Dept; and Lord Lieutenant of the Isles Donald Martin with his wife Sandra.
A handful of passing members of the public stood outside the fence of the Army Reserve Hall in Church Street, all at suitable social distancing under the coronavirus regulations.
welovestornoway.com asked Donald Martin what he would have said, had this been a full-scale public event. He told us that his words would have included the following:
"On Tuesday 8 May 1945, Islanders joined the nation to rejoice and celebrate the long awaited news that the war in Europe was over.  In his address to the nation later that afternoon the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill ended his address by saying “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but  not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead”.
"These words seemed just as relevant today, Friday 8 May 2020, when  the 75th anniversary of VE Day is commemorated throughout the country with a number of low-key public events, involving as few people as possible, in recognition of the current Coronavirus lockdown and restrictions on public gatherings and social distancing. 
"This significant milestone would normally have been marked by a series of well-attended public events, giving us the opportunity to remember, reflect, give thanks and pay tribute to all those who had contributed to the outcome of the Second World War.  
"Many of us in the Western Isles know only too well of close relatives and friends who lost their lives fighting for King and Country and those who gave up their own freedom for the liberties we have enjoyed for the past 75 years.  We remember them today as well as the few survivors still with us  who know through painful experiences the horrors of war and its aftermath.
"Their legacy will never be forgotten which is why, even in today’s unique and enforced circumstances, we are able to pay our respects and our  thanks by observing a moment of remembrance here at the Drill Hall in Stornoway, this afternoon.
"I am aware a similar period of reflection was held earlier this morning at the War Memorial in Tarbert.  In the words of HM The Queen in Her VE Day message – We should and will remember them."

 

Two communities on the west side of Lewis are among the first in Scotland to benefit from the Scottish Government’s £350 million package of support to address the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

The £40 million Supporting Communities Fund, which forms part of the Scottish Government’s support package, is being administered by development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Now HIE has approved 129 grants worth £2.68 million to community anchor organisations located from Argyll to Shetland, and from the Outer Hebrides to Moray. 

One beneficiary is Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) which reacted to the Covid-19 emergency by going straight into action, establishing a group of volunteers from each of its 22 villages to collate a list of mobile numbers and landlines, and set up a network on the social network WhatsApp.  Each resident on the estate, with a population of around 2,000, has been contacted to ensure that if they need support, they will get it.


The Trust has secured funding from the Strengthening Communities Fund of just over £9,000. It'll help the community deliver its local COVID-19 emergency responses over the coming months.

And Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh (Carloway Estate Trust) has been awarded £10,700 from the Supporting Communities Fund. The Trust manages the community owned estate and is taking on anchor organisation co-ordinating role for a wider area, which has a population of around 825 people.

Volunteers are already very active in the community and are checking on residents, delivering groceries and prescriptions. The front-line volunteer effort is being co-ordinated by four community organisations - Breasclete Community Association, Breasclete Community Council, Carloway Community Association and Tolsta Chaolais Village Association.


Douglas Cowan, director of communities and place with HIE, said: “There is already an incredible support network of community organisations and development trusts across the Highlands and Islands, involving thousands of volunteers and key workers. 

“Distributing funding through these anchor organisations gives local people the power to make the choices that are right for their communities and ensures the support goes to help those who need it the most.”
Communities and Local Government Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell said:  “People living in rural communities across the Highlands and Islands face significant challenges in accessing basic needs such as health and social care services, food and fuel.

“That’s why the incredible community response to COVID-19 in the past weeks has been vital, and it has already made such a huge difference to so many people. This inspiring work in our neighbourhoods is proving essential to our nation’s resilience."

More than 120 communities across the Highlands and Islands - including two on the Isle of Lewis – are among the first in Scotland to benefit from the Scottish Government’s £350 million package of support to address the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

The £40 million Supporting Communities Fund, which forms part of the Scottish Government’s support package, is being administered by development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The fund includes an initial £10 million investment that is being distributed to communities through eligible community organisations that play an active role in providing vital local services. A further allocation of £10 million has been approved to support the second phase of the fund.

Now HIE has approved 129 grants worth £2.68 million to community anchor organisations located from Argyll to Shetland, and from the Outer Hebrides to Moray. 

Each organisation will coordinate a targeted and joined up approach to help those most in need, working alongside other third sector organisations, charities, volunteers, local authorities and statutory bodies.

One beneficiary is Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) which reacted to the Covid-19 emergency by going straight into action, establishing a group of volunteers from each of its 22 villages to collate a list of mobile numbers and landlines, and set up a network on the social network WhatsApp.  Serving a population of nearly 2,000 people, each resident on the estate has been contacted to ensure that if they need support, they will get it.
The Trust has secured funding from the Strengthening Communities Fund of just over £9,000. It'll help the community deliver its local COVID-19 emergency responses over the coming months.

And Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabhaigh (Carloway Estate Trust) has been awarded £10,700 from the Supporting Communities Fund. The Trust manages the community owned estate and is taking on anchor organisation co-ordinating role for a wider area, which has a population of around 825 people. Volunteers are already very active in the community and are checking on residents, delivering groceries and prescriptions. The front-line volunteer effort is being co-ordinated by four community organisations - Breasclete Community Association, Breasclete Community Council, Carloway Community Association and Tolsta Chaolais Village Association.


Douglas Cowan, director of communities and place with HIE, said: “Everyone in Scotland is being affected to some extent by the impacts COVID-19 is having on our economy and society.

“There is already an incredible support network of community organisations and development trusts across the Highlands and Islands, involving thousands of volunteers and key workers. 

“They do a range of practical things to help others, such as making hot meals, organising grocery and prescription deliveries and providing wellbeing support.

“Distributing funding through these anchor organisations gives local people the power to make the choices that are right for their communities and ensures the support goes to help those who need it the most.”

Communities and Local Government Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell said:“People living in rural communities across the Highlands and Islands face significant challenges in accessing basic needs such as health and social care services, food and fuel.

“That’s why the incredible community response to COVID-19 in the past weeks has been vital, and it has already made such a huge difference to so many people. This inspiring work in our neighbourhoods is proving essential to our nation’s resilience.

“This funding will be a valuable lifeline to continue the range of innovative support available for people in our communities, and we are working fast to get that support to where it is needed most.”

Coronavirus-related attacks and threats aimed at police officers and staff are occurring across Scotland with more than 100 such incidents recorded.

This was announced by Police Scotland today (Sunday May 10) and they add there could be far more – these figures have been obtained as a result of analysis of Police Scotland’s crime recording system using the Covid-19 search subject. However, other incidents may have occurred where police personnel have been targeted but the incident was recorded under different headings.

The attacks have come as officers and staff are visible in communities 24 hours a day as the service encourages people to stick with physical distancing requirements to protect the NHS and save lives.

In some instances, officers and staff have been spat at or coughed on as they are engaging with the public, explaining the physical distancing requirements, encouraging people to comply with the law, and using enforcement only where necessary.

And there have been occasions where frontline policing teams and personnel from the custody suites have been subjected to abusive behaviour including threats of deliberate transmission.

Between 24 March, 2020 and 18 April, 2020, there have been over 100 crimes committed in Scotland, where police officers and staff are recorded as victims.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: "Police officers and staff are playing a vital role as we all make the changes and sacrifices needed to protect the NHS and save lives.

"I'd like to thank the vast majority of our communities for their co-operation and support as we all contribute to the national effort to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

"Those doing the right thing will agree these sorts of attacks on our officers and staff are outrageous and disgraceful.

"Abuse and assault is not simply part of the job for police officers and staff and will not be tolerated.

"The Chief Constable and Lord Advocate have made it clear that those engaging in this behaviour will be dealt with robustly by Scotland's police and prosecution services.

"Threatening a member of Police Scotland personnel, or any other emergency service worker, while they are carrying out their duties to keep the public safe will result in immediate arrest.

"On the occasions where such incidents have occurred we have seen a very supportive approach from Sheriffs across the country and in some instances, offenders have been remanded in custody."

The Stornoway Coastguard rescue team was called out yesterday (Friday May 8) to assist the Scottish Ambulance Service to recover a casualty with a suspected broken hip from Traigh Mor in Tolsta.

The team used their Yamaha Viking All Terrain Vehicle to transport the casualty back to the ambulance at the car park where she was then taken on to Western Isles Hospital.

Area commander Murdo Macaulay said on Twitter: “Yamaha Viking All Terrain Vehicle was put to good use yesterday…This machine continues to prove its versatility every time we deploy it.”

It's that time of the week again it comes round so quickly.

New in for this week are peaches and nectarines along with Cornish and Jersey Royal potatoes, local bay leaves along with the usual fruit and vegetables.

We also have various marmalades, mixed berry jam, homemade gingerbread and HebriDelight Tablet, all made by Margaret at Laxay.

Spider Plants from Melbost – all money from the Spider Plants will go to Stornoway RNLI.

We have been quite lucky with the weather so far, however I'm sure on one of the delivery days it will be raining, for those of you who have their veg delivered, and it's left on the doorstep, can you just let us know if there are any changes to that arrangement.

As before, if we could have your orders in before 12.30 on Monday 11th May, please

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

UK Asparagus

 

£4.15 bunch

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.40

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£2.40

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.30

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.65

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Kale 250g

 

£2.45

 

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Broccoli (UK)

 

£4.95

 

 Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£3.10

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.25

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus

 

£2.50

 

New Season Cornish

 

£4.70

 

Jersey Royals

 

£4.60

 

Roosters

 

£1.35

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.70

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.60

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£5.40

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.90

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £2.10

 

New Season Peached

 

3 for £2.10

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.65

 

Satsumas

 

5 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.65

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £2.10

 

Pears (Conference)

 

5 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Yellow Mellon

 

£2.40

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.50

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£4.35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PER JAR

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Seville Orange

Hint of Ginger,

hint of Whiskey,

Orange and Lemon

Rhubarb jam

Mixed Berry Jam

 

 

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per Cake, Approx. weight 425 gr

 

 

Homemade Gingerbread

 

 

£4.50

 

 

 

Per Packet

 

Hebridean Tablet

 

£2.95

 

Local Spider plants, Melbost

All proceeds to Stornoway RNLI  (indoor pot plant)

 

£1.50

 

Concern is being expressed about the long term impact on local shops and town centres of the coronavirus crisis.

Ness crofter Donald ‘Sweeney’ MacSween said on Twitter yesterday: “Talking to a delivery driver just now. Says every day during lockdown has been very busy, like Christmas. Last Tuesday was the busiest he’s seen. Lots buying stuff they’d normally buy locally but not going out. Warning for future of shops?”

In response on Twitter, Rhona Johnstone said: "I always buy meat and eggs from local butcher anyway and have bought some items from local businesses  @ishgaskincare @essenceofharris & @ASAPOTH to support them.
Have had to buy a fair bit of stuff online to help with my work though and Woodys and local posties have been great."

And Gail Tunnah said: "Most shops doing a sterling job. All my groceries from the Clachan delivered to my door. Lawnmower busted. Willowglen to rescue with free delivery from Woody's.  Excellent service."

The importance of local High Streets to community life has been highlighted by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

Mr Cameron spoke after the Scottish Retail Consortium revealed there was a 12 per cent vacancy rate for High Street premises in March, even before the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of a range of recent printing jobs from Stornoway Media Centre

Mr Cameron, the Scottish Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary, said: “Our local High Streets in the Highlands and Islands are more than simply places where you can shop. They are incredibly important for community life.

“For many people, they are where we can meet friends and family, take part in activities and feel part of our community.

“They also host many of our traditional family businesses which contribute so much to their communities and to the distinctive character of our towns and villages.

“I am fearful that we could see a significant decline in the vibrancy of our High Streets if we don't urgently take some imaginative measures to support them.

”A lesson from the pandemic is surely that there is value in keeping things local.”

welovestornoway.com is trying to help businesses that are still trading to attract more customers via our special page at https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/zany-s-zone-8

And local printing work continues at Stornoway Media Centre - operating to strict social distancing guidelines, with the products being picked up by customers from the extensive porch area or delivered by our staff subject to suitable arrangements.

Among recent products have been a whole range of signs for NHS Western Isles, the Rudhach and Loch a Tuath magazines, a newsletter for Hebridean Housing Partnership and social distancing floor stickers for shops and offices.

Stornoway Media Centre, on James Street, occupies the former premises of N.D. Macleod electrical and is the base for EVENTS newspaper and welovestornoway.com as well as being available for many kinds of printing and signage.

For printing and signage work, contact Bryan via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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

Police in the Highlands & Islands continue to thank the public for their co-operation, consent and compliance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Following an appearance by Police Scotland's Chief Constable Iain Livingstone during the First Minister’s coronavirus briefing yesterday (Friday May 8) Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent George Macdonald is also urging everyone to stick with the guidance and to stay at home as the restrictions continue.

Chief Superintendent Macdonald said: “I continue to be extremely grateful for the public’s support of the role Police Scotland is playing in response to the pandemic.

"As the Chief Constable said, our officers and staff are being met by high levels of co-operation and it is my plea for everyone to continue exercising the same self-discipline, commitment and common sense which has, so far, served us well. As it stands, the guidance is clear – continue to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

“Police Scotland officers will continue to be visible in your community and will engage with people where necessary, explain the legislation and encourage them to comply. Only where people continue to defy the very clear being given will enforcement action be used as a last resort.

“Day-to-day policing also continues and we remain committed to supporting and protecting vulnerable people and victims of crime at this critical time. I would urge anyone who wishes to report a crime, or has concerns that someone may be at risk of harm, to come forward – we are to help.

“Continue to stay safe, look after your loved ones and keep an eye on any vulnerable neighbours or friends. As I have said before, on a personal level we all know someone who works in the NHS or the care sector, or have family and friends who are being required to shield for their own protection. I ask everyone to continue staying at home, to travel only if absolutely necessary and to adhere to the physical distancing guidelines to help keep everyone safe.” 

Chief Constable Livingstone joined First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the National Clinical Director Jason Leitch during the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing yesterday. He said: "Police Scotland’s response and our service will be assessed against three things – how the work of our officers and staff to support physical distancing contributes in some way to reduce the mortality rate in Scotland; secondly, whether, through our actions, we can maintain, and possibly even enhance, the very strong relationship of trust that policing has with the public of Scotland; and thirdly, that in doing this we protect the health, welfare and safety of all our officers and staff and their families.

"What we have seen and experienced across Scotland to date, is that communities have stepped forward, collectively, and as individuals, to do their duty, to help each other. I want to acknowledge and highlight in particular the significant sacrifices which children and young people are making during this important stage of their lives, when many milestones and events are arising.

"To my mind, this reflects the fact that my officers and staff are experiencing high levels of co-operation and consent from our fellow citizens, as policing does our part to support the application of what I acknowledge are very restrictive measures on personal freedoms.

"Reassuringly, we have seen some early indications in an independent survey commissioned by the Scottish Police Authority that public confidence in policing in Scotland remains solid during this time, and is perhaps even higher than it had been prior to this emergency.Going forward, we will continue to value the trust of the public and support them during these difficult days.

"And, I’m extremely grateful for the public’s support for policing. It is my plea, today, for everyone to continue to exercise the self-discipline, commitment and common sense, which has, thus far, served us all well.

"It is essential to protect the NHS and to save lives. Please stick with it.

The First Minister has discussed how things may change in the future, when it is judged safe to do so.

"We don’t know exactly when any changes will come, what they will be or how they will be viewed. What I can tell you is that the Police Service of Scotland will continue to act with courtesy and common sense and in line with our values of public service.

"As I have explained before, I have commissioned independent, expert, assurance led by a leading human rights lawyer, John Scott QC, to better understand the effect of the emergency legislation in our communities, and help us to discharge our duties consistently and fairly.It remains crucial that everyone right across the country continues to play their part. Please - stay home; stay safe; and follow the guidance.

"Officers will remain visible in communities across Scotland and may speak with you to explain restrictions and encourage you to adhere to them. Where necessary, and bluntly as a last resort, we will enforce the law.

"At the same time, I want to reiterate that Police Scotland remains here to help and support our fellow citizens to keep them safe in all aspects of their lives.

"Sadly, for some people, the stay at home guidance may expose them to a greater risk of abuse, harm and neglect. I know that private, and indeed virtual, spaces are not safe places for everyone.

"If you need police assistance, if you need our support or intervention, or if you have concerns about someone else, contact us and we will help.

"We are here 24 hours a day to support those in need, support those who may be vulnerable, and to ensure fairness and the rule of law.

"Police Scotland officers and staff are working around the clock, at times putting themselves in harm’s way, to respond to coronavirus and day to day policing demands. I reiterate my respect as Chief Constable and thanks for all they are doing and will continue to do.

"And I ask you, the people of Scotland, please continue to work together during this emergency. It is a shared mission for everyone in Scotland to reduce the spread of the virus, protect each other, and save lives.

"Thank you for your forbearance and commitment.

"Stay safe; look after yourselves; look after each other; and look after your families."

 

The head of Western Isles fire services has hailed the ‘unbelievable efforts’ of retained firefighters, after a 12-hour shift of back-to-back emergencies yesterday (Thursday 7 May).

But Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s group manager Gavin Hammond has also pleaded with islanders to show restraint with using fire in their crofts and gardens, regardless of how safe they may consider their situation to be.

Fire crews from Stornoway and Shawbost, especially, spent the day dashing from one emergency to another, as back garden fires got out of control in Ness, Carloway and Point.

At the largest incident, in Point, calls from residents alerted SFRS to a developing emergency in Shulishader at 2.30pm, where a grass fire lit at the shore end of a croft was running out of control.

By 4pm 28 firefighters and two officers, with five appliances brought from Stornoway, Ness, Shawbost and Great Bernera, were battling flames over a kilometre-long fire front on moorland at Shulishader.

At the height of the fire they were fighting on four fronts, with brisk winds whipping around in all directions, driving the flames across tinder dry grass and heather with lightning speed.

Gavin Hammond said today (Friday): “This fire appears to have been started well away from property, but in the dry, windy conditions it rapidly spread over neighbouring land.

“Because of the number of houses in the area, there was a significant risk to people and property, as well as to poles supporting overhead power lines.

“Residents were advised to leave their homes and seek shelter in a safer location while our firefighters used beaters, hoses and breathing apparatus to battle the fast-moving fire front in dangerous conditions, with choking smoke and rough ground underfoot.”

Police closed the Point road for several hours as the fire leapt the road at Shulishader. Meanwhile SSE were asked to shut off the power supply to protect firefighters working nearby.

The road eventually re-opened under a police convoy system after 6pm and power was restored at 7pm. After damping down hotspots and making sure all was safe the last crews left for Great Bernera at 8.30pm and for Stornoway at 9pm.

It was the end of a day which had started at 9am for one of Stornoway’s fire crews, with a call to Stornoway harbour, to help pump out the fishing vessel Prevail, which was taking on water at the quayside.

The crew went from there directly to Leurbost, where a fire had started in moorland behind the North Lochs community centre. Three appliances from Stornoway, Shawbost and Great Bernera brought 15 firefighters to that location as the fire spread rapidly to threaten homes.

Other crews were meanwhile called to Carloway and Ness, and the Point call came in while some crews were still damping down from earlier calls.

Gavin Hammond said: “After the kind of dry weather we have had, these fires spread extremely rapidly, putting property and lives in extreme danger. We have to continuously change and react to ensure that we are preventing the spread.

“The focus with any wildfire is always to protect lives, property and animals first and then to concentrate on getting the fire under control. Mixed in with this is the safety of our firefighters themselves, who are putting themselves in the way of harm to do their job.

“Yesterday our Lewis teams were pinging from job to job for 12 hours – the Shawbost crew didn’t even get a break between calls. The time and effort our firefighters put in yesterday, working in very difficult conditions for extended periods, is unbelievable. I am hugely proud of them.”

Group manager Hammond also had a message for householders. He said: “With people having to stay at home more there is bound to be increased activity in the garden and croft. But where fire is concerned there is always the risk, regardless of how safe you think you are, that it will get out of control.

“We ask that you don’t have outdoor fires, especially after such a protracted dry spell. If you must have a fire, choose a still, damp day, use a metal container and light it on hard-standing away from buildings and people.

“If you can’t meet all those conditions, I would implore you not to light fires. It poses a significant risk to yourself, your neighbours, property and the safety of our teams, who are already under stress in the current conditions.”

Group manager Hammond also thanked partner agencies including teams from Stornoway Police, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and Stornoway Coastguard, who were all involved in yesterday’s activities.

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar took delivery of the first batch of safety visors yesterday (Thursday May 7) for care home staff across the Western Isles, as community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, working in partnership with Lews Castle College UHI, roll out their provision of free PPE (personal protective equipment).

Staff from the college and the wind farm charity have been working together to produce PPE for the islands’ frontline and began delivering the safety visors – made using facilities at the windfarm-sponsored Innovation Centre at the college – last month to NHS doctors and nurses.

The issue of PPE being in short supply has dominated the headlines in terms of coronavirus coverage, with the outbreak of the virus in Portree’s Home Farm care home and subsequent tragic deaths causing grave concern throughout Hebridean communities.

The safety visors come in two parts. The plastic headbands are manufactured at the college using a 3D printer and disposable clear plastic sheets are attached to clips on the headbands to function as faceshields. The aim is for all care staff who need a visor to have their own headband, which can be cleaned by washing in hot soapy water, and enough face sheets, which can be swapped out at regular intervals.

Around 100 visors were delivered to NHS Western Isles and once that commitment was fulfilled, the production team turned their attention to supplying the protective items to the care home sector. 

The first delivery of 58 visors and packs of plastic sheets was handed over by Tony Robson, Point and Sandwick Trust community consultant, to Muriel Macleod, Community Care Day Services Manager earlier today. More will follow, until all staff in the care sector have been provided with a visor of their own and an adequate supply of the face sheets. 

Once the council-run care homes, from Dun Berisay to St Brendans, have been supplied, the team will turn their attention to the privately-run homes including Bethesda and Blair Buidhe.

Jack Libby, Head of Community Care at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, welcomed the pledge of PPE as “excellent news”, while Muriel Macleod described it as “a great local endeavour”.

Muriel added: “I think it’s a great innovation and a local innovation is always welcome. Local help should always be praised because we’re all in this as a community – and a global community.

“Thanks to UHI and Point and Sandwick Trust very much for their help and their attention in making these for everybody. We are in it together.”

Muriel added there were many items of “single use PPE but it’s good to have something that’s not throwaway” as the headbands could be sterilised and reused.

Tony Robson estimated they would be producing between 400 and 500 headbands in total – and with each headband taking one hour to produce using the college’s 3D printer, it would take a few weeks for that commitment to be fulfilled.

The PPE solution was devised by college staff working in partnership with Tony and Point and Sandwick Trust’s development manager, Calum Macdonald. The headbands are produced on the 3D printer used for plastics at the Innovation Centre – there are another two 3D printers for metal components – and are made using an approved design downloaded from the internet.

The see-through plastic sheets which clip on to the headbands are easy to source, being an everyday office item, but the headband components had been much more difficult to obtain.

The visors are designed to help protect health and social care staff from contracting the virus from people who are positive for Covid-19, including those who may be asymptomatic and undiagnosed.  The outbreak of the virus among residents and staff at Home Farm care home in Skye has highlighted the importance of taking such precautions, despite the relatively low numbers of cases confirmed so far in the Western Isles. 

Calum Macdonald, development manager for Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “We are delighted to be able to support the council in any way we can and especially the fantastic care home staff we have in the islands, both in the council and in the non-council operated homes.”

Calum said the Trust had worked with college staff to get the 3D printer making visors and head clips but it had been “not at all a straightforward thing to organise because they have to be made to the right spec and with the right materials”. He paid tribute to the “technical skill of the fantastic staff at the college, led by Ian F Macdonald”.

Roddy Ferguson, head of technology at Lews Castle College UHI, said: “Engineering staff at the college were very keen to do their bit to support the local health and social care sectors during the current Covid-19 crisis by utilising the 3D-prototyping equipment from the college’s Innovation Centre to produce safety visors suitable for those working in the frontline against the spread of coronavirus.”

All materials for the production of the headbands are being funded by Point and Sandwick Trust, which runs the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm near Stornoway for the benefit of the community, and which funded the expansion of the Innovation Centre at the Lews Castle College UHI campus, and the purchase of its 3D printer for plastics back in 2018 – an investment which subsequently levered in more funding from the Outer Hebrides LEADER project. 

The production and distribution of PPE follows the creation of Point and Sandwick Trust’s pandemic community fund, a donation of £40,000 to NHS Western Isles from that fund and donations of £5,000 to community councils in Point, Sandwick and Stornoway to act as ‘hardship funds’ to help alleviate suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

 

ends

 

Notes to Editors:

 

Point and Sandwick Trust is a multi-award-winning charitable organisation in the Outer Hebrides which uses the income of community-generated wind power to support projects and organisations developing social, cultural, educational and environmental wellbeing.

The charity reinvests 100 per cent of the profits from its Beinn Ghrideag wind farm – the largest UK community wind farm in terms of output (9MW) – in its local community and has been recognised as leading the way in community renewable energy and social enterprise.

It has won a number of awards – Best Community Project at the Scottish Green Energy Awards 2015; UK Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year 2018; Scottish Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year 2018; and Winner of the Celebrating Communities award at the Scottish Charity Awards 2018 – and been shortlisted for more. 

Funding projects of all sizes, the Trust provides significant support within the crofting communities of Point and Sandwick on the Isle of Lewis and the wider Western Isles.

Since Beinn Ghrideag began generating power in 2015, Point and Sandwick Trust has donated more than £1million to local good causes and set up the emergency Pandemic Community Fund in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus crisis.

 

Pictures of Point and Sandwick Trust’s Tony Robson handing over the first batch of visors to Muriel Macleod, Community Care Day Services Manager, at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Pictures by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos (please credit if using). 

A major moor fire in Point closed the main road to traffic in both directions this afternoon (Thursday 7 May).

Police closed the Point road at Shulishader.

The electricity power supplies to 503 properties from Shulishader to Tiumpanhead were switched off after 5.30pm at the request of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for the safety of the firefighters.

Around 7.30pm, the police notified that the road was reopened and the power came back on shortly after 7pm.

The fire had been continuously shifting, driven across very dry grass and heather in brisk winds.

It was visible from across Broadbay from around 3pm and then moved out of sight as it spread across the moorland.

Local residents have taken pictures of fire burning across a wide front of moorland, while smoke is clearly visible from the Braighe and from the Tiumpanhead area.

Stornoway Coastguard helicopter overflew the area.

(Pictures Thomas Stewart)

"This week we made history as Comhairle Councillors as we had our first online Council meeting", says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar leader Roddie Mackay in his now-regular Leader's Statement.

"This took a lot of preparation from officers, included 30 agenda items and was a real wakeup call (as if we needed it) about how much things have changed in this COVID-19 world we are all experiencing.

"As is our usual practice, the meeting was preceded with Prayer, led on this occasion by Donald Crichton, Loch a Tuath Ward. This was another first as we all sat for prayer unlike the usual practice in the Council Chamber where we stand. (That would have been a bit impractical as we were all on phone or iPad screens)

"Our ambitions to live stream the meeting for the public and press were thwarted as the technology did not match our ambitions, but we plan to utilise a different system next time which we hope will prove more effective."

The meeting agenda showed that despite the prominence of COVID-19 in our lives at the minute, a lot of business and the delivery of services needs to continue, so a wide range of subjects from education, transport, care and budgets were looked at, as well as reports on subjects like the Islands Deal, Islands Act and Crown Estate Funds.

The Chief Executive provided an overview of COVID-19 responses, arrangements, management and planning and there was appreciation and thanks expressed regarding the staff in the Comhairle across all areas including Care, Teaching, Waste collection, Comhairle Emergency Planning Response Team, Economic Assistance, Press and Communications.

Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education and Children’s Services, gave a very positive report on the work of the ongoing developments and challenges around education delivery and Robert Emmott, Director of Assets, Finance and Resources, detailed the significant financial challenges facing the Comhairle given the combination of lost income and increased costs in this period.

Robert also acknowledged the help from Government to date but reminded us that the decision at budget time, to maintain rather than spend balances, is a key factor in helping us through the current difficult period.

"I hope that gives you a flavour of our first ‘virtual’ council meeting ever in the 45 years since the Comhairle was formed.

"Hopefully we’ll do better with the technology next time and we can resume fuller and more detailed debates.

"Please be assured that your councillors have your best interests at heart and they do stand up for their respective communities and causes, looking for the best outcome they can for the people they serve.

"Please also remember that as councillors they are operating in very challenging times where financial strictures and difficult choices are part of the job.

"To date, and organised ably by officers, your councillors have collectively maintained a decent ongoing service and they will be the first to acknowledge that key to that delivery is effective collaboration and partnership with the people and organisations in the communities they serve.

"Councillors are doing their best, communities are rising to the challenges and volunteers exemplify the neighbourly spirit that is a signature of our islands.

"Let’s keep at it for a little longer and stay safe, stay positive and observe the guidance from our Government."

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has announced an increase in online activities for vulnerable people through Sport and Health’s Move More Project. Move More Western Isles is a project supporting physical activity opportunities for islanders with long term health conditions.

Tony Wade, Sports Facilities Services Manager said: “The COVID-19 crisis is a particularly worrying time for people who have been referred on to this programme and Sport and Health workers Kirsty Wade (Lewis and Harris) and Kevin Morrison (Uists) have been keeping in contact with as many clients as possible since the start of lockdown."

Online classes, 1:1 sessions and phone call support has also been made available. Kirsty and Kevin have been ably assisted by Macmillan trained  ‘Gentle Movement’ volunteers who have been providing online sessions throughout the Western Isles for those who have previously attended these relaxing classes.

However it has not been possible to reach out to everyone who may benefit from encouragement to keep active. It is now widely recognised that keeping physically active helps boost your immune system which is particularly important right now and with this in mind we have endeavoured to provide 2 classes a week online that can be easily accessed by a wider audience from May 5th.

The Tuesday afternoon class is a seated mobility and strength class and the Thursday afternoon class is a little more ‘Up –Tempo’ and should suit people who may have enjoyed Aquafit or Move More circuit classes in the recent past.”

The activity sessions are low to moderate intensity and are appropriate and beneficial for most people however anyone with a medical condition or any other concerns should check with a medical professional prior to participating.

If you have been recommended to become physically active previously, this step is not necessary unless you have a new condition. For more information please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tony Wade said: “We feel it is very important to try and keep in contact with as many of our regular and committed service users as possible and this is a really positive collaboration between a number of Comhairle sections that has helped make this happen. The classes will be updated every week and the previous classes will also be available as an archive, which customers will be able to access at any time. Keeping active is so important for your physical and mental health and we are hopeful that this will be a popular addition to our online class provision.”

 

A serious grass fire believed to have started as a bonfire broke out in Leurbost with four fire engines and multiple firefighters at the scene at midday today (Thursday May 7).

The fire is believed to have started to the east of Leurbost Community Centre and has spread behind the centre. A firefighter at the scene explained that the fire had jumped from one place to another. 

A witness at the scene described how the fire had potentially endangered 10 houses, with the three or four closest to it likely to have been damaged were it not for the swift actions of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.  The enormous plume of smoke from the blaze could be clearly seen from as far away as Plasterfield. 

Tinder-dry grass on the common grazings was well alight by 11am, when a brisk wind changed direction and blew the flames towards homes near North Lochs community centre, according to another eye-witness.

The onlooker said that the swirling wind took the flames within just a few metres of one house. Residents had already left their homes as the fire escalated.

Fire crews played jets of water on the gardens, driving the flames back from the properties and preventing any damage.

The fire later began to spread east towards Campbell Place, where a line of firefighters used beaters to extinguish leaping sparks which threatened to set new areas of the heather alight.

There has been no injury or damage to property and there are currently no animals on the grazings in that area, but grass and heather are in danger of catching quickly as firefighters remain to ensure that all the flames have been extinguished.  The blaze has now been put out.

Pictures show smoke engulfing homes in Leurbost and seen from a distance, and the scene now, below (local residents).

 

There's a brisk trade continung on the telephone to Stornoway Fishermen's Co-op…particularly for paint orders. 

Fire and Coastguard volunteers were at the quayside in Stornoway harbour this morning (Thursday 7 May) helping to pump out water from a foundering fishing vessel.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call at 9.20am from Scottish Fire and Rescue, saying that they’d been called to a vessel taking on water at the quayside next to the Fishermen’s Co-op building.

Stornoway-registered trawler Prevail (SY121) was in no danger of sinking, but one fire appliance with crew from Stornoway fire station was using their pump to remove the water. A second appliance was called to the scene but later left.

Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team is also on-scene helping to maintain site safety. There is nobody on board the vessel.

More than 200 hospital gowns have been made by local seamstresses over the past few weeks for NHS Western Isles. A number of disposable hats and masks have also been made.

NHS Western Isles would like to say a huge thank you to all those involved in making this Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to supplement our existing stocks.

The skilled seamstresses include Mary Lou Stilwell, Marjory Mackenzie, Morag Duncan, Nana Maclean, Anna Suslova, Larisa Spirina and Katie Macleod.

Chris Anne Campbell, who recently returned from retirement to NHS Western Isles to work on Resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, said: “On behalf of NHS Western Isles I would like to sincerely thank all these skilled local individuals who have made us such important items of PPE to add to our current stocks, in preparation for the care of patients with COVID-19 symptoms. We are hugely grateful for these gowns. NHS Western Isles has supplied the material for these gowns to ensure the gowns meet safety requirements."

A massive effort to empty, patch and tow the wrecked cargo ship MV Kaami away from rocks in the middle of the Minch has been hailed a success by all concerned.

The Kaami grounded six weeks ago, on 23 March, during high seas and storm winds on rocks known as Eugenie Rocks, between Skye and the Isle of Lewis. Salvors Resolve were appointed to manage the salvage operation, including the removal of a full cargo over several weeks.

On Monday (4 May) the Kaami was successfully refloated on a rising tide and her stability and integrity thoroughly checked before towing. She was then towed to dry dock in Loch Kishorn over a 14-hour journey, using a fleet of tugs and support vessels. Overflights by HM Coastguard’s fixed wing aircraft showed no signs of pollution.

The Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SoSRep) Stephan Hennig, who oversaw the operation, said: “This has been a hugely successful operation and I want to thank all of those whose efforts over the past six weeks have contributed to the safe re-floating of the vessel.

“The operation hasn’t been without challenges. The weather has been against us at times and the restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic have meant we’ve had to adapt the way we work, but the determination of everyone involved has meant we have been able to remove this vessel without any long-lasting environmental damage.”

Among those contributing to the team effort, Lewis and Harris businesses were co-ordinated by Stornoway Shipping Services (SSS). Spokesman Alastair Macarthur said: “Once again the people involved through us haven’t let us down and there has been some financial benefit to the islands because of this operation.

“From our side everything went extremely well – no-one was lost or injured and there was no lasting impact on the environment from the salvage. The operation this week happened sooner than expected – we were planning forward to a tow which would have taken place today (Thursday) but in the event the refloat and tow was very quick.

“It’s fortunate that it came to an end just as the situation with Coronavirus was escalating in Skye, since with the salvage team based in Portree it could have been held back still further if the final moves had not been made on Monday.”

The 90-metre cargo vessel is now docked and salvors are demobilising equipment and vessels.  After the dock gate is shut and the dock pumped dry, work will commence on scrapping and recycling the vessel.

Alastair Macarthur said: “There are some salvage personnel who still need to return to their respective offices in locations including the USA, South Africa and the Netherlands as well as across the UK. The only problem we are then left with is the return of personal effects to the eight mariners who were airlifted from the vessel on the night of the wreck.

“We returned personal effects retrieved from the grounded vessel, including clothing, using an international carrier service. At the moment the luggage is stuck in St Petersburg, where the authorities are refusing to forward it to the company’s business centre in Kaliningrad. DHL is being left with no options, so it may be sent back to the UK for disposal.”

The grounding of the Bahamas-registered vessel is under investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

Picture shows Kaami under tow by Multratug 3 on Monday, with the support vessel Hirta, operated by Kilda Cruises, in support (MCA).

 

At 1114, on Monday May 12, the total was at £5610.

John J Maclennan, who started the appeal less than week ago, has now raised the target again to £6000.   And he is asking that donors leave their email addresses when they make their donations as he hopes to thanks each one personally.

At 1900, On Sunday May 11, total was at £5000.

John J Maclennan, who started the appeal, said of the achievement: "We must emphasise that it is the Ccommunity that merit the credit and the RNLI's gratitude to them in these times when traditional fund raising  is suspended - e.g. the RNLI shop is closed, flag days suspended, no bag packing etc."

At 1509 10.05.2020 total was £4690…but target – which began as £500 – is now set at £5000!

At 0600 10.05.2020 total was £4260 … https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan


There's an on-line chance to support the Stornoway RNLI…which, like all the local charities, is badly affected by the closure of shops and limits on public gatherings during the Coronavirus Emergency.

Veteran RNLI supporter John J Maclennan – who was employed by the Stornoway Pier and Harour 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.

Photograph by Ali Finlayson

John explains: "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 is not too good for Saturday , so I completed the 37 mile cycle trip today (Wednesday May 6)."

He reminds us all that the RNLI is entirely funded by voluntary contributions.

The initial fundraising target was £500…but this morning (0927, 07.05.2020)  the total stood at £1165 with 51 supporters.

By the evening - 20.00 - the total had reached £1935 with with 83 supporters.

John Maclennan later wrote on the Justgiving Page; "I am utterly amazed by the generosity of all who have donated to the worthy cause of Stornoway Lifeboat.

"Our Lifeboat Station has a long and distinguished track record of service to our Island Community and all seafarers regardless of nationality or creed.

"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. So a heartfelt thank-you to all who have contributed."

By Friday night May 8, a total of £2855 has been raised by 120 supporters

And the total continues to rise…by 8.36 on Saturday morning, May 9, it had reached £3035 from 124 supporters.

John commented: "Today I hit the Big 70 - well virtually in these days of Lockdown. The Big Reality for me today is that in a short time over 120 wonderful people have seen fit to sponsor me and in so doing have so far donated ver £3000 to our Stornoway Lifeboat. That is a wonderful and best Birthday present. So a massive thank you to all family, friends and supporters not just in Lewis but as far away as New York, Marvig, Plocrapool, Leverburgh, Glasgow etc etc.

The photo is of a young and much smaller and younger John 'Booly" on the RNLB Arun class lifeboat Hugh William Viscount Gough which was based in Stornoway from 1973–1984.

By 15.32, Saturday May 9, the total was £3995 from 152 supporters…and John had moved the target again…to £4000…so where next!

Here's the link…

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-maclennan

New Creative Activities worksheets available...

Simple and easy to do, our Creative Activities Worksheets are designed to keep all entertained, using materials you can find in your own home...

Free and available to download online, we’ve most recently added 'Paper Bag Stars' to our worksheet series – a simple way to make decorations for any occasion with only paper bags and a few household items!

Alongside How to Make an Elephant, taking a look at Japanese art form Notan, Build and Decorate a House, and the Lego/Minecraft drawing challenge – there’s something for everyone, with more worksheets to be added.

Have some fun and do feel free to share with us via our social media any photos of your spectacular creations!

Go To: Creative Activities Worksheets
 

Full Circle: Family Music Two video now available online...

We’ve had some lovely feedback of how you’ve enjoyed our Full Circle Family Music Sessions online…

And our Arts Worker Heather Moger is back with Family Music Two  available to view and for download now!

Lasting around half an hour, the session follows the Full Circle Family Music structure that your family is used to, beginning with the ball-rolling game and ending with a story.

Free to use and download, you can play the videos whenever you like and as many times as you like; use them as part of your weekly or daily routine.

Repetition is good, it’s the best way to learn, and though practice doesn’t always make perfect, we can guarantee it will make things easier!

Go To: Full Circle Family Music Sessions
 

Last chance to let us know what you think of Full Circle...

If you’ve already completed our Full Circle Family Evaluation survey – Thank You very much! – and if not, could we trouble you to take a few minutes to fill it out? This is the last week the Family Survey will be available...

Many families in Lewis and Harris have taken part in Full Circle activities by attending Creative Play, Family Music, Mini-Makes, special events and community workshops, or by using Gallery Resource Packs.

If you have been involved in any way, we value your feedback, as your comments will help us to shape the activities we run for families in the future. All the information given will be treated as confidential.

Families who have been involved in Full Circle and who struggle to afford art materials can receive a free pack with painting and drawing supplies, songs and activity ideas. Fill in the Survey and add your contact details. Packs will be distributed when the COVID-19 lockdown has ended.

Thank You for your support!
Go To: Full Circle Family Survey

 

‘How are Scottish artists reacting to the lockdown?’ asks BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter Steven McKenzie in his recent article...

And amongst those providing answers is Lewis based artist – the ‘Wallpaper Pirate’ – Moira Maclean.

Moira has been using her lockdown time as a chance to sort through the trove of old wallpaper, which she incorporates into her art, that she has collected over the past two decades.

You can find out more about the work of artist Moira, alongside that of Dingwall-born pop surrealist Michael Forbes, and Inverness based Frank To here.

Photo: Moira Maclean

Opposition MPS are queuing up to take pot-shots at the SNP minority government in Edinburgh over its policies during the coronavirus emergency

David Stewart, Scottish Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, hit back today (Wednesday May 6) at the Scottish Government over “uncaring” comments regarding business support and funding for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) amidst the coronavirus crisis.

In a response to a written Parliamentary Questions from Mr Stewart, the SNP Scottish Government refused to commit to reversing the 5% or £2.954m funding cut to HIE this financial year to support economic recovering in the region following the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Highlands and Islands Enterprise can raise its own income to supplement the funding allocated”. 

Mr Stewart said: “The Scottish Government’s refusal to reverse the nearly £3m budget cut to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and their view that  they can simply raise their own income to supplement the funding allocation has revealed how uncaring this government is to the disastrous economic impact that Covid-19 is having on the region.

“HIE’s primary source of funding is Grant in Aid (GIA) and other forms of income (e.g. grants) from the Scottish Government and this is why a 5% budget cut at this time will do so much harm to the region’s economy.   

“HIE is able to source additional income from rents, loan interest, European Union funding and generate capital receipts from loan repayments and the sale of assets. 

“However, these additional income streams are now under coming under threat due to COVID-19 and consequently there may be a significant reduction in income opportunities this year and going forward.”

Meanwhile Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron has expressed dismay after Finance Secretary Kate Forbes dismissed concerns over when the Scottish Government will deliver £155million of extra cash from the UK Government direct to local authorities.

Mr Cameron said: “To suggest, as the Finance Secretary did, that this is matter is merely a "storm in a teacup" shows a massive failure of judgement on her part.

“It also betrays a stubborn refusal to listen to calls from councils across Scotland for the immediate transfer of the £155m which is being provided in recognition of the huge pressures being placed on them.

“In my own region of the Highlands and Islands, our councils have seen their reserves whittled away by years of unfair treatment from Holyrood, and now they are faced with the extra costs of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our local councils are at the forefront of delivering vital services to the most vulnerable people and the SNP Government needs to hand the money over without further delay.”

Yesterday  in the Scottish Parliament, in response to a question from Scottish Labour Local Government spokesperson Sarah Boyack, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, called COSLA’s demand that councils receive the entirety of the £155m they are entitled to via Barnett Consequentials a “storm in a teacup”.

Scottish Labour Local Government spokesperson Sarah Boyack said:

“Councils across Scotland are under unprecedented strain due to the pandemic and are delivering daily for those in need.

“For the Finance Secretary to term their call for the £155m they are entitled to a “storm in a teacup” smacks of arrogance and displays an almost wilful ignorance of the tremendous pressure councils are under.

 “She did not acknowledge that telling local authorities to use their reserves while she decides how to allocate these consequentials will lead to uncertainty and will not help cash-strapped councils who have had to deal with years of SNP underfunding.

“Scotland’s Councils are no longer asking for the funding they need, they are demanding it.”

With visiting suspended across our hospitals, NHS Western Isles has re-united families via ‘virtual visiting’ and has supplied wards with iPads to enable them access to their loved ones.

Virtual Visiting is now live in Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh in Benbecula, enabling vital face to face conversations to happen between patients and the people that matter most to them in their lives, which is inevitably going to be instrumental in their recovery.

To book a visit with a patient in Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh, please telephone 01870 603601​. Once your visit is scheduled, you can log on to https://www.wihb.scot.nhs.uk/attend-anywhere

NHS Western Isles Nurse and AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, said: “This is an extremely challenging time for inpatients who are in an unfamiliar environment, at a time of considerable anxiety, and are not able to see their friends and family.

"This is why we took the decision to develop this service for our patients who do not have their own mobile phone, tablet or laptop to use, to connect with others. Keeping in touch with those important to us is clearly beneficial in terms of patient wellbeing.”

 

On Saturday 9th May, host Iain “Costello” Maciver will be joined by local musicians for the second broadcast of e-Cèilidh – a production by the Comhairle’s Education department.

Livestreamed fortnightly on Saturdays at 7.30pm, e-Cèilidh will be available to watch live online through the new dedicated e-Cèilidh website

Every fortnight the cèilidh will feature one host performing live items as well as introducing pre-recorded video contributions from other musicians and members of the local community. 

Contributions are invited from members of the local community of any age, to give the events a true community involvement feel. These contributions should be a maximum of 5 minutes in length and can be in any musical genre.

Each e-Cèilidh will include items from a mix of musical genres with scope to have genre specific nights as the bank of musical contributions grows.

Live Facebook Cèilidhs

In addition to the e-Cèilidh, the Comhairle is hosting live Facebook Cèilidhs every Friday and Saturday evening from 9pm, with various local artists.

The programme for the next weeks is as follows:

Friday 8th May at 9pm – Iain “Spanish” Mackay

Saturday 9th May at 7:30pm - e-Cèilidh with host iain “Costello” Maciver

Saturday 9th May at 9pm - Iain “Tosh” Macintosh

15.17 Thursday May 7: Rhoda Grant MSP has asked NHS Highland to start daily testing of all care home staff and residents who tested negative at the Skye care home hit by an outbreak of coronavirus. Home Farm Care Home remains at the centre of the island’s outbreak with 57 residents and staff testing positive for the deadly virus when mass testing was carried out on 29 and 30 April. In an email to health board interim Chief Executive Paul Hawkins, the Highlands & Islands MSP said testing at Home Farm Care Home should be carried out every day with immediate effect for all the staff and residents. Five residents have now died at the care home.


The impact of Covid-19 on a care home is being examined in the political row over a major outbreak at a care home on the Isle of Skye.

Initial reports of the outbreak of Covid-19 in a Portree care home said 28 out of 34 residents were affected along with 26 of the 52 care staff.  Further cases have since been reported as well along with several deaths.

And Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has today (Wednesday May 6) challenged Nicola Sturgeon to commit to testing all of the 85,000 people living and working in care homes in the next two weeks.

At First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Labour leader criticised the Scottish Government’s decision to abandon the “test, trace, isolate” approach in March.  Mr Leonard said in the chamber: “In just the last week, the Covid-19 outbreak at the Home Farm care home on the Isle of Skye has tragically demonstrated how rapidly and widely this virus can spread in care homes.  It has also brought home the importance of testing all care home residents and staff, not just those who are symptomatic.

“First Minister, there are around 85,000 residents and workers in care homes for older people in Scotland. If we have the capacity for 10,500 tests a day, which you say are available, with almost two-thirds of that daily testing capacity currently going unused, then there is no reason why everyone in Scotland’s care homes, both staff and residents, couldn’t be tested over the next two weeks.

“Given care homes are a priority will the First Minister finally give a commitment to making this happen?”

Mr Leonard pressed Ms Sturgeon to give the R number for the transmission of Covid-19 in care homes, noting that the First Minister had “dismissed Professor Hugh Pennington’s view that the R number in Scotland’s care homes could be as much as 10” at FMQs last week. “The First Minister has confirmed today that a test, trace and isolate strategy cannot yet be implemented until the end this month,” Mr Leonard said. “But we know from the international advice and experience that such an approach can carry on simultaneously with a lockdown and can have benefits throughout the course of a pandemic.

“But we haven’t been told what that number is – if it is not 10. So can the First Minister tell us today or does she still not have sufficient evidence to be certain because of the Government’s failure to carry out a comprehensive testing programme?”

Yesterday Tuesday May 5, in the Scottish Parliament, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant asked the Health Minister Jeane Freeman about the outbreak inn Portree.

During Topical Questions Rhoda Grant said: “I am deeply distressed for the residents and staff at Home Farm Care Home. A constituent with a relative in the home has told me she was raising concerns with senior management of the company weeks ago about its handling of the pandemic and the lack of PPE for staff.

“She was also concerned staff were being taken in from other care homes without a period of isolation.

“I have written to the Cabinet Secretary and put down a written question asking on behalf of another constituent for a protocol for Care Homes in this Pandemic and have had no response.

“When will there be a protocol for Care Homes to prevent tragedies such as this one in Skye?”

Jeane Freeman replied: “The guidance to care homes is clear and that guidance is that residents should be looked after in their own rooms, there should be no communal socialising or meal-times, that visits should be stopped and there should be no transfer of staff from one care home to another because all of this is about breaking the transmission route.”

She went on: “I would like to point out, however, that many of the issues that members are raising are issues where private care home providers where the majority of the outbreaks are, have not, in some instances, appeared to follow the guidance that we require them to follow and that is why as government we are now taking a more direct intervention route in those cases.”

Rhoda raised her question after a relative of a Home Farm Care Home resident contacted her for support saying she had raised concerns weeks ago with HC-One which owns the care home about staff not wearing PPE.  She contacted Rhoda on Monday night saying she was shocked and distressed to see how her relative’s health had deteriorated in the last few days since being diagnosed with Covid-19. 

The woman, who does not want to be named, told Mrs Grant: “The sheer volume of this explosion at Home Farm has knocked everybody for six. Hopefully my husband is going to pull through this. But that doesn’t change my stance that somebody is responsible for letting that virus into the home. I am not condemning the care home staff in any way though, because I don’t believe they are to blame. They have provided wonderful care to my husband over the years.”

Speaking afterwards, Rhoda said she would be raising this issue further with the Scottish Government as well as the owner of the care home HC-One, The Care Inspectorate and NHS Highland. 

She said: “This is terrible. It’s shocking. This woman, who until lockdown was visiting her husband six days a week, has managed to see him yesterday on webcam for the first time in a week and the sight of him lying in bed desperately ill miles away from her is something no-one should ever have to see. We need to find out why the virus has spread so quickly to so many in this care home and why earlier mass testing was not carried out.”

On Twitter, Ian Blackford, the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber and SNP leader in the House of Commons, said the fact that 54 residents and staff of the Home Farm care home in Portree have tested positive for the virus in one short week “has shaken many of us. Our thoughts are with all those who have the virus, their family and friends.”

He said: “The public agencies, the NHS and Highland Council have shown remarkable leadership in responding to the outbreak, supporting those with Covid-19, their families and the wider community.

“Enhanced case monitoring has been put in place, public health guidance has been reinforced and steps have been taken to ensure the family members of those affected are fully supported."

He said that as well as putting in place testing for all residents and staff members, the availability of testing at the NHS hospital in Portree is now complemented by a mobile testing unit established at Broadford, run by the 3 Scots Battalion of the army.

“Critically, contact tracing is going to be an important part of our capability in dealing with the outbreak of Covid-19, this will be an important part of NHS Highland’s response.

“The public on Skye now have their part to play. I know the strength of community spirit on this island and I know that we will support all those who have the virus, their family and friends. 

“Now more than ever we have a responsibility to make sure we are taking all appropriate measures to stop the spread of this virus.”

 

The Outer Hebrides Chamber of Commerce is concerned that self-employed people across the Islands are not acting fast enough to make the best of Government assistance available during the Coronavirus Emergency.

Accountant John Moffat, who chairs the Chamber, wants self-employed people – who make up a larger proportion of the Islands economy than anywhere else in Scotland – to pay closer attention to the Self Employment Income Support scheme.

He says: "I am concerned that not everyone who is self employed will be signed up with HMRC online which will allow them to apply for their self-employed support from HMRC, when the portal opens next week."

Mr Moffat - who is a director at Mann Judd Gordon chartered accountants in Stornoway - says: "Tax agents cannot apply apply on behalf of their clients, as we could for payroll clients. All self employed people should take steps now to register for a personal tax account with HMRC - as this should allow them to go on and make a claim when it is available."  The scheme portal opens on Wednesday May 13.

The scheme will allow qualifying businesses to claim a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months, and capped at £7,500 altogether. This is a temporary scheme, but it may be extended, HMRC says.

"If you receive the grant you can continue to work, start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work, or duties as an armed forces reservist. The grant will be subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance."

If they follow this link and check their eligibility for the self employed support scheme they can set up their online login with HMRC as part of the process..

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme#claim.

A week ago (on Thursday April 30) additional business support was announced  by the Scottish Government.

This fund, to be administered by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, is open to the recently self-employed who started trading between 5 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, who are excluded from the other forms of business support relating to COVID-19 disruption and are currently suffering hardship.

Grants of up to £2,000 are potentially available through the scheme, which will remain open while limited funds permit.

Full details on making an application are available on the Comhairle Business Resilience website at https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/coronavirus/business-resilience/

Business advice is available from Business Gateway on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Fire sprinkler systems will start being added to all planned social housing next year with the implementation of new Scottish Government regulations.

This is because fire sprinkler legislation first launched by Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, should become law next year.

Mr Stewart has received a letter from Local Government, Housing and Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart, saying that sprinklers will be a requirement in all new build social housing, flats, maisonettes and larger multi-occupancy dwellings including where care is provided.

The regional MSP has heard that the Building Scotland (Amendment) Regulations 2020 are being worked up by solicitors and include clear definitions for new social housing.

David Stewart was told in 2018 that the Scottish Government was taking forward his campaign for greater fire safety methods in social housing.

“I am glad that the government is working on implementing this and I have now been told the new regulations should come into force by May next year,” said David Stewart.

“Fire sprinklers have been proven time and time again to be effective in the fight against fire and I know that this move will save lives.

“There has always been strong backing for these plans from the public, the industry and other MSPs, especially in the light of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

“I would still like retro-fitting sprinklers in older properties to be considered, and although that is my longer term hope, I understand the problems this would pose.

“As yet I am not aware if the outbreak of Covid 19 has affected the schedule to implement this, but I do hope not.”

David Stewart previously proposed a Member’s Bill which would require fire sprinkler systems to be installed into all new-build social housing across Scotland, as a method of tackling Scotland’s high rates of fire death and injury.  The plans received overwhelming support, with 94% of the consultation responses in favour and over 50 MSPs, from across all five political parties, signed up in support of the Bill’s final proposal.

The Scottish Government then announced it would include the requirement for fire sprinklers in social housing as part of their response to the recommendations from the Building and Fire Safety Review Panels.   Minister Kevin Stewart told the MSP the intention was to put the changes to regulations before parliament before the summer recess, with amendments and work with the construction sector following afterwards.  The Minister is to keep the MSP updated on progress of The Building Scotland (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

Today (Tuesday May 5) is ‘International Day Of The Midwife’ and NHS Western Isles would like to take this opportunity to celebrate and thank our midwives across the Isles, and how they continue to bring new life into the world in a time of crisis.

2020 has been designated by the World Health Organization as the first ever International Year of the Nurse and Midwife; it is also Florence Nightingale’s bicentennial year. 

International Nurses Day will be held on May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth; with International Day Of The Midwife 2020 taking place today.

Nurses and midwives make up the largest numbers of the NHS workforce. They are highly skilled, multi-faceted professionals from a host of backgrounds that represent our diverse communities. The Year of the Nurse and Midwife presents the opportunity to reflect on these roles and skills, the commitment and expert clinical care they bring, and the impact they make on the lives of so many. This year is also an opportunity to say thank you to the professions; to showcase their diverse talents and expertise; and to promote careers in nursing and midwifery.

NHS Western Isles Nurse and AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, said: “All our midwives work hard on a daily basis to ensure mothers, their babies and the wider family circle receive the high quality care that they deserve. Midwifery is one of the services that has had to continue, despite the pandemic, as babies tend not to wait - they come when they are ready. Our midwives across the Western Isles continue to do a very special job and contribute to a time of great joy as they welcome babies into our communities. Their care, attention and compassion is unfaltering, and all the more important during such difficult times.”

He added: “Acknowledging a special day like today could not be more important and relevant than it is now, during a time of such challenge. In the midst of this pandemic, midwives have risen to the challenge and have continued to provide vital services to local women and babies. They, like others, have had to work in new, challenging and very different ways – but they have embraced the challenge. We are proud of each and every one of them and we know that our midwives hold a very special place in their hearts of so many Western Isles families. We thank them for their invaluable contribution over the years, today and into the future.”

 

 

Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust is to co-ordinate a delivery service for residents in the Point and Sandwick area who are self-isolating or otherwise unable to shop as normal due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Two delivery drivers/organisers are to be recruited by the charity and they will be collecting orders from local shops and distributing them, using the Point and Sandwick Trust community minibus.

Funding for the posts has come from the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund via Highlands and Islands Enterprise, with Point and Sandwick Trust among a number of island organisations to have received money from the fund.

The service will function by residents ordering whatever shopping they need directly from local shops – multiple shops if they wish – and paying over the phone. The shopping will then be picked up by the drivers and delivered to homes.

The drivers will be trained in the safe handling of deliveries and also be supplied with cool boxes to ensure good food hygiene. Adverts for the short-term posts are to go out shortly. Further details on the service, including the list of suppliers, will follow later but the service is to be in place for at least three months.

There are nearly 2,000 households in the Point and Sandwick area and high rates of pensioner poverty, fuel poverty and people who are vulnerable for other reasons.

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said the charity had been approached by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to make a bid for this funding.

He said: “We are prepared to ramp up critical delivery intervention and co-ordination over a four to five month period if required and in particular over the next critical three months.

“There is plenty anecdotal evidence that the main supermarkets are at maximum capacity, with people struggling to secure delivery slots. And it’s not just about those who are self-isolating. The lack of public transport during the lockdown is also causing a lot of difficulty.

“Many households also rely on bottled gas for cooking and are experiencing difficulty accessing fish, meat, fruit and vegetable as well as other household goods. While there are many random acts of kindness, there is the danger that others will fall between the gaps or be reluctant to ask for help. This new service will address that and help us to look after each other a little bit more.”

He added: “We have worked closely with the two community councils since the very beginning of Point and Sandwick Trust. They gave us their unswerving support and encouragement and I am very pleased that the close cooperation continues with the development of this new service. We will shortly recruit two full time delivery drivers/ organisers, and together with the community councils we will be recruiting, training and supporting 10 volunteers as community wardens.

“The service is free, and we will be issuing further details in the next week or so. The recruitment process will begin this week and our popular Facebook page will carry links to the job description and application form.”

Angus McCormack, honorary president of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “I am delighted that Point and Sandwick Trust is able to run this service for the people in our area from Steinish to Point. It is most welcome and meets a local need. It supports the idea that Point and Sandwick Trust is much more than a wind farm charity; it is a significant force for good in its community.

“It demonstrates just how effective community renewables can be in transforming their communities for the better.”

Rose Bugler, HIE development manager for Innse Gall, said: “The Trust, local groups and volunteers have been working really hard to provide lifeline services to all those who are vulnerable across the 2,000 households in the Point and Sandwick area. HIE is distributing the Supporting Communities Fund in our area on behalf of the Scottish Government. It’ll help anchor groups to co-ordinate and deliver their responses over the coming weeks and months.”

Alex John Murray, chair of Point Community Council, said they were pleased Point and Sandwick Trust had sourced the funding package “for the benefit of the community” and encouraged the community to make use of the service when it launches.  “As a result of the restrictions on the use of public transport due to the Covid-19 epidemic, people, especially the elderly and those with health issues, will be experiencing difficulties in accessing shopping in a normal way,” he said.

“People in the community are encouraged to use these facilities which Point and Sandwick Trust and Point Community Council have been able to source on their behalf."

Sandy Morrison, vice chair of Sandwick Community Council, said: “It is good to see this being implemented and Point and Sandwick Trust offering the minibus to facilitate this service. We have a widespread community, some of whom may be isolating with symptoms, self isolating or simply unable to travel due to the present lack of a bus service. This may offer some relief to the houses in the Point and Sandwick area.“It might show an opportunity for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to utilise some of their vehicles which are presently parked up for a similar service if required on the wider island.”

The co-ordinated delivery service is the latest intervention by Point and Sandwick Trust in the coronavirus crisis. It follows the set up of the emergency community pandemic fund, in which Point and Sandwick Trust pledged to donate all spare funds for the rest of the year to fighting the crisis. A donation of £40,000 was made to NHS Western Isles from that fund, to support frontline staff and mitigate suffering, and a total of £15,000 – £5,000 each – has been made to the Point, Sandwick and Stornoway Community Councils to act as a ‘hardship fund’ to support residents in their area.

Ramadan’s climax is going to be a quiet affair this year for Muslims around the world, writes Taylor Edgar.

Typically, the end of the iftar fast is a time for people to visit family and friends, and return to their hometowns.

But this year, Covid-19 is ensuring the festivities are going to be at home or online.

In the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur, 19-year-old Mian Adil is riding out the lockdown and hoping that when the pandemic is eventually defeated, the Prime Minister, Imran Khan will step up.

Like many in the Asian country, Mian is looking to the government to provide the necessary economic stimulus to get Pakistan back on the right financial track.

Mian, a freelance online worker, told welovestornoway: “We are all at home fighting Covid-19 by following the instructions. We are in lockdown in our homes to control this Covid-19 pandemic in my country.

“Due to the lockdown, we are all losing out on our studies and losing all our savings. Covid-19 has a terrible impact not just here in Pakistan, but all over the world.”

Testing in Pakistan has confirmed over 20,000 cases so far, with over 5,114 people recovering from the virus. Sadly, there have been 457 deaths, a figure that is expected to rise in this country of 220 million.

The Covid-19 lockdown in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the fifth most populous country in the world, is particularly keenly felt as it coincides with Ramadan. This time of fasting has always been accompanied by offering prayers at the mosque.  This year has seen the Covid-19 lockdown ban gatherings at mosques. So, too, has been the tradition of visiting family and friends. This activity has been prohibited to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

Nevertheless, Mian remains focussed on the future and what happens to the economic mess that Covid-19 is leaving in its wake. He, like many people in Pakistan, are pinning their hopes on the Prime Minister and former world-class cricketer, Imran Khan.

Concluding with advice for welovestornoway’s readers, Mian says: “I would like to say to all your readers in Scotland that after this coronavirus pandemic is over, you should visit Pakistan. Come to Pakistan and enjoy its beauty and enjoy our traditional culture."

About Ramadan

Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community. It takes place each year in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Considered to be one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Ramadan is a commemoration of Muhammad’s first revelation. Ramadan lasts around 29 to 30 days and is based around the sighting of the crescent moon.
 
 

Two decades after the launch of the International Space Station and the 50th anniversary of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, the latest ISS commander believes there is “almost zero chance” of COVID-19 getting into space, writes Taylor Edgar.

Speaking in a press conference on board the International Space Station, Commander Chris Cassidy was confident the virus had not managed to hitch a ride into space with him or his Russian counterparts.

During the live conference beamed to Earth, Commander Cassidy who is taking the reins for Expedition 62, said he had left Houston at the end of February. At that point, Covid-19 was barely making a ripple in American news cycles or commanding much attention at higher levels of government.

Commented Commander Cassidy: “I remember walking off the plane in Moscow and wondering if there was going to be testing. There were some medical personnel, but the process of going through Customs was the same as normal. Then later, I did get to spend some time with my wife in that first couple of days in Moscow.”

Shortly after that, there was a dramatic shift in attitudes and astronauts were prohibited from leaving their training base 30 miles outside of Moscow.

Recalled Commander Cassidy: “From the first week of March until launch I did not come in contact with anyone other than those immediate people involved with the launch preparation. And those same people were also in the same quarantine as I was. We were really strict about it. Normally when you get to Baikonur Cosmodrome (in Kazakhstan), there are press conferences and bosses and managers from all the space cooperation businesses and agencies. But none of those people was allowed into the building this time. Any media or any state commission conferences were done by video camera. There was virtually no interaction between us as a crew and the outside population.”

While he did accept there was a possibility, he felt the pre-flight precautions and health screening meant there was zero chance of the crew being infected with Covid-19.

Asked if this launch was different from his previous forays into space, the Maine-born astronaut admitted the pandemic had had an impact. He and his fellow astronauts usually have nine months to a year’s notice of going into the quarantine of space. This time they did not reckon on being joined by the entire planet.

“So that makes it hard. Leaving all that behind, I do feel that my heart goes out to all those people dealing with it. I only spent a few weeks on Earth during that period. But that was enough to know that it is challenging in many ways, and it is often the second and third-order of effects that I found unexpected. Like what it does to kids in schools, in sports, in graduations and people leaving college looking for their future job,” said Commander Cassidy.

What had not altered about this mission to the ISS was the launch. “I can tell you one thing; no matter how many times you ride on a rocket to space, it never gets old, or ‘I know how to do this,” joked Commander Cassidy.

The orbital outpost press conference was the start of a six and a half month mission for Cassidy and the end of Expedition 61 for American astronauts, Jessica Meir and Drew Morgan. They have now returned to Earth on board the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft.

Offering his thoughts on tackling the social isolation brought about by the pandemic, Flight Engineer Drew Morgan said astronauts were very good at living in isolation.

He advised: “I think one of the most important things is to live by a routine - that’s what we do up here - we have a schedule and we follow it to the tee and make sure that we are the most effective and efficient with our time, our exercise, our personal hygiene and our sleep. Everything is scheduled out, so sticking to a schedule is very important.”

Another essential aspect of life on the space station that can apply to Earth is being ‘a crewmate’ and thinking about how your actions affect the actions of others. This cause and effect reflection was in the astronauts' minds all the time while in space.

“We are constantly evaluating that we are respectful of others at all times and that can be very tough to do when you are living a long time in close quarters,” said Morgan.

His fellow crew member, Jessica Meir agreed and expressed some misgivings about returning to Earth amidst the pandemic.

She said: “I think for me it will still be nice to go back and see some familiar places and some familiar faces. It will certainly be very difficult for me to not give hugs to my family and friends. That’s something about being up here for seven months and being the type of person that I am. It is going to be difficult for me to do that.  \But I know that will be part of the game for a while.”

In some ways, Meir felt he and her fellow astronauts could feel more isolated on Earth than in orbit above the planet.

“We were talking about that just before this conference. I think I will feel more isolated on the Earth than I did up here just because that is part of our expected routine and we are so busy with so many other amazing pursuits,” she continued.

“And we have this incredible vantage point of the Earth below; we don’t feel so much of that isolation. When you are back in your homes and the kind of isolation that everyone is dealing with right now, you can see all of those people but can’t do anything with them or experience them at all. I think that makes it even more difficult. So we will see how it goes and how I adjust, but it will, of course, be wonderful to see family and friends at least virtually and from a distance for now.”

Meanwhile, NASA has just announced that their engineers have received government approval to roll out a NASA-designed high-pressure ventilator to treat Covid-19 patients. The ventilator design is now being offered by NASA to medical equipment manufacturers under a royalty-free license during the pandemic.

 

In addition to the weekly colouring in worksheets, posted on social media each Tuesday, at 10am today (Tuesday May 5) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is showing a live bilingual interactive video with Iain “Costello” Maciver for children and young people to sing-along on their Facebook page.

The community of Barvas has rallied around to give Sammy Macdonald a 70th Birthday, and Jackie and Chrissie Ann Smith a Golden Wedding Anniversary, which they will likely never forget.

With the current lockdown putting pay to the initial plans to mark both these significant milestones, the families and neighbours of Sammy, Chrissie Ann and Jackie, wanted to make a special effort to celebrate the occasions.

The incredible community effort swung into action on the Saturday morning, 25th April, with three pipers - Ashleigh Macdonald, Adam Macdonald and Alex Murray, playing a set of tunes which brought all nearby neighbours out to their gates – whilst observing physical distancing, of course - to sing, cheer and clap as the two significant milestones were marked in the most amazing act of kindness.

Mairi Helen Macdonald, Jackie and Chrissie Ann’s neighbour, Sammy’s daughter, Lorraine, and Ashleigh Macdonald, Piping Instructor, who were the key organisers, commented: “Sammy, Chrissie Ann and Jackie were completely overwhelmed, it was so emotional but so heart-warming.

“During this time of crisis, the level of community spirit has been quite amazing. We hope that everyone continues to stay safe and well and carry on taking care of one another – the Western Isles way!” A link to the video: https://we.tl/t-SrbTeMSKdN

 

The grounded cargo vessel MV Kaami was successfully floated off the rocks south of Stornoway during a highly specialised operation yesterday afternoon (Monday May 4).

She is now (Tuesday morning, 06.50) almost at Kishorn under tow from the vessel Multratug 3 and with escort from Forth Guardsman.

The Forth Warrior, C Odyssey and Isle of Harris dive support vessel Hirta were also involved in the salvage operation which was centred around high tide.

Kishorn Port was developed as a manufacturing and fabrication yard for oil platforms in the 1970’s and has a major dry-dock facility as well as deep-water moorings.

Six weeks ago on March 23 the Kaaami ran aground in The Minch and the salvage team have been working tirelessly to remove the cargo, transport it for safe disposal and to make repairs to enable the vessel to be refloated.

A temporary exclusion zone of 1000m was in place around the towing vessel during the operation to all but those vessels directly involved in supporting the response.

The HM Coastguard fixed wing aircraft was conducting an overflight to monitor the refloating operation, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency reported.

In relation to the meeting information below, please find the link to view this morning’s Comhairle nan Eilean Siar full council meeting -

https://app.vscene.net/webcastportal/X3RX2


As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is putting special measures in place to allow a meeting of the Comhairle on Wednesday 6 May.

Committee meetings have been temporarily suspended but items will be considered at the full meeting of the Comhairle. This will be the first time such a format has been adopted.

Most Members of the Comhairle will attend on a virtual basis.

The public and press will not be able to attend the meeting in person but will be able to follow on-line through Vscene. A link to the meeting will be posted on the Comhairle website here, issued via a press release and posted on the Comhairle’s social media channels, ten minutes prior to the meeting.

An archive recording of the meeting will be available on the Comhairle website following the meeting.

Papers for the meeting are on the Comhairle website at https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/your-council/committees/council-committees/full-council/

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Chief Executive, Malcolm Burr, said: “As has been often stated, these are unprecedented times and therefore we are having to take unprecedented steps to allow the democratic process to continue to take place. It important that we do so and that all Members have the opportunity to discuss issues and take decisions.”

The full Comhairle meeting starts at 10am on Wednesday 6 May.

 

Following a day of rumour and counter-rumour in the construction industry, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was forced to issue a denial that work would resume on building work on major projects next Monday.

Construction firm staff with a variety of projects were talking of work resuming then, with intense social distancing controls, such as visiting consultants from the mainland having to be tested for coronavirus - and coming up negative - before flying to the Islands.

However, following enquiries from the industry, CnES stated this evening: "Following the issue of guidance by the Scottish Government on 1 May 2020 specifically referring to the construction sector, the Comhairle and HHP would wish to confirm that construction activity associated with the Lochmaddy Pier, the Stornoway Primary School, the Lewis Residential Care (Goathill Development) and the Goathill Affordable Housing projects continues to be suspended."

The Council insisted that "Scottish Government has confirmed that the guidance, originally issued at the beginning of April, remains in place until further notice. 

"Accordingly, the works at the above projects, which are currently not categorised as “essential” under the prevailing circumstances, remain suspended on the same basis.

"Measures have been put in place by the respective Contractors to ensure the sites continue to remain safe and secure for the duration of the suspension.

"In the meantime, the Comhairle and HHP continue to plan with contractors and other partners for a site restart once restrictions are lifted sufficiently to allow this to happen.

"Both organisations will seek to commence works as quickly as possible thereafter but only when they are satisfied that it is safe to do so and that suitable precautions are in place."

Earlier the possibility of kickstarting the local economy by giving housebuilding the green light was suggested by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

Mr Cameron, the Conservative party Shadow Finance Secretary, said:  “The safety of the public must come first and the UK and Scottish Governments are rightly being very cautious about relaxing the lockdown.

“But, looking ahead, we also need to be thinking about how we can start reviving the economy, bearing in mind that here in the Highlands and Islands we are facing the loss of an entire tourism season.

“House-building is already coming back to life south of the border, subject to strict guidance about social distancing, and I would like to see serious thought given to this sector.

"Construction sites in our region tend to be smaller and it may be easier for such workplaces to operate under social distancing guidelines.

“We really want to avoid disparities in the rate of economic recovery across the United Kingdom where we possibly can.”

Angus MacNeil, the isles MP has again redoubled his call to change the policy to test, track and trace rather than go with lockdown alone. Commenting Angus MacNeil said: “We should be testing, tracing and isolating in the islands now as our confirmed Covid-19 numbers are so low and we can keep them low with test, trace and isolate. It is argued that Test Trace Isolate can't work in other places because the reinfection rate is so high. Fortunately in the Hebrides we still have the ideal situation to stay ahead of the virus by testing and tracing.

“The policy of lockdown alone without knowing what Covid-19 is doing in our communities, is not a sustainable policy. We have already seen in Skye what lockdown alone, without testing, has resulted in. A sad and shocking 54 case outbreak and this is only what has been found at a care home, who knows what the wider numbers will be.

“We surely now have to move to a position where we are chasing the virus and not waiting for the virus to come to us. Testing, tracing and isolating is the alternative, it will determine whether we have coronavirus around us and what we need to do to make sure we get rid of it. Or it will tell us if we can lift lockdown.  At the moment we are blind and we do not want to wait until we have an outbreak as we have sadly seen in Skye, we do need to change the policy now. I have written to the Health Secretary and await a response.

“We have outstanding offers from the Faroese government and a private company to add to our testing capabilities. I have been trying to find out from the NHS Western Isles whether they are using the current testing capacity to its maximum and if not then why not. They are currently telling me they are “awaiting guidance” with regards to a testing policy change.

“Everything else is in place, we just need a pen lifted to change the policy so that the Health Board will bring about a change to testing in the islands so that we can all have some confidence as to what is going on with coronavirus.

“Sitting tight for coronavirus is a risky and failing policy, we can’t continue with this any longer.”

 

 

The organising committee of the Lewis Christian Conference regret to announce that this year’s conference scheduled to take place from 26th - 29th June has been cancelled due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

We are praying for the many who are affected in different ways during this crisis.

We thank everyone for their patience, support and ongoing prayers for the conference work. 

We hope, God willing, that the next conference will take place in June 2021 and that our speaker will be the Rev David Johnston, retired minister of Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor, Northern Ireland who was scheduled to address the 2020 conference.

A group of newly qualified junior doctors joined NHS Western Isles today (Monday May 4) to help local staff in the fight against coronavirus.

Four individuals joined the local health service from Aberdeen University, as Interim Foundation Year doctors.

The group have just qualified from medical school, and will be taking up hospital based roles to help support the clinical teams, prior to commencing their formal FY1 (Junior Doctor) posts in August 2020.

NHS Western Isles Medical Director, Dr Frank McAuley, said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome these four skilled clinicians to NHS Western Isles and we are very grateful that they chose the Western Isles for their placements.

"Their input will be invaluable and we hope to provide them with a positive experience to help increase their knowledge and skills as they enter into their new careers."

 

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil is reminding crofters to submit their Single Application form (SAF) as the closing date for submission is fast approaching.

The closing date for submission of Single Application Form (SAF) is Friday 15th May. 

The Single Application Form is the form you need to fill in if you want to claim payments under the following schemes:

https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/apply-for-funding/single-application-form/

 Angus MacNeil MP said:“This year especially we must try and get as much money into the islands as we can, crofters need to be claiming for their land.  I know how busy this time of year is for many crofters with lambing etc and this year has its own additional pressures given the ongoing situation with Covid-19.

“The date for submitting the SAF application is less than 2 weeks away, Friday 15th May, and I want to remind crofters if they haven’t already done so to submit their application.

“The easiest way to complete the Single Application Form is online. To do this, you must be registered with Rural Payments and Services. How to register

“Area Offices are currently operating an answer machine service. If you require assistance, you are asked to leave your name, contact number and brief details of your query and you will be contacted as soon as possible.  I have included below the details for the Benbecula and Stornoway Office”:

Benbecula - Tel: 0300 244 9600 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Stornoway - Tel: 0300 2448501 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

A school trip to France is just one of four projects in Barra and the Uists being backed by CalMac’s Community Fund.

The trip is being organised by Sgoil Lionacleit which teaches pupils from Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay.

With support from the Fund they are taking a group of S2 and S3 pupils to France for an educational trip involving a range of challenging activities.

‘This project will provide an opportunity for pupils who are not used to travelling to visit another country and benefit from all the new social and cultural experiences that they will have along the way. We anticipate that the pupils will return with an enhanced level of confidence and independence.’ said Ann MacDonald, Chair of the Sgoil Lionacleit Parent Council.

In North Uist Taigh Sgìre Sholais, a not-for-profit community organisation in the village of Sollas, was given an award to help them establish a new outdoor play and recreation area for young people at the local community centre.

On Barra the local youth café is using their award to take a group of young people to the mainland to stay in an outdoor centre giving them the opportunity to take part in a range of pursuits.

And across North and South Uist, Benbecula and Barra the Dochas Dancers are set to host a dancing event thanks to an award from the Fund

Dochas provides tuition in Highland, National and Highland Choreography dance forms to more than 100 young people from the islands.

]CalMac’s Community Fund drives social value by supporting non profit organisations, based in a mainland port or island the company serves, delivering projects to benefit the lives of children and young people living in west coast communities. Organisations can apply for an award between £500 to £2000.

So far the Fund has supported 76 projects from woman’s football in the Outer Hebrides, to the Campbeltown Sea Cadets and a Gaelic youth club on Skye.

Each application was judged by a screening panel of young people recruited from across the company's network, in partnership with Young Scot.

‘These projects really capture what the Community Fund is all about, creating opportunities for young people to gain experiences they would not otherwise have access to,’ said CalMac’s Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Gordon McKillop.

NHS Western Isles in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have today launched their new Psychological Wellbeing Hub service to help people of all ages across the Outer Hebrides manage their anxiety while coping with the coronavirus outbreak.

Staff from across both organisations, alongside their key community partners will offer support, advice and signposting alongside telephone support, to help people deal with problems with their mental wellbeing during the pandemic.  The Psychological Wellbeing Hub will complement the support being offered through Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's Resilience Helpline which provides people with information on how to access practical support, and the NHS Western Isles COVID-19 Advice Helpline which provides information for general health queries or concerns regarding the COVID-19 situation.

The new initiative is being led by Psychology and Public Health at NHS Western Isles and Education and Social Work Services at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, with the aim of helping people struggling to manage at home and to reduce the workload of frontline NHS and social care workers.

Dr. Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, said “We recognise that we are living in very different times with the challenges presented by this new coronavirus.  We all need to think about how we can really look after our mental and psychological health. This is just as important as looking after and protecting our physical health. It is all part of the same goal – to keep ourselves and our families healthy at this difficult time. Different types of dedicated support will be needed at times like this so, with that in mind, we have set up the Western Isles Psychological Wellbeing Hub.”

The Western Isles Psychological Wellbeing Hub will be supported by more than 30 people all trained in providing Psychological First Aid.  Psychologists, social workers, education, mental health and wellbeing workers, and trained counsellors will be at the end of a phone to help people using the service. If you are not currently getting support for your mental or psychological health and you or your child are experiencing increased emotional distress, or that it’s all just getting too much, you can contact the Western Isles Psychological Well Response Hub.

Alison Robertson, Clinical Psychologist for NHS Western Isles, said “Anxiety is to be expected right now.  This service is for people who notice that they are experiencing continuous anxiety or distress due to their situation just now, or feel that they are needing some extra support. People might feel particularly anxious if they know someone who has the virus or is ill, and those who have had mental health or psychological difficulties before might feel those symptoms heightened or worse during this difficult time. So if you, or a member of your family, is understandably struggling right now due to the changes COVID-19 has brought to your life, please contact the hub for support and advice. We can offer help to you through this difficult time so you feel more able to cope”

David Gibson, Head of Children’s Services for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, added “It is likely that some of us may experience emotional distress, during this period of social distancing and ‘lockdown’.  Feelings and emotions can become overwhelming and relationships strained. Children can have worries amplified by being away from the supportive routines of school and interaction with friends, or they may be worried about someone in their family.  They may have lost direction. Our emotions can fluctuate more than in ‘normal’ times, but it’s important to know that it’s okay. Our role is to help you or a member of your family find ways to cope. This service will complement the existing 24-hour counselling service for young people offered by Counselling and Family Mediation. The Wellbeing Hub will help by offering advice and techniques that can help and additional support by a telephone appointment”

The Western Isles Psychological Wellbeing Service will operate in the normal working hours of 9am-5.30pm Monday to Friday.   Referral to the hub can be made by downloading the referral form at https://bit.ly/3eYa3RQ and then emailing it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For those without internet access, a referral or self-referral can be made by phoning the Community Navigator Team on 01851 708022 or the NHS Western Isles COVID-19 telephone line on 01851 601151.

NHS Western Isles also has its new dedicated Coronavirus (COVID-19) support website for those living and working within the Outer Hebrides atwww.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot,which has a dedicated information section offering a range of support, tools and tips to help individuals and families stay at home.

Further useful self-help resources for COVID-19 and mental healthcare is available on the NHS Inform website at www.nhsinform.scot  You can also call the NHS24 Helpline on 111 or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87.   

Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron is engaged in a war of words with Finance Secretary Kate Forbes over whether councils should use their remaining reserves to pay for the fight against coronavirus.

Kate Forbes wrote to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) in response to calls for her government to pass on all £155 million in “Barnett Consequentials” intended for local authorities.  She indicated that there would be nothing immediate about this process.

The so-called “Barnett consequentials” arise under the Scottish Government funding formula because it was announced that  £1.6 billion would be passed on by the UK Government to English councils to help alleviate coronavirus associated costs.

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “This is an extraordinary statement from the Finance Secretary.

“She seems to be completely unaware of the dire financial situation confronting local authorities across the Highlands and Islands.

“Instead of simply passing on the funding provided by the UK Government directly to the councils, she is dithering and delaying.

“Councils like the Comhairle, which have already seen their reserves dwindle, are in no position to provide extra cash at the drop of a hat.

“Ministers in Edinburgh need to get real, show that they are on our side, and properly value what local authorities are doing for our communities.”

Kate Forbes told Councillor Gail Macgregor, the COSLA Spokesperson for  Resources in letter dated April 29: “that the Scottish Government remains committed to deploying any additional funding in a way that is helpful to local government and the Covid response.

“I am aware of the cost collection exercise COSLA are currently co-ordinating and that is a critical piece of evidence to inform how we can best allocate additional funding and what outcomes we are seeking to support.

“As part of that I want to understand how those costs are being mitigated by the funding measures we have already committed, including support for Communities, Social Care, Non-Domestic Rates measures, and as well as through flexibilities on ring-fenced grants, like Early Learning and Childcare funding.

“I also want to consider what further reprioritisation we could undertake jointly to free up resources to meet the cost challenges now and in the future, along with the use of local government reserves and applications to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (e.g. for ALEOs) to help contain the costs.”

Councillor Gail Macgregor said on Friday May 1st: “Council Leaders were clear today that the reaction of councils to the Covid-19 epidemic, ensuring essential services are secured, and that our most vulnerable people are protected has been a remarkable effort and, as such, the £155 million of consequentials should be passed to Local Government immediately.”

Local government, with its public and third sector partners and volunteers, was at the vanguard of protecting communities during the pandemic, she added.

“Councils are working hard to keep a huge range of essential services running to meet the needs of communities and to be responsive locally. But the bottom line is that protecting people and providing services costs money.

“That is why, when the £1.6 billion of funding was announced by the UK Government for councils in England over two weeks ago, we immediately wrote to the Scottish Government in relation to the £155 million of consequentials for Scottish councils. I will continue to keep discussions going with Kate Forbes on this issue.

“Whilst we fully appreciate the pressure facing the Cabinet at this time, Councils are facing an extremely challenging situation on the ground, with significant additional costs being incurred on a daily basis, as well as massive losses of income as a result of the lockdown."

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts says it is an “untenable position” for the Scottish Government to hold on to £155 million in cash that should be passed immediately to local authorities.
Coutts said that the consequentials would not pay for all the coronavirus related costs to councils. He said: “The main issue is that in comparison to the UK government the Scottish Government have held on to that money and at the moment there’s no clarity on why.”



As with all other local primaries, Providence Christian School has had to adapt to the threat from Coronavirus, in order to continue to provide the biblical education that our school is known for.

In short order our staff team put together a very manageable and productive alternative to traditional lessons for learning from home, the school explains in a recent statement.

Trialled for a week before the Spring break, and now in full swing, the pupils all had individual learning packs prepared for them and sent to their homes. This pack includes all the needed information, worksheets and outlines for the children to access each day.

Lessons begin at nine with the now-famous Joe Wicks exercise regime, and then move on Bible, maths and language. During the course of the morning the staff ‘drop-in’ for a “Zoom” teleconference visit to each pupil for 30 minutes of every school day. This allows them to check on past work, lay out new learning goals, and catch up on their news!

Each Friday we have an ‘Assembly’ – without actually assembling of course! This gives time for a brief Bible lesson to be drawn from the week, and when that is completed, the children all enjoy catching up with their pals.

Headteacher, Mark Musty, said, “This has been a great challenge for us all at PCS, but the teamwork between parents, staff and pupils, is allowing us to provide some imaginative and productive schooling, that remains true to the core values of a Christian education.”

One of the parents commented, “We were all quite nervous at first, and unsure if we would cope with the new timetable, but it is all going so well. The kids are really missing their friends, but the chance to catch up each week is great.”

Two men, aged 19 and 21, have been arrested and charged in connection with a serious assault in Stornoway.

This was confirmed by Police Scotland just around 2pm today (Saturday May 2).

The incident happened around 2am on Thursday, 30 April, 2020 on Seaforth Road, Stornoway.

An 18-year-old man was taken to Western Isles Hospital with serious but not life threatening injuries.

The men are due to appear at court at a later date.

Earlier police were asking for public help after what were described as two serious assaults that night on Seaforth Road, where both a male aged 17 and a male aged 18 were assaulted by two other men.

Police were asking for anyone who witnessed either of these incidents, or for anyone who has any information which could assist, to call the non-emergency number 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting incident number NH 490/20.

New in for this week we have New Season Cornish Potatoes as well as Jersey Royals, and new season Nectarines.

We also have Marmalade various kinds, Rhubarb Jam, Mixed Berry Jam, Lemon Drizzle Cake (this will come in a plastic container to keep it safe from damage) and HebriDelight Tablet – this is all made by Margaret from Laxay who has provided for us with jams and baking before – she also supplies The Good Food Boutique.

As before if we could please have your orders in for 12.30 on Monday 4th May, and if you don't receive a reference number by lunchtime on Tuesday, please let us know.

 

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

UK Asparagus

 

£4.15 bunch

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.55

 

Green Cabbage

 

£2.30

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£2.40

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.15

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.65

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Kale 250g

 

£2.35

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Broccoli (UK)

 

£4.95

 

Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£3.10

 

Mushrooms (UK)

 

£5.25

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus

 

£2.65

 

New Season Cornish

 

£4.90

 

Jersey Royals

 

£5.20

 

Roosters

 

£1.35

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.70

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.60

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£5.25

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.95

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £2.10

 

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.50

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.65

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £2.30

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Yellow Mellon

 

£2.40

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.50

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Rhubarb

 

£4.35

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Hint of Ginger,

hint of Whiskey,

Rhubarb jam

Mixed Berry Jam

 

£3.99

 

 

 

£3.99

£3.99

 

Homemade Lemon Drizzle Cake

 

 

£4.50

 

Hebridean Tablet

 

£2.95

 

 

 

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, Lochs

Ben Martell of 57A Leurbost, Lochs, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 57C Leurbost, Lochs. The building is to be 13.716 metres long, 9.144 metres wide and 4.9 metres tall.  Work is also to include extending the existing croft access and creating parking suitable for two cars. 

New house, Sandwick

Hugh Maclennan of 21 Lower Sandwick has applied for planning permission to build a house at 21A Lower Sandwick.

Phillipino, Maria Leon went home to Manila to visit her parents at Christmas and is now stranded in her hometown thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, her husband is stuck on a Greek island, and her university student children are trapped in the UK.

The family who usually lives in Bahrain are now juggling a seven-hour time difference to keep in touch as the virus rages around the world.

Explains Maria: “I came to Manila to visit my parents for Christmas.  Unfortunately, my father was admitted to the hospital in January and then again in March.  I stayed to look after him, and then the lockdown started.  My husband, on the other hand, spent Christmas in Samos Island. Our kids are in the UK for their studies. Our daughter in London and our son in Sheffield.”

Maria, her French architect husband and their son and daughter, are now resigned to it being June at the earliest before they can be reunited back in Bahrain where they have lived for the past 23 years.

With no end in sight for the lockdown being lifted in any of the family’s present locations, Maria has resolved to keep herself busy and stay positive.

She told welovestornoway.com: “At this point, I don’t see a solution any time soon. If only people around the world would be cooperative, sensitive and sensible with the present situation,  I believe the spread can be reduced until we find a vaccine.

“Life goes on for us at home.  We circulate around the house like we normally do. We still continue our daily routine except for a limited freedom to go out.  As long as we don’t violate the lockdown and respect the law, the threat is not worrying. Unfortunately, an incident of shooting has been reported.  A man believed to be drunk was threatening a village official with a scythe. The incident happened in the region of Mindanao.”

With the Philippines president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte evidently making good on his threat to have curfew breakers shot, all but a minority of the population are heeding the rules introduced to stop the spread of the virus.

But Maria points out: “Everywhere, you’ll find unruly people who are unhappy about the present situation and don’t understand why rules have to be followed.  Here in the Philippines, we have a lot of that kind; people who still wish to continue working, especially low-income families.”

The Philippines government, via its Department of Social Welfare and Development, is, however, trying to alleviate the hardship by distributing emergency cash subsidies to low-income families nationwide affected by the Covid19 pandemic. Unable to leave the house for most of the day, Maria is keeping herself busy with household chores and looking after her father.

“I’m always busy, never idle.  Being with the whole family keeps me occupied without noticing the time passing by,” an upbeat Maria remarks.

This is a positive as each household is given a single permit to leave the house. When the church bells toll at 8 pm this is the sign that curfew has begun and no one is allowed to leave their premises.

To minimise mass gatherings and practice social distancing, a mobile market goes around each district while the main public markets operate a schedule for residents to shop twice a week.

As of April 30, the Philippines had reported 8,212 Covid-19 infections. Over a thousand people have recovered, but 568 people have perished due to the respiratory disease. The Philippines, with a population of around 105 million, has 11 locations accredited for Covid-19 testing. A drive-through Covid19 testing station has also recently opened in a car park in the capital Manila. 

For now, Maria can only wait out the Covid-19 pandemic in Manila. And hope that she and her immediate family, now thousands of miles apart, can be reunited later this year at home in Bahrain.

Comments Maria: “It’s a busy life being back here at home and with my father being unwell.  I don’t usually stay this long in Manila when I come to visit.  This is the longest time that I have been separated from my husband and children. I’m most likely to travel back to Bahrain sometime in June. But my travel agent just called me to say that no flight was available until further notice.”

Meantime, the pandemic has put Maria on her guard when being around other people. Says Maria: “The only change that can happen is being more cautious of the people around me, more vigilant against the contagion. I’ll probably miss the ‘besos’, the kisses, hugs and handshakes.”

But no one will grudge her any of that when she and her family finally get together in Bahrain where they belong.

Scotland’s country sports tourism businesses which have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic can now apply for grant funding of up to £25,000 after being left out of original Scottish Government funding support.

The announcement comes after Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the rural business organisation, wrote to both Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, as well as speaking to Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy.

SLE warned that by missing out this important part of the tourism sector from grant funding opportunities, it risked having a longer-term impact on rural communities whose livelihoods rely on this sector.

Country sports tourism businesses will be able to apply to the Scottish Government’s Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund. Grants of up to £25,000 can be accessed in addition to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund is for small creative, tourism and hospitality companies that are experiencing hardship because they are ineligible for other COVID-19 government grant support.

Stephen Young, Head of Policy at Scottish Land & Estates said: “We are extremely grateful to the Scottish Government for listening to our concerns and rectifying the error of missing out this important arm of Scotland’s tourism sector. Country Sports Tourism Businesses play a crucial role in rural Scotland.

"They employ local people and attract visitors who boost the rural economy and provide a livelihood for locals. If these businesses do not survive this pandemic, it could mean irreparable damage for the people who live and work in these communities.”

 

The final amount raised in the online campaign organised by Sandwick Bay Candles for Bethesda Home and Hospice was £69,293…and that was the total on the cheque seen here when 'candle blone' Megan Macdonald and her family visited the establishment on Springfield Road, Stornoway, yesterday (Friday May1).

She is seen in the photograph with the family, Donald, Marley, Samuel and Neeve along with Natalie Keiller and Carol Somerville from Bethesda.

On the success of her event - which raised more than 34 times the original target - Megan said it was: "An amazing response from the community and certainly shows how fabulous the community spirit is on the island."

And Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil commended the venture and the community for all they are doing.  The high levels of volunteering by the people of Na h-Eileanan an Iar is making a massive difference as the region copes with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, he said.

In 2017 figures showed that 35% of islanders were volunteering formally through an organisation or group, compared to 28% across Scotland. This figure is now expected to be much higher as communities come together during the pandemic.  He said: “The people of the islands have always gone out of their way to help others within their own communities and beyond. This cannot have been highlighted any clearer than in the current pandemic.

“Every village and community has its own voluntary support systems up and running and so many people are coming forward to offer help where needed. We should be proud of our island communities and we should all continue what we are doing and following the ongoing guidelines on social distancing.”

 

Two charities are set to benefit from the goodwill of NHS Western Isles staff who, despite the lockdown, are taking on an impressive (and weighty) challenge to raise funds.

Staff from the NHS Western Isles Radiology Department are raising money for two Charities: Crossroads Lewis and the Royal Osteoporosis Society.

The aim is for each member of the department to walk the equivalent of a 26 mile marathon in their lunch hour, wearing a lead apron, over the course of a month. This equates to 1408 lengths of the x-ray corridor each. Lead aprons weigh approximately eight kilograms but can vary with size.

NHS Western Isles Radiographer, Ciara Mackenzie, said: “We were inspired by the ‘2.6 challenge’ that was created after the London Marathon was cancelled. The public were encouraged to do some fundraising starting on the 26th April (day the marathon should have been), incorporating the number 2.6 or 26 into it (26 miles in a marathon).

“We remembered that some years ago a radiographer ran a marathon in a lead apron, and that is where we adapted our fundraising activity from.”

There are 14 Radiology staff members taking part in the current challenge. This includes radiographers, sonographers and admin staff; full-time, part-time, bank staff, and locums. The team’s four part-time/bank staff are in teams of two, as together their working hours make up a full time staff member.

A total of 12 marathons should be completed between the staff, by the end of May!

The two charities being supported are Crossroads Lewis and the Royal Osteoporosis Society.  NHS Western Isles Radiographer, Shuna Mighton, commented: “The Royal Osteoporosis Society has supported our Radiology department a great deal over the past six years, first in setting up our bone densitometry service and then in establishing our Fracture Liaison Service. Like many charities, their funding sources have been reduced considerably during the COVID-19 crisis so we wanted to do something to help them and repay the work they have done to support us."

Ciara added: “Crossroads are working hard in our local community during the coronavirus crisis, supporting the most vulnerable and helping to keep them safe. With the current lockdown, Crossroads are unable to do any of their usual fundraising events while still providing a crucial service with depreciated staff. We felt that supporting them at this time would benefit the community."

https://www.justgiving.com/team/xraywesternisles1

 

Local Conservative politicians have expressed concern that the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar stands to lose out financially as the Scottish Government refuses to confirm that it will pass on extra funding from the UK Government to local authorities. 

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron and CnES Councillor Ranald Fraser spoke out yesterday (Friday May 1) after Finance Secretary Kate Forbes failed to commit to passing on £155 million to help local government combat coronavirus, in the Scottish Parliament. 

Mr Cameron, the Scottish Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary,  said: “This is no time for the Scottish Government to do things differently just for the sake of it. 

“Kate Forbes needs to think again and assure our councils that the money intended for them, actually goes to them. 

“The council is playing a vital role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic in partnership with the NHS, particularly in delivering social care to the most vulnerable. 

“It is also responsible for delivering an incredibly important range of essential services such as waste collection, street cleaning and  education. 

“That needs to be reflected in the financial settlement it receives, as intended by the UK Government through the extra funding allocation.” 

Councillor Ranald Fraser (Sgir’ Uige Agus Ceann A Tuath Nan Loch ward)  added:  “We are playing a vital part in the response to COVID-19 here in the Western Isles. 

“Our workforce is doing a fantastic job and the community has rallied round.  

“But without national government support the council will really be struggling. 

“It has been over a week since the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ call for the money to be passed on and I hope we hear confirmation of this very soon. 

“That money really should just be passed on.”

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in April that councils south of the border will be supported by an extra £1.6 billion from the UK government. As a result an extra £155m is provided to the Scottish Government through the Barnett Formula as "consequentials".

Police are asking for public help after two serious assaults which happened in Stornoway in the early hours of Thursday (30 April).

The two separate incidents both occurred on Seaforth Road, where a male aged 17 and a male aged 18 were assaulted by two other men.

Police are asking for anyone who witnessed either of these incidents, or for anyone who has any information which could assist, to call the non-emergency number 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting incident number NH 490/20.

An Lanntair Trading Limited, which operated the cafe and shop at An Lanntair Arts Centre in the centre of Stornoway, has gone into liquidation.

Gordon MacLure, restructuring partner at Johnston Carmichael, has been appointed liquidator.

The business closed due to Covid 19 restrictions in mid-March before being placed into liquidation on April 28.

All 21 staff who worked for the company have been made redundant.

The company was a subsidiary of the local charity, An Lanntair Limited, which runs the arts centre. The board of the arts centre is already exploring plans to reopen the business as a community facility, with hopes to create new jobs for local people once social restrictions are eased.

Liquidator Gordon MacLure said: “The unprecedented strain placed on the business, caused by the enforced closure of the restaurant due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has proved too great and the directors concluded that the business was no longer viable.

"Our immediate focus is to ensure that all the staff receive their entitlements as soon as possible. We will be liaising with the various government agencies, including PACE, to make sure these employees receive all possible support at this difficult time.

“Unfortunately, as long as the Covid-19 restrictions remain in place it can be expected that many businesses throughout the Western Isles, and the UK as a whole, will find ongoing trading increasingly
challenging meaning further business failures are almost inevitable.

“An Lanntair itself is now looking to the future of the arts centre and all its charitable work across this community.  In the coming weeks, it will look at options for establishing a future catering offer from
the centre and will look at ways to create crucial new employment for local people once the centre can again open its doors.”

Founded in 1936, Johnston Carmichael has grown to become the largest independent firm of Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers in Scotland. It is one of the UK’s top 20 accountancy firms and is the PKF member firm in Scotland, a family of legally independent member firms with over 400 offices, operating in 150 countries. Committed to Corporate Social Responsibility and engagement in charity fund-raising, Johnston Carmichael is recognised as an employer of choice, with more than 850 staff and partners.

NHS Western Isles is again reminding communities across the Western Isles of the crucial importance of both staying and home and physical distancing to keep the local NHS, the public and your families safe.

With the weather forecast looking reasonable, it is understandable that many people are tempted to enjoy time outdoors.

However, we must remind our local communities that restrictions remain in place for your safety and the safety of others.

We are also urging all local shops, businesses and organisations who are open to the public, or have staff physically present, to ensure they are following Government guidance, rules and legislation to keep both employees and customers safe.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We are in a positive position here in the Western Isles at the current time, having had no positive cases of COVID-19 confirmed since April 10. We have only had six cases confirmed in total.

"Whilst this is good news, we cannot let this give us a false sense of security. Our objective is to continue to keep our local population safe and to protect our NHS capacity, and we would strongly urge people not to risk spreading the virus.”

Recent figures show that traffic levels on UK roads on Monday were at the highest level since the restrictions were introduced last month and it is cause for concern that this also seems to be reflected in certain parts of the Western Isles.

Mr Jamieson commented: “To echo the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, we have made very real progress in the fight against COVID-19, but the situation really is too fragile to let up or give up now. Our problem could change so quickly.

“Our unique situation here in the Western Isles is of particular fragility. We hear a lot of talk on the national news about the country having reached the ‘peak’ of the pandemic.

"I would remind our population here that we remain several weeks behind mainland Scotland in terms of the impact of this pandemic.

"We need to stick with the restrictions in place to ‘flatten the curve’ of the impact here as much as possible. We absolutely do not want to see, here in the Western Isles, a similar proportion of cases or the tragic loss of life that they have seen on the mainland.

“It is important to reiterate why we are doing what we are doing. It is not easy by any means and it is a huge sacrifice for each and every one of us. But the sacrifice in our freedom of movement now, is less harsh than the sacrifice of losing members of our community to this awful virus. We are literally staying at home to save lives. It is as simple and as stark as that.”

Reminders:

  • Physical distancing measures are for everyone, including children. We should all be trying to reduce our interaction with people to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Everyone must stay at home as far as possible, as you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms. Do not meet others, even friends or family. 

You must:

  • only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you can’t work from home).
  • Only use a car to travel for the purposes above, and only share a car with members of your own household .
  • only take one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk or cycle alone or with members of your household.  You can exercise more than once a day if you have a specific condition, such as autism or learning disabilities.
  • stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people at all times If you go out.
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home.

 

 

The Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Cllr Roddie Mackay, has welcomed additional business support announced yesterday (Thursday April 30) by the Scottish Government.

This fund, to be administered by the Comhairle, is open to the recently self-employed who started trading between 5 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, who are excluded from the other forms of business support relating to COVID-19 disruption and are currently suffering hardship.

Councillor Mackay said: “This is another welcome addition to the raft of business support schemes available. Inevitably some businesses have been slipping through the net and this will help plug another gap in our efforts to support our economy.

"The Comhairle and its partners in HIE and COSLA have lobbied for additional support and today’s announcement is very welcome. I would also take the opportunity to remind members of the business community of our own Local Business Support Scheme and the other source of support available.”

Grants of up to £2,000 are potentially available through the scheme, which will remain open while limited funds permit.

Full details on making an application are available on the Comhairle Business Resilience website at https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/coronavirus/business-resilience/

Business advice is available from Business Gateway on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The last of the cargo on board the stricken vessel MV Kaami was successfully removed yesterday (Thursday 30 April).

The vessel, which remains grounded on rocks between Skye and Lewis, had been impossible to board safely during the early part of this week due to fresh sea conditions.

Yesterday more settled weather allowed salvors to remove the last 30 tonnes of biodegradable wood and paper pellets to a landing craft, for safe disposal on the mainland.

The focus of the salvage operation will now move to completing repairs, which will make the vessel watertight ahead of re-floating and towing to a safe haven.

Pictures show the salvage vessels alongside the now-empty vessel, which is partially waterlogged, and a diver at work within the water-filled cargo hold aboard MV Kaami (MCA).

 

Firefighters found themselves battling a blaze on two fronts yesterday afternoon (Thursday 30 April) when a garage caught light in New Tolsta.

Numerous emergency calls from residents alerted Scottish Fire and Rescue Services in Stornoway to the developing emergency at 3.15pm, when two appliances from Stornoway were immediately despatched to the scene at speed.

The crews found that a garage containing vehicles and flammable materials, including LPG gas canisters, was well alight and that the blaze had ignited grass and heather, spreading towards hedgerow and moorland.

A third crew were called from Shawbost and Stornoway police also attended to ensure safety at the scene and to maintain road access. A crew from Scottish and Southern Electricity monitored the safety of the electricity supply, which was threatened by the spread of the inferno.

Western Isles group manager Gavin Hammond said: “At the height of the incident we had 15 firefighters wearing breathing apparatus and one duty officer on-scene, fighting a large and dangerous fire on two fronts.

“The extent of the blaze reached 400 metres in each direction and there were significant risks – of building collapse, from hazardous materials in the garage and because heather had caught light, leaving danger of further spread.

“Our crews were on-scene until 7pm fighting defensively with main jets to contain the risk. It was a challenging incident which crews effectively dealt with and ensured the safety of all residents.”

The cause of the blaze has yet to be established. Fire Scotland continues to warn of the real risks posed by the current dry, breezy weather, which means that barbecues, bonfires and any other outdoor burning could get out of control.

 

 

 

The Fishermen’s Mission is the fishermen’s charity. Ready to support fishermen and their families whatever the problems, says William Macleod, Fishermen’s Mission Port Officer in Stornoway.

"The Fishermen’s Mission was set up in 1881 to help fishermen and their families weather the storms of life. Nothing has changed.  The coronavirus has hit the UK fishing industry hard and the Western Isles Fishermen’s Mission are keen to say that no fisherman or fisherman’s family need struggle alone."

William Macleod went on: “We are still here to help you. if you are a fisherman on a UK boat; a retired fisherman; or a member of a fisherman’s family please do not hesitate to contact us.

"These are very difficult times and the support we can give you may make all the difference. We will always be there to help and may be able to offer further financial support and access grants for you.”

As the effects of the coronavirus are felt both in the short and the long term, the Fishermen’s Mission are ideally placed to help with expert knowledge of what’s happening locally and nationally and how to get the best support available.

William Macleod added: “The Fishermen’s Mission can help you if you feel like you are struggling with money worries or feeling isolated and alone.  We are here to support you and we are ready to listen. We know that times are tough for fishermen and their families at the moment so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  If you need us, please call us.”

You can contact William at the Stornoway Fishermen’s Mission by calling 01851 704424 or email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit www.fishermensmission.org.uk

Twitter: @thefishmish 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/fishermensmission

To offer your support Text AFLOAT to 770085 to donate £2.

  • The Fishermen’s Mission is a UK charity caring for fishermen, retired fishermen and their families.
  • The Fishermen’s Mission provide emergency assistance and welfare support around the UK coastline from Newlyn in the South West of England to Shetland.
  • The Fishermen’s Mission do not receive any Government or National Lottery Funding. Our work is only possible through voluntary contributions.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop’s announcement yesterday morning that the Scottish Government’s additional £100m fund for businesses impacted by COVID-19 would be open for applications from 2pm, yesterday (Thursday April 30).

Companies can find full details on our partnership website Find Business Support. This grant funding has been divided into three distinct funds:

  • The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund – a £45m fund for viable but vulnerable SMEs who are vital to Scotland’s economy.
     
  • The Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund – a £20m fund for small creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of COVID-19 business rates relief.
     
  • The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund – a £35m fund for the newly self-employed facing hardship through £2,000 grants.

You can read the full Scottish Government statement published yesterday (30 April) here.  

In a collaborative approach, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise will deliver both the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund and the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, with support from Creative Scotland and VisitScotland.

The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund will be delivered by local authorities. Links to individual local authority applications are available via the Find Business Support website.

We are acutely aware of how tough a time this is for businesses in Scotland, so demand for this additional funding is likely to be exceptionally high. A guiding principle for us throughout this crisis has been to provide support to those who need it most. Delivering this extra assistance will be no different and will be of vital importance in order to support the economy.

For the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, support will be targeted at businesses that can demonstrate the following:

  • Drive economic prosperity – for example through wages, employment, exports, supply chain, etc.
  • Are a supplier or potential supplier to NHS or other COVID-19 vital services
  • Are suppliers to other essential businesses
  • Can scale up or diversify due to COVID-19 opportunities
  • Continue to trade or can quickly come out of hibernation
  • Play an important role within their local community

For the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, support will be targeted at businesses in this sector that can demonstrate financial hardship due to COVID-19.

For each fund, companies must meet the following eligibility criteria:

The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund

  • Companies with up to 249 employees that have been trading successfully prior to COVID-19 
  • Less than £50m turnover or balance sheet total of £43m
  • Can demonstrate the funding will support the business to be viable
  • Not in financial difficulty before 31 December 2019
  • Must have business bank account

The Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund

  • Companies up to 49 employees
  • Experienced at least a 50% loss of current or projected revenue
  • Not in financial difficulty pre 31th December 2019
  • Are not in receipt of other COVID-19 government support, except Coronavirus Job Retention ‘Furlough’ Scheme
  • Not for pre-revenue companies
  • Must have a business bank account

We have all worked together at pace to ensure the appropriate infrastructure and capacity is in place to deliver this support. Resources have been reallocated to ensure this fund is administered at maximum efficiency. We have pulled together key individuals across our respective organisations, such as Account Managers and Specialists, to support the appraisal of applications.

Getting the money to recipients is of critical importance. We anticipate the application process will take no more than ten working days and successful applicants will receive funds paid 100% upfront within that timeframe. Full details on what information companies will need to provide as part of the application process can be viewed at Find Business Support.
 

 

A company which sources ‘wild water’ from the Isle of Lewis for drinkers to enjoy with their whisky is uniting remote island communities in a digital collaboration from today (Friday May 1).

It involves a small whisky shop in the Outer Hebrides, a well-known Scottish distiller and a whisky expert.

James McIntosh, the founder of wild water brand Larkfire, is launching an online ‘Whisky & Wild’ tastings series together with whisky expert Matt Chambers and Hebridean whisky, Jura.

Larkfire has sent free tasting packs with samples of its wild water and bottles of 12, 18 and 21-year-old Jura whisky to islanders with the aim of keeping spirits high while businesses and communities are on lockdown and tourism is on hold.

Whisky blogger and awards judge Mr Chambers will be hosting the live whisky tastings on Instagram, encouraging islanders to connect and communicate during lockdown.

Mr McIntosh, whose Larkfire business already supports local initiatives through a partnership which donates a percentage of sales to The Stornoway Trust, hopes that the new digital initiative will support communities.

He said: “We’re keen to support communities and businesses on the islands and were mulling over what we could do to help, just to raise spirits a little.

“We heard about Stornoway start-up business, the Island Spirit Whisky shop, having to postpone its opening because of the current situation, and it gave us the idea of doing something virtually.  We contacted owner Iain Faller and he’s put us in contact with other businesses.

“What sounds like the start of a joke about a bar – a wild water for whisky, a whisky shop and a distiller start working together – is happening, ironically, because there are no bars open.

“We are launching the first ‘Whisky & Wild’ tasting on Friday May 1, inviting islanders to join a free online session hosted by Matt.  We hope to unite many people in raising a glass during lockdown, supporting each other and promoting local businesses across the islands and beyond.”

Larkfire is stocked by prestigious venues including Boisdale Group sites in Mayfair, Belgravia, Canary Wharf and Bishopsgate. Soho Whisky Club also uses Larkfire for its tasting events, and Islington restaurant Frederick’s offers Larkfire alongside its range of world whiskies.  It was named Best Premium Drink at the World Beverage Innovation Awards.

Mr McIntosh said: “In Scotland there is incredible passion and care involved in making whisky, so if you enjoy a splash of water with your dram, it’s important not to undo any elements of the complex distilling and aging process by ensuring you’re adding the best possible water.

“People often add tap water to scotch, but the water has been recycled several times before it reaches your glass, and the added chlorine and fluoride interfere with the delicate whisky flavours. Bottled water also has a high mineral content which affects the aroma and taste.

"However, Larkfire is the perfect water to mix with whisky as it is pure and naturally soft with an exceptionally low mineral content thanks to the billion-year-old Lewisian gneiss rocks, a key feature of the geology of the Isle of Lewis."

A percentage of Larkfire sales flow back into the islands via a partnership with The Stornoway Trust, which looks after 69,000 acres of land on the Isle of Lewis, where the water is sourced.  The Outer Hebrides is home to 15% of the UK’s freshwater by surface area.

 
 

With many events cancelled due to lockdown measures, the organisers of Inverness Science Festival have vowed that this year’s show will go on - virtually.

The annual festival, which usually takes place in venues around Inverness, will now be hosted online, with video lectures, children’s activities, competitions and a virtual pub quiz. Running from today, Friday 1 to 16 May, the event aims to inspire people to learn more about science and to develop a passion for subjects such as biology, chemistry, astronomy and physics.

Organisations including the Institute of Physics, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Bubblestring are providing a range of family resources and try at home activities. Children can learn how to make giant bubbles or design a dolphin friendly fishing net. They can also complete mini challenges like building a paper airplane or taking part in a scavenger hunt.

Festival talks include a lecture by Dr Anthony Luke from Inverness College UHI on the Big Bang, stars and supernovas and a video from Dr Ryan McLean, a University of the Highlands and Islands post-doctoral researcher, on how the immune system and brain interact in surprising ways.

The festival will draw to a close on Sunday 16 May with an online pub quiz where participants will be encouraged to test their knowledge on a range of scientific topics.

Inverness Science Festival is organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands science technology engineering and maths (STEM) team. Speaking about this year’s event, Dr Samantha Clark, STEM Development Manager, said: “While we have had to cancel our physical events this year, we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to inspire people about science. We hope our new virtual festival helps to provide some informative entertainment for children and adults alike while we all spend more time at home. The new online format means that people don’t have to be in the Inverness to enjoy the events and activities, the festival can now be accessed from anyone across the globe!”

To see the full programme of online events and activities, visit the Inverness Science Festival website at www.uhi.ac.uk/isf or follow Inverness Science Festival on Facebook and the #InvSciFest hashtag on Twitter.

So far 423 businesses in the Western Isles have received Scottish Government grants to support firms through the coronavirus crisis.

A total of £4.79 million has been awarded in the Western Isles through a Scottish Government scheme to support small businesses and the retail, hospitality and leisure sector.

This grant support is worth over £1 billion to business in Scotland, and is part of the wider business support package worth £2.3 billion.

So that funding can be distributed as quickly as possible, eligibility for the grant scheme is linked to the non-domestic rates system.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed new figures saying: “This Scottish Government funding is designed to support firms and ensure that our economy is on the best possible footing when we get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Scottish Government support for business is now worth £2.3 billion, which is more than was received from the UK Government and actively works to fill the gaps in the UK schemes with tailored support for the Scottish economy. Support for the seafood sector is a crucial example of this.

“I encourage all island businesses to ensure they are receiving the support they’re entitled to.”

A £10,000 grant is available to non-domestic ratepayers with properties in receipt of:

  • Small Business Bonus Scheme relief (SBSS) or Rural Relief
  • Nursery Relief, Disabled Relief, Business Growth Accelerator, Discretionary Sports Relief, Enterprise Areas Relief or Fresh Start but eligible for SBSS

A £25,000 grant is available to the ratepayers of properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with property with a rateable value between £18,001 - £51,000.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-business-support-fund-grant-statistics/

 

Six pupils from the Sgoil Bhreascleit STEM Club (pictured) are ready to compete in the national STEM competition today, Friday 31st May, at the Glasgow Science Centre run by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI).

Six pupils from the Sgoil Bhreascleit STEM Club (pictured) are ready to compete in the national STEM competition today, Friday 31st May, at the Glasgow Science Centre run by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI).

Sgoil an Rubha has been awarded a grant of £5,000 a year for five years from Point and Sandwick Trust to help with the cost of their Primary Seven class trip – to boost social inclusion by removing the affordability barriers faced by some families.

The new grant award has also meant that families were able to receive a partial refund on their contributions for this year’s P7 class trip to Fairbairn Activity Centre in Muir of Ord.

Share your experiences of unfair delivery charges to the islands as the Scottish Government prepares to launch a Scottish Parcel Delivery Map.

That's the plea from Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan to constituents.

Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron has said that the future of  island and remote communities across the Highlands and Islands are being put at risk by uncertainty over vital transport links.

Mr Cameron spoke after the air traffic controllers’ union announced another strike which will affect HIAL airports in the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Inverness.

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has criticised the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for carrying out a ‘box ticking exercise’ on future arrangements for Emergency Towing Vessels (ETV) in Scottish waters.

After years of campaigning for the reinstatement of an ETV on the West coast - for issues of safety and environmental protection - Mr MacNeil says a single public engagement meeting being held in Edinburgh is simply not good enough as part of a study commissioned by the MCA to look at future arrangements.

A tiny gift shop set up on the Isle of Berneray has earned a place in a tourism awards shortlist for its founder.

Businesswoman Eilidh Carr learnt on Monday (May 27th) that she has been shortlisted for the Young Women in Tourism Awards, to be held in Edinburgh next month.

The first island gymkhana is set to bring horsey fun and challenges on Saturday June 8th – but those who want to enter need to be quick to beat the booking deadline.

Traigh Mhor Trekking is organising the event and is setting up the courses and challenges.

Tonight (Thursday May 30th) sees a general chance for people to gain an insight into the range of food and service to be available from the Harris and Lewis Smokehouse over the summer months.

The restaurant aims to make a name for itself from its skilfully designed location on Sandwick Road, Stornoway, on the site of what was once the local Royal Mail Sorting Office.

The Royal Air Force will land in Tarbert next week to help support the personal development and curriculum needs of 200 young people from Harris, 4-5 June 2019.

The visit will be based in and around the Sir E Scott School combined primary and secondary campus. The 15-strong RAF team will work with the school’s staff and students to lead a wide ranging programme of activities:

The Royal Air Force land in Tarbert next week to help support the personal development and curriculum needs of 200 young people from Harris, on 4-5 June 2019.

The visit will be based in and around the Sir E Scott School combined primary and secondary campus. The 15-strong RAF team will work with the school’s staff and students to lead a wide-ranging programme of activities:

Details of retimed and reorganised flights on Tuesday June 11 and Thursday June 13th are shown here

https://www.loganair.co.uk/travel-advice-12th-june/


The Prospect union today ( Wednesday May 29th) stepped up its battle for the skies over the Highlands and Islands.

Its air traffic controller members will strike again in June.

The Prospect union has served notice that air traffic controllers at Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd are set to strike on Wednesday 12th June.

A huge wave of interest in summer football training has followed the announcement that two mainland clubs will be offering training camps this summer in Lewis.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre last night (Tuesday May 28th) co-ordinated the rescue of a Spanish fisherman with a severe injury from his vessel out in the Atlantic.

At its Annual General Meeting on Saturday 25 May 2019, the Western Isles Constituency Labour Party (CLP) unanimously passed a motion to publicly support a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal, with a clear option to remain in the EU to appear on the ballot paper.

Whilst recognising that the Labour Party has been at the forefront of preventing a damaging Tory Brexit, Members recognised that the Party’s lack of clarity over Brexit, in comparison to other parties, is confusing to voters.

Four Stornoway nurses walked on the dark side on Saturday May 11th as they joined thousands taking part in London’s Moonwalk event and raised over £3,000 for breast cancer charity, Walk the Walk.