A band of enthusiasts are to make a bid for a new squash club for Stornoway in the New Year – after 15 years without a Lewis-based club.

The two courts at Lewis Sports Centre are in occasional use, but the formation of a formally-constituted club would bring a range of benefits for players, according to one of the prospective committee members.

Donald Maciver of Tolsta represented the Western Isles in the sport at the Shetland Island Games in 2005, but as far as he’s aware there’s been no club since then.

Now he and half a dozen others are to gather for their first AGM at Lewis Sports Centre on Monday January 6th, ready to elect a committee and get a new club off the ground.

Donald told welovestornoway.com today (Tuesday December 31st): “The advantage of having a regular club is that we can make block bookings and set regular times when people are available to play.

“We’re also hoping to attract new players, and perhaps to take part in competition in the future.”

Players from Stornoway, Point and the Westside already meet up by arrangement, and recently a team from Benbecula (Sguais Uibhist) came up for some competitive matches. The new club members would like to return the visit and also to repeat a trip over to Inverness where they met up with players from the mainland.

Donald said: “It’s a good idea with squash to find new competition so that you can continue to improve. If you choose people better than yourself it helps to improve your own skills.”

The club welcomes new players, especially women, and with squash racquets available for hire at the sports centre it should be easy enough for people to get started.

Donald added: “It’s not a hard game to start playing and you can very quickly get a good game. It gives you a good physical work-out and you get a sweat up, plus it’s a civilised game and you can fit it into an hour of your day – it doesn’t need to take all day, like some other sports.”

The AGM is open to anyone and starts at 6pm on Monday January 6th, at the squash courts at Lewis Sports Centre. Anyone who would like to know more can contact Donald on 07403 400893.

The picture shows members of Uist Squash Club at their courts in Benbecula. 

 

Open water swimmers were invited along to Reef Beach this afternoon (Tuesday December 31st) to join international adventurer Lewis Pugh for the last swim of the year.

Lewis is in the Western Isles as part of his training and acclimatisation, ahead of a new challenge which he has taken on in his role as UN ambassador for the oceans. He is training on the Isle of Lewis for a big swim in Antarctica in January.

On 22nd January 2020, Lewis Pugh will attempt to swim where no human has swum before: 1kilometre across a supra-glacial lake in East Antarctica. Russian Olympic ice-hockey champion Slava Fetisov will be his second, responsible for protecting Lewis in this endeavour.

Lewis has previously achieved the designation of a huge area of the Antarctic ocean, the Ross Sea, as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Negotiating with 24 countries and the EU to achieve this designation was dubbed ‘Speedo diplomacy’ by the world’s media.

His next challenge comes ahead of an international climate conference in Moscow, where he will be one of the inspirational speakers as the country celebrates 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica.

His training partner for the upcoming campaign is Dr Max Holloway, a competitive swimmer and runner who also coaches Olympic sailing. He works as an oceanographer and has undertaken field work in the Polar regions.

In the Western Isles the pair have chosen one of our own ocean heroes as a swim-buddy. Minch swimmer Colin Macleod is accompanying them on a series of training swims around the Isle of Lewis – and they welcomed swimmers to join them on Reef Beach this afternoon at 2:30pm.

The weather forecast is for an air temperature of 6ºC and sea temperature one degree warmer, at 7ºC.  The wind is picking up and gusting to 30mph, so please come along only if you are an experienced open water swimmer.

Picture shows Lewis Pugh and Max Holloway ready to enter the water at the mouth of Abhainn Dearg at Carnish in Uig yesterday (Lewis Pugh).

A charity fundraising football match on January 11th was planned as one man’s response to his own experience of mental health crisis, in the hope that he can help provide support for others.

Organiser Steven Williams said: “For close to two years I suffered from mental health issues, mainly depression. I was often asked what triggered it and it is a question I have no answer for.

“For me, during the depression, you block a lot of reality out and paranoia sets in. Every day is a struggle to get motivated and even just get out of bed. I walked around with a fake smile on, but nobody really knew what was going on underneath. I went through cycles in my head of different thoughts that weren't true.

“So, now that I am in a better place than I was, I'd like to try and raise awareness and funds in order to support organisations that try to help people with mental health issues. It is important to show people that you aren't alone.

“I have chosen Penumbra (Western Isles) and the work they do in Catch-23. I believe they will help a lot more people than just me. Mental health is a major issue and I want to do my bit to raise awareness and funds. I really hope to see as many of you there as possible at some point through the day.”

Steven’s 7-a-side football match in aid of Penumbra kicks off at 12 noon on Saturday January 11th at the all-weather pitch in Stornoway.

Later there will be a barbecue and evening function at the Rangers Club, with live music from Spanish and his new band Kildasonic from 9.30pm.

As Steven says, it would be good to see as many people coming along as possible. One of the most important messages of the occasion is that you are never alone, there’s always someone ready to help.

 

As a result to a further bereavement in the local community, there is to be no Hogmanay Ceilidh at the Barvas and Brue Community Centre tomorrow (Saturday 4th January).  It had already been been postponed once.

 

A memorial service is planned at the Iolaire memorial at Holm for Wednesday, New Year’s Day 2020, at 2pm.

But forecast strong winds and rain have put a question mark over the event, which will require participants standing in the exposed spot in south-westerly gales.

The memorial service has been planned by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as a continuation of memorial events surrounding the centenary of the Iolaire disaster, which took place in the early hours of January 1st 1919.

Rev James Maciver of Stornoway Free Church is to conduct the memorial service, predominantly in English, with one Gaelic psalm to be sung.

The road up to the memorial will be closed, while a shuttle bus has been organised to take participants from the car park at Sandwickhill School up to the start of the new footpath which leads to the memorial.

Rev Maciver told welovestornoway.com: “We would be very happy if this could become an annual commemoration, especially because of the benefits to the community which we saw arising from the events last year.

“A lot of younger people came to understand and appreciate the importance of the anniversary and the meaning of the tragedy to our community. There were also people who discovered that they had relatives who were involved in the disaster, and there are still some older people left in the villages who had direct contact with families affected a century ago.

“Those people found the commemorations very helpful. It helped them to come to terms with what happened and involvement with the events offered a way to express their sense of loss.”

Rev Maciver also paid tribute to the 100 portraits of Iolaire men created by artist Margaret Ferguson, which, he said, had helped some people to grieve for lost relatives or to appreciate the role their ancestors played in the tragedy.

Dr Ferguson has herself published a list of locations in which some of these portraits can now be viewed. She said: “I'm happy to say that the Iolaire 100 portraits are exhibited again around the island, particularly as we approach the 101st anniversary in the next few days.” 

Lochs (including South Lochs) sailors are displayed in Kinloch Historical Society (Comunn Eachdraidh Ceann na Loch) in Balallan. Tolsta, Back and Tong district portraits are on show in North Tolsta historical society.

Some Stornoway, Point and Harris sailors are at Stornoway Airport, while Bernera and Uig portraits are at Uig historical society, although this is currently closed until April.

In Ness district portraits are displayed at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis, North Dell while Westside portraits are shown at Horshader Community Development, Raebhat House, Shawbost.

The picture shows Margaret Ferguson with some of the Iolaire 100 portraits, hung at An Lanntair for the centenary exhibition.

The first presentation of the Donnie ‘Mata’ Graham memorial shield (pictured) was the highlight of this year’s awards ceremony at Point Football Club on Saturday night (December 28th).

The shield is awarded to the under-21 player of the year, and this year went to Angus Macdonald.

Club supporters applauded the gesture of naming the shield in memory of lifelong club supporter Donnia Mata.

One said: “An impressive gesture, PFC. Donnie Mata gave so much to the club, especially his time with the youngsters, over the years. I am sure he is missed by many at the club.”

Other award winners on Saturday night were Rob Jones, who was named as both players’ and managers’ player of the year, while Andrew Murray won the supporters’ player of the year award. Ally ‘Wally’ Maciver was the season’s top goalscorer, with 24 goals.

Among the under-18s, Cailean Macleod was managers’ player of the year and Josh Smith the players’ player of the year.

A club spokesman said: “It was also noted that Point had scored an incredible 121 goals in all competitions this season. A very encouraging stat and the players and supporters will be hoping for more of the same next season in the team’s charge to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet.”

Three Western Isles community publications have been shortlisted in the Highlands and Islands media award shortlist, published today (Monday December 30th).

Point’s monthly magazine, The Rudhach, and the bi-weekly Ness local newsletter Fios sit alongside Uist’s Am Paipear in the shortlist for the best community newspaper of the year award.

Shona Macmillan of Fios is also shortlisted for an award for the best use of Gaelic, an award category sponsored by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Meanwhile Intermedia Services Ltd of Stornoway, publishers of welovestornoway.com, are in the running for the best use of digital media award, which recognises the use of websites and social media to get local news to the widest possible audience.

Judges of this years Highlands and Islands media awards evaluated a record 116 entries in 12 categories of awards, covering newspaper, online and broadcast news stories and features, as well as the year’s top photographs.

The winners will be announced at the Highlands and Islands press ball, to be held on Friday, 7th February 2020 at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness, organised by Quatro PR.

Gordon Fyfe, chairman of the judging panel, said: “The media awards recognise and reward the best in journalism across our dispersed area, which stretches from Shetland to Argyll and from Moray to the Outer Hebrides. Once again, we were delighted with the number and high standard of entries and choosing a shortlist has been an extremely difficult task.”

The picture shows a recent front page of Fios – the New Year edition is due to be published today (Monday December 30th).

A 29-year-old man is to appear in court in Stornoway today (Monday December 30th) after being arrested at an address in Stornoway yesterday evening.

The man was in breach of bail conditions following an earlier offence and, when approached by police officers, became aggressive.

He was further charged with resisting arrest and police assault and was in custody at Stornoway police station overnight ahead of his court appearance.

Warning over aggressive behaviour

Police were called to a residential street in Stornoway on Boxing Day (December 26th), to reports of a man acting in an aggressive manner.

The 19-year-old man was shouting and swearing and acted aggressively towards the police officers as they approached. He was taken into custody just after 10pm on December 26th.  He was later issued with a recorded police warning and released from custody when sober.

Five given fixed penalties

Five drivers have been issued with fixed penalties for road traffic offences over the weekend of December 27th to 29th

The penalties were given under the road safety Operation Cedar, in three cases for speeding offences.

One driver had an incorrect registration plate on a vehicle and another was found to have no insurance.

A dazzling dozen members of Stornoway Running and Athletics Club have been selected to represent the North of Scotland in inter-district championships in January.

The squad is already hard at work training, with a day out at Eoropie beach in Ness yesterday (Saturday December 28th) to stretch their legs and prepare for the post-Christmas events in the local running calendar.

After recently impressing at events on the mainland, 12 athletes from the U13 and U15 age groups have been called up to represent the North of Scotland at the upcoming Scottish Inter- District Championships, in Stirling on January 11th.

Those planning to travel are Francesca Greenstock, Rachel Murray, Sarah Maciver, Megan Maclean, Kyla McMurdo, Emily Murray, Charlie Morrison, Murray MacDonald, Jordan Nicolson, Seb Nicolson, Iain Matheson and Finlay Macleod, all pictured here, alongside a snap from the beach training session yesterday.

A man is to appear at Stornoway Sheriff Court tomorrow (Monday December 30th) after an incident of domestic vandalism on Christmas Eve.

The 30-year-old man was brought into custody after police had completed enquiries into an incident at an address in Stornoway town centre.

The incident, over a period of time in the evening of December 24th, led to a charge of domestic vandalism.

 

A National Islands Plan for Scotland has been published, according to an announcement made by the Scottish Government on Friday (December 27th).

The purpose of the Plan is ‘to set out the main objectives and strategy of the Scottish Ministers in relation to improving outcomes for island communities that result from, or are contributed to, by the carrying out of functions of a public nature’.

The National Islands Plan includes 13 strategic objectives and a comprehensive list of commitments, setting a direction of travel for the Scottish Government. It also provides a framework for action in order to meaningfully improve outcomes for island communities.

Development of the plan has been informed, according to Friday’s statement, by what islanders told the Scottish Government was important to them during a wide consultation exercise which took place across 40 islands last summer. The Plan is also informed by partners and by wider Scottish Government policy and strategy.

Strategic objectives in the plan include addressing population decline, improving transport services, improving housing and addressing fuel poverty. Digital connectivity, climate change, health and social care are also targeted as strategic areas.

Introducing the 73-page report, Scotland’s Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP said: “The production of this Plan marks an historic milestone. (It) has been created with the input of many islanders and others with a strong interest in Scotland’s islands and I am extremely grateful to you all for your contributions and ideas.

“The Plan sets out 13 Strategic Objectives which are practical, common sense, but will also be critical over the next five years to improving the quality of life for island communities.

“From April to July 2019, we consulted widely on what was important to islanders and island communities. That consultation process highlighted where we need to step up our collective efforts and focus our energies to address the challenges and realise the aspirations of everyone who lives on Scotland’s islands.

“Our islands are profoundly important – not just to Scotland, but to the whole world. They contribute hugely to our culture, heritage, environment, identity, landscape, economy and society. We want them to thrive and this first National Islands Plan provides the ambition and the tools to do so.”

The plan is available to download in English and in Gaelic at https://www.gov.scot/publications/national-plan-scotlands-islands/

 

High winds and heavy seas are affecting ferry services throughout the southern Hebrides today (Sunday December 29th).

The Oban-Castlebay and Mallaig/Oban-Conchoidal services are cancelled for the remainder of today.

Between Uig in Skye, Tarbert, and and Lochmaddy, an amended timetable will operate, as follows:

  • Tarbert - Lochmaddy-Uig 11:45 (Delayed 09:00)
  • Lochmaddy - Uig 14:00 (Delayed 11:15)
  • Uig - Lochmaddy-Tarbert 16:15 (Delayed 14:30)
  • Lochmaddy - Tarbert 18:15 (Delayed 16:30)

On the Berneray - Leverburgh (Sound of Harris) link, the 08:30 sailing from Berneray and the 09:35 sailing from Leverburgh were cancelled. There is to be a review at 12:00 for the remaining sailings.

On the Ardmhor (Barra) - Eriskay (Sound of Barra) crossing, the 0845 sailing from Ardmhor and the 0930 sailing from Eriskay will run as timetabled, but the 1630 sailing from Ardmhor will now depart at 1400 and the 1720 sailing from Eriskay will now depart at 1445.

Also on that run, because of an issue with the vessel’s ramps, sailings will be operating single-ended until further notice. As a result, CalMac are unable to carry articulated lorries on that crossing and vehicles may be required to reverse onto the vessel.

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 and parking, Carriegreich

Alan Thomson has applied for planning permission to erect a house and vehicular access at 8B Carriegreich. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, four bathrooms, a kitchen and living/dining area. Work is to include creating parking for two cars, 

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

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

Extension of studio flat, Stornoway 

Christine Kennedy of 60 Springfield Road has applied for planning permission to extend the studio flat at 12 Blar Buidhe to create bedroom accommodation. 

Brian Wilson, who is chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides, based in Shawbost, has been awarded CBE in the New Year Honours list.

Brian, who was recently 71, was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State in the UK Government from 1997 to 2003 – holding responsibilities in different ministries including Trade, Industry and Africa – and Scotland prior to Devolution. He played a key role in the development of the community land ownership movement and the further development of the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Gaelic broadcasting.

Brian played a pivotal role in the creation of Harris Tweed Hebrides from the industrial debris left by the previous generation of tweed manufacturers and hence the creation of the modern, worldwide version of the industry. For his work with Harris Tweed Hebrides, he was named Global Director of the Year at the Institute of Directors Scottish awards ceremony in February 2011. He was then named UK Global Director of the Year at IoD Awards in September 2011.

Brian is also a director of Celtic Football Club and Visiting Professor in the International Public Policy Institute at the University of Strathclyde.

Born in 1948 in Dunoon, he studied at the University of Dundee and University College, Cardiff - where he was one of the first intake of 16 to the first-ever postgraduate journalism course in the UK, run by Tom Hopkinson of Picture Post fame.

Brian was the founding editor and publisher of the West Highland Free Press newspaper which he established along with three friends from Dundee University.

There is truly no end to Peat & Diesel’s achievements as 2019 comes towards its conclusion.

On BBC Alba, Hogmanay Ceilidh 2019 is live from Motherwell Concert Hall in Lanarkshire, hosted by Cathy Macdonald and Niall Iain Macdonald. 

Performing live will be Peat & Diesel, recently crowned winners of the best live act 2019 at the Scots Trad Music Awards ceremony in Aberdeen and Christmas Scottish download chart-toppers.

In the run-up to Christmas, the Highland Liquor Company in West Argyle Street in Ullapool was running a Peat & Diesel Merchandise Pop Up Shop with the help of Beyond Presents. (Pictured)

Also playing at Hogmanay Ceilidh 2019 will be Mànran who celebrate 10 years together in 2020 and are joined by Kim Carnie in her first TV appearance as part of the band, Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band, Margaret Stewart and the Alba Choir, along with a first foot who has a truly ‘Gàidhealach’ connection to the area. 

Meanwhile, Peat & Diesel will be heading for Glasgow in January to sell-out events at the Barrowlands… and beyond that there’s…

January 31

Friday 19:30 ·The Lemon Tree. Aberdeen

February 1

Saturday 19:30. The Nevis Centre. Fort William

 February 2/3

Sunday Sessions Big Burns Supper Dumfries

February 7

Friday 19:30 ·The Slaughtered Lamb London

February 8

Saturday 19:30 ·Jimmy's Manchester

February 14

Friday 19:30 ·Ironworks Inverness

February 15

Saturday 19:30  Fat Sams Dundee

February 21

Friday 19:30 ·The Albert Halls, Stirling

 

February 22

Saturday 19:00 ·

THE LIQUID ROOMS (Official)

Edinburgh

Representatives of Point and Sandwick Trust joined the rowers in Stornoway harbour for the traditional Boxing Day outing yesterday (Thursday December 26th), following a donation to pay for safety equipment from the community wind farm charity.

Stornoway Rowing Club had applied for a grant for a number of Spinlock lifejackets in a variety of sizes which are now being used by the club and will sustain it into the future.

Rowing Club chair Rose Bugler said: “It was for safety equipment and it’s fantastic because it means that whatever the club decides to do in the future, in terms of challenges, the equipment is up to it. It’s good quality gear.”

Point and Sandwick Trust board member Jane Watson was among those who joined Stornoway Rowing Club for their Boxing Day row in ‘Madadh Ruadh’ and tested out the new lifejackets.

Jane said afterwards: “I really enjoyed it. It was good, once I got the hang of it and got the rhythm.”

Chair Rose Bugler said the club wanted to be accessible, to give people who have not rowed before the chance to come along and give it a go.

They are also hoping to organise a regatta in Lewis for May 30, 2020.

Stornoway Rowing Club is one of five clubs and six skiffs that row out of Stornoway. They were joined in the harbour yesterday afternoon by West Side Rowers in Fir Chlis.

West Side Rowers said it was a wonderful sport, with clubs growing over the past couple of years.

West Side Rower Rosemary MacRitchie said: “I love it. It’s great. It’s a very close community, we’re very good friends, and it’s the main thing I do outside of work. 

Ally Macleod agreed it was “fantastic” and said rowing could be combined with fishing in the summer, while fellow rower Eddy Graham said he had enjoyed combining a rowing trip to Little Bernera earlier in the year with a dip in the sea. Because the skiffs are portable by trailer, it is possible to see parts of the island you wouldn’t otherwise see. 

Eddy added that, similarly to cycling, rowing involved “raw power” and a more direct connection with place. “You’re exercising, it’s good socially and it’s environmentally friendly,” he said. 

“It’s a win-win situation.” It also gave a connection to history, with the provenance of the skiffs. 

Rosemary added: “It’s really special. You see the world from a whole different angle.”

She said they had been “desperate” to get out for their traditional Boxing Day row but had also managed out on the Saturday before Christmas – complete with Santa hats and elf outfits.

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said it was a great activity which the community wind farm was happy to support – and encourage people to take part in.

He said: “Making outdoor activity, such as rowing, accessible and safe for all age groups is something that PST wish to encourage and support.

"Outdoor activity need not be limited to the summer months and there is plenty opportunity, even in the winter time, to enjoy some rowing.

“Stornoway Rowing Club are active throughout the year as long as it is safe and enjoyable and you don't have to be a superfit athlete to take part. It is a fun team sport and there is a growing interest in the sport nationally and in the Western Isles.”

Photograph: Point and Sandwick Trust joining Stornoway Rowing Club on their Boxing Day row out of Stornoway harbour 

Stornoway Port Authority is on course to open a new and much-needed marina in the town’s harbour in 2020.

The marina will create 75 new berths at Newton Basin for leisure craft - increasing capacity to 155 – to tackle a shortage of facilities which is constraining potential growth in marine tourism.

It will open, appropriately, as Scotland marks the Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020 and will also herald the completion of the initial stage of the Port Authority’s ambitious 20-year Masterplan.

The first phase of the marina development is about to be completed.  RJ McLeod Contractors Ltd were awarded a £5 million contract in March 2019 that involved the dredging and reclamation of the area, thereby creating the platform for further development.

The pontoon contract has been awarded, with completion expected in March 2020 and the marina will open immediately thereafter. A yacht lift facility will open later next year, while work on the remaining projects, including a marine engineering workshop and shellfish processing facility, will also be progressed in 2020.

The £11 million Newton Basin/Goat Island project has received £3.5 million from Highlands and Islands Enterprise as well as £2.75 million from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Scottish Government via the Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

The new facilities will complement the Port Authority’s existing marina that was expanded in 2014 and can take 80 leisure craft. However, the berths filled up soon after they were installed and there has been a shortage of space during the summer and winter seasons.

The Outer Hebrides is a key sailing destination for visitors, and Stornoway is an important link in the chain of marinas stretching from the Butt of Lewis to the Isle of Barra.

Alex Macleod, Stornoway Port Authority’s Chief Executive, said: “2020 will be an exciting year for the Port Authority and our ambitions to improve facilities and maximise economic opportunities for the Outer Hebrides.”

“Completing the marina project will represent an important milestone and provide a significant asset at a time when the focus will be on marine leisure facilities during the Year of Coasts and Waters.”

Progress is also being made on another part of the Masterplan, the creation of a deep water port at Stornoway.Earlier this month the Port Authority was granted planning permission in principle for the peripheral activities associated with the deep water port.

The deep water port will be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in the Hebrides and is regarded as being essential in allowing the Outer Hebrides to benefit from the growing cruise tourism market that will bring new income and jobs to the islands.

Creating facilities to allow berthing of cruise ships up to 350 metres long will help attract an additional 35-40 vessels a year, creating a significant number of business opportunities throughout the island as visitor numbers entering through the port continue to increase.

The engineering works to create the quay and platform areas are consented via the Harbour Revision Order granted in March 2019.

In April this year, marine consulting civil engineers Wallace Stone were awarded the contract to design Phase 1 of the deep water port. The design process will be ongoing in 2020 and it is hoped that the final design will be completed and that a fully consented project will be achieved in 2020.

The next stage in advancing the project will see new seabed investigation works carried out to provide further information on the geology in the harbour.

Alex Macleod added: “These tests are part of the ongoing investigation work needed to prepare the best design for the deep water port.

“The results will provide us with the best technical data on the complex geology in the harbour and to reduce the construction risks associated with such a major project.

“This process will result in further development of the layout and design of the deep water port and is essentially to reduce all project risks to an absolute minimum. This major project will be developed further in 2020 ensuring that the economic benefits can be realised as soon as possible.“

Uist Gymnastics Club has received a donation from The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) through its latest round of Community Fund awards.

Scottish Salmon Company, which employs hundreds of people across the Western Isles, has a major base in Marybank in Stornoway. 

Uist Gymnastics Club was established to provide inclusive gymnastics coaching for all young people in the Uist area, which was previously unavailable.

The Club is very popular with local children, teaching them new abilities and skills and improving confidence.

Founded in 2017, the SSC Community Fund provides valuable funding to community groups that promote positive health and wellbeing in their local area. Uist Gymnastics Club was nominated by Donald MacInnes, Senior Marine Operative at SSC’s Locheport Marine Site.

The Club will use the funding to support the training of additional coaches, which will enable them to fully register with Scottish Gymnastics as a competitive team.

Oni Fraser, Coach at Uist Gymnastics Club said: “We are very grateful to The Scottish Salmon Company for its kind donation. The funding we have received will be hugely beneficial to our gymnastics team, allowing us to continue to promote physical fitness as well as building skills, confidence and a positive mental attitude.”

Su Cox, Director, The Scottish Salmon Company, said: “We are committed to supporting local communities where our staff live and work, particularly those which share our values of promoting health and wellbeing. We hope our donation will allow more children to take part in gymnastics,  teaching them new abilities and skills and improving confidence.”

Residents at Trust Housing on Matheson Road, Stornoway, had an extra surprise yesterday evening (Tuesday December 24th) with the arrival of a whole team of Santas ready to deliver Christmas gifts.

Stornoway Rugby Club members, from both the male and female teams, donated gifts to residents, as they explained: “Just because it’s nice to spread a little Christmas cheer.”

The festive visit marked the culmination of a year of increasing off-the-field activity by the club, which has always tried to play an active role in their community.

As well as providing manpower to support events around Stornoway year-round, they donate proceeds from their annual Boxing Day game to a local charity, to be chosen after the match. The game kicks off at 12noon tomorrow Thursday December 26th at Bayhead.

This year, particularly, the club has put huge efforts into supporting mental health charities, inviting groups including the Samaritans, Foyer and Catch 23 to individual games so that they could raise funds and awareness with bucket collections, bake sales and pamphlet distribution.

History was made in August 2019 when Stornoway Rugby Club Ladies took the field at Bayhead for their first ever women’s league match vs Huntly RFC. With such a momentous match Women’s Aid were invited along to help raise funds for their local branch.

Later in the season, on a warm weekend in September dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ the club hosted home fixtures for both the men’s and women’s teams at which a barbeque was organised by Bethesda Hospice as a raise fund-raising opportunity for them.

The club has helped raise awareness in conjunction with the Western Isles Health Board for Suicide Prevention awareness week, with social media posts and posters and by wearing odd-coloured socks carrying the #itsoktotalk campaign message during matches.

A club spokesman told welovestornoway.com: “The club is always striving to improve and grow, with a central aspiration to establish a permanent clubhouse facility that the club can call home.

“Such a large undertaking will obviously take a lot of hard work, planning and money. So, alongside the fund-raising for local charities we have many plans in the pipeline for raising funds for the club

“Keep an eye out for SYRFC members as they shamelessly raise money through bag packing, curry nights, quiz nights and any other method they can think of throughout next year!”

Pictures show teams and supporters banding together to show their support for Samaritans earlier this year, and the cheerful Santa visit to Trust Housing in Stornoway

Artist Julie Brook – who has a home and base on Aird Bheag in west Lewis and recently attended Faclan/the Hebridean Book Festival – is having a major exhibition event in London.

Entitled Firestacks: Tide, Time and Gravity: Julie Brook and Robert Macfarlane: Nature Unwrapped, it’s on Wednesday 29 January 2020 at 7pm.

Julie journeys to – and stays for months in – the wildest and most remote landscapes on earth, creating work that is not only inspired by the land but cut from it.

For several years, Julie spent every summer month living on the uninhabited island of Mingulay, south of Barra, with her young family.

For the Firestacks, her most recent series, itself created in the Hebrides, Brook assembles natural elements—water, stone and fire—to create a tidal work that expresses the vital tension between gravity and time, through the seasons. There's a photograph from Ard Bheag above.

Writer Robert Macfarlane’s (The Wild Places, Landmarks, Underland) engagement with wilderness is similarly immersive, conjuring landscapes, seas and underground spaces with a poet’s eye and a scholar’s tongue.

As Brook debuts her new work in Pangolin’s new exhibition for Nature Unwrapped on the gallery level at Kings Place, she and Macfarlane discuss the elemental forces at play in her work and preview her films.

https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/words/robert-macfarlane-and-julie-brook/

This year’s countdown to Christmas includes a countdown to Call the Midwife for many islanders, eagerly awaiting the show’s Christmas special tomorrow evening (Wednesday December 25th).

That’s because the show was filmed in and around some of the best-loved landmarks of Lewis and Harris, with well-known stars like Jenny Agutter and Miriam Margolyes spotted all over the islands last April, as filming was underway.

Historic Scotland was especially pleased with the choice of location as two of their sites are playing starring roles. St Clement’s Church in Rodel, Harris and the 5,000-year-old Calanais Standing Stones in Lewis will be on screen, as will the blackhouse village at Gearrannan.

But the show’s directors have reminded dedicated viewers this week that it’s the children who make the show important, saying: “These children light up our Christmas Special in the company of our perfect CTM Santa - Cliff Parisi (Fred) - who returns to his annual duty as the festive face of the Poplar holidays.

“And that is all as it should be. Christmas is a time for the magic in little eyes, and the wisdom and gratitude in old ones. Children enable us to step back and remember the best of ourselves.”

The Call the Midwife Christmas Special is on BBC1 on Christmas Day at 7pm.

Picture shows Santa calling on the BBC Christmas special. (BBC)


Everyone’s favourite castaway, Ben Fogle, is returning to the island he calls his ‘happy place’ in the New Year.

Ben is bringing his Tales from the Wilderness tour to Luskentyre beach on January 4th, during a stint as a training partner for Antarctic ice-swimmer Lewis Pugh.

It’s 20 years since Ben was one of a group left to fend for themselves on Taransay, for the Millenium BBC TV series Castaway.

Since then he’s become a household name and undertaken numerous challenges, mostly for charity. He has climbed Everest, run across the Sahara desert and competed in an Atlantic rowing race, becoming a regular on adventure and wildlife shows

Now he’s taking inspiring and incredible tales of Ben's Adventures and Expeditions around Britain in an evening of storytelling and adventure.

On Monday he tweeted that he was planning to give a free, wild, rugged and windy performance of the show live from the beach at Luskentyre, on Saturday January 4th at 11.30am. He’s asked people to come along, bringing a mug and pledging that he will supply the whisky.

Ben’s invitation especially asks people to share cars to reduce the carbon footprint of the event and has also asked that people don’t bring any plastic to the beach.

The event includes a chance to take a New Year dip in the sea with Ben and with Lewis Pugh, who is training in the Hebrides ahead of his Antarctic 2020 Challenge.

A new film exploring a hidden corner of the Isle of Lewis has been premiered by Comunn Eachdraidh Nis - Ness Historical Society
The film was produced with help from nine of the Society’s junior members and was made possible thanks to funding from ferry operator CalMac’s Community Fund.
‘Bòidhchead ar Sgìre’ - A tour of North Lewis – is presented in Gaelic by four of the children who explore the natural beauty of the north Lewis area and what there is to do.
The film, which has English subtitles, will be played in the Society’s newly refurbished museum at North Dell, the museum is visited by over 20,000 people annually from all over the world.
‘"For many in the group, this was the first time they had visited many of the historical sites featured in the film.
"By taking part in the filming, they realised the richness and importance of the history of their own area,’ said Comunn Eachdraidh Nis’s Community Engagement Officer, Donna Dorris.
In total, the children visited and introduced seven beauty spots, 12 locally run businesses and three recreational activities.
Attending the premier, CalMac’s Head of Service Delivery (North), Finlay MacRae said:  ‘This has been a great project in bringing together young people living in isolated communities.
"It really helped to build new friendships and foster a sense of community among the next generation in Ness. This is exactly the type of outcome we want to see achieved through our Community Fund.’
The fund is designed to benefit the lives of children and young people living across the ferry and harbour operator’s network.
‘From aged 11 onwards, the children in North Lewis travel to Stornoway to attend high school. This makes it a challenge for them to find time to engage with their community. By bringing together this group of children, they got the chance to work together on a collective project which will have a lasting impact in their community,’ added Donna.
The next round of awards made from the CalMac Community Fund will open for applications in the Spring. 

Christmas and New Year can be a very difficult time for people – but help is available.

That is the message from the Western Isles Association for Mental Health and the Samaritans in partnership with community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, which supports both organisations.

The joint message from these services is: “It’s good to talk – and we are here”.

Del Gunn, Project Manager of the Western Isles Association for Mental Health (WIAMH), said: “Christmas and New Year is a very difficult time for a lot of people and there’s a lot of loneliness.

"When everybody seems to be celebrating, others aren’t. For them, it’s not a time of celebration. Some people actually dread Christmas coming along.

“It’s quite a high-risk time because of the excessive amounts of alcohol consumed. I suppose there is a higher risk of suicide as well around this time. It’s not always the case but when people are lonely, isolated and depressed the risk of suicide can increase. There’s also a reduced availability of support services over the Christmas period.”

Del said social isolation had become “an increasing problem here on the island – and that cuts across all ages, as the population is decreasing”. However, having places like the WIAMH base on Bayhead in Stornoway available for drop-ins provided “an extra way for people to come together”.

He stressed the importance of talking – but said that message was “not just for Christmas”.

He added: “People don’t share their experiences and the troubles they are going through and that is not just at Christmas time. That’s a message we’re trying to get across – people need to talk about their feelings and their concerns, as do their friends and family themselves.

“This is not always a good time and the message to the public is, if you know someone who is struggling in your own community, talk to them. There’s a good chance they’ll really appreciate it. Just talk to people. And if you pass someone in the street, say ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. It can mean the world to someone who is experiencing a lot of loneliness at this time of year.”

WIAMH is open for drop-ins during the Christmas and New Year weeks. It is open on Monday, 23 December and Christmas Eve from 12 noon till 4pm. It is open again on Monday, 30 December and Hogmanay, reopening again on Friday, 3 January and Saturday, 4 January. It is “business as usual” from January 3, with the hours of New Year week being 12 noon till 4pm on Monday, Tuesday and Friday and 11am till 3pm on the Saturday. 

Western Isles Association for Mental Health is a service for adults who are experiencing mental health difficulties and for people concerned about someone else and looking for advice and support.

Del said: “People may call in for some advice or contact details as we signpost to other agencies. A cup of tea and a friendly face is always there for you…” 

However, in the event of an emergency, people are advised to call 111 (NHS 24) for acute services.

For people who want someone to talk to, the Samaritans will be on the end of a phone, 24/7 – and their service runs every single day of the year.

There are 201 Samaritans branches around the country, and 20,000 volunteers, but all calls or emails go through the central (freephone) number and email address – 116 123 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – with the next call in the queue being picked up by the next available volunteer, wherever they are based, making it extremely unlikely for a Western Isles call to be answered in Stornoway.

In their base in Stornoway, there are two volunteers on at any one time, for select four-hour periods. They also hold weekly drop-in sessions, where people can talk to a Samaritan face-to-face, and these are Fridays from 1pm to 4pm, at their base on Cromwell Street.

The branch director stressed that confidentiality was always paramount. 

And to anyone thinking about contacting the Samaritans, she said: “The hardest thing is to pick up the phone and they might not manage the first time to say something. But everything they say is confidential. We just listen. We don’t judge anyone or tell them to take decisions about their lives. You can talk about anything. We’re there just for emotional support. It’s good to talk.”

She agreed Christmas and New Year was “a very challenging time” – and that was already having an impact. “People are talking about Christmas and coming up to Christmas. Maybe relationships are breaking down and this time of year can be really traumatic. A lot of it stems from loneliness. Everyone else is enjoying themselves and they’re being so isolated from all the festivities.

“They’ve maybe lost loved ones throughout the year and they’re alone. The noise and excitement of Christmas is really annoying and they don’t feel involved with anything and they’re down and it can lead to feeling suicidal.”

The short days and long nights were also a factor.

To mark what can be the lowest point of the year, the Samaritans will be holding a special drop-in to raise awareness – ‘Brew Monday’ on January 20, when the base will be open to the general public to come in for a cuppa and cake, to find out what the Samaritans are all about.

This day – the third Monday after New Year – is traditionally known as ‘Blue Monday’, the day when people are likely to feel at their lowest, following Christmas.

The branch director said: “We know that it’s a blue day. People feel down and deflated after all the excitement of Christmas and maybe there’s money problems from spending a lot of money and now having to pay it back.”

Western and Isles Association for Mental Health and the Samaritans are both supported by Point and Sandwick Trust. The community wind farm has pledged financial support to WIAMH for five years and some of that money has gone on suicide prevention training. The charity has also helped the Samaritans towards the costs of upgrading their Stornoway base.

Donald John MacSween, Point and Sandwick Trust general manager, said: “Point and Sandwick Trust are committed to help local organisations at the sharp end of providing vital support services for people who are suffering from mental health issues. This time of year is especially difficult for some and we are fortunate that there are support services available locally to help.

“We live in a place with a poor climate, minimal winter daylight and other societal pressures. 

“WIAMH and the Samaritans are there for us, providing discrete professional services at minimal cost and maximum benefit to our community. We are grateful for their service.”

5.30pm (Tuesday December 24th)  Road traffic accident investigators conclude their work at Aignish and the A866 Point road has reopened fully to traffic.

1pm today: Police Scotland publicly identified crash victim.

Kenneth Angus Macsween (85), from Aignish, died after being struck by a blue Volkswagen Polo near Aignish, around 5.25pm yesterday afternoon. His family are aware.

 A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

 The road remains closed to allow officers to carry out enquiries.  Diversions are along Shore Road.

10am today: Road stays closed in Point: The main road to and through Point remains closed at Aignish this morning (Tuesday December 24th), following yesterday afternoon’s fatal road accident on the A866.

A diversion is in place around the shore road in Aignish and is now controlled by traffic lights. Police Scotland said the main road was likely to remain closed for the rest of today and into the evening. An investigation team from the road policing unit at Dingwall is due to arrive on-island around lunchtime today (Tuesday).

The crash happened around 5.25pm yesterday (Monday 23rd December) when an 85-year-old man was hit by a blue Volkswagen Polo, sustaining fatal injuries.

Emergency services including police and ambulance were called quickly, but the man was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team was called out to assist with the road closures, which included putting in place a diversion around a minor road through Aignish.

Monday evening: Sergeant Alasdair Mackay of the Dingwall Road Policing unit said: “We are supporting the family of the man at this time and enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances of the collision.

“I would ask anyone who may have seen what happened to contact us as soon as possible, we are also keen to talk to any driver with dash-cam footage which might help with our investigation.

“Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting incident 2695 of Monday, 23 December, 2019”

This article has been updated several times since originally being posted on Monday evening, 23rd December.

 

As 2019 draws to an end, the staff and volunteers at HI-Scot credit union are reflecting on a successful year for the organisation.

“We are pleased to report that 2019 was another 12 months of growth for HI-Scot,” said Margaret Ann MacLeod, who chairs the Board of Directors, “This is good news not only for the credit union, but for our members and the communities we serve across the Highlands and Islands.”

At the recent HI-Scot AGM, the members attending approved a 0.5% dividend.

The AGM took place in six venues across the Highlands and Islands, using tele-conferencing to allow members from different areas to participate.

“In the current financial climate, this year's dividend is a positive indicator of HI-Scot's position in the community,” said David Mackay, HI-Scot's General Manager, “We are proud to offer a range of services to our members and provide a real alternative to high street banks.”

One of the benefits of banking with HI-Scot is that members' money stays within the financial community of the Highlands and Islands. Owned completely by their members, the credit union does not have external shareholders, so any profits are ploughed back into the organisation – for example, in the form of an annual dividend.

“Of course, your money is completely safe with HI-Scot, as we are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme,” adds David Mackay, “Saving and borrowing with the credit union makes a lot of sense.”

Why not make it your New Year's Resolution to check out what HI-Scot can offer you?

For more information see www.hi-scot.com


Whether you’re an enthusiast for screeching tyres and the smell of hot rubber, or for the sedate clip-clop of horses’ hooves, there’s an event for you on Boxing Day (Thursday December 26th).

Lewis and Harris riding club are running a Riding Club-approved castle grounds ride on Boxing Day, open to RC members only.

Riders will have the use of Lews Castle College car park from 10am - 3pm and are aiming to be setting off from there at 11.30am.

The planned time and route are designed to work around other users of the castle grounds on Boxing Day and for the same reason organisers are looking for people to help remove droppings on the way round.

If the steady pace of a Boxing Day ride is not racy enough for you, Lewis Car Club offers an alternative at the Creed Park motorsport facility. Their Boxing Day Bash opens for an 11.30am sign-on, with the first car away at 12.15pm.

New members are always very welcome, but the club promise little by way of facilities – their heated secure spectating area will only be available if you keep your own car running with the heaters on and windows up!

Pictures show last year’s Lewis Car Club meet and a Riding Club member dressed up and ready for the Boxing Day event.

Island creativity is once again very much in evidence this Christmas, with a small forest of inventive and unusual Christmas trees springing up around the Western Isles.

Ullapool may have its own creel tree, but hospital nurse Shona MacPhail’s version ‘Merry Creel-mas’ tree (pictured above) at Cameron Terrace in Leurbost has its own distinctively Lewis and Harris flavour.

Shona’s tree is dedicated to the fishermen and divers of the islands – her own partner is a lobster and prawn creel fisherman working out of Leverburgh on the Valhalla, skipper Donald McLennan (Donnie Booly).

Shona said “The creels were in storage at the back of the house and I felt it would brighten up the garden, as well as being a tribute to fishermen, divers and the lifeboat crew. The lights were donated by K J Macdonalds, who are celebrating their centenary next year, so it is a real marker for the islands.”

Meanwhile in Castlebay, Barra, yesterday (Sunday December 22nd) saw the lighting up of the Barra bunting tree, a worldwide effort pulled together by the Barra bunting project.



With knitted and crocheted squares contributed from as far afield as Australia, Georgia USA and Germany, the trees also marked tremendous local teamwork. It’s been placed in a prominent location overlooking Kisimul Castle (pictured).

Co-ordinator Sarah Maclean said yesterday. “Massive thanks to everyone who made a square, to all the ladies for sewing it together, to Michael MacKinnon for doing a wonderful job of making the frame, to Tony Flanagan for making the sheep, Hec for the important electrical work and to Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery for supporting this project.”

Meanwhile in Marybank, our favourite way-out tree creators at Lewis Tyres have been hard at work over the weekend, creating this year’s ‘tyred and exhausted’ tree. The team are pictured here this morning (Monday) with their latest masterpiece.

A fundraising event on the runway of Stornoway Airport has been postponed to next year, according to organisers.

Run the Runway was planned as a New Year fundraiser for Bethesda Hospice, allowing runners the unique opportunity to run along the airport runway while it was closed to routine traffic on New Year’s Day.

But airport manager Duncan Smith said the operational needs of the airport, including availability of facilities for emergency search and rescue missions and hospital emergencies, needed careful planning before the event went ahead.

He told welovestornoway.com: “We just couldn’t cover all the bases in the time available, as we needed to make sure contingency arrangements were in place for sudden emergencies.

“The event has not been cancelled, but postponed to next year, when we hope to run it twice – at midsummer and at New Year.”

Police are asking for public help after a neon green mountain bike was taken from a domestic address on Seaview Terrace.

The one-year-old ‘Giant’ bicycle, similar to the one pictured, was taken between last Thursday and Friday (December 19th and 20th ) and has not been recovered. The owners have posted on social media pleading for its safe return, as it is in regular use by their son.

Police said that anyone who sees the bike or who knows where it may have been taken to should contact them on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH/1836/19.

 It’ll Be Lonely This Christmas - For those living in our rural/remote community, by Jessica Sapphire Frame

The festive period is now fast approaching and for most people, it is an extremely exciting, busy time. Imagine, full houses, bursting with family, music, the clinking of glasses and eruptions of laughter. Even as I am writing this, I can hear the noise of it vibrating in my ears and mind as I remember past years of celebration with my own family.

Now, imagine, instead of noise, deafening silence, instead of sitting chatting with family and friends; sitting in a single chair... alone.

This is the case for around half a million older adults who say Christmas isn’t something they look forward to (Age UK, 2018).

But, loneliness doesn’t just affect those without family nearby, as would be expected; Age UK also found that 750’000 over 65’s widowed and living alone felt more lonely at Christmas than any other time of year. Many of our older people, in fact do have supportive family nearby, yet, many can still experience social isolation and feelings of loneliness. It is this group that are also at-risk of associated negative effects because they are less likely to talk about their experiences and feelings. Understandably, they do not want to appear ungrateful or ‘bring down the mood’ to family and community members and often downplay how they feel.

As much as visiting family and being included in the festivities will be a wonderful reprieve. Returning to an empty house can be a disabling and dispiriting situation.

At this time of year let us remember that for all of us living in our wonderful rural community, how isolating it would be without our social network. I implore everyone reading this, at this time of giving, to remember that sometimes the most significant gift you can give…. Is your TIME!

10 minutes to have a cup of tea and a chat is not only a reprieve from social isolation, but can provide a deeper, longer-lasting feeling of love, support and community! But I’ll leave you with this last thought:

A social network is not just for Christmas’.

If as you read this, you find it relates to you or someone you know there is a number of services aimed at reducing social isolation and loneliness so talk to your GP or local volunteer centre (Befriending Lewis, Alzheimer Scotland etc.) for support and further information.

I am also currently looking for individuals 65 and over that live alone to talk about their experiences in an independent research project to gain insight and help aid in developing services that benefit all older adults living on Lewis.

If you are interested, I would love you to be apart of it and you can get in touch with me: Jessica Sapphire Frame by:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or Phone: 07710644077.

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 communications tower, Manish

WHP Telecoms has applied for planning permission to erect a 20 metre high lattice communications tower in Manish. The tower is to be fixed on rock-anchored steel beams. 

New home office and garage, Quidinish

DI Macleod of Holasmul, 8 Quidinish has applied for planning permission to erect a home office and garage to the rear of Holasmul, 8 Quidinish. The home office is to be 4 metres by 4 metres with a height of 3.88 metres and clad in galvanised steel. The garage is to be pre-fabricated galvanised steel and 6.4 metres by 6.4 metres with a height of 2.9 metres. 

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 housing development, Newmarket

Hebridean Housing Partnership has applied for planning permission to create a 74-house housing development at Blackwater, Newmarket. The work is to include the installation of air source heat pumps and associated infrastructure. Work is to include creating parking suitable for 150 cars and the addition of a new access to the public road. 

Alteration and extension of house, Uig

Sarah Wilson of 2 Brenish, Uig, has applied for planning permission to alter and extend the house at 2 Brenish, Uig. 

Prior notification for farm-related building works, Uig

Derek Scanlan of 5 Mangersta has submitted prior notification to build an agricultural building at 5 Mangersta, Uig. The building is to be 18 metres long, 5 metres high and 8 metres wide. The building is to be constructed of poured concrete and green corrugates steel sheeting and is to be used as livestock housing and to store fodder and agricultural equipment. 

Siting of caravan, Uig

Derek Scanlan of 5 Mangersta has applied for planning permission to site an additional caravan on an existing site at 5 Mangersta, Uig.

The Western Isles were crowded with Santas yesterday (Saturday December 21st) as annual pre-Christmas runs took place in both Stornoway and Barra.

Stornoway Primary P7 runners (pictured) were among over 100 of all ages who turned out in the cold sunshine in Stornoway to make the dash around town. The event was organised by the temporarily renamed Sport and Elf department of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Meanwhile in Barra there were Santas with sandy feet as the bright weather lured a good turnout to the Santa Dash at the airport beach, Traigh Mhòr.

Suzanne Forman and a team from Castlebay Community School organised the Barra event, which ended with refreshments in the airport café. Café proprietors Mick and Sharon took the chance to wish all their customers well for the last festive season they will be at the airport.

They said: “We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our customers old and new, a very happy holidays and all the best for New Year. As this will be our last Christmas as the proprietors of our beloved Barra airport cafe, we would like to thank all of our staff from the bottom of our hearts.”

The Stornoway Santa picture is from the Robson family and Barra picture from Jackson Frater.

Prehistoric lightning strikes on exposed sites near Loch Roag could have been the inspiration for the building of the Callanish stone circle, according to a new archaeological survey of the area.

A report in yesterday’s (Saturday December 21st) Observer newspaper has put forward the new theory from a group of researchers at the Universities of St Andrews, Bradford and Wales at Lampeter.

Their paper, published on December 11th in the online journal Remote Sensing, suggests that the single standing stone still present at ‘Callanish XI’, 2.8km from the main Callanish stone circle, could mark the spot of one or more massive lightning strikes, which inspired ancient man with the awe which led to their building.

The Observer’s report, by journalist Dalya Alberge, says: “A geophysical survey around one of the stones has astonished archaeologists by revealing a star-shaped pattern formed by one, or possibly multiple, earth-shaking lightning strikes. New technology has exposed a clear pattern covering an area of up to 20 metres in diameter, buried until now beneath peat bogs.”

The researchers used multiple diagnostic techniques in the landscape surrounding the stones, and established that the single stone at Callanish XI was once surrounded by a circle of smaller stones.

It’s also the only location from which all the other Callanish monuments can be seen and may predate the large circle which is now the focus of most visitor attention.

One of the paper’s five authors, archaeological geophysicist Dr Chris Gaffney said that the fossilised lightning strike was invisible from the surface, but that the magnetic evidence indicated a ‘huge’ event.
He said: “The prospect of understanding why a particular stone circle might be in a particular location is amazing. We’re always trying to get into other people’s heads when we’re thinking of these ancient ritual sites. Well, we might now have an idea.”

Pictures show the geophysical image of the lightning event with red marks showing where stones were previously located (lead author Dr Richard Bates) and an image of Callanish at full moon (Callanish Stones & Visitor Centre).

Fixed penalties have been issued to 13 drivers during road traffic patrols carried out by police in the Stornoway area as part of the continuing road safety campaign, Operation Cedar.

Patrols on town centre locations between Thursday December 19th and today (Sunday) detected a variety of offences including speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and careless driving.

Drivers were stopped in locations including Perceval Road, Anderson Road and Willowglen. Those detected speeding were fined £100 and received three penalty points on their licence, while a £100 fixed penalty was issued to others.

One driver was also issued with a vehicle anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) due to the nature of his driving. A second offence of a similar nature will mean confiscation of his vehicle.

A man is to appear in court from custody tomorrow (Monday December 23rd) after being arrested by Stornoway police in the town centre on Friday.

The man was arrested within licensed premises at 7.15pm on Friday. He’s in court on charges connected with a previous incident.

Possible controlled substances

Five people were searched by police in Stornoway town centre over the weekend based on suspicion aroused by their behaviour.

In each case a quantity of a possible controlled substance was confiscated from the individual and has been sent for testing.

If the substances are found to be of a controlled nature the individuals will be charged under the misuse of drugs act and reported to the Procurator Fiscal at a later date.

Vandalism appeal

Stornoway police are appealing for any witnesses to damage caused to a town centre property during last week.

Windows at the rear of an unoccupied property in Scotland Street have been smashed over a period between Saturday December 14th and Thursday December 19th, and police are asking for public help identifying what has happened.

If anyone is aware of someone acting suspiciously in the area between those dates, or heard or saw anything which may help, they are asked to contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH1856/19.

There are Santa suits just looking for bodies to fill them at Lewis Sports Centre today (Friday December 20th) as the Elf enthusiasts get ready for tomorrow’s Santa walk, jog or run through the town centre.

The short and friendly event is designed to raise funds for the Lewis branch of Cancer Research UK, with a small charge to participate and a big promise of good company along the route – since everyone running will be Santa!

Just call into Lewis Sports Centre today to sign up and get your Christmas off to a great start.

Picture shows sports centre staff with the suits that are looking for anybody to put inside them!

 

Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat station has put out a shout for new crew members, ready to sign up for lifesaving work within their own community.


RNLI Leverburgh is home to the Stella and Humfery Berkley, a Shannon-class lifeboat – the latest all-weather lifeboat design to join the RNLI fleet. Agile and manoeuverable, she is capable of a top speed of 25-knots as she races to assist those in trouble at sea.

Volunteer crew members help prevent the loss of life at sea. They learn new skills that enhance their CV and gain the satisfaction of playing a part in the community in which they serve.

All of the crew members are volunteers, and many will say that it’s a way of life and will testify that you get out what you put in. Given the nature of life-boating, the pager can go off at any time of the day or night, so there are unsociable hours.

The role of ALB Crew is to undertake and maintain training as necessary, to be on call for lifeboat ‘shouts’, to attend exercises and to contribute to the overall upkeep of the station, lifeboats and equipment.

RNLI Leverburgh is also looking for a new Deputy Launch Authority (DLA), whose role is to authorise launch of the lifeboats and provide leadership in the absence of the Lifeboat Operations Manager. They also need to ensure that all operational activities are carried out, to maintain the lifeboats and equipment in a constant state of readiness for launch.

Volunteers should live or work within a reasonable distance of Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat station and have the capacity and availability to commit to training. Their personal circumstances or compassionate employer should allow them to respond to service calls and they should have a driving licence and access to a vehicle. The age range is between 17 and 65 and previous maritime experience is not essential.

Applicants will be subject to a selection process with successful applicants being subject to a one year probation period. To find out more, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or apply via www.rnli.org/volroles

Picture: The RNLI Leverburgh team invite you to come and join them (RNLI Leverburgh).

A power plant fire outside the Ardveenish processing factory of Barratlantic Ltd last night (Thursday December 19th) has brought export capability a halt, with essential freezing equipment out of operation.

And the loss of the new external power plant unit has created huge uncertainty over the Barra company’s ability to get its products to its main continental markets for the foreseeable future.

The blaze in an external electrical plant unit broke out around 6.45pm yesterday and was quickly tackled by the Castlebay fire crew, with help from HIAL firefighters from Barra airport.

Fire Scotland’s Western Isles group manager Gavin Hammond told welovestornoway.com today: “The crews tackled the fire defensively at first, until power supply engineers from SSEN were able to isolate the plant. During this time the fire was spreading towards a neighbouring company's portacabin next to the plant.”

The nearby premises of builders merchant Macinnes Brothers Ltd were at one time considered to be at risk, with large stores of wood and other combustible materials close to the seat of the fire.

Once SSEN isolated and shut down the electrical plant, however, crews moved into offensive firefighting using reel hoses and breathing apparatus and were able to bring the blaze under control quickly.

An additional crew and appliance, with a senior officer from Lochboisdale, were brought to Barra from Eriskay by the CalMac ferry. Responding to the emergency, and later returning the fire crew to Eriskay, led to the cancellation of the morning’s early Sound of Barra sailings.

Group manager Hammond said that a total of 14 firefighters brought the fire under control quickly, checking for remaining hotspots using thermal imaging equipment and confirming that all was safe, before all teams were stood down at 8.20pm last night.

He said: “Fortunately there was limited damage, no injuries and no casualties. The incident was another example of how well we are able to work together, with teams from HIAL, SSEN and CalMac ferries involved in the incident. We believe that the fire was entirely accidental and the operation was excellently and effectively executed by all personnel on site.”

But the fire has left a huge question-mark over Barratlantic operations, according to a company spokesperson, who told welovestornoway.com today (Friday): “The plant enabled us to run our blast freezer, which prepares our products for export to the European market using instant, intense deep freezing.

“We have product in the factory right now, and boats out fishing today which are going to land more stock. Sales of fresh product are slowing down now around Christmas and most of the stock is going to the Continent, but without the blast freezer we can’t prepare the fish for export and we actually don’t know what is going to happen.”

Barratlantic is the island’s principal employer, established in 1974 and with about 40 employees. They harvest scallops, langoustines and white fish of all kinds for sale both within the islands and across the UK and Europe.

The electrical plant unit destroyed by fire last night was installed just 18 months ago, in March 2018, with help from both the Scottish Government and the European Union. At that time it was described as “a new, high quality containerised plant room and impingement freezer in order to increase freezing capacity and enhance product quality.”

This latest blow has added further pressure on the company, after a period when ferry cancellations meant that export of frozen fish and shellfish was interrupted because the product could not reach the market within specified time limits.

The pictures show the Barratlantic plant location and scenes during and after last night’s fire. (Barratlantic).

 

 

 

 
The Annual General Meeting of the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band
 
will be held on Monday 6th January, 2020 at 6.15pm
 
in the Pipe Band Hall, 2 Bells Road, Stornoway.
 
 
 

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee has launched an inquiry into the ferry procurement and construction process following the collapse and subsequent nationalisation of Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL).

The Committee has issued a call for evidence as it seeks to find out what lessons can be learned for the procurement and construction of future new ferries, after delays in the delivery of two new vessels for the Clyde and Hebrides ferries network.

The inquiry will look to identify and address challenges and opportunities in the procurement of new vessels to support Scotland’s ferries network, including the impact of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on the future award of new ferry construction contracts.

Areas the inquiry is expected to focus on include:

  • the updated costs and timetable for the completion of two new hybrid ferries to serve the Clyde and Hebrides ferries network;
  • the Scottish Government’s decision to take public ownership of FMEL;
  • potential implications for future procurement of maritime vessels and for the ongoing development of the Scottish Government’s Ferries Plan and Vessel Replacement Programme.   

Committee Convener Edward Mountain MSP said: “Repeated delays to the planned schedule for delivery by Ferguson Marine of the two new hybrid ferries have been further complicated by the company’s entry into administration and the Scottish Government’s subsequent decision to assume public ownership of the Inverclyde shipyard.

“These developments clearly have important implications not only for the completion of the two vessels, but also for future plans for the replacement and refurbishment of vessels to meet the ongoing needs of the Clyde and Hebrides ferries network more generally.

“The Committee wants to find out not only what has gone wrong and how things will be put right, but how these problems can be avoided in the future.”

The committee invites all interested individuals and organisations to submit written evidence on its inquiry.

Responses to the call for evidence should be submitted by no later than 7 February 2020.

The call for evidence will be published on the committee's webpage.

Meanwhile, Rhoda Grant Highlands and Islands Labour MSP has lambasted the Scottish Government following its statement in Holyrood over the Ferguson Shipyard Ferry Fiasco on Wednesday 18 December. The Cabinet Secretary “has himself admitted that concerns were raised by CMAL staff as far back as November 2016 with regard to the construction of 801 and 802. The SNP were warned about this catastrophe over and over again and they still couldn’t fix it.

In his statement, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work Derek Mackay said: “Quality control through the build-out process was largely absent, and the vessels have not been maintained in the condition in which we would expect them to be maintained.”

Mrs Grant expressed her concerns that the state of existing hulls going forward:  “The SNP delayed telling us the full details of this disaster until after the election. I hope they are being fully transparent now and honest with themselves about whether these hulls are even salvageable.

Mrs Grant continued: “They spent £98.5 million on two vessels that never appeared, more money to buy the shipyard and are now forecasting another bill of £98.8 million and another 3 year wait for ferries that are desperately needed.”

Looking back, CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd) placed orders for two new ferries with Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL) in October 2015. The ferries are being delivered on a fixed-price basis under a design and build contract, with a combined fixed-price of £97m. The vessels are powered by hybrid marine gas oil/Liquid Natural Gas-powered engines, which are a world first for sea-going passenger and vehicle roll-on roll-off ferries.

The first ferry, MV Glen Sannox (vessel 801) was due to be delivered in summer 2018, with the second ferry (vessel 802) slightly later.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands wrote to the Committee on 9 November 2017, highlighting a delay in the delivery of the ferries with vessel 801 delayed until Winter 2018/19 and vessel 802 some time later. 

The Cabinet Secretary wrote again to the Committee on 16 August 2018 to advise that “…the first vessel, the MV Glen Sannox, will be delivered during Summer 2019 and the second vessel in Spring 2020”.

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, wrote to the Committee on 25 April 2019 advising that he anticipated a further delay to the delivery of both vessels.

The directors of FMEL filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators on 8 August 2019, effectively starting the process which would place the business in administration.

On 2 December 2019, the Scottish Government confirmed that it had taken the Ferguson Marine shipyard into public ownership following the rejection by administrators of three commercial bids for the company.

On 18 December 2019, the Scottish Government published the Ferguson Marine Programme Review Board report, which indicated a delivery range for vessel 801 of October to December 2021 and a delivery range of July to October 2022 for vessel 802, with an estimated outstanding cost for delivery of the two ferries of £110.3m.

 


Stornoway Street Pastors are inviting people to come and join them on Saturday (December 21st) for an hour of carols and hot chocolate to help raise funds for the important work they do year-round.

The festive celebration offers a warm welcome before what is bound to be a long, cold night for the pastors, who will once again be out on the streets keeping people safe during the busiest social night of the year.

Stornoway’s street pastors are part of a large international organisation, though the local team is small, with just 13 members. Working in teams of three, they focus on getting people home safely after celebrations where they may find themselves disorientated, cold or left behind by their friends.

With a regular pattern of being on duty late into the night every other weekend, they gear up over busy periods and have extra teams out and about over Christmas, at Carnival and HebCelt, on paydays and at special events such as last week’s school dinner-dance.

They get a handover from Action for Children’s street-workers, who are on the streets until midnight keeping an eye on the children and young people who may be in town unaccompanied. Any concern about an individual or group is reported to the street pastors when they start work.

Rev William Heenan of St Columba’s Church in Stornoway is chairman of the Stornoway Street Pastors, all of whom are members of one of the church congregations. He told welovestornoway.com today (Thursday): “It’s practical Christianity and it is completely inter-denominational. We want to help people but we are not proselytising, we’re not hitting people over the head with the Gospel.

“We keep an eye on what’s happening in the streets of Stornoway town centre and, if we see someone who looks in trouble, we check that they are OK and see what help they might need.”

The help might include handing out water to people who are very drunk, thermal blankets to those who are cold or a pair of flip-flops to a girl who has kicked off her high-heels and is walking barefoot. Getting a taxi to get someone home safely might be needed, but some people just get a chat and a lollipop ‘because everybody likes a sweetie,’ says Rev Heenan.

The team work hand-in-hand not just with Action for Children, but with police and the council, as well as with pub landlords, who have a phone number they can ring to reach the pastors if they think a customer is vulnerable.

Rev Heenan said: “Increasingly they are younger people who are out late at night. They are quite vulnerable and we try to get them home safe before they get into any bother. We have a card that we hand out with our number on it and we do get calls the day afterwards from people saying ‘thanks for getting me home’.

“Police and staff at the hospital’s A&E department have commented that they see less people in trouble on the weekends we are on duty, and we also get adults coming up to our pastors in town and saying ‘thank you for looking after our youngsters’, because everyone remembers their own youth and foolishness.”

Stornoway Street Pastors will be recruiting new volunteers in January next year, with a training programme which should see an enlarged team ready for action by Christmas 2020. The training is intensive, ranging from first aid to suicide, alcohol and drug awareness, but once completed it can be used anywhere in the world – there are street pastors from London to Sydney, all of whom would welcome your contribution.

Saturday night’s fundraiser will see carols sung together at Stornoway Town Hall from 7pm, with a cup of hot chocolate afterwards, and is open to everyone.

The picture shows Street Pastor co-ordinator Isabel Macleod with Stornoway PC Johan Macleod and Action for Children ADP streetworker Naomi Macdonald on duty during last year’s Christmas preparations.


Sixteen modern apprentices (MA) will soon be welcomed aboard CalMac ferries after successfully completing their training.

The deck, engine and maritime hospitality apprentices will now all take up full time positions with the company.

They include five modern apprentices from Lewis and Harris (all pictured). Shaun Riddell and Jumbo Stewart from Lewis are engineers, Connor Macdonald from Lewis and Daniel Macleod from Scalpay will be working on deck, and Leanne Macaulay from Harris will be in the retail area.

CalMac works with City of Glasgow College to deliver industry-tailored apprenticeships, where classroom training is combined with practical on-board experience.

The 100th MA was recruited this year and the company's commitment to training the next generation of seafarers has seen the number of apprentices more than double since 2016.

Certificates were presented by Mark Stagg (pictured right), dean of the nautical science and STEM faculty at City of Glasgow College and CalMac's director of operations, Robert Morrison (left).

Robert said: “Our training programmes are an important source of skilled labour for us. Having a pipeline of recruits ensures we are able to continue to seamlessly deliver a consistently high standard of service for customers.

“These qualifications are an excellent foundation for starting a life at sea, whatever direction their career takes them. It also gives us the opportunity to provide well paid, high value jobs that help support the often fragile economies of the communities we support.”

CalMac is the UK’s largest ferry operator, operating a fleet of 33 vessels across a network of 49 routes serving island and remote mainland communities. Last year they carried more than 5.6 million passengers and around 1.4 million vehicles.

The Merchant Navy training board recently named CalMac as one of the top five UK companies for maritime apprenticeships.

An alarming picture has been painted by the official report into the project to build two new ferries for CalMac, including the one for the Tarbert-Uig-Lochmaddy services.

The report to the Scottish Government says there have been a number of issues that have been the root cause of the long delays to the project. These include:

  • lack of project management, particularly critical on 801/02 which are complex ships where no one person has understood and controlled the overall programme
  • an absence of project planning and control systems has resulted in a lack of integrated working, out-of-sequence activities and no useful management information
  • Engineering processes and controls are weak. Specifications from the customer were not fully understood before design work was carried out resulting in an incomplete design and causing significant rework.

As a result of the long delays, the vessels have suffered damage. 

“Vessel 801 has been in the water for two years and the underwater condition has not been established. However, a drydocking has been planned early in the programme. Internally, the care and protection has been poor resulting in equipment damage.

“Vessel 802 has been on the berth for over two years and the paint protection has degraded in this time both on external surfaces and internally due to rainwater ingress into areas of the ship.

“As a result of the immature design and out of sequence working there has been a significant number of defects raised by the customer which have all been reviewed and where required included in the cost and programme. These include a major departure from the specification, the widespread use of axilock couplings, which together with other work, has driven the decision to remove most of the pipework within the engine room.”

The costs for delivery of the vessels are likely to total £110m and they won’t be available until late 2021 and mid-to-late 2022 at the earliest.

“As part of the programme, a remediation package of work has been identified which includes not only the clean-up and defect clearance on the vessels but also plans to improve key areas of the organisation in engineering, project management and planning and controls. Also, improvement of processes in a number of areas is planned, particularly around planning and project controls.

“On completion of the remediation phase, circa seven months, a review of the programme, costs and risks will be undertaken to better refine cost and delivery forecasts.

"In summary, the work has shown that the vessels can be delivered within the time and cost shown above but is not without significant challenges to improve the organisation and its processes in order to ensure the issues around rework and control do not occur. In particular the challenges are:

  •  The re-energising of a demoralised workforce and the improvement of productivity.
  •  The ability to attract the right talent to achieve the resource profiles with sufficiently competent people.
  •  The ability to put in place and operate the new processes required
  •  The impact of future as yet unidentified rework to the project
  •  The control and management of the design subcontractor

During this review phase it has been very difficult to identify management information to use as a baseline for determining the project status. The business does not operate an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system or a document management system and therefore what information exists is fragmented and sits in isolation, the report says.

The basic design, i.e. the development of the vessels structural drawings and system design has still not achieved completion and approval by Customer, Lloyds and/or MCA except in a small number of areas. This is several years behind schedule and has been a key cause of rework on the vessels.

The status of the detailed design, i.e. the spacial layout of systems and equipment in the 3D model and issuing of information to production, has been difficult to establish. This is because the detailed design has been subcontracted to Vera Navis based in Portugal and there was limited management control established to manage this key contractor. Quantifying the work left to complete has been difficult.

There is no single source of information to define the status of the bill of material. It remains uncertain as to whether all equipment has been purchased, particularly where change has occurred. In particular, the estimate of total pipe quantities is uncertain and this is a key component for determining the programme timescales.

As a consequence of inadequate planning and a lack of production information work has been undertaken out of sequence in a number of areas particularly where insulation, ceilings and cladding have been installed. This gives the appearance of good progress but in reality this will be substantially deconstructed in order for other work to progress, particularly where hotwork is required.

There has been inadequate control of onsite subcontractors who are performing the design and installation of electrical, HVAC and accommodation outfit. This has resulted in limited design oversight and limited integration of the work at the vessel with the overall workscope. The subcontractors have therefore been frustrated in their ability to perform the work and in a number of instances this has resulted in claims, the report says. 

Reacting, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “The SNP Government seems to possess no understanding of how critically important the ferry service is to island communities like those I represent in Argyll and Bute, Skye and the Western Isles.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the vessel destined for the Skye, Harris and North Uist route will not be ready until the summer of 2022.

“This saga is entirely the fault of the SNP government. Confidence is steadily draining away as the service deteriorates and costs escalate.

“No wonder hard-pressed businesses based on the islands take such a dim view of the SNP’s twelve-year record as custodians of our vital transport infrastructure.

“Nicola Sturgeon's government needs to stop obsessing about another independence referendum and instead do the job they are paid to do, which includes keeping our lifeline ferry services fit for purpose.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan questioned Economy Secretary Derek Mackay on Wednesday about the project at the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow. 

The Cabinet Secretary gave an update to Parliament about progress on the two new dual-fuel ferries are under construction for CalMac. The yard was officially taken into public ownership earlier this month after t Ferguson Marine Engineering went into administration.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The delays to the delivery of these vessels have been unacceptable. As I said in Parliament earlier today, it is vitally important to my constituents in Harris and Uist that vessel 802 in particular enters into service as soon as possible and relieves pressure on an ageing fleet.

“Without the Scottish Government stepping in to purchase Ferguson Marine, and bring it under public ownership, there would be no obvious means of ensuring completion of the new ferries. The Tories have let their ideology trump the needs of our island communities by continuing their opposition to this move.

“The recently-published report on the costs and proposals around these vessels lays out in some detail the how the previous failings in management have caused such significant delays. I hope vital lessons will be learned from this and that we get the building of these vessels back on track and delivered as soon as possible.”

The Programme Review Board report is available on the Scottish Government website

HebCelt festival favourites Tide Lines will return to the stage for a record-breaking fourth successive year in 2020 to help mark the event’s 25th anniversary.

The award-winning band will headline the Thursday night line-up at the Hebridean Celtic Festival where they made their debut in 2017.

They have been annual visitors ever since and their headline appearance this year marked the first time in the festival’s history that an act had played three years in a row, a record they will now extend in 2020.

In keeping with the homecoming theme to help celebrate the milestone anniversary, two other, familiar HebCelt acts will also return next year - internationally renowned Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, who will be appearing at the event for the first time in four years, and Trail West, who were last at HebCelt two years ago. Young local group Dual are also confirmed for next year.

Scots rock giants Texas were previously unveiled as the headline act for the anniversary event, which will run from 15-18 July 2020, with other major artists still to be announced.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “This is a fabulous group of artists to announce for our 25th anniversary. We expect many islanders to return home to help us mark the occasion and the homecoming theme is reflected in the line-up, with some standout artists from previous festivals coming back to join the celebrations.

“And there’s more to come. Early in the new year we hope to announce further fantastic artists who will be making up a brilliant and diverse line-up. We are aiming for one of our best programmes ever for our landmark year.”

After launching on social media in 2016, Tide Lines have become a phenomenon. Their debut single, ‘Far Side of the World’, entered the UK download charts less than 24 hours after they were formed and their fervent online fanbase ensure their gigs sell out in minutes. With a growing following across the UK and in Europe, they were also shortlisted for Live Act of the Year in the 2017 MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. This year they won The Rising Sound of Scotland award at the Scottish Music Awards.

The launch of an EP in 2018 tapped into the band’s affinity with HebCelt when they recorded a live version of ‘Far Side of the World’ featuring the festival audience.Robert Robertson, the band’s vocalist, said: “We are very excited to be part of HebCelt’s 25th anniversary celebrations. The fact we are appearing for a fourth consecutive year shows what the festival and its audience mean to us and we can’t wait to join in the homecoming party.”

Julie Fowlis has had an association with the Hebridean Celtic Festival since 1998 and last performed on stage to mark the event’s 21st birthday in 2016.

Nominated as ‘Folk Singer of the Year’ at the 2018 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and ‘Best Artist’ at the Songlines World Music Awards, the North Uist-raised artist has been a serial visitor since being given one of her first solo singing opportunities as part of the specially-commissioned project ‘Atlantic Movement’.

Since then she has become universally recognised for singing the theme song to ‘Brave’, Disney Pixar's Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning animated film, as well as other major achievements, including performing live at the closing ceremony of the Ryder Cup in Chicago in 2012 to a TV audience of 500 million and at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, which had a TV audience of 1 billion.

Her career has spanned five albums and she has recorded with a wide range of leading artists, including violin virtuoso Nicola Benedetti and singers James Taylor and Mary Chapin Carpenter.  Another busy year for Julie in 2019 has included a sell-out UK tour with the Lost Words: Spell Songs project, as well as performances throughout Europe and North America, including Carnegie Hall in New York and at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall.

She was one of the first inductees to the HebCelt Hall of Fame and is an ambassador for the event. Julie said: “Appearing at HebCelt always feels like going home for me. The festival holds a special place in my heart and I’m thrilled to be part of the 2020 celebrations.”

Trail West, whose four original members hail from Tiree and South Uist, became a six-piece band in 2017. The band have released three critically acclaimed albums and are at the forefront of the thriving traditional music scene featuring Glasgow Gaels.

They celebrate ten years of playing in 2020 and their appearance at HebCelt is one of a series of gigs planned throughout the year to mark the occasion.

The band’s Seonaidh MacIntyre said: “It’s going to be a great celebration at HebCelt 2020 as we mark our 10th anniversary as a band, along with HebCelt’s landmark 25th anniversary. A recipe for a great party.

“We played at the 2018 festival on the Islands Stage and it’s still one of the best gigs we’ve had to date. The atmosphere was incredible and we hope to repeat that at HebCelt 2020.”

Local musicians Dual met at Fèis Eilean an Fhraoich. They now attend the Fèis Eilean an Fhraoich groupwork classes which run throughout the year at the Newton Centre in Stornoway.

They are tutored by local musicians Andrew Yearley, Anna Murray and Jane Hepburn, all of whom have been regular performers at HebCelt.

Dual’s dedication to honing their performance and stagecraft won them first place in the Under 19 folk group competition at The Royal National Mod in Glasgow 2019.

 

NHS Western Isles backs option for Barra hospital and school service.

At a special private meeting of Western Isles Health Board on November 27, 2019, Board members reviewed and discussed the Feasibility Study in relation to the Barra and Vatersay Community Campus.

Four options were considered as part of the study.

  • Option 1A: New build integrated facility combing health, social care, learning and community facilities into a single campus.
  • Option 1B: New build integrated facility combing health, social care, learning and community facilities into a single campus with diverted main road.
  • Option 2: Integrated facility with retained elements from existing Castlebay School e.g. sports hall and reception area.
  • Option 3: Standalone St Brendan’s Health and Social Care Hub by NHSWI on currently proposed site, and standalone school and community facilities by CnES on the existing school site.
  • Option 4: Collaborative approach (NHSWI & CnES) to project development (design, procurement and construction) but on existing separate sites.

The Board was unanimous in its decision to accept Option 1B. The Board’s view is that Option 1B is the only option that delivers the maximum and optimal level of organisational and operational integrated working, whilst at the same time potentially offering significantly greater community, learning, and wellbeing benefits.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Chief Executive, Malcolm Burr, issued the following joint statement: “We are delighted that we have reached this important milestone - co-creating with our colleagues in Council and Health, the wider public sector, and community - such an Education and Wellbeing Centre, unique in its makeup. This, we believe, is the best possible outcome for the population of Barra and Vatersay.

“These facilities will be a beacon for others, and a pathfinder, delivering on key government objectives and policy and something truly transformational for the population.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has commented on the decision.“Now that NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar both have an agreed-upon option for investment on the island it is imperative that we soon start to see real progress made on the ground.

“Ultimately, this is about the future delivery of public services to the community in Barra and Vatersay. We also need to the see the community as fully involved in that process as possible.”

This post has been updated since first being published.

 

 

 

Please note that tonight’s meeting (Wednesday 18th) in the Castlebay Hall has been postponed due to the weather forecast and the cancellation of ferry services.

The meeting will be rescheduled and further information will be provided nearer the time.

 


There are still places available for festive activities organised by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sport and Elf department – but the online booking system is down, so all booking must be done in person.

Sport and Elf activities on Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th December include special sessions for children aged 0 to primary 7.

A spokesman for Lewis Sports Centre said: “We have had some technical issues with our online booking system for Christmas motiv8 bookings, we have closed our online system whilst we try to resolve these. If you would like to book your child onto any classes in the meantime please call our reception on 01851 822800.”

There are also still places available for the 2019 Santa Walk/Jog/Run, to be run on Saturday (December 21st) and supporting the Lewis Branch of Cancer Research UK.

It’s open to old and young and Santa suits are available to collect now. Entry costs £6 for adults, including loan of a Santa suit, or £3 if you have your own. Youths are £4 including suit, or £2 if you bring your own, and tiny children dressed in Christmas clobber can take part for £1.

Please call 01851 822800 to book a place. The picture shows last year’s runners at full tilt along North Beach Street.


Children who attend a church project in Great Bernera have created a special Advent message, with their own rendition of a popular carol, sung in Gaelic.

The children from Bernera Church of Scotland’s Molaidh Mi E (We will praise Him) group have recorded their verse of Oidhche Shàmhach (Silent Night) with the help of MG Alba, and it’s been included as part of the Church of Scotland’s online Advent calendar today (Wednesday December 18th).

The group, which meets in Bernera church hall every Monday night, was prompted by the recent introduction of fibre optic broadband to the island, which has allowed them to produce their own online creative Christian worship material.

Rev Hugh Stewart, the minister at Lochs-in-Bernera linked with Uig, said:
“Joy is central to the vibrant, vivacious witness of life-affirming Christian faith. Never more so than at this special time of year.

“Christian joy and praise are foundational to the Molaidh Mi E Project, and it’s great to see such wonderfully talented children creatively and joyfully working together to produce Biblically based Gaelic praise materials in today’s quill and parchment: the internet.”

Supporters of the MME Project include Comataidh Gaidhlig, Eaglais na h-Alba and Comunn na Gaidhlig.

Amongst the children involved in the project is Roseanne MacInnes-Smith, a young girl who has had to learn to speak for the third time, following recent life-threatening surgery. Also featured in the video are Joseph Smith-MacInnes, Eva Douglas, Rebecca MacKenzie, Sarah MacKenzie and Carrie Douglas.

You can watch the video at https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news-and-events/news/2019/advent-2019/day-18


The waters around the Outer Hebrides are to become a training ground for a massive environmental campaign over Hogmanay, as ocean advocate Lewis Pugh plans a new challenge.

The renowned ocean swimmer and environmental campaigner is in training for the East Antarctica Ice-sheet Swim, scheduled for January 22nd 2020, and he’s heading for Lewis on December 28th to begin ten days of gruelling acclimatisation and training in island waters.

Lewis has chosen to train with endurance swimmer Colin Macleod, who completed his long-planned Minch swim this summer. Also accompanying them will be Scottish wild-swimmer Calum Maclean, an ambassador for the Outdoor Swimming Society, who says he has yet to find water cold enough to stop him swimming.

Today’s (Wednesday December 18th) Times newspaper carries a small ad seeking ‘young guns’ to join the polar training party, promising no tea breaks, no Hogmanay and the need to swim and run hard.

Colin Macleod told welovestornoway.com that anyone joining the group would need to be experienced cold water swimmers. He said: “I am very excited about swimming with Lewis later this month. Anyone else up for it?”

Lewis is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Patron for Oceans. He has previously pioneered swims in the most hostile waters on earth including the North Pole and the Himalayas.

He describes Antarctica as ‘the last pristine ocean wilderness’ and is planning to bring all 24 nations plus the EU coming together to agree Marine Protection status for more of the continent and its seas.

His East Antarctica swim will be under the protection of Russian ice-hockey champion Slava Fetisov, a two-time Olympic champion and captain of the renowned Red Army team. As UN Patron of the Polar Regions he is also a defender and protector of the world's vulnerable icy extremes and he will be standing by to support Lewis during his challenge.

Lewis plans to swim one kilometre across a lake of ice-water which sits on top of a glacier near the Russian research station Novolazarevskaya. Apart from the extreme temperature and wind chill, the lake is also subject to the risk of sudden emptying if a crack appears in the ice-sheet below.

The challenge is to be broadcast live by satellite around the world and Lewis said: “We are looking forward to reminding the world that Antarctica is a place of peace, friendship and science.”

“The continent of Antarctica has always been a place for cooperation. Our expedition amplifies this spirit of friendship and peace. And it comes in a special anniversary year: The year 2020 will mark 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica by Russian Admiral Bellingshausen. Immediately after the expedition, we will head to Moscow to participate in events around the anniversary celebrations.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the challenge and the training over Hogmanay should contact Lewis Pugh via his website:
www.lewispugh.com

Pictures show Lewis Pugh during a previous polar challenge, Calum Maclean swimming Loch Ness the day after the General Election, and Colin Macleod during one of his regular swims around the Hebrides.

(This story has been updated to include new contact details).

An advertising drive is being launched in the New Year to encourage more people to consider car-sharing in the Highlands and Islands.

All of the major fuel stations across the area will feature adverts on pump handles encouraging people to consider joining the HITravel Liftshare scheme in 2020.

Behind the initiative is HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands, which has attracted Paths for All funding to raise the profile of car sharing. HITRANS has regularly advertised the scheme through major employers in the area, but this year’s campaign sees them take the message directly to people at the pumps. So when drivers next fill up, it’s hoped that the adverts might help some save more on their fuel costs in 2020.

In launching the scheme, Highland Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of HITRANS, hopes that commuters will make car sharing their New Year’s resolution.

He said: “ We all share cars regularly, with our friends and family, without thinking about it. But there are often times when a driver has empty seats simply because they don't know anyone who needs a lift or they might not be aware of the benefits of sharing. The Hitravel Liftshare Scheme enables organised car sharing by connecting people travelling in the same direction so they can arrange to travel together and share the costs, whilst reducing congestion and pollution at the same time.

“Whilst we understand the necessity for many of the private car for travel across the Highlands and Islands, we are hoping we could all do more to enable people to share money, help the environment and share journeys. You don’t have to share every day, even sharing once a week with someone makes a big difference. We hope people will be surprised how much the benefits add up over time; we’re talking savings of hundreds of pounds a year for regular users as well as reducing your carbon footprint and decreasing congestion and parking pressures.”

Stuart Douglas SCSP Manager Paths for All said: “We are delighted to support this initiative from HITRANS.  Sharing journeys saves money, reduces carbon footprint and increases social connection, helping the Highlands be an even better place to live, work and visit.”

The Liftshare Scheme is open to anyone over 18 years of age. Commuters, students, football supporters, festival-goers, tourists, employees - anyone! Joining the scheme is simple and FREE. All that is necessary is to register your details and then activate your account.

More information can be found at the HiTravel web site https://liftshare.com/uk/community/hitravel

Local people aged 55 and over are being urged to respond to a leading charity’s new national housing survey by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

The national charity for older people, Age Scotland, is seeking the views of older people about their housing needs and household energy usage to help shape future Scottish Government policy.

Scotland’s population is ageing at a faster rate than the rest of the UK and a quarter of Scotland’s population set to be over 65 by 2043.

The Scottish Government has pledged to build 50,000 new homes by the end of this Parliament, and Age Scotland wants to ensure the government have as much information as possible about the housing needs of older people to ensure the right kinds of homes are being built.

It is hoped that the findings from this survey will help to shape the Scottish Government’s housing policy as it relates to older people, with a view to how to help people live well and independently in their own or new home for as long as possible.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“The age profile of the Western Isles means few other places in Scotland have such a pressing need to ensure their elderly are properly taken care of.

“With an increasingly ageing population we need to ensure that there are enough homes in the right places, suitable for older people.

“I would encourage anyone over 55 to take part in this survey as it will help provide the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament the information it needs to better plan for the future.”

Adam Stachura, Head of Policy and Communications at Age Scotland, added: “The quality of the housing you live in has a profound impact on your health, especially as you reach older age. We want everyone to live well in their home and be able to use it to its full extent.

“Often people discover far too late that where they live is no longer suitable for their needs. It can become unaffordable and inefficient to heat, more inaccessible and harder to access the routine local services they need. This survey will not only help highlight how suitable homes are for an ageing population but give us great insight into at what stage people make decisions about their future.”

As an added incentive, there are five £50 cash prizes available for randomly selected participants.

Copies of the survey are available from Alasdair Allan’s local office at 20 Kenneth Street, Stornoway or online at www.age.scot/housingsurvey

 

The festive spirit is strong in Point and Sandwick as the Christmas parties for social groups get into full swing – with photographer Sandie Maciver on hand to capture some of the action.

The parties are funded by an annual round of donations from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, as part of their fight against social exclusion and isolation, and have been hailed a great success once again.

Most of the grants have gone to social groups for the over-60s, including Cairdean Og Allt nan Gall and Tiumpan Young at Heart club, but groups for the very young benefited too, with a grant going to Point Parent and Toddler Group for the second year running.

Other groups which also received festive grants included the Tiumpanhead Community Association, the SHARE (Sandwick Hall and Recreation Enterprise) Association and the ASK group, from Aignish, Swordale and Knock.

Cairdean Og Allt nan Gall and the Young at Heart club were among those out on the town in Stornoway last week. Cairdean Og Allt nan Gall went to the Boatshed at the Royal Hotel on Tuesday (December 10), while the Young at Hearts went to the Caberfeidh Hotel on Thursday (December 12).

Willie Munro, treasurer of the Cairdean, said it was an “absolutely magnificent” occasion, while Kenny Nicholson, chair of the Young at Hearts, said it was their “best yet”.

Meanwhile, Point Parent and Toddler Group held their Christmas party on Friday December 13 and covered the costs of buying a book and toy for the children, as well as the party food, with the Point and Sandwick Trust grant.

Since parents did not have to provide the party food themselves this year, they took the collective decision to give donations to the local food bank instead.

Catriona Dunn, chair of the group, said this showed how support from Point and Sandwick Trust was having a positive knock-on effect in the community.

She said: “We invited people who were coming to bring a donation for the food bank. That is the value added to the Point and Sandwick grant to us – that we’re able to pass it on – and the parents contributed a lot so we’re really grateful to them for that. I think it was such a good idea.”

Willie Munro, treasurer of the Cairdean, said the money from Point and Sandwick Trust had “helped enormously” and more than covered the costs of their meal at the Boatshed.

He said: “It was absolutely magnificent. It was on a par if not better than last year and the entertainment, from Iain MacKay, was good as well. A lot of our members are Gaelic speakers and Iain was singing Gaelic songs so they were fairly thumping their feet.

“It went down well and the meal was excellent.”

Willie said the support from Point and Sandwick Trust was “tremendous” and urged anyone over the age of 60 in the Point area – between Aignish and the Shulishader boundary – to come along and join the group for company and craic. They meet on the first Tuesday of every month in the Ionad Stoodie community centre at 2pm and always have a guest speaker.

The Young at Heart Club made the most of their night out, with an open bar as well as a meal at the Caberfeidh.

It also tied in with the 55th wedding anniversary of one of the couples in their group.

Their chair, Kenny Nicholson, said: “It was absolutely amazing and we tied it in with the wedding anniversary. There was a cake and everything made for them and they enjoyed it to the hilt.

“What a night we had! It was so encouraging because we had this money and nobody had to go in their pockets. Everyone really enjoyed it.”

Kenny said the whole occasion was a great success from start to finish, from the setting – “the best room in the Caber and the tables were set beautifully” – to the entertainment from John Murdo and Alex Murdo on the accordions.

Kenny added:  “Everybody was over the moon. We couldn’t do it without Point and Sandwick Trust and from now on we’re going to be calling it The Point and Sandwick Christmas Do.

“Those 40 people were as happy as they’ve been all year. They were all at the hairdressers and getting their nails done! I spoke to one 90-year-old the week before and she said, ‘I’ve got my nails booked and my hair to do!’ It was so exciting for them and the best of gear comes out.

“It was just like old times and it makes them young again.”

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “We are proud to be supporting a network of community groups who are delivering valuable social support to those at risk of social isolation, including the over 60s and parents of young children.

“These groups play such an important part in the health and happiness of a community and they can always count on support and encouragement from us at Point and Sandwick Trust.

“We’re very pleased the parties have been going so well and delighted to hear that our support has led, in turn, to support for the food bank. Well done to all those who keep these groups going, year round, and wish them all a very Merry Christmas from PST.”

Pictures from the Cairdean Og Allt nan Gall and Tiumpan Young at Heart parties by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotosredit if using). 

 

The Connected Communities wireless broadband network in the Outer Hebrides is to close at the end of March 2020.

It’s the end of an era for the technology which has provided broadband to medical services, schools, homes and businesses over the past 15 years. The network stretched from Barra to Ness in the north of Lewis.

With the roll-out of fibre broadband across the islands, public sector and residential customers have been transferring to mainstream services.

Owners of the network Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have been scaling back the system as demand has fallen.

The agency says the high fixed costs of the network mean it is no longer viable to continue the service, and are alerting ConCom customers so they can transfer to alternative solutions.

Options include checking availability of fibre, 4G and satellite services.

Stuart Robertson, director of digital at HIE, said: “Connected Communities has played a vital part in island life for 15 years and switching it off marks the end of an era. It’s helped us run our medical services, our schools, and has linked our people and businesses with the online world.

“We’ve kept the ConCom network going as long as possible while the publicly funded fibre roll-out has progressed.  Creating ConCom and keeping it going for the past 15 years has been a considerable investment by HIE and our partners that ensured the Outer Hebrides were able to share in the benefits of early broadband.  However, we’ve reached the point where other solutions are now available and it’s no longer viable to subsidise this ageing network from public funds.

“There are around 500 remaining customers across the islands. We want to give them as much notice as possible to check for alternative solutions. We have advice on our website www.hie.co.uk/broadband and we also have details of how to contact us for anyone who is struggling to work out what’s available for them.“

With the arrival of fibre broadband in the Outer Hebrides, connectivity has changed dramatically, with more than eight in ten premises across the area are able to order. The £146m Digital Scotland project, led in the region by HIE, brought superfast broadband to the Outer Hebrides for the first time.

It included five subsea fibre optic cables linking the islands to each other and the mainland. The longest subsea link was almost 50 miles and was landed at the Braighe near Stornoway in 2014. The first superfast broadband home went live in June 2015.

Today, coverage stretches across 29 telephone exchange areas from Barra to Lewis, bringing superfast to around 80% of homes and businesses.

Public sector premises are migrating to high speed services available through Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN). Availability of 4G is also continuing to extend with mobile operators offering technology and home broadband packages.   

A further public investment for the Scottish Government’s Reaching 100% (R100) programme is currently going through procurement. Its aim is to deliver access to superfast services to all.

Connected Communities is a publicly-funded wireless broadband network which was developed by HIE in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

It was introduced in 2005 to provide an industry standard network, capable of providing connectivity to vital island services including schools and health centres that would otherwise have had no access. It also provided services to home and business users across the islands who had no access to mainstream ADSL broadband. Internet services are provided by Hebrides.net.

When the network is switched off HIE plans to remove equipment from mast sites, some of which are already decommissioned.

A locket holding two portraits of a loved one is ready to be reunited with its owner, after being accidentally added to a donation bucket.

Bethesda Hospice fundraisers found the gold locket, which opens to reveal two portraits of a man – possibly the same man at different ages – after a bag-packing day at the Co-op last week.

The locket, without a chain and of a size similar to a coin, seemed to have been accidentally dropped into the collection along with a handful of change.

Now Bethesda are keen to reunite the precious keepsake with its owner.

A spokesperson for Bethesda said: “During our bag-packing fundraiser last week at the Co-op Store Macaulay Road, a gold locket was found in amongst the collection.This must be of sentimental value to someone and may have been mistakenly dropped from a purse into our collection tubs.”

Anyone who thinks they know who owns the locket can contact Bethesda Hospice on 01851 706222.

 

Festive creativity is being tested to the limit this week as households prepare their decorations and menus for Christmas day.

But one Edinburgh baker has beaten the rest by creating a historically accurate model of Carloway Broch – entirely made of gingerbread!

Jennifer Stuart has created her ‘Gingerbroch House’ as part of a long-running contest with a friend, with each of them battling to design the ultimate gingerbread construction at Christmas.

In previous years admin-worker Jennifer has created a lighthouse and a Norwegian church, but a trip to Lewis last year gave her new inspiration, and her model of Dun Carloway has been acclaimed by archaeologists with an eye for detail.

Jennifer told weslovestornoway.com: “We were in Lewis in September 2018, staying in a very fine air-B&B shed with a tiny wood-burning stove near Borve.

"We were lucky enough to visit the broch at Carloway on a glorious day and it was absolutely gorgeous, so when it came to this year’s challenge I decided to model that.”

The gingerbread recipe is Jennifer’s own, made without eggs so that it lasts longer, but destined to be reduced to rubble soon after Christmas.

Jennifer said: “When it gets to Boxing Day and we’re all slumped on the sofa, we’ll start pulling bits off and dipping them in coffee.”

And she already has plans for a return to Lewis. “I’d love to come back and do a model of the Callanish Stones in gingerbread for next Christmas. I’ve already had one request for that!”

Jennifer is pictured with her model of Carloway Broch at her home in Edinburgh.

Stornoway police are asking for public help after a man was assaulted on South Beach Street on Thursday December 12th.

The assault is believed to have occurred at about 1.15pm and involved three other men. It took place in a pedestrian area and is believed to have been witnessed by members of the public in the area at the time.

Anyone with information or who witnessed the incident is asked to come forward and make contact with Police Scotland, using the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if they would prefer to remain anonymous.

The incident reference is NH 1597/19.

HHP staff were delighted to be able to give two local charities an early Christmas present last week. 

Staff collected over £1,000 throughout the year through dress down Fridays, raffles and bake sales, and then selected Alzheimer Scotland Lewis and Harris Services and Bethesda Hospice to receive £500 each.

The money was handed over on Christmas Jumper Day to Marion Macinnes of Alzheimer Scotland Lewis and Harris Services and to Carol Somerville and Natalie Keiller from Bethesda Hospice by Jackie Macleod on behalf of HHP staff.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan yesterday announced the winner of the annual schools’ competition to design his Christmas card.

The winner is Zoe Leparoux, a Primary 7 pupil from Sgoil Uig, whose design featured festive highland cattle with Santa in the sunset.

Alasdair Allan presented Zoe with an array of Scottish Parliament-themed prizes when he visited the school earlier this morning to announce the competition’s winner.

The island MSP has run the schools’ competition since he was first elected in 2007 and receives many hundreds of entries from schools across the Western Isles every year. The winning entry is sent out to over a thousand individuals and organisations across the constituency and across the country.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“As always, it was very difficult to choose a winner from among the many wonderful and imaginative designs submitted by school children from across the islands. However, I am very proud to have Zoe’s design as my official Christmas card and I hope she enjoys her prizes.

“I would like to thank all of the pupils and schools who took part this year, as well as this year’s sponsors Horshader Community Development Trust, Hebridean Energy, Bob Golland Plumbing and Heating, Ken MacDonald & Co and The Blue Pig Studio in Carloway for their generous donations towards the cost of printing the card.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all of my constituents a very happy and peaceful Christmas with their families.”

Alasdair Allan with Zoe Leparoux and other Sgoil Uig pupils

A public meeting in Castlebay on Wednesday evening (December 18th) will offer islanders a chance to have a say on future Uist and Barra bus services.

The meeting at  Castlebay Hall from 7.30pm will provide an opportunity to discuss the next public bus contract and review the priorities identified as part of the participatory budgeting process used when the current contracts were introduced.

The Comhairle’s head of municipal services, David Macleod, said: “The main purpose of these meetings will be to provide an opportunity to give feedback on the current services and to review the service priorities identified previously.

“As there was a significant amount of work carried out as part of the participatory budgeting process before the current contract was put in place it is likely that the main priorities have not changed significantly. However, it is always important to provide an opportunity for feedback on the existing service before proceeding with a new contract. This contract will be will be operator-designed.

“In addition to Community Councils, we would welcome any specific groups or individual users who would be interested in attending to inform the discussion.”


Members of the Isle of Harris Golf Club got together at the Harris Hotel on Saturday night (December 14th) for the annual presentation of trophies after a year of competition.

Hugh Maclean was MC for the night, and the big winner was Billy Fraser, who came away with 10 prizes, while Morag MacDonald was the ladies prizewinner.  Norrie Tomsh Macdonald was awarded the 'Faldo Fiver' and there was sympathy for Richard Marshall, who achieved a dozen runner-up finishes in 2019, though he did win twice.

The Isle of Harris Golf Club last week announced that the Isle of Harris Disabled Open has been selected as one of the five major events in the Scottish Disabilty golf calendar. Branded the West Classic it is being played over two days on 30th and 31st July 2020.

Any sponsors out there wanting to get involved would be warmly welcomed and should contact Kenny Morrison, Captain.

Picture shows some of the club members with the trophy collection at the Harris Hotel (Norman Macdonald).

Bòrd na Gàidhlig has issued a formal response to a watchdog audit report, which criticised its leadership and lack of transparency in decision-making last week.

The report from the Auditor General (Audit Scotland), published on Friday (December 13th) included wide-ranging recommendations for improvement.

It said: “Our audit has identified a number of significant issues which require urgent action by the Board, management and the Scottish Government Sponsor Division (‘the Sponsor Division’). These were considered and accepted by the Committee in June 2019. A detailed improvement plan has been agreed to move this forward.

“This covers areas such as the vision of BnaG; staff engagement; collaboration, clarity and consistency in leadership; training and development; change management; openness and transparency; the governance framework; self-assessment procedures; roles and responsibilities of the Board, SMT and Sponsor Division; management of risk and maintaining high standards of conduct and behaviour.”

In their official response to the report, the Bòrd said: “This is the most in-depth audit the organisation has ever undergone. It follows an extremely busy three years for Bòrd na Gàidhlig with many changes in structure and procedures taking place.

“Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s board recognises the findings, which focused on its governance, leadership and management as well as its openness and transparency, were not all good news for the organisation.

“The Bòrd na Gàidhlig board recognises the need to develop new ways of working and has embarked on a comprehensive programme of change. These changes across the whole organisation include reviewing the board’s remit and governance, management structure and communication and collaboration with others, both internally and externally; developing the board and senior management’s skills and knowledge, creating a training plan for the board, senior management team and staff and developing a culture of greater openness and transparency.”

Mairi MacInnes, Bòrd na Gàidhlig interim chair, said: “Periods of change are difficult for any organisation, so Bòrd na Gàidhlig is not unique. This report has highlighted many of the challenges we have faced during the past three years, particularly in terms of the volume of work we have to deliver every day, our recruitment challenges and our limited resources. For the organisation to grow and achieve the commitments in our Corporate Plan 2018-23, we must continue to review all of our work and make changes where necessary. We remain committed to completing our programme of change, to help Gaelic flourish in Scotland and for Gaelic communities to continue to grow and thrive.

“We all want Bòrd na Gàidhlig to be a success story – taking on board this report’s findings will help us work towards that goal.”

The full report is available at https://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/report/bòrd-na-gàidhlig-annual-audit-report-201819


A new non-stick paint coating is set to make CalMac ferry MV Loch Seaforth more fuel-efficient, according to vessel owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).

The repainting work was completed during recent annual dry dock maintenance in Birkenhead. The work involved completely blasting the hull back to bare steel and repainting with a new low emission, fuel-saving coating.

The silicone-based paint, called Jotun Seaquest, uses cutting-edge anti-fouling technology to keep the vessel free of barnacles and other debris that attaches to the hull while at sea. The new paint job is guaranteed to keep the hull debris free for at least five years.

CalMac's director of operations, Robert Morrison, said: “This new non-stick hull uses a coating that makes it much harder for organisms to attach themselves to the vessel, making it more streamlined. This means it requires less fuel to maintain its normal operational speed.”

As a further environmental benefit, the coating is free from harmful chemicals, avoiding pollutants leaching into the sea.

The 7800-tonne MV Loch Seaforth is the largest in CalMac's fleet and carries out approximately 2,500 sailings between Ullapool and Stornoway every year, totalling around 132,000 sea miles annually.

John Salton, Fleet Manager at CMAL said: “The new coating will help to reduce future dry dock periods and hopefully allow a quicker return to service.  We will monitor the performance of the new coating over the next year and we may consider applying it to other vessels in the fleet.”

As well as general overhaul maintenance work, the vessel also had a main engine strip down and service during her time in dry dock. She later had further maintenance work completed in Stornoway, bringing engineers from Denmark and Germany to the islands to trouble-shoot snags after her drydock period.

Picture shows: The MV Loch Seaforth in dry dock with her new environmentally friendly paint job.

Loganair has today (Monday December 16th) announced a regular upgrade to larger jet aircraft for services between Glasgow and Benbecula.

The 49-seat Embraer regional jet aircraft will now be serving the route on a year-round basis.

Embraers have been operating selected weekend services to Benbecula over the last 12 months, but will now replace the airline’s 33-seat Saab 340 turboprops on a regular basis on morning and afternoon flights through the year.

It means not only more seats, but faster journey times between Glasgow and Benbecula, with up to ten minutes shaved off each flight.

Loganair’s chief executive Jonathan Hinkles described the move as a major upgrade for the Glasgow service representing a ‘quantum change’ for Uist air services.

Stornoway band Peat & Diesel are finishing a fairy-tale year with a Christmas single that’s headed for the top of the charts.

The ‘Fairytale of Stornoway’, which was released less than 24 hours ago, is tonight (Sunday December 16th) currently standing at No 2 in the Amazon music downloads chart and No 6 in the iTunes chart, and there’s even a dedicated fan page lobbying to get them to number one.

Keith Morrison of Wee Studio, who released the accompanying video yesterday said he and the band were ‘over the moon’ at the instant success of the quirky cover, featuring the boys of P&D together with Mairead Fay Nicolson for both glamour and a tuneful counterpoint to Boydie’s trademark style. The video had been viewed almost 150,000 times by 8.20pm today (Sunday).

The original Fairytale of New York, made famous (and charting every year) by The Pogues, has been given a Boydie make-over. It now includes distinctively Lewis lines like “the boys of the SY village byre were singing Eilean Fraoich.” There are also less controversial insults than those used by Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl in the original. “Ye cailleach, ye bleggard” seems quite tame  – though those fluent enough in Gaelic might disagree.

A professionally-shot video by Wee Studio was pulled together at the last minute after behind-the-scenes drama with earlier filming. Mingling Lews Castle ballroom scenes with live footage of Stornoway’s Christmas lights switch-on, the video itself has clocked up over 4,000 views.

You can download the single on all digital platforms and watch the video at https://www.facebook.com/PEATANDDIESEL/videos/437317707205458/?v=437317707205458

Stills from the video filming session are from Peat & Diesel

 

Western Isles police are asking for help from the public after a vehicle was vandalised in Barra between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

The white 4x4 was parked at Maol Dhomhnaich at Castlebay between 4pm on Friday (December 13th) and 11.45am on Saturday when the rear passenger window was smashed.

Anyone who saw or heard anything in the area between these times, or who knows how the damage may have occurred, is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH1799/19.

 

Stornoway police have issued an appeal for information after an apparent road traffic accident on Seaforth Road left a vehicle badly damaged.

The silver Vauxhall Corsa was left with serious damage along its driver’s side in an apparent impact between 7.30pm on Friday (December 13th) and 8am on Saturday morning.

Anyone who saw or heard anything, or who knows how this may have occurred, is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number, quoting incident NH1797/19.

 

A man is to appear in court in Stornoway tomorrow morning (Monday December 17th) after he was involved in a serious assault in Stornoway in the early hours of this morning (Sunday).

The 19-year-old has been charged with assault to injury and with other offences including resisting arrest after the incident, which tiook place on Point Street at 1.25am.

He is being kept in custody at Stornoway police station until his appearance at Stornoway Sheriff Court.

In an unrelated incident, a 25-year-old man was issued with a recorded police warning after he was involved in a minor assault on Point Street at 2.30am today

Voters in the Western Isles were told yesterday (Saturday December 15th) that it was au revoir but not goodbye from Jennifer Ross, the Conservative and Unionist Party Candidate at the General Election last Thursday.

She told voters in a special media release: "I am delighted with the Conservative result in Na h-Eileanan an Iar which has been the highest vote share we have had in 60 years and since the National Liberal and Conservative result in 1959."

And she pointed out that:""Out of the 59 seats in Scotland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar was the largest vote share increase for the Conservatives by a very long way. We saw our vote increase in our strongholds and strengthen considerably in Harris and along the West side of Lewis as well as making significant gains in Stornoway."

She spoke of the emotional resonance in her interactions with voters. "As I walked the constituency and met with hundreds of locals and businesses, I could tell that there was a great deal of support for fundamental conservative values here. My message was resonating with people. 

"This message was one of unity and compassionate Conservatism. I reject the SNP and their divisive agenda that we are somehow morally beneath them because we are Conservative. This is simply untrue. I genuinely care about those who are disadvantaged and who need help and support in life as well as believing that those who work hard must be respected and valued for their efforts.

"I took a message to the Western Isles that I am proud to be a Conservative, the Party of the hard worker, the Party of social mobility and helping people to realise their potential.

"Moving away from party politics, I think people could see that I was someone who can get things done. It is frustrating that I have not been elected to serve the people of the Western Isles as I know I could have been the most dedicated and hardworking MP. 

"Some of the people I have met on the way have already been in touch to echo that sentiment and to thank me for solving some of their issues in only a few weeks, that the SNP incumbent could not fix in 15 years. 

"As the election fades into the distance, I hope to build on this success in the future and to bring an agenda of hope and peace going forward, instead of the hatred and division spread by a Nationalist party who wants to tear our nation apart.

"I am reminded of a meeting with someone in Stornoway, who pulled me aside and whispered ‘I’m a Conservative, but please don’t tell anyone’. 

"I promise to come back develop this message of proud and compassionate Conservatism, so that one day, that person may be able to say they are a Conservative without being attacked and vilified. 

"Thank you to those who supported me in gaining this unprecedented result. You are the warmest, kindest and most welcoming people I have ever met. I leave a piece of my heart with you. 

"See you again soon!"

The official statement on the General Election polling result was as follows:

DECLARATION OF RESULTS

       
         

Electorate

21,106

     

Total Votes Cast

14,542

     

Turnout

68.90%

     
         

I, Malcolm Burr,  Returning Officer for the UK Parliamentary Election for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Constituency, hereby give notice that the total number of votes polled for each registered individual candidate at the election was as follows:-

 

NAME

VOTES

SHARE

Alison Kate MacCorquodale, commonly known as Alison MacCorquodale,  Scottish Labour Party

4,093

28%

Angus Brendan MacNeil, Scottish National Party (SNP)

6,531

45%

Murray Neil Mitchison, commonly known as Neil Mitchison, Scottish Liberal Democrats

637

4%

Jennifer May McCann,  commonly known as Jennifer Ross, Scottish Conservative and Unionist

3,216

22%

TOTAL VALID VOTES

14,477

100%

 

The number of rejected Ballot Papers was as follows:

   

REASON FOR REJECTION

 

 

Lack of official mark or unique identifying mark

0

 

Voting for more than one candidate

13

 

Writing of mark by which the voter could be identified

1

 

Unmarked or void for uncertainty

51

 

TOTAL REJECTED VOTES

65

 

         

The following candidate is duly elected to serve as a Member of the UK Parliament for the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Constituency:-

         

Name:  Angus Brendan MacNeil

Description:  Scottish National Party (SNP)

   

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

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

Telecommunications mast, Uig

Arqiva has applied for planning permission to install a 12 metre smart metre communications mast and associated equipment at the telecommunications mast in Valtos, Uig. 

Prior notifications for farm-related building works, Back

Iain Stewart of 12a Back has applied for planning permission to erect a new agricultural building at 12a Back. The building is to be 20 metres long, 5 metres tall and 10 metres wide and is to be made of grey metal box profile. 

New house, Laxdale

Donald Fraser of 14 Weymyss Drive, Blackwood, Cumbernauld, has applied for planning permission to build a new house at 23 Newvalley. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen/dining/living area and a games room. Work is also to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars. 

 

The Western Isles Housing Association Communities Forum achieved a recent success at the TPAS Scotland National Good Practice Awards.

The Forum were presented the Runner-up Award in the category of Tenant Participation Champion Group.

The Awards took place as part of the TPAS Scotland Annual Conference which was held in St Andrews on 4 - 6 December.

A number of members of the Forum were able to attend the conference, including Chair Alasdair Mackenzie and our Tenant Participation Officer Jane Ballantyne.

Anna Coyle, Head of Executive Office commented: “It is very encouraging to see those in our communities being recognised for the important work they do.

“We are always glad to hear from our Tenants and work closely with the Forum to ensure that all voices are heard to shape and improve the service we provide.”

If you would like to get involved in the Western Isles Housing Association Communities Forum then please contact Jane Ballantyne on 07487 891242 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Alasdair Mackenzie by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Alternatively, please contact Hebridean Housing Partnership directly at their Stornoway or Balivanich offices, or on 0300 123 0773.

From left, Jane Ballantyne, TPAS; Alasdair Mackenzie, HHP Board Member; Lorna Shaw. Sue Irving, Loreburn Housing Association; James Bee, event host.

NHS Western Isles delivers a wide range of high quality healthcare services locally, but works in partnership with different mainland health boards to provide services and treatment that cannot be directly provided on island.

For Western Isles residents requiring treatments, procedures or appointments on the mainland, this could involve days of waiting and travelling.

Then Attend Anywhere was introduced; in many cases reducing the logistical burden of accessing medical care.

Attend Anywhere is a high quality, easy to use videoconferencing programme first developed in Australia and rolled out in Scotland by NHS24.  It is completely secure so confidentiality is guaranteed and users only need access to the internet, the google chrome browser and a webcam to use it.  So no special software or downloads are required; it can be used on any device - phones, tablets, PCs and laptops - literally anywhere! 

Technology enabled care project officer with NHS Western Isles, Elizabeth Fowler, shares the example of a crofter in his 80s who previously had to leave his home at 3am in the morning, drive for two hours and then catch a flight to Inverness to receive care.

Now he is able to be seen by video link in Stornoway, through Attend Anywhere.

“He drives to Stornoway in the morning, buys all his crofting supplies, does his weekly shop and is back home by lunchtime,” Ms Fowler said. “He thinks it is absolutely amazing. It makes a massive difference to people not having to spend their whole day waiting for a plane, waiting for a bus, waiting for a taxi and then waiting for a consultant.”

Another experience that reinforced the importance of the technology was an encounter with an oncology patient’s wife.

“She stopped me and said, ‘I can’t tell you what a difference this has made to us. We know his cancer will come back but we feel we are better equipped to deal with it knowing that we are not going to be making a weekly trip to Raigmore’,” Ms Fowler recounted.

Videoconferencing has been used within NHS Western Isles since the technology’s infancy, but the fact that anyone with a web cam and internet browser can access Attend Anywhere has significant advantages.

Ms Fowler shared that previous videoconferencing technology was less flexible and needed to be done through healthcare premises.

Because residents of the Western Isles often use video calls in a personal capacity to keep in touch with family members living, working or studying on the mainland, patients have embraced the introduction of video consultations for healthcare.

Attend Anywhere has helped to reduce waiting times for respiratory patients by half within NHS Western Isles.

As well as travelling to the Western Isles, a respiratory consultant who lives in the South of England conducts regular video consultations with patients.

“He has a remote stethoscope so he can listen to the patient’s chest Ms Fowler shared. “He also has a virtual private network to our system so he can use our x-rays, and clinic results just as if he is in the room with the patient.”

In addition to offering patient benefits, Attend Anywhere has helped the health board to reduce carbon emissions and the costs associated with patient travel.

Ms Fowler observed that opportunities for flexible staffing arrangements created by Attend Anywhere help to address the significant recruitment challenges faced by NHS Western Isles.

“It has completely changed the way we deliver services,” she concluded. “We are very remote and rural. We have limited resources, money, staff and consultant services. Attend Anywhere has made us confident that we can effectively deliver services to our increasing elderly population in a patient-centred way.”

Over recent days a number of people have been contacted by telephone by someone claiming to be from their bank, Police Scotland says

The customers are told that their accounts have been compromised, and are then asked to transfer their money into a ‘safe account’, which in reality belongs to the fraudsters. 

Not a new scam, but one which is doing the rounds again.  Inquiries into these incidents are ongoing. 


Sergeant Richard Ross from Prevention and Interventions in N Division, Highlands and Islands, is working with colleagues to raise awareness about these scams and how to protect yourself from them.


He 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 people that fall victim of 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. It is best to politely end the call and call back on a number you have sourced yourself, ideally using a different phone. Alternatively seek advice from your local bank if that is an option." 


For more advice or information visit https://www.scotland.police.uk/…/advice-for-victims-…/fraud/

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

There were arguably two winners at the General Election poll night in Stornoway last evening (Thursday/Friday 12-13 December)

There was a very special cheer at the end of the night for journalist and public relations person, Michelle Macleod, pictured above centre, making a very welcome return to public life following her cardiac arrest in Leverburgh after running her leg of the Harris marathon. 

Now equipped with a personal defibrillator she spent the night at the count in Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais, being deluged in care and concern by all those present...plus doubtless repetitive remarks about how she is now a bionic woman. 

The declaration of the result made by returning officer Malcolm Burr was as follows:

  • Alison MacCorquodale, Scottish Labour 4,093
  • Angus Brendan MacNeil, Scottish National Party, 6,531
  • Neil Mitchison, Scottish Liberal Democrats, 637
  • Jennifer Ross, Scottish Conservative and Unionists 3,216

There were 65 rejected papers.  The turn out was 68.9 per cent

He thus declared Angus MacNeil duly elected for the na h-Eileanan an Iar parliamentary constituency.

Mr MacNeil’s first response is: ”That’s the way we do it in the Western Isles!“

He went on to say: “Can I particularly thank staff at the count here for their hard work all night and those who worked at the polling stations. Tonight’s election can be viewed as a disaster or a success. A disaster that we are going to be stuck with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, but a success if it leads to a move to Independence for Scotland.”

He added a special mentioned for Michelle which was specially cheered by those present. 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan later hailed the re-election of Angus Brendan MacNeil to serve as the MP for a historic fifth term.

The SNP surged to victory with over 45% of the vote while Labour and the Tories battled it out for a second place finish with 28% and 22% respectively. The Liberal Democrat candidate received 4% and failed to retain his deposit.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Angus Brendan is a first-rate constituency MP and I’m looking forwarding to continuing to work with him on the issues that affect the lives of islanders.

“This is an emphatic victory for the SNP locally in what looks to be shaping up as a very positive night for the SNP. Angus Brendan has more than doubled his majority while Labour have registered their worst performance in the islands at a UK General Election since 1974, leaving them scrapping with the Tories for second place. 

“I know from speaking to voters on the doors that the prospect of a Boris Johnson majority Tory Government with dread. While it is still early in the night and results are still coming in, it is clear that Scotland is now on a very different political journey to that of the rest of the United Kingdom. SNP MPs will work hard to stand up for the people of Scotland and make sure Scotland’s future is in Scotland’s hands.”

03.30 ********JEREMY CORBYN SAYS HE WILL BE RESIGN AS LABOUR PARTY LEADER, reports say. 

03.25********Glasgow North held by SNP with increased majority. 

02.40********The declaration of the result made by returning officer Malcolm Burr is as follows:

Alison MacCorquodale, Scottish Labour 4,093
Angus Brendan MacNeil, Scottish National Party, 6,531
Neil Mitchison, Scottish Liberal Democrats, 637
Jennifer Ross, Scottish Conservative and Unionists 3,216

There were 65 rejected papers.

He thus declares Angus MacNeil duly elected for the na h-Eileanan an Iar parliamentary constituency.

Mr MacNeil’s first response is: ”That’s the way we do it in the Western Isles!“

He went on to say: “Can I particularly thank staff at tthe count here for their hard work all night and those who worked at the polling stations. Tonight’s election can be viewed as a disaster or a success. A disaster that we are going to be stuck with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, but a success if it leads to a move to Independence for Scotland.”

02.02********Kilmarnock and Loudon held by SNP: Angus gain for SNP from Conservatives. 

02.01********Labour gains seat from Conservatives with majority of 4774.

01.56*******Two Labour front-bench spokesmen, who had held seats in Workington and Darlington, have been defeated.

01.55*******Conservatives gain the Vale of Clwyd with 1827 majority on a 65.7% turnout.  Labour's vote fell 9%, slightly lower than predicted by exit poll.

01.40*******Ballot papers arrive from Uist and Barra at the Stornoway count. 

01.35*******SNP gain Rutherglen and Hamilton West.  That's a gain from Labour which has already recorded 4 losses.

01.15*******Nine Labour seats held; four Conservative seats held.

00.44*******The plane carrying ballot boxes from Uist and Barra is expected to leave Benbecula in the next 10 minutes, with papers due to arrive here at the count centre around 1.30am. The plane is expected at Stornoway Airport at 01.17am

00.26******Labour holds on in Newcastle-upon-Tyne East

00.05******Results starting to be declared:  The Conservatives have won Blyth Valley from Labour. Labour had held that seat since 1950.

23.58******We have followers on WLS Facebook to our continuing coverage as far away as Japan; Calgary, Canada; the Isle of Man; California, USA;  Edinburgh, Philadelphia, USA; Bali, Mexico and Sussex…plus someone who is hiding behind their sofa!

23.00******Verification of the Stornoway boxes has been completed (checking that the number of votes in the boxes matches the total voters recorded) and counting has now begun in Stornoway North and South wards.  We hear that a helicopter is bringing the Barra ballot boxes up to Benbecula to join the boxes from North and South Uist. All of them will travel together to Stornoway airport on a single chartered plane.

22.35******Counting tables are beginning to look busy, with ballot boxes from Stornoway North and Stornoway South now being opened and sorted. Candidates, agents and electoral staff are allowed beyond the red and white chain to oversee the process.••••••

 

OVERALL PICTURE SO FAR…

The Conservatives have won the 2019 UK General Election and Boris Johnson will enjoy a commanding House of Commons majority, the broadcasters' exit poll suggests.

The poll - conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Sky News, the BBC and ITV News - forecasts the Tories will win 368 seats, with Labour on 191 seats, the SNP on 55 seats and the Liberal Democrats on 13 seats.

To form a majority government in the Commons, a party needs to win more than 325 seats.

Since 2014, voters in the Western Isles have taken part in one Scottish Parliament election, two European elections, two referendums, and three UK General Elections…as well as a local authority poll.

The exit poll suggests Labour are set for a hugely disappointing night, with the party forecast to secure their lowest number of seats for decades.

The exit poll numbers would give Prime Minister Boris Johnson a Commons majority of 86, vindicating his decision to push for a winter election.

The prediction for Scotland sees the SNP taking 55 out of 59 seats.  The exit poll says that Na h-Eileanan An Iar is 99pc likely to be an SNP hold.

SNP candidate Angus Brendan MacNeil is the only candidate standing in this election to have stood at every previous election in this constituency this decade. He’s won the seat four times, every time he has stood, since 2005, when there were just six SNP members of parliament.

At that time he became the second SNP member to represent the Western Isles. Before him Donald Stewart was SNP MP from 1970 to 1987, when he retired and his seat was subsequently won by Labour’s Calum Macdonald. Calum Macdonald stayed in as MP until ousted by Angus Brendan MacNeil in 2005.

The candidates in Na h-Eileanan An Iar are:

  • Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate
  • Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate
  • Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate
  • Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

Counting has begun in Stornoway in Ionad Spors Lèodhais. The result is expected about 3am.

There are 21,106 registered electors in the Western Isles, including 4,710 who have registered for a postal vote.

Stornoway North and South have the largest numbers of electors, with 2,269 and 2,155 respectively. Loch a Tuath, now being verified, has 1,699 voters.

Local MSP Alasdair Allan is talking of a high turnout across the country although he is doubtful that the exit poll is accurate in predicting such a high rate of success in the Scottish seats.

The local count was introduced at 10am by returning officer Malcolm Burr.

Earlier there was in a state of high anticipation as they awaited the first ballot boxes to arrive after polling stations closed at 10pm.

The photo shows some of the counting team beside the door through which the boxes will shortly begin to arrive.

How does the count process work?

“The first stage of the Count is the verification which seeks to ensure and demonstrate that all ballot papers issued at polling stations and returned postal ballot papers have been brought to the Count.

In the presence of the Counting Agents each ballot box will be emptied onto the counting tables where groups of four Enumerators will count the ballot papers, face up, in bundles of 50 secured by a rubber band or clip. The number of ballot papers in each box should match the number on the relevant ballot paper account.

When the verification of several ballot boxes is complete, the votes will then be mixed in bundles and the count stage will begin.

Sorting between candidates and counting votes:

A Chief Enumerator will place 500 mixed ballot papers onto the table. The enumerators will remove the clips and sort into labelled trays. There are two trays for each candidate and one tray for doubtful votes. The votes will not be counted at this stage – merely sorted – between candidates.

Once this stage has been completed the bundles in each tray will be counted into 50s and each bundle secured by a clip. Any bundle less than 50 will be banded by a slip of paper and marked with the number of votes on the bundle.

Once the ballot papers have been counted, the Chief Enumerators will complete a Count Control Sheet and confirm with the Count Assistant that the totals add up to 500. “

As you can see, the process is carefully controlled to ensure there are no mistakes and that totals match up at every stage.

Almost exactly 101 years ago, on December 14th 1918, Western Islanders went to the polls to elect their first MP ever. He was Dr Donald Murray, a popular general practitioner who served as Lewis Medical Officer of Health and Medical Officer for Stornoway.

The result of the 1918 election was not announced until December 28th as so many men were still serving overseas following the armistice after the First World War.

It was the first election held after the enactment of the representation of the people act 1918, so that women aged over 30 and all men aged over 21 could vote.

Dr Murray stood under the slogan of ‘An Islesman for the Isles’. He campaigned on the issues of crofting and unemployment and criticised the development plans of Lord Leverhulme. His chief rival was Sir William Dingwall Mitchell Cotts, a Glasgow shipowner who was standing as a coalition Liberal candidate with Leverhulme’s personal support. In the end, Dr Murray won by 3765 votes to 3375, a majority of 390.

Dr Murray became an MP just three days before the Iolaire disaster. During the aftermath of the disaster he assisted at the temporary mortuary at the Drill Hall at Battery Point on 1st January and personally accompanied the policeman who brought harsh news to many of the homes affected.

He later established a fine reputation in the House of Commons, raising the issue of the Iolaire and keeping it in political consciousness, especially where it related to returned servicemen and the conditions of their lives. In his maiden speech on 10th March 1919 he pleaded for the right of returned servicemen to have crofts from which they could make a living.

After his maiden speech, a fellow MP said: “Those who have listened to my hon. Friend from the Western Isles will realise that he is speaking for a body of Scottish people who receive very little attention in this House because of their geographical remoteness from London in which the House of Commons is situated.”

 
product-tag

Police in the Western Isles supported by colleagues from the Road Policing Unit in Dingwall have been carrying out proactive road safety patrols throughout the islands in October and November under Operation Cedar.  

This has included a number of stop checks as part of the 'Get Ready For Winter Campaign'.

Twelve people have been reported in connection with drink / drug driving offences, while three have been reported in connection with driving without a licence.

Fourteen people were charged for having no insurance and five for issues relating to Careless / Dangerous Driving and anti-social behaviour and seven drivers were charged for not having a valid MOT.

A number of fixed penalty notices were also issued - including 23 for speeding offences; four for mobile phone offences and three for not wearing a seat belt.

Nineteen other road traffic offences were also detected.

Chief Inspector Ian Graham said: "Our communities regularly highlight road safety as a priority across the Western Isles and we are committed to proactive policing aimed at improving safety.

"This recent enforcement activity is a direct result of concerns raised by local residents and drivers.

"Our aim under Operation Cedar is to challenge drivers and improve behaviour on the roads through education and maintaining a visible presence on the roads.

"Road safety is a priority for Police Scotland nationally and I am confident that the work we are doing locally in the Western Isles is influencing road user behaviour for the better and making our roads safer."

The best of produce from near and far 13/12/2019

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

Or call 07771645238 to place your order, free delivery within the Town, Broadbay, Point Area. 

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Aubergine

 

£1.65

 

Butternut Squash   

 

£2.40

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£2.40

 

Cauliflower

 

£1.95

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.40

 

Fennel

 

£1.35

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Turmeric 200g

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£4.10

 

Dirty Carrots

 

£1.95

 

Ginger

 

£5.00

 

Horseradish

 

£15.00

 

Jerusalem Artichokes

 

£4.95

 

Kale

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£2.95

 

Golden Wonder

 

£1.95

 

Kerr’s Pink

 

£1.55

 

Roosters

 

£1.55

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Sprouts (Inverness)

 

£2.15

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

White Turnip

 

£3.35

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Cucumber

 

£1.00

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£3.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.25

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Heritage Tomatoes

 

£6.25

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Cox Apples (UK)

 

5 for £1.50

 

Gala Apples

 

5 for £1.50

 

Red Delicious

 

3 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Clementine’s

 

5 for £1.50

 

Cranberries 340g

 

£2.95

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.90

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.80

 

Small Oranges (Spain)

 

5 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

Satsumas

 

3 for £1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

Islanders are heading to the polls today (Thursday December 12th), with polling stations open until 10pm for voting in the UK General Election.

Welovestornoway.com will be with you through the night as the na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency count takes place at Lewis Sports Centre, and you can follow our live coverage on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/welovestornoway/.

The result is expected to be declared at approximately 2.30am – we’ll give the result, the turnout and extra background detail to you at the earliest opportunity.

A total of 21,106 people are registered to vote in the Western Isles, including 4,710 postal voters. If you applied for a postal vote, you must return it by 10pm today. If you have left it too late to post, you can drop it in at any polling station in the Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency or at the election office, council offices, Sandwick Road, Stornoway.

Returning officer Malcolm Burr yesterday issued guidance to voters ahead of the poll. He said: “When voting at the Polling Station it is helpful to take your poll card with you although you do not require it to vote. Polling Station staff will give you your ballot paper and answer any questions you have regarding the voting process.

“For this election you will vote for one candidate only by putting a cross (X) in the box next to your choice.”

The Stornoway South and Stornoway North wards are expected to be counted first tonight, with ballot boxes arriving at the count centre soon after 10pm.

Ballot boxes from the southern isles are due to arrive at the count centre at approximately 1.30am tomorrow (Friday).

Local people are being urged to only come to the Emergency Department at Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway in genuine emergencies, as the Department is currently extremely busy.

NHS Western Isles Emergency Department Manager, Susan Macaulay, said: “We are seeing high numbers of sick people and our hospital is very busy indeed. Therefore we would ask those with a condition that is not urgent or life threatening to contact their GP, local pharmacist or call NHS 24 - 111.

“We have an excellent track record in delivering the A&E standard and working closely with our partners to ensure people receive the right health care in the right setting.

“As we are so very busy at the moment, patients coming to the Emergency Department who do not need emergency care are likely to be in for a long wait, which is not ideal for our patients, or they will be redirected to a more appropriate service. To enable us to give the best care to the patients who are very sick, we would urge that people only attend in emergency circumstances.”

Please view the following video: https://vimeo.com/113509875

A week without a ferry service is too much for the isles of Barra and Vatersay to accept, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is warning.

The Council has repeated the call for Calmac Ferries Limited to completely overhaul their approach to securing lifeline services when vessels are withdrawn for technical failures.

A combination of poor weather and technical faults on regular ferry MV Isle of Lewis have left the people of Barra facing a week without a service on their lifeline ferry route to Oban. 

The reality of empty shelves in the island’s shops and fresh seafood not being sent to mainland and continental markets places a huge strain on everyone in Barra.

Yet the ferry company’s mainland based senior management have no plan in place to prevent such an outcome.  Instead of ensuring that bread and milk are on the shelves in Castlebay Coop, the company have again allowed this very situation to unfold with no service to Barra since Thursday 5th December.

Island representatives and the business community have suggested a range of vessel redeployment options that were available to ensure some level of service was provided to get essential supplies to Barra this week when MV Isle of Lewis was withdrawn from service due to a technical fault.

CalMac have ignored every suggestion favouring continuity of service elsewhere to providing a lifeline to Barra.

Chairman of Transportation Cllr Uisdean Robertson, said: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will be writing to Ministers and CalMac’s Managing Director demanding action to ensure our residents in Barra are never again left isolated like they have been this week. 

"The challenges CalMac face from an ageing fleet and winter weather are well understood by the Comhairle. The loss of any ferry service has a serious impact on an island but there are other islands with multiple services to the mainland each day and some even have more than one ferry route to the mainland so a removal of a vessel would undeniably have a less severe impact.  Instead CalMac have chosen inaction and no service at all on their longest and most exposed route to Barra while service is maintained elsewhere.”

"A week of no ferry service is simply unacceptable in this day and age and it is intolerable that a company entrusted to provide a lifeline service would allow this to happen when alternatives to this are available by redeploying vessels from other routes. CalMac must have a published plan that sets out how they will respond to vessel breakdown. There should be a maximum period of time that any island is left without service to avoid the situation of ever being left with no lifeline service for a week.”

Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, added that the impact on the public in Barra was very real and there were also impacts on businesses who rely on a decent ferry service. “On a recent visit to Barra with Councillor Robertson I met with one of the key employers on the island, Barratlantic.

"This is a company which is a key economic driver on Barra and who have been bold and innovative in growing their business over the years. It is no exaggeration to say that ongoing failures in the ferry service undermine the business. Their need to get goods to market is time critical and it is simply unacceptable to be faced with such an unreliable service.”

Voters are being encouraged to make sure they know their Polling Place and get there in daylight if possible tomorrow (Thursday December 12th), as voting takes place in the General Election, on one of the shortest days of the year.

All personal voters will have received a polling card which will state which Polling Station they are to go to, of the 47 between Barra and the Butt.

There are just four changes to the places used in the previous election, which was the European Election in May this year. In Tarbert voting has reverted to the community hall, as used in previous elections, instead of Tarbert Council Offices.

The polling station in Balallan has moved from the community hall into the newly renovated Old School building. Back will see the Free Church hall used as a polling station, instead of the community hut, and in Bragar the meeting house will be used, since Grinneabhat community building is still under renovation.

Depute electoral officer Derek Mackay told welovestornoway.com that the changes ensured better access to all polling stations, with more parking and better lighting at the selected buildings.

Polling Stations open at 7am and will remain open for the casting of personal and proxy votes until 10pm. Postal votes should already have been posted, but completed postal voting packs can also be delivered to polling stations or to the Comhairle’s election office up until 5pm tomorrow (Thursday).

Emergency proxy votes, where somebody votes on your behalf if you are suddenly unable to attend a polling station – for example due to a hospital admission – can be applied for up to 5pm tomorrow.

Four candidates are standing for the Na h-Eileanan an Iar parliamentary constituency. They are Alison MacCorquodale for the Scottish Labour Party, Angus Brendan MacNeil for the Scottish National Party, Neil Mitchison for the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Jennifer Ross for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.

Politicians and electoral officials are united in urging voters to make sure they get to polling stations during the day, to avoid being held up by the weather or taking any personal risk in dark and wintry conditions. Derek Mackay said: “We are looking at everything we can do to make voting as accessible for everyone as possible, especially given the time of year. It is close to the shortest day of the year, so there will not be many daylight hours to vote and there may also be weather challenges.”

There was a successful hustings event last night (Tuesday December 11) in Stornoway Town Hall, attended by about 130 people.

The event was organised by Lews Castle College, filmed by the BBC, and chaired by veteran journalist and broadcaster Kenny 'Coinneach Mor' Maciver.

News story from BBC Alba 3.43 https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000c7l0/an-la-10122019

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

 



Point’s community shop, Buth an Rubha at Knock, has become the exclusive island supplier of the essence of Lewis – two new beers called Peat and Diesel.

The dual-fuel brews arrived in store yesterday (Tuesday December 10th), supplied by Peat & Diesel fans Ben Nevis Brewery, who created the two new labels in honour of the Stornoway band’s increasing success across Scotland.

Bringing the beer to Point is a personal tribute from shop managers Binnie and Norman, in recognition of the fact that P&D drummer Uilleam Macleod belongs to Upper Bayble, although he now classifies himself as a townie.

Uilleam told welovestornoway.com today (Wednesday): “We are thankful to Binnie and the shop for continuing to support the band no end. With stock of this new beer and our albums in the store, they’ve become one of our major outlets!

“The folk at Ben Nevis Brewery have been big Peat & Diesel fans since the start. It’s great to see our branding on local beer from Scotland.”

Ben Nevis Brewery are a small craft microbrewery based in Annat in Lochaber, where Belgian brewer Simon Delvaux and business guru Freja Macdougall create what they call small-batch, special edition funky beers.

Peat and Diesel are both dark beers, Peat described as smooth, spiced and warming, Diesel as dark and strong. They’re available at Buth an Rubha while stocks last.

CalMac captain Alex Morrison is heading home to Melbost, Borve tomorrow (Thursday December 12th), after finishing his last shift aboard the MV Isle of Lewis.

Alex Mòr came ashore at Oban this morning, leaving his vessel for the last time after 22 years as her master and 52 years at sea.

His last shift has been marked by weather disruption and technical difficulties with the vessel, but he has been standing ready to take her to sea as soon as conditions are right – just as he has always done.

Colleagues aboard the MV Isle of Lewis gave him a send-off last night, inviting him down to the bar of the ship for a series of presentations which included a cake and what he described as ‘countless’ bottles of malt whisky.

He was also presented with an original painting by Margaret Maclean of the Isle of Lewis, the Suilven and Lochmor, three of the CalMac ships on which he served.

This morning he told welovestornoway.com that he was feeling “a bit strange and a little melancholy, just beginning to realise the finality of it all,” as he awaits a formal send-off dinner in Oban this evening. That’s due to be attended by former colleagues, other skippers and senior executives from CalMac, all eager to show their appreciation of a man described by one former crewmate as “one of the best skippers on the west coast”.

News of Alex’s retirement on our sister website welovebarraandvatersay.com and in our current edition of EVENTS newspaper garnered a tremendous response, with thousands reading the details of his impressive career and many responding to news of his retirement.

Comments posted online described him as a ‘great skipper’, a ‘fine gentleman’ and an ‘amazing ambassador for the company’. They included a tribute from a colleague who described his services as: “an impressive achievement! A pleasure to sail under for a few years as I served my CalMac apprenticeship up on the Stornoway run. A character that will be missed in Hebridean waters.”

And a regular passenger from Barra said today: “He has served Barra well in command of the ferry Isle of Lewis. The days when Captain Morrison decides not to sail, not many other vessels will be putting to sea either. I would say a first-class master mariner that knows his ship and the sea areas it serves very well.”



Captain Morrison is pictured berthing the Isle of Lewis in Oban, stopping the engines and signing off the crew sheet for the last time today.

Also pictured is the original painting by Margaret Maclean Art which was presented by his crew aboard MV Isle of Lewis yesterday.

Stornoway police are keen to reunite owners with a variety of items of lost property which were handed in to the police station yesterday evening (Tuesday December 10th).

The items have all been found at the Tesco store in Stornoway and include a number of keys on distinctive key-rings, which owners will be able to identify.

These include a plastic promotional lanyard-style ring labelled with the company name ‘farmingparts.com’, a souvenir fob from Hollywood and two keys on rings which are hung with a soft toy teddy-bear and a pink, diamante-studded teddy.

Also among the items handed over to police by Tescos last night are a ring with a celtic knot design, a River Island purse, ear-rings and a watch.

Anyone who recognises any of these descriptions or who has lost similar items is encouraged to call in to Stornoway police station.


Property management company FES FM will be carrying out all maintenance work for Hebridean Housing Partnership over the next five years, it’s been announced today (Wednesday December 11th).

Existing contractor FES FM were successful in the competitive tender process for planned, cyclical and response maintenance, with the new contract running from April 1st 2020 and the option for the parties to extend for a further two or four years.

The contract award represents around £14m worth of business for FES over the full nine-year term and is a key part of HHP’s commitment to giving every tenant a high quality repair service for as long as the house is their home.

At a pre-start meeting yesterday, HHP chair Norman Macleod said: “It is great to see this contract being won by FES FM. They have worked hard over the last nine years to ensure tenant satisfaction with the works they undertake on our behalf. It is especially pleasing to see such a large local workforce being retained through this important contract award, and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership with the team at FES FM”.

FES FM managing director Ian Maitland said: “We believe that during the term of the previous contract, FES FM and HHP have formed an award-winning partnership which resulted in improved performance statistics and tenant satisfaction across the Hebrides.

“FES FM are extremely proud and excited to have been awarded the HHP contract and look forward to continuing this work for a further five years. We believe that the foundation of the success of FES FM in the Outer Hebrides over the last nine years has been through our ethos to recruit a local workforce, train and promote those employees within our organisation and invest in local businesses.”

During the term of the upcoming contract, FES FM have committed to continue to engage with HHP, all of its stakeholders and local businesses, and to ensure the highest standard of service is being delivered to the tenants. They state that this means a best-in-class service and positive social and economic impacts throughout the islands.

The picture shows: (Back row) John Maciver director of operations HHP; Dena Macleod chief executive HHP; Terry Overstone regional manager, FES FM and Angus MacNeil, assets and contracts manager HHP. (Front row) Alec Blakley FM director FES FM; Norman Macleod chair HHP and Ian Maitland managing director FES FM.

Angus MacNeil, SNP candidate for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (pictured above in South Uist at the start of this week), has urged everyone to prepare for polling day tomorrow (Thursday 12th December.)

With forecasts predicting colder weather and the shorter days at this time of year this polling day will be very different from the normal early summer elections.

Mr MacNeil said:“With only about 6.5 hours of daylight and the risk of inclement weather it is important to plan how and when you will get out to vote.

“Polling stations are open from 7am – 10pm and I would urge people to vote as early as possible and not wait until later when darkness and falling temperatures could cause problems.

"For those with transport please consider whether neighbours may need lifts to the polls.

“Finally if you are a football fan and are planning a night watching Scottish teams in Europe on the TV remember to vote early and good luck to both Scottish teams!”

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

Organisers of this year’s Blas Festival have reported another successful Festival, with Highlands and Islands audiences being entertained by some of the country’s top musicians, for the 15th year; and are already looking forward to what 2020 has in store for the Gaelic festival.

Blas, which means ‘taste’ or ‘sample’, is organised by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council and took place from 22-30 November in venues across the Highlands and Islands from Aviemore to Barra, Stornoway to Strathy. 

This year’s festival featured Niteworks, Project Smok, Gary Innes Band, Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes, Sian, Cape Breton sisters Dawn and Margie Beaton, Tideline’s Robert Robertson and Ross Wilson and many more.  Two special partnerships, with SEALL Festival of Small Halls and 432 brought Niteworks to The Ironworks and a world-class line up of musicians including Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw, fiddler Duncan Chisholm and Granton-on-Spey multi-instrumentalist and composer Hamish Napier to village halls in Edinbane and Kyleakin.

Education was also an important aspect of Blas Festival with schools across the Highlands benefitting from workshops and visits from some of the participating artists as well as a Gaelic seminar, “Gaelic: Crisis and Resilience” in partnership with UHI. 

Arthur Cormack of Fèisean nan Gàidheal, which organises the Blas Festival on behalf of The Highland Council, said: “We were very happy to have gone ahead with Blas Festival this year, albeit at a later time of year.  We had some notable successes with the events we ran which included 29 concerts, one seminar with UHI, 28 school workshops, nine workshops featuring collaboration between Scottish and Irish musicians as well as music and dance workshops in another four communities. 

“We also staged four performances of a new Gaelic medium commission - Gaol no Gonadh? - based around Gaelic songs of love and loss, Dawn and Margie Beaton visited from Cape Breton and delighted Highland audiences and we collaborated with a wide range of promoters with the addition of Eden Court, The Ironworks, Aros, Urras an Eilein and the SEALL Festival of Small Halls.”

“Audience numbers are still being collated. The attendance by fewer tourists in the Highlands at this time of year seems to have been offset by local people coming out to events. Gaelic language was promoted and used, Highland culture was celebrated and quality events were brought to venues large and small which is what we aim to do every year with Blas Festival. We are happy with how things went this year and we hope our audiences, young and old, enjoyed the events they attended and are looking forward to next year’s Blas Festival already.”

Shona MacLennan, Ceannard, Bòrd na Gàidhlig commented: "As always, the Blas Festival showcased the stunning range of talented Gaelic singers, musicians and storytellers that make Gaelic language and culture so rich and attractive.  We were particularly pleased that people had an opportunity to enjoy events which were delivered in Gaelic and that this contributes to the aim in the National Gaelic Language Plan that Gaelic is used more often, by more people in more situations.  VisitScotland statistics show that overseas visitors are particularly interested in experiencing our language and culture and festivals like Blas are an ideal way to provide high-quality experiences for a wide range of people."

This year’s Blas Festival primary funders and supporters included The Highland Council, Creative Scotland, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Fèisean nan Gàidheal.

If you attended any event during Blas Festival, the organisers would appreciate your thoughts and feedback. You can fill out a short survey at www.blas-festival.com

 

Sandwick residents and shareholders are being urged to attend a meeting this evening (Wednesday, December 11) to discuss forming community trusts to progress involvement in renewable energy proposals relating to the Arnish Moor wind farm project.

A joint opening meeting is being held by Sandwick/Sandwick East Street and Sandwick North Street grazings committees for all residents and crofting shareholders in North Street, East Street and Lower Sandwick.

It is necessary for open membership community trusts to be formed by the end of this month for interested communities to stay involved in the project.

The Open General Meeting is being held in Sandwick Community Hall at 7.30pm.

All residents and shareholders are invited to attend and the public notice has been advertised in the name of the grazings clerks, Calum J Buchanan for Sandwick/Sandwick East and Nan Morrison for Sandwick North Street.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called for the introduction of discount schemes for transporting goods to and from the islands, similar to those available on Northern Isles ferry services.

During recent engagement between elected members and the business community in the islands a recurring theme has been the high cost of transporting goods to the islands. 

Islanders are often unable to access goods where additional charges are levied for transport beyond the mainland.

The cost of getting building materials to the islands significantly inflates the cost of building work.  Commercial vehicle fares levied for travel on ferries secured by the Scottish Government through the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service contract are passed on to island based customers and despite much talk of a freight fares review that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had hoped would deliver a reduction in the cost of moving goods to and from the islands by CalMac’s services, no progress has been made in realising this ambition. The Comhairle has now been told this will be considered in a new Ferries Plan which will not be completed until 2022 at the earliest.

Island hauliers have outlined the very real challenges they face even in comparison to the costs charged on other CalMac routes and on routes paid for by Scottish Government in the Northern Isles.  Unlike in the Western Isles where some key benefits like TRS have failed to be reinstated, hauliers taking goods to Orkney and Shetland on Serco Northlink enjoy a range of discounts including:

  1. Advance Booking Discount up to 21%
  2. Weekend Rate savings up to 43%
  3. Empty Trailer discount up to 78%

In the absence of Scottish Government delivering the promised freight fares review, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling on Government to deliver a level playing field for the Western Isles by extending the discounts offered on the Northern Isles Ferry Service contract to routes to and from the Western Isles.

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, said; “The cost of getting goods to and from the islands has an enormous effect on the ability to do business from the Western Isles and impacts on everyday life here.  Government should do all it can to foster our fragile island economies.

"The range of discounts that support key sectors in Orkney and Shetland are very pragmatic steps that support the way of life in the Northern Isles. We do not seek to see these removed. Instead we feel Government should extend these excellent schemes to the Clyde and Hebridean islands to bring a direct reduction to the cost of living and doing business in these islands, too.”

Campaigning in Uist on Monday the SNP candidate for Na h-Eileanan an Iar in the General Election tomorrow (Thursday), Angus MacNeil, said: “While other parties make promises, the SNP delivers, namely the investment the Scottish Government has made in transport, housing and key industries over their years in office. A record £1 billion has been invested in vessels, ports and ferry services since 2007, while RET has been rolled out to all ferry routes in the Hebrides network."

 

More and more cases of flu are being seen in Scotland and we are now beginning to have people ill with flu in our local communities, schools and in our hospitals.

Everyone has heard the word 'flu' and knows someone who's had it.

So sometimes it's easy to think that influenza (usually shortened to flu) is not serious, or simply to consider it to be a bad cold. This is not the case.

Influenza is a real risk. In Scotland, flu kills more people than any other vaccine-preventable disease.

No matter how healthy you are, how often you wash your hands, or even if you’ve had the flu vaccination in previous years, anyone who has contact with other people can be at risk of contracting influenza this year.

This is why it is so important to take advantage of the best possible protection against flu: the vaccination. The flu vaccination is specifically designed to provide protection against the four influenza strains that are most likely to be in circulation. To maximise the vaccine's impact, get the flu jab early in the flu season, as it takes around 14 days to become effective.

Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, said: “Influenza kills some of the people who contract it every year, and we are now starting to see the impacts of this infection throughout our islands. Help us to protect you by taking up your vaccine offer now, and have a safe and healthy festive season.

“The flu vaccine is currently the best protection against flu. The vaccine is safe and getting the vaccine will help to protect you, your family, your colleagues and anyone who you come into contact with during the winter months."

NHS Western Isles would strongly encourage parents/guardians of children aged 2-5 years (children are eligible for the free nasal vaccine), people with a long term health condition, unpaid carers and adults aged 65 years and over to contact their GP practice to get their free flu vaccination.

Children in primary school are also eligible for a free flu vaccination; the schools have all been visited but you can still have your child vaccinated by contacting your local school nursing team.

If you are pregnant, contact your midwife to get your free flu vaccine.

"We have plentiful supplies of influenza vaccine here in the Western Isles, so please call your GP practice, midwife or school nursing team to organise a free flu vaccination."

A number of graduates from the University of the Highlands and Islands were among this year’s winners and performers at the MG Alba Trad Music Awards. 

Breabach received the album of the year award for their sixth album, Frenzy of the Meeting.

Band member, piper James MacKenzie, started his studies at Lews Castle College UHI, graduating with an HNC in music. He has now returned to the university as a professional practice tutor on the applied music course.    

Trad video of the year was given to Heroes by Tide Lines. Band piper Ali Turner also studied HNC music at Lews Castle College UHI on the Benbecula campus.

Following ten consecutive sell-outs, the Tiree Music Festival received the event of the year award. Applied Music graduate Jamie MacDonald, also a member of the band Eabhal, is the festival officer and community village coordinator.  

The musician of the year award, sponsored by the University of the Highlands and Islands, was presented to Jenn Butterworth by Anna-Wendy Stevenson who leads the Lews Castle College music in Benbecula.

Anna-Wendy, a previous event winner and BA (hons) applied music programme leader explains why the university chose to become a sponsor:

“We were thrilled to be able to support and celebrate Scotland’s dynamic musical scene. The University of the Highlands and Islands is proud to be part of this exciting industry, delivering music education provision across the region and internationally.

“It is important that we continue to support events like the Trad Music Awards to recognise the achievements of our students, alumni and all those working across the music industry.”

Performing live at the ceremony was Heisk. Band members Megan MacDonald and Becca Skeoch are both graduates from the university’s applied music degree.

Sport and recreation in the Point area has received a boost with the news that Point Football Club have raised the money for a new stand, in time for the coming season.

Point FC, who won the league last year and came second this year after losing to Westside in the play-off, are about to order a new 100-seater stand from a company in Sussex after receiving a £20,000 donation for the capital project from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) and another £20,000 from the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund.

The stand – an example is pictured above – costs £37,000 and the project will cost more than £40,000 once groundworks have been included. The club will also be putting money towards it and are looking forward to having it in place for the 2020 football season, following building regulations approval, as a replacement for their current stand which is rusting badly and “becoming a health and safety issue”.

Iain MacSween is secretary of Point FC and Point Sport and Recreation Association, the charity formed 25 years ago to improve the old pitch and adjacent building. He said the new stand would make a big difference to the Point FC experience – for players as well as supporters – and would complement the Ionad Stoodie community centre, next to the pitch.

He said: “After about 10 years of struggle we managed to get all the money together for what is Ionad Stoodie now. That was in 2007, as part of the improvements to the whole area. As an afterthought, there was some money left over and we bought a 50-seater stand.

“It was just a standard stand. It wasn’t galvanised which became a major problem over the years with the Lewis weather and lately we had to remove the sides from it and it was becoming a health and safety issue. It was rusting from inside. We knew it had to be replaced and we decided to go a bit bigger, take a step up, and first of all make sure the replacement would be galvanised.

“Since we were going to replace it, we thought, ‘why not increase the number of seats that are available?’ The club is very successful now and we thought a stand with 100 seats would be more useful, so that’s what we are going for.

“We’ll obviously have to put some our own money in and we’ve got funding which will make the whole thing feasible. We’ve been in contact with the stand company for the last eight or nine months. Once we put in the firm order, we hope they’ll be ready to swing into action and we hope the stand will be in place for the start of the season in April 2020.

“It’s going to make the place look really good. It will improve so much people’s enjoyment and comfort at games. It will have perspex ends to it, which is something the old stand didn’t have, and people were always complaining that it was so windy and draughty.”

There will also be wheelchair access.

Iain said: “All we need is to win the league now and that will be a perfect year for us in 2020. We’re hoping that the stand will attract more supporters. It will give a better atmosphere and it’s part of a long-term programme that we have to improve the whole facility.

“We’ve also been planting lots of trees at Ionad Stoodie, which is now a real community centre with lots of things going on in the building throughout the year, and we hope that the place will look really impressive as a sports stadium and community centre.”

Iain said “a huge thank you” to Point and Sandwick Trust and the wind farm charity’s retained community consultants, Alasdair Nicholson and Tony Robson, as well as the Landfill Fund.

The £20,000 capital grant follows other donations to the club from Point and Sandwick Trust, including sponsorship of their summer coaching school and strips for the under 18 squad.

Point FC has groups under the ages of nine, 13, 15 and 18, as well as the senior team.

Point and Sandwick Trust board member Donald ‘Buck’ Macdonald is one of the coaches with the under nine players, and said it was “fantastic news” that Point and Sandwick Trust were “able  to support our local football team in this way”.

He added: “Point FC have given the community lots of reasons to be cheerful over the past couple of years with some brilliant football and only narrowly missed out on back to back league titles! So it's great that we’re able to help them out with this much-needed upgrade to the stand.

“I help out with coaching the younger group on a Thursday night and I get to see the wealth of really talented young players coming through the junior ranks. There’s lots to look forward to for Reds fans, both next season and in the years to come. And I’m certain we can say the same of Point and Sandwick Trust.”

Point and Sandwick Trust general manager Donald John MacSween said: “We are pleased to help Point FC and we hope they’ll have another successful season next year."

Point FC officially formed in 1934 although Point teams had taken part in one-off competitions before that. A history of the club, ‘Playing for the Red Jersey’, was written by Professor Matthew Maciver and published on the club’s 80th anniversary.

Photos of the current stand at Point FC, pictured by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos.

Also, a group photo of the £20,000 cheque being given to Point FC at the Point and Sandwick Trust AGM.

From left to right: Roddy Munro, vice-chair of Point Sport and Recreation Association, Point manager Angus ‘Stoodie’ Mackay receiving the cheque from Point and Sandwick Trust board member Donald ‘Buck’ Macdonald, PST board members Catherine Anne Smith and Jane Watson, and former Point player Kenny Nicholson.

An example of the type of stand Point FC will be ordering.



The skipper of the MV Isle of Lewis looks set to be working on extra day after his expected retirement from the job, which was due tomorrow (Wednesday December 11th).

After a day of technical problems and two days of weather cancellations, the Isle of Lewis is expected to make her next trip on Thursday December 12th.

But Captain Alex Morrison is well-used to the potential for disruption – from weather and other causes – after 52 years at sea, 22 of those as master of the Isle of Lewis.

The CalMac skipper was due to step ashore in Oban at the end of his final shift tomorrow, with several weeks leave due before he officially retires in January 2020. His 70th birthday falls in 2020, but the seasoned skipper simply won’t let the people of Barra down.

He’s had politicians and celebrities visiting him on the bridge, but it’s the ordinary traveller, their comfort and getting them to where they want to be, that really matters to this ship’s master.

Alex Mòr has been synonymous with the CalMac ferry MV Isle of Lewis since 1997, the year he joined her as master. He was by then 30 years into a career at sea that’s longer than many of his passengers have even been alive.

A native of Borve, Lewis, Alex left his parents’ croft in 1967, to become a 17-year-old cadet with Denholms of Glasgow, ship managers. They sent him deep sea – first to Narvik in Norway on the SS Gleddoch and later to destinations as far-flung as Russia, Japan, Australia and the USA.

His move to CalMac was almost accidental – planning for a change of employer, he followed a tip from a shipmate and applied for a ‘stop-gap’ job as a second officer aboard the MV Iona in Oban in March 1974.

Alex has never regretted the move to CalMac and would still recommend the company to any prospective cadet. “I don’t think there’s another job like it, any way you look at it” he says. “The way they treat people at CalMac – it’s the job you should try and strive for. Get all your tickets and go for that, you won’t regret it.”

His long relationship with the Isle of Lewis started on the Stornoway Ullapool run in 1997 and will draw to a close as he enters Oban from Castlebay this week. For many travellers, Alex Mòr and his ship have always been together and even he admits it’s more like a marriage than a job.

“The Isle of Lewis has been my ship since 1997 – we’ve been together for a long time. We seem to understand one another. You have to be careful how you handle her, like any other woman, and if you are careful, then perhaps she’ll answer the helm.

“She is almost the perfect design of ship. The only problem with her is her hull shape round the bow area – it doesn’t lend itself to comfort in bad weather. She’s fast in good weather and a good carrier, a big improvement on what we had before.”

The ship’s quirks have gradually become clear over the 22 years they’ve been together and good forecasts and long years of experience have meant that Alex can usually predict what he’s going to come up against once he gets the ship out of the harbour.

He stayed with the Isle of Lewis when MV Loch Seaforth took over the north Minch crossing. Ship and master were sent round the ports of the west coast to test how she would perform in other ports. “She has a draught deeper than most ships and it limits where she can be in service. The only place she would work that was not tidal was on the Barra run.

“They decided to give the Barra people a daily service as a summer trial, which was so successful that they wanted to continue it in the winter. But we have to let the weather influence us; you need a ten-hour weather window to operate that route, so you try to operate to timetable, but it’s not always possible.

“It’s been a successful service, but people are people and they don’t like it when she doesn’t run. Expectations have been raised by our success and we can’t always meet those expectations.”

Alex will be 70 years old in 2020, and the travel to Oban at the start of his rotation could soon become tedious, but he’s satisfied that he has done an essential job, for many years, to the best of his ability.

“I’ve done my very best to provide a public service. I’ve enjoyed it, I’m going to miss it and have very mixed feelings about the last run, but I’m grateful to the good Lord for giving me continued good health.

“It’s been a great pleasure to have served the people of Lewis, Harris and Barra over the years. If you’re true to your profession there are many beneficiaries. Do your job to the best of your ability and everybody scores.”

More time at home with his wife Violet beckons, with visits from his four children and nine grandchildren, and a long list of jobs he’s been putting off. “My wife has given me enough jobs to keep me going for about 300 years. But I’ve kept up my training and my tickets are still valid for a few years, so if I get fed up, I might just run away to sea!”

The picture shows Alex on the bridge of MV Isle of Lewis (picture by Mark Nicolson). He’s also pictured in the welovestornoway.com office with his numerous discharge books – testament to 52 years at sea.

Plans are in place to ensure that ballot boxes reach the General Election count centre in Stornoway on Thursday night (December 12th) – whatever the weather throws in the way.

Depute election officer Derek Mackay told welovestornoway.com that there is a ‘Plan B, C and D’ for bringing in the ballot boxes from Barra and the Uists, despite the time of year and the current level of weather disruption.

Thursday night’s Election count begins as polls close at 10pm, with ballot boxes from Lewis and Harris brought by road to Lewis Sports Centre, where a well-practiced count procedure will be supervised by returning officer Malcolm Burr.

A boat has been chartered to cross the Sound of Barra, with Barra’s ballot boxes then travelling by road to Benbecula airport, where they will join other boxes from around the Uists and Benbecula.

The single flight to Stornoway will then ensure that all votes cast in person by Western Isles electors are under one roof for the count to be completed. Postal votes from all other voters will already have been brought to the count centre, with a result ready for announcement around 1.30am on Friday 13th December.

If weather conditions make the flight from Benbecula impossible, a boat has also been chartered to be ready to make the crossing of the Sound of Harris, but Mr Mackay said that boats would only be used where it was safe to do so.

But, he added: “The forecast for the end of the week is looking better than the current situation, so we will be reviewing the plans on Wednesday when we have a shorter-term forecast and it is clearer what we may be dealing with.”

Island artists are being asked to band together to make a difference, with a new initiative from Talla na Mara launched yesterday (Monday December 9th).

The call for artists’ submissions has gone out to launch ‘Island Art for Giving’, a charity exhibition to be held at the Niseaboist centre in June next year, where postcard-sized original artworks will be displayed and sold to raise funds for two important causes.

The exhibition will raise funds for Bethesda Hospice and for the West Harris Trust Beach Access Fund, through which it’s hoped a beach-accessible wheelchair can be bought, giving new access to the beautiful sands close to Talla na Mara.

Artists are being asked to donate a postcard-sized piece of original artwork in any medium, in two dimensions, signed on the front and unmounted. 2020 will be Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters so this is a suggested theme for the exhibition.

The donated artwork will also be exhibited in an online gallery so that it is accessible to anyone wishing to buy a beautiful original miniature masterpiece in aid of the charities. All work will be sold at the same affordable price although purchasers are welcome to make additional donations.

Gill Thomson of Harbour Print has offered to mount and frame all the pieces of artwork and Talla na Mara will waive commission on sales.

A spokesperson for Talla na Mara said: “This will be a great opportunity to promote your own work and, at the same time, raise funds for worthy causes here on Harris and Lewis. All contributing artists will be acknowledged throughout the exhibition and online.”

All contributions are needed by 30th April 2020 and should be sent to Gill Thompson, Harbour Print, 22c Vatisker, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0JS. Full details of how you can get involved can be found at https://www.tallanamara.co.uk/island-art-for-giving/

Gusty winds will ease slightly in Harris this afternoon (Tuesday December 10th) after a morning of disruption in the island.

Customers in Horgabost were left without power this morning when overhead lines came down in the area around the campsite. Power has now been restored to all 23 households, according to Scottish and Southern Electricity networks.

The Sound of Harris ferry remains suspended for the rest of the day following the below CalMac update, and the 11.50am service departing Tarbert has been cancelled. A revised timetable is expected to operate this afternoon, weather permitting.

Berneray Leverburgh (Sound of Harris)

Tuesday 10th December

Due to no improvement in weather conditions, this service is cancelled for the remainder of the day.

Wednesday 11th December

Due to weather conditions there is heightened possibility of disruption or cancellation at short notice.

A welcome for local MSP Alasdair Allan from the staff at the new Island Kitchen café at Stornoway airport.

Alasdair was en route to Edinburgh and also had a chance to meet with the national management of the national catering company involved, Elior.

A company spokesman said the "Island Kitchens" at the airports in Stornoway, Kirkwall and Benebecula "are a tremendous success for ourselves and our
client HIAL."

There was a special buffet available to guests and visitors today (Tuesday December 10th) with elements of local produce from all the islands where the "Island Kitchens" brand has airport cafés. 

The business has created six jobs in Kirkwall; five in Stornoway and four in Benbecula.

Additional details and photographs have been added to this post

 

 

Car Hire Business Opportunity @ Stornoway Airport

 

An opportunity has arisen to provide car hire services at Stornoway Airport.

Interest is invited from parties wishing to apply for a contract.

Closing date 31 January 2020

 

Full details including an application form are available from:

Jeff Collins, HIAL Head Office, Inverness Airport, Inverness, IV2 7JB,

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.      Call: 01667 464007

www.hial.co.uk/stornoway-airport

An exciting and innovative craft project undertaken by the Barra Bunting group is getting close to completion and Western Isles Lottery has paid the costs of the structure for the Barra community.

All funding was raised by those in the community of Barra who support the local Lottery, who have also made it possible for the Community to showcase a significantly upgraded festive lighting display this Christmas.

Inspiration for the tree was taken from a similar structure already in place in Italy. In January this year, the group embarked on what is their second world-wide project following the award winning success of their Barra Bunting initiative.

The bunting project entailed visitors to the Island making a unique triangular piece of cloth to form a large stretch of bunting which was sewn together and put up on display in the Community during the Summer months.

Sarah MacLean, who organised both projects said “Our aim was to involve anybody who had connections with, or an interest in, the Isle of Barra. We advertised far and wide to source donations of either knitted or crocheted squares measuring 12cm x 12cm and have been overwhelmed with the response.

“Over 600 squares have been sent to us from places all over the world including from regions of America, Munich and the UK, which is more than enough to make the ‘yarn-bomb’ covering.

“The tree itself is designed to be 3m in height and will hopefully be erected close to Castlebay Pier so all those embarking will be greeted by the bright and colourful festive addition”.

A drop-in ‘sew-together’ was set up and locals happily got together over the last few weeks to sew all the squares together which encouraged informal community gatherings over a free cup of coffee provided by Bùth Bharraigh, the community shop which Comhairle nan Eilean Siar plans to demolish.

“However,” continued Sarah, “we needed funding to purchase both the frame and the LED lighting to complete the project and are delighted to be receiving the full funding from Western Isles Lottery”.

Janet Paterson of Western Isles Lottery said “this is a great example of innovation to not only enhance the aesthetics of the Island Community but to encourage everyone to work  together in a fun and rewarding way for the benefit and  enjoyment of everyone. This is the ethos of the Western Isles Lottery Team and we are only too happy to support”.

Members of the public are being encouraged to only order the medication they need over the festive period to prevent medicines being wasted.

Medicine waste has become an increasing issue over a number of years, and there are steps that members of the community can take to help ensure that medication is not going to waste.

Over public holidays, such as the festive break, local patients are being asked in particular not to request double prescriptions from their GPs. You can always contact your GP Practice at a later date to order a repeat prescription.

Before requesting a prescription, take a look in your medicine cabinet to see what you actually need – you may not require another prescription at this stage. You may have ordered extra of a repeat prescription last time and forgot. Or, you may not have used all the different medications in your prescription.

Even if you never open them, once you leave a pharmacy with your medication, your medicines cannot be recycled or used by anyone else. This means that even if you return them, they have to be destroyed. Unused prescriptions cost the NHS across the UK over £300million every year.

This could fund

  • 11,778 new community nurses or
  • 80,906 MORE hip replacements…or
  • 101,351 MORE knee replacements…or
  • 19,799 MORE drug treatment courses for breast cancer…or
  • 300,000 MORE drug treatment courses for Alzheimer's

It’s also important to let your GP or Pharmacist know if you’ve stopped taking any of your medicines

Remember:

  • Check what medicines you still have at home before re-ordering
  • Discuss your medication with your GP or Pharmacist on a regular basis
  • Don’t ask for double prescriptions
  • Think carefully before ticking all the boxes on your repeat prescription forms and only tick those you really need
  • If you don’t need the medicine please don’t order it! If you need the medicine in the future you can still request it.
  • If you need to go into hospital, please remember to take all your medicines with you in a clearly marked bag.
  • Please also remember that your medicines are prescribed only for you; it’s not safe to share them with anyone else.

A special Christmas season of Sport and Elf activities has been announced by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
On Monday 23rd December and on Christmas Eve activities will be available for all children, from babies to primary 7.

The programme includes mini sports  for 0-five-year-olds on a no booking, drop in basis, between 10am-11am both days, and nerf and football with a swim for primary 5-7s, between 12.15pm-2.30pm on December 23rd.

There’s also Tadpoles water confidence for 3-4-year-olds at 11:30am on Christmas Eve and multi- sports and water confidence for slightly older children.

Bookings open at 11.30am on Saturday (14th December) at https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/leisure-sport-and-culture/sport-and-health/online-booking/ and you can get more information on any of the activities by phoning 01851 822800.

The Met Office has updated a weather warning affecting the Eilean Siar region tomorrow (Tuesday December 10th), as wind speeds increase this afternoon.
The updated forecast issued this morning warns that moderate impacts are likely from rain, which will be heavy at times and accompanied by strong and gusty winds.

The general forecast is for south-westerly winds beginning to build this evening, with gusts up to 60mph forecast. Very heavy rain is expected before midnight tonight and again from the early hours tomorrow, continuing at least until dark.

The Irish Met Office, Met Éireann, has named the weather system as the first storm of the season, Storm Atiyah, after experiencing much stronger winds yesterday (Sunday).

CalMac have cancelled morning sailings of the MV Loch Seaforth between Stornoway and Ullapool for a second day tomorrow (Tuesday). The ferry is currently (Monday 2.30pm) heading across the Minch towards Ullapool, but all further sailings on Tuesday and Wednesday remain subject to disruption at short notice.

Also affected are services between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy, with the 09:40 departing Uig and 11:50 departing Tarbert tomorrow cancelled and a revised timetable, subject to disruption, to be operated. Tomorrow’s early sailings across the Sound of Harris are also cancelled and a review of that service will be undertaken at 11am on Tuesday.

Tributes are being paid to Michaela Smith of Sheshader, Point, who passed away on Friday (December 6th) at Western General hospital in Edinburgh, at the age of 53.

Michaela was a home care co-ordinator at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and was also known to many through her active contribution to Stornoway Thespians and her artistic skills, put to good use bringing joy to many youngsters with face-painting at shows and events.

One of her sons posted a moving tribute to his mother on social media, saying: “A great many of you knew and loved my mum, and are just as stricken by the loss as we are, however it goes without saying that we will not remember her for how she died, we will remember her for how she lived; A kind, loving soul, with five grateful children, a loving husband, and a personality larger than life.

“Many of you have already reached out with support and condolences, and we are grateful, we'd like to say if you are considering sending flowers or any other kind of commiseration gift to our family, please instead donate to a charity close to your heart, as cheesy as it sounds, my mum wouldn't have it any other way.”

Among those adding their memories of Michaela, many described her compassionate, warm-hearted personality and zest for life. One said: “Michaela was larger than life, always full of fun. A huge loss not just for her family but for the community at large and all who knew her.”

A spokesperson for Maybury Gardens said on Saturday: “We are so sorry to have heard this very sad news this morning. Michaela was a very talented lady and she had been involved at our Christmas lights switch events for many years creating her wonderful face paints on so many children. She will be greatly missed by our community, our thoughts are with her family at this very sad time.”

Stornoway Thespians cancelled last week’s pantomime, in which she and her family were to play a key part, as a mark of respect after she was taken ill. They said on Saturday that the company’s thoughts were with the family.

There is to be no funeral and the family have asked that their privacy should be respected.

The pictures show Michaela Smith at the Maybury Gardens Christmas lights switch-on November 21st.

 

Community Walk Leader Dave Phillips recently received a national Walking Champion of the Year certificate.

The annual awards recognise and celebrate volunteer Walk Leaders across Scotland.

The Walk on Hebrides project, hosted by NHS Western Isles, nominated Dave for Paths for All’s Volunteer Award for his outstanding contribution to a community walks programme with Pairc Trust.

Community volunteer, Dave, launched Pairc community walks with Pairc Trust Office Manager, Fiona Stokes, in November 2017.

They started with one weekly walk and since then they have gone from strength to strength and now offer two weekly walks including a Cancer Friendly Walk.

They have been trained to ensure they have the skills and confidence to support people joining the walk who are affected by cancer: people living with cancer, their friends, family and carers.

Dave said: “Having walked the hills and dales of Great Britain nearly all my life, it was very natural for me to want to get involved when asked to join the project on the islands. The benefits to health are laid out for all to hear and read about, especially as you are getting into your senior years. It is very tempting to sit in the chair reading or watching TV, but a good walk with good company is far better for your mental, social and physical health.”

Since joining the Walk on Hebrides project Fiona and Dave have created inspiring community walks in Pairc with enthusiasm and dedication to improving the health of their local community.

Fiona said: “Dave has spent a large part of his life volunteering for a variety of organisations and activities, including Scouts, ballroom dancing and recently for Pairc Trust community walks. We are very thankful for Dave’s time and the skills he brings. Pairc could not have asked for a better Walk Leader than Dave Phillips!”

For more information on the Walk on Hebrides project visit:  https://www.promotionswi.scot.nhs.uk/

Photograph: Lorraine Gillies (NHS Western Isles Health Promotion Department), Colin Gilmour (NHS Western Isles Health Promotion dept.), Dave Phillips (Walking Champion) and Fiona Stokes (Pairc Trust).

 

 

 

 

Car Hire Business Opportunity @ Stornoway Airport

 

An opportunity has arisen to provide car hire services at Stornoway Airport.

Interest is invited from parties wishing to apply for a contract.

Closing date 31 January 2020

 

Full details including an application form are available from:

Jeff Collins, HIAL Head Office, Inverness Airport, Inverness, IV2 7JB,

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.      Call: 01667 464007

www.hial.co.uk/stornoway-airport

An Lanntair is delighted to announce the ‘Critic’s Choice’ award winners at Grinneas nan Eilean – The Islands’ Open Exhibition.

This year Grinneas Nan Eilean also expanded with the introduction of Grinneas na h-Oigridh, showcasing the creativity of those under 18 – as well as giving you the opportunity to have your say on best in show – the ‘People’s Choice’ awards.

An Lanntair Head of Visual Art & Literature, Roddy Murray, said: “The range of work this year is vast and the standard as high as anything I have seen at previous Grinneas exhibitions.

“Hanging up to 400 pieces is a challenging, exhausting, but ultimately rewarding process and was completed only 10 minutes before the official Opening!”

It was a tough selection for the ‘Critic’s Choice’ judging panel, comprising of Murdo Macdonald, Art Academic and former lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art; Janis Scott of Morven Gallery, Borve; and Art Teacher Kate Macdonald.

However, congratulations to Grinneas Nan Eilean Critic’s Choice First Place winner Mairi Gillies for Pìobaireachd Crùbaige 1 & 11, as the panel commented: “A fascinating use of delicate natural objects, juxtaposition of textures and materials which demand close attention.”

Second Place was awarded to Jon Macleod’s Oceanic’ which proved ‘atmospheric and subtle with strong shapes and composition’; and Third Place to Kathleen Smith for Alone at Dusk, which the panel felt ‘had a textural quality and intricate detail’.

The judging panel also selected ‘Highly Commended’ to Jane Paton, for ‘her tweed dresses, 60s styling and superb handling of textures’; Laura Maynard for ‘her use of perspective and layers’; Lesley Mackenzie’s Stac Lee, which had ‘a strong sense of place and atmosphere’; Andy Laffan’s ‘dramatic’ gneiss sculpture Cornerstone 1, and Joanna George’s Felt Vases’ which were ‘tactile and intriguing’.

And in Grinneas na h-Oirgidh, First Place Critic’s Choice went to Dulcie MacDonald, who the judges felt had ‘a natural flair for watercolour’ displayed in her work Clouded Vision. In Second Place is Ena Mahony for The Time Traveller, which ‘showed a joyful use of colour’; and Third Place to Caitlin Morrison for her ‘mature use of material’ in work ‘Venom and Eddie’.

And who will win our ‘People’s Choice’ awards? Only you decide!  Call in this Christmas and enjoy the talents of our islands’ artists and artisans and make sure to cast your vote for your favourite.

Grinneas Nan Eilean and Grinneas na h-Oigridh, the Islands’ Open Exhibition 2019, is open until February 2, 2020.

Stornoway band Peat & Diesel were among the winners of the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards last night (Saturday 7th December) at Aberdeen Music Hall in a ceremony honouring the year’s most exceptional traditional musical talent.

Produced by Hands Up for Trad, the evening celebrated Scotland’s rich cultural heritage and flourishing folk scene. Hosted by world-renowned Gaelic singer, Mary Ann Kennedy and award-winning musician, Kim Carnie; guests enjoyed stellar live performances by trad music heroes’ including Skerryvore, Session A9, Benedict Morris, Heisk and Sian during the sold-out ceremony.

After a whirlwind year of wowing crowds at Belladrum and preparing to kick off 2020 with sold-out shows across the UK, trio Peat & Diesel picked up the award for Live Act of the Year.

In their acceptance speech, they paid exceptional praise to Keith Morrison and the Wee Studio in Stornoway for allowing them to get their album together and supporting their work. 

Fellow Lewisman and broadcaster Derek 'Pluto' Murray paid tribute on Twitter to their success. "Live Act Of The Year! NEVER IN DOUBT and thoroughly deserved.  Meallaibh ur naidheachd. The acceptance speech was class."

Keith Morrison commented before the awards: "Whatever happens, you can’t argue with Peat & Diesel's work ethic and drive.  Creating something out of nothing and bringing smiles to people of all walks of life and all the generations.  I’m so so proud of them and believe they are fantastic ambassadors for the good craic, West coast music scene."

The biggest award, The Belhaven Bursary for Innovation in Scottish Music in association with Showcase Scotland Expo supports the winner to progress unique ideas and empower creation.

Financially matched only by the Mercury Prize, the prestigious fund of £25,000 was awarded to Kinnaris Quintet, making them the first all-female band to win the prize.

Breabach were presented with the Album of the Year Award for their sixth album, Frenzy of the Meeting.

Presenter on the night Mary Ann Kennedy scooped up Gaelic Singer of the Year sponsored by The Highland Society of London.

Adding to her list of Trad Award accolades Jenna Reid won Composer of the Year battling against an all-female shortlist. Jenna’s group Blazin’ Fiddles were also awarded Folk Band of the Year. In 2005 Jenna won best up and coming artist and two years later she was nominated for best instrumentalist.

Following ten consecutive sell outs, Tiree Music Festival picked up the award for Event of the Year.

Dubbed by Rolling Stone as ‘forward-thinking folk music’ Man of the Minch took home The Up and Coming Artist of The Year award, which recognises fresh and promising talent.

Club of the Year went to Sutherland Sessions, a newly formed organisation who provide opportunities for young local musicians to play live music and bring local, national & international musicians to Sutherland.

The Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year sponsored by Traditional Music and Song Association went to Steve Byrne.

Event founder and promoter, Simon Thoumire, said: “It has been another fabulous year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards. Another great set of winners which include all the new Scots Trad Music Industry Award winners as well! Our scene is in good shape!”

Communications Manager for MG ALBA, Murdo MacSween, said: “It’s been another wonderful year for Scottish traditional music, and we’re delighted that MG ALBA was yet again at the heart of this celebration of our world-class talent. BBC ALBA is an amazing platform for the fantastic acts recognised tonight and we look forward to continuing to showcase them on our screens in the years to come.”

Alan Morrison, Head of Music, Creative Scotland said: “Yet again Na Trads prove that Scotland has an age-old music which lives and breathes in the 21st century. This year’s winners include grassroots heroes and international stars, acts who have blazed a trail for decades and others who are just starting out on a promising career. Congratulations to them all – and to every one of the nominees who make our music the envy of the world.

Congratulations too to Iain Ruari Finlayson, winner of the Youth Music Initiative’s Music Tutor of the Year award, whose work with Skye Youth Pipe Band takes Scotland’s most distinctive instrument to the next generation of players.”

Gordon Muir, Marketing Controller at Belhaven Brewery said: “We are thrilled to award this year’s Belhaven Bursary for Innovation in Scottish Music to Kinnaris Quintet.  Their musical range, innovative arrangements and vibrant stage presence stood out among an amazingly talented shortlist. Since coming together in 2017, Kinnaris Quintet have brought a fresh energy to the trad scene and we look forward to the Bursary helping them spring to the next level.

It has been inspiring once again to see the depth and breadth of innovation in the Scottish folk music scene, with an array of brilliant artists weaving in inspiration from all sorts of genres and cultures to create exciting new sounds.

Belhaven Brewery are proud of our links with this wonderful scene with which we see so much in common – inspired by our traditions and roots, which we use to spur our imagination to create new beers and new music that bring people together for great times.  We are very excited about working with Kinnaris Quintet in 2020 and can’t wait to see where the journey takes us.”

Stuart Fleming, PRS for Music Senior Membership Manager, Scotland & Northern Ireland, said: “Congratulations to all of the nominees and worthy winners. It’s great to see such diverse talent recognised at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards which continue to showcase the incredible writing and creative talent within the Scottish traditional music community. PRS for Music is proud to once again support the Composer of the Year Award – especially this year with all the nominees being exciting female composers.”

The evening also included a number of exclusive recognitions including The Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award Sponsored by Edinburgh Folk Club where Dr. Peter Cooke was praised.

The Services to Gaelic Award, Sponsored by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, was presented to Anne Soutar.

The Janet Paisley Services to Scots Language Sponsored by Scots Radio was presented to Sheena Blackhall, well known for her poetry.

The evening continued through to the early hours with Ceilidh Minogue and The House of Song led by Doris Rougvie.

The evening was broadcast live on BBC ALBA and is repeated today Sunday 8th December at 8.55pm with unseen footage shown on a special highlights show on 27th December at 9pm.

Disruption to ferry routes around the Western Isles is expected to be extensive over the next 24 hours.

As of 8am today (Sunday December 8th), CalMac Ferries had cancelled:

The ferry services between Oban and Castlebay; Mallaig and Armadale; Mallaig and Lochboisdale; and the morning sailings between Berneray and Leverburgh.

 A number of services have been retimed.  These included the sailing from Uig on Skye to Lochmaddy and Tarbert, brought forward an hour. 

A series of other services are warned as likely to be cancelled or disrupted. These include the overnight and Monday morning sailings from Stornoway and Ullapool, and the route between Eriskay and Barra today. 

More details from https://www.calmac.co.uk/service-status

A 'Yellow" warning of disruption by rain and winds has been issued by the Met Office today at 9.50am. 

It relates to 6am-3pm on Tuesday (December 10th)

It states: "Rain, heavy at times, will cross Scotland during Tuesday accompanied by strong and gusty winds. Rainfall accumulations widely 20 to 40mm locally 60mm over high ground of western Scotland.

"Much of the rainfall will occur in a short time period.

"Winds will gust widely 40 to 50mph inland with 60mph possible in coastal areas."

(This report has been updated with a weather forecast since first being posted)

 

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 log cabin, Northbay

Murray House Design and Build has applied for planning permission to erect a log cabin at 247C Bruernish, Northbay. Work is to include creating one additional parking space. The cabin is to be a twin skin timber lodge consisting of a kitchen/dining/living area, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The cabin is to be used as a dwelling house. 

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

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

Renovation and extension of derelict house, Uig

Robert McNaughton of 5 Geshader has applied for planning permission to renovate and extend the derelict house at 5A Geshader, Uig. Work is to include creating one more parking space in addition to the one currently there.

Prior notification of farm-related building works

Sandy Granville of 10 Tolsta Chaolais has applied for planning permission to do non-residential, farm-related building works at Agricultural Building, 10 Tolstachaolais. Work is to consist of adding an extension to the existing building. The extension is to be 8 metres long, 5.6 metres tall and 6 metres wide. The roof is to be slate blue box profile to match the existing roof and the walls are to be white wet dash to match the existing walls. 

Extension to house, Stornoway

Colin Morrison of Trimisceir, Eoropie has applied for planning permission to extend the house at 12 Churchill drive. Work is also to include constructing a decking area and parking suitable for two cars.

New house and stables

Maxine Daley of Beauly, 3 Park Carloway has applied for planning permission to build a house and stables at 9A Ballantrushal. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, a living/dining/kitchen area and two bathrooms.  

Conversion of single house to two houses

Kenneth MacPhail of 1 Tong Park has applied for planning permission to convert the house at 1 Mackenzie street into two houses. 

 

A new shipment is heading south from Stornoway to bring assistance to the work of the Glasgow City Mission, which is facing increasing demands on its support for those in difficulties.

Donations include new socks for both men and women; lots of sleeping bags; new towels, and tea, coffee, sugar– as well as money, totalling £750 in cash that’s been raised.  It totalled about 30 boxes of aid.

The appeal is being organised by the Stornoway High Free Church for the second successive year.

Charlie Nicolson, who is part of the organising team, said that in the past the Islands had been hugely generous to people in need in other parts of the world – now there was a growing need in a city where many Islanders had lived or made their homes over the years.

He said that their hope was that other island groups would “buddy up” with groups in different cities across Scotland.

Glasgow City Mission has been at work since 1826 and is the oldest city mission in the world.  It serves people affected by homelessness, by poverty, by addiction, and prostitution as well as people involved in asylum seeking and other complex problems. 

Around 200 people a day use the centre on average.  There’s an evening meal every day serving around 120 people.  There are about 25 daytime activities trying to raise the skills and confidence of people attending.  These include social interaction like lunch clubs, life-skills for cookery and budget management, art classes, music, gardening, and other activities.

As for the items being collected, the hot and cold drinks – plus all-important sugar - play a vital role in the everyday life of the mission. And the chance to take away clean clothes is a huge benefit to those in extreme poverty who had somewhere to stay but did not have resources beyond that.

The Mission also operates a winter overnight shelter and a family centre in Govan, with a range of facilities for parents and youngsters.

The mission has many connections with the Islands – including supporters who provide funding, as well as volunteers with an Island background while there are also centre users from Island backgrounds.

The mission has greatly increased its range of activities as a result of the support of funders from all Christian denominations and people of no faith - who are all convinced about the quality of the work done.

Andy Robin, the former Commonwealth wrestling champion and well-known as the guardian of Hercules the bear, has died aged 84.

He is to be buried in North Uist where Hercules is buried alongside a commemorative statue.

The 9ft tall, 380kg bear became the world’s most famous bear. In addition to appearing in wrestling matches with Andy, he appeared in television commercials and also had a cameo part in the James Bond film Octopussy with Roger Moore. He also met Margaret Thatcher.

Andy’s wife Maggie belongs to Grimsay in Uist and it was in nearby Benbecula that Hercules made international headlines when he disappeared for three weeks while filming for a TV commercial.

On August 1, 1980, he went for a swim near Petersport in the south east corner of Benbecula. He was last sighted on the Island of Wiay which lies off Petersport.

There was a massive land, sea and air search following his disappearance and he was missing for three weeks. The bear was finally sighted near Clettraval in North Uist. Although Andy was in hot pursuit Hercules seemed reluctant to give up his new-found freedom. He was finally shot with a tranquiliser dart. After he fell asleep, he was put into a large net and air lifted to Lochmaddy playing fields in North Uist where he was then transferred to his specially built cage-come-travelling home. A delighted Andy and his wife then went into the cage and fed Hercules on prawns.

But the tale did not end there. Andy was charged with keeping a wild animal without a local authority licence contrary to the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

When the case was called at Lochmaddy Sheriff Court, a letter was submitted from Mr Joe Beltrami, the well-known Glasgow lawyer acting on Andy’s behalf, pleading not guilty to the offence and the trial was fixed for July 14. The maximum penalty for such an offence was £400.

Andy denied that on August 20 and 21, 1980, and September 13 and 14, 1980, at Petersport, Benbecula, the Island of Wiay, and the Island of North Uist, that he kept a dangerous animal, namely a European Brown Bear of the family Ursidae, without a local authority licence.

Andy had planned to bring the bear to the trial as a ‘silent witness,’ in his new £65,000 coach, built for him in Belgium.

However on May 7, 1981, the Procurator Fiscal, Mr Colin Scott Mackenzie, dropped the charge, and explained: ‘I have informed Mr Beltrami that if Mr Robin could obtain a proper licence under the Dangerous Wild Aninals Act of 1976 from Stirling District Council, then I would consider that the public interest had been served and that the public would then be protected. I now understand that the District Council has granted the necessary licence.’

Mr Mackenzie also revealed that since Mr Robin had been charged that he had received pleas from ‘diminutive citizens’ urging ‘hands off Hercules.’ He said: ‘I assured them individually that I was not going to do anything to Hercules and that it was his owner I was dealing with. Now that the licence has been granted, he is no longer in jeopardy from the authorities.’

One man who was disappointed was George Peat of the Lochmaddy Hotel in North Uuist. His hotel had been fully booked by Press representatives and TV crews who had planned to cover the ‘Hercules trial’.

Andy said at the time: ‘I am delighted with the decision to drop the charge as it clears Hercules name for the future. He can now work anywhere in the UK. He is the only bear in the world with two licences -- one for a performing animal and one for a dangerous animal.“

The £1000 reward for information leading to the capture of Hercules was shared by two Balmartin crofters.

Hercules was featured on the cover of Time and helped to promote the Miss World contest. Hercules caddied for comedian Bob Hope at the Scottish golf course of Gleneagles. Hercules was once named "Personality of the Year" by the Scottish Tourist Board and received a telegram from US President Ronald Reagan.

Hercules was born in captivity at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie. The park was unable to accommodate more bears, and if the cub could not be rehomed, it would have to be put down.  Andy Robin had appeared on the same card as a wrestling bear in 1965. Learning the cub was available, Robin and Maggie bought the bear in 1976 for £50, with the idea of training it. In September, with the cub old enough to leave his mother, the couple brought him to their home on Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane.

The couple were devastated when Hercules died in 2001 and then left their ranch in Sheriffmuir to move to Auchterarder where Maggie ran the Bear Necessities Boutique.

In 2013, Andy and Maggie were invited to unveil a life-size statue of Hercules on North Uist and two years later Hercules was reburied at the same spot.

Andy suffered a stroke six years ago and his health deteriorated in the last few weeks, leading to his death on Wednesday, December 4, evening at St Margaret’s Community Hospital in Auchterarder.

The village of Portnaguran in Point, Isle of Lewis, is believed to be the first in the country to have converted to LED lighting, thanks to a partnership project between community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust and Tighean Innse Gall.

The joint LED Energy Communities project was launched in March 2016 with the aim of installing free LED lightbulbs in all households in the Point and Sandwick area, reducing the community’s carbon footprint and saving households around £100 a year off their bills.

Every household in Portnaguran was directly approached with the offer and 30 of the village’s 31 occupied houses have received free LED bulbs, with the village now completed.

Each house receives a guaranteed minimum number of 14 LED bulbs, with a total of 476 going into Portnaguran. The average energy saving per house is 716w – calculated from the difference between the old bulbs at 843w and the average LED total at 127w – and if lights were on three hours a day for seven days a week, Portnaguran’s total energy saving would be 15637.4kw a year.

The Portnaguran milestone was revealed at the Annual General Meeting of Point and Sandwick Trust on 19 November by Amy Kapherr-Diament, LED Energy Communities project officer.

It is being celebrated by Point and Sandwick Trust, Tighean Innse Gall and residents themselves.

Calum MacDonald, the former Western Isles MP turned community wind farm developer, said: “It’s a brilliant achievement and they put themselves at the front of an electrical revolution that is eventually going to happen right across Britain.”

Norman Mackenzie, chairman of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “It’s a milestone in our partnership with TIG and in promoting green energy in our area and I would like people to realise it’s not just a question of free light bulbs. That is a door to the possibilities of tackling fuel poverty through better insulation and other advice services. Once TIG are in the door they assess the whole house for what improvements can be made.

“I would also like to thank Amy and her colleagues. Congratulations to Amy and her colleagues at TIG for their hard work and perseverance and we look forward to completing this project through the whole Point and Sandwick district.

“It’s also an example of how remoteness, or what people perceive as remoteness, need not be a barrier in taking the lead in the advancement of new technologies.”

The chairman, who also lives in Portnaguran, added: “The partnership in this is important. It’s not just Point and Sandwick Trust doing this. We’re prepared to make partnerships with people to bring things forward and partnership working is a key element of the ethos of Point and Sandwick Trust.”

Brian Chaplin, chairman of Tighean Innse Gall, said: “I’m delighted to see that this initiative is being so successful and hope to see more villages signing up and becoming totally energy efficient. I’m also delighted that this is a good example of partnership working between PST and TIG.”

Project officer Amy said: “It’s fantastic to have completed our home visits in Portnaguran, installing LED light bulbs throughout the village. This is a great achievement for the project, showing the benefit of partnership working to help our communities save energy and money. Many thanks to Point and Sandwick Trust for their continued support and funding for the project. If anyone has signed up and not had their free LED bulbs from me, get in touch to arrange a home visit.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is among those who signed up to the project as she has a family home in Portnaguran. She described the village as “leading the way” and said: “It’s a really good project – not only are you helping people but it also helps the carbon footprint of the village as well. It’s an excellent scheme and it’s nice as well that it’s some quite tangible from the wind power, where people can see the difference that it’s making.”

The main element of the LED Energy Communities project is the installation of the free LED lightbulbs – but once these have been installed, the attention turns to the whole house.

Energy Performance assessments are offered to establish exactly what energy improvement measures would be appropriate and householders are then advised on how to access these measures and on other ways to save energy and money off their bills.

The project was initially launched for five years, with the bulk of the funding – £375,000 over the five years — from Point and Sandwick Trust, although the Climate Challenge Fund also donated £71,900 to fund the first year of the project. 

Since the launch of the project to date, there have been 538 inquiries. Any householder in the Point and Sandwick area who has not yet signed up to the project is invited to contact project officer Amy at Tighean Innse Gall, either by telephoning the TIG office on 01851 706121 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Nicolson Institute held their 6th Annual YPI Final (Youth and Philanthropy Initiative) on Wednesday 4th December. 

There were more than 30 teams to begin with, but they were narrowed down to six to compete against each other in the final. 

Each finalist represented a different charity.  The charities represented were Lucky2Bhere who were the overall winners, Lewis and Harris Women’s Cancer Support, Alzheimer’s Scotland, The Salvation Army, Autism Eileanan Siar and Befriending Lewis. 

Judging this year’s competition was Andrew MacNair who is Head of Marketing at CalMac, Christine MacLeod who is head teacher at Stornoway Primary, Charlie Macmillan from Skills Development Scotland and John MacRae who is a former winner and a school student.

The winners for the 2019 YPI Final were Holly Martin, Kate Macsween, Catherine Thomson and Emily Maciver who were competing for Lucky2Bhere.

Councillor Angus Morrison who was present, representing the charity and accepting the cheque on their behalf, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the S5 YPI group chose to represent Lucky2Bhere.

"It would be fair to say that the standard of all presentations was high and I commend the exceptionally high standard of the winners presentation. This win has come at a time where the Western Isles Council has agreed to introduce Emergency Life Support Training within the school curriculum targeting all Primary 5 and Secondary 3 pupils.

"I have agreed with the winners that the prize giving money should be spent on a defibrillator to be situated at a location of their choice and that the remaining money be utilised in the purchase of training equipment for school use.

"I am encouraged that the winning team have indicated their desire to be involved with the work of Lucky2bhere and look forward to engaging with them going forward.”

 

 
The Annual General Meeting of the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band
 
will be held on Monday 6th January, 2020 at 6.15pm
 
in the Pipe Band Hall, 2 Bells Road, Stornoway.
 
 
 

Lochs-based woodworker Richard Swift is raising money for Wallace & Gromit Children's Foundation – Elizabeth's Footprint again this year.

He made a wooden 'quad' for auction and has been selling tickets himself at various locations. 

He says he would to say "a huge thank you to all who supported him at Co-Op, WI Hospital, Lewis Sports Centre and Adventure Island."

The winner was Ellie Donnelly.

'Slàinte Mhath' – the 'best value leisure facility access scheme' in Scotland – just got even better, claims Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

'Slàinte Mhath’ members can now use their membership in Sport Aberdeen facilities as well as across a number of other local authority areas and leisure trusts.

"All you need is to ask us for your membership number before you travel and present this at the reception area of the facility you would like to use."

These areas and trusts include:-

  • High Life Highland
  • Live Argyll
  • Live Borders
  • Moray Council
  • Moray Leisure Centre
  • The Pickaquoy Centre Trust & Orkney Islands Council

The scheme now includes Sport Aberdeen facilities - for more information on the location of their sites, follow the link here:https://www.sportaberdeen.co.uk/Pages/Category/ice-aberdeen

 

 

People in the Hebrides - along with other islands and the Northern Highlands - face massive delivery charges for items. 

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has hit out during a debate in the Scottish Parliament at the unjustifiable delivery charges islanders face.

Alasdair Allan pointed out to Parliament on Wednesday that many islanders often have little option other than to rely on online shopping.

The power to regulate parcel delivery surcharging is reserved to the UK Government. However, despite these limits on its own powers, the Scottish Government last year launched its own “Fairer parcel deliveries: action plan”.

Alasdair Allan said:“Islanders rely on being able to purchase items online that we cannot easily pick up locally. However, the Western Isles continues to be one of the worst places affected by retailers setting arbitrary and unjustifiable delivery surcharges. Island consumers have this year paid an extra £1.5 million in delivery charges.

“More has to be done to stop islanders being ripped off. While the Scottish Government’s recent action plan was a welcome step forward in the campaign against unfair delivery charges, ultimately the powers in this area are reserved to the UK Government and they must step up to ensure that companies stop discriminating against island customers.  A step forward would be for them to ensure these companies use the Royal Mail for sending out smaller items, something many such companies simply refuse to do.”

A new service, meanwhile, has been launched in partnership with the Scottish Government and Trading Standards which aims to track unfair delivery charges in rural areas.

It asks consumers to fill out an online form and relevant information will be passed on to the appropriate authorities for investigation.

Lorna Yelland, team leader with consumeradvice.scot, said: “The new online tool will collect vital intelligence relating to unfair delivery charges, and by answering a few simple questions consumers can help us turn the tide against this unfair practice.”

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has urged progress in tackling exorbitant delivery charges in the face of rising surcharges in rural areas.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, during a debate on unfair delivery charges, Mr Cameron highlighted the experience of businesses in island communities, who were continuing to suffer from high charges.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Cameron said: “Unfair charging for deliveries always strikes home as we approach Christmas.  But we have to remember that our business community in the Highlands and Islands has to cope with this all year round.  It places local businesses at a competitive disadvantage and is hindering our attempts at growing the economy and creating job opportunities.

“We need to see real progress and intensify the pressure on those suppliers who continue to charge exorbitant rates for deliveries here.”

 The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has provided the following estimates of delivery surcharges across Scotland:

 

Total annual cost to adult population impacted by delivery surcharges

Inverness and Nairn

£7,239,000

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch

£6,272,000

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross

£4,843,000

Argyll and Bute

£3,109,000

Moray

£2,786,000

Aberdeenshire East

£2,448,000

Aberdeenshire West

£2,180,000

Banffshire and Buchan Coast

£2,035,000

Na h-Eileanan an Iar

£1,518,000

Perthshire North

£1,282,000

Shetland Islands

£1,271,000

Orkney Islands

£1,021,000

Perthshire South and Kinross-shire

£954,000

Dumfriesshire

£927,000

Galloway and West Dumfries

£758,000

Dumbarton

£684,000

Stirling

£365,000

Cunninghame North

£331,000

Clackmannanshire and Dunblane

£93,000

Aberdeen South and North Kincardine

£23,000

 

 

Total cost to Scotland

£40,139,000

 This report has been updated with additional comments since first being posted 

 

 

The final of the 2019 National Gaelic Schools Debate took place at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 5th December.

A very lively debate was heard with Joanne Laing and Marion MacCorquodale from Sgoil Lionacleit going up against Raonaid Campbell and Hamish Scott from Sgoil Sir E Scott.

Sgoil Lionacleit eventually came out victorious.  Raonaid Campbell from Sir E Scott was presented with the best debater award.

The National Gaelic Schools Debate committee would like to thank the organizations who helped to fund and support this year’s Debate - The Scottish Government, Loganair, The SQA, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Skills Development Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highland Council, Glasgow City Council, Comunn na Gàidhlig, Radio nan Gàidheal and Education Scotland.

 

Because of the gale forecast for Saturday night (Force 7-9), the Stornoway Big Sleep Out is now going to take place tonight (Friday, December 6th).

The organisers say that all other details remain as before.

The national event is organised by Social Bite, a Scottish charity, and they plan for it to go global this year, with a planned 50,000 people sleeping out all over the world to raise money for homeless and displaced people.

The idea originated as Sleep in the Park in 2016 and is now supported by celebrities, politicians and thousands of ordinary people.

Last year schoolchildren from Sgoil nan Loch’s senior Gaelic medium class (Primary 4-7) slept on the floor of the agricultural shed at Laxay Showground, raising £1,671 for their efforts.

Making the local contribution this year volunteers are going to spend the night of the 6th December sleeping in the vicinity of the Failte Centre. They’re encouraging anyone who is prepared to participate, with warm clothes and a sleeping bag are essential.

Organiser Lorraine Graham said: “It will be weather dependent but should go ahead unless the forecast is atrocious. It may end up being less of a 'Big Sleep Out' and more of a 'Wee Norrag' but at least we all have warm beds to go home to.

Contact the Homelessness Service on 01851 822821 if you'd like to join on the night, or if you’d rather support the effort from the warmth of home, you can make a financial donation here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LorraineGraham1.

Donations will be shared between local and worldwide homelessness charities.

Lorraine said: “Our local target (£1000) is quite modest so let’s see if we can smash it! We really appreciate all your support and thank you for any donations. You are also more than welcome to join us on the night.”

Everyone is invited to come along to the 2019 General Election Hustings at Stornoway Town Hall on Tuesday, 10th December 2019 at 7.00pm…less than two days before Polling Day begins.

You can email your questions for the candidates to

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

The event is hosted by Lews Castle College UHI but is open to all.

Angus MacNeil SNP candidate speaking just a week before the election said: “It has been enjoyable going through the Islands and hearing the views of voters from Barra to the Butt of Lewis. On the doorsteps people understand that the choice in this election is between choosing for ourselves what kind of country we want to live in or allowing others to make that choice for us.

“ The recent Ipsos MORI poll for STV shows support for the SNP at 44%  with the Tories in second place 18% behind. Only by voting for the SNP can Scotland help deprive the Tories and Boris Johnson of the victory they so badly want.

“In Scotland the Scottish Government has spent billions mitigating the worst of the austerity imposed by the Tories and unchecked by a weakened Labour Party fighting among themselves rather than for the people they are supposed to represent.

 “In Westminster, the SNP will continue to make the case for free TV Licenses for the over 75’s and to prevent a future Tory Government from further increasing the pension age. We will also argue for the UK Government to match the ambitious climate targets set by the Scottish Government and against any renewal of Trident.

“I would encourage everyone to vote on December 12th  and only a vote for the SNP will ensure we get the fairer, more equal Scotland we want.” 

For the UK Parliament election on December 12th in Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency:

  • Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate
  • Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate
  • Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate
  • Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

The demolition for the award-winning Buth Bharraigh community shop in Castlebay - which has aroused a protest campaign in Barra - is in line with the wishes of the community, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar,

In a statement, the Council said: "With regard to the former Co-op building in Castlebay, Isle of Barra, the proposed demolition of the property was included in the Comhairle’s successful ‘South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme’ bid to the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund in 2013, reflecting the wishes of the local community.

"The successful bid delivered investment of up to £2m in Barra with two new business units in Castlebay, the regeneration of the Vatersay Hall, and included the demolition of the former Co-op store together with funding for environmental improvements, the nature of these to be agreed by the community in due course.

"Bùth Bharraigh was made aware of the Comhairle’s intention to demolish the building prior to the Comhairle facilitating its temporary occupancy of the building in late 2013 and this occupation was always intended to be of a temporary nature.

"Castlebay Community Council confirmed their decision in 2016 that the old Co-op building be demolished as part of the South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme."

The Comhairle insist that it has continued to support Bùth Bharraigh with alternative premises including specialist advisory support. "The Comhairle continues to make significant investments to support a range of business and community projects in Barra, recognising the contribution which Bùth Bharraigh and other community enterprises make to the local economy."

However, the existing shop has won widespread praise on Twitter with one erpson commenting that two years ago "I stayed on Barra for two months and spent a lot of time at the Bùth. Through them I met a wonderful range of people and was given a true insight into the island community. I got amazing tourist information, brought local produce and crafts."

There's a on-line petition to save the shop.

https://www.change.org/p/comhairle-nan-eilean-siar-save-b%C3%B9th-bharraigh-isle-of-barra/u/25442919

A 44-year-old man, reported missing from the Stornoway area, has been traced.

Police appealed yesterday (Wednesday 4 December) for information on Stuart McKay's whereabouts.

They said he was last seen on Sunday 1 December and asked members of the public to help.

Police have now confirmed Mr McKay has been located safe and well.  

The final in this year's national Gaelic schools debate is between Sgoil Lionacleit and Sir E Scott School and will be held in the Scottish Parliament this evening (Thursday 5 December).

It will be broadcast live on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal from 7pm. Chairing the event will be Eilidh Grant, a regular face on BBC Gaelic news output. The debating topic will be: “In 20 years time, the real Gàidhlig communities will be situated in the big cities”

In the semifinals, Sgoil Lionacleit's team, comprising of Joanne Laing and Marion MacCorquodale, faced their opponents Lewis Boag and Finlay Maclennan from Inverness Royal Academy. Both teams did their schools proud but it was Sgoil Lionacleit who secured a place in this evening’s final.

In the second debate of the evening, Sorley Johnston and Blair Mills from Bishopbriggs Academy debated against Raonaid Chaimbeul and Hamish Scott of Sir E Scott. Both teams demonstrated some fine debating skills and the judges found it a tough decision but they came to the conclusion that it would be Sir E Scott who would be taking part in the final.

The judges in this year’s competition are Agnes Rennie (Manager of Acair Books Ltd), Boyd Robertson (retired former principal at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig) and Iain Stephen Morrison (journalist and editor of Uist community newspaper, Am Pàipear.

The final will also be broadcast live on the Scottish Parliament’s website. Go to www.scottishparliament.tv for 7pm on Thursday 5th December to watch live. It will also be available afterwards to catch up, download and share on demand.

 

Next week’s meetings of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will take place in the Nicolson Institute instead of the Comhairle Chamber because of preparations for the General Election on 12th December.

This meetings affected are Audit and Scrutiny and Policy and Resources Committees, the Planning Applications Board and full Comhairle.

Meetings have been transferred to the Assembly Hall at the Nicolson Institute.

There will be no Internet broadcast of these meetings.

Meetings are due to be held at the following dates and times:

  • Planning Applications Board – Tuesday 10 December 11am
  • Audit and Scrutiny - Tuesday 10 December 2pm
  • Policy and Resources –Wednesday 11 December 9.30am
  • Full Council – Wednesday 11 December 5pm

As usual, the public are welcome to attend our meetings.

The newly-launched Hebridean Whale Trail was named a finalist for the New National Treasure (UK) Award.

Launched by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, the trail is the first of its kind in the UK and connects 33 places for land-based viewing of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The Trail lost out to the National Maritime Museum at the award ceremony in London yesterday (Wednesday 4 December.)

Alison Lomax, Director of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, commented: "We're thrilled to have been a finalist for this prestigious award, and hope this success will further promote the Hebridean Whale Trail, which has really caught people's imagination since its launch in June.

"By promoting low-impact marine wildlife watching from land, the trail is championing the importance of protecting the Hebrides' wonderful and globally important marine wildlife.

"Collaboration was key in forging the trail, and its success is testament to the people and communities who have come together to create this exciting initiative."

Scottish rock legends Texas will headline HebCeltFest's 25th anniversary celebration next summer.

The Glasgow band, whose career has spanned more than three decades, are the first act to be unveiled for the 2020 HebCelt which will run from 15-18 July in Lewis and Harris.

It was confirmed today (5 December) they will top the bill on the Friday night on their first visit to HebCelt. More acts will be announced in the coming weeks.

Early bird tickets for the 2020 event have already sold out.

From tomorrow (6 December) more tickets will be on sale on the HebCelt website – www.hebceltfest.com.

The band’s lead singer Sharleen Spiteri said: “We are thrilled to be making our Hebridean Celtic Festival debut in its 25th year.

“HebCelt is renowned as one of Europe’s leading summer festivals and we can’t wait to join in the celebrations for its special anniversary.”

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “Texas are Scottish rock royalty and a fantastic live band. We are thrilled to announce them as the headliners in what is a very special year for the festival.”

Texas were founded in 1986 by bassist Johnny McElhone, formerly of Altered Images and Hipsway, and Sharleen Spiteri, taking their name from the 1984 Wim Wenders movie Paris, Texas.

They made their debut in 1988 at Dundee University and the following year released their debut album ‘Southside’, along with the single ‘I Don't Want a Lover’ which became an international hit.

Texas' sales have topped 40 million records and they have had 13 UK top ten singles, three UK number one albums and eight UK top ten albums, including their ninth studio album, ‘Jump on Board’, released in 2017.

Their biggest selling album, ‘White on Blonde’, released in 1997, which spawned the massive hits ‘Halo’, ‘Black Eyed Boy’ and ‘Say What You Want’, was certified six-times platinum in the UK, a feat matched by their Greatest Hits album, issued in 2000.

In 2018 the band completed a two-year world tour.

An independent economic assessment of the 2019 HebCelt showed the festival generated net additional income for the area of nearly £2 million and safeguarded around 35 tourism-related jobs.

More than half (55 per cent) of its audience came from outside Lewis and Harris, including from Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, underlining its importance to tourism and the islands’ economy.

The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign is being backed by Angus MacNeil SNP candidate for Na h-Eileanan an Iar in their efforts to secure fairness for women affected by the acceleration in the retirement age - which he says affects up to 1900 in Na h-Eileanan an Iar alone.

SNP-commissioned research found that it would cost £8 billion to reverse the 2011 changes and give WASPI women more time to prepare – significantly less than the £30 billion suggested by the UK Government.

Angus MacNeil said: “Due to the UK Government’s shambolic handling of the process these women have not been given reasonable time to prepare for retirement. This is a gross injustice.  Pensions are not a privilege, they are a contract and the UK Government has broken that contract.

“Sadly this is one area that the Scottish Government cannot do anything about - pensions are fully reserved to Westminster and the Scotland Act 2016 explicitly prevents the Scottish Parliament from creating new pension benefits. Neither can the power to top-up benefits be used because WASPI women are not yet in receipt of a pension.

 “It is right that in their Manifesto the SNP pledges support for the WASPI campaign and that SNP MPs will continue to call on the UK Government to take responsibility, deliver the pension that women born in the 1950s deserve and end this inequality.”

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

 

More than 200 Western Isles school pupils are now equipped with the skills to negotiate life in a positive way thanks to specialist proactive mental health training workshops delivered by NHS Western Isles staff.

Delivered by Mike Sullivan and  Lucy Harness from the NHS Western Isles Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), ‘The Decider Skills’ workshops are based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) therapeutic techniques – but developed in a way that can be used universally, as well as with targeted groups.

They are being used extensively across the UK and across different health, social and educational settings. The innovative training workshops were created by CBT Therapists Michelle Ayres and Carol Vivyan based in Guernsey.

Over the past year, Mike and  Lucy have delivered ‘The Decider Skills’ to a number of schools around the island chain, with over 200 pupils being involved in workshops, learning the skills to help them manage emotions and relationships in positive and helpful ways. The schools participating so far include the Nicolson Institute, Sir E Scott, Sgoil Lionacleit, Stornoway Primary and Tong. There are plans to continue to deliver this training to schools on request, and the potential to also train parents in the skills – with many already expressing an interest in taking part.

Adult mental health services are also currently using the skills in direct work with patients.

Mike explains: “The pupils have really enjoyed the classes and the feedback from the schools has been incredible. We hope that teachers and schools will now keep the programme running with our support. It really is a great way to promote good mental health, but also to teach coping skills when things are difficult.”

The Decider Skills are taught and demonstrated in fun and active ways that make them easy to remember and to use. The materials and teaching are the same regardless of age groups, as we all experience times when we need ways to cope.

Lucy says: “One of the greatest challenges is teaching adults and children the skills to understand and manage their own emotions and mental health. These skills are a crucial part of helping people develop positive skills and also to develop knowledge of how their emotions can drive them in negative and unhelpful ways. They can then step back and consider alternatives that work.”

CAMHS will now be supporting teaching staff through additional training, to ensure they can continue to deliver the skills within classrooms across Primary and Secondary schools – and NHS Western Isles is supporting this initial phase as an effective way of building up support to Mental Health and Wellbeing across the community and age groups.

Other Health Boards across Scotland have also been rolling out The Decider Skills as a way of managing waiting lists, as well as in recovery groups, as the scope for the skills is so extensive.

Mike adds: “It is hoped that wider services in Health and Social Care within the Western Isles will eventually be able to be trained to deliver the skills.

“It would create a common language and understanding, and also enable people to remember ways to manage things, regardless of what service they access or setting they are in.”

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson, said: “Our aim would be for every school pupil in the Western Isles to be armed with these skills, to not only improve their quality of life, but help them manage the challenges that life brings.

“The effects of stress, anxiety, depression and suicide impact our whole society and local communities. One in four of us will be affected by mental health problems every year, and 10 per cent of all children aged between five and 16 have a diagnosed mental health problem – that is two or three in every classroom. Fifty per cent of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14, and 75 per cent by the age of 18.

“This data is alarming, and demonstrates the significant need for attention – and most importantly, a fresh approach. Mental health care has traditionally been reactive, but Decider Skills is about proactively managing mental health, taking a positive approach and teaching the skills to monitor and manage your emotions and mental health.”

If you could like to find out more about The Decider Skills, please contact Lucy on 01851 701868.

 

A 44-year-old man has been reported missing after he was last seen in the Stornoway area.

Police are concerned regarding the welfare of Stuart Mackay, who they say was last seen at 2pm on Sunday 1 December.

Stuart was spoken to on the telephone on Monday 2 December.

Concerns are growing for Stuart's welfare as he hasn't been seen or heard from since.

He is described as 5' 8", slim build with short fair hair and an unshaven appearance,possibly growing a beard.

He notably has one green eye and one blue eye and has a scar on right side of head.

He was thought to be wearing a blue quilted hip length jacket and grey joggers and speaks with a local accent for the Western Isles.

Any person with knowledge of Stuart's welfare or whereabouts is asked to contact Police on 101 quoting reference Inc: 1547 of 4th December 2019.

Nicola Sturgeon should be ashamed of her Government’s record after the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey revealed that Scotland’s results in maths and science are now lower, says Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron.

Mr Cameron said: “Nicola Sturgeon claimed, when she became First Minister, that her priority was education. These devastating figures refute that claim.  We have fallen behind Latvia and Slovenia in maths and the score for science has fallen in every PISA survey since the SNP came to power 12 years ago.

“Her obsession with independence has come at a very high price for our children’s education and for the future performance of Scotland’s economy."

Scotland’s Maths score has dropped in every PISA survey. Scotland is now 31st overall in Maths and just below the OECD average. England is 17th. Scotland is now performing worse than Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Iceland and Northern Ireland.

Scotland’s Science score has dropped in every PISA survey since 2006. This year’s drop is the biggest since that between 2000 and 2003. Scotland is now 29th overall in Science, in line with the OECD average. England is 13th. Scotland is now performing worse than Northern Ireland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Denmark. 

 Reading didn’t reach 2012 levels – and is far below the 2000 and 2003 levels. Scotland is now 15th in Reading, just above the OECD average. England is 14th.

Score

2000

2003

2006

2009

2012

2015

2018

Reading

526

516

499

500

506

493

504

Maths

533

524

506

499

498

491

489

Science

522

514

515

514

513

497

490

 The Scottish Government says comparisons cannot be made on the scores in Maths before 2003 or in Science before 2006 because the assessment “changed radically”. However, they accept international comparisons can still be made, as they said that it is still “possible to compare changes in Scotland's performance relative to the OECD average or other countries” (Scottish Government, PISA 2015, link; Scottish Government, 2009, link).

 Rank

2000

2006

2018

 

Reading

6th 

14th

15th

 

Maths

5th

17th

31st

 

Science

9th

14th

29th

 

Between 2000 and 2018, OECD and non-OECD countries have been added to the results. The above table includes non-OECD countries where possible. 

Jennifer Ross, the Conservative & Unionist candidate in the General Election, said: “Scotland used to be a benchmark of educational excellence. Seeing the decline in standards over the last decade is extremely disappointing.

"It is even worse if you consider that the worst-performing subjects like maths and Science are specifically those that young people need the most to take advantage of the current and future career landscape. Nicola Sturgeon said ‘judge me on my record on education’. Well, she has been judged, and the verdict is in:she has failed.”

International PISA results in 2006 are available here: https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/39725224.pdf

PISA results in Scotland prior to 2018 are available here: https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/PISA

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

 

 

Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has sent the leaders of the Scottish parties a list of questions that are important to its membership, in advance of the forthcoming General Election.

“With so much apparent chaos and uncertainty now and in the foreseeable future,” said Yvonne White, chair of SCF, “it is imperative that Scottish party leaders give a clear indication as to their intentions concerning agriculture in our country and, more specifically, in the Highlands and Islands.

"Our questions to the leaders focus on crofters’ main concerns. For example, we ask for the parties’ aspirations for a trade deal with the EU after the transition period ends. What would they envisage appropriate export and import tariff levels on beef and lamb to be?

“We also ask about environmental and animal welfare standards – something in which crofters take great pride and which gives Scotland a great marketing opportunity. Will we maintain our high standards and will imports have to comply with these?”

Ms White went on to say, “Our current veterinary profession and abattoir facilities rely on skilled personnel from Europe. What provision is being made to ensure that these professions are not adversely affected by leaving the EU?

“We ask what their plans are for a Scottish agricultural support policy, what the levels will be, how they will defend this against competing sectors and how they will protect crofting against the claims of the large-scale agri-businesses.

"We want to know how they intend to show that the production of grass-fed, outdoor-reared meat from the hills and islands is a healthy and environmentally valid way of using ground that can’t produce arable crops to provide food?

“Our crofting communities are a very significant constituency” concluded Ms White. “Now is the time for the Scottish parties to lay out their stalls and demonstrate their understanding of, and aspirations for, crofting and Scottish agriculture.”

Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Alison MacCorquodale says: "The way our crofting sector manages the land will become increasingly important. Our renewable resources must be harnessed to provide clean energy, while a revitalised Arnish Yard will help to build the renewable infrastructure required to meet Labour’s ambitious targets."

She said the contribution from the islands should be built around “the three Es – energy, environment and employment” but it would need political leadership to deliver.

“Voters at this election have a stark choice between a Tory government which evades the problem or a Labour government committed to tackling the issue head on”.

Alison said, “With rising sea levels affecting low-lying areas and increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather becoming the norm, islanders are already experiencing the initial effects of a changing climate.

“This is not something we can leave to future generations,. It requires action now.

“Labour’s green industrial revolution is the radical solution to this massive issue. It will transform our economy to a low carbon one, slashing emissions and creating thousands of jobs in the process.

Alison added: “While the Western Isles are already suffering effects from the climate emergency, we are also uniquely placed to deliver the solutions."

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

 

 

Awareness is needed of a new law introduced on driving after taking certain drugs (including some medicines), says the Outer Hebrides Alcohol and Drug Partnership (OHADP).

The law, introduced in Scotland on 21 October 2019, states that it is an offence to drive with certain drugs above specified blood levels in the body, whether your driving is impaired or not.

The new law sets limits at very low levels for eight drugs commonly associated with illegal drug use, such as cannabis and cocaine, to tackle illegal drug use and driving. 

The law also includes eight drugs commonly associated with medicinal use, that are sometimes abused, that have been set at higher limits based on the available evidence of the road safety risk and to reflect their use as medicines.   These are morphine used to treat pain; diazepam, clonazepam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam used to treat anxiety or inability to sleep; methadone used to treat drug addiction; and amphetamine used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Parkinson’s disease.

Evidence shows that all of the drugs listed in the new drug driving offence result in a significantly greater road safety risk when taken in combination with alcohol, even in small amounts.

Existing law makes it an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle while unfit to drive through drink or drugs, including medicinal drugs, with the penalties being a minimum 12-month driving ban, up to six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000.

The new offence of driving while above specified drug limits will operate alongside the current offence and carry with it the same maximum penalties.  If in doubt, you should not drive.

New guidance issued advises that current professional practice when healthcare professionals are prescribing or supplying medicines is that they must take account of their risks, such as whether a patient's driving may be impaired by their medicines, and advise accordingly. 

They should also explain the new  legislation, including the statutory 'medical defence' available to patients who have taken their medicine in accordance with the advice of a healthcare professional and the information contained in the leaflet accompanying the medicine.

If you are worried that a medicine you are taking may affect your ability to drive, talk to your healthcare professional in the first instance to ensure you are following the correct advice.

An award-winning community social enterprise is under threat from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar because the local authority is insisting on demolishing its premises.

Bùth Bharraigh, a local producer co-operative, visitor information provider and community hub in Castlebay, is under orders from the local authority to move from its current location in the former Co-op building  – but directors of the Bùth claim the new site would put them out of business as it is not located where newly arrived tourists can find it.

They say the unit they are being offered half a mile away is much smaller, more expensive and is not a good location for tourist information. They would have to reduce the amount of services they provide and stock held.

They also say the Comhairle has refused to engage with them, ignored pleas for a meeting, ignored lawyers’ letters on behalf of Bùth Bharraigh, ignored a Freedom of Information inquiry probing the legality of the demolition plan, and failed so far to publicise comments in response to an asset transfer request for their building, which closed on November 22.

Bùth Bharraigh directors are growing increasingly concerned ahead of a meeting of the Sustainable Development Committee at the Comhairle today (December 4) where their fate will be discussed. A report is to be given to the committee by the Head of Economic Development and Planning but was not made publicly available on the Comhairle website ahead of the meeting.

Also, the item will be taken in private – a move which raised concerns still further, as Bùth Bharraigh has not even been informed by the Comhairle that it is on the agenda.

According to the agenda, the item was to be in private because of “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (other than the Comhairle)”.

Director Sarah Maclean said: “Nobody has been in touch with us from the council. They didn’t tell us it was going to be discussed and they didn’t the last time, either. That’s twice now they haven’t informed us that we’ll be a topic of discussion.

“Taking the item in secret is deliberate so that we can’t find out what they’re up to, frankly. I think it’s so that it will be a done deal until it is too late.”

Three years ago, the community of Barra wrote to Comhairle chief executive Malcolm Burr and the then council leader Angus Campbell to try to save the building. 

In that letter, dated December 5, 2016, they said: “We are writing to confirm that we, the people of Barra, do not want the old Co-op building in Castlebay demolished.” There were 137 signatories.

The debate about whether to demolish the building goes back to 2012 when it was lying vacant and suffered storm damage. However, since 2013 it has been occupied by Buth Bharraigh who have architects plans and costings to refurbish and renovate it. Bùth Bharraigh believe demolition would contravene council strategies and programmes aimed at tourism, creating employment opportunities and encouraging social enterprise.

In the 2016 letter, the community also said: “We have tried since 2014, without success, to make CnES officials understand that residents now want to keep the building.”

Five years on, the message has still not got through to the Comhairle.

After a meeting with Malcolm Burr in May 2017 at which the directors laid out the case for the Bùth remaining in its place.

In its current central location in the old Co-op building, Bùth Bharraigh fulfils multiple functions.

As well as acting as a route to market for around 80 local producers, Bùth Bharraigh serves as a visitor information centre, laundrette – laundry contracts include social care – as well as bike hire, Hebridean Way pit stop and community hub cafe with free WiFi.

They won the title of UK Social Enterprise of the Year in the 2016 Rural Business Awards and were highly commended in the category of Rural Enterprise in the 2017 Scottish Rural Awards, winning the Scottish Rural Parliament Innovators Award for Business 2015/16 and reaching the finals in numerous other awards including Scottish Social Enterprise of the Year, Community Ownership Awards (Scotland) and the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards, as an Independent Retailer. Bùth Bharraigh Ltd is also an Accredited Living Wage Employer.

Residents of Barra who are keen to keep Bùth Bharraigh in its current home gathered for a picture at the weekend, to show their support for their community social enterprise.

Sarah said afterwards: “They were shocked at the fact that Malcolm Burr just didn’t get back to us and they want the building to continue. Regardless of what the council says, most of the people on the island do think the shop is a good thing and doing an important job, but not everybody is going to write a letter or jump up and down about it.”

She also stated the Comhairle were onto their third supposed reason about why the Bùth had to vacate the building.

Their first reason, she said, was that the building was not structurally sound. However, a structural survey proved that the frame was “structurally sound” and drew up plans for a complete renovation in the future. Complete renovation quotes had come in at around £400,000. If allowed to remain, Bùth Bharraigh hopes to raise some of that through crowd funding.

The Comhairle’s second reason, she stated, was that it did not have community support. 

“Then when we disproved that, they said it was about road safety – but a Police Scotland report showed there has never been an accident outside the shop."

With the issue due to be discussed at the Sustainable Development Committee, Sarah expressed concern about what might be in the report due to the content of the previous one which went to the Comhairle’s meeting in September.

Since this meeting, Bùth Bharraigh has hired lawyers to fight its corner and the legal firm sent its second letter to the Comhairle last Friday. The Comhairle has not yet replied to the first lawyer’s letter sent in September and has also failed to answer a Freedom of Information inquiry about the legality of the Comhairle’s process, within the set timescale. 

Sarah said: “They should be working with us to get the best outcome for Barra and our business. We’re a successful community business and we’re under constant threat. We haven’t been able to develop and barriers have been put in our way. We’ve been held back. We have even won Rural Social Enterprise of the Year – and that was a UK award – and it just doesn’t make a bit of difference.

“They will be putting producers’ takings and jobs at risk if they force us to move. 

“We’re open when the ferry comes in and we’ve taken on the tourist information and we don’t get any money for that. That is a big service that we provide and if we move half a mile it’s going to be so difficult for visitors to get accommodation and information on arrival.

“The big thing for me is the frustration that the council don’t recognise what a great thing we are doing. Plus, it’s the frustration that they just don’t get back to us. We asked them for a meeting recently and it was just ignored.”

In their original lease application, Sarah said they asked for a “20 year lease with an option to buy” and were then given a five year lease by the Comhairle in 2013. Problems began afterwards. 

She said: “In these premises, we have been trading and established our business over the past six years. If we moved, we’d have to reduce the amount of stock we carry and we couldn’t do the laundrette. We would probably have to shut the Wifi cafe. But the location is the biggest thing.”

Turnover has been around £750,000 over the past six years but Sarah said the Comhairle’s attitude remains dismissive. “The council have never taken us seriously. We’ve always just been a bunch of women in Barra with a wee project but we’ve grown from strength to strength and we’ll continue to do so if we stay in the same spot.”

Bùth Bharraigh is due to hold its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, December 12, amending its Articles of Association to ensure it will fully comply with the conditions for an asset transfer, should that be approved.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the Ferguson Marine shipyard has now been taken into public ownership.

The decision could mean a revival of hope for the long-awaited replacement ferry on the Uig triangle route serving Skye, Harris and North Uist, as the dual-fuel ferry for the route has been ordered from Ferguson Marine.

It was announced yesterday (Monday December 2nd) that administrators have agreed the final terms of the transaction with Scottish Ministers.

This follows the conclusion by administrators that three indicative commercial offers for the business were either not capable of being executed or did not represent a better outcome for creditors than a sale to the Scottish Government.

Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said: “We have been working for over two years to find a resolution to the difficulties at Ferguson Marine and our priorities remain the completion of the two CalMac ferries, protecting jobs, and securing a future for the yard.

“In the absence of a workable commercial solution the administrators have concluded that public ownership is in the best interests of the creditors.

“Now that this has been confirmed, I am determined that we continue to work closely with everyone at the yard to progress work on the vessels and achieve the best possible outcome for the yard and its employees.

“Recruiting more staff to Ferguson Marine is a significant step forward in making this happen. Establishing a revised timetable for the completion of the two ferries also remains one of the main tasks for the management at the yard and I will give an update on the schedule and cost for delivery of the two ferries as soon as possible.

“While there is still more to be done, our actions have ensured that there will be a future for Ferguson Marine.”

Among vessels under construction at Ferguson is the MV Glen Sannox, which was expected to be in service during 2018. She was commissioned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), the publicly-owned company who own the ferries operated by CalMac, and was due to be followed into production by a vessel currently known as ‘Hull 802’ which is to serve the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy route.

It’s not known what timetable will now be placed on construction of the new ferry for the Harris route, although work on harbour improvements to accommodate the new vessel is already well under way in Tarbert.
CMAL were in Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy last week (November 25th to 27th) providing public updates on the progress of the contract works.

In a separate announcement, CMAL recently announced that it had bought the vessel MV Loch Seaforth outright, paying £36 million in October this year through a commercial agreement with Lloyds Banking Group.

Pictures show Glen Sannox at launch in 2017, showing the expected design of the Skye triangle ferry (Ferguson Marine).

Police are asking for help from the public after two incidents of cash theft which may be related.

In the first incident, visitors staying at the Kenneth Street Hostel in Stornoway between November 23rd and 24th reported that Euros totalling a value of around £300 had been taken from among their possessions while staying in the hostel.

The following week, a visitor staying at Rhenigidale Hostel in Harris reported that £170 in cash had been taken from a pocket in his clothing while staying in the hostel between November 29th and 30th.

Police are appealing for information and are following a positive line of enquiry, including that the incidents may be related. Anyone who can provide any additional information is asked to call the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident numbers NH1721/19 (Stornoway) and NH1722/19 (Rhenigidale).

Picture shows the remote location of the Rhenigidale Hostel (Gatliff.org.uk)

Nine drivers have been issued with fixed penalties by Stornoway police, during the continuing activity under Operation Cedar.

Between the 29th of November and 2nd December drivers were stopped within Stornoway at locations including Perceval Road and Willowglen Road.

They were charged with offences including speeding, driving without a valid MOT and driving without insurance.

Police are continuing to operate regular traffic patrols within the area.

Two men are appearing at Stornoway Sheriff court today (Tuesday December 3rd) on separate offences, both after spending more than 48 hours in police custody.

An 18-year-old man was arrested on Cromwell Street on Saturday (November 30th) just before midnight, and charged with breach of bail conditions.

And a 28-year-old man was in custody for court after being charged with numerous offences on Saturday at 8.30pm.

He was charged with offences including assault, resisting arrest, police assault and obstructing medical staff at Western Isles Hospital.

Report to Procurator Fiscal

Police detained a 32-year-old man in Stornoway on Saturday night at 11.15pm due to his threatening and abusive behaviour.

He was taken into custody and released when sober, and is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

In a separate incident, a 21-year-old man was arrested on Saturday night at 8.50pm within licensed premises in Stornoway. He was charged with failing to quit licensed premises and released when sober, after accepting a fixed penalty.

The Skye-based charity Lucky2BHere celebrated their 10th anniversary last month with a dinner dance and presentation evening in Inverness on November 22nd.

The hard-working charity is continuing celebrations right through the rest of the year, with numerous stories coming forward of lives saved and transformed because of the group’s dedication to their cause.

In December 2006 Skye man Ross Cowie suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while taking part in a quiz at his local shinty club, Skye Camanachd. His life was saved due to the pure luck that an ambulance happened to be passing by, the skills of the crew and the life-saving equipment that they carried.

Unbeknown to Ross, he suffered from a genetic heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy. His father, auntie and uncle all died at an early age, so he knew he was lucky to have survived.

He established Lucky2BHere in the hope that it might give others the same chance –and the testimony of many survivors proves that he was right.

The Western Isles group was set up nearly five years ago, after Angus Morrison of Balallan suffered a heart attack. More fortunate than some, he survived the traumatic experience and started thinking what could be done to get help quickly to people in a similar situation.

It set him off on a quest to ensure that easy-to-use life-saving equipment could be made readily available in public places and it set in motion a shift in thinking that has made the Western Isles a model of excellent and widespread support for the charity.

There are now 124 publicly available defibrillators in the Western Isles and 74 in Skye and Localsh. Added to that, numerous workplaces and schools have received essential training in how to give CPR to keep people alive after cardiac arrest until paramedics can get to the scene.

Portree High School was the first senior school to receive training in how to use the essential equipment in 2009, since when thousands of children in schools across Scotland have learnt life-saving skills which will stay with them into adulthood.

Last year John Burgis from Port of Ness became one of three people to have their lives saved within the space of five days across the Highlands and Islands, thanks in part to public access defibrillators and training. Lucky2here trainer Fiona Finlayson was the first to respond to the call in Ness and successfully resuscitated John.

Among Western Isles groups to receive or refresh their training recently are staff at the MG ALBA Offices in Seaforth Road, Stornoway and members of Garrabost Free Church, who have a defibrillator fitted to the external wall of their church.

And this weekend cardiac arrest survivor Michelle Macleod of Stornoway added her voice to the chorus of those keen to celebrate a charity which has meant she, too, is lucky to be here. A Lucky2BHere defibrillator was used to resuscitate her when she suffered a cardiac arrest during the Harris Marathon in August.

Speaking after the 10th anniversary event, she said: “It’s amazing to be here. I think the work the charity does, including the work in schools, should become more a part of life, so that people know how to save lives, like my own.”

The pictures show:

1. Lucky2BHere founder Ross Cowie (left) with trainer Fiona Finlayson and Uig Councillor Angus Morrison, who set up the Western Isles group.
2. Staff from MG ALBA after their refresher training at Seaforth Road last week.

Pupils from Harris and Uist will continue the National Gaelic Schools Debate in the Scottish Parliament this week (Thursday 5 December.)

The debate will, for the first time, take place on the floor of the debating chamber to mark the twentieth anniversary of both the debating competition and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

The four semi-finalists who will battle it out to progress to Holyrood are:
• Inverness Royal Academy B
• Sgoil Lionaclait, Uist
• Bishopbriggs Academy A
• Sir E Scott School, Isle of Harris

The final will be broadcast live on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.

Presiding Officer, Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP said: “Gaelic matters. It is part of who we are and part of Scotland's rich cultural identity.

“The humour, insight and linguistic skill displayed by young people in this competition year after year, convincingly demonstrates that the language continues to flourish.

“It gives me immense pleasure that the final will be held on the floor of Holyrood’s debating chamber, marking this, our joint twentieth anniversary.”
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Eight elite athletes are eligible to benefit from a scheme to support travel costs.

The Islands Athlete Travel Award Scheme give up to eight athletes from the Outer Hebrides £1,500 each.

The aim of this scheme is to help the athletes of the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland to gain better access to competitive and developmental opportunities available on the mainland.

The scheme will be available for applications for the 2020-21 financial year from Monday 9 December 2019.

Awards will be allocated through an application process, with athletes required to evidence how the grant will improve their performance, provide them access to quality training opportunities and improve their sports or club environment.

sportscotland has allocated each of the three local authorities £10k, with the Councils then required to top this up with £2k of their own funding plus the equivalent of £3k of management and administrative time.

Stewart Harris, Chief Executive, sportscotland, said: “At sportscotland we recognise the specific challenges faced by island athletes. That’s why we are delighted to continue support for the Island Athlete Travel Scheme, in partnership with the island councils. By working together we can deliver services locally through the sportscotland institute of sport in the Outer Hebrides while providing additional support to allow talented athletes to travel to competitions and progress in their chosen sport.”

”It’s fantastic to hear that the athletes who received awards last year have benefitted and we look forward to working with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to support more island athletes.”

Councillor Angus McCormack, Chairman of the Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee said: “The Athlete Travel Award Scheme has been a fantastic addition to the support the Comhairle is able to provide our elite athletes. The feedback from the first year has been very encouraging and I would anticipate a high level of applicants for this year’s grants. sportscotland has become a valued partner over the years in our efforts to encourage our young people to get involved in sport and activities, and we are delighted that they have agreed to continue their support of this scheme.”

The scheme opens for applications this week and following an application and selection process, athletes will be identified for support by each local authority.

Application forms will be available from Monday 9th December 2019 on the CNES website.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 14th February.

To find out more about the scheme contact the Community Sports Hub Officer for your area: -
Kevin Morrison (Uist & Barra) – tel: 01870 603693; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Euan Macleod (Lewis & Harris) – tel: 01851 822800; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Community learning and development (CLD) in the Western Isles is not improving fast enough, according to an Education Scotland report published on Monday December 2nd.

Her Majesty’s education inspectors have criticised the governance and performance management of CLD provision in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, singling out information sharing and planning as areas that need improvement and stating their intention to return for a third time next year to re-examine progress.

They urged the Comhairle to be more transparent after community consultations, so that local people understand how their views influence decision-making.

The report, signed off by HMI Alona Murray, said: “The direction of CLD provision in Eilean Siar is not sufficiently clear. Although partners are making progress against some aspects of work, the governance and performance management of CLD across the authority area continues to require significant improvement.”

The report comes after a follow-up inspection, which itself was triggered in July 2018, when inspectors found that improvements were needed, noting then that: “partners do not yet have a full understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement.”

Today’s report says that, although provision for learners and communities remains of good quality, there has been insufficient progress made against the two main areas for improvement in the original report.

HMI Alona Murray said: “Senior leaders continue to value the role that community learning and development (CLD) plays in contributing to local authority and Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP) priorities. However, the governance of CLD remains a significant area for improvement. The local authority has made very little progress in identifying shared CLD priorities.”

Singled out as good examples of partnership working are the Harris Forum and the CLD partnership in Barra and Vatersay, which continue to work well. Inspectors also cited Comann nam Pàrant’s successful challenge on Gaelic Medium Education in P1 at Stornoway Primary School, saying that it was an example of how the youth and community voice is well supported and strong.

And there were compliments for initiatives within Stornoway, such as the Chill Out Group in the Nicolson Institute and the Full Circle family learning project delivered by Pointers Youth Centre, An Lanntair and the NHS. Inspectors found that mothers are positive about the programme, which is improving their social network and providing peer support.

Community and voluntary organisations and volunteers also garnered praise from inspectors, with the development trusts in both Uig and Harris, the parent-run Còmhla Group in North Lewis, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis (Ness Historical Society) and Kinloch Historical Society all named for the ways in which they are meeting local needs.

However, they said: “There is little progress in developing joint targets and performance measures to better capture the full impact of CLD….Too often teams and partners are unaware of what happens with the data they currently provide or how it can be best used to drive improvement. This area now requires improvement to ensure that the individual and collective contribution of CLD is recorded and recognised.”

Wider public community consultations were noted to be influencing council priorities and planning, but inspectors said that this is not always clear to stakeholders. They said: “There continues to be a need to improve the coordination of consultations and the sharing of findings to avoid duplication and reduce the risk of alienating residents.”

The inspectors concluded: “As we are confident that the provision for learners and communities remains of a good quality, we will not undertake further scrutiny in regard to these aspects of work.

"However, there has been insufficient progress made against the two main areas for improvement in the original report. As a result, we will return around 12 months from the publication of this report to monitor progress against these areas.”

You can read the full report here https://education.gov.scot/media/hyqpn2to/comhairlenaneileansiarcld021219.pdf

 

 

The website supporting Stornoway’s new Business Improvement District (BID) is launched tomorrow (Wednesday December 4th), offering a clear introduction to the benefits the project could bring to the town and wider island economy.

Stornoway BID’s project manager Stacey Macdonald said the website would act as a one-stop-shop for all the information anyone wishes to find about what the BID is, the vision and the priorities it will set out.

A BID is a business-led initiative where companies and public sector organisations work together to encourage local improvements to their business environment. Stornoway’s BID aims to promote the town as a great place in which to do business, to invest, to live, to study and to thrive.

Local businesses would be encouraged to work together, invest collectively and undertake projects improving the economic viability of the town.

A steering group has already been set up, and a survey carried out through the summer, which found that 72% of town businesses wanted to do more to promote Stornoway and to create a positive brand for the town.

Stacey Macdonald said: “Ultimately it’s the businesses of Stornoway that decided what will happen with the BID. We’re in the middle of a consultation which started with a survey, live for three months, and I am now conducting more in-depth consultation with businesses, which will continue through December and January.

“I am speaking to as many of the town’s businesses as possible, because the only way we get the BID to work is if we get as many of the town’s businesses as possible engaged.”

To that end the website at https://www.stornowaybid.co.uk shows information about how a BID is designed to work, survey results from the early consultation and the vision and objectives which have already been set out.

Stacey said: “It’s a unique opportunity for the businesses of Stornoway to work together, but I have to hear their voices. The website is a tool that I hope will engage businesses as we continue looking forward.”

 

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society has announced details of its second recital in this winter’s programme and hailed the first recital a great success.

Glenn Brown, a Canadian who won the piobaireachd competition at the prestigious Glenfiddich competition in October, will be playing in the Caladh Hotel in Stornoway on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 7.30pm, with tickets available on the door.

He will be taking workshops during the day, with a focus on helping the youngsters from Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band.

The announcement follows a successful first recital with Callum Beaumont on November 9. Acclaimed piper and piping tutor Callum also took workshops and both the recital and the workshops went down well, according to Dr John Smith, chairman of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society.

Dr Smith said: “The day was very successful. The children thoroughly enjoyed the morning session with Callum, who of course is used to teaching youngsters, and in the afternoon about half a dozen of the pipers from the pipe band were taken through new tunes with his skilled assistance and they were very pleased with that as well. 

“In the evening he gave an excellent recital. In the first half he played the Donald Macleod piobaireachd Queen Elizabeth II’s Salute and in the second half he played the ground and first variation of Cabar Feidh Gu Brath and these are two of Donald Macleod’s most popular piobaireachd compositions. He played a wide selection of marches, Strathspeys, reels, hornpipes and jigs and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s entertainment.

“There were between 40 and 50 people present and I was quite pleased with that turnout to our first recital of the current season. We raised enough money to almost pay for the expense of the day, between admission fees and a very well supported raffle.

“Glenn Brown will be the second recitalist and he is already looking forward to coming to Stornoway.”

Tickets will be £10, with £8 concessions, and under 16s get in free. There will be two workshops during the day, from 10am till 1pm and 2pm till 5pm.

Glenn Brown, a native of Ontario who now lives in Scotland, has been to the invitational Pipe Major Donald Macleod Memorial Competition twice before and qualified for the 2020 event by virtue of his win at Glenfiddich. However, he will be unable to make it as he is a groomsman at the wedding of fellow piper Callum Beaumont in Melbourne, Australia on the same day, April 3.

Dr Smith said: “Glenn Brown is in his mid 30s and has been playing since the age of nine. Piping is in his blood as he was taught by his mother, Gail Brown, who he still lists as one of his favourite pipers. One of Glenn’s biggest role models is Willie McCallum, who he has been taking lessons with since 2001. Other instructors have been Michael Grey and Bill Livingstone, both Canadians.

“Some of his prizes of note in piobaireachd are the Canadian Gold Medal, the Dunvegan Medal and the Northern Meeting Gold Medal and this year he won the piobaireachd at the Glenfiddich competition in October.

“He would qualify to be invited to the Donald Macleod competition on the strength of his win at the Glenfiddich but he is to be Callum Beaumont’s groomsman at his wedding in Melbourne so we thought we would invite him to give a recital since he won’t be coming to Stornoway in April.”

Dr Smith added: “We are inviting the current best pipers in Scotland to come and do these recitals and we are hoping to do the recitals along with workshops for aspiring pipers in the area.

“The current tutors find these to be of considerable benefit to them – not just in imparting skills to the kids but in motivating and inspiring them to be the best pipers they can be.”

A programme of recitals was a regular feature on The Lewis and Harris Piping Society’s calendar from the time it was formed in the 1970s until about a decade ago, with anything up to six recitals in each series, and the best pipers in Scotland were invited then too. Then, recitals were held in the Royal Hotel and latterly the Royal British Legion Club  but it had been “a bit beyond their means” to bring in star pipers in recent times, due to resources.

However, Dr Smith said “a very generous donation from a private individual” had made it possible for the Society to organise a winter recital programme for 2019/2020 and they hoped to hold four recitals in the series. 

 

 

Organised by Stornoway Singers, the two-hour long community concert on Saturday December 14th will include all your favourite carols – as well as a bit of the unexpected!

Calum Watt, who will be singing and playing in the brass quintet, explains: “We are performing lots that people can sing along to – as well as ‘For Unto Us A Child Is Born’ from Handel’s Messiah. 

“The reason we’re doing that is because we plan to invite people to join us in what’s called a ‘scratch Messiah.’

“That means that people who don’t normally sing in a choir get to come along and in one day we teach them the notes and all join together for a big concert with orchestra and soloists. 

“That will be held next year, and the aim is to encourage people to get involved and sing with a bigger choir.”

Stornoway Singers are made up of 40 performers, aged from 16 to over 70.  Alan Fish, Stornoway Singers' Chairman, says: “We do a wide spectrum of stuff, from classical to silly. 

“Our latest performance was Bach's St John Passion, performed in Stornoway Town Hall and in Talla na Mara, Harris.  Before that we staged Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance! 

“We put on a variety of concerts and we always do something at Christmas time.  The idea is to get people into the Christmas spirit and spread some cheer.

“Of course, we will be singing all the old favourites, and the brass quintet gives the carols a lovely warm Christmassy feel. 

“But we’ll also be performing more unusual Christmas music, including Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Crown of Roses,’ a modern, minimalist carol by Morten Lauridson entitled ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ and a toe-tapping number called ‘Just Another Star.’

“We will be fund-raising for Catch 23, a mental health charity running (amongst other things) a drop-in centre in Stornoway for people with mental health issues.”

The event, held in The Nicolson Institute, will take place on 14 December at 7:00pm.  “We expect a turnout of around 200,” explains Alan.   “It’ll be cabaret style, with people sitting at small tables rather than in rows, and refreshments will be provided.

"It’ll be a good night, and everyone is welcome to join us in the Nicolson Institute on Saturday 14 December at 7:00pm.  Tickets can be bought at Nicholson's Newsagents, Stornoway."

Dancers from the Claire Wilson School of Dance returned to Lewis, Harris and Dunoon last week with a huge haul of trophies and medals after an extremely busy weekend in Paris (November 20th to 26th).

The girls took part in their first ever International Highland Dancing competition at Disneyland Paris, backed by the fundraising support of many generous islanders.

Full days of competing for over 11 hours a day went hand-in-hand with some intensive sightseeing, as Claire Wilson told welovestornoway.com: “For these girls it was their first time abroad, so on the first day alone we were overwhelmed. We spent some time touring Paris and a trip would not be complete, of course, if we didn't eat lots of crepes!”

The excitement didn’t put the girls off their game, however, as they competed from 7am each day. In the magics competition (Seven years and under) Abigail Gillies of Harris gained good results, including 1st in swords, reel and lilt, earning her two trophies.

Niamh Wilson, Hazel Morrison and Madelyn Mackaskill were also well-placed in competitions on the first day, while Erin Macdonald from Breasclete was runner-up in the beginners 10-years Highland and beginners 10-years national trophies after a series of top-placed dances.

Dulcie Macdonald from Ness was also a trophy winner in the beginners 11-years and over Highland and Breasclete’s Eilidh Morrison gained consistent results across all her dances, including a first place in the reel. Harris’s Ellie Rose Laurie was runner-up novice 9 years and under Highland and carried home a shared trophy. In premier 14 years, Emma Peterson from Harris showed excellent form, including a 1st for her fling.

The girls continued to compete in the Disney-themed cheorography, for which all of them had been travelling up to Stornoway on a weekly basis for the past few months for combined lessons and the following day was similarly filled with competitions and choreographed pieces including a number of duos.

Ellie and Abigail, along with Erin and Eilidh both gained best costume characterisation, awarded to the Duo who best incorporated and portrayed the Disney characters with their costuming, cheorography and performance.

On the last performance day, the girls all took part in the Sea of Tartan Parade down main street in Disneyland Paris. They danced for a solid 45 minutes to Julie Fowlis singing Touch the Sky from the animated film Brave.
On their last day the whole team were able to enjoy the park with no competitions or performances.

Claire told welovestornoway.com: “These nine girls have travelled from the Western Isles and have brought home a haul of medals and trophies that the community should be very proud of. The nine dancers gained 60 medals and 11 trophies altogether – an exceptional achievement for your local dancers. Even the sheer length of time that the dancers were expected to compete for was new and unknown to them and they definitely showed what us islanders can do!”

The pictures show Ellie Laurie, Abigail Gillies, Madelyn Macaskill, Hazel Morrison, Emma Peterson, Eilidh Morrison, Erin Macdonald, Dulcie Macdonald and Niamh Wilson during competitions and sightseeing in Paris.

Endurance swimmer Colin S Macleod and mountain biker Kerry MacPhee have both been recognised for sporting achievement, during a civic event hosted by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to celebrate 20 years of Lewis and Harris Sports Council.

Over £400,000 has been distributed to sports clubs, groups and individuals during the 20 years, and many of those responsible for keeping the sports council going were present at the buffet reception on Wednesday (November 27th).

Convenor Norman A. MacDonald highlighted the work of individuals and coaches who have worked so hard to support the development of sport in Lewis and Harris. Special mention was made of achievements over the last twelve months by Kerry McPhee in mountain biking and Colin Macleod in recognition of his magnificent Minch Swim.

Annette Murray was also presented with a commemorative certificate from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in recognition of the work done by the Sports Council. Among those present was 82-year-old Ethel McNally, a stalwart of both the running and swimming clubs, who still swims and runs regularly.

Awarding a certificate of recognition to Minch swimmer Colin Macleod, Convenor Cllr Macdonald said: “It’s something that many other people wouldn’t even have considered, even in a swimming pool, far less across the Minch, but Colin has shown his determination, having set a goal for himself and really determined to complete it.

“That is something that is very important for all sports people. If you have that determination then you will achieve what you want to achieve.”

Also due to receive civic recognition later this month are swimmer Kara Hanlon and triathlete Christina Mackenzie, both of whom will be given their awards when they return home for the Christmas holidays.

The picture shows those attending the celebratory event, with Annette Murray, Kerry MacPhee and Colin Macleod centre front.

Stornoway photographer Scott Davidson is the winner of the second Hebridean Dark Skies Festival photography competition, it was announced today (Monday December 2nd).

Scott’s winning photograph, Callanish and the Cosmos, will feature on the cover of the festival’s printed programme, available from this week. The photograph will also feature alongside five other shortlisted entries in an exhibition opening at An Lanntair on Friday 7 February, the festival’s opening day.

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “Callanish is surely the most photographed location on Lewis so it is a big challenge to create an image that feels original and surprising, but what Scott manages to do with light and perspective in this image is really striking and memorable. We’re delighted that this captivating photo will be helping to showcase the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival to the world.”

In addition to Callanish and the Cosmos, the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival photography exhibition will feature work by five other shortlisted photographers, Douglas Rattray, Andy Yearley, Jethro Thomas, Christian Cooksey and Steve Ferguson, all from Lewis and Harris.

The second Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will run from Friday 7 February to Saturday 22 February, with an ambitious and exciting programme theatre, live music, film, visual art, food, astronomy talks, and stargazing. Highlights will include:

  • The Only Light Was Stars by Karine Polwart, an exclusive early glimpse at the the singer-songwriter’s supernova-themed follow up to her hit show Wind Resistance.
  • Universe (of Music) with Chris Lintott and Steve Pretty, in which a leading astronomer and a jazz musician team up for an evening of ‘conversation, contemplation, science and music’.
  • Creativity and Curiosity, an exhibition in An Lanntair’s main gallery inspired by collaborations between artists and astronomers, to be launched with A Day of Creativity and Curiosity, a packed day of events on the festival’s opening weekend.
  • g-Astronomy, an interactive dining experience in which astrophysicist Roberto Trotta will create menus with chefts at An Lanntair and Uig Sands.
  • Cosmos Planetarium – returning for a second year, the popular portable planetarium will present a new programme at An Lanntair and across Lewis.
  • Dark Skies film programme bringing together four science fiction films - Solaris, Contact, Interstellar and Ad Astra - that explore human connections across the cosmos.
  • Stargazing events across the island presented by Highland Astronomy Tours and Steven Gray from Cosmos Planetarium.
  • To close the festival, a revival of Neosa’s sellout production of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds featuring some of Lewis’s most talented musicians.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival was launched in February this year, with audiences travelled from across the UK to see festival guests including Chris Lintott, singer-songwriter Emma Pollock, BAFTA award-winning actress Shauna Macdonald, Scotland’s Astronomer Royal John Brown, and Scotland’s top children’s theatre-maker Andy Cannon.

The 2020 festival will be dedicated to the memory of John Brown, who sadly died at the end of November, just days after the festival programme was printed. A guest of honour at the first Hebridean Dark Skies Festival’s opening weekend, Professor Brown was also a significant source of support and advice as the festival programme came together, and was to have made a second appearance at the second festival in February.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is programmed by An Lanntair (part-financed by Outer Hebrides LEADER funding), in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust, and Lews Castle College, and with support from Outer Hebrides Tourism and Visit Scotland.

The second festival is part of a new winter tourism campaign, Winter in the Wild, led by An Lanntair in partnership with Outer Hebrides Tourism, Visit Scotland, Hebridean Hopscotch, Loganair, Cal Mac, Glasgow Airport, and other local organisations. #winterinthewild.

The North Lewis 5k and 10k run on Saturday (November 30th) was blessed with fine crisp weather and a huge turnout, with over 300 runners taking part over the two distances and the fun run.

The weather, excellent hospitality and a good mood all round contributed to the sum of £977 raised in aid of Bethesda Hospice.

Organisers plan to round the sum up to £1,000 and said a huge thank you to all who contributed to raising the sum.

But the biggest cheer of the day went to Michelle Macleod, who crossed the finishing line hand-in-hand with dad Tony Robson and daughter Bethany, living testimony to her own huge achievement in returning to health after a dramatic medical emergency.

Michelle, a journalist and PR advisor, was the casualty at the Harris marathon in August, when she collapsed with a cardiac arrest as she was finishing her nine-mile leg of the marathon at Leverburgh.

She received emergency treatment at the scene from her GP sister Rebecca and other first responders, before being flown away to hospital in Glasgow.

After 12 weeks in hospital and essential surgery, she has returned to Lewis and is now campaigning actively on behalf of the charity Lucky2BHere, who supplied the AED (defibrillator) which was used to help save her life as rescuers battled to stabilise her at Leverburgh.

She’s now been fitted with a personal defibrillator and is back with her family, all of whom are committed to regular exercise.

Michelle said last week: “I don’t think I’ll be running any marathons any time soon, but I’m feeling great and I’m so thankful for everyone who helped me on that day.”

And she received a great welcome from onlookers in North Lewis yesterday, many of whom know her story and are full of admiration for her achievement, as her sister Geraldine said, “from coma to 5k in 16 weeks.”

The picture shows Michelle with dad Tony and elder daughter Bethany as she finished the 5k

Emergency services were called on in the early hours of yesterday (Sunday December 1st) after reports that a person was missing following a road accident.

Police called for assistance from Stornoway Coastguard operations centre at about 2am on Sunday, with Bragar, Miavaig, South Lochs, Breasclete, Ness and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Teams joining police officers and fire teams to carry out the search.

The person was apparently missing following an accident near to Ballantrushal on the west side of Lewis. The search was co-ordinated in the surrounding area.

Search and rescue helicopter R948 was scrambled at 3.25am and assisted with the search from the air. All teams were stood down at 6am and police are carrying out further enquiries.

The picture shows R948 taking off early yesterday morning (Jason Spinks).

This report has been updated to include further information from Stornoway Coastguard.

A huge sperm whale which stranded and died on Seilebost beach on Thursday (November 28th) had a stomach full of marine rubbish, according to analysts.

Images of the dead animal and the graphic sight of its stomach contents fuelled a public outcry on social media over the weekend, with many in despair over the damaging impact of marine litter.

The Inverness-based Scottish Marine Animals Stranding Scheme (SMASS) said the subadult male had more than 100kg of marine debris in its stomach, including plastic net, bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and tubing. All the material was in a huge ball in the stomach and some of it appeared to have been there for some time.

The whale weighed an estimated 26 tonnes and was 14 metres long, with a number of teams called to the iconic sands after passers-by spotted it and reported it to Stornoway Coastguard and to SMASS.

Tarbert Coastguard Rescue Team were called on at 10.15am on Thursday to provide safety cover for a local member of the strandings team, who yesterday (Saturday) assisted experts from the SMASS as they carried out a necropsy (post-mortem) to fulfil their role of providing a systematic and coordinated approach to the surveillance of sea animals stranded on the Scottish coast.

A statement from the SMASS today said that, despite the stomachful of marine debris, the animal wasn’t in particularly poor condition. They said: “Whilst it is certainly plausible that this amount of debris was a factor in its live stranding, we actually couldn’t find evidence that this had impacted or obstructed the intestines.

“This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life. It is also perhaps a good example that this is a global issue caused by a whole host of human activities. This whale had debris in its stomach which seemed to have originated from both the land and fishing sectors and could have been swallowed at any point between Norway and the Azores.”

A large number of observers were drawn to the site to see the gruesome process of analysis and later clearing of the carcass, which was done under direction from members of the Coastguard and Comhairle nan Siar’s disposal team.

The SMASS spokesman said: “Surrounded by fragile dune ecosystems, there was no option to move a 20-tonne animal elsewhere, towing out to sea wasn’t an option so it needed to be buried on site. This was completed as light fell yesterday, so if you go to the beach today, there should be almost no evidence that there was a large sperm whale necropsy undertaken there this weekend.”

The SNP’s prospective parliamentary candidate Angus MacNeil said: “The image of the whale on Seilebost Beach has shocked many people and further highlights the problem we have with marine pollution.

“Marine pollution is a problem world-wide which affects the Western Isles as everywhere else. If not controlled marine pollution could adversely affect the fishing industry and tourism which rely on our reputation for a clean environment and increasingly the wild life around our coasts.

“There are a number of different strands to marine pollution – locally we need to ensure that waste – household, agricultural and from those that use the sea is properly disposed of and not just dumped. Individually we need to reduce our use of plastic and single use items, ensure that we do not litter beaches and public places and sort our household waste correctly.

“Personally I often pickup rubbish as I walk the beach at Tangasdale and I know many others do this too. I commend all those who tidy our beaches regularly and for campaign groups such as ‘Clean Coast Outer Hebrides’ for raising awareness of the importance of our coastal environment. We must all play our part to preserve our coasts for use by future generations.”

Pictures show clean-up under way on Seilebost beach over the weekend (SMASS, Aman Toor, local residents).

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

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

Dormer window and off-road parking, Tong

Donald Macaulay of 12 Aird Tong has applied for planning permission to construct a dormer window and create off-road parking at 12A Aird Tong. 

New house with detached garage, Back

John MacNeil of 5 Back has applied for planning permission to build a house with detached garage at 5A Back. The house is to consist of two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining/living area, two bathrooms and a utility room. Work is to include creating parking suitable for two cars.

New house and garage, Lochs

David Stewart of 2 North Beach House, North Beach, Stornoway, has applied for planning permission to build a house and garage at 88 Balallan, Lochs. The house is to consist of two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining/lounge area, one bathroom and a utility room. Work is also to include creating parking suitable for two cars. 

Dancing went on long into the evening at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais in Stornoway on Friday night (November 29th) as part of the four-and-a-half hour show that was Dileab 2019.

The oldest member of the audience was reportedly 90 years of age - and there were many youngsters too. The whole event was regarded by the audience as a real representation of the awesome range of talent and skills of local performers from any age-groups, including the first performance by the full complement of the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band under the leadership of Ashley Macdonald and Anna Murray, with help from David Maclennan.

The show was introduced – and the performances linked - by Derek ‘Pluto’ Murray, the acclaimed Ness broadcaster.

He said it had been “one of the greatest privileges of my life. Huge thanks to Dileab2019 and CnES for the opportunity to witness the awesome talents that are Nicolson Institute and Sir E Scott School choirs and “Dual” folk group along with Face The West, The Tumbling Souls, and Skippinish, the headline act. 

On Twitter, the Dileab 2019 organisers said: “A fantastic night ended with our headliners Skipinnish who were brilliant. The crowd loved it and the kids really enjoyed singing with them. Huge thanks to Derek Pluto for being an excellent MC and all the bands and performers for taking part in Dileab2019.”  Along with Derek ‘Pluto’ they emphasised that the next outing for the choirs and musicians is at a major Celtic Connections event in Glasgow next month. 

On Twitter, Dileab 2019 organiser Evelyn Coull said: “A huge thank you to the pupils, teachers, tutors, musicians and families who made the evening so brilliant.”

Earlier Rhona Johnstone had tweeted: “This is my Friday. The big day has arrived. Dileab2019 and all the hard work has paid off.  Delighted to have Skipinnish with us for our big gig tonight. Emotional moment listening to the band and school choirs singing the Iolaire song at sound check.”

There will be more Dileab events during 2020 as part of the national year of Coasts and Waters under the title Dìleab: Air a' Chuan.

 

A massive oil drilling platform has become a temporary seamark in the middle of the Minch as it awaits clearance to complete a five-month journey around the world.

The Ocean GreatWhite completed virtually a full circuit of Lewis and Harris over Christmas, on the last leg of a journey that has brought her from Singapore via Las Palmas, under tow by the offshore supply vessel Alp Defender.

She gave the west coast of Lewis a wide berth and rounded Ness late on Saturday (December 29th), moving into her current position yesterday afternoon (Sunday December 30th). She’s now anchored within viewing distance of residents of Point and Lochs and close to the Stornoway Ullapool ferry route.

A team of explosives experts have been called to Rodel in south Harris after reports of suspected ordnance on the shore just below the former Rodel Hotel.
Coastguard volunteers were asked to check the reported silver cylinder, spotted above high water mark on the shoreline around 12.30pm on Sunday (December 30th).
The incident is being co-ordinated by police and the Explosives Ordnance Department are sending a team from Glasgow, who are due to deal with the object tomorrow (Tuesday January 1st).

People joining the mv Loch Seaforth for the Iolaire commemoration sailing in Stornoway Harbour tomorrow have been warned that they must remember to be on time, to bring their tickets and fill the tickets in properly.

A total of 250 free places on the ferry were made available to view the centenary commemoration of the Iolaire tragedy from the sea beyond the Beasts of Holm, with priority given to people with mobility issues who would have no other way of gaining access to take part.

NHS Western Isles Nurse Director Chris Anne Campbell has taken retirement following almost 40 years of service to the National Health Service.

“I am proud of our health services,” Chris Anne said. “It has some challenges, but I’m very proud to have been involved in so many things which have brought the service forward.”

A gasp of astonishment was the universal reaction from people crammed into An Lanntair’s Gallery on Saturday afternoon (December 29th) for the launch of Margaret Ferguson’s amazing artistic tour-de-force, Iolaire 100.

More than 100 paintings – all dedicated to and derived from the Iolaire disaster and almost all being portraits of victims from across Lewis and Harris – form the show.

These are the product of more than three years of work – and are a feat of inspiration that few could hope to match.

The timetable relating to Iolaire Remembrance in Carloway District, on January 1st 2019 is:

2am – The Carloway Free Church bell will be rung to mark the approximate time that the Iolaire grounded.

The first event on Tuesday January 1st 2019 to make the centenary of the HMY Iolaire disaster takes place in Tarbert.

It may be the cup that cheers, but it seems tea is no longer the beverage of choice for travellers with ferry operator, CalMac.
Latest figures released by the company show that over the summer season it sold more than twice as many cups of coffee than the more traditional choice of hot drink.

A special, Community Iolaire Commemoration Service will be held at 11am on Tuesday 1st January 2019 in Bernera Church of Scotland, Great Bernera. 

At the conclusion of this service wreaths will be laid at Breacleit War Memorial.

The centenary of the Iolaire tragedy is being commemorated with a series of exhibitions, musical compositions and memorial services. 

The Sandwick Hall exhibition tells the story of the disaster with specific references to the local areas of Point through to Sandwick and Stornoway.  The exhibition will be open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 2pm until 5pm and Thursdays from 2pm until 8pm. Pictured above, by Chris Murray, the Beasts of Holm, site of the disaster.

On December 28th 1918, the new Parliamentary constituency of the Western Isles returned its first Member of Parliament.

Former Labour MP and Government minister Brian Wilson tells www.welovestornoway.com about this largely forgotten centenary

The past year has provided a steady flow of centenary commemorations, all related to the closing stages of the First World War and, in the case of Lewis and Harris, its terrible immediate aftermath.

Less attention has been paid to events which were unfolding at home, far removed from theatres of war.

A search was launched in Tarbert yesterday (Thursday December 27th) for the defibrillator from outside the CalMac offices in the port, which had vanished from its storage box.

A big appeal was made on social media for its return…and it was later located in the nearby car park.

Highlands & Islands (including Moray) MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart, re-launched his social media campaign in relation to driving this winter called SNOW.

 
A 56-year-old man was arrested in Stornoway town centre in the early hours of Christmas Day (Tuesday December 25th) and spent part of his Christmas morning in custody.
 
The man was charged with being drunk and disorderly and with possession of a class B drug, and was kept in custody until sober. He was released after receiving a recorded police warning over his behaviour.
 

NHS boards in Scotland should be banned from buying fax machines and a date should be made for them to be phased out entirely, says a Highlands and Islands MSP.

David Stewart, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, previously asked health boards in Scotland how many had fax machines and was shocked to discover that more than 1,200 were still in use across the country.

The Department of Health in England has now banned the buying of machines and said their use should be phased out by 2020.

New Year's Day Church Service - Order of Service
(Commencing at noon) 
 
1. Psalm 
2. Prayer 
3. Bible Reading 

A search for a missing person continued through much of today Wednesday December 26th) in Stornoway, according to Western Isles Police.

The search began at 6.41am, when a report came in to police of the person missing. Additional crews were called to assist from the Coastguard service at 9.45am and from Fire Scotland at 10.45am.

The main B895 road at Coll was closed for a time following a two-vehicle accident this afternoon (Wednesday December 26th) at around 2.30pm.

Eye-witnesses said there was fuel spilled at the site, which meant the road had to be closed between Back and Tong.

Police, fire and ambulance crews attended the accident and some of those involved were taken to hospital by ambulance as a precautionary measure.

Police said the road has now (4.50pm) completely re-opened.

Nearly 25,000 1kg salmon escaped from a fish-farm off Barra in November, according to a report submitted to Marine Scotland this month (December 2018).

New and ‘robust’ equipment installed by Marine Harvest at the Hellisay sea site was not up to the battering the site took from storms during November, and the fish escaped from torn netting in a single cage.

The company said they had reported the weather conditions and the potential for escape on November 11th, and when staff were able to access the site safely their inventory confirmed that 24,572 salmon, each weighing approximately 1.1kg, had escaped from one cage.

There was an early Christmas present for one Stornoway family as baby Florence Macmillan made her arrival at lunchtime on Christmas Eve.

A first child for mum, musician Jane Hepburn Macmillan, who works for the Harris Tweed Authority and dad, joiner Kevin Macmillan, Florence had been expected to arrive on Boxing Day.

She’s already made her first stage appearances as a bump affectionately known as ‘baby HepMac’, with Jane continuing her performances right up to December, when she was on stage with Colin Macleod at An Lanntair and as one of the musicians in the Dileab concert at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais. Mum, dad and baby HepMac have also featured in a video blog throughout Jane’s pregnancy.

The main B895 road at Coll is currently closed following a two-vehicle accident.
 
Police and ambulance crews are at the scene of the accident, which happened at about 2.30pm.
 
Police will update as soon as the road re-opens.
Police were active in Stornoway over the busy pre-Christmas weekend, and a number of people were charged with offences.
 
At 5.30pm on Friday (December 21st) police were called to Perceval Road in the town, where a 19-year-old man was arrested and taken into custody. He was charged with breach of the peace, vandalism, police assault and possession of a class B drug and was kept in custody until sober. A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Stornoway’s Salvation Army is gearing up to serve Christmas dinner for up to 50 people tomorrow (December 25th) with an open invitation to anyone to come and join them. 

The annual dinner served by members of the Stornoway corps is aimed at making sure nobody has to be alone or hungry on Christmas day, with families and anyone who has no plans for Christmas lunch urged to come and share the company. A spokesman encouraged people who are undecided: 

[gallery ID=127]

The weekend’s fine, still weather proved just perfect for some pre-Christmas activity in Stornoway town centre and out on the waters of the harbour.

On Saturday (December 22nd) a crowd of runners in Santa suits took to the streets of Stornoway for the annual Santa run.

Meanwhile Western Isles skiffs and rowers gathered for a festive row in the harbour on the calm waters of Stornoway harbour.

[gallery ID=126]

Christmas is going with a swing for the over 60s in Point and Sandwick thanks to donations totalling £3,100 from Point and Sandwick Trust.

The community wind farm charity gave festive grants to three friendship groups for the over 60s so they could put on Christmas parties without having to worry about the cost.

 Click here to find out how Santa played the weatherman… and won the day!

Tarbert will be in festive mood tomorrow (Saturday December 22nd) as Santa leads his parade through the village on his way to his grotto.

The annual Santa parade starts at 4pm at Tigh mo Sheannar and there’ll be a merry band of fantastical companions accompanying the great man, as he’s pulled around the streets on his sleigh by members of the volunteer Coastguard Rescue Teams.

Police Scotland have released more details about a report of dangerous driving in Stornoway, in a bid to find the person or people responsible.

A silver Skoda Octavia car was reported stolen in the Newvalley area in the early hours of Tuesday morning (December 18th).

On Friday, 14th December, North Tolsta Historical Society declared their new premises at the Schoolhouse open with a special Iolaire Commemoration Exhibition.

The building was full to capacity with schoolchildren, parents, grandparents and friends eager to see the refurbished schoolhouse.

On behalf of the Comann Eachdraidh, Murdo Morrison, The Anchorage, and Iain Angie Murray, son of Domhnall (Brus) Murray, presented each child with a boxed Iolaire Pin Brooch.

The family of a Barra RNLI lifeboatman have pledged to make 2019 the year that he and his crewmates get the recognition they deserve, 40 years after a shout where the whole crew nearly lost their lives.

Lifelong RNLI supporter and fundraiser Christine Macintyre has just (December 11th) received a promise from the RNLI that the crew of the 1970s lifeboat R A Colby Cubbin No.3 will be recognised, with a plaque on the future lifeboat station due to be built in Castlebay.

But she still believes that individual RNLI medals should be awarded to every man in the crew of eight, in recognition of exceptional service on the night of November 18th 1979.

Labour in the Western Isles has slammed the SNP government for again cutting the cash available to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to provide vital services.

Alison MacCorquodale, the Labour Party’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Western Isles, said:  "On a direct comparison, the Comhairle will be £400,000 worse off next year than at present.

"However, the situation is worse than that since there is a further £2m of the Comhairle's allocation which is ring-fenced for SNP priorities which do not accord with the most urgent needs facing the Western Isles".

Stornoway police are asking for public help in tracing two men who were seen to smash windows at a home using a ladder last night (Wednesday December 19th).

A resident of Cearn Flodaidh was at home at 7.30pm when two panes of glass in his back door and two ground floor windows were smashed with a ladder, which was being carried by two men wearing dark clothes and with their hoods up.

Barra schoolgirl Catriona O’Carroll will be flying the flag for Scotland from January 2019, after being selected for the national Under-14s team.

Catriona, of Earsary, who has just celebrated her 12thbirthday, will be attending training at the Toryglen football training centre, across the road from Hampden Park in Glasgow, from the end of January onwards. She’ll also travel for international matches – fixtures will be published in January.

CalMac has joined 40 organisations from across the UK to pledge to take action to tackle the challenges of climate change.

The company has signed up to the Prince of Wales’ ‘Waste to Wealth Commitment’ organised by his responsible business network, Business in the Community.

Leaders from business, government, academia and civil society joined the Prince at the initiative’s launch in London. The pledge is designed to help tackle the challenges of climate change by committing to actions to prevent the destruction of natural habitats. The target is to double the nation’s resource productivity by using them more efficiently and to reduce avoidable waste by 2030.

The 2018 Crofting Census will be issued on Monday 7 January 2019.

The Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 stipulates all crofting tenants and owner-occupier crofters have a legal obligation to complete and return their census form to the Crofting Commission.

Rod Mackenzie, Convener, said: “Last year saw a 14% decrease in the number of forms returned whereas in previous years the percentage was increasing.

A petition seeking escort expenses when patients travel for life-changing medical treatment looks set to burst through its 1,500-signature target, less than a week after being launched.

A consortium of Western Isles patient support groups, including organisations from Lewis to Barra, got together to launch the petition, which calls on NHS Western Isles to review their policy on patient escort travel expenses.

The petition on change.org opened on Friday (December 14th) and is gathering pace, with signatories added by the minute. An initial target of 1,000 signatures was passed on Tuesday (December 18th) and a new target of 1,500 signatures now looks highly likely to be reached later today.

The Pairc Trust are celebrating a Christmas bonus for their community-owned estate, after picking up the keys to the old care unit in Gravir yesterday (Tuesday December 18th).

Exchange of contracts yesterday meant that not only are the Trust ‘in for Christmas’ at the property, but that renovation work can start and be completed next year, allowing two families to take up tenancy in the building by Christmas 2019.

Police activity in Lewis has led to the arrest of three people for drugs offences this week.

At 10.25pm on Sunday (16th December) a 37-year-old man was searched in Stornoway under the the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. He was found to be in possession of a class A drugs in sufficient quantity for supply to others, and of a large amount of cash. 

Primary school children are being offered ‘sport and elf’ activities on Christmas Eve, while the grown-ups finish preparing for Santa’s arrival.

On Monday December 24th there are activities at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais from 10am, with morning sessions in sports and water confidence for P1 and P2 children (10am to 11.30am) and P 3 and P4 children (11.15am to 12.45pm).

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan recently visited the Stornoway delivery office to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post and to pass on early Season’s Greetings to its dedicated, hardworking staff.

The islands MSP was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager Andrew MacDonald and was introduced to the local posties, who will be pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail across the Western Isles in the forthcoming busy Christmas period.

Early bird tickets for Hebridean Celtic Festival 2019 have sold out, it was announced today (Tuesday December 18th).

The tickets for HebCelt 2019, set for July 17th to 20th, were available in limited numbers at last year’s prices of £93 for a weekend pass and £30 for children.

Larger coaches are being brought into to improve journeys for Inverness-Ullapool passengers


  • Changes to 961 service provide more seats for passengers
  • 61-seat coaches replace 49 seaters
  • Vehicles replaced following customer and stakeholder feedback
  • Service improvements in place from Monday (17th December)

A pile of Santa suits is gathered at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais awaiting the runners setting out on Saturday’s (December 22nd) annual Santa run in Stornoway town centre.

The suits in sizes large and small are available to runners and walkers who’ll be making the streets festive and raising money for the Lewis branch of Cancer Research UK at the same time.

Travellers wishing to head to the mainland from Barra were being urged to ‘travel today if possible’ (Tuesday December 18th) by CalMac, with continued weather disruption on the ferries forecast.

Today’s ferry from Castlebay to Oban was retimed to midday, arriving Oban at 1700.

The Darkest Dawn author Malcolm Macdonald’s book signing event in Point yesterday afternoon (Monday December 17th) was a great success, with staff from Buth an Rubha having to rush out to get extra copies to keep up with demand.

People who had bought the book on the Iolaire tragedy queued for the author's signature and commemorative inscriptions as it emerged that publishers Acair are looking at doing a third print run in January, because of demand.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is asking constituents to name and shame companies who charge excess delivery charges to the islands.

Working with cross party colleagues in the House of Commons, Mr MacNeil is seeking assistance from the people of the islands to compile a list to be presented to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has announced this year’s winner of the annual school competition to design his official Christmas Card.

The winner was chosen from among hundreds of different entries from primary schools across the Western Isles.

Stornoway’s drugs detection dog Jaxx was with police officers on Friday (December 14th) when a drugs warrant was executed at an address on the outskirts of Stornoway.

The work of the police team led to arrest of a man aged 34, and he was charged with possession of drugs.

The man is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

 

Befriending Lewis celebrated a true milestone on Saturday (December 15th) as small-change donations completed a mile of pennies collected for the group.

The charity, which tackles loneliness and isolation by providing group activities and one-to-one befriending support, set out to make a mile of donated pennies in July this year.

The oil tanker Sarnia Liberty returned to Stornoway harbour today (Sunday December 16th) after losing steering in heavy seas just off Stornoway.

The 80-metre-long vessel was leaving port just before 1am, after discharging her load of fuel oil, when she contacted Stornoway Coastguard to say she had difficulty with her steering mechanism and was not able to go to sea.

Local charity Falmadair (Gaelic for tiller) is holding a raffle to raise funds for equipment and running costs for the four traditional sailing skiffs based in Stornoway.

Falmadair was originally set up to work with Comunn Eachdraidh Nis to look after the Sgoth Niseach Jubilee after her first renovation in the late 1970s.

Jubilee SY233 was built in 1934 by John Finlay Macleod, the man who swam ashore with the rope from the stricken Iolaire on the morning of 1st January 1919. The 1970’s renovations were carried out by his son, John Murdo Macleod. Sadly, John Murdo passed away recently at the age of 96. He has left a legacy of beautiful boats and passed on his skills and inspiration to many people during his time as a teacher.

The community group leading the development of the 40km coastal path from Stornoway all the way round the peninsula of Point holds their AGM today (Tuesday, December 18) at 2pm.

The meeting, in the offices of Point and Sandwick Trust at the Old School in Knock, is an opportunity for the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path group, a registered charity, to review the start of the £1million project as the first phase nears completion.

Demand for the latest and most comprehensive book on the Iolaire tragedy is so high that another reprint is being planned.

And 'The Darkest Dawn' author Malcolm Macdonald will be doing a book signing event in Point at 3pm tomorrow (Monday December 17).

A great exuberance of music and song; sombre two-minute silence; a heart-rending list of villages and victims and a line-up of talented performers ranging from Primary School pupils to those for whom that is an all-too distant memory…

That was the formula for the Dìleab concert, hosted by The Nicolson Institute and the Comhairle nan Eiean Siar Department of Education, Sport & Children’s Services, which took place last night (Friday, 14th December 2018) at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais.

David MacBrayne, parent company of CalMac Ferries, has reported another year of increasing passenger numbers as the total for the group broke through the 5.5 million barrier in 2017/18.

The transport and harbour operator’s continuing carrying growth is helping deliver social and economic benefits for the communities it serves, the company says.

The first cross country race in the Stornoway Running and Athletics Club season is tomorrow (Saturday December 15th) with a massive field of 255 entries.

Saturday's race one in the Lewis and Harris cross country series is sponsored by I A & C Maciver and Woody’s Express Parcels and will be photographed by Iain James sports photographers.

SRAC officials described the entry level as ‘outstanding’.

A Harris councillor says the reprieve for mobile library services in the Western Isles is ‘just the start’ of a long battle to protect services against budget cuts.

Councillors voted 16/12 in favour of an amendment tabled by Councillor John Mitchell at the full meeting of the Comhairle on Wednesday night (December 12th) in which he suggested keeping the mobile library service and buying new vans to maintain its future. Council officers had instead recommended replacing mobile library services with ‘community hubs’, manned by volunteers and offering a range of services.

Weather warnings have been issued for much of mainland Scotland ahead of heavy snow and blizzards this weekend (Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th December).

Strong south-south-easterly winds mean cancellations to the Stornoway Ullapool ferry today (Friday December 14th) with a very high risk of more disruption tomorrow.

Tonight’s 5.30pm sailing from Ullapool has been cancelled, as has the freight sailing from Stornoway at 10.30pm tonight.

Strong winds mean ferry cancellations for Barra today (Friday December 14th) with the services between Castlebay and Oban cancelled for the day.

The Sound of Barra (Ardmhor to Eriskay) ferry is suspended for the morning, with a review due at 1pm on the resumption of services.

The forecast today is for strong gale force south-easterly winds, gusting up to 53mph this afternoon, and for gusts up to storm force 10 tomorrow (Saturday).

Patients receiving life-changing diagnoses and treatments should be treated with more compassion by the Western Isles Health Board, according to a group of patient support organisations.

A petition is being launched today (Friday December 14th) by the group, pleading for better understanding and a smoother system when patients ask for help with travel costs for escorts travelling with them to mainland appointments.

Scottish government budget proposals mean more cash for Island health services – but less for industrial development across the Highlands and Islands.

And the entire plan depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. 

The draft budget announcement says health services in the islands will receive a £2.7m boost next year.  

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