A record number of buyers came to Lochboisdale auction mart to buy the best lambs ever presented for sale at the Mart on Saturday (29 August), according to auctioneers United Auctions.

The Stirling-based auctioneers sold 2596 sheep of all classes, including 2,484 lambs at an average of £65.13, £16.45 up on the same sale last year.

United auctions said today (Monday August 31): “A much increased entry on the year sold to a record number of mainland buyers. The quality of lambs offered for sale was undoubtedly the best ever presented at this centre.” 

Leading prices included £93 for Suffolk cross lambs from 5 Howmore, £100 for Texel crosses from 99 Carnan and £90 for Cheviot lambs from 5 Dunganichy, Benbecula.

United Auctions also today reiterated their covid-19 safety advice to sellers and buyers at all their auctions. They said: “We have worked hard as an industry to ensure Scotland’s livestock marts have remained open throughout lockdown and we want to ensure the trade fully continues for all of our vendors and buyers. 

“We can’t afford to have an outbreak traced back to a mart because the knock-on effect may be to temporarily close, which would have severe implications for the whole industry.

“We appreciate our customers’ patience and we ask that you continue to conform to the Government Guidance especially: respect the two-metre social distancing rules, only one customer per farming enterprise and no under-16’s.”

The next sale at Lochboisdale auction mart is a sale of lambs and sheep of all classes on Wednesday 16 September.

Pictures of Saturday’s sale are from United Auctions.

 

The University of the Highlands and Islands has been rated highly in a UK-wide survey of postgraduate students.

Student satisfaction with the university's taught postgraduate programmes is significantly above the national average.

The university received a score of 85% student satisfaction in the 2020 Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey. This is seven percentage points higher than the average for Scottish higher education institutions of 78%. The result places the university 13th out of the 57 higher education institutions which took part in the survey across the UK.

Coordinated by Advance HE, the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey is a UK-wide measure of the experiences of students on taught postgraduate university programmes. It provides students with an opportunity to provide feedback on areas including learning and teaching, assessment and feedback, and organisation and management.

Over 117 students from across the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership completed this year's survey. Respondents rated the university particularly highly for its teaching, assessment and course information.

Kirsty Foreman completed an MSc in leadership and management at Inverness College UHI. She said: "The course was fantastic and the content was really interesting. My course leader provided tremendous support, especially when I was completing my research dissertation. I have now taken on extended responsibilities at work and am looking to progress into management. I'd highly recommend this course and this university. The building is beautiful with a friendly, relaxed environment and being able to pop in when studying remotely was a huge help."

Kieran Murray completed an MMus in music at Perth College UHI. He studied part time which allowed him to continue working as a musician and producer. He said: "I enjoyed learning about the language of music for film and being given the freedom to do what I wanted musically within the parameters outlined in the course. I enjoyed being pushed to explore composing music outside of my comfort zone and the challenge of writing music for specific narratives. I also liked the fact that some of the study was student-led and my tutors were acting more as supervisors rather than teaching a course with rigid outcomes. The support and tutoring I received was excellent and the facilities are fantastic."

Dr Iain Morrison, University of the Highlands and Islands Dean of Students, commented: "Once again, our students are telling us that the University of the Highlands and Islands is one of the best places in the UK to study postgraduate programmes.

"This survey ran entirely during lockdown and the great results come as no surprise, since our dedicated staff have been delivering a personalised learning experience and support to our students for over 20 years, wherever our students choose to study. Our strong industry links also ensure our postgraduate students develop the skills, qualifications and confidence required to support the recovery of our region following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Places on courses are still available for those who want to start their postgraduate journey in September."

To find out more about postgraduate courses at the University of the Highlands and Islands, visit www.uhi.ac.uk

A tribute fund has been set up in memory of Scalpay footballer Deej Mackay, who passed away early in August.

The popular man with a beaming smile and a love for life had received treatment at the Beatson Centre in Glasgow, and his family have set up a fundraiser to honour his memory and thank those who took such good care of him.

On the JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/deejmackay the family have written: “When Deej was diagnosed with bowel cancer he never complained and took each challenge on with a positive attitude, the same as he did in life.

“We want to say thank you to Dr Alex Macdonald, oncologist, and the entire team at the Beatson Cancer Centre in Glasgow for their support and care during his treatment.”

Deej had most recently worked in Portugal for the shipping company Maersk, but despite being away from home for some time he was always considered a permanent feature of the Isle of Harris.

He had played full-back for Harris Football Club for many seasons and later turned out for Glasgow Island, where he was described as ‘a much-loved and loyal team-mate’. When at home, he played for the Harris Welfare team.

The huge respect and affection felt for Deej by his home community was shown at his interment on Friday 7 August, as people turned out along the roadside in Tarbert and on the route to Luskentyre cemetery, where he was laid to rest.

And it’s also being marked in the response to the fundraiser, which is bringing in generous donations accompanied by tributes describing him as ‘a great friend’, ‘one of the best’ and ‘a real, genuine, likeable chap.’

 

Wood & metal bistro set
 
2 individual chairs, 1 two-seater chair and one table (diameter 70cm)
 
All items foldable – handy for storing
 
£60 for the set
 
Collect from town area
 
Contact: 07720 321081

Young people from across Scotland are being offered access to a national, on-line education resource providing the opportunity to:

  • participate in an extensive series of live early-evening study support webinar lessons from their own homes
  • benefit from specialist teacher input during the live, real-time webinar lessons
  • access subject specific resources in advance of the webinar lessons

This offer seeks to complement the education provision being provided by schools and local authorities across Scotland. The e-learning National Offer will provide free, live, interactive webinar lessons in an extensive range of subjects for Level 5 and Higher courses.

e-Sgoil Study Support webinar lessons are scheduled to run for a period of eight weeks in the first instance and employ a ‘flipped learning’ approach, where participants undertake prior learning using supplied resources before attending a real-time 45-minute webinar, hosted in Glow. All e-Sgoil webinar lessons are delivered by subject specialists, assisted by a second teacher.

The following courses are on offer: Business Management, Chemistry, Computing Science, Eachdraidh, English, French, Gaelic, Gàidhlig, History, Mandarin, Maths, Music, Physics, RMPS and Spanish. Digital study skills lessons are also offered.

This study support provision is a key strand of a comprehensive National e-Learning offer which includes vacancy and supply cover to meet the staffing requirements of schools across the country, a programme of remote learning opportunities for interrupted learners – including accredited courses in Literacy and Numeracy -  and a diverse range of curriculum enrichment activities, involving a number of external partners.

Angus Maclennan, Head Teacher of e-Sgoil commented: “e-Sgoil is delighted to work in partnership with Scottish Government, ADES, Education Scotland, Regional Improvement Collaboratives and Local Authorities to offer senior phase pupils from across Scotland this opportunity to participate in a wide-range of webinar lessons that will reinforce school-based learning. Sessions will start week commencing Monday, 7 September 2020, so I would encourage prompt registration via the e-Sgoil website at www.e-sgoil.com ." (Pupil Glow login details and Scottish Candidate Number (SCN) are required as part of the registration process and are available from local schools.)

Gayle Gorman, HM Chief Inspector and Chief Executive of Education Scotland, said: “This is an important addition to opportunities for learning and teaching in Scotland, and I want to thank teachers, local authorities, parents, children and young people for the incredible work they have been doing to adapt to the ever-changing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whilst blended learning is a contingency that may still need to be enacted, we are aware of growing interest from practitioners, and learners themselves, in continuing key aspects of remote learning.  This will also help where some learners require to self-isolate or schools close.  Senior phase pupils will be able to access the e-Sgoil study support webinar lessons and younger learners can experience enrichment to their learning via Glow, our online learning environment, which continues to support learning outside of the classroom.”

Carrie Lindsay, President of ADES said: “ADES is delighted to be working in partnership to deliver a range of courses through e-Sgoil to support our young people. e-Sgoil provides opportunities to enhance learning where young people may feel that in these unusual times their learning may have been interrupted. It also offers learning to extend what might already be on offer in some schools. By working with all local authorities and using a range of expertise we will be able to reach many more young people than only what can be offered by each individual school”

Education Secretary John Swinney said:“Our experience during the Coronavirus pandemic has reminded all of those involved in the education system of the value of investing in digital and distance learning. This exciting new work by e-Sgoil will play an important role in the coming academic year and beyond, in supporting parents as well as teaching staff and pupils by providing high quality lessons for senior phase pupils at Level 5 (National 5) and Level 6 (Higher). I am delighted to see e-Sgoil embark on the next phase of the project – and I am delighted to see this work being rolled out at the same time as the Scottish Government’s investment of £25 million to support digital inclusion for schools, which is expected to benefit around 70,000 children and young people.”

The waters around Stornoway harbour have become a playground for Risso’s dolphins this afternoon (Sunday 30 August), with clear spotting conditions meaning their activities can easily be seen from land.

A family group including a male and some females with calves were seen playing and feeding around Goat Island this afternoon, and later were still in evidence in Sandwick Bay.

Risso’s dolphins tend to prefer deep water and are only occasionally seen in coastal areas, feeding almost exclusively on squid and seldom gathering in large groups.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDC) describe the waters off Lewis as ‘an important habitat’ for this species. They have been documenting Risso’s dolphins in the Minch, east of the Isle of Lewis, and lobbying Marine Scotland to designate the area as a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

They said: “Although predominantly thought to be an offshore species, the coastal waters off Lewis are used extensively by this little-known species, including mothers and calves. Some of the same individuals return here year after year.”

The picture shows the dolphins in Sandwick Bay this afternoon and is by Chris Murray.

 

Two men are to appear in court from custody tomorrow (Monday 31 August) after a series of assaults in Stornoway.

The men, aged 28 and 38, have been in custody since late Friday afternoon, and are both charged with assault.

One is also charged with assault on an emergency services worker.

Police were called to Sandwick Road at 4.30pm on Friday, where the men were taken into custody.

They’ll appear at Inverness Sheriff Court by video-link from Stornoway police station.

 

Call for information

Stornoway police are asking for any public help after a window was smashed at an address in Stornoway early this morning (Sunday 30 August).

The window was broken at a house on Cearn Ronaidh at about 6.30am.

Anyone who may know anything about the incident or who witnessed anything is asked to call police on the non-emergency number, 101, quoting incident reference NH 986/20.

A 'St Kilda mailboat' has managed to travel more than 1,000 miles, link several countries - and get a postcard delivered on Prince Charles on the Balmoral Estate.

Ten years ago, to mark the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of St Kilda, the National Trust for Scotland made a ‘mailboat’, filled it with postcards and launched it into the Atlantic Ocean from Hirta.

It containing just seven postcards, including one to the Prince of Wales, the National Trust for Scotland patron, and another to one of the last residents of St Kilda before they were evacuated from the Islands on this day in 1930.

Incredibly, in the week of the 90th anniversary of the evacuation, the cards have finally been delivered to their destinations. And the NTS has a group of Norwegian children to thank for helping get the mail delivered

From the late 19th Century onwards, the islanders occasionally launched message into the sea in tiny waterproof boats in the hope that they would be picked up by passing ships or make it to more populated places and be sent on.  The means of communication was developed in the 1870s by journalist John Sands, when he became stranded on St Kilda. In 1877 Sands launched a mailboat, which was found in Birsay in Orkney nine days later, and a boat was sent to rescue him and nine shipwrecked Austrian sailors.

In September 1885 the islanders faced starvation when a severe storm ruined their food stores. Alexander Gillies Ferguson, a 14-year-old schoolboy who had heard of Sands’ mailboats, launched five such craft containing messages asking for help. One of the boats quickly arrived in Gallan Head, Lewis, and the resultant publicity saw £110 raised, provisions bought and a boat chartered.

The NTS explained today (Saturday August 29): "In the summer of 2020, the boat that we last saw on St Kilda in August 2010 was found by four children and their grandfather. It had washed up on a beach on Andøya, the northernmost island in the Vesterålen archipelago of Norway, about 180 miles inside the Arctic Circle and over 1,000 miles from St Kilda. Amazingly, after 10 years at sea, the boat had protected the postcards which were still intact. The children’s grandfather, Geir Kristian Søreng, sent us the cards saying:

"My four grandkids found a treasure at the beach on Andøya, north of Norway. It was a postboat in wood, sent from St Kilda in 2010. Emil (9), Ask (9), Tiril (6) and Erling (4) were excited when they found a secret room in the boat, with cards. We would be grateful if you could please post the cards. This is a special story for both kids and the rest of their families. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to visit Scotland and St Kilda some day in the future. We had never heard of this fabulous island and are fascinated by the story."

It was Ian McHardy, the St Kilda archaeologist who created the mailboat back in 2010. 

This summer the NTS spent several weeks finding out who the cards had been written to, making sure the addresses were still correct and sending them on.

Now, on the 90th anniversary of the evacuation of St Kilda, the cards have finally been delivered to their recipients.

One of them was addressed to Norman John Gillies, one of the last remaining St Kildans, was aged five at the time of the evacuation. It was his mother’s death in 1930 that is believed to have been the final prompt for the islanders to leave St Kilda. Norman died in 2013, but the NTS forwarded his card to his son John Gillies in Ipswich. It was one of John’s relatives – the schoolboy Alexander Gillies Ferguson – who launched the 1885 mailboat that started the St Kildan tradition.

Another card was sent to Dr Murdo Macdonald. Murdo’s great-great-grandfather Donald Macdonald lived on St Kilda until the 1820s and then moved to Harris. The card to Murdo was written by his sister Janette Macdonald, who visited St Kilda on a day trip in 2010.

The final card was written by Susan Bain, the NTS Western Isles Manager, to our Patron, HRH Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay, who visited St Kilda in 1971 with the Queen. His card was delivered to Birkhall, his Scottish home on the Balmoral Estate. He replied to Susan saying:

"I was delighted to receive your postcard and fascinated to hear about its decade-long journey to reach me, via the Arctic Circle no less! In such a fast-moving world it is touching to know that the tradition of a simple “mail-boat” from the remote Island of St Kilda can safely travel so far.

‘I have never forgotten my visit to this amazing archipelago in 1971 and I so look forward to returning one day, not only to remind myself of its rugged beauty, but also its extraordinary history and breathtaking bird life. As Patron of the National Trust for Scotland, I am immensely grateful to all those who work to preserve our heritage through caring for special places like St Kilda."

 

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

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

Remove trees, Stornoway

WIFIIS Ltd has applied for planning permission to remove two sycamore trees at 25-27 Cromwell Street. The two trees are said to be relatively young and located close to a store boundary. They are said to significantly impinge on the ability of the applicant to develop the site as currently proposed.

New off-road access, parking and turning space, Back

Katie Macleod of 66 Back has applied for planning permission to create a new off-road access, parking and turning space suitable for two cars at 66 Lighthill Back.

Alter and extend house, Bragar

Lucia Campbell of 26 North Bragar has applied for planning permission to alter and extend the house at 26 North Bragar.

New house, Coll

Alasdair Maciver of 7 Airigh a Bhreidhe has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 25 Coll. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a living room and a plant room.

Camping pod, Newmarket

James Macleod of 53A Newmarket has applied for planning permission to site a camping pod at 53A Newmarket. The 3.1 metre by 6 metre unit will be located at the rear of the dwelling house.

Greenhouse, Uig

Calum Buchanan of 7 Valtos has applied for planning permission to attach a greenhouse to the gable of the house at 7 Valtos, Uig. The greenhouse is to be 6 metres long, 2.5 metres deep and 2.4 metres tall.

Thursday 27 August saw colleagues offering a warm-hearted farewell to ‘one of the good guys’, as Kirsty Macdonald stepped down after 23 years at the helm of Volunteer Centre Western Isles (VCWI).

Although the event itself had to be muted because of restraints imposed by distancing regulations, genuine affection and a stream of good wishes sent Kirsty on her way to a well-deserved retirement.

Kirsty has managed VCWI since 1997, not only managing the island organisation but contributing nationally to the volunteer sector, from which colleagues say she will be greatly missed.  

Since her arrival at the organisation as a development worker, Kirsty has helped transform the Volunteer Centre Western Isles into a thriving charity with the needs of volunteers and the community at its heart, while steering it through challenges and times of change.

Stornoway girl Kirsty attended The Nicolson Institute before gaining a degree in Celtic studies at Edinburgh University. During her time there she learnt to drive a double-decker bus, so that she could operate a mobile playbus in the city.

After training as a primary school teacher in London she taught English in Sudan and then returned to the UK for a job in primary school teaching in Cardiff. A short-lived post with HM Customs and Excise followed and she later qualified as an amenity horticulturist, designing gardens in South Wales.

Her first job in the voluntary sector was with Age Concern in South Wales, before moving back to Lewis and to her post at VCWI, where she says she has loved every minute and is very proud of the work ethos created, having always striven to maintain a calm, balanced and considerate approach to the work, staff and volunteers.

Her skills were invaluable over the past few months as volunteers became the backbone of an unprecedented community mutual support effort during the fear and uncertainty which surrounded lockdown and coronavirus.

During the height of the pandemic, Kirsty worked as part of the team to help coordinate and place volunteers in communities throughout the Western Isles, through the Scottish Government’s Ready Scotland COVID response.  

For Kirsty, what brings her most pride in a job that she describes as ‘a privilege’ is her success in creating a place that is great to work in. She has told colleagues that it’s about the team and what they can do together and she is proud to be part of a team that makes such a difference in the Western Isles.

A spokesperson for VCWI staff and board of trustees said: “Kirsty’s commitment and quiet persistence has been a major factor in the success of the Volunteer Centre. 

“As a manager she was able to maintain that delicate balance between achieving the aims of the organisation and caring for the welfare of her staff.  We will all miss her greatly.”

Social distancing meant that her send off at the end of August was low-key, with colleagues and volunteers attending two small gatherings on Thursday and Friday.

But many other co-workers from near and far paid tribute to Kirsty’s impact on their lives through an online group greeting card set up by her job-share partner Suzanne Macaulay.

Among tributes paid was one by members of the team at Volunteer Edinburgh, who said: “Kirsty, you will be so missed. Your wisdom, warmth and positivity has made spending time with you a complete joy. Thank you for everything you have done for volunteering in Scotland – your legacy will be long felt.”

Chief executive of Volunteer Glasgow David Maxwell also paid tribute to Kirsty’s impact on the national volunteering scene when he said: “Your friendship, expertise, dignity and humanity have been a constant source of help and inspiration. You have provided a vast range of insights and expert judgements to ensure we collectively deliver the best value for the people of Scotland.”

One Stornoway colleague and partner worker summed up the sentiments of many in the Western Isles, saying: “You have made such a wonderful difference to so many people. You are amazing and always with dignity, respect and serenity. You will be very missed in your work by everyone you have touched.”

Kirsty’s retirement will allow her to spend more time on her garden and with husband Glenn Osborne and their dog Belle.

Picture shows Kirsty at the Failte centre with Board members Tina Burgess, Christine Mackee, Sonja Macleod and Clive Rowlands during her socially-distanced send-off on Thursday August 27.  A second event on Friday 28 August allowed colleagues in Uist and Barra to join Kirsty by Zoom meeting to say their farewells.

 

Police Scotland's Road Policing Division are this weekend focussing on motorcycle safety as part of their motorcycle safety campaign due to bikers being some of the most vulnerable road users on Scotland’s roads.

Collisions involving motorcyclists are disproportionate to the number of riders using the roads.

While motorcyclists make up just 1% of the traffic, they account for around 13% of all people killed, often during cornering or overtaking manoeuvres.

Head of Road Policing, Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: "I would ask motorcyclists to ensure they have suitable safety equipment and urge all riders to not only travel within the posted speed limits but also at the appropriate speed for the road conditions and their capabilities.

“This campaign allows officers to engage not only with motorcyclists but other road users, giving us the opportunity to provide advice and education and to share our experience on how we can all make our roads safer.

“Road Policing Officers will continue to patrol roads across Scotland and any offences will be dealt with appropriately.”
 
Advice to motorcyclists on keeping safe on Scotland’s roads: https://youtu.be/poOWndk53sw

 



Scotland needs a clear and consistent approach to tackling livestock worrying, including increased penalties, robust enforcement and more supportive education for dog owners, says Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the organisation which represents landowners and rural businesses.

In their written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on the proposed Dogs (Protection of Livestock) (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, SLE highlighted the extreme financial and emotional stress livestock worrying incidents can cause for all involved, as well as the harrowing animal welfare issues. 

Emma Steel, Policy Assistant at SLE, said: “Livestock worrying is a traumatic issue…it can have a massive impact on the animal owners and on the business and we believe that increased penalties and robust enforcement are vital to its prevention.

“We fully support increasing the penalties for livestock worrying, as proposed in this Bill. The current range of penalties do not reflect the seriousness of this type of incident, and we believe the maximum penalty of £5000 suggested in this Bill should in fact be raised higher for the most serious cases, to reflect the gravity of these crimes and to act as a stronger deterrent.

“A consistent approach to recording livestock worrying and attack incidents will be vital to providing a clear picture of the ongoing scale of the issue and will allow us to understand the effectiveness of these new measures. Police Scotland can play a vital role in addressing livestock worrying, and we would like to see appropriate resources and training to ensure a full investigation can be carried out into all reported incidents.

“While strengthening the legislation around penalties and enforcement is important, we also believe additional supportive measures could be introduced to help reduce incidents of livestock worrying and attacks.

“For example, we would like to see more education and awareness campaigns on the dangers posed by dogs around livestock, and more training provided for dog owners on how and when to control dogs around livestock.”

The work of the Hebridean Housing Partnership has far exceeded original expectations.

But it’s essential that the commitment to new development and refurbishment continues to make live happier and better for tenants all across the Islands.

That’s the view of retiring chair, former councillor Norman Macleod who praised the work of the present board and the leadership of the organisation.

HHP’s 14th and first remote Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday 28 August. Members and other participants joined the meeting from across the Outer Hebrides and further afield, by using Microsoft Teams video conferencing.

HHP say: “the technology worked very well, and we were able to conduct all business almost as easily as if we were able to meet in person.

“Our Chair, Norman Macleod welcomed all in attendance and thanked everyone for their contributions over the last year, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Special mention was made of the 26 new homes for social rent and 17 for Shared Equity along with the investment of £4.5 million to improve our existing homes by upgrading bathrooms, kitchens and heating systems.”

Mr Macleod recognised the important role we play in providing high quality affordable housing and the key contribution we make to the local economy through employing staff and contractors.

The Membership present approved the following resolutions:

  •  To appoint CIB Services as our External Auditor until our next General Meeting; and
  •  To donate £5,000 of the surplus at 31 March 2020 to five local charities, which are:
    • Western Isles Association for Mental Health (WIAMH);
    • Western Isles Hospital League of Friends;
    • Volunteer Centre Western Isles;
    • Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI); and
    • Hebridean Mountain Rescue Team.

Donald Macleod, HHP’s Director of Finance & Corporate Services presented the Annual Report and Financial Statements to 31 March 2020.

Calum Macdonald from CIB Services confirmed they were prepared in accordance with the relevant accounting standards and applicable legislation, and that a clean audit report was provided.

Chief Executive, Dena MacLeod closed the meeting, by paying tribute to serving Board Member, Mairi Bremner who sadly passed away shortly after last year’s AGM. The passing of former Board Members, Archie Campbell and Gerry Macleod was also marked.

At the previous day’s meeting the Board were also informed of the resignation of David Blaney, and he was thanked for his service to housing over a number of years.

Ms Macleod also thanked the Board Members and staff for the important part they play in making a difference in our communities. Tenants were also thanked for their contribution and in particular for looking after the each other during these difficult times.

This was Norman Macleod’s final meeting and as such he was graciously thanked by Ms Macleod, and Councillor Norman Macdonald for his long service to housing, his chairmanship and his advocacy for quality homes for people to enjoy family life in the Outer Hebrides.

At the Board meeting following the AGM, Mr. Iain Macmillian was appointed as the new Chair. Commenting on his appointment, Mr Macmillian said: “I am proud to have been appointed as Chair of HHP for the next year. I look forward to working with Board colleagues, HHP staff and Community Planning partners to build on the success of HHP in providing safe and secure homes within our communities.’

A short video interview with retired Chair Norman Macleod is available via https://youtu.be/r7x2bdwB8Lc

The population of the Western Isles is growing measurably older, with the average age creeping upwards, according to a report from National Records of Scotland (NRS) released yesterday (Thursday 27 August).

And among the figures released, there is clear evidence that the Western Isles is showing the greatest evidence in Scotland of district-wide increase in median age – the age at which half the population is older and half younger.

It’s part of a trend across Scotland which sees rural and island communities ageing at a greater rate than those in cities. The figures are shown in so-called ‘data zones,’ each averaging 793 people, established during the last census in 2011 and used to calculate the populations of larger areas of Scotland, such as wards and parliamentary constituencies.

Yesterday’s statistics show that, over the last decade, 94% of Western Isles data zones became older in terms of median age.

For example, the rural area of Aird, Point (pictured) has seen a fall in all ages under 64, but a rise in those aged 65 and over, most significantly a rise of 41.2% among the over-75s.

By contrast, in the area designated as Stornoway West (pictured) the population has seen a fall in the under-24 age-group of 8.6%, but a rise among those of working age, between 45 and 64.

Denise Patrick, head of population and migration statistics at NRS, said: “In the last decade mainly rural councils, as well as those in the West of Scotland, have seen a higher proportion of their areas decrease in population. During the same time cities have seen more areas increase in population.

“Many small geographical areas change in population over time. There are many reasons for this including births and deaths, as well as migration into and from the area.”

 

The full statistics for all areas in Scotland, including an interactive visualisation tool allowing exploration of changes in small local areas, can be found at https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/population/population-estimates/2011-based-special-area-population-estimates/small-area-population-estimates/mid-2019

The images are from NRS and show the areas covered by data zones in Stornoway and Point, together with the age profile changes in the Point data zone.

 

A By-Election is to be held for the return of a Councillor for the Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas Nan Loch Ward of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Nomination forms can be obtained from the Election Office, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2BW on weekdays from 10.00am to 4.00pm, telephone 01851 822613 and from the Comhairle Website at Election Office Webpage.

Completed nomination forms must be delivered to the Election Office at the above address by 4.00pm on Monday 7 September 2020.  We can informally check your nomination papers prior to submission via email.  However, when formally lodging your nomination papers please telephone the Election Office on 01851 822613 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange a suitable appointment.

If more than one valid nomination is received, an election will be held and voting will take place between 7.00am and 10.00pm on Thursday 8 October 2020.

Applications to register to vote must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis by Tuesday 22 September 2020.

POSTAL OR PROXY VOTING

  1. Any elector may apply for a postal or proxy vote at this election.
  2. Applications for, or for amendments to, or cancellations of postal votes must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis by 5.00pm on Wednesday 23 September 2020.
  3. Applications to amend or cancel existing proxy arrangements must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis by 5.00pm on Wednesday 23 September 2020.
  4. Applications to vote by proxy at this election must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis by 5.00pm on Wednesday 30 September 2020.
  5. Applications to vote by emergency proxy at this election on grounds of physical incapacity or work/service reasons, where that physical incapacity or work/service reason occurred after 5.00pm on Wednesday 30 September 2020, must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis by 5.00pm on Thursday 8 October 2020.
  6. For advice on postal or proxy voting, contact the Electoral Registration Officer, 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, telephone 01851 706262 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A highly unusual sale of livestock this week in Steinish went better than could have been hoped for, with sale days on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 August running like clockwork.

Directors of Lewis and Harris Auction Marts described the sale as ‘an exceptional couple of days’ and said: “The first sale in the Covid era has been a success and we'd like to thank everyone who made it all work.

“Thanks to all the sellers and buyers, old and new, who supported the sale and were so patient with the safety measures that had to be in place and a big thanks to the volunteers and staff from our own team and from Dingwall Mart who staffed the sales and ensured as smooth an operation as possible.”

The sale at Steinish mart was broken down into two days to allow the best use of buyers’ time, after they arrived by air from the mainland on Tuesday afternoon.

Over 4,100 store lambs were sold on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, with auctioneers from Dingwall and Highland Marts describing the stock as ‘looking in great bloom’.

There was an overall increase of £9.60 on the corresponding sale last year, with top prices paid for cross lambs from 6 Valtos at £110, Suffolk cross lambs from 4 Park, Barvas, at £78 gross and Texel cross lambs from Anerley Cottage, Back at £77.

The sale was unusual not only in being split across two days, but also because it was live-streamed on social media, something mart directors declared ‘a huge hit’.

More than 9,000 followers viewed the livestream on the mart’s Facebook page, with a further 2,000 searching it out via the website.

Extreme care was taken to maintain social distancing and hygiene precautions throughout the sale. Afterwards a spokesperson for Dingwall and Highland Marts said: “A big thank you to all locals attending the sale for observing the COVID protocols.”

The next sale at the Steinish mart is on Wednesday 9 September and live-streaming is also planned for that sale at https://www.facebook.com/auctionmart/.

Online booking has now closed as the sale is very close to maximum capacity, but producers who have not booked lambs for September are asked to contact directors by telephone for a place on the waiting list.

It’s also hoped that Lewis and Harris Auction Marts will be able to confirm arrangements for a further sale in October shortly.

The picture shows an image from the live-stream camera on Wednesday.

 

HM Coastguard’s Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter team at Stornoway in the Western Isles were in action in the early hours of this morning (Friday 28 August) at the end of a week which saw them complete their 1,000th tasking.

The team were called out at 2.15am today to uplift a sick patient from St Brendan’s Hospital in Barra and recover them to Glasgow for treatment, with Barra Coastguard Rescue Team also called to man the landing site at the hospital.

The 1,000th tasking since Bristow Helicopters was awarded the search and rescue contract for HM Coastguard came on Tuesday (25 August). Rescue helicopter R948 was called out to help a group of people stuck on coastal rocks near Ardmair, north of Ullapool.

Captain Dan Lewis, senior first officer Marc Grant, winch operator James Lyne and winchman Andy Walker were the team on duty, lifting one person to the safety of the beach, while the others were able to return to their vessel.

HM Coastguard’s UK Search and Rescue helicopter service, operated by Bristow Helicopters, is in its fifth anniversary year. Bristow was awarded the 10-year contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013.

Capt. Stuart Cunliffe, chief pilot at Stornoway said: “I am immensely proud of the lifesaving work the team at Stornoway has been delivering since 2013. This milestone would not be possible without their unwavering dedication and commitment to helping those in need.

“The Western Isles and wider Scottish coast present many challenges, often experiencing high winds and rough sea conditions in remote locations. Our team work closely with the emergency services including police, ambulance and fire and rescue to ensure the ongoing safety of the public.

“We are proud to celebrate five successful years working on behalf of HM Coastguard, and maintaining the very highest safety and efficiency standards, which the service is renowned for.”

In addition to responding to incidents, the Stornoway crew also conducts regular training exercises with HM Coastguard’s locally-based teams and other services including the RNLI.

Stornoway’s purpose-built helicopter base is one of 10 bases located around the country, placed in areas where search and rescue incident rates are high. As well as the operational flying crew, there’s a behind-the-scenes team including servicing engineers who keep the team flying.

A spokesman for HM Coastguard – Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber, said: “Here’s a special mention to the dedicated and incredibly capable crews of Bristow Helicopters, who operate SAR helicopters for HM Coastguard. Always a welcome sight at an incident.”

Pictures show Bristows staff Jason Spinks (engineer) and Christine Macdonald (administrator) and views of the Coastguard helicopter R948 in training (RNLI) and on an operation (HM Coastguard).

 

A man has been charged with careless driving after a road accident late yesterday afternoon which left him in hospital.

Police and Scottish Ambulance attended the scene of the crash, at the Achmore junction of the Pentland Road with the A858 Callanish road, at 4.40pm yesterday.

Two cars had collided and the incident was witnessed by a number of other road users, including two cyclists.

The road was closed for a short time while one car was uplifted and the local authority cleansing department cleared debris and fuel from the carriageway.

The 21-year-old driver, who was charged with careless driving, was taken to Western Isles Hospital with a head injury and was kept in overnight for observation.

 

The colours of island football team Point FC are in action on the slopes of Kilimanjaro after the community consultant for wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust brought them out to Africa.

Alasdair Nicholson was making the trip – postponed from March to August due to the coronavirus crisis – in a personal capacity but was pleased to bring with him the strips, surplus after Point and Sandwick Trust had sponsored new ones, as a gift for the children of Mbahe primary school.

He also brought them footballs and pens, donated by Point and Sandwick Trust, and biology textbooks for the neighbouring Daranjani secondary school. 

Alasdair has been making regular visits to this part of Africa since 2015, primarily to develop local skills in community enterprise. His trip this year renewed his contacts with Ndoro Cultural Tourism Enterprise, who are interested in hearing about the progress of community projects in the Outer Hebrides such as the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path, and also with the school, who had asked for the science resources during a previous visit.

In an email from Africa, Alasdair described the response to his visit and the school’s situation.

He said: “Anita Moshe, the headmistress at the primary school, was very welcoming. The classrooms were clustered around on raised ground in ridges, with very rough rocky paths between. The only flat clear area was the sports field. Ndoro Cultural Tourism Enterprise took me there and we went to P7 who sang welcome songs.

“With the class teacher the junior Point strips, emblazoned with Gael Force Marine and Point FC branding, were handed out. The whole class, teachers and headmistress included, went immediately and joyfully to the playing area where three footballs donated by Point and Sandwick Trust were also handed over.

“Those with whole strips and some with just shorts immediately put them on and the class split into two teams – those with the strips and others. The girls, not to be outdone, were given one of the footballs and were as enthusiastic as the boys. Not wishing those without strips to feel left out the girls were first in line for a Point and Sandwick pen and all were happy.

“The Head said the school also needed many things – rubbers, pencils and rulers – and that if it were possible to help them with two laptops in the future that would help them enormously.

“I said the football kit was a gift from the junior team from Point, in Scotland, and I had meant to deliver them in March but it had been impossible at that time. The donation was from them. 

“Biology texts were then donated to Daranjani Secondary School, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Northern Tanzania, and another welcome from the staff who previously had a small consignment last year. The science pupils gathered near the science huts and there was a welcome speech from the head girl and the biology master. 

“Ndoro Cultural Tourism Enterprise then said to the school that they were pleased to be working in partnership with Point and Sandwick’s community consultant who was there in a personal capacity but with fraternal greetings people to people.

“I advised the school they could be assured I was not coming with any unwelcome gifts from Europe, as I had been given a negative Covid test the evening before I travelled.”

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “We are very pleased to have helped the youngsters of this school by giving them footballs and pens and allowing the Point FC juniors to donate their old strips by sponsoring them with new ones. In the great scheme of things, the cost of these donations is small but they have clearly brought a lot of happiness. 

“As our community consultant, Alasdair does great work in supporting the projects that Point and Sandwick Trust is involved with and we are pleased to support him in his relationship with this part of Africa. We might be miles apart, but our two communities clearly have a lot in common, from our interests in community enterprise to our love of a good kickabout with a ball. 

“The smiles on the faces of the youngsters is a joy to see. As many people know, our main mission is to boost environmental, educational, social and cultural wellbeing in the islands – but it’s good to spread a bit of happiness too, whenever and wherever we can.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has today (Thursday August 27) urged the Deputy First Minister John Swinney to join him and other elected representatives at an urgent summit to secure the future of Gaelic.

Mr Cameron said: “It is all too easy to become despondent about the future of Gaelic but we cannot be the generation that allows it to die as a living community language.

“Since this UHI report was issued, I’ve had several discussions with fellow MSPs such as Kate Forbes, Alasdair Allan, and Rhoda Grant, as well as a number of councillors and other stakeholders about the vital next steps. There is a wide cross-party consensus that we need to move forward quickly given the urgency of the situation.

“That means taking the UHI report seriously, and taking action, which is why I am urging John Swinney, as Education Secretary, to take part in our discussions at a “summit” in the next few months. I am pleased he gave a positive response to this suggestion.

“I believe the future of the language is, ultimately, in the hands of the remaining Gaelic-speaking communities and, in particular, the younger generation. We need to move quickly and effectively to reverse the decline of the language so that it both survives and thrives in the years to come.”

The exchange with John Swinney can be viewed here from 14.41.55:

https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/portfolio-questions-virtual-education-and-skills-august-27-2020

A link to the UHI report referred to by Mr Cameron is here:

https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/research-enterprise/res-themes/humanities-and-arts/language-sciences-institute/publications/the-gaelic-crisis-in-the-vernacular-community/chapter-1-introduction-/

 

 

Secondary students across the Western Isles have raised vital funds and awareness for charities in their communities addressing a range of social issues.

Through The Wood Foundation’s Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), young people from throughout the country represented causes they cared about in a bid to secure their school’s grant.

Mental health charities, health support services, and organisations supporting people living in poverty were the top three issues to receive more than £600,000 of funding this academic year.

Jonathan Christie, Deputy UK Director at The Wood Foundation, said:“The sums secured by young people, #generationchange, for local communities is incredible. This is a unique form of delegated grant-making and puts the power in students’ hands, ensuring there’s representation of the causes which matter to them. As well as funds, there are vital awareness raising and relationship components, as well as a range of skills development opportunities for the young people themselves.”

Pre-lockdown, students took part in a range of classroom-based activities to learn about philanthropy and the needs of their communities. An entire year group at each school was split into teams with one, deemed to have the most convincing and creative presentation, securing their school’s £3000 grant.

When lockdown was announced, The Wood Foundation announced an adaptation to the process to give students who had not completed their programme the opportunity to advocate and raise funds for the local response to Covid-19.

YPI has engaged more than 200,000 young people since it was launched in Scotland by Sir Ian Wood’s charitable foundation in 2008, directing more than £4.5m to Scottish charities across each of the country’s 32 local authorities. More than 250 schools have committed to deliver YPI in the coming academic year.

In the Western Isles, £10,000 was secured for charities.

Local schools and their charities are:

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative

Sir E Scott School

Fèis Bharraigh

Castlebay Community School

Lucky2BHere

The Nicolson Institute

 

 

 

Campervans and motorhomes have become a focus of open concern in the Western Isles, with even local drivers of vans discovering that routine trips are exposing them to adverse comments from people who don’t know them.

Recent weeks have seen reports of motorhomes parked at pier ends, beside people’s homes, on peat roads and at the access point for cemeteries. Even those areas formerly designated for parking are feeling the effects of overuse in a summer when many toilets are locked, and cafes closed.

Yesterday (Tuesday 25 August) there was a report from Portnaguran in Point of a picnic area being ‘trashed’ after a van apparently stayed there overnight, with a bench charred by barbecuing and rubbish thrown over the wall.

And on the same day a resident of Luskentyre reported: “disposable BBQ left on the beach, fencing posts attempted to be burnt, traffic cones taken from the car park and left in the machair, and piles of **** everywhere.”

Rob McKinnon, chief executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said: “It’s a nationwide phenomenon and we have been relatively protected so far – most of the issues here are quite low level.

“Everyone wants to go to the country and, at the same time, facilities have been dramatically reduced. The number of people who can come here has been limited because of the capacity of ferries and in most islands demand for places to stay and availability of facilities have been in balance. The exception is in the case of campervans and we can’t control that.”

Earlier Comhairle nan Eilean Siar tried to address that issue, with a message to would-be visitors promoted via the CalMac booking system. It says: “We have been asked to advise our customers, at time of booking a campervan/motorhome/caravan to any Western Isles destination, that they are required to have a booking with official campsites on the island in advance of travelling.”

(This CnES initiative was reported earlier on welovestornoway.com - https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17772-campervan-crisis-plea - and this article has been read more than 28,000 times, a record level of readership over recent months.) 

However, CalMac does not ask passengers for evidence of a pitch booking before their sailing and, says Rob Mackinnon, that has become a particular issue for the Isle of Harris, where most facilities are closed, and vans are still arriving daily.

Outer Hebrides Tourism and VisitScotland have both set out guidelines for post-Covid visitors on responsible parking, camping and how to behave in the islands.

But Rob said: “There will always be people who do not wish to take information from these sources. Most people who come here behave perfectly well, but there are exceptions and there’s a risk that we see every tourist as like them, which is not the case.”

The Portnaguran resident who reported Monday night’s damage said: “The area is for picnics. It is not a campsite. Yet there is scarcely a night when there isn't a campervan or mobile home parked there.”

And the Luskentyre resident said: “All everyone sees on social media posts is dreamy secluded beach photos. Why can't folk leave it that way?”

Rob Mackinnon said: “We’re as disgusted by some of this behaviour as anybody, but it’s important to remember that the vast majority of the people coming here are behaving well.

“Applying the label ‘dirty tourist’ to everyone is counter-productive. Let’s remember how strongly our economy depends on the goodwill and appreciation of people coming here to enjoy our beautiful islands.”

The Western Isles’ senior police officer has sent a report to Stornoway councillors on pro-active road safety work undertaken during the summer of lockdown.

Chief Inspector Ian Graham wrote to Stornoway councillors following requests for action on driver behaviour in the town, arising from numerous public complaints to councillors.

Road safety and road crime were priority areas for action identified in the Police Scotland local policing plan for the Eilean Siar region.

In the plan, which covered the period from 2017-20, Police Scotland said: “Road safety and road crime remains a local priority in Eilean Siar.

“Whilst the overall number of people killed and seriously injured has reduced over the past three years, when fatal or serious collisions do occur they have a significant impact on families and communities.

“We will continue to target and enforce inappropriate driving and behaviour whilst working alongside our partners and participating in initiatives to educate and promote positive outcomes.”

In his report to councillors, Chief Inspector Graham listed the offences which led to charges against drivers in Stornoway town during June and July this year.

This included eight charges of driving while using a mobile phone, 12 drivers without insurance, six charged for careless driving, three speeding offences and five other offences relating to seatbelts and registration plates.

In addition, 13 anti-social behaviour orders (vehicle ASBOs) were issued and three drivers had their vehicles seized due to repeat offences after an ASBO.

The charges do not include people who were warned or spoken to about their driving behaviour without charges being made, and relates only to offences within Stornoway town.

Other charges have been made elsewhere in Lewis and Harris.

Chief Inspector Graham said: “We are making a continued effort to improve driver behaviour in Stornoway town centre, both in response to public concern and in line with our existing local priorities.

“Informing councillors on how we are tackling road safety and road crime is part of our work to ensure that people know we want the roads to be safer and that road crime and anti-social driver behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Registered Charity No: SCO35767; A Registered Society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, Reg No: 2644R(S); Registered Property Factor: PF000183

 

NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (AGM)

Notice is hereby given that the fourteenth Annual General Meeting of the Hebridean Housing Partnership Ltd will be held remotely, on Thursday, 27 August 2020, commencing at 2:00pm.

Separate meeting joining instructions will be sent to those that have confirmed their attendance.

No one took any notice of the recent request for comments which was made by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar over its proposed Polling Station Review across the Western Isles.

But the process continues and the next stage is the publication of the Comhairle’s draft proposals and the Returning Officer’s comments.  Representations must be made on these by 5pm on Friday 18 September 2020.

The revised list of polling places to be submitted to the Comhairle for approval on 30 September 2020 is available on the following link:

https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/your-council/elections-and-voting/review-of-polling-districts-and-polling-places-2020/revised-list-of-polling-places/

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar announced on 21 July that a review of Polling Districts and Polling Places within Na h-Eileanan an Iar would be undertaken. The review particularly focused on the suitability of premises or facilities for persons with any type of disability.  The closing date for initial comments was Friday 14 August.  No comments or suggestions were received by the deadline, says CnES.

But a spokesman says: "The Comhairle would welcome any comments from electors who are registered within the constituency. As well as the general public, the Comhairle will seek input from Community Councils, Elected Members, Political Parties, MP/MSP, Disability Groups and the Third Sector."

Comments and representations may be made in writing to Derek Mackay, Governance and Elections Manager, Chief Executive’s Department, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Council Offices, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2BW or via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Scotland’s proposed new environmental watchdog must be fully independent of government and be given the proper resources and budget it requires if we want to ensure Scotland’s world-renowned environment remains protected after Brexit, says Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), the organisation which represents landowners and rural businesses.

Following an evidence session with the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee yesterday (25 August 2020) on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, SLE says that to truly replace the oversight functions of the European Commission and Court, the new body Environmental Standards Scotland must be fully independent of government.

Karen Ramoo, Policy Adviser at Scottish Land & Estates who gave evidence to the committee, said:“We welcome the establishment of Environmental Standards Scotland to replace the oversight and enforcement roles of the European Commission, European Court of Justice and other EU bodies.

“Adequate funding is essential if we want Environmental Standards Scotland to be an effective watchdog, so we would like to see Scottish Ministers commit to multi-year, dedicated funds for the new body, coupled with annual reports and assessment of whether it has been provided with sufficient funds to carry out its purposes.

“We agree with the key environmental principles identified in the Bill which form a fundamental part of environmental law. These have underpinned the development of EU environmental legislation, which in turn has guided the current Scottish environmental legislation, and so will play an important role in the ‘continuity’ purpose of this Bill.

“One particular principle we would like to see considered for inclusion is the principle of integration which would ensure the environment is taken into account across all policy and decision making, ensuring environmental protection requirements are integrated into the definition and implementation of wider policies and activities.

"The detail contained within the guidance on principles is going to be key and needs to clearly set out how the principles will sit alongside other principles – existing law and policies.

“We also believe the Bill could go further and ask for Scottish Ministers to ‘act in accordance’ with these principles when developing new policy, rather than simply ‘have regard’ to them as the Bill currently proposes. This would remove the possibility of the principles being undermined while at the same time still providing decision makers with sufficient flexibility to balance different objectives.

“While this Bill applies to Scotland, there are many businesses which operate across borders and so it is important that there is a coordinated approach to environmental governance across the whole of the UK. The needs of the environment are not constrained by geographical or political boundaries, so open dialogue and a constructive approach to environmental governance across the UK is essential.”

 

The scale of the impact on the NHS and its patients throughout Scotland of the lockdown months has been laid bare by new treatment figures. 

Now Shadow Health Secretary Donald Cameron has called for the SNP Government to implement an urgent treatment recovery plan.

The latest figures show a massive drop in the number of hospital patients being seen. Figures published by Public Health Scotland show that, in the quarter ending 30 June 2020 there were only 15,239 patients seen under the SNP’s treatment time guarantee. This is huge fall from the same quarter last year when 71,613 were seen.

In addition, the new statistics also show almost 100,000 patients are currently waiting for key diagnostic tests.

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “While the coronavirus pandemic goes a long way in explaining why there was such a sharp fall over this period, this staggering drop in numbers suggests that there are a lot of patients still going without treatment.

“This isn’t just storing up problems – there will be people across Scotland waiting, in pain, right now.

“It was understandable to divert people away from the NHS at the height of the Covid crisis, but that is no longer the case.

“It’s pretty clear that our NHS just isn’t treating enough patients at the moment and we need the SNP government to implement an urgent treatment recovery plan to get our NHS back up to full capacity.”

Full information can be found here - https://beta.isdscotland.org/find-publications-and-data/healthcare-resources/waiting-times/nhs-waiting-times-stage-of-treatment/

 

It could be many months before some of the public swimming pools in the Western Isles can reopen to the public, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

During lockdown, swimming pools across the Outer Hebrides have been looked after by staff on site to ensure that once the appropriate stage of the Scottish Government roadmap for retreat from lockdown was reached, they could returned to use as quickly as possible.

CnES says: "Our pools at Lionel and Shawbost will not be available until Phase 4 of the Scottish Government roadmap because of operational reasons relating to their position within school sites."

As for the other pools, since the First Minister’s announcement on Thursday 20th August bringing forward the date that some indoor sports activities can look to recommence, Sport and Health staff have been progressing the crucial elements that are required.

CnES says: "There are a number of technical issues that we must also adhere to before we can start to go back into the water safely. 

"It is also vitally important that Lifeguards undertake reinduction training which includes pool-based competency assessments before we reopen.

"This can only be undertaken when the pools are up-to-temperature and appropriate microbiological results are in place.

"These processes rely on external contractors to provide this specialist service and we are working with them to progress this as promptly as possible.

"Each of our facilities will be operating on limited capacity in line with Scottish Government and national guidance.

"We will update customers as soon as we can with more information about specific opening dates and booking arrangements and Sport and Health staff are grateful for everyone’s understanding these difficult times for us all."

 

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 change of use of building, Stornoway

WIFIIS Ltd has applied for planning permission to renovate and change the use of the former Murdo Maclean’s shop at 25-27 Cromwell Street. The work would create one ground floor retail unit, a restaurant/café and five one-bedroom flats. Work would also include the demolition of 18B Kenneth Street.

 

New house, Callanish

Anna MacInnes of 11 Callanish has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 35 Callanish. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen/family room, a lounge and plant/store room. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars.

 

New house, Point

Garry Macleod of 3 Manor Park has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 7 Branahuie. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining area, a lounge and a utility room. Work is to include installing an air source heat pump.

 

Removal of branch, Stornoway

Planning permission is sought to remove a branch of a chestnut tree at Thistle Cottage, 33 Matheson Road, Stornoway. This would create a 3.8metre clearance above the driveway.

 

New agricultural building, Lochs

Iain Macleod of 7 Grimshader, Lochs, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 7 Grimshader, Lochs. The building is to be 9 metres long, 5 metres wide and 4 metres tall, and is to consist of dark grey box profile.

 

New house, Point

Colin and Donna Maclean of 36 Sheshader, Point, have applied for planning permission to build a house at 18A Upper Bayble, Point. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining/living area, a lounge and a utility room. Work is to consist of creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars.

 

Extend agricultural building, Shawbost

Iain Mackay of 5 South Shawbost has applied for planning permission to extend the agricultural building at 8 South Shawbost.

 

External work on house, Stornoway

Andrew Clark of 21 Lewis Street has applied for planning permission to do external work on the house at 21 Lewis Street. Work is to include replacing the bossed cement render sections on the main house with wetdash finish and over-rendering all external elevations with wetdash finish, including rear extension, chimney stack and front boundary wall.

 

New Nissen hut and access road, Lochs

Peter MacInnes of 26b Crossbost has applied for planning permission to erect a Nissen hut and create an access road at 26 Crossbost, Lochs. The Nissen hut is to be 12 metres long, 7.31 metres wide and 3.81 metres tall and used for agricultural purposes. Work is to include creating a parking space for one car.

As you may be aware, the North Lochs Community Association’s AGM was to be held at the end of March 2020.  Due to Covid-19 this was put on hold.

We advised in the run up to the AGM that we cannot continue to keep the community centre open without some major changes, investment and additional committee members. 

We cannot hold our AGM meeting as planned, therefore, we are going to send out a form asking you to return your details in the pre-paid envelope by the 7th September if you are able to join the committee, along with information on the community work we have carried out since lockdown. 

There is no pressure to take on office bearing posts, the meetings are once a month unless there is a catch-up required before an event. 

Once the return date has passed, we will be able to make a decision on whether or not the community centre will reopen when restrictions are lifted.

Please take your time to consider your response, our community has many rewarding aspects for all involved and despite the current situation the potential for us to create a facility to bring us altogether again is within our reach.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed the approval of a new triple therapy treatment for cystic fibrosis patients.

Following an agreement between the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and Vertix Pharmaceuticals, the drug Kaftrio will be made available for Cystic Fibrosis patients. Kaftrio is a medicine that tackles the underlying causes of the disease by helping the lungs work more effectively.

Mr MacNeil said the availability of this drug was potentially transformational for cystic fibrosis patients.  He highlighted the charity The Leanne Fund which started in the Western Isles and offers support to those with Cystic Fibrosis and their families across the Highlands, Islands, Grampian and Tayside.

“This is extremely welcome news for those who live with Cystic Fibrosis and their families. This will benefit the majority of all CF patients and is a significant step forward. Patients in Scotland will be among the first in Europe to benefit and lead longer, healthier lives.

“The work of The Leanne Fund in my constituency and beyond is incredible and I’m sure this positive news will be warmly welcomed.”

It is estimated that around 800 people with cystic fibrosis in Scotland should be suitable for treatment with the range of medicines that are now available.

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has today (Monday 24 August) named ten winners of its World Photography Day photo competition.

The winning images include landscapes, sunsets and pictures of the people and wildlife of the Western Isles.

A statement from the Comhairle said: “The competition proved to be very popular with a high number of entries showcasing all that makes the Western Isles so special. 

“Choosing just 10 photos from these fantastic submissions was an incredibly difficult task and a massive congratulations must go not just to the winners but to all the competition entrants.”

The full list of winners is: Derek Mackinnon with Dail Mòr star trails and aurora, Jane Taylor with great-granny with great-grandson (pictured), Bernhard Anderson with noctilucent cloud, Gordon Macdonald with cirrus trails at sunset, John Dyer with St Kilda –once seen, never forgotten, Gary Ford with Culla Bay, Benbecula, Gordon Ross with Harris sunset, Scott Davidson with Callanish and the cosmos, Roddy Maclean with the Braighe, storm Brendan (pictured), Barnaby Ashton with Shiants puffins.

 

Indoor visiting is returning to care homes run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar from today (Monday August 24) the Council announced today.

This came after the Director of Public Health Dr Maggie Watts confirmed that the Western Isles has had very low levels of COVID-19 infection throughout the pandemic and that there have been no COVID cases in care home residents or staff - and there is no evidence of the virus circulating in the community as of Sunday 23rd August.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “Through the continued hard work of care home staff in preparation for indoor visiting and through the evident partnership working between Health and Social Care managers, care homes are well placed to manage this next stage of the recovery plan.

"Understandably, there are strict conditions attached to any visits taking place, and all nominated visitors will be provided with written guidance prior to visits.

"Care home managers will be making contact with nominated visitors in the coming days to agree on a visiting schedule. We have to manage the numbers of visitors carefully, avoiding too many visits on the same day. Ideally there will be a single nominated visitor, as this helps reduce the risk further but where there is to be a change of visitor, then we ask that the normal nominated visitor informs the care home of any proposed changes.

"We also ask that if for whatever reason a visitor is unable to attend a visit, then the notify the care home as early as possible, as this visit can be utilised by someone else.

"We once again want to thank residents and family members alike for their continued patience and understanding. It is more important than ever that we continue to conform to the national guidance in terms of infection prevention and control. It is by doing so that we have been able to move to this most welcome of developments.”

The Scottish Government demands that  care homes meet certain requirements prior to indoor visits commencing, including:

  • Completing their own risk assessments
  • Making the physical space ready to allow indoor visiting
  • Ensuring there is adequate PPE to support safe visiting;
  • Creating an appropriate cleaning regime, in line with health protection guidance.

In addition, duty rotas must be sufficient to ensure that adequate staff are in place to manage indoor and outdoor visiting simultaneously.

 

 

 

There’s a revolutionary bin collection arrangement starting tomorrow on Great Bernera…but residents are going to have to mark their bins with their address to make it work.

This change follows  on from the weight restriction of 7.5 tonnes being placed on the Bernera Bridge by  Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Now the plan is intend to carry out refuse collections tomorrow as scheduled – but without the vehicle crossing the bridge.

The Comhairle are working closely with Bernera Community Council, Bernera Community Association and other local volunteers to collect household bins and take them to the Earshader side of the bridge to be emptied.

It is asked that householders mark their bins with their address (house number & village) to ensure that the correct bins are returned.

Where there is a group of houses together such as Dun Innes or Heath Park, bins may be returned to the carpark for householders to collect.

If a householder does not have their bins emptied on Tuesday or do not get their bins returned, they can contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It is expected that there will be a suitable collection vehicle in service for the next collection on 8th September and a recycling bank relocated to the Earshader side of the bridge.

The Comhairle says. “We would like to thank all the residents of Bernera for their patience and understanding while we work on maintaining waste and recycling services.”

A small group of socially-distanced guests attended the Nicolson Memorial in Portree today (24th of August) for the unfurling and raising of Skye’s official flag as the Misty Isle joined several other Hebridean isles in having a specific flying emblem.

The search for a flag for Skye began in May 2019 when the Broadford-based West Highland Free Press joined forces with Highland Council and destination management organisation, Skye Connect to petition the court of the Lord Lyon – the body responsible for recording and protecting all heraldry, flags and national symbols in Scotland.

The competition launched last autumn, prompted a big response, with 369 designs submitted – more than 200 of them from local children - while other designs came in from across the globe.

A panel of community representatives then had the very difficult task of drawing up a short list of six flags, which they felt best symbolised the island, and the six were then put to a public vote. More than 7000 votes were cast.

The Flag launch should have taken place in March but was delayed due to Covid-19.

The winning design was created by 9-year-old Calum Alasdair Munro from Kilmuir on Skye.

He has a passion for collecting flags and drew his inspiration from the island’s history and heritage.  “First, I thought of the Birlinn and I was thinking about the MacLeods and MacDonalds and the MacKinnons – the first Clans on Skye. I thought about the Celtic Heritage, the Viking heritage and the history of Flora MacDonald. In my flag, in the Birlinn, there are five oars representing Trotternish, Waternish, Duirinish, Minginish and Sleat.”

The whole process to find a suitable flag has been guided by the Honorary Vexillologist with the Court of the Lord Lyon, Philip Tibbets.
“This Skye flag is a testament to engaging the creativity of the community itself. The design not only meets heraldic best practice but puts a unique and new spin on a traditional style - and in so doing combines the Scottish, Gàidhlig and Norse heritage of Skye.”


The Flag was raised in Portree today by winning designer Calum Alasdair, who was told of his success last week but had been sworn to secrecy until the official launch.

“I was feeling very happy, but I haven’t told any of my friends in school. I have just told Granny. She was very happy.”

An extraordinary time for policing in the Highlands and Islands has seen some significant changes in crime and anti-social behaviour figures.

In a statement released by Police Scotland today (Monday 24 August) divisional commander Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett laid out some of the reported figures for the first quarter of 2020-21.

He said: “This reporting period has covered an unprecedented time for Scotland therefore it comes as no surprise to see a local rise in some categories, such as anti-social behaviour – 3,150 incidents were reported during the same period last year in comparison to 5,521 this year, of which the majority were linked to calls from the public over suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations.

“However, this has been an extraordinary time therefore care must be taken to avoid assumptions around trends in all categories.”

The statement says that detection rates for crimes in the Highlands and Islands increased during the first quarter of 2020-21, while public confidence in policing has increased by 20 percentage points during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The performance figures released today – which cover the period of April to June –highlight an increased detection rate of 69.5% compared to nearly 66% during the same period in 2019-20.

Total crime figures have also remained static (2,182 incidents compared to 2,188 last year) ensuring the region remains one of the safest places in Scotland.

Chief superintendent Trickett said: “The rise in fraud crimes - from 70 to 139 – is of great concern as fraudsters adapt well-known techniques to exploit vulnerable people and businesses during a challenging time.

“Online banking and romance frauds, as well as bogus callers, are still of great concern to Police Scotland, with the addition of scammers now preying on people’s fears about coronavirus. I ask the public to remain extremely vigilant and keep an eye on those more vulnerable.”

Road safety figures showed a drop in overall road traffic crimes, from 2,409 last year to 1,514 this year, but drink/drug drive offences increased from 107 to 194 due to the increased use of drug-drive detection kits.

Chief Superintendent Trickett said: “Any offence on our roads is extremely disappointing, particularly at a time when we should all have been playing our part to avoid putting additional pressure on the emergency services.

“However, thanks to proactive patrols and support from the Road Policing Division, Police Scotland has stopped a number of drink/drug drivers and will continue to take this robust action.”

“I would like to take this chance to thank the public once again for your support – our police officers, staff and Special Constables have worked tirelessly throughout the ongoing health pandemic to support our communities who, in turn, have shown us overwhelming support.”

 

CalMac is making some significant fleet improvements during this year’s dry docking maintenance programme.

Every year each of the company’s 34 vessels, ranging from the 8600 tonne MV Loch Seaforth, to the 11 tonne MV Carvoria, all have to have a period of maintenance to ensure continuing seaworthiness.

This presents the company with a complex logistical problem to keep all of its lifeline services running with minimal disruption.

‘Organising time for each vessel to enter dry dock while keeping services running is a real challenge for us that requires detailed planning. When the weather is taken into account this can be real test keeping communities connected,’ said CalMac’s Director of Operations, Robert Morrison.

‘Above and beyond the normal bow to stern servicing to ensure they are fit for another year’s service, there are some major projects planned this year to improve comfort and resilience on a range of vessels.’

MV Loch Seaforth is having a further 40 internal seats fitted and improved Fast Rescue Craft and cranes are being added to MV Hebrides and MV Isle of Lewis which are also receiving new disabled bathroom and changing facilities.

The passenger lifts onboard MV Hebrides, MV Isle of Arran, MV Isle of Mull and MV Lord of the Isles are to be upgraded to improve reliability.

MV Lochinvar and Lord of the Isles are having lighting upgrades with fluorescent tubing being replaced by LED lighting

On MV Caledonian Isles, MV Loch Shira, MV Isle of Mull and MV Coruisk are all to be fitted with improved CCTV systems to assist in ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew.

There are also a number of upgrades to improve fleet resilience.

MV Loch Portain is to have an upgraded pitch control and steering system. The hydraulic control gear for the bow visors on MV Clansman and MV Hebrides are being upgraded and navigation radar upgrades are taking place on MV Argyll Flyer, MV Caledonian Isles, MV Lochnevis, MV Loch Tarbert and MV Lord of the Isles. A new set of stabiliser control equipment is also being fitted to MV Hebrides.

This year’s dry dock schedule was planned with public consultation to minimise disruption to communities where possible.

This included a decision to defer the departure of the MV Caledonian Isles until well after New Year to allow festive revellers to leave the island and included switching the relief vessel on Raasay to the larger MV Tarbert rather than the smaller MV Loch Linnhe.

‘While we recognise the annual overhaul replacement vessel deployments might not fully meet the aspirations of communities served, we are tightly constrained by the availability of vessels and need to work within the resources we have available.

'Where we can we try to provide as seamless a service as possible during this period, matching suitable vessels to cover routes to keep inconvenience to a minimum. We appreciate the travelling public’s patience during this time,’ added Robert.

Last year CalMac carried more than 5.6 million passengers and 1.4 million vehicles. Its fleet serves 28 routes to island and remote mainland locations.

The schedule may change depending on operational priorities, but currently the arrangements are:

 

Vessel

Relief

Overhaul starts

Overhaul complete

MV Loch Linnhe

N/A

25-Aug-20

08-Sep-20

Loch Riddon

MV Loch Linnhe

09-Sep-20

23-Sep-20

Lochnevis

MV Loch Bhrusda

11-Sep-20

28-Sep-20

Isle of Arran

N/A

30-Sep-20

14-Oct-20

Hallaig

MV Loch Tarbert

02-Oct-20

16-Oct-20

Loch Dunvegan

MV Loch Alainn

09-Oct-20

23-Oct-20

Loch Seaforth

MV Isle of Lewis and MV Hebridean Isles

22-Oct-20

02-Nov-20

Bute

MV Coruisk

23-Oct-20

02-Nov-20

Loch Buie

MV Loch Tarbert

23-Oct-20

06-Nov-20

Ali Cat 

MV Argyll Flyer

26-Oct-20

09-Nov-20

Hebridean Isles

N/A

07-Nov-20

25-Nov-20

Lord of the Isles

MV Isle of Arran

06-Nov-20

24-Nov-20

Argyll Flyer

MV Coruisk

09-Nov-20

19-Nov-20

Loch Striven

MV Loch Riddon

09-Nov-20

27-Nov-20

Loch Tarbert

MV Loch Linnhe

13-Nov-20

27-Nov-20

Coruisk

N/A

23-Nov-20

09-Dec-20

Loch Alainn

MV Loch Bhrusda

30-Nov-20

14-Dec-20

Isle of Mull

MV Isle of Arran

29-Nov-20

17-Dec-20

Catriona

MV Loch Riddon

04-Dec-20

18-Dec-20

Loch Ranza

MV Loch Linnhe

04-Jan-21

18-Jan-21

Loch Bhrusda

N/A

04-Jan-21

25-Jan-21

Ali Cat 

MV Argyll Flyer

04-Jan-21

05-Feb-21

Caledonian Isles

MV Hebridean Isles and MV Isle of Arran

05-Jan-21

20-Jan-21

Loch Shira

MV Catriona

15-Jan-21

29-Jan-21

Isle of Lewis

MV Hebridean Isles   

26-Jan-21

11-Feb-21

Clansman

MV Lord of the Isles

26-Jan-21

11-Feb-21

Isle of Cumbrae

N/A

29-Jan-21

12-Feb-21

Loch Portain

MV Loch Bhrusda

03-Feb-21

23-Feb-21

Argyll Flyer 

MV Ali Cat

08-Feb-21

19-Mar-21

Hebrides

MV Clansman

17-Feb-21

03-Mar-21

Loch Fyne

N/A

17-Feb-21

03-Mar-21

Lochinvar

MV Hallaig

03-Mar-21

17-Mar-21

Finlaggan

MV Hebridean Isles and MV Isle of Arran

08-Mar-21

22-Mar-21

Chieftain

TBC  (Likely to be MV Ali Cat)

11-May-21

25-May-21

 

A man has been charged today (Sunday 23 August) after a road accident in Laxdale on Friday afternoon, which left another man in hospital overnight.

Three vehicles were involved in the collision, which closed the road at Laxdale bridge for over an hour and led to one man being taken to hospital.

First aid was given to four people under the direction of HM Coastguard coastal area commander Murdo Macaulay (duty officer AC18), who was first on the scene.

One car had left the road and rolled onto its roof and into a nearby croft, while two others blocked both lanes of the carriageway.

Murdo Macaulay, a specialist search and rescue advisor, carried out first aid and controlled the scene as crews from Police Scotland, Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Ambulance rushed to the site of the incident.

The road was closed in both directions for over an hour as emergency services worked to move vehicles and to clear debris and fuel-spill from the carriageway.

A 22-year-old man has been charged with careless driving and is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal over the incident.

A 65-year-old man who was the driver of another vehicle was taken to accident and emergency at Western Isles Hospital by ambulance and kept overnight for observation, but was allowed home on Saturday, with no serious injury.

An online event next Saturday (29 August) will mark exactly 90 years since the last residents of St Kilda left village bay for a life away from their native island.

The informal enthusiasts club St Kilda Club (https://www.stkildaclub.co.uk) has organised the commemorative event in conjunction with the National Trust for Scotland and are taking registrations now at https://buff.ly/31zQsBQ

'Remembering the Evacuation of St Kilda' will feature a variety of speakers telling their family stories, including recounting what happened after they left St Kilda

The event also includes music and a special replay airing of Radio 4’s A Requiem for St Kilda.

One of the speakers is archaeologist Craig Stanford, who was the St Kilda archaeologist for three seasons, spending 450 days on the island while in post. He now works in the archaeology and world heritage team at Historic Environment Scotland.

The St Kilda club have also produced a set of commemorative postcards to mark the 90th anniversary, available from their website.

The pictures show speaker Craig Stanford and three of the St Kildans at the pier ready for their belongings to be loaded on the boat away from their home. They are (l to r) Finlay MacQueen, Mary Ann Ferguson and Norman MacKinnon.

 

Lifesaving equipment is being distributed the length of the islands, following a donation to NHS Western Isles from the Sandpiper Trust.

The Sandpiper Trust is a charity which helps improve rapid response medical care in rural areas by providing items such as defibrillators.

In the Western Isles, the trust has donated pulse oximeters ­– small, lightweight devices used to monitor the amount of oxygen carried in the body by sending wavelengths of light through the fingertip.

Alison Moggach, nurse practitioner and resuscitation trainer, has provided training in Barra and arranged with the Sandpiper Trust for the small, non-invasive devices to be distributed throughout the Western Isles.

An NHS Western Isles spokesperson said they were very grateful for the very kind gesture and had expressed thanks to the trust on behalf of our staff. 

The Sandpiper Trust explains on their website: “In an ideal world, ambulances response times would always be lightning fast, but we know that this is not always achievable, especially in more rural or remote areas where location, number of ambulances and demand come into play. 

“As a family who has experienced tragedy personally, improving rapid response medical care in rural areas has been our mission for 15 years. We do this through the provision of appropriate, standardised and uniform medical equipment for use by specially trained GPs, community nurses, paramedics and A&E Consultants, all of whom operate on a voluntary basis.

“Working in conjunction with the Scottish Ambulance Service, our trained and fully equipped responders are primed and ready to act as soon as a high-priority 999 call comes in.  They are often the first to arrive at the scene of an accident or emergency, administering vital, pre-hospital care.

Pictured in Barra with the new devices are staff nurse Helen Sharples, staff nurse Catherine Macneil and charge nurse Frances Macneil.

 

A 29-year-old man was arrested on Saturday night (22 August) after an assault in Stornoway town centre.

The man was arrested on Cromwell Street after police were called at 9.40pm on Saturday.

The man had also suffered a head injury and was taken to Western Isles Hospital for treatment.

He’s to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal on a charge of assault.

 

Nuisance driving

Excessive speed in Stornoway town centre this afternoon (Sunday) has landed a young driver with a vehicle anti-social behaviour order.

The 18-year-old man was stopped after his vehicle was noted being driven at excessive speed on Bayhead and Matheson Road in the town this afternoon.

 

The chance to apply for new support will soon be available for grassroots music venues across Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Grassroots Music Venues Stabilisation Fund.

Venues may apply for grants of between £5,000 and £50,000.

Online application forms will be available on the Creative Scotland website at 12 noon on Wednesday 26 August.

Applications to the £2.2m fund must be submitted by 12 noon on Thursday 3 September..

The purpose of the fund is to provide grassroots live music venues, that were financially sustainable before Covid-19, with the funds to prevent permanent closure and help with sustainability. 

Eligible venues should:
    •    Be permanent, indoor venues in Scotland in the grassroots sector (i.e. those working with new, developing, musical talent), which have a public audience
    •    Have a capacity of under 600. Applications from venues with capacities of up to 1,000 will be considered if a significant grassroots focus can be demonstrated.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Grassroots venues are the heartbeat of Scotland’s music scene, and they have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are all extremely keen to see grassroots venues reopen again but further work is needed to ensure this can be done in a safe and sustainable manner. 

“This £2.2m funding will provide some much needed stability for grassroots venues over the coming months and I am determined to continue working with the sector on what further help we can provide. It’s a long road to recovery but hopefully this marks the beginning of a brighter future after the very recent dark times.”

Iain Munro, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland said: “In these extremely challenging times, this fund will provide much needed emergency support to Scotland’s grassroots music venues which are an important part of Scotland’s music ecology, developing music and audiences as well as supporting the talent for which Scotland is so renowned. As we look to move forward through the Covid-19 crisis, grassroots venues will, when it is safe to do so, play a crucial role in bringing people of all backgrounds together to experience the joy of live music.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has announced £1.3 million of grants from the Crown Estate funding to support 76 community projects across the Western Isles.

Comhairle Leader, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “We agreed in December an innovative programme to engage with communities on projects that were priority for them and I am delighted that we have reached the stage of issuing grant offers.

"The Comhairle is committed to seeing its communities directly benefit from the Crown Estate revenues, which we have long argued should be devolved to the islands.

 “Today we have also agreed how the second year of allocation will be distributed. The increase in our funding means that as well as allocating £165k per ward we are also establishing an £800k fund for strategic projects that support economic recovery across the islands.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar also met yesterday for a special meeting of the full Comhairle.

A report before Councillors setting out a range of measures to deliver the Comhairle’s updated Corporate Strategy was agreed.  The report included financial savings required to bridge the projected financial shortfall over 2021/22 and 2022/23.  All proposals will be subject to consultation and full impact assessments prior to decision by the Comhairle on implementation.

The Comhairle is bringing forward its budget setting process to take account of the difficult circumstances arising out of the COVID Pandemic. The Comhairle is potentially looking at a need for savings of £6.6m in the next two years.

Roddie Mackay said: “Over the past 10 years the Comhairle’s approach to financial stringency has been a combination of efficiency savings, service redesign and maximising opportunities.

"However the circumstance facing us now are unprecedented although we will continue to work with COSLA, SOLACE, Directors of Finance and other organisations to lobby Government to recognize the extremely difficult situation for Councils.

"Essential to the success of any Budget Strategy is its alignment with the Corporate Strategy, with the political priorities agreed by Elected Members, and with other plans, such as our Workforce Strategy.

"COVID has been as unsettling to public finances across Scotland and the UK as it has been unwelcome in its effects. Our job is to prepare, plan, mitigate and support each other through this crisis and this process.”

 

 

 

As of 2.10pm the road at Laxdale Bridge is open in both directions.

 

Police closed the road at Laxdale bridge this lunchtime (Friday 21 August) while emergency services dealt with a road accident.

The carriageway was closed in both directions and police asked drivers to try to avoid the route while emergency vehicles were working at the scene.

A pair of bicycles left in a garden in Rodel sparked a flurry of communications at Stornoway Coastguard operations centre yesterday (Thursday 20 August).

The two bikes were left for safekeeping with a Rodel resident by visitors planning to make a trip to St Kilda aboard their own yacht on Tuesday.

But with storm weather threatening, the resident made a concerned call to HM Coastguard when the pair had not returned by Thursday morning.

Coastguard operations staff put a communications search into operation after the call at 10.39am, which told them that between three and five people could be unaccounted for on a trip to the distant islands.

It was not known how long the party had intended to be away from Harris, how many people there were or what the name of their vessel was.

Telephone calls were made to sailing clubs, local businesses in Ullapool and Harris and to Qinetiq in St Kilda, while searches were also made on Facebook and Instagram for any record of a party heading to or returning from St Kilda.

The crew of the CalMac ferry then made contact to say that the yacht had returned from St Kilda and was tied up in Leverburgh, with all aboard safe and well.

A spokesperson for Stornoway Coastguard operations centre said: “The resident was rightly concerned for these people’s welfare, with a gale warning in force and poor weather conditions. She also did not know how long they intended to stay away.

“As it transpired, the people had been caught in poor weather and had headed to Leverburgh in a strong swell to seek shelter. They possibly intended to return to Rodel by road to collect their bikes, but this was not something we knew during the search.

“This was a full-scale communications alert which quickly resolved the issue – we were working flat-out between 10.39am and 11.01am, when the people were found safe.

“We do urge people who are heading out from a vehicle or from accommodation, whether out to sea or into the hills, to contact us with their planned itinerary and a contact number, or to leave details in their car or at their accommodation.

“That way, if we get a call saying that someone is apparently late to return, we can quickly establish that they are safe.”

 

Work is finally getting under way on renovations to the Battery Point power station, with scaffolding cladding the west face of the huge turbine hall.

The Stornoway power station is to have a new roof and the west-facing wall is to be completely re-faced and roughcast to improve its weather resistance.

Along with all other major construction projects, the start of the project was brought to a halt early this year under the Coronavirus shutdown regulations.

But contractors CalMax Construction are now on site and Perth-based roofing contractors AIM Developments Ltd are expected on the island soon to start on a new coating for the turbine hall roof.

In 2017 Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) invested £330,000 to refurbish and extend three chimneys at Battery Point as part of the maintenance programme. Island firms John Maciver and Sons and CalMax Construction carried out those works.

A local SSEN spokesman said that they expected no disruption to activity within the building while the work was going on and that the site had been completely secured under Covid-19 regulations.

Battery Point power station was built between 1951 and ’52, with a substantial extension in the 1970s to accommodate new turbines.

 

The public in the Western Isles will see little change even though First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that gyms and swimming pools can look to reopen following national guidance from 31st August.

A Comhairle nan Eilean Siar spokesperson said, “The benefits of activity for our mental  and physical health are huge, so this is a very positive step forward.

"In the Outer Hebrides, we face particular challenges with five of our six sports facilities being based in schools and our largest building, Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais serving the Nicolson Institute during the school day.

"Our priority, as the First Minister has said repeatedly, is getting our young people back to school and normalising their education as quickly as possible. This will mean for the first period of reopening up until the October school holidays there will be limited access to all our facilities during the school day, to maximise their potential use by school pupils.

"This will be reviewed every three weeks and should schools not require to use these spaces for education purposes, then we will increase access as promptly as we can.  Education has been a cornerstone of our community for generations and I’m  sure that our service users will agree that this continues to be our priority in the short term as we hopefully progress out of the pandemic.

"It is important to emphasise that facilities will not be operating normally for some time – pool and gym sessions will need to be booked in advance, there will be a ‘pay as you go’ system in place until it is possible to fully reinstate the ‘Slàinte Mhath’ scheme.

"There will also be very limited capacity to meet social distancing and other national guidelines.  Sport and Health staff have been working hard in the background to prepare for reopening and will update service users with more detailed information over the coming days via the CnES website, social media, local press etc.

"Our objective will always be to offer a service that is safe for our service users and staff and we are grateful for your understanding in these uncertain times.”

Following the Scottish Government’s extension of exercise guidelines as part of phase three of the route map through the COVID-19 pandemic, dates have been set for the reopening of indoor sports facilities and the return of outdoor contact sport for adults.

The Scottish Government and sportscotland are continuing to work in close partnership with Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport (SGBs) and physical activity organisations to develop detailed plans for a variety of sports which can now welcome back more participants as part of the phase three guidance.

Key dates and changes include:

From August 24:

  • Adult outdoor contact sports training and competition in an organised setting can resume. Maximum numbers in any one session must be agreed by sports governing bodies and sportscotland.
  • Outdoor group coaching for organised sports and leisure activities including aerobics and fitness classes can take place for a maximum of 30 people at one time.

From August 31:

  • Indoor sport and leisure facilities can open if Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance is fully implemented.
  • This includes indoor non-contact and contact sport training and competition activities for children up to and including 11 years of age and indoor non-contact sport training and competition activities for those 12 years and older where physical distancing is maintained.

Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick said: “These announcement will have been welcomed by the many people across the country who have greatly missed being able to use gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools, with all the health and wellbeing benefits those activities bring.

“These past months have been very financially difficult for many businesses within the sector, who have shown great patience and support by remaining closed in order to help prevent further spreading of the virus. The Scottish Government is working closely with the sector to ensure that facilities are prepared for reopening safely and customers have the confidence to return.”

Chief Executive of sportscotland, Stewart Harris, said: “Today’s announcement that indoor sport facilities and gyms can reopen from 31 August onwards, is the latest step forward in relation to the phased return of sport at all levels.

“The reopening of facilities, which will play a key role in Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, will be widely welcomed by clubs, individuals and the wider public.

“However, it is important to recognise that several challenges including the current economic landscape still need to be overcome before the delivery of sport in local communities and at a club level will be considered back towards something like normal. 

“As a sector we are committed to working together to address the challenges that lie ahead. We want to see more progress made in line with public health guidance and that will remain our number one priority.”

The additional sport and leisure activities will be permitted if appropriate guidance and risk assessments are in place including Track and Protect measures.

Outdoor sporting events or activities involving more than 30 people should not take place at this time unless following SGB specific guidance which has been approved by sportscotland.

 

The law needs changing. That's the view of the Lewis crofters who lost their court battle with the Stornoway Trust this week following a ruling by the Court of Session on Wednesday on their bid to develop community-owned turbines on their common grazings.

In a statement today Friday Augist 21, a spokesperson for the four crofting communities of Sandwick North Street, Sandwick East Street, Melbost and Branahuie and Aignish said: “While we are naturally disappointed at the decision to turn down our appeal, we warmly welcome the Court’s perceptive and helpful comments which they added to the decision and we hope that they will be studied and acted upon by Members of the Scottish Parliament and by Government Ministers.”

In its Decision the Court said: “As a postscript, it could be said that this case does identify general concerns about the development of what might be underused croft land, including common grazing. The needs of the crofting communities are not identical to those in the late Victorian era.

"As with other applications to the respondents [the Crofting Commission], it could be left to them to decide upon the appropriateness on the development, having regard to everyone’s interests, in terms of the factors in section 58A(7) of the 1993 Act. That is not permitted under the current legislation. Such a development would require section 50B(2)(b) to be repealed.”

The crofters spokesperson continued: “We agree wholeheartedly with that analysis and it is why we took the appeal to the Court in the first place. Whereas the Crofting Commission has a clear duty under the Act to reach its decisions on applications made to it by balancing the full range of affected interests, including the interests of the landowner, the estate, the crofting community and the wider public interest, applications made by crofting communities to develop their common grazings are uniquely subject to what our case has shown is an effective veto by the landowner alone, without consideration of the other interests.  

“This veto is not right or sensible. Moreover, as it affects half a million hectares of common grazings in the Highlands and over 500 crofting communities, it is crippling the potential of crofting communities to use their common land for sustainable development such as community energy projects that we wanted to pursue.

“We believe the Court was absolutely right, therefore, to say that our case has highlighted a real problem in the Crofting Acts and we believe it is now up to the Scottish Parliament to revise the law to reform the law along the lines indicated by the Court.

"Section 50B(2) must be repealed to remove the landowner veto so that future development proposals that have come from crofting communities can be considered by the Commission in the normal, balanced way, taking proper account of the interests of all the parties involved.

“This simple reform could radically transform the economic potential of our Highland communities and in the coming weeks we will be writing to MSPs to inform them of the issue and to ask for their help.”

Link to Court of Session judgement: https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-source/cos-general-docs/pdf-docs-for-opinions/2020csih49.pdf?sfvrsn=0  

The Scottish Government has today announced that driving instruction will restart from Monday 24 August 2020.

Driving tests will start again in Scotland on Monday 14 September 2020 which will give learner drivers time to have refresher lessons and practice before taking their test. Driving instructor testing and standards checks start date will start again on 14 September.

Vocational and car and trailer tests and ADI Part 2 tests will resume on Monday 31 August 2020.

Different approaches to easing lockdown are currently being adopted across England, Scotland and Wales, explains the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency.   "We will continue to observe the guidance and scale up our services when it is permissible and lawful to do so. We will be contacting all driving instructors, vocational instructors and practical test candidates to explain what will happen next."

DVSA has continued to test critical workers in Scotland during the lockdown and driving lessons have continued for these workers.  DVSA Chief Executive Gareth Llewellyn said:  “It has been vital that lessons and tests only resume when safe to do so and in line with the Scottish Government’s advice. 

“We know this has been a tough time for everyone including learners and driving instructors but I am pleased to announce the restart of lessons and tests in Scotland. 

“Tests for critical workers have continued during the lockdown and I would like to thank all those instructors and examiners who have continued to work to help deliver tests for those who have done so much to help us during this terrible pandemic.”  

 

The under-14 preliminary Irish dance champion of the United States now comes from Benbecula, with a host of medal and trophy winners among her fellow dancers.

Carly Mackay, aged 14, is one of the hard-working students at the Laird Dance Academy in Benbecula, which last weekend (Saturday 15 August) took part in the online Lake Erie USA Open Feis, an all-America championship for traditional Irish dancers.

Her performance, which you can see here https://youtu.be/7HotiBL4zBg, was good enough to mark her out as the overall winner in her class and makes her eligible to compete at the 2021 World Championships.

It’s been a challenging year for dancers of all ages, with tuition, practice sessions and competitions all having to take place online.

The hosts of last weekend’s competition, Long School of Dance in Lake Erie, said: “It was a really unique year- with competition live-streaming in from basements, driveways, beaches, studios... inside, outside. It was a really versatile change of scenery.”

Benbecula-based Irish dance tutor Lorna Mackay said: “Once again my dancers took to the virtual stage competing live and virtually against dancers from all over the world in the Lake Erie USA Open.

“We are extremely proud to announce that Carly Mackay is our under 14 Preliminary USA champion. Thanks to all our Laird Dance Academy Family and our island community for your continued love and support. This is what dreams are made of – sheer hard work and determination.”

Other results are still awaited, so there could be more awards to come for the island dancers, who had already secured over 40 medals in the Australasian open championship.

Laird Academy’s results brought accolades from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Convenor Norman A Macdonald said: "It's an unbelievable achievement, we're absolutely delighted at what the school has achieved.  The Laird Dance Academy has now taken medals at World, European, National and International levels, a phenomenal achievement for a small school based in Benbecula.

“Since lockdown they have been practicing in virtual classes run by Lorna from the kitchen in the house and competed in the Australasian Open a fortnight ago securing 10 Gold Medals, 17 Silver Medals, 24 Bronze medals and placed in 97 different competitions in total.

“Lorna and the dancers in the school deserve every bit of credit for their hard work, dedication and their determination to succeed, even a global pandemic couldn't stop them! Their persistence has certainly paid dividends and they have proved that hard work conquers all."

The Laird Academy enjoys a high standard of teaching under the direction of principal Deirdre Laird, Miss Deirdre to her students. It promotes high standards of achievement in dance styles from ballet to musical theatre.

Pictures show Carly practicing and members of the Laird Dance Academy heading off to the Scottish open dance championships from Benbecula airport last autumn.

 

Police in Stornoway are conducting an investigation after two vehicles were apparently set alight at Lewis Tyre Services yesterday morning (Wednesday 19 August).

The fires, in the yard of the business at Marybank Industrial Estate, Stornoway are believed to have started shortly before 4am on Wednesday and are being treated as suspicious. 

Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incidents, or for anyone who has any information, to call the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 0426 of 19 August.

Information can also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

 

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd proposal to consult about its plan to eliminate air traffic control jobs from the Islands has been totally dismissed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

HIALS’s so-called "Islands Community Impact Assessment" is ‘too little too late’ and at the very least doesn’t meet the spirit of Islands Proofing Legislation, says the Chair of CNES Transportation Committee, councillor Uisdean Robertson 

HIAL announced this week that consultants would be appointed to carry out a study into the impact of Air Traffic Control centralisation on Island communities.

CnES have highlighted that there will be a significant loss of jobs in the Islands and that the proposals demonstrate a lack of commitment to Island communities.

Councillor Robertson said: “This looks like a paper exercise. The point is that this will have a major adverse economic impact – we don’t need consultants to tell us that.

"Surely any meaningful study should have been carried out before the decision was taken in order to inform the strategy rather than pay lip service in a desperate attempt to show that HIAL has concern for Island communities.

"It is too little, too late. The legislation on Islands Proofing was designed to prevent exactly this kind of disregard for Island communities. Whilst we are still waiting for guidance on Island Proofing I believe this centralisation process is certainly against the spirit of the legislation.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said yesterday that future wind farms could have impacts on the wild bird population of Lewis.

Their comment came yesterday (Wednesday 19 August) after a report was released about a white-tailed sea eagle, found with a head injury on moorland early last week.

Local officers for the SSPCA were alerted to the injured eagle, the largest bird of prey in the UK, on 10 August at around 6.20pm.

Scottish SPCA auxiliary inspector, Maggie Adkins, who was called to retrieve the injured bird, said: “It was clear the eagle had a serious head injury and it was also being eaten alive by midges.

“It was found in a remote part of the island close to a large wind turbine, so this is likely to have been the cause of its injuries.”   

The bird was taken to the Old Mill Vet Practice in Stornoway, where it was x-rayed, and given pain relief and medication. The eagle was found to have severe bruising to its body as well as a head injury.

An RSPB leg ring and tracker confirmed that the bird had been born in June 2009 in Lewis. Local RSPB representative Robin Reid confirmed the information on the ring, but said he was concerned that the bird appeared to have been injured by a wind turbine.

He said: “The population of white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Lewis has been increasing in recent years following their successful re-introduction to Scotland. 

“However, it is concerning that this injured bird has been found close to a wind farm. We know the species is susceptible to collisions with wind turbines and we are concerned about the impact of further proposed wind farms in the area.”

At present, the eagle is healing from its injuries and eating well. The Scottish SPCA hope it will soon be recovered enough to be released back in to the wild.

The picture shows a Lewis sea eagle with a rabbit in its talons, pictured this week (Chris Murray).

 

The University of the Highlands and Islands has published its first ever regional carbon management and sustainability plan.

The plan, which covers the period from 2020 to 2023, sets out the university's commitments towards the environment.

The document details actions to reduce the use of plastic and paper, improve recycling and reduce the amount of carbon released across its partnership of thirteen colleges and research institutes. The university will work with local staff and liaise with public, private and third sector organisations to deliver the plan.

Professor Crichton Lang, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: "Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face and it is vital we do all we can to protect our environment.

"The University of the Highlands and Islands partnership covers the largest geographical area of any campus-based university or college in the UK and has the largest student population in Scotland, with nearly 37,000 students studying with us each year.

"By working together to reduce our carbon footprint and promote behaviours which benefit our planet, we can make a significant contribution to environmental sustainability."

Dr Margaret Cook, Perth College UHI Principal, said: "We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint at Perth College UHI and the implementation of this Carbon Management Plan will help us to reach targets set out by the Scottish Government.

"Working in a more sustainable way can be achieved with the support of all our staff and students, for example, encouraging the use of low and no-carbon transport wherever possible and monitoring and reducing our energy consumption. Our course provision also supports a greener world, with a number of our programmes designed to help prepare tomorrow's employees to care for our environment.

"By reducing our carbon footprint, we will play an important part in helping fight climate change."

Professor Edward Abbott-Halpin, Principal Orkney College UHI, added: "As part of Orkney Islands Council, Orkney College UHI is fully supportive of this response to climate change and participates in the reduction in carbon footprint policy and activity of the council."

To view a copy of the plan, visit www.uhi.ac.uk/climate-commitment

Monitoring work undertaken on behalf of Food Standards Scotland has identified that the high levels of shellfish toxins identified in: Loch Leurbost, Lewis on 10 July 2020, Loch Seaforth, East Loch Tarbert and Sound of Scalpay on 10 July 2020 and Seilebost Sands, Harris on 24 July 2020 have returned to safe levels.

The warning against eating shellfish from these areas has now been lifted.

A permanent weight restriction of 7.5 tonnes is being placed on Bernera Bridge with immediate effect, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has today (Wednesday August 19) confirmed.

This is being done following the completion of preliminary structural assessments undertaken over the past fortnight

Alternative arrangements are being considered for waste and recycling collections and the delivery of heating oil

Final investigative reports will follow and the Comhairle will continue to monitor the bridge.

The Comhairle and partners met today, Wednesday 19th August, and have already begun planning to ensure public safety, the continuation of local services and, of course, to ensure access is available for emergency vehicles.

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

Should any members of the public have particular concerns, they are encouraged to contact the Comhairle via the Customer Services number on 01851 600 502.

The Stornoway Trust today (Wednesday August 19) welcomed the news that the Court of Session has upheld a decision made by the Crofting Commission, and subsequently sustained by the Scottish Land Court, not to grant applications made by four townships under section 50b of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993.

The four townships involved are Melbost Branahuie, Sandwick North, Sandwick East and Aignish.

In an appeal hearing held on July 2nd, the Court of Session heard that the Commission’s adjudication was that approval of the 50b application would be to the detriment of the landlord, which had an existing lease agreement with Lewis Wind Power for the creation of a wind farm in the same area. It is this view which has now been verified by the Court of Session.

Responding to the verdict, Stornoway Trust Chairman, Norman A Maciver, said: ‘In this case, the landlord is the community and so, approval of the 50b application made by these four townships would have been detrimental to the Stornoway Trust Estate as a whole, and to the wider interests of the Western Isles.

"We are grateful to the Court of Session for coming to such a speedy conclusion in this matter and I hope that the townships, having had time to reflect, would not now want to damage a project which will ultimately benefit not only their own shareholders but the whole community.’

Iain Maciver, Factor of the Stornoway Trust added: ‘We are relieved that the Stornoway Wind Farm project can finally now move forward. At this present moment, the Western Isles economy is in need of as much good news as it can get.

"It has always been the Trust’s belief that our close collaboration with the Comhairle, and in the partnership between ourselves as landlord, and Lewis Wind Power as developer, we have the best chance of creating meaningful development in this area: development which will have a positive impact on the Estate in its entirety. 

"I believe this is not just good news for the Trust, but ironically also for the appellants, who, in my view, would have been exposing themselves and those they represent to considerable risk had they been successful in their ill-advised actions.

"As things currently stand, however, if the project proceeds as planned, they too can look forward to a share of rental revenues, which to them will be worth in excess of half a million pounds per annum.’

The Irish met office, Met Eireann, has named Storm Ellen as strong winds blow into western parts of the UK from tonight (Wednesday 19 August).

In a weather warning issued just after 11am today, the Met Office shows possible storm impacts stretching along the west coast of the UK from Cornwall to Barra and Uist.

Between 8pm tonight and 4am on Friday, they warn of southerly winds tracking northwards to affect most of the western UK, with gusts of 65mph possible around coasts and hills.

A band of heavy rain is also expected to move eastwards late Thursday afternoon and overnight into Friday, accompanied by strong, squally winds.

Possible impacts include road, air and ferry delays, short power interruptions, road debris from trees in full leaf and some coastal spray and flooding.

The warning has been updated since first being issued yesterday and now includes parts of the Western Isles, specifically Uist and Barra, although as always there is uncertainty over the exact track of the storm.

 

Plane spotters were being treated to the unusual sight of an RAF Typhoon fighter jet on the tarmac at Stornoway airport today (Wednesday 19 August), after what was described as a general emergency during an exercise yesterday.

The plane landed at Stornoway to refuel after being diverted from a fog-bound RAF Kinloss, and is now swathed in haar outside the hangar at Stornoway itself.

The RAF has five frontline squadrons of Typhoon aircraft, based at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

The plane’s most essential role is on quick reaction alert (QRA), protecting UK airspace, in which capacity Typhoons based at RAF Lossiemouth have been active recently during alerts over Russian aircraft off the Western Isles.

Yesterday some of the RAF Lossiemouth jets were taking part in Exercise Typhoon Warrior, a large-scale air exercise over the North Sea.

A spokesman for RAF Lossiemouth said yesterday: “Many of our enthusiasts have spotted two of our Typhoons squawking a code associated with General Emergencies. This sounds a lot more severe than it is, so we thought it best to explain what's happened and why this code is used. 

“As our Typhoons returned to Kinloss Barracks, weather conditions deteriorated and three of our pilots made the decision to divert to RAF Coningsby.  It's best for all involved if Typhoons land at an airfield with dedicated support - from the engineers and technicians, to specialist security and refuelling. Naturally the best choice is RAF Coningsby. 

“As the Typhoons were running low on fuel after a long sortie, they declared a PAN-PAN. This is an internationally recognised signal for an aircraft in a state of urgency, but whose situation doesn't pose any immediate danger. 

“In this case, our Typhoons opted to squawk 7700 to expedite their transit and recovery into Royal Air Force Coningsby. This is standard procedure. 

“One additional Typhoon with more fuel remained in the area, but was still unable to land at Kinloss Barracks due to low-lying haar. This aircraft diverted to Stornoway instead.”

The Typhoon was due to refuel at Stornoway, but remains on the ground after apparently experiencing refuelling difficulties compounded by weather conditions.

Pictures are by Jason Spinks and Kenny Mackay.

 

Stornoway police are asking for public help finding a stolen bicycle, which was taken from the town on Sunday afternoon (16 August).

The dark blue adult’s mountain bike was removed from the Acres accommodation at about 3pm on Sunday by one or more unknown people.  

Police are appealing for witnesses or anyone that may have been seen someone acting suspiciously in the area at around that time to contact Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they wish to remain anonymous. The incident number is NH 944/20.

Access to land was highlighted as an obstacle at an on-line event hosted by the Scottish Crofting Federation’s young crofters.

The event showcased croftwork, aspirations and concerns of young crofters.

The day was chaired by young crofter, Donald MacKinnon, SCF’s vice-chair , who said: ”We had a great gathering with over 60 people participating.

"The video presentations made by young crofters showing us their enterprises were very inspiring and the discussions that followed were vibrant and illuminating.

"We covered topics including local food, horticulture, direct selling of meat and other products and the Scottish Crofting Produce Mark. The lack of available land kept coming up and is clearly a major obstacle for young folk wanting to get into crofting.”

Donald continued: “Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for rural economy, addressed the gathering and we concluded the day with a very interesting session where panel members from Scottish Government, Crofting Commission, SNH, SAC and SCF gave their views on the big picture, the main issues for crofting. This led to many questions and discussion covering hot topics such as access to land, croft housing, local food supply, peatland management, climate change, control of geese – too many questions in fact for the time available. Lack of access to land is a key issue and it was heartening to hear Rod Mackenzie, convener of the Crofting Commission, also state this as a priority of the commissioners.

“Time ran out, but this gave me a chance to close the session with ‘to be continued’, and it will be. We intend to hold regular online gatherings for younger folk, drilling in on specific topic areas. Access to land will be high up there.

“We closed with informing the gathering that we will be taking nominations for the Euan MacRae memorial cup for ‘Best newcomer to crofting’, and for ‘Young crofter of the year’ from the beginning of September to mid-October, with the awards presented towards the end of the year.

“We didn’t know how this would go, as it was our first attempt at holding a full gathering online,” Donald concluded, “but video-conferencing technology has come a long way and we were able to get people together from all over, be shown around crofts, survey participants, have panel discussions and much more. A recording of the gathering will be up on our YouTube channel soon. This is certainly to be continued!”

A young runner who dedicated her summer to raising funds for island causes finished her marathon challenge on Monday evening (17 August) – on her home ground.

Catherine Donner, aged 11, has been running every day for 50 days, having set herself the target of running 100 miles to raise £500 for two of her favourite causes – local leisure and community centre Spornis and Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens (WISCK).

When it came to it, Catherine smashed the time, the distance and the target total. She achieved 100 miles running in 47 days and kept going, ending with a total distance of 108.34 miles and almost £1,300 raised in cash.

Catherine’s final day’s running was an event in itself, on a route near her home in North Dell that started at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis and finished at Spornis, with a crowd of school and running club friends joining her on the route.

Catherine said: “There were lots of people clapping and cheering at their houses as we passed by and cars beeping. It felt really nice to have people cheering and joining me.

“When we reached Sporsnis, there was a crowd of people clapping and cheering us, it was amazing. Simon (Sporsnis manager) made a wee speech and gave me a certificate. It was him that had arranged the surprise and made my last run so special. I shall remember this forever. The certificate is right now hanging in my bedroom.”

Posting on social media, a spokesperson for Spornis said: “Catherine has done incredibly well and we wanted to make her final run a bit special. We are very impressed by this girl’s efforts to help us to fix the roof, which is in a dire condition.”

Equally delighted with Catherine’s huge efforts are the committee of WISCK, who designated her their ‘hero of the summer’ in their latest newsletter.

Chair of WISCK Cat Campbell said: “We are so proud and amazed at the effort Catherine has put in throughout this fundraising challenge. The sum of money she has raised will help us to neuter feral cats and to keep young kittens until they are old enough to find loving new homes. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

Yesterday (Tuesday) Catherine had her first day for nearly two months without a run and said: “I didn’t run today and I don’t miss it....(yet). Instead, after school, I relaxed in the hammock and in the living room with Cuilean. 

“Without everyone’s support and donations, this would just be a run for 50 days, it means a lot to me that Sporsnis and WISCK are being helped by all your amazing donations. I’m very happy.”

Pictures show Catherine on the last leg of her run with her family (left to right) brother Benjy, Catherine, mum Gemma, brother William and big sister Elizabeth; at Sporsnis with a socially-distanced welcome party and on facetime to Nanny and Grandad and at home yesterday, on her first non-running day, with dog Cuilean.

 

Long Term Condition Hebrides AGM 

via Zoom conference call at 3:30pm on Thursday 20th August.

Anyone interested in the work of LTCH is encouraged/welcome to attend.

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

Long Term Condition Hebrides (LTCH) is a local third sector organisation run by people with long term conditions.

We provide two weekly group sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, these are for residents of the Western Isles that may need help with self management.

Classes are focused on mindfulness teachings and relaxation techniques and are facilitated by a local GP, Dr. Gail Cunningham.

Due to the on going covid-19 situation our weekly sessions are currently being held via the Zoom conference call app.

Sessions are free to join and if anyone is interested in participating then please contact Gordon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A trial by Argos to expand its delivery service to the Western Isles, Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner Hebrides has been welcomed by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

From this week, more than 98% of residents living on what Argos term the main Scottish islands can order large items, from furniture to fridges, and have them delivered on a day of their choice.

Delivery and collection prices will match those available in the rest of the UK and customers can to choose and book a specific delivery date for the first time.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “It’s very welcome to see Argos trial this expansion of their delivery service. Excessive delivery charges and couriers not delivering to the islands are a constant source of frustration to my constituents, who are unfairly penalised for their postcodes.

“It is particularly good to see that Argos will offer islanders the same choice of products, the same delivery and collection prices, and the same delivery options as they would to mainland households.

"Parity and fairness are all that islanders have ever asked when it comes to delivery charges. I hope that this trial is successful and that other retailers consider following suit."

 

Are you ready to walk the length of the Outer Hebrides over six weeks starting in September?

If so, this is your chance to join the NHS Western Isles’ step count challenge. 

You will cover 172 miles, tracking progress along a virtual route of the Outer Hebrides using the Big Team Challenge app and web system.  Last year’s challenge attracted over 300 people from across the islands.

Participants stated that they found the challenge helped them reach individual goals, such as taking part in more everyday walking, taking part in other local physical activity events and some participants progressed to jogging and running.

Many said they felt benefits to their health from the additional physical activity such as maintaining a healthy weight and managing stress.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes and challenges which can have a negative effect on mental health. With the introduction of shielding, self-isolating and an increase in home-working, there has been a rise in sedentary behaviour and inactivity across the country. With people now able to move around more freely, the step count challenge offers the perfect opportunity to improve health through walking.

Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, said “Although the weather can be difficult sometimes, getting out and about around our beautiful islands can make a big difference to our mental and physical health and wellbeing.  This year’s Step Challenge will help people return to walking after the long months of lockdown and travel limitations. So sign up and step out in 2020!”                                                                   

Participants are encouraged to use The Big Team Challenge web and app system; logging steps and distance along a virtual route of the Outer Hebrides. 

Registration opened yesterday (Monday 17th August) and closes at midnight on 31st August when the six-week challenge starts on Barra in the south and finishes at the Butt of Lewis in the north. 

The challenge is free and open to residents of the Outer Hebrides aged 13 years and over.  Walking is a great way to improve your fitness and general health and wellbeing. 

Participants can enter as an individual or as a team of two. Individuals should aim for 9,500 steps per day. Teams of two should each aim for 4,750 steps per day and combine their steps to reach the finish line. The team option may be most suitable for people who currently undertake no activity, low activity or with low mobility. An activity-to-steps conversion chart will be provided; allowing participants to add activities other than walking to their steps total.

Karen Peteranna, NHS Western Isles Health Improvement Practitioner, said “Last year’s step count challenge saw over 48,000 miles of steps logged by walkers across the Outer Hebrides; that equates to walking around the world twice!

"This was an incredible effort from walkers and we hope new and old walkers will be encouraged to join in this year as walking for just 30 minutes a day can bring benefits to our all round health; our physical, social and mental health.”

To register visit: walkonhebrides.bigteamchallenge.com

For anyone who thought a "deepwind cluster" was a gathering of like-minded curry eaters who had eaten too much garlic, it's time to think again.

In fact, we are told that local businesses throoghout the Outer Hebrides should consider becoming members of "the DeepWind Cluster" and an Introductory Webinar on ‘DeepWind’ has been organised!

This all comes after Comhairle nan Eilean Siar welcomed the recent launch - by Crown Estate Scotland - of the ScotWind Offshore Wind Leasing Round. 

Which is no laughing matter, as it's estimated that £20 billion could one day be spent on this aspect of sustainable power generation. 

Investors and developers can now take the first steps in obtaining a Lease Agreement to build Offshore Wind Farms in identified ‘Development Plan Options’ (DPOs) around Scotland. 

Three of these DPOs – N2, N3 and N4 – are in "the Hebridean Marine Region" and hold the potential to create jobs in what's described as the "Outer Hebrides Supply Chain" and to bring considerable benefit to island communities and businesses including those in the marine services, engineering, hospitality and transport sectors. 

Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said, “This is a major step forward for the islands.  We have been working closely with Marine Scotland to ensure that their new draft Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind included Development Plan Options around the Outer Hebrides and now Crown Estate Scotland are offering seabed leases in these Option areas. 

"We now need to ensure that local businesses can benefit from these leases.”  

“Following pressure from the Comhairle and others, Crown Estate Scotland will require prospective developers to submit Supply Chain Development Statements with their lease applications. 

"The aim of these Statements is to maximise the opportunity for the local supply chain to be engaged in the delivery of these future projects. The DeepWind Offshore Wind Supply Chain Cluster is one of the main channels for the developers to engage with supply chain for these future contracts”.

With the entire ScotWind Leasing Round expected to bring investment of more than £20 billion in Offshore Wind, there will be opportunities throughout the Outer Hebrides Supply Chain, from marine services and engineering to hospitality and transport. 

To access these opportunities, local businesses should consider becoming members of the DeepWind Cluster and an Introductory Webinar on ‘DeepWind’ has been organised for local businesses on Wednesday 26thAugust from 2-3pm. 

At the Webinar, DeepWind Manager, Paul O’Brien, will provide an overview of the Offshore Wind sector, the ScotWind leasing round, and outline the benefits of membership of the DeepWind Cluster, followed by a Q&A session.   To receive the link to join the webinar, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visitors are taking no notice of warnings about the lack of facilities for campervan and motorhome visitors throughout the Western Isles.

Now Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is sending out a firm message that no one must travel to the Islands with a campervan or motorhome unless they have already booked places at a campsite that is open.

Further to a meeting with Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, and Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, in July, the Comhairle wrote to the Minister on 11 August expressing its concerns and those of its communities about the significant increase in campervans and motorhomes travelling to the Western Isles since the easing of lockdown and the health and environmental concerns and complaints from communities about ‘wild camping’ or ‘roadside camping’.

While the Comhairle’s message to campervan and motorhome visitors has, from the outset, been not to visit the Western Isles unless they have a booking at an official camp site, given that facilities and services at camp sites are not open, it is apparent that this is being largely ignored with resultant adverse impacts on the local environment.

The Comhairle reiterated that message in their letter to the Minister and asked that CalMac agree to post the following advisory notice on their website, on behalf of the Comhairle:

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar requests that during the Covid-19 pandemic, visitors in caravans, motorhomes and campervans pre-book with  official campsites on the Western Isles, before travelling.  This is the message coming from our local communities and which has our full support to protect the health of visitors and our  local communities, so that numbers can be properly managed and  waste can be disposed of safely, without detriment to the local environment. This applies to all routes to and visitor destinations within the Western Isles.   

The Comhairle is pleased to note that CalMac Ferries have agreed to display the message on their website.

Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee, welcomed  the publication of the advisory note and stated that “any restriction on the numbers of campervans and motorhomes to the Western Isles during these unprecedented times, that can be brought about, represents a responsible approach which does not impact adversely on the local environment and public health, while still in the local economic interest”.   

 

The Ness and West Side areas have benefitted from local enthusiasm in taking part in the Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery over the past three years.

The sums have added up - £1 on £1 from each player - and total of £16,235 has so far been raised for the area.

This area covers from Carloway to the Port of Ness.As in all other areas, says WILL, the locals in the community are best placed to identify where there is a need and distribute the funds to those who have applied and meet the criteria.

The Committee of the Westside Football & Recreational Club have managed the funds from the outset.  The following awards have already been distributed:

  • Eoropie Playpark received £1,615.80;
  • Carloway Community Centre purchased a Gazebo and BBQ equipment for community use with a grant of £1,347;
  • Westside Agricultural Show received a grant of £2,128.80 for the purchase of a large gazebo and the necessary landscaping works to site it;
  • Balantrushal Community Council received £1,930.20 to upgrade the site of the Clach An Truiseal tourist attraction;
  • Westside Football Club received £1,830.60 to purchase mobile goal posts for use throughout the community;
  • Comunn Eachdraidh Nis received £2,093.30 to provide disabled parking and signage to complete their new building (pictured);
  • The youngsters of Taigh Dhonnchaidh in Ness received £800 to purchase new musical equipment
  • Alzheimers Scotland received £750 to provide additional resources in the Westside area.

Current funding will be utilised by Shawbost Community Association who are planning to provide three picnic sites, one each in Shawbost, Bragar and Dalmore communities for locals and visitors.

A further application to purchase outdoor play equipment for children with additional support needs in the area has also been accepted.

The Lottery Team express their sincere thanks to Local Councillor John MacLeod, known locally as Corrags, who has been the eyes and ears within the community to help identify suitable projects and help assist projects receive the funding.

Corrags said: “It has been really amazing how worthwhile the local lottery has been for every community and it has been a pleasure to have been able to access funding from the lottery when no other options have been available.

"It’s also quite amazing how the sums have added up from those supporters who have joined in with from as little as £1 per week to help their own community. The benefit of winning prizes for their efforts is, of course, a bonus!

'As it stands the Ness and Westside Area is on target to receive much more funds during the coming year and I encourage as many as possible to consider joining in. We all need a boost in these uncertain times”

The financial impact of Covid-19 is being explored by Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The Committee has already sought written evidence on the general impact of COVID-19 on the rural economy and connectivity.

Now the Committee is focussing on the financial impact of the pandemic.

It is asking how future funding from the Scottish Government’s budget should be used to support long-term recovery in the rural economy and across Scotland’s transport and digital networks.

Responses to the call for evidence will help to inform the Committee’s ongoing work to scrutinise public spending in these areas and to influence the Scottish Government’s draft budget when it is published later in the year.

Committee Convener, Edward Mountain MSP said: “There is little doubt the pandemic has affected every sector of Scotland’s economy. But for some areas, as we have already heard, these effects have been particularly significant.

“For sectors including transport and fisheries, there have been immediate impacts. In other key areas of the rural economy, such as agriculture, there are also long-term implications and challenges to consider.

“The Committee wants to hear from those most affected about how public spending needs to change to address these challenges. What support would make a real impact?

“What are the urgent priorities and what should be the longer term financial strategy to deliver a sustainable recovery in Scotland’s transport systems, digital connectivity and the rural economy?”

The Committee is asking a series of questions. These include:

•    how can future budgets best be deployed to develop resilient rural businesses, communities and supply chains?

•    Is Brexit likely to pose additional challenges for the rural economy in recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 and how should funding best be allocated to support recovery of the rural economy in this context?

•    What, if any, specific financial support should the Scottish Government provide to transport operators while social distancing measures remain in place?

•    How can future budgets best be deployed to lock in the shift towards active travel that has occurred during lockdown?
Background

The call for evidence follows previous work of the Committee exploring the wider impacts of Covid-19. Information about that call for evidence, which closes on 21 August, can be found here:
https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/115229.aspx

The current call for views will be open until Friday 18 September 2020. Responses should be sent to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More information can be found via the Committee’s webpages.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd is undertaking a retrospective island communities impact assessment of its Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS) following input from a number of stakeholders.  

The ATMS programme was approved in 2018 and while not legally required to do so, HIAL agreed to undertake the impact assessment in the spirit of transparency, it says today (Monday August 17). 

To ensure objectivity, HIAL says it appointed Reference Economic Consultants to undertake the assessment. 

Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s Managing Director said:  “Reference Economic Consultants has a wealth of experience, having provided extensive economic and research services for the public sector across the Highlands and Islands, including each of our island local authorities and Highland.

“As there is currently no guidance on how island impact assessments should be undertaken, the Scottish Government Islands Team was consulted for guidance before starting the process.  

“The approach the independent consultant is taking reflects the Islands Act’s requirement that an islands impact assessment should ‘describe the likely significantly different effect of the policy, strategy or service compared to its effect on other communities (including other island communities) in the area in which the authority exercises its functions’. 

“The process underway will also assess ‘the extent to which the authority considers that the policy, strategy or service can be developed or delivered in such a manner as to improve or mitigate, for island communities, the outcomes resulting from it’.”

Mr Lyon continued:   “The island community impact assessment will not recommend whether the programme should or should not go ahead, rather it will highlight where mitigating actions are required to address any significant impact the programme may have on a particular community.”

The assessment process is well underway and is now focused on engagement with local community representatives.

HIAL’s previous engagement on the ATMS programme has been on a face-to-face basis.  However, Mr Matthew is working with local authorities to determine the best way to engage with community groups given the current restrictions due to Coronavirus.

Reference Economic Consultants is currently contacting community representatives as part of the consultation process and Mr Lyon encourages those contacted to engage with the process saying: “It is important that local representatives contribute to the assessment of potential economic and community impacts.

“HIAL looks forward to receiving the report with the findings from Reference Economic Consultants following completion of the consultation phase.”

HIAL’s asserts its proposed £28 million investment in a centralised air traffic management system is necessary to “future proof” its operations in Scotland against a background of business challenges including staff recruitment and retention, increasing regulation, and increasing pressure on costs.

Under its proposals, the new remote operations centre will be located at Inverness, which was identified as the preferred site following staff consultation, and will be responsible for air traffic management at HIAL airports at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway.

The project is expected to be delivered over the next 10 to 15 years.

This month, Lews Castle College UHI appointed Sue Macfarlane as Interim Principal and CEO.

Sue has 30 years of experience of working in the education and skills sector, and joined the College in October in her role as Director of Transformational Change at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

Previously Depute Principal at West Highland College UHI, Sue has also held senior management roles at SQA and Perth College UHI. Hailing from Yorkshire originally, Sue has lived and worked in Scotland for over 35 years, first working in the private sector before moving into further and higher education. 

She commented: "I am delighted to join the College as Interim Principal and CEO. I look forward to working with staff and students over the next year to ensure people across our communities receive a high quality learning experience and increased access to further and higher education. I also welcome the opportunity to work with key stakeholders and partners across the Western Isles, and beyond, to help deliver on the opportunities of the Islands’ Deal, address the economic challenges of Covid and for the College to play a key role in supporting Gaelic language, culture and heritage."

Board Chair Archie Macdonald added: "On behalf of the Board of Management of the College can I say how pleased we are to have Sue take on this senior role. We are all going through challenging times at present and the education sector is no exception. So it is vital that we have someone to lead the College who has a strong background in this sector matched with wide-ranging experience to ensure that the College continues to deliver a high quality education experience for students and helps create a workforce that meets the present and future needs of the local community and economy."

Livestock sales at the Lewis and Harris auction mart in Steinish next week are going to look and feel entirely different, having been transformed by rules around Covid-19 transmission.

Bookings have closed for the sale on Wednesday 26 August, which has also been extended forward by half a day.

Mart director Kenny Macleod of Ness said travel arrangements for buyers meant they would be arriving on Tuesday lunchtime (25 August) and that, rather than half a day doing nothing, they had decided to open the sale at 2pm on Tuesday, with 1,700 animals due to go through the ring that afternoon.

The sale the next day will open at 8.30am and 3,200 animals will be put through the ring before it closes at 3.30pm.

Kenny said: “The result is that, from a usual limit of 4,000 beasts during the day, we have been able to expand to a total of 4,900 spread over the two days.

“Bookings for the next sale on Wednesday 9 September are also already well up and we are expecting to close that sale by the end of this week, ahead of the expected deadline, with less than 4,000 animals to allow buyers to get to the airport for 4pm.”

High booking numbers will not mean the usual bustling scene inside the mart itself, however, as Covid-19 restrictions mean that only buyers and mart staff will be allowed at the ringside. The maximum number inside the mart is set at 20 people.

Kenny said: “No sellers will be allowed in the mart. Sellers must simply drop off stock and leave – we are going to be very strict about it.

“There will be no gathering outside the mart either. We can’t afford to do anything wrong and there will be marshals on duty outside to make sure people leave as soon as their livestock have been unloaded.

“It’s going to be difficult for all of us because of the new rules, but we have to adhere to them and we ask that everyone listens to guidance from mart staff and does what they are asked to do.”

One bright spot is the innovation of a livestream broadcast from the ring, which will be in place for the Wednesday 26 August sale and the second sale on 9 September.

Kenny said: “The sale will be streamed online at a location which we will advise, and people will be able to watch the animals being sold from the comfort of their own home.”

Picture by Sine Nicolson.

 

In accordance with the requirements for maintaining and inspecting its bridge assets Comhairle nan Eilean Siar propose to install replacement precast culvert units at the Castle Access Road culvert adjacent to the Golf Club under two evening road closures between the hours of 21.00pm and 4.00am.

The first closure is scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday 18th August 2020.

The second closure is provisionally booked two weeks following this date.

The access road shall be closed to traffic between these hours with temporary access available along the Sawmill road with allowance only for emergency vehicles to pass through.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar apologise for any inconvenience.

Essential works to complete the new ferry port in Tarbert are going to mean some disruption for residents at night for the rest of this month.

Contractors R J MacLeod have notified the public about the need to work on the rock armour at antisocial hours from today (Monday 17 August), including shifting and tipping rock, to fit around the tides.

Tidal hours will, they say, cause some disturbance, although they will reduce noise as much as possible. They plan to have the tidal works complete by the end of August. Anyone with any concerns should call them to discuss the situation.

The tidal working hours start today, with works between 10pm and 4am. The unsocial hours timetable from then onwards is:

Tuesday 18 August: 11pm – 5am

Thursday 20 August: midnight – 5am

Friday 21 August: midnight – 6am

Monday 24 August: 3pm – 9pm

Tuesday 25 August: 4am – 10am and 4pm – 10pm

Wednesday 26 August: 5am – 10am and 4pm – 10pm

Thursday 27 August: 6am – 12 noon and 6pm – 12 midnight

Friday 28 August: 6am – 12 noon and 7pm – 12 midnight.

The picture shows work continuing on the Tarbert port site (R J MacLeod).

 

A woman is to appear at Stornoway Sheriff Court court tomorrow (Monday 17 August) after police were called to an address in Point at the weekend.

The 55-year-old woman is in custody at Stornoway police station, after being found to be in breach of bail conditions set following an earlier offence.

A combination of hot weather, tempting water and rolling clouds of fog led to a busy weekend for Coastguard Rescue Teams (CRTs) up and down the islands, with three incidents on Friday evening (14 August).

A 999 call to Stornoway Coastguard operations centre led to the Barra CRT and Barra RNLI lifeboat being called to a report that two kayakers on an inflatable craft appeared to be in trouble off Barra.

After the incident began at 5.25pm the kayakers were discovered at the island’s campsite safe and well.

The Coastguard team were stood down at 6.40pm and the lifeboat returned to its berth at 7pm.

Coastguard teams from Tarbert in Harris were on beach patrol near Luskentyre on Friday afternoon, when they were flagged down at 4pm by a woman concerned about the welfare of her partner and children, who were overdue after setting out to walk on the sands.

The family were discovered to have returned to the car by a different route and were confirmed safe and well by 6.15pm.

Later that night at Eoropie beach in Lewis, a member of the public dialled 999 concerned for the welfare of a surfer seen out at sea in shifting haar.

Ness and Bragar CRTs were tasked at 9.50pm to find the person, whose distinctive vehicle was easily located.

The surfer was confirmed to have returned to shore safe and well and no other persons were seen to have been surfing at the time, so all teams were stood down.

 

A major search and rescue operation in South Lochs ended in tragedy today (Sunday 16 August), with the death of a 37-year-old man while swimming.

Stephen Slavin, a visitor from Ayrshire, had been swimming in Loch Caitiosbhal, near Marvig in South Lochs, when he got into difficulties and was lost to sight.

A 999 call was made to Stornoway Coastguard operations centre at 10.40am by a member of the public who had witnessed the swimmer in difficulty.

A multi-agency search effort was immediately launched, with Stornoway RNLI Lifeboat sent to the scene to deploy their fast Y-boat on the loch.

Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team, a Coastguard search adviser, Police Scotland and the Bristows Coastguard helicopter were also tasked.

The Marvig road was closed near to the Cromore junction as an attempt was made to land the helicopter close to the side of the loch.

The man was later recovered from the water but was sadly found to have died at the scene.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The next of kin have been informed. Enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the death, which is not being treated as suspicious, are ongoing. A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

Stephen’s family have given permission for him to be named locally.

 

A Stornoway man who served a key role in the Second World War was honoured yesterday (Saturday 15 August) as part of the 75th anniversary commemorations of the allied victory.

Kenneth Nicolson, who is 95, received a formal presentation at his home on Macaulay Road from the Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles, Donald Martin, and the secretary of the British Legion, Donnie Maciver.

Kenny was presented with the British Legion’s Victory 75 coin, which is inscribed: “In grateful appreciation for your contribution towards the Allied war effort during World War II.”

He was also given a personal letter of commendation and, on behalf of the British Legion, Donnie Maciver presented Kenny with a copy of a book about Bletchley Park, known as Station X, where Kenny served as a cryptographer and teleprinter operator.

Kenny’s name is inscribed on a brick on the Code Breakers’ wall, constructed at Bletchley Park in 2016 as a memorial to all those who contributed to the shortening of the war and the saving of thousands of lives through their highly secret work.

Speaking to the presentation party yesterday, Kenny said he could not speak about what he had done during the war – or if he did, he would have to kill them.

A member of the Royal Signals Corps, at Bletchley Park between 1944 and 1946 Kenny served as part of the Radio Security Service, the organisation responsible for the interception of German Abwehr communications.

In 1946 he was also a member of the Special Communications Unit, which provided secure communications links to overseas HQs. In that role he was in Egypt from May to December 1946.

Saturday’s presentation was a replacement event for what was due to be a full ceremonial occasion in Edinburgh in May this year, as Donnie Maciver explained.

He said: “The British Legion asked late last year if we had a veteran able to travel to Edinburgh for VE day, where Kenny was due to be treated to three nights in a hotel, wined and dined and to participate in a parade.

“All that went by the board due to Covid-19, but we recently learned there was to be a presentation of a commemorative coin and letter and we arranged for that presentation to take place here in Stornoway.”

Lord Lieutenant Donald Martin, who presented Kenny with his award, said: “Kenny has a most distinguished record of service during the Second World War, serving with the Royal Signals Security Service, stationed at Bletchley Park, where he is commemorated on the Code Breakers’ Wall, as well as serving at Arkley, Forfar and Egypt. 

“To commemorate his service towards the Allied war effort during the Second World War, Kenny was awarded the Legion’s anniversary coin.  It was a proud moment for him, and for Donnie and I, to be able to present the award and to express our thanks to him for his part in serving King and country during the four years of the Second World War.”

The pictures show Kenny receiving his Victory 75 coin from Lord Lieutenant Donald Martin (Thomas Stewart), a detail of the coin (Donnie Maciver) and a picture of Kenny in Egypt in October 1946 (Bletchley Park).

 

A ceremony at Stornoway War Memorial yesterday (Saturday 15 August) marked 75 years since the end of the Second World War in the Pacific theatre.

The small gathering to pay tribute on the anniversary of VJ day was limited to official attendance by a few representatives only, in line with current regulations on public gatherings.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lord Lieutenant Donald Martin said: “On the 15 August 1945, 75 years ago today, the nation and the Commonwealth rejoiced in the news that the British, Commonwealth and Allied Armed Forces had secured victory over the Japanese forces, marking the end of the Second World War.

“The Far East campaign, by far the longest campaign of the Second World War, lasting from 1941 to 1945, is often referred to as the forgotten war, as the focus at the time was on the fighting in Europe, since it was nearer to home. 

“Today we join with other communities throughout the UK …. to remember, pay tribute and express our thanks for the bravery and sacrifice of those who served so courageously to give us the freedom and peace we have enjoyed over those past 75 years.

“VJ Day also reminds us of the horrendous fighting conditions endured by our forces in the Far East and the mental and physical trauma suffered by the many thousands of service personnel and civilians who were taken as prisoners of war.

“For giving us their tomorrow for our today we will be forever in their debt.  On this, the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, we salute them and we will remember them.”

Among wreaths laid during the ceremony, the convenor of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Norman A Macdonald, laid a wreath on behalf of the local community. The short ceremony was livestreamed in its entirety on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Facebook page.

In Tarbert, a commemoration service at the war memorial on Saturday was attended by Ewen Munro, nephew of the late Pacific campaign veteran John ‘Jockie’ Macleod. Ewen raised the flag during the short service of remembrance and piper Hamish Scott played the lament.

Jockie Macleod came from Scarista and served in Burma during World War II, returning after his demobilisation to become headmaster at Scalpay school. He was later headmaster of the Crown School Inverness, before retiring back to Harris.

The other Harris veteran of the war in the Far East was Calum Macleod of Ardhasaig, well-known in later life as secretary of An Comunn Gaidhealach. During the war he was a prisoner of war working on the Burmese railway, his survival attributed to his quiet and determined nature.

Retired deputy Lord Lieutenant John Murdo Morrison of Tarbert said: “The ceremony this year was a very different memorial event, but I recall the 50th anniversary as a great occasion here, with a march through the village and well over 200 people who attended a sumptuous meal in the community centre afterwards.

“I was serving out the sweet course and when I came to Calum and told him the choices, he said: ‘I’ll take the rice pudding – it kept me alive for four years in Burma.’”

The pictures show scenes from the Stornoway memorial service and wreaths placed at the Tarbert War Memorial (John Murdo Morrison).

Heavy goods vehicles are being banned from using the road bridge to Great Bernera. 

Following Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's investigative survey works on Bernera Bridge over the past few days, a precautionary temporary weight restriction of 7.5 tonnes is being placed on the bridge.

This will be reviewed over the course of next week when further structural assessment will be undertaken.

The temporary weight restriction has been discussed with emergency responders. Service providers will also be contacted in relation to business and delivery requirements, says CnES.

Residents of Bernera are aware of the survey as there have been closures in place over the course of the week,

Effectively they were under curfew this week, as engineers looked at essential maintenance work on the Bridge.

The bridge was closed at 8pm and reopened at 7am over five consecutive nights.

A temporary road closure notice issued by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar  on Friday 31 July said that the closure was for invasive works which are required as part of the authority’s maintenance and inspection programme.

Bernera bridge opened on 22 July 1953 when it was considered to be the means of maintaining a ‘young, active and happy population on the island for many years to come’.

CnES says it is grateful for the continued patience of the community.

The picture shows the bridge and the standing stones above its landing point on the Tir Mhor (Visit Outer Hebrides).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing people together at a time when the rules encourage us to stay apart is an immense challenge – but Carloway’s new social inclusion officer is more than up to the task.

Newly appointed by Carloway Community Association, DJ Macleod has been charged with promoting social inclusion in the district between Dalmore and Lochganvich, specifically by helping to set up daytime and evening activities in Breasclete and Carloway community halls.

DJ has returned to the island, and to the family croft at Arnol, with his wife Elizabeth, a lecturer in history at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and their baby daughter Mary Grace.

Carloway residents will remember DJ as the former youth worker for Carloway and when he worked for the Comhairle’s education department. More recently he’s been working in Dornoch and Tain schools as a behaviour support and inclusion officer, and it was from that role that he came home in March.

DJ said: “I lost my job at the beginning of the pandemic and we came home to help with the lambing. I was delighted when I saw this job advertised and I feel lucky to have been appointed, even though we’re starting the project at a time when social distancing restricts us to remote activities.

“I have had to start with ideas which can bring people together remotely, and competitions are a good way to do that. We have had a scarecrow competition which was targeted at families – working together across the generations.

“That was won by the Macfarlane family from Garynahine, including their twin boys Robert and Samuel, aged nine, with their brilliant tandem BMX bike scarecrow installation.”

Currently running is a what DJ describes as ‘a slow-burner’ – a potato competition, targeted at the younger generation. About 20 individuals have taken up the offer of a complete potato-growing kit, including maincrop seed potatoes, fertiliser and a growing bag.

Each participant is responsible for planting and tending to their own crop, and will harvest their whole bag of potatoes on Friday 9 October, weighing the harvest and entering their total crop-weight remotely. DJ said: “It will be judged by weight, and the winner will receive a trophy and a surprise extra prize.”

Activities like these are designed to begin a process of social inclusion which was the main aim of the post being created. Funding from the European Social Fund and the Scottish Government’s Aspiring Communities fund underlines the significance of the work.

DJ said: “The main emphasis of the role is to encourage inclusion, especially within low income households, but every activity is open to all.

“Carloway Community Association is leading the project in close partnership with Breasclete Community Association and Urras Oighreachd Chàrlabaigh (Carloway Estate Trust) and the aim is help reduce social isolation by increasing participation in community events, improving access to support services and signposting support for those who need it.”

DJ will also be taking time to examine and report on the provision of childcare in the district, as at the moment despite there being a good number of infants around, there is no daily childcare provision for age 0-3 years at all. “It’s a big issue” said DJ, “and one that needs to be discussed at the highest levels.”  

Physical meetings, groups and activities will begin once people can safely meet again in community centres at Breasclete and Carloway, but in the meantime, DJ is getting people motivated and engaged through remote projects and renewing his networks and contacts.

The pictures show DJ at home in Arnol with wife Elizabeth and daughter Mary Grace, and presenting a prize to the winners of the scarecrow competition, Samuel and Robert Macfarlane from Garynahine, with their biker crew scarecrows (and mum and dad looking on).

 

An Lanntair arts centre has announced a new catering partnership with Elior UK, as the arts centre prepares for its phased reopening after lockdown.

Elior UK are widely experienced in the arts and cultural sector, providing food and drink for some of the UK’s most prestigious cultural venues, including Aberdeen Art Gallery and National Museums Wales.

Elior is a national organisation that also has a strong local focus here in the Hebrides, working across the islands from their local hub in Benbecula, where their Area Manager, John Buchanan, originally from Stornoway, is based.

Kenny Finlayson, managing director at Elior UK, comments:  “I am extremely honoured that Elior have been selected as An Lanntair’s new catering partner. This is especially poignant for me as I have strong family connections to Stornoway; my grandfather is the late Captain Alexander Finlayson, M.B.E ,D.S.C, a former harbour master. I recall many happy memories of spending my formative years enjoying summers on the island thus forming this partnership is warmly welcomed.

“I am excited to grow Elior UK’s presence in the highland communities by bringing our renowned expertise and quality food service to another site within the Hebrides whilst always delivering a regional touch. And with Stornoway local, John Buchanan, at the helm of the operation as Group Manager, we welcome the opportunity to deliver a memorable experience for visitors and bring additional employment to the area.”

An Lanntair CE Elly Fletcher added: “This is an exciting new partnership with so much potential for the future. All of us here at An Lanntair are looking forward to working together with Elior to create a wonderful culinary offer that complements and connects with our arts programme throughout the year.”

Elior will be supporting the arts centre to make use of its outside space, where they will offer a delicious taste of what’s to come from an outside catering pod – the pod should open for service in the coming weeks. 

Elior will be serving a selection of sandwiches, salad boxes and drinks from An Lanntair’s pod before moving to take over the Café Bar on the second floor of the arts centre in October, as An Lanntair’s phased reopening progresses. 

An Lanntair reopens its ground floor gallery and shop on Monday 17th August.  It is anticipated, remaining in-line with any changes to government restrictions, that the arts centre will enter phase two of its re-opening in October, with the second floor Café Bar areas once again welcoming visitors and the re-start of the cinema programme, with limited audience seating arrangements and procedures in place to support social distancing.

Elior is also delighted to now announce the beginning of their recruitment process for new staff to run An Lanntair’s Café Bar. Opportunities include Catering Assistants for the Outside Catering Pod, and Front of House Manager, Head Chef, Cafe Assistants and Bartenders for the Café Bar. For more information on these roles please visit https://elior-uk.talent-soft.com/job/list-of-all-jobs.aspx?all=1&mode=layer.

Be sure to follow An Lanntair’s social media for more exciting news on the Café Bar refurbishments, new menus and exciting competitions and promotions, which includes a golden ticket campaign with some free meals to be won from the exciting new menu.

Registered Charity No: SCO35767; A Registered Society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, Reg No: 2644R(S); Registered Property Factor: PF000183

 

NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (AGM)

Notice is hereby given that the fourteenth Annual General Meeting of the Hebridean Housing Partnership Ltd will be held remotely, on Thursday, 27 August 2020, commencing at 2:00pm.

Separate meeting joining instructions will be sent to those that have confirmed their attendance.

Ferry operator CalMac has scored more than 9/10 in average satisfaction ratings from customers dealing with the company through the Covid crisis. 

 CalMac's 47 strong Customer Service Team processed nearly 30,000 refunds, actioned 12,000 emails and answered 11,000 social media enquiries over March, April and May. 

Independent research agency 56 Degree Insight helped CalMac gather information from more than 7,000 customers who contacted the company during the current crisis.

The customer service team at the call centre, in ports and on vessels scored 9.2 for ease of email interaction, 9.1 for online refunds, 8.9 for website contacts and 9.1 for telephone responses. More than 99% of refunds were processed within 21 working days. 

CalMac’s commercial director Diane Burke said: “The results of this survey reinforce the professionalism of our staff. They have worked tirelessly through this crisis to keep customers informed and to manage their booking through what has been a very difficult period for everyone.”

Since CalMac opened up for bookings again, social media messages to the team are up 96% on the same period last year, emails are up 20% and phone enquiries up 9%.  

Diane said: “The demand we are seeing from the public to come back and travel with us to our beautiful islands is in no small part down to the way our whole team has dealt with our customers throughout this period of disruption.

“Our Covid response has also gathered lots of positive comments on social media, which resulted in a video issued to staff, making them aware of what customers were saying.”

You can view the video of thanks to CalMac staff here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWq8zsnXvMw

 

A total of £128,850 is to be spent to support the introduction of temporary physical distancing measures across the Outer Hebrides.

The fund will be used by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to implement temporary measures to enable physical distancing while walking, wheeling and cycling.

These measures will include a variety of interventions including changes to speed limits, wider footpaths and traffic calming measures. However, as all interventions are temporary and subject to change, it is vital that we receive public feedback on proposed and implemented interventions. A full list of proposed Interventions will be posted on CnES Website and Social Media pages in the next few days.

Transport Scotland's “Spaces for People” programme is administered by Sustrans Scotland and offers 100% funding for interventions. The basic criteria are that the interventions must protect public health, focus on essential journeys and should be delivered quickly, providing a visible improvement that has an immediate benefit.

For further information on all funded interventions across Britain and to comment on the established interventions for the Outer Hebrides please visit Sustrans Scotland’s dedicated webpage “Spaces to Move”- https://www.sustrans.org.uk/space-to-move . If you have any concerns regarding the interventions, find the specific intervention on the map and click on 'Tell us what you think' to add any comments.

Any generic comments or concerns can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has now touched remote Sùla Sgeir with the news that the ancient annual tradition of the Guga Hunt is being suspended  

There will be no guga available for meals in Ness this summer with the guga hunt reportedly cancelled for the first time in many years.

The crew of guga hunters are said to have made the decision not to make the trip to Sùla Sgeir, which would have departed next week for the annual harvest of 2,000 gannet chicks.

Although a licence to continue the hunt had been applied for, concerns about transmission of the virus among a group of men living in close proximity for 10 days appear to have swung the decision not to continue this year.

The skipper of the vessel which transports the team and their equipment, Foggy Macdonald of the Sheigra, said the decision would have been taken by the hunters themselves and had not been imposed on them.

He said: “You couldn’t get anywhere more isolated than Sùla Sgeir, but no-one knows what’s coming as far as this virus is concerned, and I only know that they are not going this year.”

It’s a blow both to tradition and to the tastebuds of Niseachs, for whom the annual landing and distribution of birds at Port of Ness is a huge event.

The picture shows hunters completing preparation of the birds at Port of Ness in August 2018 (Ali Finlayson).

 

MV Glen Sannox, the first of two dual fuel ferries being built at the now publicly-owned Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Ltd, has been moved to dry dock in Greenock to undergo a planned schedule of remedial work. 

The dry dock period is a major step in Ferguson’s revised programme to complete the two vessels for CalMac Ferries to use.  The second ferry is intended for use on the Tarbert-Uig-Lochmaddy route.  Both are now several years behind schedule which has left the ferry firm permanently short of vessels for its network.

MV Glen Sannox requires a package of remedial work, including replacement of the bulbous bow, paint repair, removal of marine growth from the vessel hull, and other improvements. 

The repairs and rework were identified as required during the review of the condition of the two dual fuel vessels, conducted after the shipyard went into administration in August last year and are included in the programme review board report published in December 2019.

Tim Hair, turnaround director at Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) Ltd, said:  “This is a key milestone in the recovery programme for the dual fuel vessels.  Some work has been carried out on MV Glen Sannox at the shipyard, but the dry dock period is important because it will bring the vessel up to a condition that will allow us to move forward in earnest with the vessel completion plan.

“It is also another clear sign of recovery for the shipyard business and comes only weeks after the launch of a steel barge for a customer in the offshore oil and marine sector.

“Obviously, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has impacted activity at the shipyard, but our workforce has been returning to outdoor working since the end of June and we are operating effectively with social distancing controls in place.”

MV Glen Sannox is scheduled to return to the Ferguson shipyard at the end of this month

Island expertise and experience is to lead the UK in a national upgrade of search and rescue operations.

Two officers of HM Coastguard in Stornoway will lead a new national course, bringing 100 search advisers up to a standard where they can lead and co-ordinate lost and missing persons searches (L&MPS) alongside police forces UK-wide.

Area commander Murdo Macaulay and Stornoway-based training and standards officer Paul Tunstall were in England last week, making final preparations for the course, which will see nine cohorts of trainees gaining accreditation as Coastguard search advisers between now and 2023.

Coastguard search advisers are licenced to provide tactical and operational direction during searches in both the coastal environment and inland in the UK domain.

Area commander Murdo Macaulay said: “The new course is designed to draw together the experience of the two agencies – police and coastguard – who have statutory responsibility for search and rescue.

“Our lead role in the uplift of skills across the UK has come about because essentially, in the Western Isles, this is nothing new. We already work together with the police on searches for lost and missing persons and the course will effectively formalise the really good set-up we have here.”

Murdo and Paul – who has taken the lead on preparing training materials and structuring the training – will be delivering the course with a team of professionals based at the police national search centre in Ryton, near Coventry in the West Midlands.

The first course will be delivered in October this year, having been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Twelve trainees are expected to take part in each week-long training course.

Murdo said: “Each cohort will receive training on the tactical and planning element of search and rescue. They will then be issued with a five-year licence, and during that five years they will have to maintain their competencies with continued training and practice.

“All of those attending have plenty of practical experience, so the training will be building up their management and planning expertise. They’ll then be able to work with police search advisers to plan and co-ordinate searches.”

After three years, the result should be a network of up to 100 licenced Coastguard search advisers, located at Coastguard operations centres from the south coast of England to Shetland.

Locally, the expertise that already exists in the islands means that Coastguard Rescue Teams are now being deployed – by lifeboat, ferry and helicopter – to work on searches outside their own immediate area.

The varied terrain, close community networks and commitment of teams to volunteering means that the Western Isles lead the field in search and rescue, especially where multi-agency working is concerned.

Maritime operations controller Angus Maciver said: “Paul and Murdo are in a unique position to lead this national endeavour because we have been so active in multi-agency search and rescue here in the islands.

“We are an island where people have a natural community tendency to be interdependent, rather than independent. All our services have worked very well together and that gives is the experience from which to develop this important national initiative.”

Pictures show search planning in action during recent training activity and the new handbook and licence patch created for the training course (HM Coastguard, Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber).

 

The future of crofting hangs in the balance because the threat from the "incoherent White Paper" on "the U.K. Internal Market", proposals for coping with the impact of Brexit.

That's the view of the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) which has responded to UK Government consultation on proposed legislation on the U.K. Internal Market.

SCF Chair Yvonne White said, “Having scrutinised this incoherent White Paper at length, we cannot find evidence to support the need for this legislation.

"The UK Internal Market is undoubtedly important, but so too is the need to maintain our present access to Europe for our high quality beef and lamb exports. The criteria for UK internal trade must be agreed by all four nations, and not be imposed on us.”

Ms White continued, “In common with other Scottish food producers, we fear that the proposed legislation will lead to a race to the bottom, threatening our high standards in food, environment and animal welfare, thus damaging the image of Scottish produce.

"These standards are best safeguarded by the Scottish Parliament. Likewise our Parliament needs to retain control over agricultural support, as enshrined in the current devolution settlement.

"Any weakening of that position will pose an existential threat to the hill livestock sector, which is, after all, the backbone of crofting.”

World Photograph Day on Wednesday, 19th August is an annual worldwide celebration of art, craft, science and the history of photography.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will be taking part by hosting a competition for photographs of the Western Isles.  These photographs can represent a range of different areas, such as landscape, daily life in the Islands, tradition and culture, history, crofting, fishing, the people of the Western Isles and so on. 

During the course of the day, the Comhairle will post entries on their pages and displays on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

A Comhairle spokesperson said, “This is a great opportunity to showcase talent in our islands and to take a day to appreciate the Islands we live in. 

"There will be 10 photographs chosen and these will be printed and displayed in Comhairle buildings for years to come.  After a judging panel has viewed all of the entries, the 10 winners will be announced on Facebook on Friday 21st August. 

"Please join us by sending in your photos and using the hashtags #WorldPhotographDay and #WorldPhotographDayWesternIsles.”

Entries can be submitted via Facebook private message or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A school student from Benbecula has been credited with helping to change the Scottish Government’s mind about last week’s controversial downgrading of exam results.

In a statement given to the Scottish Parliament yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 11 August), education secretary John Swinney said that all downgraded awards are to be withdrawn and that he was directing the Scottish Qualifications Authority to re-issue the awards based solely on teacher judgement.

Mr Swinney named students from across Scotland who had given him a new perspective on the way in which Covid-19 exam grading had been managed.

Among those named was Eva Peteranna, a pupil at Sgoil Lionacleit who starts S6 today (Wednesday). She had written to Mr Swinney on 5 August, the day after receiving exam grades which she described as ‘devastating’.

Eva’s Higher results last week included five that were lower than her predicted grades, in a range of subjects from English to psychology. She provided Mr Swinney with evidence that, in her N5 grades in S4, she had achieved at or above her predicted grades in five out of six subjects.

Eva wrote: “Growing up in the islands we were always told that we needed to work harder than those on the mainland if we want to achieve our goals, but also that we should never let it get in the way of where we want to go in life.

“It is clear to me that my grades have been significantly adjusted because I go to a school that has been classed as underperforming.

“The Government has also been pushing the ‘no wrong path’ slogan, but why should pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and deprived areas be forced into a pathway that they didn’t want and worked tirelessly to avoid?

“This marking system has been nothing but discriminatory and needs to be urgently investigated…I understand that it is my responsibility to work to achieve what I want in life and it is for that reason that I have decided to write to you.”

Speaking yesterday afternoon to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Swinney said: “In speaking directly to the young people affected by the downgrading of awards I want to say this: I am sorry. 

“I have spoken directly to pupils who wrote to me; to Nicole Tate, Lauren Steele, Eva Peteranna, Erin Bleakley, Subhan Baig and Eilidh Breslin, and I want to thank them for the passion and the clarity they brought to our discussions.

“I have listened and the message is clear. They don’t just want an apology. They want to see this fixed and that is exactly what I will now do.”

After announcing the withdrawal of the downgraded results, Mr Swinney said that schools would confirm the estimates they provided for pupils to those returning to school this week and next.

And he said that making the change so passionately advocated by young people including Eva would guard against young people losing faith in the education system.

He said: “(Young people may) form the view that no matter how hard you work the system is against you. Education is the route out of poverty for young people in deprived communities and we cannot risk allowing that view to take hold.

“…This year is and must be seen as unique. 2020 has turned our society upside down. It cannot fairly be compared to previous years and nor can it set an automatic precedent for future years. But it perhaps merits taking a different approach in relation to certification.”

The decision means that Eva will now receive three As, a B and a C in her Highers, and not the three Bs, a D and an F she was awarded because of the downgrading process.

(Picture by Eva Peteranna).

 

It is with considerable regret that Stornoway Thespians Drama Club and Stuart Morrison Pantomimes have taken the decision to postpone their planned pantomime performances in December 2020 and January 2021.

The current public health situation, and uncertainty about future requirements for performances, make it impossible for either group to go forward with preparations for these dates.

Stornoway Thespians say they "are frantically thinking outside the box, and are hopeful they will be able to work out some Christmas entertainment albeit in a very different form to the usual."

Stuart Morrison is planning an Easter performance and hopefully we will be far enough through the crisis by then for that to go ahead.

Both the Thespians and Stuart Morrison wish their audiences festive greetings when the season comes, please follow the guidelines, stay safe, and we'll see you all next year.

 

 

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has been appointed Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport by the newly-established Scottish Conservative Leader, Douglas Ross.

 Mr Cameron said: “It is a very great honour to have been entrusted with this position, particularly at such a critical time as the NHS and our communities continue to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our NHS staff have done such an amazing job since the onset of the emergency and it is humbling to be the chief opposition spokesman in the Scottish Parliament, doing my best to represent them and their patients, and ensure that the vital issues affecting the health service are scrutinised in a proper and responsible manner.

“As we move towards the Scottish Parliament elections, I look forward to ensuring that our manifesto proposes an even more effective and responsive health service for the future.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleased to report that each resident can now have an increased number of visitors Following the issuing of the updated Care Home visiting guidance by the Scottish Government.

From tomorrow (Thursday 13th August) visiting outdoors can be extended to up to 3 visitors from 2 households with all precautions remaining in place. The length of each visit will continue to be approximately 30 minutes and the frequency of visits will continue to be weekly.

A spokesperson said: “Residents’ safety and wellbeing has been our main concern throughout the pandemic, and as we progress through the route map to recovery, it is important that we continue to manage safety alongside supporting wellbeing and enabling safe social contact. Vigilance around COVID-19 symptoms continues to be critical  (and staying at home when these are present) alongside hand hygiene, increased cleaning, physical distancing and PPE which are all key features of good Infection Prevention Control.”

Given the increase in visitors, a short questionnaire is being added to the visiting protocol.. The four questions visitors will have to answer are as follows:  Have you felt unwell recently – especially with a cough, breathlessness, tiredness, a temperature or vomiting or diarrhoea?; Have you been in contact with someone, in the past 14 days, who is suspected of having or is confirmed as having COVID-19?; Have you been told by your GP or other NHS professional that you should not be visiting a care home? and Do you consent to your contact details being passed to Public Health as part of the ‘Test and Protect’ strategy, should there be a necessity following your visit to the care home, for example if the person you are visiting develops COVID-19 symptoms.

The next aim, in addition to outdoor visits, is to progress to a single nominated visitor for indoor visits. Plans are to commence with these indoor visits by the 24th August, but this is dependent on the rate of transmission of COVID 19 at the time. Risk assessments will be completed by each Care Home and approved by the Director of Public Health prior to indoor visits.

The spokesperson added: “Further information will be provided on the specific indoor visiting protocol closer to the time. The prospect of indoor visiting is a welcome development as even although this is summertime, the weather has not made outdoor visiting comfortable or possible at times.  We thank all concerned once again for their patience and understanding.”

Lightning strikes and flooding around Edinburgh last night have caused phone and broadband outages that are affecting parts of the Western Isles today (Wednesday 12 August).

Residents in Point, the Westside of Lewis and in Stornoway have reported loss of broadband and landline phones today, as have some businesses in the town. Engineers are at work in Garrabost and Swordale, among other locations.

Among those without a service is community radio station Isles FM, who this morning said: “Due to major flooding and lightning strikes in Edinburgh last night BT are reporting major issues with some of their exchanges causing major internet outages across Scotland.

Isles FM is one of those affected and that is why we are currently off air. Service will resume as soon as our internet connection is restored. We are sorry for the inconvenience but hope you understand that it is out of our hands.”

A BT service status announcement said: “Due to recent weather conditions, and in particular the thunderstorms, we are aware of problems affecting parts of the UK which may be causing problems with your telephone service and connecting to the internet. We are working to fix this as soon as possible.” 

 

Point and Sandwick’s community consultant, Alasdair Nicholson, was yesterday (Tuesday August 11) making a second attempt to travel to Africa, armed with island football strips for youngsters and lessons on community resilience and crisis response for people working in development. 

Alasdair, who works as a consultant for community wind farm organisation Point and Sandwick Trust, had been due to fly out from Edinburgh on March 18 but put off his trip due to deepening concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. However, that trip is now back on and he left Stornoway on Sunday (pictured at Stornoway Airport by Sandie Maciver). 

Alasdair will be taking with him a bundle of junior Point FC strips, as well as science textbooks, to deliver to a school at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. He is taking the strips out to Northern Tanzania after Point and Sandwick Trust sponsored new kit for the young Point players. Point and Sandwick Trust also provided a couple of footballs for the school, a combined primary and secondary.

Alasdair said: “Essentially, after considerable delays, certainly more than 90 days, the airline suddenly offered me a replacement ticket. So I checked that Tanzania was back open for business and got a visa from the government. So I’m making my second attempt, travelling of course with all the appropriate safeguards including facemasks, wipes, sprays, and disposable gloves. Their schools are back, so I hope to be able to deliver the books and and also the football strips at an early point.”

Alasdair will be in Africa until mid-September and hopes to be able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro during his trip. “I’m looking forward to it immensely,” he said. “It was disappointing to have to cancel right at the last minute last time.”

Alasdair has been travelling to Tanzania regularly since 2015, primarily to help develop local skills in community enterprise. He will be renewing acquaintances, including people working in ecotourism who are interested in the progress of projects such as the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path, but Alasdair stressed the trip was being made in a personal capacity.

“It’s a personal connection rather than an official connection but if you take projects that Point and Sandwick Trust promote, like the coastal path, that’s all about building capacity in Point and Sandwick. It is a development that relates to ecotourism and the people that I’m involved with in Africa are very much youth-led, cultural and ecotourism. 

“Once we get over the coronavirus and other thing get back into play, then these things will be important in terms of building community resilience and are part of community empowerment and community-led development, which we’ve seen are highly critical and are highly important to both sustaining livelihoods and developing a better community. These are the broad themes that are common to both areas (in the Hebrides and Tanzania).”

Alasdair has 30 years’ experience of community development and social enterprise and gives workshops in Africa on community enterprise, entrepreneurial skills and empowerment, with examples from Scotland to inspire the Tanzanians.  Alasdair has been busy on Point and Sandwick’s community pandemic response over the last few months. He secured the Scottish Government funding that enabled Point and Sandwick Trust to provide a package of community support, including freshly cooked meals for the vulnerable, a grocery delivery service and befriending.

He said: “The good thing about it has been the pool of volunteers; there are over 40 involved across the two projects. I think that’s quite impressive actually and I think we would want to be able to see some of that continue so that, for future health crises or future concerns, people could be brought back together again in some form.”

Alasdair added it was “critical” to have a local community response – of adaptability, capability and resilience – to “whatever black swan event” might happen in the future. 

He said: “People have come together and have worked hard as a team to overcome some of the problems that have existed and I think it’s a strength of the Point and Sandwick community that they have risen to that challenge.”

Lews Castle College UHI said a fond farewell last week to outgoing Principal Iain Macmillan as he started his retirement after over 16 years of service at “the castle.”

A Chartered Accountant to trade, Iain had previously worked in local government, both on the mainland as the Head of Exchequer Services at East Ayrshire Council and in the islands, with 15 years of service at Western Isles Council, now Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Born and raised in South Uist, Iain and his family moved back to Lewis in the spring of 2002, initially with a weekly commute back to Kilmarnock for work. He took up post as Director of Finance and Corporate Services at the College in April 2004, and was appointed Principal and Chief Executive in January 2012.

During his time at the College, Iain has taken forward much of the ‘behind the scenes’ work to develop new approaches to funding, infrastructure, and IT to help deliver the unique model of tertiary education that is offered in the Highlands and Islands, allowing people to study both further and higher education in their own communities.

This includes the blended model of teaching and learning that has opened up opportunities for so many people to study without needing to go away – a model that is perhaps more relevant than ever at the time of Covid-19.

Reflecting on his departure at a time of so much global uncertainty Iain said: “The period of lockdown has been unsettling for so many of us. I found that I missed the people at work in a way I hadn’t anticipated – the casual conversations, the interactions in the corridors, the smiles, the noise of activity – they all play such a big part in our working lives.”

“I’m really proud though of the way that staff developed new ways of working to support our students through the last few months of the academic year, which was reflected in the high levels of performance and achievement which we saw.”

“We’ve also put plans in place that will ensure the vast majority of our full time courses will be available for students for the new academic year. That includes work to get our buildings ready for staff and students to return. I would like to thank everyone who’s worked so hard over the summer to get us ready to get back as soon as the national road map allows us to do so.”

Although the demands of social distancing made it impossible for staff to organise a farewell in the usual way, a suitably socially distanced presentation was made at the end of last week, providing colleagues with the chance to pass on their appreciation and best wishes. The Chair of the Board, Archie Macdonald, also expressed his thanks to Iain for his contribution to College activities, and wished him well for the future.

Iain’s final day in post was 9th August 2020. Sue Macfarlane is taking over as Interim Principal and Chief Executive from Monday 10th August; she has previously been working with the College as Director of Transformational Change.

And last month, Lews Castle College UHI said additional farewells to two more long-serving members of staff as they began their retirement.

Dr. Ann Murray and Sheila Maclennan, both Assistant Principals, retired on July 31st. “We reflect and congratulate them on their careers, achievements, and contributions to the College over the years,” said Iain at the time. “They have both contributed significantly and their dedication and hard work is reflected in the continuing success of the College. Through the challenges of a period of austerity the College has continued to deliver the learning opportunities that so significantly benefit our communities.”

Ann began her career at Lews Castle College as a Supply Lecturer in 1998, when she returned to Lewis with her family and was offered a temporary contract for two days a week. With a degree in Business, she taught both computing and business subjects, and was appointed UHI Programme Leader for the Master of Education in 2007, before becoming Assistant Principal in 2013. Ann also achieved her Doctor of Education in September 2014.

In her farewell message on her retirement, Ann encouraged her colleagues to “Slow down, enjoy the journey, don’t take yourself too seriously and be kind. Remember that the work you are doing is important and that you are changing the lives and fortunes of many of your students. Be proud of it!”

Sheila Maclennan first started at the College in 1989 teaching groups of auxiliary nurses, and was part of the small team that developed Care courses in what was initially called the Community Learning Services Department. Sheila became Programme Leader for Health Studies, and later in 2006, Head of the Health, Education and Social Studies Department, before appointed Assistant Principal in 2013.

From the late 1990s, the department she led played a significant role in the development of degree programmes as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. “It is my firm belief that education and training change lives and families’ fortunes and over the years have been privileged to see this first hand,” said Sheila. “Working with students, the highs and the lows, seeing them develop and then find employment is very fulfilling.”

“Ann and Sheila will be greatly missed by colleagues and students alike,” said Iain. “We wish them both all the very best and a long, happy, and healthy retirement.”

SCF Young Crofters Gathering 2020 - adapting, sharing and inspiring

Tuesday 18th August 2020, 10am - 4pm (ZOOM)

Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) are holding a free virtual gathering for Young Crofters, on Tuesday 18th August, 5 years on from a successful residential event held at Glencanisp Lodge, Lochinver.

Four sessions will cover a range of topics and offer a variety of formats. Participants can join for the whole day or individual sessions.

Contributors include some of those who attended 5 years ago as aspiring crofters one commenting that “the gathering that I went to 5 years ago was so influential it would be great to contribute something to this one!”

Session one will give a snapshot of what crofting in 2020 means to a range of young people through film shorts and presentations followed by a chance to ask questions of those who have shared their stories. Contributors include Carianne, crofter in North Uist, as well as, Sweeny, Air An Lot, based in Lewis and winner of the SCF Young Crofter of the Year award 2018, and Jacob and Kate small holders growing and selling vegetables in Glenelg, Lochalsh.

Session two will focus on Crofting during Covid with an interactive activity followed by open discussion with SCF Director Jonathan Hedges, hoping to capture the challenges and positives as well as looking to the future.

Session three will explore ‘Adding Value’ with an introduction to the Scottish Crofting Produce mark and Croft Holidays. Beth Rose from Birchwood Croft will share her experience of SCP and Quality Meat Scotland.

In the final session ‘Crofting Policy - What’s the plan?’, participants will have the opportunity to direct questions to a panel of policy and decision makers including: Siobhan Macdonald, Senior Consultant SAC; Bill Dundas, SGRPID, Claudia Rowse, Head of Natural Resource Management at SNH, Gordon Jackson from the Scottish Government Crofting Policy team and Rod Mackenzie, Crofting Commission Convener.

The day will end with the opening of nominations for the SCF Young Crofter Awards 2020.

SCF Vice Chair Donald MacKinnon said, “This is set to be a fantastic event with a wide variety of interesting speakers and engaging topics on the agenda. This is SCF’s first attempt at holding a gathering online and we hope that it will prove to be the most accessible yet, with wide participation from across the crofting counties and beyond. Hopefully this will be the first of many.”

A two-mile run to raise funds for charity has become so much part of the daily routine for Catherine Donner, that she’s turning down a last-day-of-holidays trip to the beach today (Tuesday 11 August) to make sure she can run.

Eleven-year-old Catherine has less than nine miles to go on her 100-mile challenge, after 43 consecutive days of running every day round her home in North Dell and on trips into Stornoway.

Catherine posted in her regular social media update yesterday, where she said: “Only one week to go till I finish this challenge. I’m both happy and sad that it’s coming to an end. 

“Today (Monday) I ran the cliff route with William. Me and my Dad were going to run at Eoropie playpark, but my Dad had some kind of Zoom meeting with the running club, so we didn’t do that.

“It was a nice evening and I was tired from another afternoon on the beach, this time with my family. My Mum and Dad say we are going to the beach again tomorrow for the last day of the tomorrow, but I don’t want to go again.”

Catherine’s effort over the whole period of lockdown has not been in vain. After naming the two local groups she wanted to support, donations came flooding in to her fundraising page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/catherine-donner

The result is that she’s more than doubled her initial target of £500, with £1,043 so far raised to help put a new roof on the Ness community centre, Sporsnis, and to help look after cats rescued by Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens (WISCK).

Even once she’s back at school, Catherine will still continue her daily run with the help of her parents Kevin and Gemma and brothers William and Benji, as well as the family dog, Cuilean.

And while enjoying the views and the company of her family along the way, Catherine has never lost sight of her main purpose. She said yesterday: “I have raised over £1000. Thank you for everyone who has donated and supported me.”

Pictures show Catherine during and after her daily runs, with her dog Cuilean.

 

Stornoway Coastguard operations room kept a watchful eye on a sailing vessel which found itself in difficulty while sailing around the Isle of Harris on Sunday (9 August).

The sailing ship Skerryvore, with two passengers on board, called Coastguards at 11.50am on Sunday, when her propeller was found to be fouled as she made for port from her position 18 nautical miles south-west of Harris.

The crew reported that they were able to manage the situation, so Stornoway coastguard officers maintained contact with the crew as they made headway under their own sail power.

The ship arrived into East Loch Tarbert and called in to say they were in safe harbour at 4.45pm.

A Stornoway woman described as ‘inspirational’, ‘amazing’ and ‘tough’ yesterday (Monday 10 August) celebrated one year of simply being lucky to be alive.

Michelle Macleod was running in the Harris Marathon in August 2019 with her family when she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, collapsing as her run came to an end.

The drama of her recovery, with intensive and immediate response from family members and professional first responders, made headlines at the time – as did the importance of the defibrillator sited at Leverburgh Memorial Hall, part of the reason for her survival.

One year and a lot of recuperation later and Michelle has recovered, thanks to the quick first response and subsequent surgery. She is back to her regular running, pledging her efforts during 2020 to help raise money for the defibrillator charity Lucky2BHere.

On her fundraiser at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michelle-macleod8 Michelle said: “August 10th marks a year since I had a cardiac arrest at the end of the Harris Marathon.

“I survived because of the fast response from people nearby and the use of a defibrillator.

“There are several of these lifesaving devices throughout the islands and, thanks to the charity Lucky2BHere, there are more on the way.”

On the day of her ‘still here’ anniversary yesterday, Michelle said: “I don’t remember anything about that day or even the weeks before it. Survival was really just the beginning and it’s been a long road. 

“Back to normal has been a long and challenging journey which is difficult to describe, but it has got easier.”

After running 250km by 26 July, Michelle added a few more miles for good measure, saying: “Finished off this morning with a 10k in the wind and rain so little bit more than 250km in total but thought that would be ok!”

She celebrated her anniversary day yesterday on holiday in the highlands with husband Shonny and daughters Bethany and Lara.

Michelle said: “Thanks very much for all donations to my fundraising challenge. The best thing is that this will fund another defibrillator in Stornoway which may one day save someone’s life. I’m going to close my fundraiser this week so any last donations much appreciated.”

The Skye-based charity Lucky2BHere list 87 defibrillators sited in Lewis and Harris, including three in Leverburgh, nine in Tarbert, 27 in Stornoway and eight in Point. A new defibrillator has just been installed at the Scalpay Free Church Continuing building and there is another at Scalpay fire station.

Parts of the Western Isles are included in a revised Met Office weather warning issued this morning (Tuesday 11 August).

The update, issued at 10.28am, says that some eastern parts of Lewis and Harris are in the area of risk from thunder, lightning, intense rainfall and hail.

While most of the UK is included in a further three days of thunderstorm warnings, the Isles of Lewis and Harris are only under threat until midnight tonight, with the risk area shrinking and moving eastwards across Scotland during Wednesday and Thursday.

Also issued yesterday afternoon was a flood warning from SEPA, which said: “From Tuesday morning through to Wednesday heavy thundery showers could cause flooding impacts from surface water and small and fast responding watercourses.

“Due to the localised nature of the heaviest showers, impacts may be isolated with not all locations being affected. Sudden onset flooding impacts could occur at any time of the day.”

Today’s general forecast from Western Isles Weather says: “A band of heavy rain …will bring heavy rain to both Lewis and Harris and maybe even into the North Uist during the next few hours. This will be slow moving and could produce the odd rumble of thunder.

“Once this clears it should be fine and dry with … prolonged sunshine. Feeling warm again with variable amounts of cloud. Winds under 20 mph and temps reaching 20C.

“The odd isolated shower cannot be ruled out but most places should be dry after the main band of rain clears.”

Pictures show the current warning maps from the Met Office and SEPA

The University of the Highlands and Islands has reaffirmed its commitment to island communities with the publication of its first ever islands strategy. The document sets out the university's plans to enhance its activity across Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

Objectives include increasing island-based research activity, enhancing strategies for attracting and retaining talent, continuing to support the culture, languages and heritage of the islands and further engagement with industry to continue to build a skilled workforce in line with changing opportunities and needs.

The publication follows the recent announcement that the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland will receive £100 million investment from the Scottish and UK governments as part of the Islands Growth Deal. The university's strategy aims to support this deal, as well as the ambitions of the Scottish Government's National Islands Plan and Islands Act.

Professor Crichton Lang, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, explains: "This is an exciting time for Scotland's islands, with the development of several national initiatives to strengthen island communities. However, issues such as climate change, population decline and COVID-19 also present many challenges.

"As the only university with a physical base within each of Scotland's main island groupings, the University of the Highlands and Islands has an important contribution to make to the sustainable development of our islands.

"Our new plan sets out how we will work with others and use our strengths in further education, higher education and research to have a beneficial impact across the islands and in the communities which are home to our staff and students."

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, said: "The University of the Highlands and Islands has a key role to play in supporting our island communities to thrive and I welcome the publication of its first ever Islands Strategy. Its initial focus is on the three Islands Council areas and has the potential to make a significant contribution to the future sustainable growth of islands, particularly to provide opportunities for people to pursue skills and qualifications and to maintain and create quality jobs.

"It is more important than ever that we support communities across all of Scotland's inhabited islands. The Scottish Government established the first National Islands Plan last year and we are pleased to see many of the key themes in the University's Islands Strategy align with our own ambitions for the islands. We have also recently committed investment of up to £50 million as part of the Islands Growth Deal to help unlock investment and drive inclusive growth across Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides and deliver real benefits for individuals, businesses and communities.

"I look forward to working alongside the University of the Highlands and Islands to improve the quality of life for people currently living and who want to live on our islands."

Professor Edward Abbott-Halpin, Principal of Orkney College UHI, said: "I welcome the launch of the islands forum and the opportunities that it provides for working in partnership locally in Orkney with key stakeholders and across the islands with our colleagues from partner colleges, which will allow us to maximise our response to the economic, social, and cultural needs of our communities."

Sue Macfarlane, Interim Principal of Lews Castle College UHI, commented: "This important strategy outlines a number of exciting opportunities for working collectively to strengthen our communities and business across all our Islands. Lews Castle College UHI looks forward to playing a key role in this collaboration, working even more closely with our partner colleges and our partners and stakeholders across the Western Isles and beyond."

Professor Jane Lewis, Principal of Shetland College UHI, added: "As we work to create a new college for Shetland we are pleased to welcome the university's islands strategy which provides an excellent framework to assist us in working effectively together with other partner colleges across our Islands. In these challenging times, this will be particularly important to allow us to deliver maximum benefit for the recovery and renewal of the economic, social and cultural prosperity of Shetland."

The publication islands strategy will be discussed at the university's next islands forum meeting on Tuesday 29 September. The virtual meeting will include representatives from Shetland College UHI, NAFC Marine Centre UHI, Lews Castle College UHI, Orkney College UHI, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Shetland Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

To view the University of the Highlands and Islands' Islands Strategy, visit www.uhi.ac.uk/publications

There’s a chance for international recognition for a Barra creative project.

The Barra Bunting project says it is delighted to announce that the Castlebay Christmas Tree project has been shortlisted for an Epic Award.

It was on April 14, 2012 that that the local group (now Beairteas Bharraigh) set up their first Twitter account and started the Worldwide Bunting Project. Every year more are added to the display, done by people who visited the island and residents. It creates an island guestbook whose aim is to unite a worldwide community by bringing them together on one project.

The Epic Awards shine a spotlight on the achievements of creative groups across the UK and Republic of Ireland each year.

The 2020 Epic Awards closed for applications on 14 June 2020. They have now announced a shortlist of inspiring groups and projects for this year. Take a look and don't forget to vote for your personal favourite

Each year, shortlisted entries are put forward for the highly coveted People's Choice Award while winners and runners-up from each of the four main categories (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales) are selected by our panel of judges

Follow Voluntary Arts on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with news about this year's Epic Awards.

Voluntary Arts works to promote and increase active participation in creative cultural activities across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

The photographs show last year's tree and work being done already for the next one

The Charity Shop at the Kinloch Community Hub in the former Balallan School opens again today (Tuesday August 11).

The new opening times are:

  • Tuesday 11th & Thursday 14th 1:00pm – 4:00pm
  • Saturday 10:00am – 4:00pm.

Kinloch Historical Society says: "Please follow social distancing guidelines when in the shop and when dropping items off.

"We kindly ask that you do not leave items outside the shop or in the red box.

"Staff will be on hand to give guidance; and we look forward to seeing you all again.

"A one-way system is in place within the shop, and this is clearly marked out."

And the group are also pleased to announce that the Laundrette at the centre will also be opening today Tuesday 11th August.

Opening hours (subject to ongoing review) are:

  • Monday – Friday 7:30am – 3:00pm.
  • Saturday: 7:30am – 1:30pm

Use of the Laundrette is subject to strict adherence to Scottish Government Guidance, which will be displayed inside.

Crossroads Lewis Care Attendant Scheme

AGM


Will be held on Tuesday 11th August 2020

at 7pm

on a Zoom Platform

All Welcome

Please e-mail to crossroads.lewis1@btinternet

or telephone 01851 705422

to acquire the information to access the Zoom meeting.   


 

Food and drink businesses across Scotland – including Uist and Lewis – have been awarded a share of £5 million to invest in infrastructure, purchase new equipment and upgrade or replace facilities.

In total 30 businesses will receive Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) grants to support the food supply chain, safeguarding 1,386 jobs and creating 97 new ones.

The projects include improving storage facilities for oats, investing in new root vegetable processing equipment and purchasing new equipment to set up a Hebridean charcuterie business.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has underlined the importance of a strong and effective food supply chain and an increased consumer desire for locally produced food. This support will enable established producers and businesses across Scotland look to the future and capitalise on emerging marketing opportunities, as well as offer support to start-up businesses.

“This scheme uses joint Scottish Government and European Union funding to give local businesses a helping hand, helping to ensure the long-term viability of our primary producers. Investing in local producers is an important step to help sustain and create employment opportunities within our rural communities.”

This is the ninth round of the Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) scheme which provides start-up and development grants to food and drink suppliers and producers.

North Uist Distillery Ltd – Grimsay, Isle of Noth Uist

Distilling equipment for new distillery for whisky. Business moving to larger premises and want to produce whisky as well as the current gin.

Gross Project Costs: £963,396.81.  Award of £192,679.36

On 16th July 2020 North Uist Distillery announced the acquisition of the iconic Nunton Steadings on the Isle of Benbecula. Nunton Steadings was the scene of several important chapters in island history and is one of the oldest surviving structures in the Western Isles. Now the local landmark is set to be the site of another historic development, as the base for production of the first whisky to be legally distilled in the southern islands of the Outer Hebrides.

 

Hebridean Charcuterie from Croft No. 9 – North Shawbost, Isle of Lewis

New start business. To purchase equipment for the production of charcuterie meat products including a mincer, slicer, sausage stuffer.

Gross Project Costs: £14,011.60.  Award of £5,604.64

 

Other projects aided included:

Knockfarrel Produce - Dingwall

To build and equip a new processing unit, to increase production capacity for its existing vegetable, fruit and pork products.

Gross Project Costs: £39,031.98. Award of £15,612.79

 

John M Munro Limited - Dingwall

The project will involve the construction of a building at the Dingwall facility, the installation of technically advanced plant and equipment, investment in meat manufacturing equipment, roof upgrades and yard area resurfacing.

Gross Project Costs: £713,191.98

Award of £213,957.59
 

 

 

 

 

There’s been a stark warning to gardeners in the Western Isles about a postal scam which could carry harmful effects and invasive species of plants into the islands.

The Stornoway-based office of the National Farmers Union (NFU) has passed on the warning from Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), who are warning that unsolicited packets of seed arriving in the post could have harmful effects if handled or planted.

Craig Macleod, the NFU’s representative in Stornoway, said there had as yet been no reports of the seeds – which are posted from China or Singapore – arriving in the islands, but with numerous cases reported from other parts of Scotland it was best to be cautious.

Craig said: “This has been happening since last week, with most packets delivered to addresses in the central belt, and there have also been reports of seed packets arriving in the US and Canada.

“The species tested so far appear to be ordinary household varieties, but there are reports that some which were planted in the US grew exceptionally quickly and were not a recognisable species.”

The SASA issued a statement today (Monday 10 August) in which they urged gardeners not to open the seed packets and not to plant or compost the seeds.

The statement said: “It is possible that these seeds could be a harmful invasive species or harbour a disease, both of which if released could pose a threat to agriculture and the environment.

“Do not handle the seeds. These seeds may have been treated with a chemical pesticide. Please wash your hands if you have handled them without gloves.”

The Scottish Government is aware of the issue and is investigating, together with other devolved administrations, the extent and nature of the problem, while the SASA is carrying out tests on samples of the seeds returned to them.

A statement today (Monday) from the NFU said: “Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) is collecting these unsolicited packets of seeds for analysis. It is asking for your co-operation to send these seeds to SASA.

“If you receive these seeds in the post, email your details and a postal address to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You will be sent a pre-paid self-addressed envelope and zip-lock bag.

“When you receive the envelope, please insert the packet of seeds into the zip-lock bag and seal. Then place the zip-lock bag and contents into the envelope and post it back to SASA.”

The picture shows examples of the seed packets which have arrived by post in Scotland.

 

Users of the castle grounds are in despair over the discarded rubbish and vandalism which is becoming a regular occurrence in the grounds.

Police have today (Monday 10 August) issued an appeal for information over damage to a tractor on the Stornoway Rugby Club pitch, which happened overnight on Saturday, between 8.20pm and 10.30am yesterday (Sunday 9 August).

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101.

But heartfelt pleas are also being issued by ordinary people seeing the grounds that they love regularly being trashed and left unsightly and damaged.

Artist Eilidh Thompson has been creating lockdown artworks using beach pebbles to brighten up regular walking routes around the grounds, to the delight of families with young children, who enjoy seeking out the ladybirds and other treasures she creates.

But yesterday one of her most complex pieces disappeared from its setting, to be found this morning broken and thrown down a hill.

Rab the Rabbit was carefully positioned on a painted tree-stump and has, according to one grounds user, become ‘a bit of a superstar’ after being sited in July.

He was mounted with glue after earlier pieces made by Eilidh had been taken away, but disappeared on Saturday night, when a regular user of the grounds said: “All the beautiful things that you’ve made keep disappearing. It’s so disheartening after all the enjoyment you were giving the children.”

Today Eilidh reported the discovery of her artwork in a damaged condition. She said: “We found Rab. He's got two broken front paws and one broken back leg plus his whiskers are looking a bit worse for wear...but we got him.

“They had thrown him and the flower and leaves down the hill. We are a bit stung and cut but delighted we have him. Taking him home for repair then, I don't know.....”

One responder said: “I’m obviously pleased you found him, but what on earth pleasure did they get from throwing and damaging him?” while another commented “I’m at a loss to understand people like that.”

The pictures show ‘superstar’ Rab in his rightful position (Guido Blokland) and this morning after being discovered broken and discarded (Eilidh Thompson ).

 

A new radio network costing the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over £170 million will mean significant communications upgrades to seven island Coastguard radio stations.

Five locations in Lewis and Harris, one in North Uist and one in Barra are among 155 remote radio sites which will be newly connected by fibre cable, replacing existing copper-wire telephone links.

The new network, to be built and maintained by telent Technology Services Ltd replaces what are effectively continuously open BT telephone lines, according to the MCA’s maritime operations controller in Stornoway Angus Maciver.

Angus said: “Since 2000 Her Majesty’s Coastguard have connected to radio sites via open BT telephone lines between our Stornoway operations centre and remote locations around the island.

“These include at Forsnaval in Timsgarry, Rodel in Harris, on the Cross Skigersta Road in Eoropie, at the Butt of Lewis lighthouse and at Aird in Point. There are also sites at Clettreval in North Uist and Grianan Head in Barra.

“When the Coastguard network was upgraded these kilostream open connections were redirected to link with Aberdeen and Fareham and, in 2015, BT gave notice that the kilostream service would be coming to an end in 2020. There have been technical difficulties replacing it, so that deadline is now extended to 2023.

“Meanwhile, in the past 20 years everything has switched from analogue to digital so we’re now in the position to replace kilostreams with fibre connections.”

In other remote locations around the UK, the work to connect the radio sites by fibre will have the positive side-effect of bringing fibre broadband connections to local communities. But Angus says that, in the Western Isles, all the radio sites are already situated in communities with fibre connectivity.

He said: “In the case of each of our remote radio sites, the BT fibre network has already reached those communities. There’s the remotest possibility that, somewhere in the north-west highlands, BT will have to extend their current fibre network to accommodate the change, but not in the islands.

“Effectively, the change will not be noticed here except for as the cables are actually being laid, which will mean some physical disruption at a time that’s not yet been set.”

The MCGA says that the new network will ensure HM Coastguard can continue to communicate with ships in UK waters to advise on navigation hazards or receive distress alerts, track shipping through ships' automatic identification systems, and to launch and direct lifeboats , as well as communicating with Coastguard helicopters, fixed wing planes and the emergency tug.

Commercial and programmes director Damien Oliver said: "This is a vitally important investment in Coastguard infrastructure through the construction of a new national radio network, without which Her Majesty's Coastguard simply could not fulfil its role in protecting life on the coast and in our waters into the future.”

Image shows the old communications hut with radio mast at Aird (Portnaguran) in Point (Martin Collins).

Approaching its third anniversary on Saturday (August 15), the Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery is appealing for a new partner organisation in the Isle of Harris to come forward.

The WILL organisers say: "The Harris communities have greatly benefitted from the Lottery, having received a number of grants for a variety of projects.

"Harris Voluntary Services initially managed the funding and thanks go to Kenny MacLeod who has been the knowledgeable contact in terms of where funding was needed over the last 18 months.

"We are keenly seeking another organisation to take over the management for the good of the area."

The total for the first year of aid to Harris from WILL

To date the following grants have been awarded:

  • A total of £2,627 was raised during the first year of the Lottery to install a Hearing Loop System in venues for those hard of hearing. The purchase of Christmas lighting was also possible with these funds
  • The newly formed South Harris Historical Society were awarded a grant of £812.52 for the purchase of equipment to enable the restoration and preservation of historical memorabilia
  • £2,627.00 was presented to purchase a much needed Community Personal Address system and the upgrade of the Christmas lights display
  • The famous Harris Football Club received a grant of £720.67 to enable them to rejoin and again compete in the Lewis & Harris League

  • Harris Guides welcomed the opportunity to care for floral displays placed around Tarbert in Summer 2019 at a cost of £1,100. The Guide group were awarded £750 for all their hard work
  • South Harris Agricultural Show were grateful to receive £887.80 to upgrade their show facilities
  • The Lottery Team surprised Tarbert Community Centre Committee with a cheque for £1,000 on the day they ran a community sale in their hall. The funds will be used to further enhance the upgrade to their building.

WILL says: "Supporters of the Lottery continue to grow in the Harris area and it would be of great benefit if a replacement management group for Voluntary Action Harris could be found."

 

There have been further reports of damage and anti-social behaviour in Lews Castle Grounds, with a support group of grounds users looking for official action.

On Saturday night (8 August) damage to fence posts in the grounds and smashed windows in a tractor used for maintenance were observed by visitors. Both incidents were reported.

An allotment holder later reported having to move traffic cones, road repair signs and a toppled set of traffic lights out of the carriageway after they’d been apparently pushed and thrown around.

The incidents were reported to local councillor Charlie Nicolson, who was to contact Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s technical services department.

Castle grounds users are providing a running report on the situation in the grounds on the Facebook page Our Castle Grounds – a membership page for those who appreciate the grounds.

The group’s administrators say: “Our Castle Grounds has been set up because of our love of the Castle Grounds. This group has been set up for people who are unhappy with the state of the grounds, to come together and discuss possible ways forward.”

The pictures are taken from the page and were taken over the past 24 hours by members

 

There’s still considerable uncertainty over the likelihood of the Western Isles seeing impacts from thunderstorms forecast for the whole of the UK over the next few days (Monday 10 – Thursday 13 August).

On Friday the Met Office issued a warning of thunder, lightning, rain and hail covering all parts of the UK, with Monday the earliest point at which effects could be expected in the islands.

That warning’s now been cancelled for the islands on Monday and, as of this evening (7pm Sunday 9 August), the strongest likelihood of impacts is now predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, as thunderstorms move north and north-westwards across the whole of the UK.

The Met Office warning currently in force says: “At present the west of Scotland seems less likely to be affected than other areas, but still could not be ruled out. Where the storms occur, rainfall totals of 30-40mm could fall in an hour.”

You can read the whole warning for Tuesday at: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/warnings-and-advice/uk-warnings

In their blog today (https://westernislesweather.com/2020/08/09/thunderstorm-risk-for-the-western-isles-sunday-9th-august-update/?fbclid=IwAR0U6Mhc-ncsG1beiGf1XvFbmtERR2rPi8zg00hcLmShMs09IONqgkGLxJQ) , Western Isles Weather said: “It is really important here to stress that this does not rule out us seeing thunderstorms entirely. We could still see thunderstorms. However, the judged risk by the Met Office has now reduced for our area and no longer meets the impact criteria to warrant a warning.”

The Met Office warnings for Tuesday and Wednesday cover the whole of the UK, from Cornwall to Shetland, with the warning giving: “Significant uncertainty in location and timing.”

Where impacts are felt, the Met Office warns of flooding, lightning strikes, coastal spray and power failures as well as local disruption to transport.

The Lewis-based fresh vegetables and fruit business, The Veggie Box, is taking a fortnight off…after running an intense local delivery service throughout the lockdown period.

Iona and Ruaraidh said yesterday (Saturday August 8): "As most of you will know, we used to hold our market in Perceval Square on a Friday, but due to Covid-19 related delivery changes  we had to bring things forward a day."  These Thursday stalls were recently restarted after replacing a solely pick-up and delivery operation based in Clintons Yard.

"However, our supplier has told us that everything is now reverting back to delivery days as pre-March, which now means the stall will be back in the square on a Friday.

"Due to the changeover, we had planned to take a week off, just to get everything back in sync, however due to some non-Covid related ongoing issues with Iona, we are having to look at having the next two weeks off.

"This means that our next stall will be in Perceval Square on Friday 28th of August. We will email everyone on Thursday 27th with that week's price list.

"Iona and I would like to thank you all for your help, understanding and support over the last five months and we look forward to seeing you all on the 28th."

An online map which shows pricing by postcode has been launched today [Sunday 9 August] to help residents of rural communities identify unfair delivery charges and find the best deals.

After entering a postcode, the website compares charges for a range of parcel sizes from six major companies. Users from around Scotland can also find which online UK retailers deliver to their area.

The free service at www.fairdeliveries.scot is part of the Scottish Government’s on-going action to make delivery charges more transparent.

Welcoming the new service, Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The issue of unfair delivery charges is one that I have highlighted for years now. Residents of Na h-Eileanan an Iar face average surcharges of at least 25% compared to Glasgow and there is virtually no access to home delivery.

“I am regularly contacted by constituents who are frustrated by the disproportionate and irrational costs, sometimes concealed by vendors claiming free UK delivery.

"Most smaller items cost the same to post to Beàrnaraigh as they do to Birmingham.

“This new tool by the Scottish Government will help people identify unfair delivery charges and help to reduce the cost of living in rural areas.”

 

 

In May of this year Mairi Morrison started up her own baking business called Mcmakes where she has been offering treat boxes on a weekly basis.

If you follow her social media pages on Facebook and Instagram, you may already know that her 'Shen' has been recruited to help out with some of the baking preparation.

Angie Fraser is 90 and has volunteered his handyman skills for sieving kilos of icing sugar and chopping hundreds of chocolate bars. 

Mairi says: "Shen has loved helping out Mcmakes, so I thought it would be good to challenge his skills and fundraise for two local charities that are close to our hearts, Alzheimers Scotland Western Isles and Crossroads Lewis."  This is via a new justgiving page - https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mairicatherine-morrison

"So, his challenge is to build 1,000 flatpacked boxes!! I've estimated this should take him about a month."

Over the last six years, Alzheimers Scotland Western Isles and Crossroads Lewis have provided completely invaluable services, which we as a family are forever grateful for.

"Shen (along with my mum) is a full-time carer for my granny, Mary Peggy, 88, who has sadly suffered with Alzheimer’s disease and advanced vascular dementia for 6+ years.

"I am inspired by their amazing work and am passionate about supporting carers and families in our community. Alzheimers Scotland Western Isles provide advice and support for people with a diagnosis of Dementia and their carers/families. Their aim is to make sure nobody faces dementia alone.

Crossroads Lewis aim to prevent carers becoming ill through exhaustion by giving the carers a break and providing the care they normally give.

"Please donate however much you are able to. Your donation will be split evenly between the two charities. Every single donation, no matter how small, will make a difference. You can really make a difference to carers and families, like Shen, in our local community who rely so much on the amazing work and support of these two charities."

The Scottish Government provided more than £2.65m in emergency support to businesses in Na h-Eileanan an Iar through four targeted funds since April 2020, it was reported yesterday (Friday August 7).

The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund and the Bed & Breakfast Hardship Fund represented a total fund allocation of £185m during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: “The publication of this data demonstrates the Scottish Government’s rapid response to support business and protect jobs during the unprecedented hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These funds injected vital finance into sectors of the island economy most severely affected by the lockdown, such as tourism, hospitality and construction.

“Support was responsive, and additional funds were designed and delivered to businesses and individuals who had fallen through the cracks of other support, getting as much money out to as many businesses and individuals as quickly as possible.”

Harris Development Ltd, the community-led agency that develops, promotes and supports the Isle of Harris, has been successful in obtaining derogations for three vessels to fish for bluefin tuna in waters off the Western Isles.

A derogation allows a vessel to be exempt from fishing laws for the purposes of carrying out scientific research. This means that vessels will be able to fish for tuna, as long as those caught are tagged and released.

The sport aspect of catching the giant fish on a rod is already attracting interest. HDL says that the vessels to be granted the licences are still being finalised and that the opportunity to take paying anglers aboard the trips will be subject to Covid-19 restrictions.

Under EU legislation, which continues to apply for 2020, no commercial UK vessels are authorised to land catches of bluefin tuna and any such fish caught by any UK vessel must be returned to the sea, alive and unharmed to the greatest extent possible.

This year’s scientific programme will complement similar work being carried out by other European coastal states. It follows the granting of the first licenced fishing of bluefin tuna, which started in Harris in October last year.

Angus Campbell’s fishing vessel Harmony then received a derogation to allow the fishing, in conjunction with the University of Exeter’s Thunnus UK research project and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).

Angus Campbell was the Harris fisherman who first caught a bluefin tuna in the waters between Harris and St Kilda in September 2013. The 9-foot long fish, which did not survive the catch, reportedly weighed 233kg (515lb).

Scientists are researching the ecology and distribution of the Atlantic bluefin tuna after the huge fish began to appear around the islands with rising sea temperatures about eight years ago.

Similar research projects are taking place in the Celtic Seas around Ireland and in the Skagerrak, between Denmark and Sweden.

There are thought to be two populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna, which cover huge distances to feed and breed. The eastern Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean sea stock spawns in the Mediterranean and western Atlantic ocean stock spawns in the Gulf of Mexico.

Both have been tagged in the North Atlantic during earlier research projects. Tagging is considered extremely important because it can provide better estimates of natural mortality rates, growth, habitat utilisation and migration patterns.

Picture shows the 9-foot-long Atlantic bluefin tuna caught by Angus Campbell (right) of Kilda Cruises in September 2013.

 

Monitoring work undertaken on behalf of Food Standards Scotland has identified that the high levels of shellfish toxins identified in West Loch Roag -  Miavaig and Eilean Tenish in Lewis on 09 July 2020 have returned to safe levels.  The warning against eating shellfish from this area has now been lifted.

Citizen scientists from the Western Isles have made a strong contribution to the 2020 National Whale and Dolphin Watch event, organised by the Sea Watch Foundation.

Island volunteers from around the UK contributed their sightings of whales and dolphins between 25 July and 2 August, adding their spots to the 709 reported sightings logged so far. 

Hebridean sightings from Tolsta, Tiumpan Head in Point and Rodel in Harris, among other locations, helped to put Scotland top of the UK rankings in recorded sightings.

Among the sightings from land-based locations in the islands were numerous sightings of minke whale and common dolphins from Tiumpan Head, as well as one memorable spot of three humpback whales recorded on 26 July.

Risso’s dolphins, harbour porpoise and basking shark were also seen from Tiumpan and bottlenose dolphins from Rodel in Harris, while Brevig, Stornoway, Holm, Ranish and North Tolsta also provided spotters with good results.

In a statement yesterday, Sea Watch’s sightings officer Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, lead organiser of this year's event, said: “Cetacean data collection is strongly weather dependant. Factors such as sea state, swell height and visibility to the horizon affect how easily animals can be detected during a watch. Heavy rain and wind can even cause watches to be cancelled altogether.

“Like previous years, this year's event was scheduled over nine days to increase the chances of coinciding with a favourable weather window. 
The weather forecast was wetter than last year and overall more changeable with hot temperatures mainly recorded towards the end of July. 

"This year's event has shown the strongly supportive and committed spirit of our volunteer observers, which gives us hope for the future of our seas."

Picture: Minke whales are commonly seen from the shore in the Western Isles (Chiara Giulia Bertulli).

 

A bottle of whisky salvaged from the wreck of the SS Politician off Eriskay is being sold at an online auction – with just three days left to make a bid from today (Friday 7 August).

The sinking of the SS Politician in 1941, with thousands of cases of export whisky bound for America, is part of island folklore – in part thanks to its fictionalisation in the classic novel Whisky Galore, made into an equally classic film with the help of residents of Barra.

Divers from the Orkney firm Currie Brothers Ltd happened upon the wreck in 1987 as they were repairing a subsea cable between Eriskay and South Uist.

Former company director George Currie said: "As you can see with the smile on our faces, it was a great day’s diving". 

George is now selling the bottle, together with a diver’s helmet from the time, ballast bricks also brought from the wreck and film memorabilia from the 2016 remake of the film Whisky Galore.

In 2013 two bottles from the wreck sold at Bonhams auction house for just over £12,000. With a latest bid of £6,000, today’s lot has not yet reached the reserve placed by the seller.

The sellers Grand Whisky Auction (www.grandwhiskyauction.com) also warn that the bottle is not suitable for human consumption. 

Pictures show a contemporary press image of a diver from Currie Brothers Ltd and a team snap after their salvage find in 1987.

 

Aviation enthusiasts in the Western Isles had a big day for sightings yesterday (Thursday 6 August) and today, with unusual aircraft appearing in the skies over Lewis.

RAF Brize Norton gave early warning at 1pm that their C-17 Globemaster would be operating around Stornoway during essential training for 99 Squadron.

Mid-afternoon, the spectacular sight of the massive plane over Lewis drew all eyes to the skies as the aircraft made low passes over Stornoway and the surrounding area.

Today, RAF Brize Norton tweeted: "This afternoon, our C-17 Globemaster aircraft will also be operating in the vicinity of Dundee, Aberdeen and Stornoway, whilst engaged in essential training."

RAF Brize Norton is home to the RAF's Strategic and Tactical Air Transport (AT) and Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) forces, with the Globemaster a long-range, heavy lift strategic transport aircraft used for combat, peace-keeping and humanitarian work worldwide.

The aircraft’s design allows it to make steep approaches to small airfields at relatively slow speeds, and yesterday also gave sky-watchers a clear view of the detail as landing gear was deployed and re-stowed.

The Bell 505 JetRanger helicopter that flew in to land later in the afternoon made a complete contrast. With capacity for just a pilot plus up to four passengers, it’s often used as a private or corporate travel option as well as for first-time pilot training.

Spotter Roy Macleod also clocked a US Air Force MC-130 Hercules transport plane over Carloway yesterday. The USAF 352nd Special Operations Group are currently in regular operations from their operational base at RAF Mildenhall.

Pictures are by Jason Spinks and Roy Macleod.

 

The Faroe Islands have been hit by big outbreak of coronavirus cases following months with no local transmission. 

By yesterday (Thursday August 7) at least 38 new cases had been discovered, according to chief medical officer, Lars Fodgaard Møller, and the number could be even higher as there are still hundreds of tests from Wednesday that haven’t been analysed yet, reports the local English website www.local.fo

This week, a lot of people have been tested for COVID-19, after 16 new cases were confirmed in two days. This has led to traffic jams outside the Faroese hospitals, as people waited in their cars for hours to get tested. More than 43.000 tests have now been conducted in the Faroe Islands, and almost 1.600 tests were conducted on Wednesday.

Overall 192 of the people who’ve tested positive in the Faroe Islands have recovered, and one person is still hospitalized. At the end of yesterday at least 400 people would be in quarantine, the Ministry of Health said in a press release.

Yesterday's total of positive cases is a new record already. On 25 June, a total of 23 cases were registered in one day, all of them Russian sailors aboard the vessel Karelia. Before that, the record was 19 cases, which were registered on 16 March.

On Tuesday 4 August, when it was stated that the virus was once again spreading in the Faroe Islands, it was thought that there were three different chains of infection. It is now deemed more likely that there is only one chain, which originated in Tórshavn on ólavsøka – the islands' National Day – and the weekend after that. Some of the infected people live outside the capital area, but they contracted the virus in Tórshavn. It has also been established that the virus has spread at private gatherings on ólavsøka and the weekend after.

According to the chief medical officer, people have transferred the virus the day after contracting it themselves, something which has never before been seen in the Faroe Islands. This makes it all the more difficult to isolate, the Ministry of Health says, and advises people in the Faroe Islands to live as if they are already infected.

Following complaints about licensed premises in the Stornoway town area in recent days, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has made clear the need to maintain strict discipline in restaurants and pubs under Coronavirus regulations. 

This morning, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has criticised the headline on this article, saying it "is a bit misleading. The Comhairle is reminding licensed premises of the existing SG regulations, not tightening up."

Establishments have been told:

  • Only one household is allowed to sit together.
  • Each different household must be socially distanced at either 2m or 1m apart, depending on the permissions granted for each premises .
  • Some premises are advertising that groups of up to eight are allowed at one table – but CnES say this is not allowed unless they all live under the same roof and are part of the same household or extended household.

CnES warns that if a group of people coming into restaurants and pubs and are all around the same age, it is highly unlikely that they will all be from the same household unless they are tourists up on holiday and living in the same self-catering accommodation or workers on a construction site who are also living in the same accommodation. Licence holders have a duty to ask them if they are, in fact, part of the same household.  

And CnES warns: "The recent spikes of coronavirus cases seen on the mainland have been linked back to licensed premises and people not socially distancing and resulted in a localised lockdown in Aberdeen – we do not want to see the same happening in our islands."

And the Council tells restaurants and pubs: "We all need to play our part in trying to minimise the risk to people.  If customers are not obeying the premises rules, you are entitled to ask them to leave or refuse them entry.  Customers want to go somewhere that they feel safe.  If customers do not feel safe at your premises, they will think twice about going back."

[This article has been updated with a comment from CnES this morning (Friday)]

 

An Lanntair in Stornoway and Eden Court in Inverness are amongst 20 venues to have received support from the first strand of the Scottish Government’s £12.5m Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund, through Creative Scotland. Designed to support performing arts venues that cannot yet re-open due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fund is helping to:

  • remove the threat of insolvency prior to the end of March 2021 to enable the development and delivery of activity as soon as practicable
  • allow for specialist / core staff to return from furlough or avoid redundancy to work on future sustainable activity plans
  • increase commissioning and employment opportunities for freelance artists and creative practitioners (between now and end of March 2021) to support continued public engagement while closed.

Eden Court gets £750,000 and An Lanntair receives £100,000.

James Mackenzie-Blackman, Chief Executive, Eden Court, said: “This investment from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland indicates the vital role Eden Court plays in the creative and cultural life of the Highlands. We are relieved and grateful. Over the coming weeks we will share more on how we will use the funds to stabilise the organisation, reimagine our business model and provide opportunities for freelance and independent artists.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Theatres and performing arts venues are vital to individuals, communities and our country. Our performing arts venues effectively had to close overnight, with an almost complete loss of income. There is no doubt that in doing so they saved lives, and for that I am extremely grateful.

“We know the impact of this crisis will be long-term so ambitious action to support the future of these organisations, as well as our wider cultural infrastructure, is key. This funding will be a vital lifeline to help performing arts venues continue to weather the storm.”

Recipients of the second strand of the Performing Arts Venues Fund, an open fund of £5m, will be announced in due course.

Iain Munro, CEO, Creative Scotland said:“There are significant challenges facing Scotland’s culture sector, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This funding for performing arts venues is much needed and will help organisations tackle these challenges but we are aware that budgets are finite and it is not possible to provide financial assistance to every organisation through this route at this time.

“The Covid-19 emergency funds announced for the culture sector so far are not, by any means, the end of the support to be offered and there will be more announcements to come, not least in terms of how the £97m Scotland has received for culture and heritage as a result of the UK Government’s funding package is to be applied. 

"The precise nature of this is still being determined and, beyond what has already been made available, Creative Scotland is working closely with the Scottish Government to actively discuss further support for the culture sector, including for those who may not have received funding previously.”

There will be an opportunity tomorrow (Friday 7 August) for residents of Tarbert, Harris to pay tribute to an islander footballer from Scalpay described as ‘one of the nicest people you’d ever meet,’ ‘always smiling’ and ‘a lovely guy’.

DJ ‘Deej’ Mackay, of Scalpay and Lagos, Portugal, passed away on Tuesday morning. His interment at Luskentyre cemetery tomorrow is to be preceded by a slow drive through Tarbert by the hearse carrying his remains, which will pass by at around 12.30pm.

Harris Football Club yesterday (Wednesday) posted a tribute to the former island player on their Facebook page, and numerous friends and former schoolmates added their own memories and tributes.

The club’s statement said: “It is with tremendous sadness that we pass on the news here that DJ MacKay from Scalpay, known to everyone as Deej, passed away this week having lost his battle with cancer.

“Deej was known to many people due to his varied interests like sailing and biking, but also because he was a fantastic individual who it was always a pleasure to be in the company of. He was rarely seen without a smile on his face and brought laughter to any situation. 

“Deej played full-back for Harris for many seasons, and when he moved to Glasgow also turned out for Glasgow Island where he was a much-loved and loyal team-mate. For his love of football, he also played a few games for the Harris Welfare team if he happened to be home.

“Everyone will have their favourite stories about Deej which undoubtedly will all be re-told this week and for many years to come. We will never forget the man who was quite simply one of the nicest people you’d ever meet.”

Former team-mate MJ Graham added: “He was loved by his team-mates and he absolutely adored the craic that came with being in the squad. He contributed a brilliant sense of humour, an endless stamina to engage in all sorts of shenanigans and a fear of missing out that meant he never missed out!”

Another friend wrote: “One of the best friends we all had. Always kind, caring and willing to help us all at all sorts of levels. Even when he wasn’t feeling great he reminded us of the good times. He wanted his memory to be of the good times we all had with him and so we should.”

Deej was most recently resident in Lagos, Portugal, where he worked for the international shipping company Maersk.

The picture shows Deej enjoying a reunion of Scalpachs in Lagos, Portugal in 2018 (Alex Scotch Murray).

There will be an opportunity tomorrow (Friday 7 August) for residents of Tarbert to pay tribute to an islander footballer from Scalpay described as ‘one of the nicest people you’d ever meet,’ ‘always smiling’ and ‘a lovely guy’.

DJ ‘Deej’ Mackay, of Scalpay and Lagos, Portugal, passed away on Tuesday morning. His interment at Luskentyre cemetery tomorrow is to be preceded by a slow drive through Tarbert by the hearse carrying his remains, which will pass by at 12.30pm.

Harris Football Club yesterday (Wednesday) posted a tribute to the former island player on their Facebook page, and numerous friends and former schoolmates added their own memories and tributes.

The club’s statement said: “It is with tremendous sadness that we pass on the news here that DJ MacKay from Scalpay, known to everyone as Deej, passed away this week having lost his battle with cancer.

“Deej was known to many people due to his varied interests like sailing and biking, but also because he was a fantastic individual who it was always a pleasure to be in the company of. He was rarely seen without a smile on his face and brought laughter to any situation. 

“Deej played full-back for Harris for many seasons, and when he moved to Glasgow also turned out for Glasgow Island where he was a much-loved and loyal team-mate. For his love of football, he also played a few games for the Harris Welfare team if he happened to be home.

“Everyone will have their favourite stories about Deej which undoubtedly will all be re-told this week and for many years to come. We will never forget the man who was quite simply one of the nicest people you’d ever meet.”

Former team-mate MJ Graham added: “He was loved by his team-mates and he absolutely adored the craic that came with being in the squad. He contributed a brilliant sense of humour, an endless stamina to engage in all sorts of shenanigans and a fear of missing out that meant he never missed out!”

Another friend wrote: “One of the best friends we all had. Always kind, caring and willing to help us all at all sorts of levels. Even when he wasn’t feeling great he reminded us of the good times. He wanted his memory to be of the good times we all had with him and so we should.”

Deej was most recently resident in Lagos, Portugal, where he worked for the international shipping company Maersk.

The picture shows Deej enjoying a reunion of Scalpachs in Lagos, Portugal in 2018 (Alex Scotch Murray).

(This article has been greatly updated since first being posted)

The Faroe Islands are facing a renewed Covid-19 crisis following the celebration of Ólavsøka (the Faroese National Day) which is held annually on July 29.

Ólavsøka literal meaning is “Saint Olav’s Wake” and recalls the Norwegian King Olav II, also known as Saint Olav, died in battle on July 29, 1030. He played a pivotal role in bringing Christianity to the Faroes. On this day, for the past 900 years, the opening of parliament takes place.

Yesterday (Wednesday August 5) it was decided that visitors would no longer be allowed at the nursing and retirement homes after the Faroes confirmed 16 new cases of Covid-19 in just two days.

It looks like the current situation is just as dangerous as it was when we went into lock-down, Eyðun Christiansen, Director of the Association of Faroese Municipalities told local media.

Annika Olsen, Mayor of Tórshavn, advised parents in Tórshavn municipality to keep their children at home for the rest of the week to be on the safe side.

New control measures were announced. All travellers using public transport are required to wear a mask. Use of face masks is recommended when in crowded places. Bars and restaurants should close at 10pm. All events such as festivals, concerts or large parties should be postponed or cancelled.

At Wednesday’s press conference, chief medical officer Lars Fodgaard Møller confirmed that most of the new cases were from the capital area.

The guidelines for travellers to the Faroe Islands remain the same. All people arriving in the Faroe Islands should continue to be tested up to and including 31 October. Everyone arriving in the Faroe Islands is advised to proceed directly into self-quarantine until test results are received. These will normally be communicated the same evening or at latest by midday the following day.

It was only on Tuesday that it was announced that two new cases of Covid-19 have been discovered in the Islands, and a Dane had tested positive at Copenhagen airport after returning from a trip to the Faroes.

According to Lars Fodgaard Møller, the only connection between these three people was that they attended ólavsøka last week. He hopes to stop the spread of the virus, but it is going to be difficult to trace this time, as the infected people all attended ólavsøka, he acknowledges. At such events, one comes into contact with many people.

The previous time that a person contracted the virus on Faroese soil was along ago as 6 April. The Faroe Islands have registered a total of 227 cases of Covid-19, of which 192 have recovered, meaning the number of active cases is currently 35 (most of whom are foreign sailors who’ve already left the country). The country has now conducted 40,837 tests, 60 people are currently quarantined, and one person is being treated in hospital.
(Information mostly from the English language www.local.fo website)

A book which is to be published to mark the 150th anniversary of The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway has received the backing of community wind farm organisation Point and Sandwick Trust.

The Trust is providing financial support for the research phase of the book, which is to be published by Acair ahead of the anniversary in January 2023.

The book is being written by, among many others, retired educationalist Iain Smith, who has Point and Sandwick connections and previously co-authored another Acair publication, Saints and Sinners, a collection of tales of islanders from the late 19th and early 20th Century. 

Saints and Sinners showed how educational opportunity, or otherwise, shaped the course of these islanders’ lives and the book on The Nicolson chimes with that theme, telling the story of the school’s development and also the stories of some of its most famous alumni.

As well as helping the authors to write the book, the money also helps Acair keep its production line running, as small publishers have been hit, along with so many businesses, by the pandemic.

Acair manager Agnes Rennie said they had been discussing the idea for the book “for a number of years” adding: “This is the kind of book that’s a long time in the making.”

The grant will help Iain Smith, who lives in Glasgow, continue his research locally. However, Agnes said it was also helpful for Acair “to know the support is there to enable the book to go ahead.”

She said: “For a small publisher like Acair, it’s a real challenge to keep production, to keep working on books at the moment, while there is a greatly reduced income through book sales. We are really, really encouraged by the support of Point and Sandwick Trust to enable this project to progress – because it’s only for this project, it’s not for anything else.

“The book itself is a wide-ranging book which encompasses some essays about specific periods in the history of the school, starting with the set up and establishment of the school, and goes on to tell the story of the school and its engagement with the community through vignettes of pupils who have passed through the school and who in their various ways have gone on to show the benefits of education – and that takes us right up to the present day.”

Assembly hall is reduced to rubble in September 2012

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said they were happy to support a book that would promote social, educational and cultural wellbeing.

He said: “This project is very much aligned with the founding principle of Point and Sandwick Trust and we have no doubt Iain Smith and the others involved will create a significant and important piece of work, that will be a fitting celebration of the Nicolson at 150.

“It’s great that these stories are being captured and shared and we are also very pleased to have been able to help Acair to keep their production cycle moving during what has undoubtedly been a very challenging time for so many businesses.”

Dr Frances Murray, rector of The Nicolson Institute, said the book would be a “unique piece of work” and that its collection of case studies of individuals would be “a piece of local and community history that runs parallel to the history of the school”.

She said it was “great that we’re able to celebrate 150 years” and welcomed the funding for the continuing research phase as it was “at an important stage”. 

It is hoped that, once published, the proceeds from sales can go towards assisting today’s pupils in being able to travel to the mainland to participate in competitions and other events. 

Iain Smith said it was “very helpful” to now have some money behind the project, which was born out of a conversation with retired Glasgow University professor Malcolm Nicolson, who had inherited papers on the Nicolson from his father, Angus, a geography teacher at the school.

Something old, something new…

During the early 1970s, Angus Nicolson was one of the teachers running a Friday afternoon activity group and he had set his group of pupils the task of going through the archives and writing up the history of the school.

Some of the material was published in the school’s centenary magazine Sgathan in 1973 but other material has never been seen before and Malcolm approached Iain about it four years ago.

The decision was taken to lodge the material with the archive of Museum nan Eilean and when Iain had the opportunity to look through it, he was struck by how much had not been published.

Thinking it was “material of great interest”, Iain said he became quite excited by it and at the prospect of a publication to tie in with the 150th anniversary. 

In a parallel development, Museum nan Eilean was also in possession of a series of letters by former Nicolson rector, W J Gibson, and his wife. These letters, bequeathed to the museum’s archive by the couple’s daughter, were transcribed by museum staff working from home during the lockdown period and, said Iain, “proved to be a hugely valuable historical resource”, discussing numerous aspects of 1910s and 1920s island life such as prohibition and the impact of the Spanish flu.

A number of the letters will be included in the book which will begin with the state of island education before the establishment of the Nicolson through to present day with its focus on the lives of notable alumni including musician and songwriter “Major” Duncan Morrison, writer Iain Crichton Smith and journalist and broadcaster Angus Macleod, who became the editor of the Scottish edition of The Times.

Iain Smith, who retired from full-time work 10 years ago, has been working on the book “more or less continuously for four years” and paid tribute to the “large group of people” who work with him, including Seonaid McDonald, the leading archivist at Museum nan Eilean, and her colleagues; individuals from Stornoway Historical Society including Malcolm Macdonald and Ken Galloway; and Nicolson Institute rector Frances Murray. 

“It’s shaping up at the moment,” said Iain. “I hope it will be something like 300-plus pages, split into 38 chapters, and that we’ll publish it by the  end of 2022, in time for the 150th anniversary which is very early in January 2023.

“It keeps me occupied in my retirement."

The Macfarlane family are seen receiving their prize of a professional photographer for a ‘doorstep’ family photography session after being chosen as winners of the 2020 scarecrow competition which was organised and run by DJ Macleod, the recently-appointed Inclusion Officer with Carloway Community Association and which was a first for the district.

‘It was a great competition, all the scarecrows were excellent and it was very difficult to pick a winner, but this roadside display had so much going for it, in fact its almost like an art installation’, said DJ.

The scarecrow display is in Garynahine and DJ says that if you are passing it's well worth a look.

 

All organisations are currently experiencing the cost of ensuring their facilities are COVID safe and the popular Newmarket Playgroup is no exception.

The park committee were recently dismayed to discover that their hand-sanitising units were maliciously emptied.

The Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery Team were equally as dismayed and stepped in with funding to ensure the park was maintained safe for everyone by replenishing their supplies.

Cally and Janet Paterson handed over a cheque for £250 to Committee members Murray and Louis of Newmarket Playpark Association.

A phased re-opening of food and drink serveries is to begin from Friday (7 August) on selected CalMac ferries, including the four routes linking the Western Isles with the mainland.

The Mariners Café on the MV Loch Seaforth will begin to serve hot snacks, hot breakfast rolls, soups, sandwiches and drinks, during crossings between Stornoway and Ullapool, while MV Isle of Lewis will have a similar offering on the Oban Castlebay route.

Crossings between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy will also see renewed service of hot and cold snacks and drinks on MV Hebrides and the coffee cabin on board MV Lord of the Isles will offer hot drinks and pre-wrapped cakes, snacks and confectionery during crossings between Lochboisdale and Mallaig.

CalMac described the renewal of service, announced today (Wednesday 5 August) as a phased re-opening. They said: “Our menu will be more limited than in normal circumstances while we continue to manage the health and safety mitigations in place to help keep our passengers, crew and the islands we serve safe.”  

 

The new stand delivered yesterday (Tuesday 4 August) to Point Football Club in Garrabost will have twice the number of seats as the old – and should last a lot longer.

Construction is due to start tomorrow (Thursday) after the ‘meccano-like’ kit was sent from Sussex to the Hebrides on a low-loader.

Point FC secretary Iain MacSween said the new stand has been tested for wind-strength and is built of galvanised steel to withstand Hebridean weather.

He said: “The stand was designed to our specification and made from galvanised steel, so it should last a lot longer than the last one, which was installed in 2007 when the pitch opened.

“We selected this design from Stadium Solutions because of the fact that it comes in pieces, like a giant Meccano set. We preferred that to a completed stand because it doesn’t need to be installed by a crane, which would have ruined the pitch.”

The 100-seater stand will have a specially-designed accessible area for wheelchairs, reached from the gate by a plastic webbing pathway which will make pushing chairs easier.

Iain said: “Work is to start when the construction crew arrive tomorrow and is expected to be finished by this time next week.

“We owe huge thanks to Point and Sandwick Trust, who have been behind us from the start, and to Third Sector Hebrides who have helped us through the Scottish Government’s Landfill Communities Fund to the tune of £20,000.”

The picture shows the components for the new stand as they were delivered to the site yesterday (Point FC).

 

A zero-tolerance approach to violence against police officers was confirmed at Stornoway Sheriff Court yesterday (Tuesday 4 August) when a man was sentenced to imprisonment for a number of offences.

38-year-old Douglas Murray of Marybank is to serve a total of 12 months in prison and has left the island for custody at Porterfield prison in Inverness this afternoon (Wednesday).

He was appearing in court on a range of complaints which covered a period of over three months, during which Stornoway police had cause to charge him numerous times.

The charges included assaults on police officers, threatening and abusive behaviour and road traffic offences including careless driving and driving without insurance.

Murray’s sentence includes four months for breaches of bail conditions and he has also been disqualified from driving for 16 months after failing to provide a sample for analysis when suspected of drink-driving.

 

A batch of friendly postcards designed to link people together in isolating times is on its way by post to addresses all over the islands, after being posted out yesterday (Tuesday 4 August).

The cards are part of a UK-wide creative postcard exchange that’s been taken up by the Befriending Arts project, a partner project with Befriending Lewis and Harris.

Co-ordinator Elaine Murray has been working since 2018 on ways to tackle loneliness and isolation through creativity – with groups, one-to-one creative sessions and workshops to helping people to collaborate, or to follow their individual creative journeys. 

Elaine said: “Since Covid, we've been working hard to adapt and find ways to continue safely.  This has included sharing creative projects via our facebook group Befriending Arts (https://www.facebook.com/groups/214127359821354) as well as sending out materials by post.

“We are constantly trying to find new ideas and approaches in order to support as many people as possible to be creative and feel connected.”

The creative postcard exchange sees blank postcards sent out to anyone who feels like getting creative – whether on their own with a cup of tea, or as an activity with others, including children. Everyone who completes and sends a postcard will receive a completed one in return.

You can take part by emailing your name and address to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by filling in and sending the form recently delivered by 20 trusted, island-based community groups.

Elaine said: “Receiving something in the post just for you can be a real mood-booster, so we hope by sharing some colour with each other we can go a little way to helping reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in our communities.”

The pictures show the blank postcards ready for distribution and going into the post yesterday (Tuesday 4 August).

 

Education, Skills and Children’s Services staff from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will hold a live stream discussion forum for pupils, parents, staff and members of the wider community on Friday 7th August at 12pm.

Viewers can submit questions in advance by private messaging the Comhairle Facebook page or commenting on the live feed during the livestream.

The focus of discussion will be the measures that the Comhairle, with assistance from partner organisations, is taking to prepare for the safe return of employees and pupils across the Western Isles over the coming weeks.

The live stream will be chaired by Colin George Morrison, Media Co-ordinator, and will feature a panel – some of whom will be connecting remotely – including the Director of Education, Skills & Children’s Services Bernard Chisholm, alongside service officers and headteachers.

The stream will be broadcast on the Comhairle’s Facebook page and on the e-Sgoil website.

Long Term Condition Hebrides AGM 

via Zoom conference call at 3:30pm on Thursday 20th August.

Anyone interested in the work of LTCH is encouraged/welcome to attend.

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

Long Term Condition Hebrides (LTCH) is a local third sector organisation run by people with long term conditions.

We provide two weekly group sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, these are for residents of the Western Isles that may need help with self management.

Classes are focused on mindfulness teachings and relaxation techniques and are facilitated by a local GP, Dr. Gail Cunningham.

Due to the on going covid-19 situation our weekly sessions are currently being held via the Zoom conference call app.

Sessions are free to join and if anyone is interested in participating then please contact Gordon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As part of an ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic Lodge Fortrose has provided a funding donation of £400 to Samaritans of the Western Isles to train Samaritans volunteers.

Samaritans of the Western Isles is one of 20 Samaritans branches in Scotland and provides emotional support to people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Like other Samaritans branches, the Western Isles branch is run entirely by volunteers and is responsible for securing its own funding.

Last year volunteers from the Western Isles branch answered over 3,000 calls and replied to over 200 emails and 500 texts from people struggling to cope. Many of the calls currently being dealt with are from people affected by covid-19 and struggling with loneliness and isolation, anxiety and depression and other issues such as bereavement, loss of income and relationship problems.

Diane Hankinson, Samaritans of the Western Isles, said “Samaritans can make a real difference to the emotional well-being of a society struggling through a difficult time. Being listened to, in confidence, and accepted without prejudice can help people to find a way forward. Our aim is to be there for anyone in crisis so that they have somewhere to turn.” 

John Robertson and Angus Allison, Lodge Fortrose, present a cheque for £400 to Diane Hankinson and Don Catterall, Samaritans of the Western Isles

A range of options are available to school pupils across the Western Isles who have been left distressed by the qualification results received today (Tuesday August 4) in the aftermath of the cancellation of all school exams.

Comhairel nan Eilean Siar said we "understand that some young people will be concerned about the results received today and our staff will be available to provide support where it’s required. Any parents or pupils who have queries regarding the results can contact their local school directly."

Pupils can also contact and get support in the following ways:

Any pupils who have not received the results they’d hoped for and are considering a change of options are encouraged to contact the Comhairle’s Education & Training Section on aThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This team are able to advise and provide information about a range of other opportunities, including Foundation and Modern Apprenticeships available locally.

The introduction of lockdown in March resulted in national school closures at a time when pupils were at a critical time in their studies. The SQA subsequently then confirmed the cancellation of all exams across Scotland, meaning that qualifications this year were going to be based on teacher professional estimates, analysis of past performance and careful scrutiny of results across the country. The consequence of this is that, for the first year on record, pupils will today receive their qualifications having undertaken no exams.

National 5: In Comhairle schools, pass rates for those achieving A-C passes at National 5 in S4 have increased by 1.4% to 89.2%, representing a year-on-year increase in performance at this level.  The Comhairle pass rate at National 5 was 8.1% higher than that seen nationally.

Higher: A-C passes at Higher for S5 and S6 pupils increased significantly again this year by 2% to 80.6% with a number of subject areas showing improvement. Presentations at Higher increased 6% this year and A-C passes at Higher level were 1.7% greater than the national rate.

Advanced Higher: After a small decrease in awards at Advanced Higher last year, a major increase of 13% was recorded this year, with A-C passes jumping to 92.9% from an increased cohort. This is 8% higher than the national pass rate for Advanced Higher.

Across the authority, at all levels, there were 2823 presentations, slightly down on the previous year. Of these presentations, 2458 resulted in an A-C pass, indicating an overall pass rate of 87.1%. This is an increase in the region of 1.5% on last year.  Education officers and school staff are currently analysing each school’s data to identify areas of strength and areas for development

Chairman of the CnES Education, Skills and Children’s Services Committee, Cllr Angus McCormack, said: “In what has been a most difficult year for pupils and school staff, these results demonstrate just how much work has gone in to ensuring that our young people were not disadvantaged by having their education disrupted. I am delighted with these results and I congratulate our students and their teachers on their achievements”.

In what has been an exceptional year in terms of disruption to schooling, The Comhairle says it "recognises and celebrates the significant achievements of our young people. We appreciate and would like to thank all the pupils and school staff for their hard work and commitment in bringing this year’s awards to a positive conclusion in very challenging circumstances. It is also important to note that we recognise the many achievements of our pupils beyond today’s academic results, in areas of applied learning, sport, culture, heritage and community service."

 

 

Stornoway’s cruise season has come to an effective end, with news yesterday (Monday 3 August) that the only newly-booked vessel confirmed for this summer is locked down with an outbreak of Covid-19 aboard.

The Norwegian expedition vessel MS Roald Amundsen, announced on 14 July as a new visitor for Stornoway in September, yesterday confirmed a significant outbreak of the virus among its crew.

Now all vessels in Hurtigruten’s fleet have been tied up and the Norwegian government has declared a 14-day ban on cruising, while all UK cruises by the company  – including the visit to Stornoway – have been cancelled.

Cruise visits to Stornoway are now unlikely to resume for the rest of the 2020 season, with almost all of the 19 remaining calls in the schedule for the port cancelled by their operators.

Even where not officially cancelled, experience from earlier in the season shows that some ships will simply not show up for a booked call.

Hurtigruten said yesterday: “36 crew members and several guests have tested positive for COVID-19 in the outbreak on board the expedition cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen.

“In light of the recent increase in new cases of COVID-19 globally, the only responsible choice is to suspend all expedition sailings until we are absolutely confident we can carry out our operations in line with all requirements from the authorities and with the even stricter requirements we have set for ourselves.”

All 158 crew members on board the vessel were tested, after four crew members displayed symptoms of Coronavirus. Hurtigruten said today (Tuesday) that 36 have tested positive for COVID-19, while 122 are confirmed as negative. Six guests have tested positive.

The ship, which is currently docked in Tromsø, Norway with no guests on board, had recently completed two back-to-back tours into the Arctic. 400 passengers have now entered self-isolation in line with Norwegian health regulations.

As welovestornoway.com reported in July (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17493-cruise-visit-confirmed) Hurtigruten has gained a reputation within the travel industry for their robust ‘accelerated return’ to cruising. They had planned to have 14 of their fleet of 16 ships cruising by the end of September.

The only vessel now remaining in the schedule for Stornoway is the German luxury yacht Hanse Explorer, due to call in to Stornoway on 30 August with 12 charter guests and their service crew aboard.

Pictures show MS Roald Amundsen tied up in Tromso and the season’s only possible cruise visitor, the 12-passenger luxury yacht Hanse Explorer.

 

The UK government has recklessly declined the opportunity to extend the transition period and we now face leaving the EU with no deal or deals struck in desperation – not a negotiating position that inspires confidence.

That's view of Patrick Krause, chief executive of the Scottish Crofting Federation.

And he warns that the impact of the pandemic has left our economy in a very fragile state to cope with a new trading regime foisted upon us by a centralised government.

"The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs, Michael Russell MSP, had to write to Michael Gove MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, outlining grave concerns regarding Mr Gove’s intention to enshrine in law the concept of ‘UK internal market’, which would in effect, take away some of Scotland’s devolved powers.

"The gist of it is for an unelected body to be formed that would scrutinise legislation put before the Scottish Parliament and could halt it if it deemed the legislation would impact on the ‘UK internal market’. This has potential for dire consequences in all fields, but our concern is food.

"UK government has made it clear, by not taking forward an amendment to the Agriculture Bill, that it is prepared to lower food standards should trade negotiations require it. Think USA, amongst other countries that we may trade with, that do not have the high standards we embraced being part of the EU. Indeed, UK has been a leader in developing high standards in food quality and traceability, environment and animal welfare, standards that Scotland as a devolved nation has exemplified.

"As the end of the transition to being fully out of the EU approaches, Scotland’s high standards are something that we can trade on, both globally and within the UK market.

"If, however, this ‘police’ body deems Scottish high standards not compliant with lower standards adopted by the UK government, we could see our food, environment and animal welfare standards having to fall.

"Rather be it that Scotland maintains its devolved powers to enhance standards, to keep what we feel proud of for ourselves and that we can sell on and attract visitors for," he says.

Ferry services on the Uig triangle route were thrown into disarray yesterday (Monday 3 August) after an extra-wide delivery got stuck as it was leaving the ferry.

The MV Hebrides was due to leave Lochmaddy at 11.50am, but was held back as the crew tried to disembark a lorry carrying a static caravan from the vehicle deck.

By the time the load had been safely manoeuvred to land, the ferry was running almost three hours late and the 4pm departure from Tarbert to Uig yesterday did not sail until shortly after 7pm.

The picture shows the lorry during attempts to unload from the vehicle deck (Energee).

A man has died in hospital after being brought down from the Harris hills, where he was gathering sheep yesterday afternoon (Monday 3 August).

The crofter was missed by his group as they returned from the hills above Huisinis, where they had been gathering the hill sheep yesterday.

A concerned friend called Stornoway Coastguard and a full-scale emergency land-search was put in motion soon after 1.30pm. Police were kept informed of the search as it was in progress.

The man was found by searchers in a location at Cravadale which was inaccessible to vehicles.

He was airlifted from the hill by Stornoway Coastguard helicopter R948 and taken to Western Isles Hospital, but sadly died in hospital a short time later.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a concern for person call after a man failed to return from a trip on Harris. A search and rescue operation was launched and the man was located in the Hushinish area and taken to hospital where he died.

“The death is not suspicious and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

Involved in the search were members of Tarbert, Scalpay and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Teams as well as two senior coastguard officers and the Bristows helicopter crew.

Most businesses across the Highlands and islands are remaining confident in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
That’s the conclusion of a Business Panel survey which was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and carried out in June. This wave of the survey focused on impacts of and responses to the pandemic.
Charlotte Wright, chief executive of HIE, said: “We particularly welcome the confidence that many firms have in their own future and that they expect to have the resources they need to get through the crisis. This is typical of the prevailing can-do optimistic attitude of so many in the region; qualities that will be vital in rebuilding the economy.”
Of those surveyed, 75% believed their businesses will still be viable in six months’ time. More than two thirds (70%) had applied for support and 91% of those had received assistance.
Most businesses (71%) said they were confident they can access the financial resources they need to get through the crisis and 87% were confident they’d be able to adhere to government guidelines when emerging from lockdown.
At the time of the survey, 72% had already taken appropriate safety measures. Other measures taken included changes to workplace layout (38%), staff training (35%), reviewing staff requirements (31%) and enabling staff to work from home (37%).
Disruption to trade, decline in sales, loss of income, and furloughed employees were reported as some of the main impacts of covid-19. Overall, 85% reported they had experienced a decline (61%) or no sales at all (24%), while a very small proportion (4%) reported an increase in trade.
Nearly half (49%) of firms had been able to continue operating throughout the lockdown and a further 12% had reopened after closing initially.
Businesses that continued trading did things differently in order to do so. Making processes more efficient (50%), exploring new domestic/UK markets (48%) and improving competitiveness (44%) were the most frequently reported actions taken.
Others include collaboration, changing products or services and moving products and services online.
Of those who continued or had restarted trading, 65% said business was below the pre-covid level, 26% much the same and 8% above.
Looking ahead, firms reported both concerns and potential opportunities.
The main concerns for the next six months were economic downturn (61%), future waves of coronavirus and lockdown (55%), and sustainability of the business (25%).
Reported opportunities centred around adapting products or services (26%), changing customer behaviour or preferences (26%) and growing an online presence (26%). Others include targeting new markets (25%), using technology differently (22%), and repositioning the business (15%).
HIE’s Business Panel Survey reports are available online at hie.co.uk/research-and-reports. The next wave of the survey is due to take place in October.

The first virtual version of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society’s annual competition for junior players has been hailed a great success, with the new online format allowing a big increase in participation by pipers from Uist and Barra.

A total of 102 players took part from throughout the Outer Hebrides – a number of entries “considerably higher than normal” according to the Piping Society.

The society’s piping secretary, Ashley MacDonald, said they had also received “a high volume of inquiries from the mainland”, although they were not eligible as it was only for the Western Isles.

However, she said this did show that demand existed for an online piping competition.

The results were broadcast on Friday, July 10, as part of an online cèilidh with performances from some of the prize winners. The format was similar to a typical post-competition recital and the online cèilidh can still be accessed, either via The Lewis and Harris Piping Society’s Facebook page or its website, www.lhpsoc.com.

There were so many excellent performances submitted that the Piping Society hopes to hold a second online cèilidh later in August (date still to be confirmed), to showcase more island talent.

Dr John Smith, chairman of The Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said the competition had been “very successful” and welcomed the participation of pipers from Barra in particular.

Although youngsters from the Uists do traditionally take part in the annual competition, travelling up on the morning of the competition and back home in the evening, it is more logistically difficult – and off-putting – for players from Barra.

He said the society would be looking at how it could enable such increased participation from the Southern Isles to continue into the future, post-lockdown, and praised all those who took part.

“The format worked well,” he said. “The competitors submitted recordings of themselves playing their tunes and they were all advised to dress appropriately – ie. in full Highland dress – and the recordings for each section were sent to a nominated judge.”

A panel of top players had agreed to act as judges. They were Glenn Brown, Callum Beaumont, Sarah Muir, Finlay Johnston, Iain Speirs, Donald MacPhee, Roddy MacLeod MBE and Decker Forrest – many of whom had been due to perform at his year’s P/M Donald Macleod Memorial Piping Competition, before it was cancelled due to lockdown.

Technically, the Piping Society was assisted by Alex Tearse from Reefnet, who created the competition portal and set up the online cèilidhs.

Dr Smith said: “The Lewis and Harris Piping Society are delighted that we were able to organise a junior competition in the current constraints of the world that we’re living in and we’re particularly pleased that we have, within the community, people who are generous in giving their time to supporting the Piping Society, such as Alex Tearse who did all the technical work.

“The junior competition has been an important part of the remit of the Piping Society since its inception and we are determined to continue to hold it and have demonstrated that it can be done remotely. If necessary, that’s how we’ll do it next year.

“It goes without saying that we are grateful to our sponsors Point and Sandwick Trust who generously agreed to meet the expenses of holding the competition in this format.”

Ashley MacDonald, a piping instructor and director of the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band as well as the Piping Society’s piping secretary, praised the young pipers for taking part, as the format would have posed a new set of challenges to them.

“All the participants did very well indeed,” she said. “Under normal circumstances they would only have one go in front of a judge, so for them to submit videos and get through them must have been hard work as they would know that they could always try again. They all should be proud of themselves, whether they received a placing or not.

“The judges were very impressed with the high standard of playing and very supportive of this event. We had a fantastic panel of top pipers and the judges themselves had to adapt to a new way of judging, by typing up the crit sheets online and submitting their own videos to reveal the results.”

Thanks to Alex Tearse and Reefnet, for making the competition portal and ceilidh broadcasts possible; to Point and Sandwick Trust and the MacCrimmon Foundation for sponsorship; to MacPhee Reeds, McCallum Bagpipes, the Piping Centre and The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust for donating prizes; and to Ian Duncan and Graham MacIver for donating chanters.

The full list of results is online at https://lhpsoc.com/results

Results of The Lewis and Harris Virtual Piping Competition 2020

Competition 1 – Beginner chanter

  • 1st Liam Beaton
  • 2nd Freya Duffield
  • 3rd Isla Jane Steel
  • 4th Thomas Cunningham

Competition 2 - Novice Chanter

  • 1st Ruairidh Cowan
  • 2nd Ruairidh MacLeod
  • 3rd Kieran MacNeil
  • 4th Anna MacDonald

Competition – Advanced Chanter

  • 1st Zoe Marie Steel
  • 2nd Dòmhnall Eachann MacLean
  • 3rd Laura Macleod
  • 4th Eilidh Marks

Competition 4 – Novice Primary March

  • 1st James MacRae
  • 2nd Alexander MacLeod
  • 3rd Cameron Hendry
  • 4th Fraser Laurie

Competition 5 – Novice Primary Freestyle

  • 1st James MacRae
  • 2nd Alexander MacLeod
  • 3rd Cameron Hendry
  • 4th Fraser Laurie

Competition 6 – Secondary Novice March

  • 1st Colin MacIver
  • 2nd Alex Murray
  • 3rd Donald Henderson
  • 4th Charlie Shirkie

Competition 7 - Secondary Novice Freestyle

  • 1st Aithne MacDougall
  • 2nd Colin MacIver
  • 3rd Alex Murray
  • 4th Charlie Shirkie

Competition 8 – Under 16 March

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Mairead Galbraith
  • 3rd Andrew MacNeil
  • 4th Joseph Nicolson

Competition 9 Under 16 Strathspey and Reel

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Joseph Nicolson
  • 3rd Mairead Galbraith
  • 4th Aaron Ingram

Competition 10 – Under 16 Jig

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Kevin Beaton
  • 3rd Joseph Nicolson
  • 4th Equal Aaron Ingram and Racheal Sinclair

Competition 11 – Under 16 Hornpipe

  • 1st Joseph Nicolson
  • 2nd Kevin Beaton
  • 3rd Eosaph Galbraith
  • 4th Andrew MacNeil

Competition 12 – Under 16 Ceòl Mòr

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Joseph Nicolson
  • 3rd Kevin Beaton
  • 4th Aaron Ingram

Competition 13 – Under 16 Freestyle

  • 1st Eosaph Galbraith
  • 2nd Joseph Nicolson
  • 3rd Kevin Beaton
  • 4th Micheal MacLellan

Competition 14 – Under 18 March, Strathspey and Reel

  • 1st Callum MacMillan
  • 2nd Martin Sinclair
  • 3rd Jamie Kennedy Doig
  • 4th Finlay Widdop

Competition 15 – Under 18 Hornpipe and Jig

  • 1st Callum MacMillan
  • 2nd Jamie Kennedy Doig
  • 3rd Finlay Widdop
  • 4th Ciaran Murray

Competition 16 – Under 18 Ceòl Mòr

  • 1st Calum MacMillan

Competition 17 – Under 18 Freestyle

  • 1st Jamie Kennedy Doig
  • 2nd Martin Sinclair
  • 3rd Ciaran Murray
  • 4th Equal Finlay Widdop & Murdo Angus

Picture montage: Youngsters participating in the competition

 

A full-scale emergency land-search was put in motion this afternoon (Monday 3 August) when a crofter failed to reappear after setting out to gather sheep on a hillside in Harris.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call at 1.30pm from crofters concerned that one of their group, an elderly gentleman, had failed to return from the hillside at Cravadale, near Huisinis, following the gathering of sheep from the hill.

Tarbert, Scalpay and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Teams were tasked to the scene, with the Coastguard all-terrain vehicle available and rescue helicopter R948 also tasked to help with the search.

Two senior coastal operations officers from the MCA also attended to help co-ordinate the search and Stornoway Police were kept informed of the activity.

The casualty was quickly located in a difficult location which could not be accessed by vehicle. He was lifted by helicopter from the site, to be transferred to Stornoway and onwards to Western Isles Hospital.

All teams were stood down and returned to base at 4pm.

The picture shows the terrain at Cravadale and is by Laurie Campbell (Isleofharris.com).

The first film in a commissioned series for the Between Islands project from An Lanntair has been launched this morning (Monday 3 August).

Lewis film-maker Zoe Paterson Macinnes has explored the notion of ‘community’, using filmed footage of blackhouse ruins in the Lewis landscape and archive radio interview material in which the residents of homes in a Lewis village are discussed.

The film’s musical soundtrack is by Paul Mounsey with Kevin MacNeil and is taken from the album Tha na Làithean a’dol Seachd/The Days Flash Past and its centrepiece is a thoughtful interview with Professor Frank Rennie of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Prof Rennie draws a line between Ice-Age settlers, Irish missionaries, Victorian gentlemen travellers and today’s fish-farm workers, all of whom have settled in and enriched the rural communities of Lewis.

Prof Rennie attributes the notion of island communities as ‘remote’ to travellers from Dr Johnson onwards, who visited the islands from their mainland homes and attributed qualities to the land and its people from what he describes as ‘a position of ignorance’ which became received wisdom about island communities.

He said: “It was totally beyond their experience and so they magnified, they exaggerated the differences that they found here to make them appear to be great explorers who had visited all these far foreign lands.”

Between Islands is a continuing series of creative collaborations between musicians and other artists from Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles which explores the common ground and differences between island communities. It is curated by Alex Macdonald of An Lanntair in Stornoway.

The film can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U818r6j0HDE&t=33s

 

Booking has opened today (Monday 3 August) for the first two livestock sales of the Lewis and Harris auction season.

Dates have been confirmed for the auction mart in Steinish, confirming the dates earlier reported by welovestornoway.com (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17578-go-ahead-for-livestock-sales). Sales of lambs are set for Wednesday 26 August and Wednesday 9 September.

There had been some concern over whether auctions could continue at all at the island marts in 2020, with stringent restrictions on hygiene and social distancing set for all livestock auctions.

But Dingwall and Highland Marts, who operate the markets in Stornoway, confirmed late in July that they could come to the islands to auction the large number of island lambs and ewes which will be ready for market this summer.

A third sale is to be held early in October, on a date yet to be confirmed.

A Lewis and Harris auction mart director said that booking for the 26 August sale was now open, by phone to any of the directors, or online at https://lewisandharrisauctionmart.co.uk/index.html, where the online booking facility is due to go live later today.

A month described as ‘soggy, midgie-ridden and horrible’ has been beaten into submission by a bunch of hardy walkers, who started July determined to walk 5k a day in aid of Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s work in the Western Isles.

Sisters Pat Macaskill and Anne Macleod featured on welovestornoway.com on 30 June, when they pledged to walk their 5k a day every day in the month of July, together with children, grandchildren, dogs and any friends who wished to join them.

Exactly 31 days later the sisters declared their challenge over, having walked 155km in all kinds of weather and busted through their £1,000 target to reach a total so far of £1,665.

Pat had originally planned to walk 30 miles to raise funds as a tribute to her mum, Agnes Frobisher of Tong, who passed away 30 years ago after a stroke. The challenge was made extra poignant as Pat’s dad, Eric Frobisher, also passed away after a stroke and her brother Allan, who also stayed in Tong, died at the age of 57 after suffering a heart attack.

Pat and her family were supported by Western Isles CHSS co-ordinator Sonja Macleod, who set out to participate in her own 5k a day on July 1st, but sadly was defeated after two weeks, when she broke two toes in a kitchen accident!

Walking in Lewis were Pat, who stays in Gravir, her daughter Joanne in Leurbost, sons Simon (Stornoway), Alasdair and John (Gravir) and sister Anne with her daughters Mandy, Donna, Elaine and Annismarie. All walked in their own areas, together with other members of their own families, when they couldn’t walk as a team.

In Harris, seven redoubtable women also put on their walking shoes to tackled the 5k a day challenge in memory of Mairi ‘Strachan’ Macleod – mum, granny, sister, auntie and friend – who passed away suddenly in October 2018 after a stroke.

Team members Catriona Tennant, Iona Macleod, Margo Macleod, Marion Nicols, Ruth Macleod, Shonnag Macleod and Victoria Potter all tackled their ‘miles for Mairi’ together with their own families, sometimes as a team and sometimes in sub-groups.

But every one of them achieved 5k a day through July and their combined total raised is now heading towards double the target figure of £2,500, at £4,508.

You can still donate to support both challenges at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pat-macaskill1 and at https://www.justgiving.com/team/MilesForMairi

The pictures show the two teams in action during their daily walks in Lewis, Harris and Scalpay throughout July.

 

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

New Polycrub, Manish

Robin Reid of 2 Manish has applied for planning permission to erect a polycrub at 2 Manish. The polycrub is to be 8.505 metres long, 4.204 metres wide and 2.612 metres high.

New house, Finsbay

Neil Leonard of Aird Druim an Tolla, Finsbay, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 6 Finsbay. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen and a lounge/dining area. Work is to include creating a new access road and parking suitable for two cars, and installing a ground source heat pump.

 

 

 

 

A man is to appear in court at Inverness by video-link from Stornoway police station today, after an incident in South Uist at the weekend.

Police were called to an address in Iochdar at 4am on Sunday morning (2 August), where the man was detained.

The 31-year-old was charged with assault and has been in custody in Stornoway awaiting his court appearance today.

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

New house, Coll

Chris Mackay of 39 Newmarket has applied for planning permission to erect a house and create a new access at 60A Coll. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family/dining/kitchen area, a lounge, a utility room and a vestibule. Work is to include the installation of an air source heat pump.

Hardstanding and access road, Sandwick

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

New access and off-street parking, Uig

David Jacques of 7 Carishader has applied for planning permission to create a new access and off-street parking at 11 Carishader, Uig.

Site three storage containers, Stornoway

Scottish Water has applied for planning permission to site three storage containers at Scottish Water, Gleann Seilleach Business Park, Willowglen, Stornoway.

 

Change of use of Care Unit, Garrabost

Alex Murray Construction Ltd has applied for planning permission to change the of use of the Care Unit at 1 An Glib, Garrabost, to two house units. Work is also to include the installation of an air source heat pump and creating one more parking space taking the total number of parking spaces to four.

 

New house, Ness

Claire Macaulay of 94 Cross Skigersta Road, Ness, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 30 Habost, Ness. The house is to consist of five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen/family room, a lounge and a utility room. Work is to include creating an access and installing an air source heat pump.

 

Residents of Great Bernera will effectively be under curfew next week, as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar begins essential maintenance work on Bernera bridge.

The bridge is to be closed at 8pm and re-opened at 7am over five consecutive nights between Monday 10 August and Friday 14 August.

A temporary road closure notice issued by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar last week (Friday 31 July) said that the closure is for invasive works which are required as part of the authority’s maintenance and inspection programme.

The notice said: “The bridge shall be closed to traffic between these hours, with allowance made only for emergency vehicles passing through.”

The effect will be that residents of the Tir Mhor will have to be back on their island by 8pm every evening or make arrangements for staying out all night.

One resident commented on social media that the timetable would make it impossible for workers coming home from late shifts or leaving the island early for work in town.

Bernera bridge opened on 22 July 1953 when it was considered to be the means of maintaining a ‘young, active and happy population on the island for many years to come’.

The picture shows the bridge and the standing stones above its landing point on the Tir Mhor (Visit Outer Hebrides).

 

An unusual amount of dolphin activity in the Minch has been giving ferry travellers – and CalMac crew members – a treat during the weekend’s crossings.

Loch Seaforth skipper Lewis Mackenzie tweeted the view from the bridge yesterday morning (Saturday 1 August) as a super-pod of dolphins leapt from the sea in every direction ahead of the ferry.

He said: “Just amazing… this morning’s entertainment in the north Minch. Never seen so many dolphins as this at one time before.”

Photographer and seafarer Chris Murray was also dolphin-watching this weekend, and snapped these Risso’s dolphins slapping tails as the cetaceans enjoyed abundant supplies of food around Lewis.

The Whale and Dolphine Conservation Society says that western Scotland, and particularly the north Minch and the sea of the Hebrides, are important areas for common dolphins, with sightings occurring most often in the summer months.

Regular spotters from the Tiumpan Watchers group reported fin, minke and a humpback whale, common dolphins and two orca late last week.

(https://twitter.com/lewismac100/status/1289455841746198530?s=21)

The serious business of judging scarecrows has been under way this weekend, with winners selected for the annual Tong village scarecrow competition and in the new innovation from South Harris agricultural show.

Familiar themes such as Donald Trump’s antics, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the occasional Peat & Diesel reference were much in evidence, but there was also plenty of fun had with Coronavirus and some distinctive Lewis and Harris themes.

Councillor Donald Crichton was out with his clipboard in Tong on Saturday evening, and declared the Macmillan family of Hillhead the winners with their thank you to the NHS. Ruby and Phoebe are pictured here and mum Yvonne also got a mention.

There were first, second and third prizes in South Harris, where (in traditional reverse order) Rebecca Macleod’s tweed-weaving cailleach took a seat in third place, A J Mackenzie’s drunken crofter carried home the second prize and Finlay and Isla Gillies came first with their peat-cutting crofter.

Meanwhile in Carloway, the village’s new scarecrow competition is still under way, with surprising characters popping up on the verges and road ends. Pictured is a proud Carloway FC supporter who also seems to be a fan of Norrie Tago Maciver.

(Pictures are from Tong community hall committee, South Harris agricultural show and Carloway community association.)

 

Tributes have been paid to Western Isles surgeon and consultant Alaa El-Banna, who passed away suddenly on Thursday (30 July).

Patient and colleague Margaret O’Brien led the tributes with a sincere and heartfelt summary of his impact on saving her own life in April 2014.

She said: “Mr El-Banna was a colleague of mine when I worked in the management office in Western Isles Hospital. He is also the surgeon who saved my life on the 6th April 2014 when he performed a tracheostomy procedure.

“Every surgeon in intensive care in Glasgow and Edinburgh said that he did an outstanding job. They all said if Mr El-Banna had not been on call/on duty that might I would not be here today. 

“The day I returned to our hospital he came to visit me, and I got the opportunity to say thank you to him for saving my life. He said: ‘No, I didn't do anything, I did nothing, it's just my job". He wouldn't take the credit for it. 

“He will be a great loss to our hospital. My family and I will always be very grateful to him. It's a strange feeling, the man that saved my life and many other people's lives has lost his own life.” 

Another patient said: “I owe him so much and didn’t get the chance to thank him properly. We were truly blessed to have him in our lives when we needed him.”

Colleagues at Western Isles Hospital and at his former workplaces in Ayr and Biggart described a unique, larger-than-life character, a fantastic surgeon, a true gentleman and a great personality who would be sadly missed.

In response to the tributes, a family member posted: “We, as his family El-Bannas, thank you for your sincere words. Dr El-Banna was indeed an exceptional man who performed his job as a doctor wholeheartedly. We are all so shocked by his abrupt departure.”

 

In this week we have Raspberries, Blackcurrants, Redcurrants, Blueberries all from West Hardmuir Fruit Farm as well as Hispie/Sweetheart and Round green cabbage.

There is also Local Inverness Cauliflower and Broccoli along with Duke of York and Premier Potatoes from the Black Isle and, of course, Scottish Dirty Carrots.

Local produce from Lewis we have Sharpes Express from Point and Ranish, Mangetout, Kale and possibly local blackcurrants too, if I can get out to pick them and not be bitten by the vicious midges.

Orders to be in before 12.30 on Monday.

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

Or call 07771 645238 to place your order

Vegetables

 

Price Each

Aubergine

 

£1.85

Cauliflower (Inverness)

 

£2.15

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.30

Hispi Cabbage (Sweetheart)

From Nairn

 

£1.95

Round Green Cabbage (Inverness)

 

£1.95

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.30

Celery (UK)

 

£1.60

Garlic (Large)

 

£0.95

Local Bay leaves, Goathill Road

 

£1.50

White Cabbage

 

£2.40

Corn on Cob each

 

£1.50

   

Price Per KG

New Season Scottish Dirty Carrots

 

£2.85

Broccoli (Inverness))

 

£4.55

Bunched Beetroot

 

£2.80

Ginger

 

£8.00

Leeks

 

£3.95

Mushrooms

 

£5.25

Onions

 

£1.65

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

Cyprus Potatoes

 

£1.90

Black Isle New Season Premiere Potato

 

£1.95

 

Black Isle New Season Duke of York Potato

 

£1.95

Sharps Express, Aiginish Point

 

£3.25

Shallots

 

£4.50

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.75

Sweet Potato

 

£3.25

Mange Tout, Ranish

 

£6.00

Kale, Ranish

 

£5.00

 

 

Price Each

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.65

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.95

Cucumber

 

£1.20

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

Price Per KG

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.75

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.95

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.85

Scottish Tomatoes

 

£4.50

Cherries

 

£12.00

Raspberries, Wester Hardmuir 200G

 

£2.95

Blueberries 120G

 

£2.95

Blackcurrant, Wester Hardmuir  230g

 

£3.40

Redcurrants, Westerhardmuir, 400g

 

£425.00

Other Fruit

 

 

Flat (Doughnut) Peaches

 

3 for £1.75

New Season Nectarines

 

3 for £1.95

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.50

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

Avocado

 

£1.75

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.60

Lemons

 

£0.60

Limes

 

£0.50

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £2.10

Pears

 

3 for £1.80

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

Yellow Melon

 

 

£1.95

Water Melon

 

£3.90

   

Price per Kg

Bananas

 

£1.85

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

Green Jalapeños

 

£15.00

Courgettes

 

£2.95

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.75

 

Available

PER JAR

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Orange and Lemon

Lemon

Hint of Ginger

Mixed Berry

Rhubarb jam

Rhubarb and Strawberry

Gooseberry

Strawberry Jam

Raspberry Jam

 

(6)

(4)

(6)

(6)

(2)

(11)

(6)

(1)

(8)

(2)

£3.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

£4.50

£4.50

£4.50

 

 

Per Packet

Hebridean Tablet

(20)

£2.95

 

Claire Montgomery rose to the challenge to support NHS Western Isles during lockdown by swapping her usual role in the classroom for a role on the frontline of the Emergency Department in Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway.

Claire, from Stornoway, had always had a keen interest in healthcare, and had worked in education with children and young people with complex additional support needs for 17 years, as a Support for Learning Assistant.

The vital role of Healthcare Assistant in the Emergency Department (ED) became temporarily vacant in March 2020 when the current postholder had to shield.

Claire says: “I applied for a temporary position on a secondment basis for three months as a Healthcare Assistant at the ED in the Western Isles Hospital. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic the post became an urgent requirement for additional cover. As soon as I saw the job was advertised I knew this was something I would love to try as I’ve always had a keen interest in healthcare. I have worked in education with children and young people with complex additional support needs for 17 years and I felt the skills and experiences I have gained over the years gave me the confidence to apply for the post and to take on a new challenge.”

She continued: “However due to the Coronavirus pandemic it was clear the job would be different from what I had first envisaged. As the schools were closed, I was asked if I would consider the secondment with immediate start. While I was conscious I could have stayed at home, I decided I wanted to help. I started the position in the Emergency Department at the beginning of April, which was a very uncertain time, but I was keen and willing to undertake any challenges we were faced with.”

Claire explained that she initially, and understandably, felt apprehensive and that it was a steep learning curve, working with staff delivering care to patients.  “Starting a new role in a busy unfamiliar department and with daily changes due to Covid-19 meant I had to learn very quickly, but with having the opportunity to undertake a wide range of training and with the support and encouragement of fantastic colleagues, I had the confidence to work and put my new skills in to practice.”

Claire added: “I am very thankful for the opportunity to work in the Emergency Department. It was a very rewarding experience and I enjoyed being part of a such a great team. The experience taught me so much and gave me a real insight into the fantastic work our NHS does. Lockdown was such a different experience for me personally working in the Emergency Department. For the future I will be returning to education for the start of the new term in August, but maybe one day I'll take up a career in nursing.”

NHS Western Isles Emergency Department Manager, Susan Macaulay, said: “Claire fitted really well into the role of Healthcare Assistant, which involved assisting Emergency Nurse Practitioners to deliver care and treatment to patients attending the ED.

“Claire already had good transferable skills and experience, having worked for a long period assisting and supporting children and young people with complex additional support needs, including healthcare, in her role as support for learning assistant. However this was a big change and with the support of existing ED staff, she quickly acquainted herself to the Emergency Department setting. She also adopted new skills, such as carrying out patient observations, ECGs and assisting trained staff with procedures.”

Susan added: “Claire is to be commended for rising to the challenge in an unfamiliar setting to help her NHS colleagues.  She joined us at a very challenging time, in an unfamiliar setting, and where things changed daily. We appreciated Claire’s assistance and enthusiasm in learning new skills during her time with us. Thanks also to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Director of Education for facilitating this secondment.”

Photo: Claire was presented with a bouquet of flowers on her last shift (June 30) from colleagues and everyone at NHS Western Isles, in particular the Emergency Department, wishes her well as she returns to the Nicolson Institute, and thanks her for her support.

A plea has gone out for people to support vital fundraising for Alzheimer Scotland Western Isles – with a prize draw including a Scottish Hamper and various prizes!

Marion MacInnes, Locality Leader. Alzheimer Scotland, Western Isles, says: “It means so much to us. Your donation helps us to keep supporting people living with dementia and carers in your local area.”

The Western Isles Autumn prize draw list so far includes prizes like:

  • Large Scottish luxury hamper
  • Islewear jewellery gift
  • Bottle 12-year-old Dalmore Whisky
  • Bottle Eden Mill Gin
  • £30 WJ MacDonald voucher
  • Isle of Lewis Candle hamper

“Thanks to the local businesses who have kindly donated so far:

“The talented Jordane Symington at Islewear jewellery.

“Iain and Mary at the amazing new Island Spirit Whisky Shop.

“And to our own dedicated team and supporters who donated the hamper items and vouchers.”

The price is £2.50 an entry and all entries are counted e.g. £10 = 4 entries. Please make sure you leave your full name when you donate.

To enter by GoFundMe click http://gf.me/u/yi9fqd

The Prize Draw will take place on Saturday 19th September as part of the Memory Walk and 40th anniversary celebrations.

“Your support is appreciated as we raise vital funds to continue to support local people living with dementia and their families,” says Marion. 

 

 

 

Contractors working for Northern Lighthouse Board are being treated to a view seen by a very few fortunate people nowadays, as they freshen up the paintwork inside the iconic Butt of Lewis lighthouse.

Painters working for contractors TRAC engineering are hard at work inside and out at the top of the 37-metre high tower, with the painters inside climbing the 168 steps to reach the lantern itself.

They’re rewarded not just by a job well done, but by the most spectacular views of the North Atlantic. The unbroken panorama of sea and sky has been in front of them as they worked through a month of every kind of weather, from bright blue skies to storm-lashed seas.

Northern Lighthouse Board supplied these photos following our story earlier this week on the renewed progress of refurbishment and maintenance work (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17591-lighthouse-work-restarts).

Work on the lighthouse is scheduled to be complete in September this year.

(Pictures from NLB).

 

There are big celebrations taking place in the Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery Team camp this month (August 2020) as they cruise past the huge milestone of raising more than £250,000 for local communities across the Western Isles.

This is no small feat for the team of five, considering the local Lottery was launched just three years ago in August 2017. It’s aim was specifically to raise much needed funds to improve the aesthetics and amenities within communities as well as to provide and support public events. The total figure of £251,696 is compiled of the distribution of £170,977 for community projects with £80,719 being shared out in weekly cash prizes to many happy winners. Numerous locals have now won individual prizes over £1,000 each.

Janet Paterson and her husband, Cally, founders of the Lottery, intended the main purpose of raising income being to fund both the Christmas lights displays and the summer planting projects around the town of Stornoway.  However, they decided to include all Western Isles so every area could benefit.

Janet said: “We are delighted to have achieved our goal, and so much more, over such a short period of time. The project grew from the seed of an idea to replace the depleting community funding. The possibility of the initial plan was researched and, once we became aware of its potential, we approached Tony Robson to join us in the venture.

"We began the setting up of The Western Isles Community Society to facilitate the Lottery with Tony as Chairman of the not-for-profit organisation. Emma Fraser was our next recruit who became Secretary and was quickly followed by Shona MacLeod who is our Treasurer.

"The functioning of a Lottery is complex with multiple legal and financial aspects to it. We had to be confident of having a professional set-up with secure banking systems in place so we sourced, and partnered with, Gatherwell Ltd, an external Lottery Management company who have extensive expertise in all areas. Without their guidance and ongoing support, the Western Isles Lottery could not exist and we have gone from strength to strength by having them work alongside us."

Janet continued: “We were clear in our view that each area should receive proportionate funding so we devised a postcode system whereby the proceeds of every ticket purchased would return to the Supporter’s own community. With a community group identified in each area to manage the local funds, we were on our way. Proceeds are paid directly into each Area’s bank account at the start of each month. There are currently around 2,600 weekly ticket supporters and this level is steadily rising. The more that join in, the higher we can raise the weekly prize pot!”

Emma Fraser said: “There has been a lot of hard work going on over the last three years but there have been many highlights to show for everyone’s efforts. We teamed up with Stornoway Amenity Trust to finance and organise the Festive Light displays in the town over the last three years and have helped upgrade the Switch-on Events. The delighted faces on the children at the Peat & Diesel gig in the Nicolson last November made all the hard work worthwhile”.

There have been numerous and innovative projects carried out across the Isles. As well as supporting local groups’ events, in September 2018 the Lottery Team brought Disney Day to Town which proved to be a resounding success and benefitted businesses by bringing large crowds into Stornoway town centre. A Multi-National Day had been planned for this month, on an even larger scale than Disney Day, to bring all residents together to showcase the best of their own country with international acts from the mainland lined up to provide bespoke entertainment. Unfortunately, current circumstances put paid to these plans but the event will go ahead in the future.

Shona MacLeod of the Lottery Team said: “The joy of being part of this team is seeing the funds being put to such good use throughout all the areas. Lots of improvements have been made and a variety of equipment purchased to provide amenities for all ages. When you look at the lists of awards to date, you can see just how beneficial the Lottery has been. Working alongside the Stornoway Amenity Trust has been valuable in identifying where funds can be best used to give positive impact and these ideas have been shared with other communities."

Tony Robson continues to chair the team and emphasised that: “The Western Isles Lottery continues to make an impact on community projects from the Port of Ness to Castlebay.  The islands need positive things in these times and the local lottery is here to do its bit!

"We would not have been successful in the establishment of the lottery without the vital initial support from local businesses and individual supporters joining in to support their communities. We send our sincere thanks to each and every one who has played their part.”

The Lottery is on track to raise over £75,000 for community projects during its fourth year. To join in and help increase this amount, you can log into www.westernisleslottery.co.uk or phone their dedicated helpline on 0300 30 20 444 (local rates apply).

Three cash prizes currently totalling over £600 are won each Saturday night at 8pm. In addition, the 1st prize is raised to £1,000 once per month.

All updates are posted on the Western Isles Lottery Facebook page and their website is live in “real-time” showing all ticket purchases and funds being raised.

Janet Paterson said “Our moto is ringing true – “Where there’s a WILL, there’s a way.”

 

 

 

 

People travelling around the islands this summer face a hygiene crisis caused by the permanent closure of public toilets and waste facilities in reaction to the coronavirus crisis.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, NHS Western Isles and Outer Hebrides Tourism are reminding both visitors and islanders that a number of toilets and chemical toilet disposal points facilities that would normally be available in the islands are currently closed. 

Toilet facilities are only open in certain locations and at reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing and hygiene measures.  The facilities run by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in the main population centres are open, but most of the facilities in more remote areas are run by volunteers, trusts, or community organisations, who have been unable to adapt to the new operating requirements to control transmission of COVID-19 infection.

Campers and caravanners with chemical toilets are advised to plan their trip so that they can safely dispose of chemical toilet waste at a suitable facility.

A Comhairle spokesperson said “We want everybody to be able to enjoy visiting the islands’ various beauty spots, however there have been increasing concerns raised about public toileting and litter. 

"We are reminding people to check which facilities are open when planning their trip and make sure to ‘go’ before you go. Please carry hand sanitiser, toilet paper and bags with you in case you get caught short so you can dispose of your waste safely. ”

If people cannot make it to a proper toilet then there is advice on the Comhairle’s environmental health page at www.cne-siar.gov.uk/caravanandcampervantoilets

The official tourism information website www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk for the Outer Hebrides has an updated map of the facilities that are believed to be open.  The list is available at-https://www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk/visitor-info/what-is-open-in-2020

A new fund designed to support local regeneration and sustainable development around Scotland’s coast was launched yesterday (Friday July 31) by Crown Estate Scotland.  

The Sustainable Communities Fund, which opens for applications today (31 July), is made up of two different programmes.

  • The Community Capacity Grants Programme, open to all communities within five miles of Scotland’s coastline or one of Crown Estate Scotland’s four rural estates, will provide early stage financial support for community projects that will contribute to local regeneration and sustainable development. Grants will range between £10,000 and £50,000, with a total of £150,000 being made available in the first year of the programme.  
  • The Environment Grants Programme, available to Crown Estate Scotland tenants, will provide grants of between £5,000 and £20,000 for projects which can deliver demonstrable environmental benefits within 18 months of award. A total of £100,000 will be made available for this programme in the first year. Typical projects could include initiatives to increase local biodiversity and activities to reduce flood risk, pollution or carbon emissions.

 Total investment across the two programmes could reach £750,000 over the next three years.

Simon Hodge, Chief Executive of Crown Estate Scotland, said: “We know that across Scotland communities sometimes struggle to get local projects off the ground because they cannot source support early enough. Now more than ever these communities need the opportunity – and funds – to put their plans into action.  

“The community capacity funding is designed to help kickstart long-term change, driven by local people, while the environment programme will support projects that are ‘oven-ready’.  

“Together these programmes reflect our drive to invest in and enable green recovery at a local level. We want to help communities get on with doing what they do best – responding to local needs in a way that provides lasting benefits.” 

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “Communities across the country are playing a vital role in maintaining our resilience, our spirit and local support networks during the Covid-19 outbreak. They will also play a critical role in our recovery from the pandemic.  

 “The launch of Crown Estate Scotland’s Sustainable Communities Fund will provide tangible support to help deliver a green recovery in coastal communities – who are also benefitting this year from £9.7 million of Crown Estate asset revenues - as well as its rural estates.” 

Applications can be made from now on and you can also find out more about Crown Estate Scotland’s wider plans to invest in a sustainable future for communities over the coming years here.  

Full details on the application process and how grants will be allocated can be found here.  

The Community Capacity Grants Programme will be administered by Foundation Scotland and the Environmental Grants Programme element will be administered by Crown Estate Scotland. 

The Eilean Siar Area Support Team will be holding a Children's Panel Recruitment Information Evening on Tuesday 3 September 2019 in Committee 3, Council Offices, Stornoway from 6.00pm to 8.00pm (a drop in, informal session) which is open to employers and anyone interested in becoming a Panel Member.

Another truckload of gifts and aid was packed by Blythswood for the people of Moldova last night (Friday August 30th) in Stornoway.

A fund-raising concert of classical music will take place tomorrow evening (Saturday August 31st)  in St Columba's Church hall in Stornoway at 7.30pm.

St Columba's is a Listed Building, built in 1794, and so requires all renovation work to be done according to Committee on Church Art and Architecture regulations.

Stornoway Ladies’ Rugby team will make history tomorrow (Saturday August 31st) as they kick off their first league game.

The women’s team will be playing at Bayhead against Huntly Ladies RFC in the Tennent’s Women’s League, with a kick-off time of 3pm and a huge surge of energy which has been building up all summer.

Young footballers will be kicking off a cup competition which pays tribute to one of the long-standing supporters of Point FC tomorrow (Saturday August 31st).

Under-13 teams will be at the astroturf pitch in Stornoway from 1pm for the qualifying rounds of the newly-christened Donnie Mata Graham cup.

A week-long celebration of heritage starts today (Friday August 30th), with the opening events in Galson Estate Trust’s Dùthchas Week.

Officially billed for August 31st to September 7th, the events spill over with a wealth of history, culture, music, food and drink and traditional skills.

A watery view of the ancient history of the Western Isles is tucked away in the TV schedules over the next week, with the secrets of Lewis lochs to be shown to a world audience from tonight (Friday August 30th).

Scottish Housing day is a national event which is being held on 18th September.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of housing options in Scotland.

This year’s theme focuses on Housing as a human right. Scottish Housing day brings the local housing sector together to showcase options available to the residents of the Outer Hebrides. Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) alongside partners Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (CNES), Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP) and Western Isles Foyer want to ensure residents of the Outer Hebrides understand their housing options and safeguard their rights as tenants.

Representatives from each organisation will be available at the Stornoway Library from 12pm to 3pm on the 18th of September. They will be able to answer questions and offer advice. It is hoped that the drop in session will improve understanding of the various housing services available.

Development Director Donna Smith of TIG said, “TIG are committed to providing a high quality service to its clients and work in partnership with agencies across the Outer Hebrides to ensure housing needs are met. As well as working alongside partners TIG is proud to have a diverse team of employees who are qualified energy advisors and can help residents manage costs of living in their own homes.”

HHP comment –‘Our vision is to “make our house your home” because we believe that it is only when a house is occupied that it can truly become a home. Our home should be a place of safety and give us all not just the best start in life but provide a solid foundation for our entire lives. We want to play our part in making a good, warm, safe & affordable home a reality for the people of the Outer Hebrides.’

The Comhairle works closely with HHP and other partners to deliver affordable homes throughout the Outer Hebrides to encourage population retention and the sustainability of our communities. Good quality housing and housing services play an essential role in the social, economic and physical well-being of Outer Hebrides residents. The Comhairle’s Homelessness Service and Empty Homes Project will be represented on the day.

Western Isles Foyer’s objective is to help young people to secure a safe place to live, that they can call home and aim to support them feel more socially included, valued, respected and access to opportunities to help them reach their potential. The Foyer work in close partnership with the Comhairle, HHP, TIG and other agencies to make sure young people can access housing services relevant to their needs and circumstances.

For more information contact- Holly Magee, Customer Service & Marketing Officer, TIG

http://www.scottishhousingday.co.uk/

follow @scothousingday on Twitter

 

 

 

 

Sailings of the MV Isle of Lewis tomorrow (Saturday August 31st) will be delayed due to livestock sales in Lochboisdale.

A revised timetable for MV Clasnman brings her to Lochboisdale for 6.30pm to return to Oban following the sale. To avoid a berthing clash at Oban, MV Isle of Lewis’s timetable has been delayed and she will depart Castlebay at 6.45am.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has praised the work of Ruth Davidson MSP who announced her resignation as leader of the Scottish Tories today (Thursday 29th August).

“Since taking over as leader of our party in 2011, Ruth has taken us from strength to strength.

Elections for each of the Community Councils in the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar area are underway.

Nomination papers are available on the Comhairle’s website or from any of the main Council Offices and must be returned by 4.00pm on Tuesday 17 September 2019.

Women are being urged to stand up for politics at a unique event in Stornoway next month (Saturday September 7th).

Scotland’s Women Stand is the latest initiative to address inequalities which keep women from being fully represented in the democratic process, especially at local level.

The Lewis football coach who led Lewis and Harris women to Highlands and Islands league cup glory last weekend (Saturday August 24th) has been named as the north region’s nominee in the people’s choice category of the Scottish FA’s grassroots awards.

Coach Euan Macleod has been recognised for his positive contribution to developing enthusiasm for football among Western Isles women, his nomination coming before he led the women’s team to cup success. He’s one of four nominees for the award.

Livestock prices were better than expected at an extremely wet first sale of the season at Steinish yesterday (Wednesday August 28th).

The sale of lambs and sheep saw 3,900 animals pass through the pens at Lewis and Harris Auction Mart, to be sold under the direction of auctioneers from Dingwall and Highland Marts.

The best of produce from near and far 30/08/2019

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

 

£1.45

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.25

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£2.90

 

Romanesco

 

£1.95

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.50

 

Fennel

 

£1.25

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Organic Chard

 

£2.50

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.95

 

New Season Dirty Carrots

 

£2.55

 

Bunched Carrots (Inverness)

 

£2.55

 

Ginger

 

£5.00

 

Horseradish

 

£15.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£3.20

 

Duke of York

 

£1.65

 

Premier Potatoes

 

£1.65

 

Shallots

 

£5.35

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£3.25

 

White Turnip

 

£3.35

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Organic Lettuce Leaves

 

£2.25

 

Cucumber (local)

 

£1.15

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.25

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.95

 

Scottish Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Tomatoes (Plum Vine)

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Discovery Apples (UK)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.75

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Red Delicious

 

3 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Charentais Melon

 

£2.50

 

Nectarines

 

3 for £1.50

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.50

 

Peaches

 

3 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Raspberries (west Hardmuir)

 

£3.50

 

Satsumas

 

4 for £1.50

 

Victoria Plums

 

10 for £1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Blueberries (West Hardmuir Fruit Farm)

 

£19.00

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

The first new independent dental practice established in the Western Isles in over 30 years was officially opened this morning (Thursday August 29th) by Public Health Minister, Joe FitzPatrick.
The Castleview Practice on Cromwell Street, Stornoway, opened to the public under the direction of owner, dentist Mr Sridhar Kalvakuntla earlier this year.

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil has strongly criticised the decision to suspend sittings of the House of Commons during September and early October.

He said yesterday (Wednesday August 28th):

“The steps taken by Prime Minister Boris Johnson today to suspend Parliament is unbelievable and shocking.  I have received calls from people in other countries asking what is going on in the circus of UK politics.

Police in Lewis and Harris are to be issued with new technology which allows them to record details of incidents without having to return to base.

Training in the use of the new hand-held mobile devices begins on Monday (September 2nd) and the island force is expected to be using the new system operationally by mid-September.

Stornoway police are appealing for public help after an assault was reported in public toilets in Stornoway yesterday (Tuesday August 27th).

At 3.30pm yesterday a woman called police to report an assault within the public toilet on Perceval Square in the town centre.

One of Luskentyre’s famous white ponies is to appear as a calendar star in the BBC Countryfile calendar for 2020 – and she could even be on the front cover.

Visitor David Brown is one of hundreds of photographers, amateur and professional, who capture a picture of Eriskay pony Isla and her companion, Highland pony Toby, on the dunes at Luskentyre each summer.

Residents of Great Bernera are to be among the first in the UK who will be able to order installation of the fastest fibre broadband connections currently available, it was announced today (Wednesday August 28th).

A collaboration between BT Openreach and the £442 million Digital Scotland (DSSB) project means that 220 homes in Great Bernera should now be able to install ‘full-fibre ultrafast broadband’, with speeds of 30 megabytes per second (30Mbps+). Previous download speeds were around 2Mbps.

Two of the UK’s most westerly small island communities - Great Bernera and Grimsay - are now the best-connected as well - as full fibre broadband networks go live in the Outer Hebrides, linking direct to each home.  

Now, every single one of the 113 households on Grimsay is able to access reliable, ultrafast broadband, while on Great Bernera all 220 households can connect.

Police officers in the Highlands and Islands will start using mobile devices as part of their operational duties which will increase their visibility within local communities.

Officers will be able to access a wide range of police systems while out on duty without the requirement to return to a police station and log on to a computer. 

Two nights of sophisticated pleasure are promised by Stornoway Singers on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st September, as they take their Night at the Opera to Stornoway and Harris.

The choir of talented singers and soloists will be accompanied by a small chamber group, including Neil Johnstone on cello and Andy Yearley on keyboards, as they present a delectable menu of opera classics.

The Loomshed Brewery near Tarbert was officially opened yesterday (Tuesday August 27th) by James Hepburn, MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, who is on a visit to various parts of the Outer Hebrides.

As he declared the brewery open – it is in the former Essence of Harris unit in Urgha -he joked that he was grateful they had provided scissors…he had been at such events where the need for this vital component had been overlooked.

Improvements are being sought following a report issued to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar after the official Inspection and Review of Sgoil Bhàgh a' Chaisteil and Sgoil Àraich by Education Scotland.

It says a very positive start has been made by the headteacher which is improving the culture for change within the school.

She has recently established more effective systems and processes for monitoring and evaluating the work of the school.

The Alzheimer Scotland annual 5K Memory Walk in Stornoway is being held on Saturday 31st August.
Registration is from 11.30am at the Bridge Centre, Bayhead.

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

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

Change of top net design at fish farms at three locations, Tarbert

Mowi Scotland has applied for planning permission to change the existing top nets from a hamster-wheel design to a pole-supported top net design at the fish farm at Eilean Raineach, East Loch Tarbert; Scotasay, East Loch Tarbert; Loch Seaforth, Maraig.

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 major housing development, Newmarket

Hebridean Housing Partnership has applied for planning permission to build general needs housing and associated external works at Blackwater, Newmarket. Approximately 74 houses are to be built.

The Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland will be visiting Stornoway between 23rd and 27th September. 

Established to assume the traditional roles of the Bands of the Scottish Infantry Regiments, the Scots Band supports the British Army and the State at all ceremonial occasions that occur in Scotland, including Garden Parties, State Banquets and Guards of Honour at The Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh and Stirling Castles and Balmoral.

A series of images of life in Eriskay in the 1930s have been brought back into focus, thanks to work by a University of Aberdeen researcher.

Now curators at the museum which holds the collection are asking if anyone from the islands can add even more information to the photo records.

A digger being used during restoration work to the gardens of Lews Castle was vandalised overnight last night (Monday August 26th).

Police said the Volvo digger was parked overnight at the Sunken Gardens near to Lews Castle and that some time between 5pm yesterday and 7.55am today (Tuesday) windows were broken on the vehicle.

Anyone who knows anything about the damage is asked to contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number, 101, quoting incident number NH1184/19.

A road safety course designed to safeguard motorcyclists if they have accidents on island roads is coming to Stornoway on Saturday (August 31st).

The free, three-hour Biker Down course is the first ever to be run in the north of Scotland and is based on the idea that bikers will have accidents, but their survival and injury chances can be improved by better awareness.

Course leader Gary Wood of Fire Scotland told welovestornoway.com today (Tuesday): “This is a UK-wide initiative which started at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, where they ran a number of initiatives trying to reduce the number of people killed or injured on the roads. They found that they couldn’t make any headway with reducing accidents, so they decided to come at it from a different angle and try to ensure a better outcome if bikes do crash.”

A call has been made for a comprehensive funding review of how rural housing is funded and delivered for the islands.

Councillor Donald Crichton, Chairman of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Joint Consultative Committee, on Crofting called for joined-up thinking from Ministers to tackle depopulation and utilise Croft land to encourage young people to live and work in rural communities.

The inaugural Award for Significant Contribution to Gaelic Development from the Donald Stewart Memorial Trust has been jointly won by Katie Gillies, of The Nicolson Institute and Uilleam MacDougall, Sgoil Bhàgh a’ Chaisteil.   

The Award has been established in recognition of Donald Stewart’s work on, and support of, the Gaelic language whilst serving as MP for the Western Isles.

The inaugural Award for Significant Contribution to Gaelic Development from the Donald Stewart Memorial Trust has been jointly won by Katie Gillies, of The Nicolson Institute and Uilleam MacDougall, Sgoil Bhàgh a’ Chaisteil.   

The Award has been established in recognition of Donald Stewart’s work on, and support of, the Gaelic language whilst serving as MP for the Western Isles.

A healthy crowd flocked to Steinish last Friday (23rd August) as the Auction Mart played host to the Lewis and Harris Sheep Producers Association’s (LHPSA) Autumn Event.

Following an introduction from LHSPA Chair Iain Maciver, Jane Thompson of Shearwell Data Ltd entered the auction Mart ring. Jane began by talking the crowd through correct tagging procedure before giving a demonstration of Shearwell’s EID scanner. The scanner sends information read from a sheep’s tags to your smartphone, giving better control over data management and record keeping.

Classic car owners from Lewis and Harris are being called out for a winter photoshoot as the UK’s biggest selling classics magazine comes to the islands.

The Western Isles are the ‘challenging’ location chosen by Practical Classics magazine for an annual feature designed to show off both cars and scenery, in the hope of inspiring readers to get more of both.

The first Point Beavers and Cubs will be outside this evening (Monday August 26th), building shelters among the trees at their first meeting of the new term.

The group of boys and girls, aged between six and 10, will be starting the season as troop leader Janet Ross-Jordan intends to go on – outside and dressed for the weather as often and as late in the year as possible.

Eight drivers were warned by police over the weekend of August 23rd to 25th, in a series of incidents on the road.

Police detected offences including careless driving, anti-social driving, driving without correct documentation and speeding, with fines being issued to most of the drivers.

Music students from the Lews Castle College UHI courses based in Benbecula came together in Stornoway on Thursday and Friday last week to graduate in Stornoway.   

Lewis and Harris women’s football team ended a glorious phase of women’s football in the islands with a cup triumph yesterday (Saturday August 24th).

A fault on the main power network has left customers in Lochs without electricity for much of the day today (Sunday August 25th) with some customers still in the dark this evening.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks said over 450 customers had been affected since 1.40pm in areas including Leurbost, Balallan, Grimshader and Ranish.

Highland dancers from Lewis and Harris were resting their feet today, after a busy and successful days yesterday (Saturday August 24th), with a dance festival and a cruise ship coinciding in a single day.

The Mackinnon Festival, hosted by Sharon Mackinnon School of Highland Dancing, saw dancers from across the Western Isles and from Skye, Gairloch, Stonehaven, Munlochy and Caithness competing for trophies.

Athlete Paul Finnegan says he’s determined to swim the Minch, after his attempt last night (Saturday August 24th) ended 8.7 miles into the crossing.

The endurance athlete joined his team aboard the support boat Endeavour at 12.45 this morning (Sunday), admitting defeat when he became unable to keep down either food or water.

“Did one artist do all this?”  Variations of this question were asked in An Lanntair’s main gallery throughout yesterday (Friday August 24th) evening as the new show ‘All That I Do’ began to allow people to explore the work of locally-based artist Tom Hickman.

Working from his home in North Tolsta, whatever the material, Tom follows his impulse to create which he says has never wavered since his childhood in the Mull of Kintyre.

A Stornoway author and a Ness champion of Gaelic education have been awarded honorary fellowships by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Malcolm Macdonald and Annie Macsween were presented with the awards at the Lews Castle College UHI graduation ceremony at Martin’s Memorial Church, Stornoway, on Friday 23 August. 

Mr Macdonald, who grew up in Stornoway, co-authored The Darkest Dawn with the late Donald John MacLeod. Published in 2018, the book details the tragedy of the Iolaire, a ship which sank near Stornoway harbour in January 1919 causing the loss of many Royal Navy reservists returning home at the end of the First World War.

The annual Lews Castle College UHI graduation and prize giving ceremony took place this afternoon (Friday August 23) at Martin’s Memorial Church in Stornoway. 

Lews Castle College Principal Iain Macmillan welcomed the graduates, students, families and UHI guests to the graduation before introducing guest speaker, Professor Alasdair Smith.

The date has been set for the second of this summer’s Big Minch Swims, with swimmer Paul Finnegan set to embark on his attempt tomorrow evening (Saturday August 24th).

Harris councillor Paul, who works for Harris Voluntary Service, was due to be swimming alongside Minch king Colin Macleod in June, but a bad chest infection set back his training and he was then due in Gibraltar, where he was one of the coaches for the NatWest Island Games Team.

Stornoway police are looking for a cyclist who was involved in an altercation with a driver in Stornoway on Wednesday evening (August 21st).

They have made the appeal after a car driver reported an assault in Perceval Square shortly after 7.25pm.

The final resting place of the HMY Iolaire is to be recognized as an official war grave by the Ministry of Defence. 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has warmly welcomed this news.  This comes after a long campaign led by the Comhairle, with support from the community and the local MSP Dr. Alasdair Allan, to have the site recognized and protected. 

The best of produce from near and far 23/08/2019

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

 

£1.60

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.15

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.85

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£3.30

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.50

 

Fennel

 

£1.25

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Small Garlic

 

£0.65

 

Organic Chard

 

£2.50

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.95

 

New Season Dirty Carrots

 

£2.55

 

Bunched Carrots (Inverness)

 

£2.55

 

Ginger

 

£5.00

 

Horseradish

 

£15.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Duke of York

 

£1.75

 

Premier Potatoes

 

£1.75

 

Shallots

 

£5.55

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£3.65

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Organic Lettuce Leaves

 

£2.25

 

Cucumber (local)

 

£1.15

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£4.25

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£5.95

 

Scottish Tomatoes

 

£4.25

 

Tomatoes (Plum Vine)

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Discovery Apples (UK)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.75

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Red Delicious

 

3 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£1.00

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Charentais Melon

 

£2.15

 

Nectarines

 

3 for £1.50

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.50

 

Peaches

 

3 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Raspberries (west Hardmuir)

 

£3.50

 

Mineolas

 

3 for £1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Blueberries (West Hardmuir Fruit Farm)

 

£19.00

 

Bramleys

 

£2.95

 

Cherries (UK)

 

£9.00

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

Lews Castle College UHI’s graduation ceremony at Martin’s Memorial Church tomorrow (Friday August 23rd) will offer students an opportunity to celebrate both what they have achieved and who they have become, according to the keynote speaker.

Professor Alasdair Smith is returning home to Lewis to deliver the graduation address. One of an accomplished and well-respected family, he grew up in Ness and Sandwick, where his Breasclete-born father was headteacher first of Lionel School and later of Sandwick School. His mother was from Newvalley.

Members of uniformed services and supporters of military charities are among the visits on a whistle-stop tour of Stornoway by a parliamentary spokesman on military affairs today (Thursday August 22nd).

Scottish Conservative MSP for West Scotland Maurice Corry is convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on armed forces and the veterans’ community. He’s also a former territorial army officer and army reservist, his last posting serving with 7 Scots.

Furnished house to let in Cameron Terrace, Leurbost  
 
3 Bedroom semi-detached house convenient to shop, school and medical practice. 10 minutes from town.
 
£420 pcm plus bills No smoking.  
No pets 
Immediate entry available 
 
Landlord registration no. 376030/235/09301
 
For further enquiries telephone 01851 860466 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Western Isles MP is encouraging constituents to check their domestic white-goods appliances.

“With 47 fires caused by tumble dryers in Scottish homes last year and a major, ongoing tumble dryer recall, all of us need to check and use them safely”, explains Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus MacNeil.

Grinneabhat Community Project is offering a chance to remember loved ones and to support the development.

Urras Coimhearsnachd Bhràdhagair agus Àrnoil (UCBA), the Bragar and Arnol Community Trust, on the West Side of Lewis has introduced a fundraising initiative which will also ensure a lasting memorial to people with a connection to the area.

Andrew Macdonald, originally from Upper Bayble, plans to row 100km on an indoor rowing machine within 12 hours to raise funds for the Maggie’s Centre charity, with the intention of raising at least £1,200.

On October 4, the policeman who lives in Edinburgh is set to face the challenge of rowing approximately 12km further than the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry route.

The son of the late Iain C Macdonald and Alice Macdonald, Andrew has been inspired to raise money for Maggie’s, a cancer-support charity, after his wife, Louise, was diagnosed with breast cancer in summer 2018, aged just 35.  

Stag Bakeries announced a ‘breakthrough’ in the saga of the broken oven today (Wednesday August 21st), with a temporary fix that puts their iconic plain loaf back on local shelves.

The Stornoway-baked bread, officially named best bread in Scotland earlier this year, has been missing from island tables for over five weeks, after a pump broke in the specialist deck-oven which is needed to bake the plain loaf.

Barra RNLI Lifeboat was launched yesterday afternoon (Tuesday August 20th) to the assistance of a small leisure vessel which had run out of fuel and was drifting, six miles south-east of Barra.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre tasked the lifeboat after receiving a call at 2.30pm, saying that the 70-year-old man, who was alone in the vessel, was in need of assistance.

Emergency teams were called to Eriskay yesterday afternoon (Tuesday August 20th) when a 37-year-old man was reported to be in the water off Bun a Mhullin.

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call from the Scottish Ambulance service at 1.40pm, saying they had had a report of a man in the water.

Two men in a small boat found themselves drifting in Broad Bay without engine power yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 20th August).

Stornoway Coastguard operations centre received a call saying the men were in difficulty off Portnaguran at 3.27pm, and tasked Stornoway RNLI Lifeboat and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team to attend.

A media broadcaster who grew up near Stornoway has been named as the University of the Highlands and Islands Alumnus of the Year.

Anne Lundon, a BBC broadcaster who studied at Lews Castle College UHI, will be presented with the award at their graduation ceremony on 23 August at Martin's Memorial Church of Scotland.

The award is presented to a former student in celebration of their services to the community, achievements in arts or sciences, business or in public or academic life.

Bàtaichean agus Eile (Boats etc), the latest exhibition at Comann Eachdraidh An Rubha, showcases the talent of local craftsmen whose interest in the sea and boats has inspired them to construct impressive models of a variety of types of boat.

The exhibition opened in the Comann Eachdraidh’s area in the Old Knock School – now home to Buth an Rubha, Café Roo and Point and Sandwick Trust – in June and will run for the foreseeable future. It is supported by Point and Sandwick Trust.

The idea for the exhibition came about when John Campbell (Iain Nommie) of Portvoller – the maker of the famous Iolaire model – donated some of his other models of boats to the Comann Eachdraidh.

The Hebrides International Film Festival will take place at venues throughout the Outer Hebrides – from the Butt to Barra – from September 12 to 14.

There will around 78 screenings at 12 venues over the three days, from Thursday through to Saturday, with final arrangements now being made for the event.

The number of police officers serving in the Highlands and Islands divisional area has fallen in recent months.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has expressed concern after the publication of a report which shows that the numbers serving in the region had gone down by 13.

Competing statements were issued during this afternoon (Tuesday August 20th) by the Bethesda Trustees and the Integration Joint Board which links Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles.

This exchange follows the rejection by the Bethesda Trustees last week of a new deal from the IJB and is part of a dispute over funding going back several years.

The Bethesda Trustees said they “were unable to accept the offer proposed by the IJB as it is putting the organisation at risk and jeopardising the service.”

The IJB replied by saying: “Despite public claims to the contrary, no evidence has been presented that Bethesda is currently an organisation in financial distress.”

 

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 to house, Northbay

Michael Cox of Santa Maria, Ardmhor, has applied for planning permission to build an extension onto the house at Santa Maria, Ardmhor. The extension is to be a small, single-storey, flat-roofed, lean-to type extension on the gable end adjacent to the kitchen for use as a utility room. 

 

Tonight’s concert (Tuesday August 20th) due to be played in Castlebay by the Nevis Ensemble has been cancelled, because of a technical issue affecting the ferry.

MV Isle of Lewis is delayed from her 1.30pm run, which would have brought the 40 orchestral musicians and their tour managers to Castlebay in time for tonight’s performance at Castlebay Community Hall.

 

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

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

 

Shepherd's hut for holiday let, Maraig

David Phillips of 7 Maaruig has applied for planning permission to erect a shepherd's hut to be used as a holiday let, at 3 Eileanabuich, Maraig. The building will be 5.1 metres long, 2.4 metres wide and 3 metres tall. The walls are to be clad in larch and painted blue.

 

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 pipe bridge, Newvalley 

Scottish Water has applied for planning permission to install a pipe bridge in Newvalley. (see below images)

Veterans of the armed forces are being invited to a meeting tomorrow evening (Wednesday August 21st) with the Scottish Parliament’s shadow spokesman for veteran affairs.

The Scottish Conservative MSP for West Scotland, Maurice Corry MSP, is also convener of the cross-party group on armed forces and veterans community, and he’s in Stornoway on a fact-finding visit to see what concerns veterans the most.

Scotland's only Street Orchestra is heading for the Outer Hebrides, with a full bill of events in Lewis on Monday August 26th.

The Nevis Ensemble has as its vision ‘music for everyone, everywhere’, and they are set to prove it with a series of concerts in community halls, schools and much less traditional venues – such as beaches and airports.

Scotland's only Street Orchestra is heading for the Outer Hebrides, reaching the Isle of Harris on Friday (August 23rd).

The Nevis Ensemble has as its vision ‘music for everyone, everywhere’, and they are set to prove it with a series of concerts in community halls, schools and much less traditional venues – such as the beaches at Seilebost and Luskentyre.

Scotland's only Street Orchestra is heading for the Outer Hebrides, making its first stop in Castlebay today.

The Nevis Ensemble has as its vision ‘music for everyone, everywhere’, and they are set to prove it with a series of concerts in community halls, schools and much less traditional venues – such as the beach at Vatersay and the airport at Traigh Mhor.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil is reiterating his call to island parents to ensure their children receive lifesaving vaccinations.

This comes following recent media reports that the UK has lost its World Health Organization ‘measles-free’ status.

A 20-year-old woman is to appear in court after an incident yesterday morning (Monday August 19th) at an address in Laxdale.

Police were called to the address at 6.50am and the woman was arrested and later charged with police assault and resisting arrest.

She was taken to Stornoway police station, where she was charged and released when sober, on an undertaking to appear at Stornoway Sheriff Court on Tuesday September 3rd.

The Western Isles need better basic facilities if visitors are to get the best out of their holiday, according to one of the Lewis’s regular tour guides.

Guide Maggie Smith of Lochs has made the call after leading a party of American tourists through a number of disappointments on Sunday (August 18th) during a tour to the Butt of Lewis. Her experiences were, she said, all too common.

Posting on Facebook after the tour, she showed one of the reasons for her concern. She said: “This picture was taken from the ‘car park’ at the Butt of Lewis, which was empty due to the huge puddle bang in the middle of the access. Another two coach companies decided not to brave the puddle – they parked on the road and their passengers walked up to the Butt.

Gaelic writers at any level have a chance to improve their skills during a Lewis-based development week.

Applications for the event close tomorrow (Wednesday 21 August) at 5pm.

Ten writers will have the chance to take part in the development of a new Gaelic drama work. 

The event will be held from 29 September to 4 October.

Two places are reserved for under-30's and two places are reserved for those from the Western Isles and Skye.

An event involving “Concerned Christians Meeting for Prayer” has taken place again in Stornoway and a further such event is now planned.

On Friday August 16th a number of Christians came together for the second such meeting in the APC church in Keith Street, Stornoway. 

A broken-down refuse truck is to be recovered by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on the road from Tarbert to Scalpay this morning (Tuesday August 20th).

The work to move the truck means the road will be closed for an indefinite period from 10am, while cranes are brought in to lift the vehicle from the verge where it is currently stuck.

The Castlebay offices of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are without email or telephone services today (Monday August 19th).  

A public notice from CnES states that engineers are expected on site in Barra at 6pm tonight.

Meanwhile the main contact number has been redirected to customer services in Stornoway.

All emails will be queued until communications have been restored.

Fire stations throughout Lewis and Harris will be open for all on Saturday (August 24th), as Fire Scotland makes a bid for new recruits to the service.

Fire stations in Stornoway, Ness, Shawbost, Great Bernera, South Lochs, Tarbert, Scalpay and Benbecula will all have their doors wide open between noon and 4pm with a host of come-and-try opportunities for young and old.

Concerns have been reported across the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye as well as other island groups about the installation of home energy products.

Now Trading Standards teams across the North of Scotland are reminding householders to be on their guard if they are approached by individuals offering to install home energy products.

An improved offer of support for Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway has been made by Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB), which is responsible for funding health and social care services in the community.

The IJB is a partnership between NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, which manages funding agreements for the hospice and other care services including community nursing, social care and GP services.

An expected early start from Stornoway harbour tomorrow morning (Monday August 19th) is due to mark the start of this year’s guga hunt.

A moment of history was marked in St Kilda last night (Saturday August 17th) as the island’s seasonal workers and visitors lifted their last toast at the Puff Inn.

The iconic watering hole has closed after over 50 years providing the only social gathering place for MoD personnel. By invitation, it also offered a sociable shelter for the conservation workers and working volunteers who make up the summer population.

A man was airlifted from St Kilda on Saturday (August 17th) after falling suddenly ill while he was there.

The man complained of severed stomach pains and Coastguard helicopter R948 was sent to bring him to Stornoway for medical examination.

He was landed at Stornoway airport and taken onward to Western Isles Hospital in the care of a Scottish Ambulance crew.

 

Stornoway police are asking for witnesses to an apparent assault which happened in the early hours of this morning (Sunday August 18th) outside licensed premises on North Beach Street in Stornoway.

Two men were reportedly fighting when a woman intervened and was assaulted in the street around 12.45am today.

Police are asking for witnesses to the incident so that it can be determined whether any charges are to be made. They’re asking witnesses to quote incident no NH 1137/19.

 

Assault within hospital

A 43-year-old man was found injured in the street by police at 4.25am today (Sunday August 18th) and was taken to Western Isles Hospital.

A programme of events entitled ‘Community and Dementia: Creating Better Lives’ is coming to the Western Isles on the 16th 17th and 18th of September to find out what people living with dementia and their carers say really matters to them.

The three days will include storytelling sessions, a garden party, art therapy sessions, and finishing with a full ‘Creating Better Lives’ conference.

A pioneering new play, written by Ness resident Ron Coleman, who lives with early-onset dementia, is in rehearsal at An Lanntair.

Creating has become a way of life for self-taught artist Tom Hickman – from wool-work pictures to dry-stone walls and everything in between.

Signs encouraging road users to 'let cars behind past' are needed on single track roads, says MP Angus MacNeil.

The Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP has written to Transport Minister Michael Matheson MSP to suggest that more signage is needed to raise awareness about the use of passing places on single track roads.

On Saturday 7th September, a group of staff from Stornoway's An Lanntair arts centre will be walking to work..but not just from round the town.
Nope…they will be covering 16.5 miles all the way from the Callanish Stones to An Lanntair!

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed today’s (Friday August 16th) announcement by the Scottish Government that it has taken the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow under public ownership.

Today’s agreement will enable completion of the two dual-fuel ferries under construction for CalMac.

A road in the Castle Grounds has been closed today (Friday August 16th) as Stornoway Trust workers begin felling a large tree affected by recent heavy rains.

A branch from the mature beech tree fell overnight. The tree is now to be completely felled to prevent any danger to walkers and customers of the castle, museum and college staff and students.

Stornoway muscle-man Stuart Macdonald is coming home from the Bahamas on a high, after being officially honoured as one of the world’s top five fitness models.

Stuart was placed fourth on his first attempt at the World Beauty Fitness and Fashion championships, held in the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday last week (August 9th and 10th).

Engineers from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks acted quickly this morning (Friday August 16th) to avert a possible major power outage in Harris and Scalpay.

Two teams of engineers from SSEN were hard at work in ‘unpleasant conditions’ between 1am and 4am today, after routine inspections revealed a power pole which was severely bowed under strain and likely to snap.

Outer Hebrides Tourism has appointed a new marketing co-ordinator to make the most of the numerous stories the islands have to tell.

Christina Morrison (28) has come to the post after studying and working in events and marketing in Glasgow and in the islands. She'll be working from home in South Uist, with a remit to support tourism businesses with marketing that works for everyone.

The Samaritans of the Western Isles have received help from some Samaritans of their own – in the form of community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.

The Trust have donated £3,000 to the local charity to help with the costs of upgrading their base in Stornoway in order to help them help people in their hour of need.

Those old spectacles, those neglected and forgotten glasses…there's a chance to put them to good use.

Search 'em out, and on 22nd October, between 7-9pm, get round to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Newton Street, Stornoway, and drop them off to bring hope to others throughout the world. 

The glasses collections are organised by the Lions Clubs International, which is an international non-political service organization. 

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

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

Isle of Lewis

Extension of Mosque, Stornoway

Stornoway Masjid has applied for planning permission to extend the mosque at 14A James Street. 

 

Scottish Rugby today (Thursday August 15th) announced Walker Slater, in conjunction with Harris Tweed Hebrides, will be the Official Formalwear Partner for the next two seasons.

The historic fabric has been applied to a bespoke tweed in keeping with the rich rugby heritage and colours associated with the national team and governing body.

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

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

Replacement of existing antenna and addition of antenna, Northbay

Arqiva has applied for planning permission to replace the existing antenna and add a new antenna at the telecommunications mast at Bruernish, Northbay. 

Lewis and Harris Auction Mart has seen an unprecedented surge in bookings for early sales this season, with Brexit uncertainty fuelling some of the rush to sale.

The first sale of the season, of lambs and sheep on Wednesday August 28th, closed to bookings more than two weeks before its expected close date of August 21st, having reached sale capacity of 4,000, mostly lambs.

A Dundee University student has recreated the face of a Stornoway woman – 2,000 years after she was last seen alive.

Edinburgh student Karen Fleming has created the three-dimensional model of the Iron Age woman from wax as part of her Master of Science (MSc) degree in forensic art and facial identification. She’s been named 'Hilda' and she's to go on display from Friday as part of the University of Dundee’s Masters Show, which showcases the work of 80 students studying for masters’ degrees.

A 20-year-old man was stopped by police in Willowglen, Stornoway yeste