A respiratory assessment and Covid-19 treatment resource will be set up in Castlebay School and Leisure Centre.

At present, no Covid-19 cases have been identified in the Western Isles.

However, the precautionary measure has been taken given the the limited resources on Barra and Vatersay, and the distance from the hospital.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will work with the community to establish a local Shielding and support resource to coordinate all Local Authority and Community resources.

 

 

With the confirmation – after the appearance of the official figures yesterday (Monday March 30 ) – of a coronavirus case in Orkney, the Outer Hebrides is now the only area in Scotland with no officially confirmed coronavirus cases.

NHSWI chief executive Gordon Jamieson - in a broadcast on Twitter (https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1244724025873530880?s=21) said preparations on the Islands now included the basing of two military officers at NHSWI headquarters on South Beach.  He emphasised the need to maintain the highest possible vigilance and to maintain the lockdown as tightly as possible.

Customers of Veggie Box are being warned to get their orders in today (Monday March 30) because of changes with deliveries on the mainland, ferry times and the like.
They are telling customers this morning: "I think the vast majority of our orders for last week went through OK but we did have a few hiccups along the way and I just want to apologise to anyone affected by this.
"We were caught out by the demand and the systems that we have in place to deal with our regular customers were somewhat overwhelmed and as a consequence we did struggle, we have had a think about this and have looked to change a couple of things to try and make sure the same things don't happen again.
"The main change is that our supplier has asked for our orders to be in with him by Monday afternoons each week.
"I appreciate this is short notice for yourselves but we only just found out. Consequently we will deliver and have pick-ups ready, probably on a Thursday but we will confirm this nearer the time.
"If we can ask that all orders are received by either email, text or telephone, we will the reply to you with a 4 digit order reference such as A001, if you have placed an order and haven't received the reference number within a day, then please do get back in touch."

Salvors are continuing to bring personnel and resources to the grounded cargo vessel MV Kaami, which remains high and dry on rocks between the Isles of Skye and Lewis.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency are supporting a specialist salvage team of seven people, who began work on the vessel on Wednesday (March 25).

Today (Sunday March 29) there has been activity around the vessel including from the dive vessel Venture, operating between Tarbert, Scalpay and Uig in Skye. The tug Multratug 3 is now on guard duty maintaining an exclusion zone of 500 metres around the vessel, and Coatsguard emergency towing vessel (ETV) Ievoli Black is in port in Stornoway ready to take over duties when required.

A detailed damage assessment established that around 28 cubic metres of diesel had escaped from the ship by Friday. The Scottish Environmental Group is aware of this and have assessed the impact of the pollution as low and non-persistent.

The Maritime Accident Investigation Branch is carrying out an investigation remotely with assistance from the salvors. A fixed-wing aircraft, provided by the MCA, has been making flights over the vessel to make observations.

Secretary of State’s Representative Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP) Stephan Hennig has set up a Salvage Control Unit (SCU) which last met on Friday.

A salvage plan is expected to be submitted by the salvors to the SOSREP for review and approval. Measures are being put in place to deal with any pollution from the ship.

Drift modelling for any potential release of cargo from the ship is being carried out to assess extent and impact on the marine environment and the shoreline, though the cargo, which is described as non-hazardous and biodegradable, is currently safely in the hold. 

 The picture shows MV Kaami aground on the rocks south-east of Lewis (Maritime and Coastguard Agency).

Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay has spoken about the ongoing work being carried out by the Comhairle and other agencies across the Western Isles in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“I am full of admiration for the ongoing response work being carried out by our staff and those in other agencies, including - but not limited to - Public Health, Department of Work and Pensions and Hebridean Housing Partnership.

“This is likely to be the most challenging set of circumstances that most of us have ever faced in our lives. However, by working together and following advice - particularly to stay at home unless absolutely essential - I am confident that we are well prepared and that we will come through this stronger as a community.

“No one is complacent, as no one knows to what extent we will be affected, but all our work last week, this week and next week is about effective preparation.

“My main message to each and every one of you, is that you look after yourselves, and look after each other.

“The following are just some of the key steps that we have undertaken in response to the crisis.”

Volunteers

We have launched an online form and Contact Centre 01851 822899 to collect details of individuals and community groups throughout the Western Isles looking to provide volunteering support during COVID-19.

The Contact Centre will operate Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and enable the Comhairle to match volunteers against the needs of individuals and families in our communities.

We would also urge anyone in need of help or support to contact our Customer Services team in the usual manner on 01851 600 501. We are anticipating a high number of calls, therefore we would ask for your patience

Education & Children’s Services

Education & Children’s Services are pleased to report that out of 313 teachers, 160 have volunteered to be deployed anywhere across Comhairle. The EIS have been - and continue to be - very supportive around this issue. There will be 268 pupils and staff in schools over the Easter break in order to support Key Workers.

Provision for Key Workers

It is currently expected that the period of closure announced by the Scottish Government will extend into term four. It is not clear at this time how long closure restrictions will last.

We will review how the hub approach to provision operated during the holidays and are likely to continue that approach in term four.  Where there is demand for it, we will open additional hubs, with provisional plans to do so at Daliburgh School and Sgoil an Rubha. Any changes will be communicated to key worker parents in good time

 Free School Meals

The Comhairle has made a commitment to make a payment of £154 to the parents of every child in P4-S6 who qualify for Free School Meals, covering the period from now to 30th June 2020. In P1-3, the same payment has been made to all those in receipt of School Clothing Grants.

 Education Maintenance Allowance

We recognise the importance of these payments to the young people who receive them and have made a commitment to make a single advance bulk payment to all eligible pupils to cover the time from now to 5th June. The situation will be reviewed after this date and a further payment up to 30th June 2020 may be made.

 Vulnerable Pupils

The Scottish Government has made provision to allow councils to continue to allow children and young people with complex ASN needs and other vulnerabilities to continue to attend schools and centres where their needs are best met.  Comhairle officers have worked with schools to identify and support vulnerable young people and make provision for them. Provision will be discussed with each individual family and confirmed by the HT or senior officer.  From Tuesday 14th April, identified vulnerable pupils who have been attending at their local school will be able to access provision at the hubs unless it’s been agreed with parents to provide bespoke provision elsewhere. The provisions for vulnerable pupils are the same as the ones described above for key workers.

Home Care

The Home Care Service has been indirectly affected by COVID-19, in that a number of staff have had to self-isolate due to underlying health issues. Remaining staff have assumed additional hours allowing the Service to continue much as before. We are also in the process of training additional, new staff who have responded to Mr Ron Culley’s public appeal. The response to Mr Culley’s public appeal has exceeded 100 applicants. We are in the process of examining each and every application, and prioritising those applicants with existing and valid PVG and/or those with relevant caring experience. In addition to this, a significant number of families have assumed caring responsibilities, both all or in part which has allowed Home Care staff to focus on covering service need arising out of staff absence.

Business Support Grants

The Comhairle has been accepting applications since Wednesday 25th and there has already been a significant number of applications received. Staff are working through these as quickly as possible and would request that applicants do not submit multiple emails seeking updates, we are dealing with these in the order we received them and will contact applicants as these are processed. The first payments under the scheme will be made today. This will provide support to 30 businesses. Queries about support for businesses that are not eligible for this scheme should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

An online form is now available for Council Tax Reduction applications. Members of the community who experience a reduction in income, and who have capital of less than £16k, can apply.

Partnership

The Comhairle and NHS Western Isles continue to work closely in a joint response to the Covid-19 crisis. The Pandemic Resilience Group, which is multi-agency, also continues to meet regularly and is attended by the Comhairle Chief Executive and chaired by the NHS Western Isles Chief Executive. In addition, all NHS Western Isles local news updates - as well as our own - are on the special section of the Comhairle website. Rest assured will continue to work in close partnership with a range of agencies across the Western Isles and particularly our colleagues in Public Health.

 

The roll-out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline officers in local policing divisions across Scotland is expected to get under way next week.

The team coordinating the Police Scotland response to coronavirus (COVID-19) has been working round the clock to secure, order, receive and distribute the appropriate equipment.

More than 630 officers have already received the kit, including FFP3 masks, gloves, boot covers, coveralls and goggles.

Officers across Operational Support Units, Border Policing, custody and in some rural areas have already received the PPE.

The Flexible Response Unit is likely to be deployed across the country in possession of full kit to support operational officers at the weekend.

Now it is anticipated that an extended roll-out of fitting, training and issuing of kit will be under way next week across all local policing divisions as well as within specialist services on a 24/7 basis.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “Our officers are playing a vital role in keeping people safe at this extraordinary time and we want them to have the right protective equipment to enable them to do their jobs with confidence.   

“We have had several teams working continuously on procuring and distributing vital supplies to staff and these are being issued across priority areas, with significant orders for more items, including masks, goggles and gloves, scheduled for delivery over the coming days and weeks.

"The procurement of available PPE is a key piece of work being undertaken in challenging circumstances due to exceptional levels of demand and we are streamlining and simplifying the process where possible.

“We are working with the Scottish Government and partners, and at a UK level, to ensure required PPE is delivered as quickly as possible."

 

The forlorn queue of normally chatty Stornowegians standing two metres apart in a long winding windswept queue told the story.  Bustling Stornoway was no more. Lockdown was almost entire, paper notices flapping on door after door, in doorway after doorway.  Closed for the duration.

This was Thursday March 26th 2020. And like for any stressed-out population in the grip of a natural catastrophe, the various queues often led to only already empty shelves.  People wrote on welovestornoway.com’s Facebook page of the problems for the old, the disabled, even just for those whose health will not survive waiting for hours in the rain even if the coronavirus never touched them.

Meanwhile the umbilical cords that bind the Islands to the mainland were cut time after time.  The airport will shut on Sunday, ferry services were sliced back, and there will be no Hebceltfest this year, breaking a tradition lasting back a quarter of a century.

Isles MP Angus MacNeil says travel restrictions to the islands are the right course of action and encourages islanders who rely on bus services to contact Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

In response to the Covid19 outbreak, Calmac are maintaining essential lifeline timetables on ferry services and there are also changes to flight timetables from Stornoway and Benbecula. There are no changes to the Barra flight timetable.

All bus services around the islands have been suspended but vital transportation will still be available for some.  Affected island residents should contact the Comhairle’s Transport Office on 01851 600 501 as soon as possible.  Mr MacNeil said: “The changes to travel to and from the islands are absolutely necessary to address the current situation we find ourselves in.  Many island residents rely on the bus service so I would urge people to contact the Comhairle as soon as possible.

“We must be thankful more than ever for island life – although it is vital that public transport is available, we have to be realistic. We can’t assume Covid19 is not here so we must make sure we are all following the advice provided on social distancing.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar clarified its rules on Refuse Collections.  Householders who present their bins for collection as the collection vehicle approaches are reminded to keep their distance for collection staff and remain at least 2 metres from their bins until after the bins have been returned to the kerbside.  There should be no interaction with the collection crew.

Bennadrove Landfill Site; Amended opening hours from Monday 30th March 2020 for the acceptance of commercial and industrial wastes only; Mon – Thu 1100hrs to 1630hrs and Fri 1100hrs – 1600hrs.

Rueval Commercial Waste Reception Area; Amended opening hours from Monday 30th March 2020 for the acceptance of commercial and industrial wastes only. Mon 0830hrs – 1630hrs. Tues – Fri Closed.

Household Recycling Centres will remain closed.

CalMac is introducing an Essential Lifeline Timetable from tomorrow (Friday 27 March). The new reduced timetable, which will run for an initial three-week period, comes amidst a lockdown on all but essential travel across the whole of the UK. It will be subject to continual review in a rapidly changing environment, but they believe it is sustainable with their current crews.  The new timetable can be viewed at www.calmac.co.uk

Limitations in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is one of the chief concerns of rural companies during the COVID-19 crisis, Scottish Land & Estates said. The rural business organisation has conducted a survey of members across Scotland to find out what proactive measures are being put in place by companies - and what issues they are facing in the months ahead.

The three key requests expressed in the rural business survey are:

  • Greater flexibility in the job retention scheme to allow the ‘partial furlough’ of staff;
  • A relaxation of some regulation to allow essential business activities to continue where appropriate;
  • Reminders about people not travelling unnecessarily to rural areas to be continually pressed home by government.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The nature of rural business means employees often undertake many roles, some of which are not currently required due to the measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We would like to see greater flexibility in the job retention scheme to allow the ‘partial furlough’ of staff which would afford businesses the financial support to reduce staff hours but keep ticking along, ready for eventual reopening.”

Isles MP Angus MacNeil also welcomed a decision by CalMac to hold off planned fare rises.  Fares are being temporarily frozen on the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) network to help island residents and businesses during the outbreak of coronavirus.

 Angus MacNeil said: “This is a very welcome and correct move by Calmac who have listened to the concerns raised by me and my colleague Alasdair Allan MSP. This will be some relief to businesses who are like so many, under financial pressure.

Alasdair Allan said: “Freight and haulage companies are among the main users of island ferries, now that ferry timetables have been cut back and sailings have been restricted to essential travel only. Many local businesses face huge financial strains at the moment, while they carry out the essential task of providing food and medicines to island shops and health providers. 

“A number of businesses have approached me in recent days to ask what can be done to ensure the planned fair rises for this month are held back until after the present crisis, to ensure that we do not risk further pressures during a fragile situation.  These are issues I have been raising with Government.

“I was very pleased to hear the announcement from ferries minister Paul Wheelhouse that the fare rises planned have now been held back, an hope this provides some breathing space for businesses providing essential public services.”

Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron has said that the Chancellor’s emergency measures to help the self-employed will be warmly welcomed across the Highlands and Islands.

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP: “I am delighted that Rishi Sunak is acting so boldly to protect the self-employed during this crisis.

“This is something that the Scottish Conservatives have been lobbying very hard for.  Many people in the Highlands and Islands work flexibly, and have more than one job, so these measures will be particularly welcome here.  It is only right that the UK Government has stepped in and, in the Prime Minister’s words, “put our arms around” everyone who needs help.”

Cameron has also highlighted the work of a charity in recruiting “kindness volunteers” to help vulnerable people.  Mr Cameron said: “This is a fantastic initiative by Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland to which I wish to draw attention in my motion to Parliament. It is heart-warming how people are rising to the challenge by offering to volunteer in so many ways. Kindness has become a kind of watch-word as people reach out to help those most vulnerable. It is inspiring how our communities are coming together.”

 

Keep your care home visits essential only, the Comhairle are urging.

The new restriction will come into event from 7:30pm this evening (Thursday 26 March.)

Amongst those visitors who are deemed essential are immediate family members of service users receiving end-of-life care or service users who need substantial support because of dementia, a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the service user to be distressed. The Comhairle is also asking visitors to consider whether a visit is essential even in these circumstances.

The Comhairle is making this decision in order to help safeguard service users’ health and wellbeing.

Jack Libby, head of Community Care, said: “Managers and senior staff from each Care Home will make contact with affected family members at the earliest opportunity today.

"We understand that this may cause some upset, however, this is a very serious and developing situation and we need to respond to medical advice and Scottish Government guidance when issued.

“The decision will be reviewed within 3 weeks and we will keep families appraised of any further developments.”

Heb.net will continue to provide its broadband service for another month.

The service was due to end on Tuesday 31 March, leaving many customers trying to find replacement internet services as the shutdown was announced.

HIE asked Scot.net, who host the service, to retain Heb.net for a further month.

Commenting Angus B MacNeil, MP for Na H-Eileanan an Iar, said: “This is a welcome decision and for those who have not yet found a new provider this will be a lifeline during this crisis.

"It is up to individuals to contact Heb.net through their own account page to ask for the service to be maintained, it will not automatically carry on.

"If you have not found a new provider contact Heb.net as soon as you can to ensure your service continues.

“I had written to Paul Wheelhouse MP Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands to ask for an extension and am pleased that this is now happening. HIE are to be commended for this turnaround and for all the work they have done in helping people move to other providers.

“Given the current uncertainties it is good to note that there may be further extensions if needed. This will also be a chance to determine what continued demand exists for this service.”

A reduced ferry timetable will be introduced tomorrow (Friday 27 March.)

The timetable will run for an initial period of three weeks and will be subject to continual review.

The Essential Lifeline Timetable will ensure all islands receive regular deliveries of goods and services.

In the last few days passengers on the entire service were down by 85%, cars by 75% and commercial traffic by 45%.

In 2019 daily passenger numbers at the end of March were around 9,500, currently they are at 1,500 and these are expected to drop further. CalMac has also seen 8,000 bookings cancelled through their contact centre teams compared to just 300 in the same period last year.

This new timetable will see weekly sailings drop from 2419 to 948 against the normal winter timetable – a drop of almost 61%.

"We believe that this timetable will be able to maximise use of available crews for the vessels and continue to provide our vital lifeline service for communities," said CalMac's Managing Director, Robbie Drummond.

"These are extreme times for businesses across Scotland, the UK and indeed the world. As this virus spreads there is the chance that pressure on crewing may require us to make further changes. In this eventuality, we will work to our agreed Route Prioritisation Matrix to ensure that all Islands receive a service. We are in daily contact with the Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland to ensure we are on top of all the latest advice and guidance.

"Given the lockdown from the Government that has made travel essential only, we think this new timetable is one that best suits the needs of the communities we support.

"It is important that we continue to provide ferries that can take vital goods and services to our island communities and transport people who have essential travel needs. Community groups and key hauliers have been consulted to ensure that the supply chains can be maintained."

The new timetable can be viewed here.

Police in Stornoway are appealing for any witnesses or information after a window of a vehicle was vandalised on Napier Hill in Stornoway at the weekend.

The white Vauxhall Corsa was left in perfect order around 7pm on Saturday 21 March and discovered around 3pm on Sunday 22 March with damage to the window.

Anyone with information or who may have seen or heard any disturbance is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they wish to remain anonymous.

The incident number for this is NH/343/20.

Efforts continue today (Wednesday 25 March) to get salvors to the cargo vessel Kaami, which remains aground on rocks in the Minch, between the Isles of Skye and Lewis.

A specialist salvage team from the Resolve Marine Group has been appointed and has arrived in Stornoway.

Resolve have their headquarters in America and offices in Rotterdam and London. They are specialists in salvage and wreck removal with their own team of divers, engineers and salvage masters.

The Norwegian-owned, 90-metre general cargo ship, which ran aground in the early hours of Monday morning, has damage to the port side of the vessel. She was carrying non-hazardous cargo of wood and paper pellets for use as fuel.

All eight Russian crew members were lifted from the vessel by Stornoway Coastguard helicopter R948, during an operation which also involved Portree RNLI lifeboat and the Northern Lighthouse Board service vessel Pharos.

The Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV), the Ievoli Black, continues to stand by the vessel. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCGA) said today that there is no reported pollution since the initial grounding and the small amount of oily pollution when it first grounded has dispersed in the rough seas.

The Secretary of State's Representative for Maritime Intervention and Salvage (SOSRep) along with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's counter-pollution team continues to liaise with the ship's owners, holding regular conference call meetings to discuss next steps.

The picture of the grounded vessel during the crew rescue was taken from Portree RNLI lifeboat by Donald Budge and is used by permission of the RNLI.

 

Flights between Stornoway and Inverness have been cancelled with immediate effect from today (Wednesday 25 March).

News of the cut came to booked passengers last night with emails from Loganair cancelling their flight arrangements. There are no new bookings available on the online system until at least April 20th.

Cancellation of the three-times-a-day service comes on top of previously notified cuts of all Edinburgh flights and some flights to Glasgow.

It means that, from next week, the only air-bridge between the Western Isles and the mainland will be to Glasgow, with two flights a day shared between Stornoway and Benbecula, and the existing service to Barra maintained.

With non-essential travel already forbidden by UK and Scottish Government, those most affected by today’s changes will be hospital patients travelling to Raigmore Hospital for essential treatments and diagnostics. Raigmore is a regional hub serving the Highlands and Islands, with specialisms including oncology and coronary care. Treatments including radiotherapy for people with cancer are delivered at Raigmore to island patients.

Loganair announced today that staffing at their call centre was being reduced to allow for social distancing. Call centre hours are also being reduced.

A spokesman said: “Loganair’s call centre will continue to operate in order to help customers who still need to travel or need help with present or future bookings. The transport sector is seen as vital by the government and we intend to play our part where we safely can.

“We ask customers to be patient and bear with us at this time. Please do not phone our phonelines unless you are travelling within the next seven days as the reduced staffing will be unable to accommodate anything but the most urgent of cases.”

 

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is urging residents to support their local news providers, both paper and online.

“Our local media is indispensable, particularly during an emergency like the one we are experiencing, when up-to-date and reliable local news is at a premium, and many people are self-isolating at home.

“Our local newspapers and dedicated online news providers provide a vital public service not just by reporting local news but also by promoting social cohesion amongst our communities.

“We owe a debt of thanks to the editors, journalists and their support staff who have continued to produce topical and relevant information for our local communities.

“We have never needed our local media more than we do now.”

Prioritised testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) will allow key health and social care workers to return to work, the Scottish Government has announced.

NHS Western Isles has welcomed the newly published guidance for NHS Scotland to prioritise testing to enable health and social care staff to get back to work, based on the pressures Health Boards are already facing.

As testing capacity increases, this will be extended to other key workers.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “It is essential that front-line health and social care staff can remain at work. To help to save lives, we must continue to prioritise testing in hospitals. All remaining capacity must be used to ensure that critical staff can return to work as soon as possible.

“I am publishing guidance for the NHS to support use of the testing capacity in our laboratories, in so far as it is not needed for essential care, in order to enable health and social care staff to be back at work when that is safe.

“NHS boards will prioritise testing, based on where the pressure is felt most in their workforce and in social care.”

Boards are being asked to prioritise testing the symptomatic household members of health and social care staff – in cases where the staff have no symptoms but have to remain in isolation because a family member does.

This will mean that where the household member tests negative, the health or social care staff member will not have to isolate for 14 days, and this will have the greatest impact in reducing working days lost.

For example, if a nurse is symptomatic and receives a negative test result three days after the onset of symptoms, the number of working days could be reduced by four because they would not have to complete the full seven days of self-isolation.

However, if that nurse is in household isolation because their son has a fever and cough, they would normally be required to stay in household isolation for 14 days. If the son is tested and receives a negative test result three days after symptom onset, the number of working days lost would be reduced by 11.

Boards will prioritise in areas where staff are most needed. While one board may have pressures in their midwifery services and so prioritise testing in this group, for example, another may need to prioritise Intensive Care Units (ICU) consultants.

The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus, Clarence House has confirmed.

Prince Charles, who is aged 71, is displaying mild symptoms "but otherwise remains in good health".

The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus.

Clarence House said Charles and Camilla are now self-isolating at Balmoral Castle.

The Scottish Government is being urged to reverse planned cuts to the Highlands and Islands 

Shadow Finance Secretary, Donald Cameron, has asked for plans to be changed in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an exchange of letters with HIE chief executive Carrie Buxton, it was revealed that HIE proposes to balance its books by slashing the financial support it gives to business across the region. During the last financial quarter alone (Oct-Dec 2019) HIE provided financial awards to nearly 100 businesses and organisations in the region.

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “The Covid 19 emergency will require a profound rethink of many decisions, including budgetary decisions, that were made before the implications of the pandemic became clear.

“Clearly, It would be folly to slash support for businesses at a time when they are facing unprecedented challenges and wondering what the future may hold for them and their employees.

“The business community in the Highlands and Islands is characterised by small enterprises which simply lack the liquidity to sustain themselves for a prolonged period without income.

“They will naturally look towards Highlands and Islands Enterprise for support and advice, which it is uniquely placed to provide, because of its understanding of the distinctive nature of our economy and the enterprises which provide its backbone.

“I will be speaking to ministers, as well as HIE, to urge that this is looked at as urgently as possible so as to reassure everyone affected.”

David Stewart MSP has also asked the Scottish Government if it will reverse the 5% budget cut to HIE to support businesses and economic recovery following the crisis.  “The effects of the Coronavirus shutdown on businesses – including restaurants, shops and arts organisations – is going to be huge. We welcome the support that the UK and Scottish Governments has announced, but it may not be enough. Businesses must be reassured they will not come out of this crisis saddled with debt.

“The cuts being passed down to HIE for the coming financial year were always short-sighted, however, the impact that these cuts are going to have now due to the additional pressures being put on businesses across the region by the negative economic impact of Covid-19 bring this into even sharper relief.

“HIE play an essential role in strengthening local communities across the Highlands and Islands, which is one of Scotland’s most economically fragile areas. It is vital that the Scottish Government reverse the cuts and show a commitment to supporting businesses and economic recovery in the region once we are through this crisis.”

 

Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, has expressed his concern over the coronavirus' long-term effects on the community.

Mr Mackay has written to Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, regarding the current lack of funding support for the Self-Catering Industry in the recently announced support packages.

Mr Mackay, said: “I believe that whatever direct damage COVID-19 causes to health and well-being, there may well be much longer and embedded effects from the impact on communities from the loss of business, industry and jobs. Therefore, it is vital that we do what we can to maintain key sectors so that they can bounce back quickly when this crisis is over.”

He added that: “Those who run self-catering and B&B businesses throughout the islands are a really significant contributor to the local economy, as I am sure they are in Ms Forbes own constituency, and they are deserving of similar levels of support to that on offer to retail and hospitality.

“I know that the First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and indeed Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, all value and understand the hugely important role of this sector in rural Scotland and particularly in the Highlands and Islands.

"I am sure that they will make every effort to support them in conjunction with the UK Government grants scheme. Whilst I do understand why they would seek to exclude empty holiday homes from this scheme, I think that asking for evidence of trading, such as submitting accounts to the Inland Revue and having a tax reference number, will sort that.”

Highlands and Islands, MSP Donald Cameron, commented: “We have many business providing self-catering accommodation across the Highlands and Islands and their owners stand to lose significant amounts of income during the pandemic.

“While the UK Government has included self-catering businesses as eligible for some support in England and Wales, we have not yet seen an equivalent measure announced by the Scottish Government, and this is causing confusion and concern across the region.

“We have raised the issue of self-catering accommodation directly with Scottish Ministers, to ensure that the right businesses are eligible for support from the Scottish Government in these difficult times.

“We have been assured that this is being looked at with urgency and I hope this provides some re-assurance to worried business-owners.”

Don’t expand your permitted exercise plans by heading for the hills, urges Highland MSP.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron urges hillwalkers to keep away from the mountains until the coronavirus pandemic is over, and not to regard a high-level trek as an option for exercising.

Mr Cameron said: “In recent days members of the Oban Mountain Rescue Team have been out in the hills assisting walkers who have got into difficulty.

“They have been supported by the police and the ambulance service as well as by helicopter crews.

“At a time like this when the emergency services are likely to find themselves at full stretch it is simply not acceptable for people to put themselves in a position where they require this level of assistance.

“There are other options for taking exercise outside which should, in any event, be taken close to home and without risk to themselves or others.

“I would plead with anyone thinking about heading for the hills to think again and heed the advice of Mountaineering Scotland: ‘Stay Local, Stay Safe’.“

Meanwhile Margo Paterson, Chief Executive of Hostelling Scotland, said: “It is with great sadness that we have had to temporarily close our Youth Hostel network until further notice. However, the health, safety and wellbeing of our people and guests along with protecting the communities in which we all live and work is our utmost priority at this time.

“The current situation is difficult for everyone and if ever there was a time for communicating with mutual understanding, this is it. We will keep in touch with you through our monthly e-newsletters and social media channels. You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Further information is always available on our website and you can also email us with any enquiries direct at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We really appreciate the hard work being carried out by all healthcare workers and those on the front line, looking after people and keeping us safe. Although our hostels are closing, we shall be talking with the NHS and other public services to see how best our hostels can support essential services.

“Thank you for your continued support of Hostelling Scotland. It gives heart and hope to hear messages of support and to know that so many people have plans to explore this beautiful country of ours and to stay in our Youth Hostels in the future.

“When we all start travelling again, we will be here for you and ready to provide the warm welcome you’ve come to expect from our organisation. Please stay well and look after one another.

"We look forward to welcoming you again very soon.”

The UK Government today (Tuesday March 24) sent out a text to every mobile phone alerting people to the new clampdown on free movement. This came after a confusing day when the Government in Scotland pursued a policy, intimated yesterday, of shutting the construction industry while the Government in London took a a different view.  The time when the text arrived appeared to depend on which network users were on.

All hospitals in the Western Isles are closed to visitors, NHS Western Isles says.

This follows yesterday’s Government announcement and instructions,

"This decision has been taken to protect our staff and patients, and to ensure we take every step possible to protect and preserve our hospitals and healthcare facilities at this time of very significant risk.  This new measure is in place with immediate effect.

NHS Western Isles Nurse and AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, said: “Looking after our patients and staff is our main priority and every step we take is to support them. We understand that this advice will be upsetting and hugely challenging, however, I would like to thank all staff, patients and carers for their continued support during this time.”

What does this mean for you?

  • Regrettably, you will not be allowed to enter the hospital to visit friends or relatives.
  • If the clinical staff feel that the clinical condition of any patient warrants the presence of family members, they will make direct contact with you.
  • We appreciate your understanding at this very challenging time.

Today’s Met Office weather warning of heavy rain throughout the Western Isles has been updated to reflect an earlier improvement in the conditions than first forecast.
Heavy rain and strong winds are forecast to continue through today (Tuesday 24 March) and into the first part of tomorrow, with the warning now expected to expire at 6am on Wednesday.
A SEPA flood alert also remains in force for the whole of the islands, with a risk of flooding to low-lying land and roads from rivers and surface water through Tuesday and into Wednesday.
Western Isles Weather also reported that the wettest place in the entire UK on Monday was Quidinish in the Isle of Harris, with 20mm of rainfall.
Picture shows: lovely weather for ducks, seabirds in Harris (Carolyn Leah).

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has taken steps to ensure the continuation of free school meals and Education Maintenance Allowances (EMA).
Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education, said: “We wanted to make sure that all the young people who qualify for EMA continue to receive support. We hope this action will provide some additional level of financial support in what is a difficult time for families.
For each qualifying student, the Comhairle has made an advanced payment of £30 per week up until the 5th of June 2020. This will be reviewed on the 8th of June and another advance payment will be issued to those eligible till the end of term on 26th of June 2020.
Mr Chisholm, continued: “All families with pupils in nursery and from P1 to S6 whose children qualify for Free School Meals will be paid £154 per child for the period between now and the 30th of June 2020. All families with pupils in P1 to P3 who qualify for Assistance with School Clothing will automatically qualify for this Free School Meal payment.”

Castlebay Co-op will be closing at 8pm this evening (Tuesday 24 March.)

Staffing levels have been cited as the reason for the early closure.

The shop will be back open tomorrow (Wednesday 25 March) at 7am.

With shop shelves emptying rapidly, food suppliers also today (Tuesday 24 March) have to deal with a second day of weather disruption to the ferry service.
The service between Oban and Castlebay has been cancelled and MV Loch Seaforth has tied up in Ullapool for the day after the early sailing from Stornoway.
She’s not due to return until 6.30pm and is operating as a freight only service.  The late running service after yesterday’s cancellations has left shops depleted of stock, at a time when unusual buying behaviour is already affecting what is on the shelves.
Co-op Stornoway’s store manager Steven Macaulay said the store were waiting for a return to normality in buying patterns.
He said: “Until we can get to a position of normality it is very challenging. With no ferry returning until this evening, on top of people’s current buying patterns, it is having a real impact on us.
“We are limiting people to two items per category of foodstuffs, but until we get the stock levels back to normal we’re not going to be managing to re-stock fully.”
The Co-op has introduced an ‘extra assistance’ hour for vulnerable shoppers between 8am and 9am daily, but Steven stressed that it was not possible to close the store to other shoppers, though older and vulnerable customers would be prioritised.
Meanwhile Tesco’s superstore in Stornoway this morning saw the first dedicated shopping hour for NHS staff and home carers, between 6am and 7am. The set-aside hour is to be in place every Tuesday morning.
A store spokesman said: “We all know how hard the NHS are working right now.  Many of them haven’t had the chance to shop for themselves.”
NHS shoppers who took advantage of this morning’s hour were presented with flowers on leaving the store and applauded by Tesco’s staff as they left the shop.
One NHS worker said: “Wow Tesco's. Not only did you open early for NHS staff you were lined up clapping us and gave us flowers when we left. You guys are amazing too!”

Police Scotland is going to clamp down on social movement in advance of the passing of the new laws designed to enforce the latest coronavirus restrictions.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone QPM said: “We are fully behind the new measures announced by the UK and Scottish Governments to increase social distancing, and I urge and expect everyone to comply with them.
“We are aware of the proposed legislation in relation to coronavirus and are carefully considering the implications in this very fast moving situation, which presents the gravest of threats to the nation.
“In the meantime, Police Scotland has a clear, positive duty to both protect life and improve the safety and wellbeing of people across Scotland, while supporting the government and health agencies in our fight against this pandemic.
“Therefore, until the new legislation is in place, we will be increasing police patrols in key areas across the country to engage with and provide guidance to anyone in contravention of the measures.”
Earlier he said:” "I have always been clear that the Police Service of Scotland operates for the ultimate benefit of our fellow citizens and it is the consent of our communities from which we gain our authority and legitimacy.
"Your assistance, support and co-operation is vital during this critical period and I am grateful to the overwhelming majority who have complied with the significant sacrifices and changes to their lives that are needed to protect society.
"Our officers and staff are displaying great strength and resilience as they support the work of health professionals and wider society in what is a national effort.
"Yesterday, officers served emergency closure orders on the small number of licensed premises failing to comply with a Government request to close on the grounds of the threat posed to public safety.
"We are carefully monitoring the progress of emergency legislation relating to COVID-19 and we will continue to work with the Government about what is being asked of the public and the enforcement we will take where necessary.
"My priority, as always, is to ensure the people of Scotland are protected and policed effectively.
"Those breaking the law will be dealt with appropriately to ensure the public is kept safe from risk and harm.
"I urge you all to stay informed about developments and reflect on how you go about your lives during these difficult days.
"We, in Police Scotland, will continue to focus on public service and we must all work to support the national effort."

Eight crew members from a Norwegian-owned bulk carrier vessel have been brought ashore in Stornoway, after their ship ran aground in stormy seas in the early hours of this morning (Monday 23 March).

The Russian crew were aboard the MV Kaami, a 90-metre long general cargo ship which was passing through the Minch on her way to the port of Slite in Sweden.

Her crew called for help from Stornoway Coastguard operations room after running aground by the cardinal buoy at the Eugenie rocks (Sgeir Graidach), north-west of Fladdah Dhauin and east of the Isle of Harris at around 1.50am today.

The crew were lifted from the vessel by Stornoway Coastguard helicopter R948 and brought to Stornoway, where they were passed into the care of the Fishermen’s Mission.

The Northern Lighthouse Board vessel Pharos and Portree RNLI lifeboat also stood by during the difficult rescue operation in stormy winds and high seas.

The un-manned vessel is still fast on the rocks mid-Minch, with the Coastguard tug Ievoli Black standing by. A pollution aircraft has overflown the site and reported no visible pollution. The aircraft also gathered visual data on the vessel’s structure, position and condition to help plan future salvage once the weather has improved.

Crewmen are now being accommodated at a Stornoway hotel, supported by Stornoway Shipping Services.

The picture shows the casualty vessel in her home port (Misje Rederi AS).

 

NHS Western Isles

  • Additional Visiting Restrictions
  • Dining Room closures to the public
  • Patient Travel Office – new arrangements

In response to Coronavirus, NHS Western Isles has taken some additional significant steps to protect patients, staff and visitors.

Additional Visiting Restrictions

Following Scottish Government guidance, we have, from today, Monday March 23, brought in stricter guidance for visiting patients in NHS Western Isles hospitals.

Dr Maggie Watts, Director of Public Health said “It is essential you do not visit a patient in hospital if you have a cough, flu like symptoms or a fever. We need to all work together to protect patients, families/carers and staff as much as we can.

“No children should be visiting hospital unless this is in exceptional circumstances and approved by the nurse or midwife-in-charge. We are also asking all visitors not to congregate outside wards or in corridors.”

From today – the guidance for people visiting patients in hospitals in the Western Isles is:

  • visiting is limited to one visitor per patient, between 7pm and 8pm
  • please contact the nurse in charge if there are exceptional circumstances – e.g. parent of a sick child, nominated person for a vulnerable adult or visiting a person receiving end of life care. 

 NHS Western Isles is urging people to use their health services wisely as it deals with the emerging situation.

NHS Western Isles Nurse and AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, said: “Looking after our patients and staff is our main priority and every step we take is to support them. We understand that this advice will be challenging for you, however, I would like to thank all staff, patients and carers for their continued support during this time.”

Hospital Dining Rooms closed to the public

NHS Western Isles has also today taken the decision to temporarily close its hospital Dining Rooms to the public.

The Dining Rooms in Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway, and Uist and Barra Hospital, Benbecula, will remain open for staff only, until further notice.

This is to ensure traffic through our hospitals is kept to a minimum.

Patient Travel Offices – new arrangements

NHS Western Isles has taken the decision to close all three of its Patient Travel Offices to members of the public.

Members of the public requiring the services of Patient Travel are being advised to contact the offices by telephone or email. Staff will remain available to take calls and make travel bookings.

Telephone contact can be made from 9.00am-1.00pm/2.00pm-4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Lewis & Harris Patient Travel Office 

Tel:  01851 708021     This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Uist Patient Travel Office

Tel: 01870 603606     This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Barra Patient Travel Office

Tel: 01871 810431    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Travel documents can either be emailed or posted to patients.

Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) has today (Monday 23 March) announced that it is to set up a pandemic support fund for the local community.

Calum Macdonald, development manager for PST, said the trust would use all income not already committed to support the community effort needed to get through the pandemic.

He said: “We are very lucky that there have been no reported infections in the island as yet and we pray that it remains that way. But whatever happens, we will have to pull together to help each other and also to help the fantastic health and care workers we have in these islands to tackle this virus.

“That is why the Board have decided to use all its spare income in 2020, or to the end of the emergency, to set up a Pandemic Community Fund. We will have discussions with local organisations including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles to work out how the fund can best be used. We also hope to have discussions with other funding partners and intend to support work being done locally by Point, Sandwick and Stornoway Community Councils and others.

“The full impact of the pandemic in those countries worst affected has been traumatic. We have to be ready for it coming here, when it will be all hands to the deck.”

The announcement has met with a positive response from Community Council chairs. Bob Walker, chair of Sandwick Community Council, said: “Never since the end of World War Two has our island and nation seen such potential devastation to our society and we must all come together and support and help one another.”

Chris Tom Mackenzie, chair of Point Community Council, said: “With services already stretched and struggling this will provide a much-needed lifeline to many in our community during this difficult time for our island. I would hope that this will also encourage other organisations to also help their communities where they can.”

Joan Muir, chair of Stornoway Community Council, said: “Although there have been no confirmed cases in our community there are many affected by the current crisis. By working together, supporting each other in a co-ordinated response we can help our community get through this unprecedented situation.”

 

Loganair has today (Monday 23 March) hit back at comments from people wishing them to limit who can travel to the Scottish islands.

Loganair’s social media have been inundated with comments from people asking why they, too have not decided on a policy of refusal to travellers visiting the islands who do not have a ‘legitimate reason’ to be doing so.

In this morning’s statement, a Loganair spokesman said: “There has been comment recently regarding Loganair continuing to fly to and from the islands.

“In response we would like to say that we have been flying throughout Scotland and the Islands since the 1960s, and throughout those many years of service, has always had the best interests of the community at heart.

“We are continuing to fly all island lifeline routes on a skeleton schedule during the current crisis. However, we should point out that Loganair is neither legally nor morally able to make unilateral decisions as to who can, and cannot, travel on its flights.

“The decision to restrict travel or movement within the UK more broadly or within Scotland has to be a Government initiative with which, of course, we would comply fully if the time comes.”

Their response comes as CalMac followed yesterday’s guidance from the First Minister and announced a clampdown on ferry travel by people who are not island residents.

A CalMac spokesman said yesterday: “From now on ferries will be for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland, and for essential supplies or business.  Nothing else. The return of non-residents from islands back to the mainland will also be deemed essential travel. 

“If you have already bought or booked a ticket but your travel is not essential, then you should not be travelling, and you must contact us for a refund. We expect the travelling public will listen to this new guidance to keep everyone of us as safe as possible.”

 

The Old Mill Veterinary practice in Stornoway has this morning (Monday 23 March) put in place new arrangements to protect staff and customers from the spread of Coronavirus. The new arrangements mean that animals are allowed inside the building but their owners are not.

In a statement released as the business opened this morning, they said: “We continue to operate as normal (with stringent biosecurity measures). All pre-existing appointments remain, although this is subject to change at any point. 

“Due to the current COVID-19 situation, we are at this difficult time preventing ALL clients from entering our surgery. When you arrive with your pet for a consultation please knock on the window at reception. You will then be checked in a mobile number will be taken and you will be asked to wait in your car. 

“You can speak to the vet or nurse by phone or from a safe distance. We are sorry that you cannot attend your pet’s examination but we must enforce social distancing measures to protect our team and to continue to provide our vital service. 

“A member of the team will replace your dog’s lead with a slip lead provided by the practice. When your pet is returned if you could please pay for your appointment over the phone or through the window. 

“If you have any questions please call 01851 705900. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation at this difficult time.”

New opening hours have been put in place from today (Monday 23 March) at Barra airport.

It’s part of a network-wide change of operations announced by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) on Friday.

From today, the airport will be open only between 11am and 3pm on weekdays, 10.30 to 3.30pm on Saturdays and for just an hour and a quarter, from 11am to 12.15pm, on Sundays.

The timings will allow scheduled flights to and from the island to continue, but reduce the potential for passengers to meet and mingle within the airport building.

The change has also led the management in the airport’s iconic café to shut up shop earlier than they had intended to. Sharon Penny posted on the café’s well-followed Facebook page on Friday afternoon, saying: “That’s all folks! Thank you to all our customers over our six-and-a-half year tenure but, due to the current situation, we have decided to cease trading earlier than planned. We shall be clearing out and leaving the premises to the new franchisee.”

HIAL is in the process of revising opening hours for all 11 of its airports in the region. On Friday a spokesman said: “The unprecedented global health crisis is affecting every aspect of our lives and it is a particularly challenging time for the travel and aviation industry. 

“In line with public health guidelines, airlines have reduced their scheduled services and we anticipate further reductions in service will come. 

“HIAL's priority is to continue to provide the lifeline services that are essential for our communities whilst maintaining the health and wellbeing of its staff. Therefore, HIAL is reviewing the operating hours at each of its 11 airports to accommodate current airline timetables whilst at the same time maintaining staff resilience to ensure lifeline services can continue. Details of any amendments to airport opening times will be detailed on the HIAL website.”

Inglis Lyon, HIAL's Managing Director said: "These are extraordinary times we find ourselves in, and our overriding priority is the continued operation of the necessary lifeline services for our communities and the health and well-being of our teams.

"Our staff are following the guidelines issued by Public Health Scotland and have appropriate equipment and materials to safely execute their roles. We continue to review the situation and have contingency plans in place to ensure we continue to operate where needed.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff who are working to pull out the stops to do exactly that."

Melissa Silver reports from Lesvos as news comes in of a new case of coronavirus

"The island of Lesvos has gone into lockdown, and with no known active coronavirus cases currently on the island, am I mad about the fact that I’m stuck inside? The short answer is no.

"There was one positive case a few weeks ago, a local woman in a village in the south of the island – she had recently travelled to Asia - and she is now out of hospital and is said to be recovering fine at home. It seems impossible that there could really be no more cases but that is what we are led to believe"

…That is what I had just written, intending to write a "it's good to follow the rules even if it doesn't seem necessary" kind of article, when my phone beeped. Another coronavirus case was announced - in Mytilene (the town of 30,000 people, where I live right in the centre). A man who had been in Thailand has tested positive. His wife is now also showing flu symptoms. The man is in quarantine at home while his wife is in hospital.

Could there be a more perfect example of why lockdown – or isolation, or whatever you want to call it, whether you choose it or it is chosen for you – is necessary? I was following the rules (social distancing, a lot of isolation apart from outdoor walks, endless hand washing, etc.) partly out of paranoia (already being a bit of a germaphobe), partly out of a disbelief that that one case could really be the only one, and partly to get used to living a certain way before it became seriously necessary (it seemed inevitable).

And now we’re here. There’s those two, and we don’t know who they came into contact with before going into quarantine, or who the people they came into contact with have been in contact with...

Everyone should already be behaving like the virus is everywhere, and now, here, we have to assume it is.

While I feel physically sick at the thought of what this could mean for the vulnerable people here, the locals and the refugees, my heart aches for the Hebrides, too. I live in dread of the day I read that the virus has made its way there – but it will, if it hasn’t already.

So, please, for yourself, for your family and for mine, stay inside, avoid close contact with anyone, wash your hands more than you think is necessary, and then once more. The more careful we are now, the shorter this painful period will be, and the fewer lives will be loss.

Take care, everyone.

At time of writing, the UK has 5,018 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 240 deaths. (Population 66.44 million)

Greece currently has 530 confirmed cases and 13 deaths. (Population 10.74 million)

Our correspondents in Spain and Greece talk of ever tightening coronavirus lockdowns.

Why is welovestornoway.com telling you about this…because these are communities just like ours - not big cities - and this is what other countries are doing. 

Amanda Darling reports from rural Spain

The situation is relentless, the rising number of deaths here in Spain means that Spain has now got more deaths than any other country other than China or Italy.  Spain’s deaths have gone from 1350 yesterday to 1813 today. An increase of 34%. 

The State of National Emergency has been extended for a further two weeks and I would not be surprised if it lasted for two months or even more.

We are not allowed out of our homes except for essentials; food, pharmacy, fuel, allowing dogs to defecate, but only 50m from your own house.

We have to carry identification, and from today (Monday March 23) to fill in a form which has your tax number, where you are coming from and where you are going to.

Our nearest shops are in a village called Competa which is about five kilometres up the mountain. We are told not to go to the coast which is about 8 kilometres down the mountain, where the Police have check points and are stopping all cars.

I had to do a shop on Saturday and I placed an order via WhatsApp at the local supermarket and arranged to collect it at a designated time. I drove to the village and took cash from the bank, carefully keeping the receipt which I would have to show to the police if I was stopped. I queued two metres apart to get into the fruit and veg shop where they were allowing people to enter two at a time. Everyone was sombre but respectful. I then went and collected the shopping which was nicely boxed up and promptly drove home. The whole exercise took about an hour. That’s it. I won't be going out again for two weeks if I can help it.

The view from Amanda's home

The village is like a ghost town, although there were people around in total I must have seen less than 20 in what would normally be a bustling village on market day with cafes full and shouts of friends and music from the cafes blaring. This is an international village with 60% locals and 40% incomers from many different countries. We had all embraced the Spanish culture, two kisses, hugs and plenty of cafe life. This has all come to an abrupt end.  We are not allowed to travel in the car with any more than one person, gloves must be worn at all times, and masks if you have them.

My husband Kenny is in the high risk category and he thinks he may have to take self-isolation seriously for a year. I feel for families in the towns, in small houses or apartments. I heard one man presented himself at the police station and begged to be arrested, pleading insanity because of living through the lockdown with his mother,

Anxiety is an issue, and I have personally felt it on a few occasions, even breaking down and crying once. I feel fearful for my husband and the future. I am not a person prone to this sort of thing so this tells me that there must be many people suffering badly. I am fortunate to being a trained nurse, I was a cardio-thoracic theatre scrub nurse as well as working on wards, so I know exactly what to do regarding infection control. Detergent, as in fairy liquid or equivalent in hot water is all you need to clean your home, it kills all germs and viruses. I use it to scrub the kitchen and bathroom and floors. Once a month I might put a splash of bleach into it, but otherwise this is all you need. I prefer not to have lots of different chemicals in my home as well, as it is bad for breathing issues.

So the world is in pandemic, yet here spring has sprung. The flowers in Spain are incredible in spring, the colours like the machair in ungrazed areas of the Hebrides. The skies are always impressive in this area of Andalucía which means “under the lights” and the stars are clearer than ever with the levels of pollution dropping.

A tourist being ordered off a Spanish beach

Lockdown sounds frightening, but in reality it is like a social security blanket. This threat is being taken seriously and it brings tears to my eyes the care for community which is shown by this. In towns and villages the residents appear on their balconies each night 8pm and clap and whistle to thank the emergency services, police, army and medics.

The comparison with the chaotic UK couldn’t be greater, with people ignoring social distancing, panic buying and leaving nothing for those less fortunate. The British Prime Minister needs to take decisive action and be firm, lay down the rules and police them. Here the police are out with the army, enforcing the rules but also each night disinfecting the streets. The Spanish police, army and people are uniting for the greater good.

The Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez issued a statement “The worst is yet to come” Of the deaths, about 60% have occurred in Madrid, but the new thing is that younger people are being affected and are dying. Pedro Sanchez ordered all private hospitals to be requisitioned for the health service and all hotels will be closing by the end of the week with many being turned into hospitals. A massive shelter has been opened for the homeless.

This virus lives for days on surfaces, I’m not being paranoid when I wash with a damp cloth all shopping and I dispose of any bags carefully, using disposable gloves which I then remove before washing my hands. I never thought I would be the person to do this obsessive behaviour, but the health of my husband is paramount.

From Spain, I wish all the people in Scotland and especially the Hebrides the best for the coming crisis. Stay safe, stay at home and take this threat seriously.

The empty streets of Mytilene in lockdown

Melissa Silver reports from Lesvos…As of 6am this morning (Monday 23 March), Greece has gone into lockdown. Emergency messages were received announcing the news last night, stating: “Starting tomorrow Monday at 6:00am nation-wide strict restrictions on public movement apply. Only movements that serve specific needs or for work are allowed and a permit is required. Stay home, stay safe.”

From now on, to go to the supermarket or out for a walk, anyone currently residing in Greece has to carry a document stating the intentions of their movements. The document states the person’s name, address and reason for being outside.

A passport or ID card must also be carried at all times. Anyone seen to be flouting the rules will face a €150 fine.

In terms of humanitarian work, the few NGOs that were still functioning on Lesvos are now scrambling to get the necessary paperwork to continue.

Gordon Jamieson, NHS Western isles chief executive said last night:  “A brief update tonight: in the circumstances, I have to say that I very much welcomed the decision to restrict travel here to the Outer Hebrides and the other islands.

"One thing we must certainly do, and this will contribute to that, is to protect and preserve the health services we’ve got to respond and treat the population.

"It’s also important that I point out to you that although we’ve had a very busy day in terms of our ongoing preparation, it still remains that there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Outer Hebrides.”

 

 

 

Most churches in the Western Isles today (Sunday 22 March) observed Government  guidance on gatherings in public places, with most closed for services and many opting for online prayer and worship.

Denominational bodies including the Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic bishops including the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles have issued advice to congregations asking them to cease church activity including services, mass and prayer or fellowship meetings.

But island residents complained on social media that some churches in Lewis are continuing to gather, in defiance of health guidance which requires people to distance themselves even from close family members to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

And the discovery that some in the Christian community are continuing to allow gatherings when all other public buildings are closed has led to calls for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and politicians to intervene to prevent such gatherings.

One islander said: “Church services simply cannot be taking place. I understand the spiritual need that is so important for some, but this needs changed as of now and most churches have put online options in place. The council leaders need to get involved and lead on this.”

Some chose to directly address the churches in question. One sent a private message to a church organisation saying: “I am in disbelief to hear there was a church service in Sandwick today. I assume you are all well aware of the Government’s advice.

“You are putting your congregation, your community, your island at risk. Please reconsider your actions. You do not have to congregate in a church to worship God.”

Stornoway police are asking for public help after two incidents of vandalism over this weekend.

Today (Sunday 22 March) at 11.30am police received a report that a kitchen window had been broken at an address in the Cearns in Stornoway (incident number NH339/20).

And in a separate incident, a car parked on Stag Road in Stornoway was found to have been damaged when the owner returned to it at 10pm on Saturday (incident NH 337/20).

Anyone who saw or heard anything related to either incident is asked to call the police non-emergency number 101, quoting the relevant incident number

Heavy weather blowing in to the whole of the Western Isles and Skye is set to add to the existing disruption to services including ferry transport.

A Met Office yellow alert has been issued warning of heavy rain and strong southerly winds for the islands from 6pm tomorrow and throughout Tuesday and Wednesday morning until 12 noon on Wednesday.

The warning, issued on Sunday 22 March says: “Rain will become heavy at times later on Monday and is likely to persist through Tuesday and the first part of Wednesday. Through the whole period 50-75mm of rain is likely quite widely, with 100-125mm possible in places, mainly on higher ground. Very strong southerly winds will be an additional hazard.”

Weather, flood alerts

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has this morning (Monday 23 March) added a flood alert for the Western Isles to the current weather warning from the Met Office.

Persistent rain between now and Wednesday morning will bring a risk of flooding to low-lying land and roads from rivers and surface water, according to SEPA.

The Met Office warning of heavy rain, accompanied by strong winds, comes into force at 6pm today and lasts until 12 noon on Wednesday.

It warns of impacts including flooding of homes and businesses and spray and flooding on roads, making journey times longer.

CalMac has advised that all sailings between the Western Isles and the mainland are cancelled for today (Monday) and the Sound of Harris service has also been cancelled.

Some pubs in Scotland are defying the wishes of the Government in the coronavirus emergency and aiming to stay open.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, Police Scotland’s lead for coronavirus, said: "There has been an exceptionally high level of compliance across Scotland with the UK and Scottish Government instruction for entertainment venues to close, with thousands of premises shutting.

“However, I am aware that a small number of public houses are intent on defying this instruction and have indicated that they will remain open until legally ordered to close.

“This is absolutely reckless and endangers not only the lives of customers, but wider communities, in an extremely fast moving and unprecedented situation where both the health and safety of the nation is at stake.

"Therefore, I have obtained further legal advice today and Police Scotland will now instruct officers to serve emergency closure orders on any licensed premises which refuses to comply on the grounds of the threat posed to public safety.

“Officers are now visiting these premises today to have them closed.

“A compulsory closure under the Licensing Scotland Act remains in place for 24 hours but can be repeated as necessary.

“We will also report them to their relevant Licensing Board for further action to be considered.

"We are aware of the proposed legislation in relation to coronavirus, and are carefully considering the implications in this very fast moving situation.

“These are exceptional times and I would again urge everyone to stay safe and listen to the clear advice coming from health experts and government.”

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone added: “I am fully supportive of the enforcement action taken today which is entirely proportionate to the threat posed to the safety of Scotland’s communities.

“I have a clear, positive duty to both protect life and improve the safety and wellbeing of people across Scotland, while supporting the government and health agencies in our fight against this pandemic.”
 

An NHS emergency vehicle has been vandalised in the Stornoway area. A broken bottle was also found close to the vehicle. 

NHS Western Isles announced on their Facebook page this afternoon that they have "two emergency vehicles for a range of emergency responses, not least Coronavirus. Vehicles much needed at this time.

"One of our two vehicles is now out of commission.

"This beggars belief, words escape us."

Numerous comments were posted in the minutes following the news update, displaying people's shock at the situation: 

"I am shocked as all our community will be."

"Wow this is shocking, cannot believe anyone would do that what's wrong with people."

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

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

Extension of house, South Uist

Viki Samantha Harrison of The Old Croft House, 6 North Locheynort, Isle of South Uist, has applied for planning permission to extend the house at 6 North Locheynort Isle of South Uist. Work will also include the addition of dormers. 

Change of use of caravan site, North Uist 

Ann Macdonald of Fishermans Lodge, 5 Paiblesgarry, North Uist, has applied for planning permission to change the use of the caravan site at Paiblesgarry, Bayhead, Isle of North Uist, to a siting of a modular tourist unit.

New shed, Benbecula

Murdoch Macleod of 18 Hacklet, Benbecula, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural shed at 18 Hacklett, Creagorry, Isle of Benbecula. The shed is to be 6 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3.5 metres tall. 

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

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

Two new EV charging points

Paul Finnegan of Seafield, Scalpay, has applied for planning permission to install two EV charging points in the car park at Isle Of Harris Distillers Ltd Distillery, Tarbert.

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

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

Repositioning of the existing feed barge, Lochs

The Scottish Salmon Company has applied for planning permission to re-position the existing feed barge at Marine Site Mol Na Ceanamhoir Fish Farm, Loch Odhairn, Gravir, Lochs. 

New agricultural building, Lochs

Donnie Macleod of Crosswinds, Garyvard, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 9 Garyvard Lochs. Work is to include creating an access.The building is to be 13.7 metres long, 6 metres wide and 3.8 metres tall. 

Change of use of land, Lochs

Alex Healey of Mo Dhachaidh, Cleascro Road, Leurbost, Lochs, has applied for planning permission to change the of use of the agricultural land at 1 Cleascro Road, Leurbost, Lochs, to extend the curtilage of the existing dwelling. 

Following media coverage of the emergency provision created in Castlebay in relation to the coronavirus outbreak, the chief executive of NHS Western Isles, Gordon Jamieson made the following statement in a video on Twitter last night (Saturday March 21):

“Tonight, I wanted to give you some reassurance regarding the provision here in the Outer Hebrides.  Whilst every day I am grateful for the media coverage which comes from across the world and brings us up to date with the situation regarding coronavirus, I am concerned about some particular media coverage today.

"Turning specifically to the Isle of Barra, if any patient on the Isle of Barra requires ventilation and life support, they will be transferred off island, by the military or Coastguard to an appropriate mainland facility. 

"To preserve and support the hospital services in St Brendan’s [the NHS facility in Castlebay] we have created a community-based facility in Castlebay.  That is intended to be a facility where patients who have undergone testing or require first assessment can be supported and can remain there until such times as they can be returned to their homes. 

"It was not intended to be and was not set up to be an emergency facility and it is not expected at all that it will provide any of the caring services that any patient would require that needs to go to hospital. 

"I would like to thank the staff as well for their on-going efforts as they are working flat-out in our preparation to deal with coronavirus.”

This statement appears to be a reaction to widespread coverage of a photograph of a facility in Castlebay community centre which was sent out with a media release by Angus Brendan MacNeil, MP.

NHS Western Isles states on its Twitter feed that it is a response to “misleading coverage today in a national tabloid newspaper.”

A tide of anger is sweeping holiday areas in Scotland and in the rest of the UK as people flee English cities to “self-isolate in the countryside.”

Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford reported last night (Saturday March 21): “I have been contacted by the Nevis Range Centre in Fort William who tell me that they have had to turn away around 30 camper vans, which had travelled from various parts of the UK, who were intending to use their car park as a refuge.

“I urge everyone to do the right thing; follow the Government advice and please do not travel here.  If these warnings are not heeded and people need to be stopped from travelling, then I am afraid that is what will have to happen.  Those in camper vans please go home!”

Reports show the same situation is occurring in Cornwall, the Lake District and in rural Wales.  Colin Ridyard said on Twitter: “The problem is people are frightened and not listening.  We have exactly the same scenario on Anglesey.  We need mobilisation of resources along similar lines to the Protect and Survive plans of the 80s to accept refugees from the cities.”

The Isle of Barra Twitter page has a pinned Tweet: “ISLANDS OF BARRA AND VATERSAY ARE CLOSED. Don’t travel here, don’t put unnecessary strain on our medical staff and limited resources. We will open again and be delighted to see you. But in the meantime, we are looking after our community, the thing that makes us so special.”

As it stands at present (Sunday March 22), no Government has the power to ban travel across the UK

The Coronavirus Bill which will receive its second (and likely third) reading in the UK Parliament tomorrow (Monday March 23), gives both UK and Scottish Governments extensive powers to make regulations, including restrictions for the protection of Public Health and on the operation of ports, should that be necessary.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar itself already has current statutory functions and powers in relation to public health but has no powers to prevent or restrict travel, but we all know that it is impossible completely to isolate a community, as we need providers of services to come to the islands to provide what we require by way of food and medical supplies, at a very minimum.

There is a link to the Coronavirus Bill here: Schedules 18 and 19 cover Public Health and Ports: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0122/20122.pdf

It is understood that our island situation and its particular needs are being made clear to Government through the administrative dialogue which is taking place daily, and any further information will be given as soon as it can be. But informed sources say that “it is not likely that Government will put in place measures to restrict travel in one area which do not apply across the whole of Scotland.”

CnES leader Roddie Mackay has told councillors: “ Our response, to date, has been to reinforce proactively the Government’s guidance and – where possible – support people to make adjustments to our social and working lives in order to both delay, and manage, the consequences of illness in the best way possible.

“Our partnership with NHS Western Isles, the use of social media and our resilient approach, is giving us a foundation not only to respond to this now, but to manage the situation for the longer term, if necessary.

“Our officers are doing a great job and it is now necessary for us – as Members – to support them with a consistent and proportionate political message that provides leadership to our community. By working together, we should focus on helping reduce people’s anxieties, whilst encouraging and empowering them to take positive action to protect themselves and others.

“So far, the Comhairle’s use of social media (and other media channels) has been to promote this positive Public Health message. I would urge all Members to work with their communities, consistent with the approach being provided by our statutory services.”

Meanwhile the London-based newspapers Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday sparked widespread outrage with coverage apparently openly encouraging people to travel to remote places, such as the Isle of Jura to enjoy “splendid isolation.”

Michael Russell, MSP reacted to the image below: "Utter crass irresponsibility - my constituents on Jura which has an elderly population, no hospital and very limited facilities are having their lives put at risk by this stupidity. Non-essential travel means exactly that: no tourism no jaunts, no boltholes."

And Brendan O'Hara, the Westminster MP for Argyll and Bute, said: "My inbox is inundated with folk telling of people arriving in Argyll to “escape” the virus. This is hugely irresponsible. Our fragile communities have very limited resources and aren’t equipped to cope with such an influx. Please don’t use our islands or rural areas as a bolthole."

West Coast ferry operator CalMac has announced that it is to cease its on-board food and drink and retail offering with immediate effect on all routes.

CalMac had this week stopped providing hot fresh food on board in response to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic but has now gone a stage further.

All restaurants, coffee cabins, bars and shops on board the ferries will now close with immediate effect. It also includes the coffee shop at Ardrossan port.

Managing Director Robbie Drummond said: “The safety and health of our staff and customers is our absolute top priority and this move to stop having people queuing for food and drink and handing over foodstuffs is designed to protect them.

“We know that our food and drink offering on board is very popular and can be a vital part of the journey for many.

However, in light of global events there is now way we can justify continuing this and potentially putting the safety of passengers and staff at risk.

“I hope that our passengers understand the need to put these measures in place and promise that we will continually review them as the situation develops.”

CalMac’s decision also comes on top of Government instruction to close all restaurants, pubs and cafes across the whole of the UK.

Those travelling on CalMac ferries are encouraged to bring their own food and drinks to consume on board.

As the preparations go on for the almost complete shutdown of schools throughout the Islands, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar says it is receiving a significant number of enquiries relating to criteria for key workers.

In a statement – unusually – on a Saturday (12.27 March 21) the council says:

In order to assist you to determine whether you are a key worker or not, we would reinforce the following points:

You should be:

  • a key member of staff i.e. delivering direct care to patients/clients in an NHS or social care setting (hospital, NHS practices, care home or homecare). This also includes ancillary support staff, social workers, allied health professionals, cleaners, porters and catering staff.
  • a member of school staff (e.g. teacher, support worker, catering staff, janitorial or administration)
  • providing direct emergency service provision (e.g. fire, ambulance, police, coastguard)
  • a worker in the utilities sector (e.g. electricity, water supplies and sewerage, gas)
  • a worker in the transport sector (ferry, planes, hauliers, deliveries of food, buses)
  • a worker in food and/or retail distribution (e.g. butcher, chemist, supermarket worker, small shops providing food)

For those workers listed above, their children should only attend school in the following circumstances:

  • When they have no appropriate alternative childcare available to them
  • On a day when they would normally be working (i.e. Children only attend school when you are at work)

Education, like other services, is working with a reduced level of staff. Therefore, other support staff, in relation to the above criteria - such as admin, HR functions and finance - should have approval of line management and their names provided to the Education department (through their own service) from Monday onwards.

Vacancies and absences in critical care services have already created a situation where we  may have to redeploy staff to support frontline workers.

Many of our teaching staff have volunteered to work across other services and it is therefore important that the pupils attending at our schools are those of key workers only.  They will be attending their normal school establishments.

Apart from children of key workers, there will be cases where it has been identified by Comhairle officers that a child is considered to be vulnerable, based on the advice from Scottish Government, that child will be able to attend school. Comhairle staff have been in contact with those who are eligible and, if you have not had contact from us, you should not attend.  If you feel that you are eligible but have not been contacted, please contact the Education, Skills & Children’s Services Department on Monday.

And S4-6 pupils have the option to attend to complete outstanding coursework, if they need to do so. Any such arrangements have been discussed and intimated to pupils before they left school yesterday.  Comhairle nan Eilean Siar emphasise that this is an option…pupils are not required to attend.

More details here: https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto/16354-schools-still-open-for-some-pupils

 

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would like to reassure customers that their next monthly payment for their ‘Slàinte Mhath!’ sports facility membership will not be taken from their accounts. This will continue to be reviewed on a monthly basis.

Bernard Chisholm, Director of Education, Skills and Children’s Services said: “We were very keen to update customers as soon as possible. Sport and Health staff have been updating their Facebook page with ideas that customers can try at home to help stay well and active during this difficult period.

“This information can be found on the Lewis Sports Centre Facebook page and will be shared with all other sports facilities Facebook pages across the Outer Hebrides.”

Isles MP Angus Brendan is pleading for people not to travel to the Islands - as concern grows that the lack of testing is the main reason for the apparent lack of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Isles. 

At the moment, any tests being done have to be sent to the mainland for processing. 

A facility for testing is being established on the Islands but it is still in the process of being commmissioned, the NHS stated earlier in the week. 


Scotland's Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has thanked the overwhelming majority of people for observing instruction to avoid pubs, restaurants and urges people to comply with health advice

"To be clear, no public houses or other entertainment venues should be opening for patrons until further notice."


Concern was also voiced at the NHS Western Isles press conference on Wednesday (March 18) about the impact of people returning from the mainland and from overseas employment and other trips.

There are continuing pleas on Twitter and other social media for people to self-isolate on return to the Islands to minimise the speed of transmission of the virus.

The MP also sent out a photograph of the emergency hospital provision at Castlebay village hall on Barra where local medical staff have prepared for #coronavirus

He said: "This is not far from Third World basic.  No ventilators, no much oxygen either, no testing.  Islands such as this could be badly hit. Message is…don't come on holiday, please."

Asked on Twitter about the level of provision, the MP stated: "Scotland and the UK does not have what it needs. Scotland has 360 ventilators, I was told.  The maths ratios of possible demand to availability are not good."

And Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance said on Twitter: "If you live elsewhere, please don’t use the Highlands as your means of self-isolation. People live here who are trying to follow Government guidance and the continuing flow of campervans and other traffic who appear to be escaping the cities is not helping."

But also on Twitter, musician Jane Hepburn-Macmillan pointed out that pubs and the like in Stornoway were remaining crowded despite the Government advice. This was a display from Era nightclub for last weekend, Saturday March 14th.

Jane pointed out last night (Friday March 20) that: "So on average, if one person catches it, they pass it on to three people. Each of them then pass it on to another three, and on it goes.
Right now: three #Stornoway pubs are absolutely heaving with people. STAY AT HOME," she pleaded. 

The first coronavirus case in Scotland was on March 2. A total of 19 days ago.  For comparison, the first case in Greece was recorded on February 26 and, 12 days later, on March 10, the government announced the closure of all schools and community centres; March 14 brought with it the closure of all pubs, clubs, cafes restaurants, except for takeaway, and no more than five people are allowed to be in line at once. All stores have been shut since Wednesday March 18, save for pharmacies, fuel stations and grocery stores. From tomorrow all flights to and from Greece will cease.

Earlier in the week, a plan to bring football strips from the youngsters of Point FC to a school in Africa has been disrupted at the 11th-hour due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Development consultant Alasdair Nicholson, who regularly goes to Tanzania to help develop local skills in community enterprise, was in Edinburgh ready to fly to Africa on Wednesday March 18, but decided to cancel the trip in the light of the UK warning against all non-essential travel.

Alasdair, who also works as a community consultant for community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, had collected a bundle of junior Point FC strips, as well as science textbooks, to take with him to a joint primary and secondary school at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

He was taking the strips out to Northern Tanzania after Point and Sandwick Trust sponsored new kit for the young players of Point FC. Point and Sandwick Trust had also provided a couple of footballs for the school and Alasdair had spoken of what a difference it would make to the children there.

He had anticipated great “glee and happiness” at the gifts and had told the Wee Reds in Point (pictured below) that children in Africa were often without strips or boots – sometimes even footballs. “Sometimes they make footballs from rolled up banana leaves,” he said. He also told the youngsters: “I’m just the carrier of these strips. You are the ones who’re donating them.”

However, he decided against making the journey and plans to go back later, when the situation has settled down.

Alasdair said: “Things are moving so fast with corona in the last few days that it is uncertain what borders will be closed or flights cancelled. This is a postponement rather than a total withdrawal but I would not want to be an accidental vector from any casual contact in passing through Amsterdam or from a crowded African bus.

“Yes, I’m disappointed but there will be vulnerable people who are at risk and any problems I have encountered are nothing compared with the anxiety that they will have so our thoughts should be with our neighbours and community."

Alasdair Nicholson with young Point FC players and representatives from the club and Point and Sandwick Trust. Photograph by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos
 

There will be three groups of pupils still attending schools in the Western Isles from Monday (March 23).

Following the national school closure, the Scottish Government has set criteria for pupils who can continue to attend in schools.

The expectation is that the absolute minimum of pupils attend at school and the presumption is for non-attendance unless the following criteria are met.

Those who may attend are the children of key workers where there is no alternative childcare available to them. This includes key staff working in NHS, social care, emergency services, school & education and any workers in energy, transport and infrastructure roles whose work is critical to maintaining services during the crisis.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is working with health and social care and emergency planning colleagues to identify eligible staff and provision will be made for identified staff only.

To allow time to do this, they are asking that, from Monday, parents self-identify at schools if they consider themselves to be eligible for this provision.

If you are not on a list already identified by your employer as a critical employee, you will need to contact your employer or line manager to ask them to contact the Education & Children’s Services Department.

Where it has been identified by Comhairle officers that a child is considered to be vulnerable, based on the advice from Scottish Government, that child will be able to attend school.

Comhairle staff have been in contact with those who are eligible and, if you have not had contact from us, you should not attend.  If you feel that you are eligible but have not been contacted, please contact the Education, Skills & Children’s Services Department on Monday.

And S4-6 pupils have the option to attend to complete outstanding coursework, if they need to do so. Any such arrangements have been discussed and intimated to pupils before they left school today

On Friday 20th March at 2.00pm, Education, Skills and Children’s Services staff broadcast a live stream discussion forum for pupils, parents, staff and members of the wider community. A recording of the broadcast is available through this link http://e-sgoil.com/cnes-covid-update

The Scottish Government has published guidance that sets out what childcare provision they expect to be made available to key workers during closures of school and early learning and childcare (ELC) settings to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The guidance also sets out the Key Workers that qualify for critical childcare provision. Local Authorities have been told that, if one parent is a key worker and the other is not, the non-key worker should normally be expected to provide childcare. If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be. This link takes you to the full guidance https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus—school-and-elc-closures-guidance-on-critical-childcare-provision-for-key-workers/

Following the announcement from the First Minister that the exam diet of 2020 cannot go ahead Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive, has been asked to develop an alternative certification model. Deputy First Minister has asked schools and colleges to continue to work with young people to ensure that any units and coursework are completed and estimated grades are provided by teachers, drawing on the available evidence gathered throughout the year, to SQA’s existing deadlines, or earlier if that is possible.

Many learners, will also have prior attainment information which will be helpful. The statement from the SQA Chief Executive is available through this link https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/93598.html

 

 

Fishing industry on Isles faces collapse as demand drops 80%.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has raised the case for financial assistance to be extended to vessels over 12m and seafood processing plants with Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP.

The islands MSP has contacted seafood processing plants in the Western Isles to better understand the immediate crisis which the industry is facing following the collapse of UK and European markets in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis.

Businesses have reported that vessels may have to stop landing by the end of next week. In light of the acute cash-flow challenges created by a drop in sales of upwards of 80%, the industry risks large-scale redundancies if Government support is not forthcoming.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “It is critical that the range of support for the fishing industry covers everyone affected.

“I have been in close contact with seafood plants and the Western Isles Fisherman’s Association who have made it abundantly clear that without intervention, there will not be an industry within weeks.

"The support package offered to vessels under 12 metres should in my view be extended to vessels over 12 metres, such as scallop trawlers, and similar financial support be offered to seafood processing plants.

“Direct support to vessels should directly reflect the number of crew each vessel employs and there must be an assurance that any support given is passed on to crew members fairly.”

Stornoway’s much-loved daily bread providers Stag Bakeries have moved today (Friday 20 March) to reassure customers in the face of widespread rumours.

They posted on social media this lunchtime confirming that Stag is NOT running out of flour after hearing numerous reports that they were expected to run out of their popular loaves and rolls in the face of extreme buying behaviour by customers.

A spokesman for Stag Bakeries said: “We are producing three times as much as normal and demand is going up all the time.

"The van is going up to Tesco and the Co-op full as normal and by lunchtime the shelves are empty again.

“The rate the shelves are being emptied is beyond anything we’ve ever experienced.

"To be honest we’re not sure what people are doing with it all, but we buy our flour by the tonne.

"The situation is changing every day, but we can’t foresee any interruption to our production.”

The picture shows today’s batch of plain loaves, with plenty more on the way (Stag Bakeries).

 

Coronavirus testing policy in the Western Isles – and across Scotland – is not giving an accurate picture of the presence of the COVID-19 virus, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil has spoken to NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, challenging the effectiveness of a testing system which shows no confirmed cases of the virus in the islands.

welovestornoway.com has stopped headlining the official figures for Island cases because we are aware there are a number of people in self-isolation on the Islands who are believed to have the virus but who won't be tested unless their condition worsens and they are admitted to hospital.

Mr MacNeil said today (Friday 20 March): “If you don’t test for a virus, you don’t find people who have got it. If NHS Western Isles could test here they would, but they just don’t have the wherewithal and that is the responsibility of NHS Scotland’s procurement team, who have been unable to get testing equipment out.

“This is not just a problem in the Hebrides but in the whole of Scotland. The Republic of Ireland plans to be testing 15,000 people a day in a population of 4.83 million, which is broadly comparable to Scotland’s 5.4 million.

“At the moment we are being told that the peak of cases in the Western Isles will be in six weeks, but we have identified no cases. NHS Western Isles is following Government policy, which is to wait for people to present at hospital with symptoms and, in the past few days, nobody has done so. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have the virus here.”

A spokesperson for NHS Western Isles confirmed that the authority is following Government policy, which is to test people who attend at Western Isles Hospital and who have symptoms of COVID-19.

In addition one of Stornoway’s GP practices has been acting as a ‘spotting practice’, where patients who attend with symptoms are swabbed and the swabs sent away to Glasgow for analysis. It is on the basis of these results that the Western Isles’ current zero cases figure has been established.

The spokesperson said: “The positive news is that we will be getting a testing machine, which is to be sited at Western Isles Hospital, and which will give us a much clearer picture of the current situation. We are keen to follow World Health Authority guidance, which is ‘test, test, test’.”

Mr MacNeil has proposed a quicker method for radically increasing the number of people tested in the islands and has asked Mr Jamieson to look into it.

He said: “In the Faroes they are using ‘passage and test’ virus-testing equipment from the salmon-farming industry, which can be quickly adapted to test for any virus. They are testing 200 people a day in a population of 50,000. I have spoken to Gordon Jamieson about this and he has promised me that he will be investigating the possibility with the salmon farming industry today.”

“We are being asked to wait two weeks for a test kit, but we can’t sit and wait for two weeks. It’s here already and it will be spreading like wildfire now and next week. If we were to test 200 people here in the isles, today, we would find it.”

NHS Western Isles has been approached for further comment.

 

Today, Friday 19th March at 2.00pm, Education, Skills and Children’s Services staff will hold a live stream discussion forum for pupils, parents, staff and members of the wider community.

You are invited to log in to the live stream, which will be broadcast from e-Sgoil using this link: http://e-sgoil.com/cnes-covid-update

The focus of discussion will be measures that the Comhairle, with assistance from a range of partner organisations, is taking to ensure continuity of education services across the Western Isles during the Coronavirus outbreak. Viewers will be able to submit questions in advance and during the livestream.

The live stream panel will consist of the Director of Education, Skills & Children’s Services, alongside service officers and headteachers.

A recording of the live stream will be available to view approximately half an hour after it finishes and we will share the link via social media.

 

CalMac is to stop taking new bookings on all of its services with a travel date of before 15 July as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

And the serving of fresh hot food will cease on board from tomorrow morning to free up staff to crew our vessels.

Customers will not be able to book any service in advance for sailings due to take place up to 15 July. This is to reflect the four-month period advised by Scottish Government as being the initial period of COVID-19 disruption.

Bookings that have already been made up to that period will be honoured where services are running. Priority will continue to be given to emergency services and medical emergencies.

Catering services on board will also be reduced to offer tea, coffee and pre-packaged foods, such as sandwiches only. Bottled and packaged drinks and snacks will also continue to be offered.

Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of CalMac said: “The COVID-19 outbreak is creating an ever-changing landscape not just for CalMac but for all transport operators and indeed all businesses.

'Whilst we are currently able to continue operating our normal timetabled service we have to plan for the impact of the virus on our staff on vessels, ports and support services. It has been prudent, therefore, to put in place an immediate stop on customers being able to book services in advance.

“We will effectively be operating a turn up and go service on all of our routes. This will reflect arrangements we already have in place permanently in a number of locations across the network, such as Wemyss Bay and Rothesay.

'We also know how popular our food service is on board some of our routes, but we need to free up as many staff as possible to help with cleaning and other on-board duties. We are seeing a drop in the amount of food purchased at this time in any case, so this decision makes sense.

'As the situation is changing on a daily basis, we will keep this situation under constant review.'

Melissa Silver has been on Lesvos volunteering with refugees since September last year. Here she speaks about the situation on the Greek island during the corona pandemic and and on March 19 she told how it compared to Lewis…

With a population of just over ten million, Greece has had, according to coronatracker.com, 418 confirmed cases of corona and 6 deaths. Scotland with its population of just over five million, has had 266 confirmed cases and six deaths.

The first case in Greece was recorded on February 26. By March 10, the government had announced the closure of all schools and community centres; March 14 brought with it the closure of all pubs, clubs, cafes restaurants, except for takeaway, and no more than five people are allowed to be in line at once. All stores have been shut since Wednesday, save for pharmacies, fuel stations and grocery stores. From Sunday, the government is due to announce, all flights to and from Greece will cease for the time-being.

The Fishermen's Co-op is still open for business.

If you are self isolating or looking for something to get on with while not socialising then why not head out in to the garden or shed and get some of those jobs you've been meaning to do done! Or do some DIY round the house.

There is a vast array of hardwearing paints for boats, metal, wood and fibreglass, various exterior varnishes and wood protectors, brushes, tools and all the polishes and cleaners you could need in the Fishermen's Co-op. They also have loads of cleaning products, mops, buckets and gloves if you decide to do a spring clean.

Or maybe you are looking for a way to relax, in which case go grab a fishing rod and some hooks and lures. You can find a remote coastal spot and catch some fish for supper - especially handy if the shop shelves are still empty. As long as you remain at least the recommended distance from others there is no reason not to enjoy the fresh sea air while we see what happens with COVID-19. We would recommend you let someone know where you are going if you go out fishing by yourself.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s offices throughout the Western Isles will close to the public from this evening, Thursday 19 March, as part of the measures to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

The Comhairle offices remain open for our employees and enquiries should be directed to Customer Services on 01851 600 501 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Face to face meetings will be arranged, where appropriate, but wherever possible, members of the public are encouraged to use our online service via the Comhairle website:https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/

A spokesperson said: “It is important to reiterate that these are precautionary measures which are being taken in order to follow Scottish Government guidelines.”

All Comhairle related information can be found at CnES Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

MSP to hold telephone surgeries

Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron, has announced that he is to hold telephone consultations for constituents after cancelling his plans for surgeries.

Donald said that he had reluctantly decided to withdraw from holding surgeries as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.

 Mr Cameron said: “I am very sorry to be taking this action as I have always found face-to-face meetings with my constituents the best way of understanding the issues affecting them so that I can help.

“However, I want to minimise the impact of no longer having surgeries, so I’m encouraging local people to contact my office so that I can organise meetings by phone.”

 Mr Cameron’s office number in Holyrood is 0131 348 6989 and he can also be contacted by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“Please give my team a  call, or drop me a line, so that we can arrange a time which best suits.”

MSP closes office

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has taken the step of closing his Constituency Office in Stornoway in light of the Scottish Government guidance regarding the COVID-19 virus.

All staff are working from home and Alasdair and his team can still be contacted by telephone or email in the normal way.

Alasdair Allan MSP said; “Anyone passing my Stornoway office will see that it is closed. To explain, my staff are all still at work, but I have asked them all to work from home. The strong official advice is that people should do this wherever they have the option. There is no change to the phone number or email address by which my staff and I can be contacted.

“As things stand, I am still going to Edinburgh and back every week from my home in Lewis, and still meeting people locally by phone and online. We are however all being asked to cut down on face to face meetings where possible for the duration of the present coronavirus epidemic.

“People should continue to make use of me and get in touch about any matter I can help on. I hope people will understand that my staff and I have been a little overwhelmed by coronavirus-related enquiries over the last few days, but we will try to get back to everyone soon.

"People have very real concerns about what the current situation will mean for their families, their businesses and for the island economy, and I am seeking to follow up these issues for many constituents with both governments and other agencies.”

Isles MP constituency office – change to working arrangements

 Due to the ongoing public health concerns regarding the COVID-19 virus, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil has asked his staff to work form home until further notice.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “We all have to adjust the way we live our day-to-day lives. It is important that we reduce the ways in which Coronavirus can spread and that is why I have asked my staff to work from home.

“All casework will continue as normal, constituents can continue to contact the office by calling 01851 702272 or by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP) has moved to provide reassurance to tenants in the light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement published late yesterday (Wednesday 18 March) they said that measures had been put in place, but that services were currently being delivered as close to normally as possible.

However, some changes are likely to be made as the Government advice is updated, and HHP have made preparations including arranging for staff to work from home.

They asked tenants to help them to continue to deliver their service effectively by avoiding unnecessary trips to the HHP office and instead contacting them by phone on  0300 123 0773 or email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The statement also said: “Please advise us if you have any concerns regarding your health when you contact us. We are particularly mindful of those identified as being most at risk and we will take all possible measures to reduce this risk if a visit to your home is required e.g. to carry out essential repair work.

“If you have other concerns or are feeling worried about the current situation and have no support then please contact us. We will try to assist where possible or give you details of services that might be able to help.

“We all have a responsibility not to place others at risk so we would ask that, if possible, requests for repairs or other services are restricted to those that are most urgent at this stage.

“If you currently pay your rent in cash, we would ask that you consider making alternative arrangements in the meantime e.g. card payments or online payments. We may contact you to discuss this further.

“If you are concerned about being able to pay your rent then please contact us as soon as possible. We will do all we can to help.”

HHP will continue to post updates on their website http://www.hebrideanhousing.co.uk  and Twitter page @HebHousing.

Some of our team have sadly left the island to return to their families.  We wish them the best for the future.

But this means an opportunity has arisen for two passionate chefs with a great eye for detail.

If you love cooking great food, this might just be the right move for you.

As a chef with us, you will be valued member of a tight-knit team that loves the buzz of working under pressure.

From the moment our guests walk through the door, only the best will do.

 The role

  • Prepare cook & present amazing food.
  • Have an understanding of allergies and due diligence processes
  • Take pride in maintaining highest standards of cleanliness & safety.
  • Being a valuable part of the wider team to ensure the best guest experience
  • Be flexible, hardworking and able to work in a busy fast moving environment.
  • NVQ/SVQ level 2/3 or City & Guilds equivalent

To apply please send your CV and cover letter to:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Island food businesses are working hard to remain in operation, in the face of the global crisis.

Changed opening hours and changed ways of providing goods have been options for some, with an increased online presence, remote shopping and pre-order delivery chosen by some food providers to keep their customers.

The Good Food Boutique on Cromwell Street in Stornoway is offering a pre-order service for all goods, including coffee and sandwiches. Customers can pay over the phone and collect quickly in the shop or even request that the purchases are taken out to the car!

They said: “We are of course keeping up with our usual hygiene practices but have added extra measures to keep contact surfaces clean and free from contamination including door handles and countertops. Please support your local businesses where you can!”

For details of the new takeaway and sit-in service from Harris & Lewis Smokehouse, click here

Hebridean Tea Store in Stornoway is to remain open in their Cromwell Street store, but owner Sabine Weiten has moved to reassure customers that hygiene and health are at the top of their considerations.

She said: “Washing our hands thoroughly with soap and water was always normal to us and we do it very frequently. We are cleaning all surfaces on a regular base with appropriate sprays and disinfectants and always have done. So, simply continue what we already were doing.

“We are thinking of setting up a pay-by-phone service where you can pre-order, pay and then pick up from the shop. You can also order via the website, of course, and then pick up. This way we will reduce the personal contact to a minimum.”

The Veggie Box says: "For the moment we hope to carry on as usual, whilst adding in a couple of alternatives and precautions. The main precautions will be regular use of disposable gloves, sanitiser and hand washing at all stages of the process, from setting up the stall to delivery.

"For any one concerned about coming to the stall we will continue to deliver/arrange delivery throughout Lewis and potentially Harris, if you are needing anything else brought to you at the same time just let the shop know and we can pick it up for you and deliver it along with your veg, we are more than happy to help in whatever way we can.

"If you are also concerned about using cash either at the stall or via delivery then please let us know and we can give you our account details so that you can pay online, if anyone is unsure of this process again let us know and we can chat it through with you, again we will be very flexible with this.

The Crown Inn is starting up a take-away service to encourage local use of their business. Pizza can be pre-ordered for collection or any meal from the existing menu can be pre-ordered and served at an arranged time, to reduce the time people spend waiting for food in a public place. The Crown’s team said: “We are doing our absolute best to continue trading in the current climate. We believe we can, with your help, remain trading – without it we will have to close. If you’re out for lunch or dinner, please consider us.”

Croft 36 in Northton, Harris had already taken some precautions ahead of their proposed season opening next Monday (23 March). The roadside shed ‘shop’ has been fitted with hand-cleansing facilities and will be deep-cleaned each day when stock sells out, but customers are also being asked to allow the previous customer to leave before entering and to wear the disposable gloves provided.

Crofter Julie is also offering deliveries within the local area and simplifying the menu to allow for the difficulty of sourcing ingredients. One-pot meat and vegan meals, fish pie and bakery goods can be taken out to local residents and those staying in holiday accommodation.

In Ness the Old Barn Bar is continuing to operate as usual until told otherwise, but the season opening of the Cross Inn Restaurant, due on 27 March, is to be postponed until the pandemic has passed.

Proprietors Alice Bagley and Duncan Phillips said: “In the meantime we are working on Cross Inn Meals on Wheels. We hope to be able to offer hot meals and larder items for takeaway and delivery from early next week. Stay tuned for menus and operating hours.”

In Callanish Mollans Café has consulted environmental health advice and arranged to operate a carry-out to the car service for pre-ordered food.

Proprietor Julie Child said: “You will still be able to get our fabulous food but you just won't have to walk through a shared airspace in which to get served. Trying to effectively deep-clean a cafe where people are in and out is near on impossible.”

Announcements were made on Monday evening (March 17th) that Stornoway’s Artizan Café and Harbour Kitchen Restaurant were closing.

Leelah and Lach at the Harbour Kitchen said: “We have taken the very sad decision to close Harbour Kitchen. We feel the health and safety of our team and guests has to be our primary focus at this time and in these difficult circumstances. We are looking at different options on how best to support our team. We are also waiting for more information from the government on how we go forward.”

Artizan café said: “We have a very small and closely-knit staff and customer base and we do not wish to compromise the health of anyone who either works in or visits Artizan or indeed the lives of their loved ones.

“Stay safe everyone and be mindful of each other and support our small fragile community. We need to pull together now more than ever before and return our islands back to a prosperous community for everyone. There is no better place in the world to be and we should all be very proud where we live.”

 

Only minutes before the first scheduled news conference about the coronavirus crisis by chiefs at NHS Western Isles came the bombshell announcement that all Scotland’s schools were to close down at the end of this week.

As the conference began at 2pm, Health chiefs immediately acknowledged that this would throw their human resources planning out of kilter as they now have to assess which of their staff will become unavailable.

They had earlier put out a plea for recently retired healthcare professionals to consider temporarily returning from retirement to help deliver services during the COVID-19 outbreak. And third-year student nurses will also join the cohorts of additional staff being readied to cope with the crisis. 

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, said: “NHS Western Isles is anticipating a significant increase in the numbers of people requiring healthcare over the coming weeks and months.

“That, coupled with the possibility of an unprecedented increase in the numbers of current NHS staff off sick, will place significant pressure on local healthcare services. We are asking those with the skills and experience we need to consider returning to service temporarily to help us deliver services to our community.

“We acknowledge that this is a significant ask of those who are in retirement, but we are facing a situation of unprecedented pressure.”

  • Are you a recently retired healthcare professional?
  • Has your registration recently lapsed?
  • Do you have the skills, knowledge and experience needed?
  • Would you be willing to help out if required?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01851 762009 with your details

Meanwhile Comhairle nan Eilean Siar acknowledged the First Minister’s announcement that all schools and nurseries in Scotland will be closed by Friday.

FM Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement in the Scottish Parliament this lunchtime (Wednesday 18 March) and said that education secretary John Swinney would give further detail on the plans tomorrow (Thursday).

At 1.43pm Comhairle nan Eilean Siar tweeted: “We have been notified by Scottish Government that all schools and nurseries will close by the end of this week. We will update when more information becomes available.”

Mr Swinney tweeted: “Schools and nurseries will close from this Friday. I appreciate this will be very disruptive but it is necessary. We are working with Councils to support young people preparing for exams, are vulnerable and whose parents are essential workers.”

Ms Sturgeon said that a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ would not work across Scotland.

She said: “I want to be open with people that we are all still working out all of the fine detail of exactly what this will mean. It is important to know that there will doubtless be a lot of local flexibility required. While we will set out maximum detail tomorrow, planning with councils will go on well into next week.

“In some areas, private nurseries and childminders can play a massive role in helping key workers keep going. In other areas, councils will use school buildings to reach vulnerable children. We will support any and every plan that helps people make this work.”

NHS health chiefs also confirmed that it will be the air ambulance service which will fly coronavirus patients in need of intensive care to hospitals on the Scottish mainland.  Initial concerns regarding fixed wing aircraft and personal protective equipment have been resolved.

At the press conference, Mr Jamieson talked of the unprecedented measures being taken to meet the coming crisis.  He said the main concern was not facilities or bedspace but the number of staff available to care for patients. Many of the other services offered by the NHS were being curtailed in order to allow training for staff not normally involved in nursing care to take on new roles. It was essential to move on that now…waiting any longer would mean being too late. 

Public health director Maggie Watts emphasised the vital need to maintain respiratory and hand health.  This was being publicisesd througout the Islands on banners and through other means.  She also repeated the need for people with a continuous cough or a high temperature to self-isolate for seven days.  She also insisted that it was vital that other people in their household should isolate themselves for 14 days so as to see if they develop any symptoms.

The NHS staff made clear they had resources throughout the Islands to provide support for seriously ill patients and that arrangements were in place to transfer patients elsewhere should that become necessary.  However, the hospitals in both Stornoway and Balivanich had the capacity and equipment to manage seriously ill patients requiring assistance with breathing. 

Equipment was also now available to start getting results from coronavirus testing on the Islands rather than the swabs having to be sent to the mainland. Only a small number of tests had been conducted so, all of them negative. 

Mr Jamieson emphasised that all possible aspects of the other NHS services would be maintained, particularly relating to trauma and cancer patients and a number of outpatients consultations would be moved on-line or to video conferencing. 

Loganair has this morning (Wednesday 18 May) announced radical revisions to island air services as they struggle to maintain business during the Coronavirus epidemic.

The changes will begin to be implemented next week and will last until at least the end of May. During April and May there will be:

  • No service between Stornoway and Edinburgh (until at least 31 May)
  • Reduced service between Stornoway and Glasgow

There will be no change at Barra airport, which will continue to receive its scheduled two flights per day.

Benbecula and Stornoway will share two Glasgow flights per day on a circular basis. There will also be two daily Saab 340 flights between Stornoway and Inverness.

Passengers booked to fly on the services which have been cut have received emails notifying them of a new timetable, with the option to re-book if they wish via www.loganair.co.uk.

Onward flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness to UK destinations including Birmingham, Exeter and Manchester are also being reduced or suspended, and international routes including to Norway and Denmark have already been suspended, with routes to Ireland suspended from Monday (23 March).

It is expected that a quarter of Loganair’s fleet of 40 aircraft will be put into temporary storage as a result of the schedule reductions.

In this morning’s statement, the airline said that forward bookings continue to fall dramatically, leading to an overall reduction of over half of the Loganair flying programme for April and May.

Chief Executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “We have now seen forward bookings fall by around 75% versus their usual levels. From the end of next week, we will be implementing an emergency timetable, which will reduce our operations from around 214 to 95 scheduled flights each weekday – a cut of 55%. We expect this to be a temporary reduction and we are implementing this until the end of May but may have to extend that timescale as the situation continues to develop.”

“Customers booked on flights up to the end of May can change their reservation without a change fee to travel on a future date. However, if future flights are more expensive, the difference in fare will be payable. Where services are completely suspended a full refund will be applicable.”

“I would strongly advise our affected customers to manage their booking through our website as we are experiencing exceptionally high call volumes into our call centre”.

“Importantly, we will maintain lifeline services to the island communities we serve but will be forced to do so with reduced frequency.”

“The situation is incredibly serious and alongside the obvious health and safety implications, puts the future of the entire aviation industry in jeopardy. With this in mind, we have joined with other UK carriers to seek emergency measures from the Government to support all airlines in the sector.”

Hinkles revealed that Loganair staff have been asked to consider a series of measures aimed at protecting employment levels – including reducing working hours by 20% and accepting a 20% reduction in salary as a result or taking a period of unpaid leave.

He said: “We are working hard to avoid redundancies and lay-offs as have already been seen at major international airlines and as are likely to follow at several UK airlines in the coming days.”

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan commented:“It is clear that the present COVID-19 crisis presents an existential threat to much of the aviation industry.

“Flights to the Western Isles are genuinely lifeline services and we rely on them for a number of essential deliveries, such as medical supplies. It is absolutely vital that some form of service remains in place through the coming months.

 

Care teams across the Western isles are looking for more people to join them in supporting those in need.

The Western Isles Health and Social Care Partnership is currently putting in place contingency measures to ensure that it is as well prepared as possible to contain, delay and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Ron Culley, Chief Officer, Health and Social Care, said: “Our priority is the most vulnerable patients and service users in our communities. In current circumstances, we are looking at every option to ensure our staff teams can be spread across the people who most need our support.

"We estimate that as many as 160 of our staff members may not be available for work over the next three months, which means we will have a huge challenge in meeting the needs of 600 or so people who rely on us for their care.”

“As the Scottish Government has escalated its advice about people self-isolating, we are seeing greater numbers of staff unable to provide front-line care.

"As such, we are looking at every option to build up our workforce.

"We are therefore interested in hearing from anyone whose employment position may have changed recently or who might be considering working in care.

"We are putting in place fast-track arrangements to ensure that people can secure appropriate employment with the Comhairle’s care services.

"If you already have skills and experience in care, then that’s great, but it’s not essential – we’re still interested in hearing from you.

In addition, Health and Social Care staff will today begin communicating with families who have relatives in receipt of a care package, to discuss whether family members could increase the care they provide themselves.

Ron Culley continued: “We must plan for the worst case scenario. We fully appreciate that not every family has the ability to provide additional support because of wider responsibilities, such as work and other caring duties. However, if families are able to provide input in this way, then we will be exploring these options.

“The communities of the Western Isles have a rich history of pulling together in times of need. This is one such time, and now we need to be there for each other.”

If you are interested in working in care, please contact the Comhairle as soon as possible by:

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

Phone: 01851 822606

A Stornoway café/restaurant is adapting to the prevailing coronavirus alert while still allowing people to enjoy some outside social experience.

The Harris & Lewis Smokehouse is changing its opening times to Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm with longer hours on Saturday from 9am to 10pm. 

Last orders will be somewhat earlier than closing times, depending on demand.

For those wanting to enjoy a change, but to do a take-away, bagel and coffee at £5 is on offer from 9am-4pm

They are limiting numbers to 20 diners in the restaurant at one time with five tables downstairs and two upstairs.

Each group will be seated at least two metres from other diners to conform with recommendations on social contact.

They were already encouraging diners to sanitise on entrance by making use of the sanitising unit in the entrance.

They will be using one-use menus (paper disposable) and specials will continue to be served daily.

Reusable cups will no longer be used. Payments are by card only – and if you want something to eat at home, purchases of smoked salmon from the Smokehouse itself are still available.

The Smokehouse restaurant is asking people to book online or call to make a reservation to avoid disappointment.

And they add: “Any customer with a booking on Thursday or Friday evening over the next few weeks, we will be in touch closer to the time to let you know if the restaurant is open during the evening.”

 

  • Ambulance rumours quashed
  • - Surge in cases warning
  • – Piping contest postponed –

Repeated claims on social media that Island patients affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 would be not be allowed to use air ambulance flights off the Islands have been rejected.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan raised the issue of air ambulances for island patients affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 with Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman MSP.

The MSP had been contacted by a number of constituents due to widespread concern that people infected by COVID-19 might be prohibited from flying on air ambulances. 

Alasdair Allan also queried the issue with the Scottish Ambulance Service which has been able to reassure him that there would be no such ban, and that the air ambulance would always be an option for such patients.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “While the Western Isles is yet to have a reported case of coronavirus, it is unfortunately only a matter of time before that happens and we all need to prepare ourselves. 

“I have raised the question about directly with the Scottish Ambulance Service as well as with the Health Secretary. A journey by ferry for affected patients would be extremely long and arduous, and this should only be considered as an option of last resort.

“I was reassured therefore by some of the information which the Cabinet Secretary was able to give in the chamber today about this subject.

“There is clearly going to be a need for as much information as possible in the coming days and weeks, and I have therefore sought more detail from the Scottish Government.”

Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, asked the Health Minister Jeane Freeman yesterday (Tuesday March 17th) to re-emphasise the need for self-isolation by confirming that Scotland had been anticipating the same “heavily concentrated burst” of COVID 19 cases as predicted in England.

In chamber at Holyrood, Mr Stewart said: “The chief medical officer for England predicts that nearly all the Covid-19 cases will hit in a heavily concentrated burst – 50 per cent in a three-week period and 90 per cent in a nine-week period.”

Ms Freeman said that the aim of new self-isolation measures announced by the Scottish and UK Governments was to bring down those numbers “as low as we possibly can over a long period and to do that in a way that will allow our NHS to manage those who will require their particular treatment”.

Mr Stewart said: “This is a fight for all of us and we can only do it if we work together in the face of this great challenge. We can only hope the massive ongoing effort to persuade people to self-isolate and to make it financially possible for them to do so will stagger the onset of infections as much as possible to reduce this swell so that our NHS will manage.”

And the P/M Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Piping Competition has been postponed until later in the year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The prestigious competition was due to be held in Stornoway on Friday, April 3.

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society announced the postponement yesterday (March 17) after discussion with NHS Western Isles. 

A junior Donald Macleod competition, due to have been held for the first time this year, has also been postponed until further notice. It was to have taken place on the Thursday, April 2.

Dr John Smith, chairman of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said: “The Lewis and Harris Piping Society have decided to postpone the Donald Macleod competition which was due to be held on the 3rd of April.

“We had become increasingly concerned over the national situation over the past weekend and yesterday sought the advice of the Western Isles Health Board’s public health department and their advice was that the competition should be postponed if at all possible. The advice was further reinforced by the advice by government later yesterday afternoon that unnecessary social contact should be avoided.

“We are naturally very disappointed as all the arrangements had been in place and the pipers had been given their tunes and were all set to come to Stornoway for the 3rd of April.

“We are also disappointed for the youngsters who had been selected to take part in the inaugural Pipe Major Donald Macleod junior competition on the Thursday evening.

“Our provisional plan is to look at a suitable date in the autumn – possibly late September, perhaps even late November.”

Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust sponsors the competition to the tune of £5,000 and will also be sponsoring the inaugural junior competition, by donating commemorative quaichs to all participants, when the time comes.

 

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is calling for £780m being made available to Scotland from the UK Government to be dedicated to dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Cameron, the Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary, has also called for urgent help to be given to the tourism and retail sectors in particular as they are currently bearing the brunt of the behavioural effects of the virus.

The £780m is due to Scotland via Barnett consequentials resulting from Coronavirus budget measures and the Coronavirus Response Fund announced last week by the UK government.

In response, the Scottish Conservatives are asking the Scottish government to ring-fence the entire £780 million for COVID-19 measures and to follow the UK’s lead and establish a Response Fund to support the NHS and other public services with the financial resources it needs as the virus continues to spread.

Mr Cameron said: “We are in no doubt of the significant impact of COVID-19 on our society, economy and our public services.

“This substantial £780m funding package from the UK government will help Scotland prepare for, and mitigate, the effects of this global pandemic.

“Given the extreme and widespread impact of this health crisis, the entire £780m must be ring-fenced for COVID-19 by the Scottish government.

“In addition, the Scottish government should follow the UK government’s lead and establish a Response Fund for the NHS and other public services to alleviate any funding concerns

“Here in the Highlands and Islands we are particularly concerned about the impact on the tourism sector, especially accommodation providers, and businesses reliant on visitors to the region. They will need our support to get through this very difficult time.

“Everyone agrees this is going to be a challenging period  for our economy – we can, and must, focus financial support where it is needed most.”

Shops and community groups across the Western Isles are making moves to ensure that nobody gets left alone or in want as the impacts of coronavirus begin to make themselves felt.

In Tong, the community hall is closing to bookings and groups for the foreseeable future, but the committee are getting together to plan support for vulnerable neighbours and those in self-isolation.

Their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/207557566481020/?fref=nf is one place to go for help, with a statement today saying: “Please also get in touch if any vulnerable members in the village need help. The TRA will do all they can to support anyone who needs help, shopping or just a chat on the phone if they are self-isolating. No one is in this alone!”

They’re looking at word-of-mouth contacts through churches and other organisations as well as at social media solutions, such as a WhatsApp group for neighbours to call for help.

Members of Tiumpanhead Community Association in Point are offering individual support to their neighbours in the Aird district via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TiumpanHeadCommunityAssosiation/

And in Stornoway Councillor Gordon Murray is looking for volunteers prepared to help the most vulnerable in the Manor area. With all meetings cancelled he’s asking people prepared to help to contact him by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 07769 287 044.

 

Some shops also aim to reassure regular customers that they will be able to get what they need – whether they need to self-isolate or not.

Buth Tholastaidh has announced that anyone in Tolsta who is self-isolating can contact them on 890281 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if they are in need of anything.

Stag Bakeries has issued an appeal for good sense as their mobile shop heads out on the road to supply essentials to regular customers in out-of-town areas.

Posting on Saturday, they said: “Please be mindful when using our mobile shop. The mobile shop is a lifeline to many of our island’s most vulnerable elderly and some housebound, this is the only means they have of getting their weekly shopping.

“It is enough of a challenge to provide this service out of a van without the need to impose ‘rations’ on certain items. The van serves the same areas Monday to Friday and, while we always welcome new customers, we have an established regular customer base.

“We currently have plenty stock of everything – toilet roll included – and have no reason to think our supply is going to run out. If everybody just does what they always do there will be plenty to go round and we will not run out!! Please don’t make us have to ration.”

The Co-op convenience store on Cromwell Street had a similar message, subscribing to a national advert on behalf of supermarket retailers. The message asks all shoppers to be considerate in the way they shop. It reads: “We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without.

“There is enough for everyone if we all work together.” The Stornoway Co-op described it as “a really important message – show you care and share.”

We welcome more examples of community self-help – contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Annual General Meeting 

of the North Lochs Community Association

will be held on

Tuesday, 24 March at 7.30pm

in North Lochs Community Centre, Leurbost

 

 

All welcome.

 


The latest coronavirus figures - confirmed at 2pm today Thursday 19 March - show there are still no cases officially detected in the Outer Hebrides or in Orkney.

The total for Highland Region is now six, one up on the previous day.

There are 24 cases shown for Shetland - an increase of eight since yesterday. Some cases from Grampian have been reassigned to Shetland as more information on cases became available.

A total of 6,506 Scottish tests have been concluded so far. Of these:

  • 227 tests were positive. That's up 39 from yesterday. In all, 139 of the cases were in Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian areas - an increase of 24 since yesterday.

A change in the testing régime means there is expected to be a lull in the rising number of cases until serious infection victims start to emerge from self-isolation in a few days time. 

A total of six patients in Scotland who tested positive for Coronavirus have now died. That total has doubled since yesterday. 


NHS Western Isles has cancelled a number of services as a measure to help staff prepare for significant and unprecedented service pressures anticipated in the coming weeks and months of the coronavirus outbreak.

NHS Western Isles says: "These decisions have not been taken lightly, and are being implemented in the interests of protecting public health and avoiding the spread of COVID-19.  NHS Western Isles understands that this is a very worrying time for patients, and we would like to reassure that these precautions are aimed at keeping essential services running safely. 

 ELECTIVE SURGERY, SCOPES AND OUTPATIENT APPOINTMENTS

NHS Western Isles will continue with planned elective surgery until Friday 20th March. Thereafter, all elective surgery is regrettably cancelled until further notice.  Scope activity will continue at present.

In terms of outpatient activity, and appointments with consultants, this is under urgent review. We will be using Near Me/Attend Anywhere conferencing with patients as much as possible.

Patients are currently being contacted directly to inform them of cancellations.

AHPs

In terms of appointments with Allied Health Professionals (Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Dietetians, Podiatrists and Radiographers), the majority of routine appointments are being cancelled (with the exception of appointments which will help prevent hospital admission). Again, patients will be contacted directly regarding cancellations.

 DENTAL

Routine dental appointments will not be offered until further notice, but all urgent and emergency services will continue.

This will help limit the chance of infection being passed between patients in busy waiting areas.

Some of the dental clinics based alongside medical practices will be closed, to reduce pressure on their services. Lochmaddy and Tarbert Dental Clinics will temporarily close for this purpose, and emergency patients will instead attend Western Isles Dental Centre or Liniclate.

When calling to make an appointment you will be asked a few questions about your health. This helps staff judge how urgently we need to see you, and the safest place for your treatment.

Patients who have existing health problems, particularly if older, should mention this when calling.

 MATERNITY

Maternity services will be largely running as normal, with the exception of the cancellation of Parent Classes stopped for the next month. Women will be contacted directly if there are changes to their antenatal appointment times or arrangements.  Any women with concerns, travelling from the Uists and Barra to Stornoway, should get in touch with Head of Midwifery through their local midwife.

NEAR-ME PHONE AND VIDEO CONSULTING

All GP practices and hospitals in Scotland have been asked to increase their use of remote consultations by phone or video.

This will mean most people can receive the NHS care and advice they need from their own home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Phone will be the first choice, with a step up to:

  • Near Me video consulting where it offers additional clinical benefit
  • face-to-face consultations when needed

More about Near Me phone and video consulting:

https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus#information-for-professionals

https://www.nearme.scot/

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, said: “Western Isles NHS Board has conducted, and continues to do so, on a daily basis, reviews, and resilience planning for all services, in response to the rapidly developing Coronavirus situation.

“We are confident that our rigorous approach to planning how we will care for those who require care, hospital admission and those who become the most sick, is putting us in a high state of readiness to respond.

“All our plans will, by necessity, evolve and change rapidly and daily in response to Coronavirus and the uncharted territory it presents. It must be recognised, that no single plan, or indeed collective plans, reflect the unique, unprecedented resilience and responses required to effectively respond to and combat Coronavirus.

“The pandemic we now face, is going to cause severe and unprecedented challenge and disruption to health and social care services. The NHS and partner resources will be severely stretched.

“We are indeed in uncharted territory, and will need to respond rapidly and flexibly to the challenges and difficulties before us. Our staff, energy and resources will require to be deployed in ways never imagined or planned for before, and in ways we would previously probably have considered unacceptable.”

He continued: “Many of our planned diagnostic, care and treatment procedures are being quickly scaled back to allow for the emergency capacity that will be needed in the weeks and possibly months to come.

“If your planned procedure or operation needs to be cancelled, you will be notified as soon as possible, and kept informed of any developments. I apologise to those of you who will experience delay.”

“I hope you will come to accept why we have had to take these necessary steps. Your NHS staff are working tirelessly to be ready to respond over a long period, and I pay enormous and sincere tribute to their efforts and commitment.” 

 

All sport and leisure facilities, libraries and museums throughout the Western Isles will close indefinitely by 5pm today, Tuesday 17 March 2020.

Following the advice from Scottish Government that all non-essential social contact should be avoided - as a precautionary measure - all sport and leisure facilities, libraries and museums throughout the Western Isles will close indefinitely by 5pm today, Tuesday 17 March 2020, says a statement from Comahirle nan Eilean Siar.

Harris and Lionacleit Sports Centres will close at 4pm.

All after school lets are also cancelled until further notice.

Further information for Slàinte Mhath Scheme members will be issued in due course.

A spokesperson, said: “It is important to reiterate that these are precautionary measures which are being taken in order to follow Scottish Government guidelines.”

Stornoway’s An Lanntair arts centre is closed today (Tuesday 17 March) as they consider their options for the immediate future.

The centre staff announced on social media this morning that they were reconsidering their previous position, which was that films and other events would continue at the centre.

The change of approach has been triggered by last night’s Scottish Government announcement, which said: “To slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) the general public are being asked to stay at home as much as possible and avoid unnecessary social contact.

“People should minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations and smaller gatherings such as restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, cinemas and gyms.”

An Lanntair said today: “In light of this new advice, An Lanntair will be closed today (Tuesday 17th March) whilst we seek further clarity on Government guidance.

“Our top priority is the safety of our staff, audiences, customers, artists and participants. We will provide an update here and on our website for everyone later today on any further changes to our provision. 

“Sending love to all from everyone at An Lanntair in these challenging times.”

The announcement is likely to impact future planning of arts events in the town, with Wednesday night’s One Minute Film Festival at An Lanntair already cancelled.

Also cancelled is an unusual small-venue performance at Stornoway Town Hall by the Glasgow band rock band Mogwai, who announced only last week that they were to perform in Stornoway as part of a Highlands and Hebrides tour in April.

In what is an extraordinary incident for Stornoway, some of the supplies intended for the Eilean Siar foodbank have come under destructive attack.

Since early 2019, the local Foodbank has been making use of storage space in the disused Carlton pub in Francis Street.

Now it’s been broken into twice in a fortnight, with the vandals wreaking havoc sometime over last weekend

One of those involved said on Facebook: “It was disappointing to see the Carlton broken into again. This time they trashed the food bank section just for fun.

“If anyone knows who they are please tell the police, we can’t let people let this off with this type of behaviour. They open ended tins of beans and poured it everywhere, destroying a lot of food.”

 

As the UK and many other countries around the globe grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, the push for people to work from home has never been greater. Remote working is rapidly becoming the new norm for many people.  But how do you make a success of working from home? After over eight years of home working from a spare bedroom on the isle of Lewis, Taylor Edgar - now living and working in Viet Nam – gives his top ten tips for surviving the transition from office to home.

Read more of his blog on https://hanoi177.wordpress.com/

1) Create a proper work station for yourself, preferably in a spare room if you have one. Do not be tempted to set up camp on your sofa or at the kitchen table. For one thing, the ergonomics are all wrong, and you will end up with a sore back. Trust me on this. A desk and an adjustable chair are much preferable. And more likely to get you to focus on the tasks at hand.

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

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

Renovation and extension of house, Bayhead, North Uist

Richard Bramble of Otter Cottage, 2 Kyles Paible, Bayhead, North Uist, has applied for planning permission to renovate and extend the existing stone byre at Studio 2 Kyles Paible, Bayhead, North Uist, to form an artist studio/workshop. 

Agricultural shed, East Gerinish, South Uist

Stephen MacRury of 11A East Gerinish, South Uist, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural shed at 4 Caltanish, East Gerinish, South Uist. The shed is to be 18 metres long, 9 metres wide and 4.8 metres tall. The walls are to consist of box profile sheeting and concrete panels, and the building is to have a fibre cement roof. 

Agricultural building, Creagorry, Benbecula

James Macrae of 1 Craigstrome, Creagorry, Benbecula, has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 1 Craigestrome, Creagorry, Benbecula. The building is to be 4.8 metres long, 10.8 metres wide and 3.4 metres tall. The building is to be clad in green single skin cladding. 

 

The tourism body Outer Hebrides Tourism has responded to requests for information support from businesses already feeling the effects of international concern about Coronavirus.

In a statement issued today, chief executive Rob McKinnon said: “There is currently no guidance on limiting travel, all CalMac sailings and Loganair flights to the Outer Hebrides are at present continuing as normal. It is for individual businesses to decide how to respond to cancellation requests.
 
“If a guest develops symptoms whilst staying in your accommodation, the NHS guidelines states for them to call NHS 111 for advice.”

Mr McKinnon also directed tourism businesses to VisitScotland’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) information page at https://www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/advice/coronavirus which signposts health, travel and business advice sources.

He advised that he is to be one of the contributors to a Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) group, which will monitor developments and look for ways to support businesses through the challenges of the coming months.

The STA itself has published a call for government intervention which paints a bleak picture for tourism in Scotland.

It says: “Forward bookings are down, some by up to 50% …. a significant amount of business and consumer travel is on hold, all of which represents a critical threat to Scotland’s tourism industry.  Our airports are also reporting a huge drop in passenger numbers; our entire tourism sector is moving into an extraordinarily precarious position.”

NHS Western Isles is reminding patients that they must bring their own regular/repeat medication with them when they come into hospital.

The hospital can supply medication, but it is patients’ own responsibility to supply regular repeat medications.

It is essential that patients manage their repeat prescriptions effectively, ordering from their GP/ Community Pharmacy and not running out.

NHS Western Isles is reminding patients that they must bring their own regular/repeat medication with them when they come into hospital.

The hospital can supply medication, but it is patients’ own responsibility to supply regular repeat medications.

It is essential that patients manage their repeat prescriptions effectively, ordering from their GP/ Community Pharmacy and not running out.

The latest coronavirus figures - confirmed at 2pm today Monday 16 March - show there are still no cases in the Outer Hebrides.

The total has remained at two for Highland Region.

There have been 15 cases in Shetland - with four new ones since yesterday - so far, but still none at all in Orkney.  Shetland Council is closing a number of its main schools and nurseries this week for “operational and resilience reasons”.

A total of 4,895 Scottish tests have been concluded so far. Of these:

  • 4,724 tests were confirmed negative
  • 171 tests were positive - that's 18 more than on Sunday. In all, 93 of the cases were in Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian areas.

Event cancellations – Tuesday 17 March

There have been a number of further cancellations of events following Government advice last night (Monday 16 March).

Cancellations include:

  • Uig community’s performance of Dr Zoolightly, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Uig Community Centre, has been cancelled.
  • Autism Eilean Siar has cancelled their coffee morning, planned for Tuesday (24 March) at the Failte Centre on Bayhead.
  • Friday night music sessions at the Failte centre have also been cancelled until further notice.
  • Stornoway Karate Club has cancelled all classes for four weeks.
  • Alzheimers Scotland – Western Isles has cancelled their programme of support groups as a precaution and to allow them to focus on supporting people at the Solas centre. Groups suspended include: Dementia café at Clan MacQuarrie community centre and football memories at Ionad Stoodie in Garrabost, both on 3 April; music for memory at the Failte centre on 7 April; Tolsta café on 14 April and the men’s café at Back football club on 28 April.
  • Pairc Trust announced today that they have decided to suspend healthwalks in Pairc for the time being, because of the social, face-to-face contact they involve. A trust spokesman said: “Such a shame - just last week we were visited by a film crew from the Scottish Health Council who took some coverage of our walk in Orinsay. They are making a film to show how beneficial healthwalks are for well being.”
  • The Galson Trust and Scottish Ambulance have cancelled two life-saving skills workshops which were due to be held at Sporsnis in Ness on Monday (23 March) and at Clan MacQuarrie community centre on Monday 30 March.
  • The Skye-based charity lucky2Bhere has suspended all emergency life support training, including a session due to be given on Thursday (19 March) at the Marybank Community Hall. Installation of a new defibrillator/AED at Lava’s Garage is to go ahead as planned.
  • Point senior citizens group Young at Heart has suspended all meetings until the situation improves. Chair Ken Nicolson said: “Disappointing, but needs must. Good health is more important than anything. Please take care, look after yourselves and one another. Follow all the advice given regarding the virus and look forward to meeting again soon.”

Click for our summary of existing national advice on coping with the onset of coronavirus

http://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto/16283-coronavirus-the-advice-that-can-save-lives

More news will be added as it becomes available

Developments in the Western Isles from Friday 13 March to Monday 16 March, are reported below and include:

  • Island landmarks close
  • Island communities plan self-help
  • Island league football suspended
  • HebCeltFest statement
  • Monday 16 March - Coronavirus cancellations
  • Provincial Mòds ‘may not happen’
  • First virus cruise cancellation
  • Commissioners to limit travel
  • NHS Western Isles: Hospital visits
  • Social group cancellations
  • Community kindness takes hold
  • CnES Care Home Visiting Restrictions
  • Cafe's cleansers taken in 'virus' theft
  • Care home closed to non-essential visitors
  • Small business changes against virus
  • Coastguard special measures
  • Outer Hebrides LEADER postpones event
  • Sport cancellations

  • All sport and leisure facilities and Comhairle offices remain open.
  • From tomorrow (Tuesday 17  March) all activities run by ISL/Sports Development will be suspended, including swimming lessons.
  • Aquafit classes and ‘Move More’ group activities held during the day will also be suspended.
  • All other adult Fitness classes will continue at this stage.

More CnES details here:  https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto/16301-covid-19-comhairle-update

Solas day centre remains open – people and family will be updated immediately of any changes, reports Marion MacInnes
Locality Leader Alzheimer Scotland, Western Isles  | 01851 702123  | 07771 925 730 
18 Bells Road, Stornoway, HS1 2RA

Plea over 'panic-buying'

Western Isles Emergency Planning Tweeted on Monday 16th: "There is a lot of anxiety around coronavirus in the WesternIsles, however panic buying of foods and other goods can only make the situation worse. Spare a thought for those not able to buy large amounts who will suffer if you buy too much..."

Island landmarks close

Harris Tweed Authority
has updated their arrangements following Government advice and has closed their office to the public from today (Tuesday 17 March).
In a statement this morning a spokesperson said: “In our best efforts to be responsible to both our staff, our customers and the small tight-knit community we live in, the HTA is following advice and closing the office to the public for the time being.
“Please use our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. email address or call us on 01851 702269 if you wish to order labels, loom spares or other supplies. We have measures in place to continue to provide a service to you throughout this time. For our local customers, the office will open from 11am-12pm daily to allow you to collect items if need be.
“The priority is of course that everyone tries to keep healthy and to look after and look out for each other. We are thinking of our Harris Tweed family across the globe now more than ever. Stay safe, everyone.”
Also closed today is the Callanish visitor centre. Centre manager Victoria Harvey said: “The safety of our staff and visitors is paramount and we are going to take today to seek further clarity from the government guidance. We will post an update across our social channels and on our website later today which will detail any changes to the services we provide.
“The stone circle will be open as normal and we just ask that you use your best judgement, and self-isolate where necessary. Our top priority is the health and safety of our staff, our visitors and our island and this is such a troubling time. Our thoughts are with you all.”
Gearranan Blackhouse Village is also closing to the public from today until the end of June.

Island communities plan self-help
Community organisations in the islands are making plans for ways in which people can help each other as closures and service restrictions are put in place.
The Tong community hall is closing to bookings and groups for the foreseeable future, but the committee are getting together to plan support for vulnerable neighbours and those in self-isolation.
Their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/207557566481020/?fref=nf is one place to go for help, with a statement today saying: “Please also get in touch if any vulnerable members in the village need help. The TRA will do all they can to support anyone who needs help, shopping or just a chat on the phone if they are self-isolating. No one is in this alone!”
They’re looking at word-of-mouth contacts through churches and other organisations as well as at social media solutions, such as a WhatsApp group for neighbours to call for help.
Members of Tiumpanhead Community Association in Point are offering individual support to their neighbours in the Aird district via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TiumpanHeadCommunityAssosiation/
And in Stornoway Councillor Gordon Murray is looking for volunteers prepared to help the most vulnerable in the Manor area. With all meetings cancelled he’s asking people prepared to help to contact him by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 07769 287 044.

Lochs Services are looking for volunteers to help identify elderly or vulnerable people who may need a delivery, with deliveries also dependent on community volunteers. If you can help, contact them on 860377.
We welcome more examples of community self-help – contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Island league football suspended

The traditional summer season of football in the Western Isles looks set to be suspended, with an announcement today (Monday 16 March) from Lewis and Harris Football Association (LHFA).

In the statement published this morning, LHFA said: “The LHFA has received confirmation that all football under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Football Association is suspended until further notice. This advice includes all matches within the Scottish Amateur Football Association and any member leagues and associations. This also applies to friendly matches.

“A decision to continue or suspend training is at each club’s discretion at this time but all clubs must follow the current medical guidance issued by the Government and health authorities when making the decision.”

Some clubs had already made moves to suspend training and competition planning, with Lochs Football Club announcing on Friday that they were cancelling all football activities at all levels.

Stornoway Athletic (Aths) also announced yesterday (Sunday) that all plans for friendly and festival matches and under-7s coaching in Sandwick Hall on Mondays were to be suspended until further notice.

The club said: “Coaching at the astro-turf will continue on Monday nights at the normal times until further notice. Parents and carers should make decisions on children attending based on the current advice and their own situation. There is no pressure from Aths to attend coaching if you have any concerns. Our position may change as time moves on.”

Matches in the island league were due to begin in the second week of April, with the first cup matches in the Acres Boys Club (ABC) cup tournament due soon afterwards.

HebCeltFest statement

The Hebridean Celtic Festival said today (Monday March 16th):

"We know that a lot of people are understandably concerned about coronavirus and also what it means for HebCelt Festival. As things stand today, we are continuing to prepare for the 25th anniversary festival in July. However, the situation is changing day to day, even hour by hour, and we are conscious of the Scottish Government’s advice on events involving more than 500 people. We hope things will improve in the coming weeks, but the health and wellbeing of everyone concerned must be our main priority. We will continue to review the situation and take any further guidance from the Government and medical experts. Rest assured all tickets are protected. If we were required to cancel the festival, your tickets would be refunded.
Thanks for your continued support of HebCelt. Look after each other!"

Monday 16 March - Coronavirus cancellations

Other cancellations attributed to the current Coronavirus situation and associated health advice have been announced today. They include:

  • Point Youth Club, which meets on Friday evenings at Tiumpanhead Community Centre in Aird, has cancelled all meetings until after the Easter holidays, when they will update parents further.
  • The committee of the Co-operative Community Football League has decided to cancel the rest of the season of Back 8s football matches. A new summer format of Friday night 5s is also liable to delay in starting up.
  • Stornoway publisher Acair is asking customers not to make personal calls to their office at An Tosgan, but to place orders via their website instead.
  • Stornoway Rugby Club will not be holding junior rugby training until 29th March, in line with Scottish Rugby’s current advice.
  • The Harris Tweed Authority’s Story Room display is closed to the public for the time being, although the office in Stornoway Town Hall is still open for callers.
  • Sharon Mackinnon School of Highland Dancing has cancelled the Mackinnon Festival Highland dancing competition, due to be held on Saturday (21 March) at the Nicolson Institute
  • T’ai chi classes by T’ai Chi Hebrides at the Bridge Centre and Sandwick Hall on Tuesdays are closed until the end of April
  • Outer Hebrides for Independence has postponed the Independence March planned for Stornoway on 18 April. A new date is expected to be set in August or September.
  • Stornoway Judo Club is following advice from Judo Scotland and postponing classes at least until after the Easter holidays.
  • Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland is temporarily suspending meetings of the Stornoway Monday Stroke Club on advice from their national office.

Other businesses are taking measures to limit any potential spread of infection.

  • Harris and Lewis Smokehouse restaurant has stopped taking cash payments and will not be using re-usable cups. Other precautionary measures include hand sanitiser for the use of all customers as they enter the restaurant.
  • Uig community shop has intensified their hygiene regime, particularly in high contact areas. They are also encouraging people to shop in moderation and will be increasing the availability of their delivery service to customers self-isolating at home. Call the shop on 01851 672444.
  • The community pop-in lunch planned by North Harris Free Church for Tuesday 17 March has been cancelled due to current health advice.
  • Mollans café in Callanish has agreed a protocol with environmental health officers to allow them to continue to operate their takeaway service safely. Customers will be asked to ring ahead on 07985 233723 to place orders, which will be brought to their car. Mollans has also offered a delivery service to customers in Callanish, Breasclete, Garynahine and Tolsta Chaolais who are self-isolating.

Provincial Mòds ‘may not happen’

The organisers of the Royal National Mòd, An Comunn Gaidhealach, have issued a statement on the impact of Coronavirus following their meeting on Friday (13 March).  The directors have written to all local groups and committees with their summary guidance, which includes a warning that they do not anticipate local and provincial Mòds planned for May and June this year to take place.  With Uist Mòd set for 29 and 30 May, Lewis Mòd for 1 to 5 June and Harris Mòd for 12 June, this would effectively cancel the local Mòds for the year. The date for the local Mòd in Barra and Vatersay is yet to be set.   An Comunn Gaidhealach said that guidance would be issued in due course concerning the autumn round of local Mòds and the Royal National Mòd itself, due to be held in Inverness from 9 to 17 October.

Cruise cancellations

The cruise line Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) has been the first to announce that it is suspending all worldwide cruise embarkations “due to the escalating global pandemic of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.”  All departures of their cruise vessels until 24 April are suspended. They say Government advisories and impending lockdown of ports around the world have contributed to their decision, as have health and safety concerns for their passengers and crew.  CMV’s ship Astoria was due to be the first official cruise visit of Stornoway’s 2020 season, calling in to the port on Thursday 9 April with a potential total of 550 passengers.

Astoria was due to make a total of three visits to Stornoway during April and May this year and her sister vessel Marco Polo is also due to call in May.

Also cancelled is the visit of the Norwegian training ship Gann, due into Stornoway on 6 May. The ship, which provides training to maritime students from Norway and other countries, has closed to students and cancelled all registrations. She is due for her second call to Stornoway in September..

Commissioners to limit travel

Crofting Commissioners will limit their travel to Inverness this week by telephoning into their Board Meeting that will be held on Thursday 19 March. At this point in time the meeting will still be open for members of the public to attend, but those Commissioners who live in more remote areas will take part in the meeting via a telephone link. This decision has been taken to limit the possibility of any contact and possible transfer of illness that may occur, albeit that the risk is low at present.

Rod Mackenzie, Crofting Commission Convener, said, “Most of our Commissioners live in remote areas and we consider it prudent that where possible the Commission should limit travel to ensure the risk of transferring any infection is kept to a minimum. This is a time of year in the crofting calendar where most crofters self-isolate anyway with lambing and calving imminent and most of us would like to keep the exposure to infection at a minimum.”

NHS Western Isles: Hospital visits

  • Do not visit anyone in hospital if you have a fever/ respiratory / cough or cold symptoms.
  • All visitors must hand sanitize when entering and leaving clinical areas.
  • People must go to NHS Inform for up to date information and advice: https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus
  • If you develop flu like symptoms, please do not  attend your GP or hospital but call your GP or NHS24 on 111 for advice if you need it.
  • People with a new onset of continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days.

Social group cancellations

Island groups are taking measures to protect the most vulnerable, with closure of facilities which specifically serve older people and those with compromised immune systems.

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI) trustees have taken the decision to close the WICCI centre on Cromwell Street for treatments as of tomorrow (Monday 16 March).

The closure has been described as ‘for the foreseeable future’ and comes in light of advice and direction from other cancer support centres in Scotland.  WICCI centre manager Helen Sandison said: “Very sorry to be doing this, but hope you can all understand the need to keep everyone as protected as we can.”

Stornoway’s Failte Centre on Bayhead has similarly decided to close until further notice. In an announcement today (Sunday) a spokesman said: “We have taken advice on the current Covid 19 situation and have decided that, as we are ALL in the age group most at risk from the virus in the Thursday Lunch Club, we will be discontinuing our lunches as from today. 

“This is very disappointing for us as we make a point of not closing but in this instance, we think that we are being prudent. We will keep this closure under review and we look forward to reopening as soon as we can.”

The Hebridean Men’s Cancer Support Group have cancelled their next four Friday meetings and postponed their AGM, due on 25 March. The committee plan to meet in two weeks’ time and to review the position in light of any developments over that time.

And in Barra, the Garadh a Bagh a Tuath community project is closing their Thursday café until further notice, although the garden itself remains open for the time being.

 

Community kindness takes hold

Shops and community groups across the Western Isles are making moves to ensure that nobody gets left alone or in want as the impacts of coronavirus begin to make themselves felt.

Some shops also aim to reassure regular customers that they will be able to get what they need – whether they need to self-isolate or not.

Buth Tholastaidh has announced that anyone in Tolsta who is self-isolating can contact them on 890281 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if they are in need of anything.

Stag Bakeries has issued an appeal for good sense as their mobile shop heads out on the road to supply essentials to regular customers in out-of-town areas.

Posting on Saturday, they said: “Please be mindful when using our mobile shop. The mobile shop is a lifeline to many of our island’s most vulnerable elderly and some housebound, this is the only means they have of getting their weekly shopping.

“It is enough of a challenge to provide this service out of a van without the need to impose ‘rations’ on certain items. The van serves the same areas Monday to Friday and, while we always welcome new customers, we have an established regular customer base.

“We currently have plenty stock of everything – toilet roll included – and have no reason to think our supply is going to run out. If everybody just does what they always do there will be plenty to go round and we will not run out!! Please don’t make us have to ration.”

The Co-op convenience store on Cromwell Street had a similar message, subscribing to a national advert on behalf of supermarket retailers. The message asks all shoppers to be considerate in the way they shop. It reads: “We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without.

“There is enough for everyone if we all work together.” The Stornoway Co-op described it as “a really important message – show you care and share.”

In Tong, the committee of the Community Hall are encouraging villagers to look out for neighbours, vulnerable people and those who are self-isolating by using the increasingly popular self-isolation postcard.

Designed to be dropped through the letterbox to offer help to those isolating at home, the postcard is also being distributed via social media in Point and through church groups in Stornoway.

Care Home Visiting Restrictions

Upon advice from the Scottish Government in relation to Coronavirus, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is implementing a practice of having a single representative as residents’ named visitor at its Care Homes.

The Comhairle is also restricting visiting times in all its Care Homes to the hours of between 2pm – 3.30pm and 6pm - 7.30pm.

The only exceptions to these times will be where the named representative is supporting a resident during meal-times. Residents’ representatives will be contacted directly by Care Home staff to discuss this.

These measures started from 7.30pm on Saturday 14th March 2020.

The Care homes affected are Dun Berisay, Dun Eisdean and Ardseileach in Stornoway, Harris House in Tarbert, Isle of Harris, Trianaid, in Carinish, North Uist, Taigh a’Chridhe Uile Naomh in South Uist and St Brendan’s in Castlebay on Barra.

A spokesperson said: “We are following national advice on this matter. We understand that relatives and friends will be concerned but we are asking for understanding and co-operation. This is about reducing risk and protecting health. Many Care Home residents are vulnerable due to age and underlying medical conditions and these steps are being taken to afford the best possible protection for residents and their carers.”

Comhairle Care Home contact details can be accessed here:  https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/community-care-and-criminal-justice/community-care/island-care-homes/

Further information and guidance on Residential Care residents is available at https://www.careinspectorate.com/images/COVID-19_-_Clinical_Guidance_for_Nursing_Home_and_Residential_Care_Residents.pdf

Cafe's cleansers taken in 'virus' theft

This morning (Friday Match 13th) the Woodlands Centre café in the Castle Grounds found that all the hand-cleansing materials had been stolen from its toilets.

Iain Maciver, the factor of the Stornoway Trust, condemned the irresponsibility of those involved, the needlessness of the act and warned that this sort of action could cause such public faciities into closure as they were no more able to buy such supplies locally than anyone else, with supermarket shelves often devoid of soap, hand cleansers and toilet rolls.

Local suppliers are now imposing individual sale limits on the quantities of the increasingly scrarce commodities.

Care home closed to non-essential visitors

Blar Buidhe care home in Stornoway was closed to non-essential visitors as of 12 noon yesterday (Thursday 12 March) in a move to protect residents from the possible arrival of Coronavirus in the Western Isles.

The decision has been taken by the group HC-One, who operate Blar Buidhe, and who have taken the decision across all their homes to restrict visiting to essential visitors only.

Non-essential visits include social visits from relatives and loved ones, visits from individuals such as hairdressers and entertainers and from professionals and contractors carrying out non-essential services.

Blar Buidhe manager Donald McIntosh said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, but we hope you will understand that it purely in the interests of protecting our residents from Coronavirus, which will remain our absolute priority.

“There is currently no restriction on healthcare professionals visiting the homes and there will be no adverse effect on the continuity of care. For further information please call 01851-706067 We thank you all for your understanding in this matter”

A statement from HC-One issued yesterday (12 March) said: “We know our visitors, including relatives and loved ones, would want us to do everything possible to keep the residents in our care safe and well.

“If you can delay your visit or achieve its purpose through another method, such as through a phone call or video call, please do so. Requests for essential visits will be considered where exceptional circumstances arise. These can be arranged by contacting the home manager.”

https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto/16272-msp-pledges-vigilance-on-virus

Small business changes against virus

Small businesses are considering closures and limitations on business as the risk of Coronavirus reaching the Western Isles becomes more real.

Yesterday (Thursday 12 March) Stornoway’s Crown Inn published a notice informing customers that bookings from overseas customers had been cancelled and refunded and that currently no future bookings from countries outside the UK were being taken.

They said: “As a local business that invites guests from all over the world and with Coronavirus continuing to spread, we have taken the decision not to accept any accommodation bookings outwith the UK until further notice. We are taking all the precautions necessary to safeguard our employees and local visitors.”

Stornoway business Wee Studio issued an announcement this morning  (Friday March 13) saying that the business would close today.  Business owner Keith Morrison said: “Due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation I've taken the decision to close the Wee Studio doors for the foreseeable future starting today at lunchtime. 

“I'm sure a lot will be happening in the next few weeks, but at the moment I'm planning that I will be re-opening March the 30th. Stay safe everyone.”

Meanwhile some other businesses have put safeguarding procedures in place to prevent possible spread of the illness should any customer become infected.

Health salon Body and Sole said today: “As the situation around novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, we are doing everything we can to make sure we follow guidelines to stay hygienic and safe. We must ensure the safety of each other now on the island. 

“Please note if you are showing any signs of symptoms, please cancel your appointment until you feel symptoms ease. We need to protect the vulnerable and in my profession I work very closely with the public. Hand sanitiser is available to use on our front desk, please feel free to use it on entering the salon and leaving. Thanks and stay safe and well.”

And Hebrides Dance and Wellbeing Studio has put in place protections including sanitising spray for use on yoga mats and changes to some exercise and dance routines to avoid physical contact between customers.

Business owner Kirstie Anderson encouraged people to help keep themselves and others well, including by taking health exercise. She said: “Please be vigilant about hygiene before and at classes (I'm sure you all already are!). Good hygiene helps prevent the spread of not only the novel coronavirus but colds and flu as well. 

“Please wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is more effective than using hand sanitiser. Please remain home if you're not feeling well.

“If you're feeling well, I hope you'll feel happy to continue your exercise and activity with me. Healthy bodies have strong immune systems to fight off illness.”

Coastguard special measures

Western Isles Coastguard teams and the HM Coastguard operations centre are implementing special measures to remain prepared for an outbreak of Coronavirus in the Western Isles.

They said: “As a Category 1 emergency responder we have had to implement special measures to ensure that HM Coastguard is able to respond effectively to emergencies during this period of crisis caused by COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

“To that end, we are unable to participate in much of our usual activity such as talks, visits and open days which could expose external organisations or ourselves to heightened risk of transmission of the virus. We are unable to attend joint exercises and training and cannot allow visitors into our stations.

“Our response capability remains unaffected and we look forward, as does the rest of society, to the resumption of normal life and the lifting of these very necessary restrictions.”

Outer Hebrides LEADER LAG postpones event

Taking into account all current information on the outbreak of the Coronavirus it is with regret that the Outer Hebrides LEADER LAG announces the postponement of the LEADER and EMFF Celebration and Film Launch Dinner Reception which was due to take place on Thursday 19 March.

The LAG also intended to host a similar event in Uist in April, however both events have now been postponed until later in the year.  We will notify you of the new details when they are confirmed and we hope that you will be able to join us then to celebrate LEADER, EMFF, your projects and businesses.

For more information, follow us on Facebook (Outer Hebrides LEADER) or follow us on Twitter @LEADEROuterHeb.

Sport cancellations hit islanders

Cancellations of sporting fixtures nationally and internationally are now affecting island players and athletes.

Lewis Camanachd’s 2020 season has been indefinitely postponed, after the Camanachd Association announced this morning (Friday 13 March) that all matches are to be cancelled.

The association said:While it is unlikely that shinty matches would have exceeded the 500 person quota for events put in place by the Scottish Government yesterday, we are mindful of the concerns that exist and risk associated with the spread of the virus particularly to those most vulnerable and for those travelling long distances in close proximity to others. 

“Consequently we have taken the difficult decision to postpone all matches under our remit. The wellbeing of the people in our communities is primary in this decision and we hope that this decision removes any expectations or pressures on participating during a time that we can be focused on doing all we can to suppress the spread of the virus.”

Stornoway Rugby Club is also among teams who have learnt today that future fixtures are being postponed, after Scottish Rugby announced that all rugby is being suspended in the face of the virus.

Scottish Rugby today issued a statement saying: “With effect from Sunday 15 March at 6pm there will be a short period without domestic competition (or training) whilst a further assessment can be made. This will be in effect up to, and including, 29 March 2020. 

“This will impact rugby in all domestic league and cup fixtures, training, festivals and other rugby events. We have taken on board all expert medical advice before now and we are taking a precautionary approach to give time to assess what the impact of Coronavirus will be on Scottish society in the coming weeks before deciding on next steps.

"This decision has been taken with the best interest of everyone involved in the game and in support of the country's work to address the impact of Coronavirus."

Stornoway RFC were next due to play a re-scheduled fixture away to Peterhead on March 21, and at home against Gordonians 2nd XV on Saturday 28 March.

 

Dog-owners are asked to take special care when walking dogs as farmers and crofters prepare for the lambing season.

Donald Cameron, Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “Every year farmers and crofters are left dealing with the heart-breaking consequences of uncontrolled dogs savaging their lambs.

“It is incumbent on dog-owners to ensure that their pets are fully under control when walking anywhere near livestock, particularly at this time of year. 

“Even dogs which are normally well-behaved have been known to unexpectedly attack livestock, so it is really important that people exercise caution.

“It is the owners’ responsibility for their dogs’ behaviour and they should remember that livestock worrying can be a criminal offence.

“I very much hope dog-owners take note and we have an incident-free season this year.”

TRAVELLING (OR NOT) IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

By Katie Macleod

From her blog http://storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com/

AT THE START OF THE YEAR, AS I ALWAYS DO, I WROTE ABOUT MY 2020 TRAVEL PLANS.

The travel plan I was most looking forward to, unsurprisingly, was returning home to Scotland for Easter. With my brother’s school holidays coinciding with my visit, we would be at home in Lewis together for the first time in years, and I’d have enough time for a weekend trip to Glasgow too, to stay with one of my oldest friends and have a good old catch up like we used to do when we both lived in the Outer Hebrides.

Maybe I was in denial, but I still thought I might be able to travel, right up until last Thursday morning. Already working from home in an effort to contribute to “social distancing,” as I watched the news get progressively more concerning by the hour, I knew I wouldn’t be going home in a few weeks’ time. I knew I needed to cancel my flights.

Like everyone else, I’ve known about Coronavirus for months. A good friend of ours who lives in China made it home to London before the country went into lockdown, and I was vaguely aware of a case somewhere in Arizona when we flew there for a long weekend in February. But back then it still seemed like something distant, something we didn’t need to worry about quite yet. (I’ve been sanitizing my hands after being on public transport ever since I moved to New York, so I wasn’t altering my behaviour these past few weeks so much as noticing other people were starting to do the same.)

IT’S FUNNY HOW FAST THINGS CAN CHANGE, THOUGH. AS THE SUNDAY TIMES’ TRAVEL EDITOR WROTE THIS WEEKEND, “WHILE A WEEK IS A LONG TIME IN POLITICS, IT’S AN AGE, WE’RE DISCOVERING, IN A PANDEMIC.”

Please click through to http://storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com/ to read the rest…the full post was here for a while but Google watches us all and doesn't approve of duplicate articles!

Langabhat Medical Practice is to close three of its surgeries this week (Monday 16 March) due to staff shortages and in response to Coronavirus.

Uig, Bernera and Gravir surgeries will close, with GP appointments available by phone only. Receptionists will take a message and the GP will call patients back.

Prescriptions for all patients will temporarily need to be collected in Leurbost, allowing 72 hours (three days) between ordering and collecting a prescription.

The practice has also said that all forthcoming nurse appointments are being reviewed and patients will be contacted over the next few days.

Ferry services throughout the Western Isles are disrupted today (Monday 16 March) as strong south-westerly winds batter the Isles.

Barra has seen the day’s service between Castlebay and Oban cancelled and services across the Sound of Barra suspended pending a review at 4.30pm today.

In Harris the 2pm service from Uig to Tarbert and return at 4pm are cancelled, with other sailings under continual review. Sound of Harris sailings are also currently suspended and subject to review, disruption and cancellation this afternoon.

MV Loch Seaforth made this morning’s crossing from Stornoway to Ullapool but is now tied up at Ullapool and expected to return as per timetable at 5.30pm today.

Benbecula Thrift Shop are no longer accepting donations until further notice.

The shop will remain open, but say their opening hours could change at short notice as the COVID-19 situation develops

The team have commented: "Donations that do arrive from now on (effective from 16 March 2020) will be rejected in order to help protect our team of volunteers."

To find out the opening hours, check the shop's Facebook page.

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

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

New house, Castlebay

Anthony Boyd of 3 Cearn Eoghainn, Castlebay, has applied for planning permission to build a new house, 2A Garrygall, Castlebay. The house is to have four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a dressing room, a kitchen/dining area and a lounge. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars, and installing a septic tank, air source heat pump and bin store. 

New house, Castlebay

Neil and Christina Nicholson of Caravan, 102 Borve, Castlebay, have applied for planning permission to erect a house at 102A Upper Borve, Castlebay. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a utility room, a kitchen/dining/family room and a lounge. Work is to include installing a septic tank, and creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars. 

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

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

Change of use of mill, new office, Stornoway

AMK Plant Hire has applied for planning permission to change the use of the former mill site at 28-40 Inaclete road to a haulage yard with vehicle repair shop. Work is to include erecting a new office building with air-source heat pump and creating two new accesses onto Bells Road.

New shed and access, Point

Calum Macritchie of 8A Aignish has applied for planning permission to erect a shed and create an access at 14 Aignish, Point. The shed is to be 13 metres long, 10 metres wide and 4.76 metres tall. The shed will have three rooms inside and is to be used for implements and food storage. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars.

New polycarbonate building, Barvas

Jo-Ann McConnachie of 8 Loch Street, Barvas, has applied for planning permission to build a polycarbonate building at 8 Loch Street, Barvas. The building is to be 12 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres tall. The walls and roof are to be made of translucent polycarbonate and the building is to be used as a polycrub for growing produce.

Replacement of 11kV voltage regulators

Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution plc has applied for planning permission to replace the 11kV voltage regulators (overhead line of less than 132kV) at Overhead Line, Melbost, Borve.

New house, Uig

Jen Topping of 25 St Philips Road, London, has applied for planning permission to erect a new house at 8A Timsgarry, Uig. Work is to include creating a new access.

New house, Coll

David Mackenzie of 8 Lower Sandwick has applied for planning permission to erect a house with attached garage at 46A Coll. The 1.5 storey house is to consist of five bedrooms, a kitchen/dining/living area, a lounge, utility room, three bathrooms, a gallery sitting area and a dressing room off the master bedroom. Work is to include creating a new access and parking suitable for two cars.

Agricultural feed and equipment store, Sandwick

Andrew Mackenzie of 17A North Street, Sandwick, has applied for planning permission to build an agricultural feed and equipment store at 17A North Street, Sandwick. The store is to be 12.19 metres long, 9.14 metres wide and 4.75 metres tall.

New house, Uig

Roderick Macdonald of 90 Fauldburn, Edinburgh, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 6 Crowlista, Uig. Work is to include creating an access.

New sun room and balcony, Lochs

Luca Baserga of Cromore Old School, Cromore, South Lochs, has applied for planning permission to build a new sun room and balcony at Cromore Old School, Cromore, South Lochs.

David Stewart MSP lent his support to Marie Curie’s big fundraising appeal month, the Great Daffodil Appeal, at an event at Scottish Parliament on Thursday night (March 12th). 

Meeting with staff and volunteers from Marie Curie, Mr Stewart was interested to hear about care and support provided to people living with terminal illness in Scotland. 

Marie Curie supported over 7,500 people in Scotland last year through their hospices, nursing care and support services.

Across the Highlands and Islands, Marie Curie Nurses made over 7,600 visits to care for terminally ill people in their own homes last year.

Everyone donating and wearing a daffodil pin in March helps Marie Curie provide vital care for people living with a terminal illness and support for their families. Marie Curie hopes to raise £700,000 this Great Daffodil Appeal.

Mr Stewart said: “I’m delighted to support this incredible charity and all that they do to support people living with a terminal illness. Terminal illness is a difficult time for individuals and their family but Marie Curie strive to make things a little easier by providing hands-on and emotional help.”

He continued: “The Great Daffodil Appeal is a simple yet effective way for everyone to show their support and I would encourage everyone to donate what they can and wear their daffodil with pride.”

Richard Meade, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Scotland at Marie Curie said: “Thank you to David Stewart MSP for his support.

“Whether you wear a daffodil pin in celebration, in solidarity or in memory of a loved one, you are joining with millions of others to help make sure all dying people get the care and support they deserve.”

Donate and wear your daffodil now. Visit mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil, SEARCH ‘Marie Curie Daffodil’ or text DAFF to 70099 to donate £5*. *Texts cost £5 plus your standard network rate. Marie Curie receives 98% of your donation.

Photograph:  Marie Curie/Stewart Attwood

Stornoway Amenity Trust has closed down its activities after 25 years providing improvements and entertainment for the people of Stornoway.

The trustees wound up their business at their last meeting in February, transferring continuing activities to the Western Isles Community Society, which runs Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery.

Amenity Trust chairman Charlie Nicolson said the decision had been taken partly in the light of dwindling numbers of trustees and partly because of growing activity and support for Western Isles Community Society.

He said: “We have held two Annual General Meetings which were poorly attended and many of us who remain are well up in years. We couldn’t carry on with the workload we had, with just six or eight members.

“Instead the remaining trustees plan to support the community society, and people who were involved with the trust are already working with this and other organisations.”

Stornoway Amenity Trust has been delivering improvements to the former Burgh of Stornoway area for the last 25 years, initially concentrating on floral displays and Christmas lights, but then embarking on an ambitious development programme that included the restoration of Lady Matheson's monument, improvements to the Castle Green and the creation of the Stornoway waterwheel, as well as work at Canada Crescent and around the Porter's Lodge.

Statues and sculptures they have placed around the town include the Herring Girl, the fisherman at Lazy Corner and the horse and cart outside the Porter’s Lodge.

The trust successfully organised Tattoo Hebrides in 2009 and 2014, with visiting pipe bands and Shetland Vikings, and it has also supported the Lewis Carnival and other events over the years.

Trustee Tony Robson said: “Latterly funding for projects has been solely sustained by the local lottery and as result of this it has been decided to continue the important and essential improvements to the town through the Western Isles Community Society, which runs the Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery.

“We hope everyone will support the Western Isles Lottery, as this is a way of improving not just Stornoway but the whole of the islands.”

Pictures show the massed choirs and bands, vikings and fireworks which accompanied Tattoo Hebrides (Stornoway Amenity Trust).

 

What can a baby teach us about empathy? For local school pupils taking part in the Roots of Empathy programme, the answer is everything from empathy to emotional resilience and even responsible citizenship.

Roots of Empathy – which originated in Canada in 1996 – works by taking a volunteer or “teacher” baby and their parent into a primary classroom for nine visits throughout the school year. A trained instructor then leads the sessions, which help pupils learn to label the baby’s emotions and bond with the child through playing, singing, and reading – all with the ultimate goal of making the pupils more empathetic, emotionally literate, and less likely to engage in bullying. 

Since it was first introduced in Scotland in North Lanarkshire by Action for Children in 2010, the programme has expanded to every local authority in Scotland, with Uist and Benbecula receiving their first programme in 2011. Michelle Macrury, Social Work Assistant for Comhairle nan Eileen Siar’s Education and Children’s Services and a trained Roots of Empathy Instructor, has so far delivered nine different programmes in different island schools, and is currently delivering Roots of Empathy to the Primary 1-3 class at Iochdar School in South Uist.

“The children see how the baby has developed, they see all the milestones and developmental stages, and they become so attached to him,” says Michelle. She explains that there are nine themes in each programme, beginning with “Meeting the Baby” and going on to cover topics such as “Caring and Planning,” “Emotions,” and “Communication.” Three separate school sessions – a pre-family session, a family session with the parent and baby, and a post-family session – then take place for each theme, with the post-family lesson reinforcing the teachings around feelings and empathy. 

Roots of Empathy also brings in skills from other areas of pupils’ education, including maths skills while working out the weight of the baby; literacy skills while reading stories about communicating; and art skills as pupils draw and paint to express their own feelings. “I’ll read stories as part of the programme, and the children do quite a bit of artwork, drawing pictures of their feelings. It might be “How I felt when my first tooth came out,” because they’ve seen the baby getting their first tooth, and it makes them think about each other’s feelings,” explains Michelle. On top of developing the ability to understand their own feelings and those of others, Roots of Empathy also aims to prepare pupils for responsible citizenship and parenting in the future.

“We were delighted when our P1-4 GLE children were invited to participate in the Roots of Empathy programme last session,” says Sarah Jane Macsween, Head Teacher at Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath. “I think this progamme would provide an ideal context for developing vocabulary in the Gaelic Medium Education early years setting and hope to introduce this next year.”

“Once every three weeks, our neighbour, baby Moses MacIsaac and his mother, Marion MacIsaac, came to visit our school and worked with our children and class teacher, Mrs Ellwood, in their classroom. Michelle Macrury lead the sessions as our children observed the signs of how baby Moses was feeling. There were nine baby visits lasting 40 minutes per session, and our children engaged and interacted very positively during all the sessions.”

More than 500,000 children around the world have taken part in the programme since it began, and in 2013 Scotland was the first country to roll Roots of Empathy out to every council area, thanks to £1.2 million in Scottish Government funding. In the next school session, Roots of Empathy will also be delivered locally entirely in Gaelic, when Michelle’s colleague Anne Marie Johnstone completes the Roots of Empathy training in Glasgow. As Michelle says, “the schools have enjoyed it and thought that it has been very beneficial to the pupils,” and the addition of Gaelic sessions will expand its reach.

After nearly a decade of the programme, Roots of Empathy is starting to come full circle in the islands, and the bonds with the baby “teachers” remains long past the sessions have ended. Jenna Macdonald, who was herself a Roots of Empathy baby in Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich, is now a pupil in Iochdar School, learning to look after the current volunteer baby, Seonaidh MacRury, who is visiting the school with his mother Kareen Currie. 

“We were very excited about welcoming Moses and his mother Marion and the programme was a great success,” says Sarah Jane of Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath’s experience with Roots of Empathy. “Our children and school community now have a very positive relationship with Moses’ family, and we look forward to welcoming Moses as pupil in four years’ time!”

Pictured: Primary 1-3 class at Iochdar School in South Uist with baby Moses MacIsaac

There are still no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the Outer Hebrides, says NHS Western Isles.

Official advice remains that, if you develop flu like symptoms, please do not attend your GP or hospital but call your GP or NHS24 on 111 for advice if you need it.  People with a new onset of continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan commented on yesterday's (Thursday 12 March) updated official advice on Coronavirus, and the announcement by Loganair that there will be a reduction in scheduled flights.

An NHS Western Isles spokesperson said: "Nobody in the Western Isles has tested positive for Coronavirus to date." It’s understood that a number of beds have been set aside for isolation and treatment of potential cases of the virus in the islands.

The news comes as CalMac confirmed they have developed contingency plans to deal with any disruption caused by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of 2pm yesterday, there have been 60 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) across Scotland.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:“While we have not yet had any confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the Western Isles, we do need to prepare ourselves for that eventuality. It is clear that, for a period of time, people may need to change the way that they normally live their lives.

“The outbreak has the potential to cause significant disruption for islanders in particular because of any possible impact on ferries and planes. It is clear that a great deal of contingency planning is being done by all agencies around these questions and I continue to discuss with ministers the importance of having contingency plans in place which enable the continuity of supplies to the islands. This is something I have also discussed with the companies concerned.

“This is a very serious issue and it is important that, in times like these, we all follow the advice of health care professionals. It is important to note that the advice has been today updated to include such matters as advice about school trips abroad, mass gatherings of people, and also what steps people should take if they have symptoms.

“The Scottish Government is providing regular updates at www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19.  Public health advice from the NHS can be found at:www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus. People who do not have symptoms but are looking for general advice can phone the free helpline 0800 028 2816.”

You can reduce your risk of getting and spreading respiratory infections by:

  • avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
  • maintaining good hand hygiene - washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser before eating and drinking, and after coughing, sneezing and going to the toilet
  • avoiding direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoiding using their personal items such as their mobile phone
  • covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with disposable tissues and disposing of them in the nearest waste bin after use

Coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline

If you do not have symptoms and are looking for general information, a free helpline has been set up on 0800 028 2816.

The helpline is open:

  • Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 10.00pm
  • Saturday and Sunday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

 

Stornoway police are urging people who have lost property to get in touch, as a large number of items are being held at the police station in the town waiting to be claimed.

Among lost property handed in over the past two months has been a total of four bicycles, one of which is a ladies’ bike and one a relatively new one, suited to an older child. Jewellery including watches and rings has also been handed in.

Lost property brought to the police station by Tescos superstore includes a number of keys, including house keys and car keys. A key for a Skoda and one for a Citroen are among those found in the store. One set of keys has a fob which carries two pictures of children and another has the name ‘Alex’ on it.

Lost property is kept for two months by the police before being redistributed via charities where appropriate. It can be claimed by calling in person at Stornoway police station and speaking to the desk staff, or by calling 101, when you will be put through to Stornoway.

A police station administrator said: “People must be missing these items and we are keen to get them back to their owners as soon as possible.”

Stornoway Running and Athletics Club (SRAC) are celebrating an active boost after winning £1,000 worth of sports equipment in a random draw by SportScotland which took place yesterday (Thursday 12 March).

The club participated in SportScotland’s nationwide member survey, helping the national body to better understand the contribution it can make to building an active Scotland.

SportScotland’s aim is to get and keep people active, improve opportunities to take part in quality sport and physical activity and to develop physical competence and support health and wellbeing. 

All Scotland’s sports clubs were encouraged to distribute the survey to their members, with the added incentive of a prize draw which would see one club drawn out of all the responses.

SRAC were the club who saw their name drawn out of the hat yesterday, winning £1,000 of sports equipment.

The picture shows delighted coaches and club members on the track at Lewis Sports Centre.

Gress cyclist Iain ‘Tohan’ Macleod was handed a champion’s trophy at the Scottish Cycling awards ceremony on Saturday (7 March).

Iain, who now cycles with Aberdeen Wheelers Cycling Club, is the 2019 Men’s 50-Mile Time Trial Champion with a finishing time of 1:45:50. 

He was awarded his winner’s trophy at Stirling Court Hotel, Stirling, at a celebratory evening where champions let their hair down with fellow riders, special guests and some of the Scottish Cycling team.

In 2020 Iain plans to target the 100-mile TT Scottish record, currently standing at 3:36:10.

Pictured is Iain ‘Tohan’ Macleod with his champion’s trophy (photo credit to Pammie Hall).

Urgent action continues to be needed to support the west coast of Scotland’s fishing industry, repeats Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil submitted a parliamentary question to the UK Government’s Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel, last month asking what plans she has to enable non-European Economic Area (EEA) fishermen to gain employment on fishing boats on the west of Scotland.

Currently skippers, including those on the islands, are struggling to recruit crews and need, like on Ireland, non-EEA fisherman.

Mr MacNeil said the response to his question from Kevin Foster, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Home Department, was “very disappointing” and “vague” and he will continue to press the UK Government to set a date for when non-EEA fishermen will be permitted to join crews.

The response stated: “From 1 January 2021, we will introduce the UK’s points-based system.

“The future points-based immigration system will prioritise attracting the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services.”

Mr MacNeil said: “This response from the UK Government is very disappointing and vague and displays little understanding of the current situation facing our fishing industry.

“Boats are being tied up due to lack of crews. This is damaging for skippers, the processing sector and our economy.

“I will continue to pressure the Home Office on this issue.”

A television company filming with an unmanned ‘drone’ device have been unable to explain why the drone hit a sea stack at Mangersta and fell into the sea.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch have concluded an investigation into the incident, which happened on 15 September last year.

The report said that the DJI Phantom 4 Pro had been flown at Mangersta sea stacks to capture cinematic shots for a television series. While it was being flown near to the sea stack, it either drifted or was flown too close to the stack and then fell into the sea below it.

The drone was not recovered so the cause could not be determined and the 38-year-old pilot stated that neither he nor the observer knew exactly what had happened.

Last recorded images showed the sea stack coming into view, with the drone flying sideways towards it. The flight log did not show any errors and there was no suggestion of a technical failure, but the obstacle avoidance system did not detect the stack, give warning of an imminent impact or automatically avoid the stack.

The pilot reported the incident immediately afterwards using an aircraft accident report form.

A flood alert issued yesterday (Wednesday 11 March) by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) remains in place today.

SEPA warns that high tides combine with storm-driven wave surges to present a risk of coastal flooding through the whole of the Western Isles.

SEPA said: “Low-lying properties, roads and causeways that are exposed to the coast are at risk at times of high tide during this period.”

In Stornoway high tide of 4.90 metres is expected at 8.58pm this evening and 5 metres at 9.12am tomorrow.

Loganair has today (Thursday 12 March) warned that numbers of flights are to be temporarily cut before the end of March as the impact of falling customer numbers due to Coronavirus takes effect.

But the company’s chief executive, Jonathan Hinkles, has pledged that no island community will be left without an air service, given the lifeline nature of many of the routes.

He said: "We recognise that there are unique considerations around Loganair flights being used to deliver island pharmaceutical supplies, fly blood samples to testing laboratories and a host of other dependencies on our services. We will do all that we reasonably can to take these into account when taking decisions around schedule reductions."

In a statement released this lunchtime the company said it had seen a reduction in forward bookings of between 15% and 20% as the severity of the virus outbreak has developed.

Mr Hinkles said: "The trend is visible throughout the Loganair network, and there are no signs of the hoped-for ‘staycation’ effect. The effect at present appears to be short-term and is primarily hitting bookings for the remainder of March and through April and May. 

"We have already taken action to remove around 10% of our planned flights in April and May, amounting to about 700 flights in all, but with a greater deterioration in bookings since those decisions were taken last week, we are now about to embark on a further round of schedule reductions and I am expecting that a further 10% of flights will be cancelled for April and May.  

“We will work to provide as much notice as possible to customers when flight cancellations are made, and an alternative or a refund offered."

The 17 new UK regional routes formerly flown by failed Flybe and due to be taken over by Loganair will go ahead, but with a possible short delay in the launch of some of these routes. Mr Hinkles said that any capacity released from cancelled services would be used to bolster aircraft and aircrew standby capacity for resilience reasons.

CalMac have today (Thursday 12 March) announced a new urgent medical appointments protocol to support island residents travelling to the mainland for medical appointments at short notice.

The new arrangements promise islanders that they’ll be able to get to a medical appointment, even if the ferry they need to catch is already fully-booked for vehicles.

They’ve pledged to get patients to urgent medical appointments, even if it means travelling as a foot passenger, with CalMac paying for a taxi onwards.

CalMac’s managing director Robbie Drummond said: “First and foremost we are a lifeline service to the communities we support, but under the current terms of our contract we cannot prioritise space on sailings for local people, presenting us with challenges in certain circumstances.

“This new approach is one way we can offer some flexibilities to islanders who need to attend hospital or other urgent NHS appointments at short notice and is a direct result of concerns they have raised.

“By investing in initiatives such as this we hope to help satisfy the demands of regular customers, in certain last minute circumstances.”

Responding to today’s announcement, the Scottish Government minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, Paul Wheelhouse said: “We want our ferry networks to provide the best possible service to the communities that rely on them and we are well aware of some of the challenges they face, particularly over the busy summer months.

“Making a commitment to prioritising passengers travelling for medical appointments is something island communities have told us would really help and we asked CalMac to take forward as part of their action plan for services. It's a great example of how a relatively small change can make a big difference to the passenger experience.”

Full details of the new protocol, including how to book, are available at https://www.calmac.co.uk/urgent-medical-appointments

 

 

There’s a big question currently on pupils’ minds at Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath in North Uist: why are the local stickleback fish losing their spines? It’s an investigation that’s seen the school recently receive a grant of £2454.41 from the prestigious Royal Society, the world’s oldest independent scientific academy, for equipment to aid them in their research.

Dr Carl Smith, Reader in Natural History at the University of St Andrews, has spent a decade researching why the stickleback fish population in North Uist are completely losing their distinctive bony armour of spines and plates.

Since October 2019, he’s been the STEM Partner for Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath, with pupils from Primary 1-7 helping him with his research on the island and increasing their own knowledge of natural history and science terminology along the way.

“This is real research that is happening at scientific level, and we’ve involved our children in looking at the types of things that these scientists are actually examining,” explains Head Teacher Sarah Jane MacSween. 

In terms of science education, the goal is to introduce pupils to ideas about evolution, natural selection, and how the environment shapes these processes, particularly in relation to their local surroundings. And the pupils are not only taking part in scientific activities – such as formulating hypotheses about the fish, collecting samples and data, making observations, and drawing conclusions – but learning the terminology behind the activities, too. 

“Although the vocabulary is very extensive, the students are using that kind of terminology now within science, because of the input that we’ve had from Dr Smith. He works from P1-P7 and he can come right down to their level, but he doesn’t dilute the language for them, he still gives them all the scientific terminology,” says Sarah Jane.

Dr Smith made an initial visit to Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath in November 2018 and discussed the topic of stickleback evolution with teachers, met with pupils, and visited a local loch with them. Pupils’ involvement in the research then began in October 2019, when Dr Carl Smith first visited the school to introduce them to the project. As well as familiarising them with the scientific ideas behind the project, he accompanied staff and students on a visit to a local loch to collect sticklebacks, and helped the pupils make entries in their new field notebooks – just as real scientists would.

In April, Dr Smith will be returning to the island to continue his research and update the pupils. The funding from the Royal Society is going towards a new aquarium which will house sticklebacks and sit in the entrance to the school, from where pupils can monitor their behaviour and any visitors to the school can see examples of the learning that’s been taking place. 

Dr Smith will return again in June to help the pupils investigate and analyse their findings, and the project is due to continue into the next school year, with pupils presenting their findings to Dr Smith and their peers from Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich in September. To cap it all off, they’ll attend a prize giving for the best scientific reports, drawings, presentations, and notebooks.

The science project has been such a success that pupils are bringing their learning home: they’re pointing out sticklebacks in local lochs to family members, and some are even developing ambitions to one day become scientists themselves. “There are now about six of children who would like to be scientists because they’ve been working alongside Dr Smith, doing the fieldwork that he would be doing with his students, and with other professors from around the world,” says Sarah Jane of the impact of the project. 

The calibre of the project has also been recognised not just by the grant from the Royal Society, but also in the positive feedback they offered the school; it was described as a “very impressive” investigation, one that is unique “whilst still fulfilling scientific rigour.” The judges commented that the pupils’ search for answers to the evolution of the sticklebacks “will stimulate their thinking and develop scientific skills for all pupils as they move up the primary school and which can be utilised in secondary education.”

“In terms of developing the young workforce, it’s really been at the chalk face in terms of the work that’s been done,” says Sarah Jane. “We’re eternally grateful to Dr Smith for allowing our children the opportunity to get that experience. It’s an exciting project that will have a lasting effect on all who participate and will give them a greater understanding of what it means to be an islander, living in a unique environment.”

Pictured: Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath pupils helping Dr Carl Smith with his research outside and in the classroom.

Work is already underway to create a base for the Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team (HebMRT) which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

But there is a whole lot of official fundraising going to be needed to bring the plan to completion.

Hebrides Mountain Rescue Team has a core of 20 team members, ready to respond to an emergency in the hills or in any remote and rural part of the Western Isles. HebMRT do not self task, but are called out by Police Scotland. As well as assisting with searching for lost and missing persons in the hills, the team also assists with searches in urban areas when someone is reported missing.

Along with other emergency services and community partners, the team also assist at times of storms and extended power cuts, to provide support to vulnerable households, knocking on doors to make sure residents are safe and well. The team are also called upon to assist crofters in rescuing sheep which have wandered over cliff edges. This keeps the crofters safe from harm and provides extra training opportunities for the team.

The team currently operates out of rented premises on Church Street, Stornoway, directly across the road from the Police Station, but they are in the process of building a new team base on Ravens Lane, just down the road from Western Isles Hospital. The steel framed building (including all installations, water, sewage and electrical connections, electrics, plumbing and joinery works, car parking, fencing etc) is going to cost in the region of £160,000.

The team are indebted to McLaughlin & Harvey, the main contractors at the new care home site on Perceval Road, who have very generously assisted the team with the initial groundworks, free of charge. They came on site, cleared out all the soil and purchased and spread over 200 tonnes of infill, so that the site is now ready for the next phase.

George McEwan (Site Manager for McLaughlin & Harvey Construction Ltd) at the new care home site has been of great assistance to the team. McLaughlin & Harvey have saved the team several thousand pounds and have helped them to get the project started.

The team are in the process of applying to various grant making bodies and will be busy over the coming months in trying to get all the funds in place, to make the new building a reality.

HebMRT are just back from a weekend of winter training in the Cairngorms as well as completing a 2-day quad course over in Uig. They have many assets at their disposal including three vehicles, two quads, a drone, a thermal imaging camera (which can locate missing people through fog and mist up to a mile away) and a wide range of rope rescue equipment.

The team operate on a purely voluntary basis – they do not receive any payment for attending callouts or training. They are on call 24 hours a day. If you would like more information about the team or if you would like to make a donation to help with raising funds for the new team base, visit their facebook page (@HebMRT) or their website www.hebmrt.org or email them on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

New figures that show 187 new build affordable homes were completed in the Western Isles last year.

The latest statistics from the Scottish Government show that over 9,300 affordable homes were delivered in 2019 across the country, an increase of more than 25% since 2016.

A total of £25 million was allocated by the Scottish Government for affordable housing in the Western Isles between 2018 and 2021 – the highest per capita for any council area in Scotland.

Welcoming the news, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: “In just the last year alone we have seen 187 new homes completed in the Western Isles, 146 which are for social rent.

“I am delighted that the SNP government is committed to delivering affordable homes and to helping first time buyers get on the property ladder by lending them a chunk of their deposit.

“The Western Isles has a pressing need for more affordable housing and it is good to see work happening to achieve this.”

 

Following the budget today (Wednesday 11 March) The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has welcomed the continued freeze on spirits and additional support for the industry through a green energy fund, while the industry continues to face a 25% tariff imposed on Single Malt by the US government under a transatlantic trade dispute between aircraft manufacturers.

The duty rate on spirits remains £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol, meaning that of the £14.61 average price of a bottle of Scotch Whisky, £10.49 is collected in taxation through duty and VAT. The tax burden on Scotch Whisky remains 72%.

A 25% tariff on exports of Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Liqueurs to the United States has been in place since October 2019, and the SWA had called on the Chancellor to cut duty on Scotch Whisky to help support the industry during a challenging time.

As well as freezing duty, the Chancellor announced a £10m R&D fund to help the industry achieve its net-zero ambitions and additional support to promote Scotland’s food and drink exports, including Scotch Whisky.

In addition, the review of alcohol taxation, announced in the Queen’s Speech, will pave the way for fairer taxation for Scotch Whisky. Spirits continue to be taxed at a higher rate per unit of alcohol than any other category – 16% more than wine and 256% more than cider.

Commenting on the Budget, Chief Executive of the SWA Karen Betts said: “We welcome the fact that excise duty on spirits has been frozen for nearly three years and the Chancellor’s announcement today that excise duty will not rise further. However, our industry needs continued support, through the upcoming review of UK alcohol taxation and while our exports remain subject to US tariffs.

“The fact remains that duty on spirits in the UK is already very high and puts Scotch Whisky at a competitive disadvantage to wine, beer and cider, with £3 in every £4 spent on an average-price bottle of Scotch Whisky going to the government in tax. The review of alcohol taxation is an important opportunity to address that. The Treasury should move quickly to ensure that alcohol taxation is clearer for consumers, fairer for producers and that it supports important domestic products like Scotch Whisky. 

“Our industry also continues to face significant damage to exports to the US, our largest and most valuable market, because of a 25% tariff imposed on Single Malt Scotch Whisky by the US government as a result of a long-running dispute between American and European aircraft manufacturers.

“We are pleased that the Chancellor underlined the UK government’s commitment to resolving these damaging tariffs quickly, while also announcing measures to support Scotch Whisky in a challenging period – including through a green energy fund to support our industry’s leading work to decarbonise the energy we use and achieve net-zero, and new funds for export promotion.

“We look forward to working with government and others to implement these policies and ensure that Scotch Whisky can continue to grow and contribute to the UK economy.”

A big-hearted band and two bidders with deep pockets made for a stunning result at the recent MFR Cash for Kids auction event, part of the official charity of Moray Firth Radio (MFR).

The radio station covers the whole of the north and north-east of Scotland and the Cash for Kids charity supports children and young people with disabilities or who live in poverty, deprivation or distress.

Numerous fundraising ideas from listeners and businesses keep the charity topped up, but at their recent online auction one item attracted a lot of attention.

Stornoway band Peat & Diesel offered to perform a gig in the comfort of someone’s own home, anywhere within the MFR transmission area, as a private performance for up to 40 family and friends.

After a lively bidding war, the private performance sold for an impressive £4,605. But the bucks didn’t stop there. The losing bidder, pipped at the post by just £5, got in touch and offered £5,000 if the band would play just one more gig – and they agreed.

That means two private gigs played by P&D raising £9,605 for children across northern Scotland. It’s part of a tradition of community support already established by the boys from Stornoway, who have also played free of charge at Highland Hospice, in schools and at a care home ahead of their tour gigs.

MFR organisers have christened the band ‘absolute heroes’ and thanked everyone who placed a bid on any of the items in the auction.

Peat & Diesel are off on a tour of Ireland on 19 March, with gigs in Belfast, Dublin, Galway and Cork over a long weekend.

Jewellery designer Jordane Symington of Stornoway is heading for the Tower of London in July, after being shortlisted for a national award in her profession.

Jordane and her company Islewear are in the running for the Retail Jeweller UK Jewellery Awards 2020, where she’s up against six other young designers in the category Young Jewellery Designer of the Year.

Jordane’s designs come from the sea, shore, croft and moor and are all handmade by her, as she says: “Island-inspired treasures, handmade in the Hebrides, inspired by nature, from croft to coast.”

She set up her business after studying jewellery and silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art, and now sells online and at craft and wedding fairs. Her unique island-inspired designs have earned her rave reviews from satisfied customers proud to wear her treasures.

And last week (Thursday 5 March) Jordane learnt that her efforts in design had been recognised with the shortlist announcement from the industry’s main awards.

She said: “I’m delighted to have been shortlisted as a finalist for Young Jewellery Designer of the Year for the UK Jewellery Awards. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony held at the Tower of London in July, and I’m excited to take some island treasures down with me! Huge thank you to all my wonderful customers, stockists and bespoke clients, you let me do what I love, I’m so excited for what else 2020 has in store!”

The picture shows Jordane celebrating her success last week (Islewear).

Health and port officials in the Western Isles are laying contingency plans for action in the event of passengers or crew with symptoms of Coronavirus arriving into ports in the Western Isles during the upcoming tourist season.

A total of 61 cruise vessel visits are currently expected in Stornoway between April and October this year and there are also significant concerns about the impact on the island economy if tourism income from cruise ships and yacht visitors is lost because of cancellations due to the virus.

Alastair Macarthur of Stornoway Shipping Services said today (Wednesday 11 March): “The Port Authority and NHS Health Authorities are following government guidelines, but there are still huge questions as to what may happen over the next few weeks.

“The island certainly does not have the infrastructure to cope with isolating large numbers of sick crew passengers. We have been trying to persuade government to designate a contingency port to which we could direct ships that need access to medical services and supplies.

“At the same time, the summer business from cruise ships is what keeps my business – and many others – going. If the season is severely hampered and cruises are to be affected it will be catastrophic.

“Every year people shout about ‘what do these people bring into the economy’, but they’ll soon find out if the summer is as bad as is being suggested. Just now we can’t do anything other than wait and see.”

In a notice to mariners issued by Stornoway Port Authority on Friday (6 March), masters of cruise and cargo vessels visiting Western Isles ports are advised of the protocol to follow if any person on board has travelled from or via any of the current risk areas as defined by Health Protection Scotland.

A Maritime Declaration of Health (MDH) is already required for all vessels on arrival from a foreign port, but the new notice says: “In response to this emerging situation regarding COVID-19, Health Protection Scotland and the Scottish Ports Liaison Network require that information be submitted to the Scottish Port Health Authority … [for] ALL cruise vessels [and] container and cargo vessels where anyone on board the vessel has travelled from or via any current risk area if they have been in close contact with confirmed case of COVID-19 infection within the 14 days prior to the vessel arriving in a Scottish Port.”

The notice goes on to say that the master of each vessel should consider any of the listed symptoms of COVID-19 as grounds for suspecting the existence of a disease of an infectious nature.

If the port operator or ship’s agent receives notice that there are ill persons on a vessel and the suspected case is a medical emergency, they must call 999 for medical assistance but must not disembark the patient or arrange alternative transport to a hospital until advised to do so.

Stornoway’s Harbour Master has the responsibility to inform the NHS Public Health (local Health Protection Team) and the Port Health Authority (the local authorities).

Even suspected cases of the illness who do not have severe symptoms may not be disembarked from the vessel until the NHS Health Protection Team has determined follow-up action.

The concerns faced by Western Isles ports are the same as those for other island groups around Scotland, where small communities annually play host to large numbers of visitors.

Lerwick harbourmaster Alexander Simpson told local newspaper The Shetland Times this week that the port authority were employing the same measures as the rest of the world.

He said: “The master of any vessel is required by law to report on the health of crew and passengers prior to a port visit. If there is any issue declared the vessel is placed into quarantine and from there is a process which is followed according to our emergency plans.”

And in Orkney a council statement was released to local paper The Orcadian when the Hurtigruten vessel Fridtjof Nansen made her call to Kirkwall last month. It said: “We have had port health procedures in place for many years for dealing with cases of infection aboard ships of all kind. These procedures are aimed at preventing infection coming into the country.

“If there was a suspected case of COVID-19 aboard a ship the health needs of the individual would be an important consideration, but the most likely outcome is that the ship would be redirected to a port on the Scottish mainland close to more specialist health facilities.”

As the number of cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) increases across Scotland, the current advice to prevent spread and contain the virus can be found on the NHS Inform website - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

Because it is a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, but similar viruses are spread by droplets in coughs and sneezes.

Common symptoms include:

  • high temperature or fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

How to avoid catching infections like Coronavirus

You can reduce your risk of getting and spreading respiratory infections by:

  • avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
  • maintaining good hand hygiene - washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser before eating and drinking, and after coughing, sneezing and going to the toilet. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • avoiding direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoiding using their personal items such as their mobile phone.
  • covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with disposable tissues and disposing of them in the nearest waste bin after use.
    • Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 10.00pm
    • Saturday and Sunday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

      Currently, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for the virus.

      Widespread community issuing of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, is not appropriate, and therefore groups and individuals should not approach/contact NHS services requesting PPE. PPE is deployed on a risk assessed, prioritised basis.

      Coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline:  If you do not have symptoms and are looking for general information, a free helpline has been set up on 0800 028 2816.

      The helpline is open:

    Picture: Cruise ships from last summer in Stornoway harbour (John Dyer).

From crofting to kayaking, the pupils at Daliburgh School in South Uist have been making the most of their island environment to supplement their classroom learning experience. “In order to promote resilience and confidence in our pupils, as well as helping them to improve their communication skills and develop their own ability to manage risk, we have focused on using our natural environment to enhance our learning environment,” explains Head Teacher Jane MacIntyre.

For the past two years, the outdoor learning programme has involved a variety of learning sessions both on land and on water. 14 kayaks, two Canadian canoes, camping equipment, and an “outdoor classroom” – as well as all the necessary safety equipment – were purchased using over £10,000 of funds raised from Awards 4 All, part of the National Lottery Fund, and local bodies such as the Community Council and local councillors. “Through various outdoor sessions, our pupils could be seen to gain confidence, and by the end of their kayaking block last year, all the P7s were able to demonstrate how to capsize confidently,” says Jane.

Also part of the outdoor learning experience was the inter-house triathlon held in June 2019, which saw pupils from Primary 1 to 7 take part in a competition which covered racing on the cross-country track, paddling in kayaks, and cycling on school bikes. The triathlon was such a success that this year, Primary 7 pupils from other Uist schools will be invited to join in the fun at a transition event that will include camping, climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, and another inter-house triathlon.

And it’s not just outdoor sporting events the pupils are involved in; they’re learning the importance of looking after and cultivating the land, too. “We are encouraging pupils to make links between their community, their culture, and the curriculum in a way that is relevant to their lives,” explains Jane. Over the past few months, this has included community activities such as local beach clean-ups; outdoor learning visits to different environments, like beaches, forests, and hills; and learning about crofting and growing local produce. Staff from TAGSA Uibhist have also worked with the school to improve and develop the outdoor growing area.

“The children have been learning about the links between sustainability, crofting, and local produce through the work and development of our Crofting Committee, which is made up of pupils from P4-P7, and our Gardening Masterclass (one of the activities offered on a Friday afternoon). Through this, pupils have been cultivating and harvesting their own produce, some of which was turned into chutneys and sold at our Christmas Fayre,” says Jane. The pupils are also responsible for the school’s hens, and the school Crofting Committee is working with local crofters to identify which other animals could be cared for on the school premises in the future.

Pupils are also going to be learning how to develop the school grounds to provide more opportunities for imaginative play, creativity, and problem-solving activities, and a “wild area” is already in development. This learning was enhanced by a training session given as part of the school’s February in-service by Learning Through Landscapes, a UK-based charity dedicated to enhancing outdoor learning and play for children. The charity awarded the school the Local Schools Nature Grant, which included £500 worth of outdoor equipment in addition to the training session.

Outdoor learning of the kind that is taking place at Daliburgh School is a key component of the national curriculum; the Curriculum for Excellence states that “integrating learning and outdoor experiences, whether through play in the immediate grounds or adventures further afield, provides relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors.”

And as Jane explains, Daliburgh School is putting this ethos into practice by “enhancing the pupils’ learning experiences by taking advantage of the benefits that island life gives us: our beautiful environment, close community, and rich culture and heritage.”

Pictured: Pupils in the garden, learning about crofting at a sheep sale and on an RSPB visit learning about wildlife.

 

Ten years of The Leanne Fund was marked in the Scottish Parliament last week with a motion put forward by Isles MSP Alasdair Allan.

Mr Allan congratulated the charity for the significant achievements in providing support to those with Cystic Fibrosis and their families across the Highlands and Islands and Grampian regions.

He said: “The Leanne Fund is an incredible charity which we are lucky to have. It’s even more inspirational when you consider how the charity began, and the work Chrisetta and the other volunteers had to put in to establish the charity and to support people with Cystic Fibrosis and their families.

“I was delighted to put down a motion in the Scottish Parliament marking their tenth anniversary. I hope the next ten years are at least as successful.”

Chrisetta Mitchell, Development Manager of The Leanne Fund said: “The Leanne Fund has progressed so much over the last 10 years which has allowed us to expand to other areas and increase the level of support services we provide.

“We are very pleased that the work of our charity has been noted in the Scottish Parliament and we thank our MSP Alasdair Allan for putting this forward.”

The motion stated: “That the Parliament congratulate the Leanne Fund on its 10th anniversary, considers that is it the foremost Cystic Fibrosis charity organisation in the Highlands and Islands and Grampian regions, praises its achievements in providing psychological, emotional, social, physical and financial support to those with the condition and their families; recognises the legacy of Leanne Mitchell, who passed away from the condition aged 21, of helping others and giving individuals the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest extent and with a joyful heart; commends the Mitchell family and the entire Leanne Fund organisation for their continued tireless support of individuals living with Cystic Fibrosis and their families, and wishes them continued success in the years to come.”

Thursday 12th March - Cyber Resilience

What is it: Ignore the unsexy description - this is important stuff and if your business is online this is an area that it is worth building your knowledge and confidence in. Experts from the Scottish Business Resilience Centre will be visiting the Island to provide practical advice and examples on how to keep safe, including seeing how Ethical Hackers work to help keep businesses safe. Local digital businesses will be there too if you're wanting to speak with someone with local skills in this area.

Relevant to your business if: You sell online or offer online bookings. Had your website, email, social media hacked, want to protect your business online.

Sweetener: Free lunch (there is such a thing!)

Time and Location: Lews Castle College, Stornoway

Book/contact: Book your space on Eventbrite

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cyber-resilience-support-for-rural-businesses-stornoway-tickets-97126669483

Shared from the Outer Hebrides Chamber of Commerce newsletter

 

Local parents are being asked to keep a look out for Healthy Hebridean Kids, a new campaign launching on Sunday 16 March, aimed at helping local parents, family members and carers of children aged 3-6 years to be healthier and happier by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Over the next few months, posters featuring local children will be run on social media, with each one offering advice and useful tips on the things parents and carers can do to encourage healthy living habits in children.

In addition, a new website will also be launched to support the campaign and provide useful information and advice to parents and family members.

Colin Gilmour, NHS Western Isles Head of Health Improvement and Chair of the Maternal and Infant Nutrition (MIN) group, said: “What children eat and drink during their early years can influence their future habits as they grow older. By giving our children the best start in life, we will help them live longer, healthier lives and reduce their risk of developing a range of health issues later in life.”

Latest figures show children in the Outer Hebrides have some of the highest BMIs in Scotland. Being overweight in childhood can lead to health issues in later life, such as obesity, heart disease, low self-esteem and diabetes. This is why it is important to encourage healthy habits early.

Karen France, NHS Western Isles Nutrition, Dietetic & Catering Services Manager, added: “Any parent who would like further information or support can confidentially self-refer their child to our Healthy Hebridean Kids Child Healthy Weight programmes, which are free of charge. Our aim through this campaign is to support children to achieve a healthier weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle – it is not about dieting or calorie counting.”

Healthy Hebridean Kids is hosted by the NHS Western Isles Maternal & Infant Nutrition Group (MIN), a partnership group whose members include Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Action for Children and Community Groups, which aims to improve the health of parents, children and families. Further information on MIN work and Healthy Hebridean Kids can be found at www.parentingwi.scot.nhs.uk

No Smoking Day is the national day celebrating the success of people who have stopped smoking, and encourages those still smoking to try, try again, and give up for good.

For this year’s national No Smoking Day on Wednesday 11 March, Quit Your Way Hebrides (QYWH) would like to help you ‘Get started on your quit journey today’. The local team will be spreading the word across the Western Isles, with a series of displays, activities and information from both QYWH and ASH Scotland on the following social media sites:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • #NoSmokingDay
  • #QYWresult 

However, the main focus for the Western Isles is to highlight the success of a range of clients who have successfully quit smoking and wanted to share their stories with other smokers in the hope of encouraging them to try quitting too.

NHS Western Isles Smoking Cessation Coordinator, Joanne O’Donnell, said: “How you quit smoking is your choice, and different ways work for different people. It’s all about finding what works best for you to help you quit for good. After a few days you’ll start to notice the changes, and there is a lot of help and support around for you from our specialist team across the Western Isles. We support No Smoking Day because we want to hear from people in the Western Isles, about how they stopped smoking, and to use those examples to encourage others who want to quit or who have tried before to give it up on No Smoking Day.”

The quotes are from some of QYWH's successful quitters from across the Islands. Each of QYWH's quitters has a different but very motivating quote to share and encourage you to make your own quit attempt.

Many people just decide to quit and realise that, with support, it was so much easier than they thought. Some people on the other hand may need to make more than one attempt to succeed, but each time they learn something about themselves and what helps or gets in the way. There’s free, expert advice from Quit Your Way Hebrides and your pharmacies and you can get prescriptions for help if you need them. Just have a think, and talk to people, and pick the best way for you to quit.

NHS stop-smoking services in the Western Isles don’t just support No Smoking Day, they work all year round and if you want to quit, they will be delighted to offer you their support. Please give them a call at Quit Your Way Hebrides on 01851 701623 (generic number covering all of the Western Isles) for expert advice and help, however you want it.

No Smoking Day quotes

  • “I wouldn’t have managed without the support of the Quit Your Way, Hebrides, Advisors. 100%!” Laura - Point
  • “I felt really comfortable coming to the service. I never felt judged, go along and give it a try.” Sarah – Isle of Lewis
  • “I was worried about being rejected because I’ve tried to quit before, but I was welcomed back. It really is okay to try again” Sarah – Isle of Lewis
  • “You can have a wee chat about what helps. It is really good to get friendly support.” Christine – Bernera
  • “I was smoke free for 6 months and it was really, really, great support. It was so good to know that the door was always open for me to  go back if I needed to and I did, no need to have worried I was made very welcome.” Iain - Stornoway
  • “Exercise played a role alongside the wonderful support from the Quit Your Way Hebrides friendly and supportive advisors” Mary  - Stornoway
  • “Having MS made it really important to me to quit smoking. Quit Your Way Hebrides offered me the reassurance and support that I needed to realise I could quit and I did. Almost four years now and what a difference. Why not give get in touch and you could be a quitter to.” Paul – Stornoway
  • “Wonderful support from the Quit Your Way advisor. Mags was friendly informative and very encouraging. I smoked for 39 years and I never ever thought I would stop smoking but the wonderful support proved me wrong. It is never too late!” Cathy – Stornoway
  • “Will power, Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and support from the Quit Your Way team helped me to stop smoking. Please, please, give them a call and let them help you to quit too.” Chrissie – Isle of Harris
  • “The Quit Your Way Hebrides service really helped and after three and half months quit I had a brief relapse. I am now back on track and Quit Your Way staff have always been supportive and really helped me to keep going” Donald  - Isle of Harris
  • " Quitting smoking is the most positive thing I have done to improve my health and finances in years" John – Isle of Barra
  • “The Quit Your Hebrides team are very supportive and always readyto tell you the positives of not smoking” William – Isle of Uist
  • “The Quit Your Way Hebrides service was very, very helpful, first time for years I feel I have made progress with stopping” John –Isle of Uist
  • “I tried many times to stop and only with the Quit Your Way Hebrides service did I manage to stop and stay stopped.” Neil – Isle of Uist
  • “The Quit Your Way Hebrides service is great; I wouldn't have stopped smoking without them.” Mary- Isle of Uist
  • “For me it was 100% success, the Quit Your Way Hebrides team were a great help.” Annie – Isle of Uist
  • “I can honestly say I would have smoked again only for the Quit Your Way service.” Mairi - Isle of Uist

A young driver who was involved in a single-vehicle road traffic collision on Saturday (7 March) is one of two drivers to be reported for offences this weekend.

The young man, who attended hospital as a precaution following the accident at Bragar at 11am on Saturday, is within two years of gaining his licence and under the age of 25.

This means that a report to the Procurator Fiscal has to be made following the incident, even though no other driver was involved. He’s to be reported for careless driving.

In a separate incident, a 28-year-old man was stopped by police at 1am on Saturday on Macaulay Road in Stornoway.

He was found to be driving without insurance or MOT and was cautioned and charged. He’ll also be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

The 2020 Snowman Rally lived up to its name on Saturday, but the Inverness-shire course did nothing to help Stornoway driver Ali ‘Nomie’ Macleod.

Ali and his co-driver Thomas Jefferson, with a team of support mechanics and logistics planners, were the only Western Isles competitors lined up at 8.30am on Saturday (7 March) as the rally cars took off from their Inverness start and headed for Dingwall.

Sadly his Escort Mark 3 took too much punishment to beat the course. Ali said: “A right rear puncture about a mile into Stage 1 forced us to stop in stage to replace, that dropped us from 47th to 84th. Gutted.

“Out for stage 2 and we were going well until I ran out of the little talent I have near the finish, putting us into, over and out of ditch, breaking a front suspension arm in process, still managed a joint 40th stage time.

“Repaired car and headed for stage 3 (at) Rogie. This would be our final stage of the day, as a rock pushed the gearbox guard, breaking the gearbox from the engine. So that was us done for the day.

“Hopefully we can get it all sorted and we will be out for Speyside Stages next month. Thanks to our sponsors Autoparts, HIC, K's Stitches, Ian's Home and Gardens, Isle Blast and Nomie’s Bodyshop.”

The pictures show Ali during the snowy second stage (TOP) and with his support team battling to get the show back on the road (BELOW).

Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team (CRT) were called to help with a search for a missing dog on Saturday (7 March), after a man was taken from the water at Stornoway harbour.

A Scottish Ambulance crew had already taken the man into an ambulance after he was found in the harbour water at 2.20am on Saturday, but en route to Western Isles Hospital he told them he was concerned about his dog, which had been with him.

The ambulance crew alerted Stornoway Coastguard operations centre, who tasked a search for the animal from 9am.

A Coastguard team spokesman said: “The team searched the stanchions under the piers and along the shoreline up to the mouth of the Creed but nothing found.  Having completed our search we returned to the station and soon after were informed that the missing dog had been located safe and well.”

The picture shows a member of Stornoway CRT in the water during the search for the dog.

Coronavirus has reached the most distant of the Scottish islands, with confirmation yesterday (Monday 9 March) that two people in Shetland have tested positive for the virus.

Both people had recently returned from a trip to Italy and a third person who has had contact with them has self-isolated.

NHS Shetland released a statement on Monday saying that they were working with partner organisations to actively monitor the two cases.

They said: “Clinicians have already begun contact tracing, the process of gathering details of the places they have visited and the people they have been in contact with since returning to the UK. Health protection teams will contact those who are at risk from the current cases – those who are not contacted are not at risk.”

The Shetland Times has reported today (Tuesday 10) that another family are self-isolating after two people became ill over the weekend.

NHS Shetland is one of the Scottish health boards which has a contained Coronavirus testing system at a healthcare facility. Testing arrangements in the NHS Western Isles board area have been confirmed as a community testing team, similar to that which is in place in NHS Fife and Lanarkshire.

 

The Annual General Meeting 

of the North Lochs Community Association

will be held on

Tuesday, 24 March at 7.30pm

in North Lochs Community Centre, Leurbost

 

 

All welcome.

 

Friendly faces and willing helpers in Stornoway, Inverness and Glasgow are needed for a new service for people travelling for cancer treatment.

The call went out last week (Thursday 5 March) for people who can drive and who have some spare time to become Travel Buddies as part of a Macmillan Cancer Support service.

Helping Matters offers the chance not only to make arduous trips for hospital treatment easier for those with cancer, but also for people with island connections to give something back to their community – even when they live away from home.

The drivers are wanted to meet patients at Stornoway, Inverness or Glasgow airport and to drive them to their hospital appointment. Good listening skills, patience and respect for confidentiality are essential, as is a car and the willingness to give some time.

Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI) development manager, Helen Sandison, said: “Travelling to hospital appointments can be very stressful, and people really don’t need the extra hassle of finding taxis or trying to work out bus routes.

“We need people in Glasgow and Inverness for island patients, and in Stornoway to meet patients travelling from the Southern Isles. People with island links would be ideal as they will have the knowledge and empathy to make a real connection with the patients.

“This service is not just for people travelling alone, but for people who already have a patient escort. Both may need some help with the transport arrangements to and from the airport, or it may be that a car will simply smooth the path for their travel.

“By choosing to join us as a Travel Buddy you will be doing something amazing for people at a difficult time.”

The Macmillan Helping Matters Travel Buddy scheme is already in operation from other parts of Scotland remote from the mainland hospitals. 

To find out more about the role and offer your help, contact Helen Sandison on 01851 706721 or call into the WICCI office on Cromwell Street. 

A camera monitoring conditions on the Braighe could soon help Point drivers to plan trips into and out of town.

Braighe Cam would join Barvas Cam (at the weather station on Barvas Moor) and Clisham Cam (at Maaruig on the Clisham) as the latest road monitoring aid put in place by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

With live pictures facing in two directions, refreshed every 10 minutes, they can be accessed at https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/roads-travel-and-parking/roads-maintenance-winter-gritting/road-monitoring-cameras/

The Comhairle’s technical services department has been in discussion with police and other services on possible placement of new cameras for some time. Yesterday (Monday 9 March) the Comhairle’s director for assets, finance and resources, Robert Emmott, wrote to councillors to explain the options being considered.

He said: “We have been investigating the possibility of extending our network of web cameras which presently only covers the Clisham and Barvas roads.  These cameras are particularly useful during winter months for both operational staff and the general public to get live images of the prevailing road surface conditions.

“It is evident that this type of information would be of benefit in other circumstances such as monitoring wave overtopping and road conditions. In Lewis, we have identified the Braighe as a key location where the provision of a camera would be useful (due to it being a busy route which is subject to closure several times a year) and initial survey work is now underway.

“We are also considering options for Uist and Barra. This is a more complex matter as there are several potential locations and we have limited resources. However, options are being considered by officers and I will be discussing this with local Members when I am in Barra and Uist later this month in order to get an understanding of local priorities.”

Severe weather conditions can cause the Braighe road to be closed when high tides, strong winds and associated storm surge combine to bring spray and debris over the carriageway. The closures are decided by Police Scotland and safety monitoring is then undertaken by members of HM Coastguard and Coastguard Rescue Team.

Recently a decision has been taken to maintain a full road closure until the carriageway is completely cleared by Comhairle roadsweepers. A convoy system which allows single carriageway traffic to pass under escort is not now being used, leading to longer closures.

Unusually frequent storms and high tides have also meant that the Braighe has been closed more frequently over the past month, leading to traffic build-up on both sides of the causeway.

The pictures show this morning’s images from Clisham Cam and Barvas Cam, and storm spray affecting the road at the Braighe during recent bad weather (top).

Families gathering around the kitchen table to conduct science experiments might not be what immediately comes to mind when you think of homework, but homework has looked a bit different for pupils at Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich in Benbecula recently, and it’s all thanks to the school’s family learning programme.

Each year the school issues a Parental Engagement Calendar for parents and carers of pupils, providing an overview of ways in which they can get involved in their children’s learning – and this year’s Primary 4 “Science Bag” homework kits are a result of just that, as they were originally introduced after parental feedback and then trialled at a family workshop.

“We were looking to engage parents and carers in their children’s learning, and make it more meaningful for them, so it’s not just a case of coming to parents evening and things like that. We created a parental engagement calendar, which provides them with an overview of ways in which they can be involved in their child’s learning,” explains Depute Head Teacher Kirsty Brennan. “We’ve got an open-door policy where parents are encouraged to come into the school and take part in family and parental workshops.  This is complemented by a variety of different events throughout the year.”

First introduced in 2017, the family engagement calendar changes each year depending on the School Improvement Projects – this year the focus is on raising attainment in literacy and numeracy – and Science Kits for homework are just one of many initiatives taking place during the 2019-2020 school year. 

Other home learning activities which encourage parental engagement have included Maths Home Learning Kits and Topic Homework Grids, and at the end of each term pupils take home Criomagan or “Snapshot” Jotters, which highlight the learning taking place in school and offer parents and other family members the opportunities to comment on the child’s work. Nursery children also have family books which are updated in partnership with parents and carers and shared on a regular basis. 

Pupils are not only taking learning home, but parents are going to the school to “learn” too. February saw the first Digital Learning Parental Workshop, which gave an overview of apps and resources that can be used to enhance learning, and the school offers a Cafe Drop-In session which brings parents and carers into the school on a weekly basis, and focuses on different aspects of learning in another informal environment. Over the course of the school year so far they’ve practised phrases in British Sign Langauge; learned about Emerging Literacy; and heard advice from a Speech and Language Therapist. Similar opportunities are available for nursery parents; the “Stay and Play” Sessions allow parents to sit in on nursery sessions and cover a range of themes that support a child’s learning and engagement.

Families whose first language is not English are also supported through the family engagement programme, with parents visiting the school to discuss resources that support both their child’s English language acquisition as well as their own. One parent who attended an English as an Additional Language (EAL) class reported that watching how the teaching and learning was carried out in the classroom not only helped them understand what their child was finding difficult, but allowed them to support their child at home in the same way, too.

Staff at Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich also work with the community and local organisations in their parental outreach. Ceolas, for example, have been providing community Gaelic classes alongside the school’s own Sradagan sessions after school, where parents of children who attend Sradagan (Gaelic Medium Education nursery) can come along and take part in Gaelic classes themselves. 

Then there are all the regular school fundraisers and events, like Family Quiz Nights, Bingo, Fun Runs, and Sports Day. Digital newsletters and the school’s social media accounts also help keep parents, carers, and relatives and the community up to date with what’s happening within the school, whether that’s pupils dressing up as their favourite story character for World Book Day, or videos of students trying out new numeracy strategies.

This type of family engagement in the life of the school has benefits that go beyond individual homework assessments or fundraising efforts: Education Scotland, the Scottish Government agency responsible for supporting quality and improvement in Scottish education, notes that parental engagement in a child’s learning is a “key driver” in “achieving excellence and equity in Scottish education. The engagement of parents and families can help raise attainment for all and help to ensure that every child has an equal chance of success.”

In that vein, Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich involves parents in general curriculum development as well as specific learning activities.  Each year, parents are invited to the school to discuss the school improvement projects, with many of their ideas and suggestions being taken on board. Families also have input into the curriculum design, particularly when it comes to the Interdisciplinary Learning Themes, topics which use links across different subjects to enhance learning. 

“It’s about engaging with the community and our families, asking what their needs are and what they’d like to see and be involved in with regards to school life,” says Kirsty. “Research has shown that when parents are involved in their children’s learning, it does have a positive effect on pupils’ learning.”

As for the science homework kits, they’ve gone down as well with parents as they have with pupils. In the words of one parent: “we all really enjoyed doing the science experiments as a family – they taught us all a thing or two!”

A lack of enthusiasm and support from the community means another Lewis community centre faces a crisis and possible closure.

In January North Lochs Community Association carried out a consultation in the area. Out of 440 questionnaires delivered to households, 209 were returned. Consultation events were then held in February to discuss the results of the questionnaire and the future of the community centre. Only 24 individuals attended. 

The group says, disappointing as that was, "there are good ideas within our community. All it takes is for one or two individuals to take an idea and get the ball rolling."

North Lochs Community Association has been running events over the years for two reasons, they say. "The main one is bringing the community together, to tackle isolation and teach the youth the benefits of community spirit, the second is fundraising to pay for the running costs of the centre. 

"Due to poor attendance, most events have not broken even and it is now at the point where there is a lack of money and enthusiasm in the community to keep the hall open. 

"The upkeep of a Community Centre requires community spirit! There is a willingness from the committee to keep the centre running but it needs a willing community attending and supporting the events and groups."   

North Lochs Community Association AGM is on Tuesday 24 March at 7.30pm in the North Lochs Community Centre.

"We have current committee members who are showing commitment to fulfil the roles of the office bearers. However, we are looking for members of the community to join the committee at monthly meetings to help us reach further into the community and encourage those with skills and time to support the facility and groups.

"We are hoping to have an encouraging turnout which will lead us to progressing with plans to refurbish the centre and deliver a facility that is fit for the many purposes which would enhance the community’s amenities. 

"Realistically, if there is a low turnout at the AGM, the process of closing the community centre will begin with a projected closure date of May 2020.

"It is our responsibility as a community to show that a little input from each individual will make a big difference and if we don’t work together now, it will be harder for the next generations to understand what it means to be part of a community."

Social distancing in the face of the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is beginning to impact on the Western Isles.

Late last night (Monday March 9) the Broadbay Medical Practice in Stornoway asked patients and would-be patients to contact the practice before attending in person for any reason.

The message stated: "Due to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) all appointment requests will be vetted by clinical staff.

"Please do not come to Broadbay Medical Practice unless you have been given an appointment.

"For further information about Coronavirus please visit www.nhsinform.scot

The main message on www.nhsinform.scot states: "If you have a cough, fever or shortness of breath since returning from a category 1 or 2 risk area, phone your GP or NHS 24 (111) if your GP is closed."

Category 1 is Hubei Province, China; Iran; Italy; and Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea.  Category 2 includes almost all of South East Asia. 

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed an increase of £4.3 million to NHS Western Isles following passage of the Scottish Government’s budget for 2020/21 through the Scottish Parliament last week.

The amended budget delivers on key issues raised by all parties in the Scottish Parliament, where the SNP does not have an overall majority. The agreement builds on key Scottish Government commitments to invest £15bn in health and care services, with NHS Western Isles’ budget rising from £75.7 million in 2019/20 to £80 million for 2020/21 – an increase of 5.7%.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “In the face of massive Westminster cuts, the SNP has always taken a different, fairer approach to give people living in Scotland the best deal in the UK.

“I’m proud to have voted for a progressive budget which protects our cherished health service, supports our schools and allows us to play our part in tackling the climate emergency.

“I know from my conversations on the doorsteps that our the NHS is people’s number one priority, so I am delighted to see this significant funding increase for health services in the islands.

“Despite being set a backdrop of heightened uncertainty and risk, created by the UK government’s decision to delay their own budget – the SNP government’s budget delivers certainty and stability for our economy, industry and businesses in the Western Isles.”

 

Former Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Councillor, Archie Campbell, has died at the age of 76.

Tributes are being paid to Archie, former member for the Paible electoral ward in North Uist and formerly Chairman of the CnES development committee, who passed away on Friday 6 March.

Archie was educated at Bellahouston Academy before going on to Jordanhill College of Education in 1962 to do his teaching qualifications. Archie was first elected to represent the Paible electoral ward more than 20 years agao, later serving the North Uist and Benbecula ward until he resigned in 2015.

Convener of the Comhairle, Councillor Norman A Macdonald, said: “Archie was a tremendous voice for his community, serving in distinguished roles on the Comhairle, most notably as Chairman of Development.

"He was a robust campaigner for both his community and for the islands and was also a Director of Hebridean Housing Partnership. On a personal level, Archie was a gentleman in how he conducted himself and someone who was revered by his colleagues and friends. 

“Our thoughts at this sad time are with Archie’s wife, Ada, their children Eilidh, Sarah and Alasdair and his many friends.”

Archie was elected to the Comhairle in 1999, representing the Paible ward and took up the position of Vice-Chair of Sustainable Development. He became Chair of the Committee in 2003 and was re-elected to that position in 2007 and 2012.

Archie enjoyed a long career as a teacher, starting at Paible School in 1967 before moving to Iochdar and then to Lionacleit in 1988 where he served as the Principal Teacher of Guidance. He retired in 1997 and was a Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

At the time of Archie's retirement as a councillor in 2015, the Convener stated: "Archie will be remembered during his time as a Councillor as someone who would weigh up the arguments of a particular discussion, reach a decision and stick with that decision. He always did so with good humour and respect for his Comhairle colleagues."

The Comhairle flags at offices in Balivanich and Stornoway are flying at half-mast.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is encouraging organisations with community-based projects in the Western Isles to apply for its new Coasts and Waters Heritage Fund which launches today (Monday 9 March) for the Year of Coasts and Waters.

As part of the new scheme, grants between £3,000 and £20,000 will be available for projects which help communities to protect, promote or engage with Scotland’s coastal areas or waterways. This includes projects which are developing and implementing measures to enhance resilience and adapt to climate change.

While community groups are encouraged to apply, the scheme is open to all organisations throughout the country. All applicants, however, should demonstrate how their project will benefit the local community. This could be through developing traditional skills, stabilising historic or marine structures, hosting community outreach and educational activities, or increasing people’s understanding of Scotland’s coasts and waters heritage.

The Coasts and Waters Heritage Fund is a one-off, competitive fund to celebrate Scotland’s themed year and applications will close on Sunday 31 May.

Jane Ryder OBE, Chair of HES, said: “For thousands of years, communities across Scotland have lived and worked along or near water, and the Year of Coasts and Waters provides an excellent opportunity to engage people with our coastal and waterway heritage.

“Through this new grant programme, we are encouraging communities not only to celebrate our coasts and waters, but also to explore opportunities to adapt to the effects of climate change and help ensure this important aspect of our heritage is protected for future generations.”

The launch of the Coasts and Waters Heritage Fund follows the publication of HES’s Climate Action Plan which outlines an ambitious programme of climate commitments over the next five years and beyond, in response to the climate crisis.

To apply for the Coasts and Waters Heritage Fund, an expression of interest must be made by Thursday 30 April. Applications will close on Sunday 31 May.

For further information visit: http://www.historicenvironment.scot/ycw2020-heritage-fund

For further information on HES’ Year of Coasts and Waters activity, visit: www.historicenvironment.scot/ycw2020

Dìleab: Air a Chuan (Legacy: On the Ocean) is part of a larger project that emphasizes culture, connection, and community in the Outer Hebrides. But one of the Sgoil Lionacleit performances during the recent Dìleab concert at Celtic Connections in January had more than a community connection – it had a direct family link, too. 

Sixth year pupil Marion MacCorquodale performed the local Uist song Turas san Lochmor, which was written in 1950 by Peter Morrison, the grandfather of local Grimsay musician Padruig Morrison. And at Dìleab, Padruig was also on stage, accompanying Marion’s performance with the piano.

Padruig was one of a number of local musicians involved in Dìleab, including Willie Campbell and Ceitlin Lilidh, as well as TV presenter Linda MacLeod, who was acting as MC for the night. They all took to the stage alongside pupils from across the islands in the New Auditorium of the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall on 17 January, in front of an audience of hundreds, as part of the 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters

“We had almost 70 young people with us from Lewis right through to Barra and they really rose to the occasion,” says Rhona Johnson, Project Coordinator for Dìleab. The audience, including Deputy First Minister John Swinney, “were treated to a varied and balanced programme of music including instrumental and choral contributions, both new and old.”

Padruig, who was a finalist for this year’s BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year award and is a member of the Beinn Lee Ceilidh Band, explains that he first became involved with Dileab at Sgoil Lionacleit in July last year. “I was approached…about getting involved with working on a new arrangement of Cearcall a’ Chuain with pupils from Sgoil Lionacleit. I jumped at it – it was a great idea! It was a delight for me to get back into my old school and to work with the talented young musicians who are there at the moment, some of whom I knew already, but others I didn’t. They were a fantastic, able group, and they all learnt the music really well.”

For Cearcall a’ Chuain, Marion MacCorquodale was singing alongside Ruairdh Gray, with fellow pupils Anna Maclain on clarsach; Alana Beaton on whistle; Joanna Macdonald on fiddle; Floraidh Gray on bass guitar; Calum Macmillan on banjo; Ryan Macintyre on bazouki; Lee Macdougall on accordion; and Molly Perkins and Abby MacPhee on percussion.

“It’s a tricky task to arrange a song that’s so well known, and one such as Cearcall a’ Chuain, where it’s not just the verses that are known, but so many folk (including all the Gaelic choirs) know and perform the introductions and interludes too,” says Padruig. “I wanted to try and give it a new lift, and when working with the pupils, I didn’t want it to be slow and drawn out – I wanted it to have more motion than is usually in the song.”

“Once I knew which instruments the group would consist of, I wrote out an arrangement for each individual. I added a new instrumental melody, and a modified introduction. The group picked it up very well over a few rehearsals over the term, before performing it at the school Christmas concert as a rehearsal before the big concert in January.”

“When it came to the concert at Celtic Connections, despite frantic rehearsing schedules, the group performed exceptionally well. The rehearsal on the day was fantastic – but the concert was even better! Everyone locked in together and performed it the best they had ever performed it – and we were all delighted with it!

“It was a really lovely project concept, working with my former school on a new arrangement of a song from Uist, which the pupils performed, and I just accompanied at the side on the piano. It perfectly achieves what Dìleab is all about.”

The Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band also took to the stage on the night, although they are no strangers to high-profile performances, having performed in New York City at Tartan Week and competed in multiple competitions. The band, which is made up of pipers from both Lionacleit and Castlebay schools, played a medley of tunes inspired by the sea, with fellow students doing Highland dances alongside them. 

Uist pupils Ruaridh Gray and Lee MacDougall also performed with pupils from Barra, Harris, and Lewis when they sang An Caiora, and all of the Sgoil Lionacleit soloists performed in the Islands Sea Medley, which saw traditional sea-related songs arranged for solo voices, choirs, and strings.

The Glasgow concert was the most recent incarnation of Dìleab, the Comhairle’s multi-generational bilingual project, which covers a programme of work undertaken by the young people of the islands and local musicians, all designed to draw on language, history, and culture as a bridge between generations.

It was a night of celebrating the islands’ rich connection with the waters which surround them, and the talents of the islands’ young people. As Rhona says, “the whole trip was a fantastic opportunity for the pupils involved to take part in such a world class festival and they all had a great time.”

Dìleab: Air a’ Chuan was watched live online by 3000 people and has now been viewed by more than 5000 people in 22 countries, ranging from Australia to Brazil.

While there is more to come from Dìleab in 2020 and beyond, for those who missed the event or the live stream online, the edited playlist of the performance is now available to listen to or watch on the “Dìleab Eilean Siar” YouTube channel.

Tolsta Community Development Ltd has donated £10,000 to the Andrew Macleod Memorial Fund in order to enable them to run a two-day cardiac screening event in Stornoway.

The donation will cover the entire cost of the screening sessions, scheduled for September 2020.

Murdo Macleod of AMMF said: "The committee is very grateful to TCDL for its generous donation, enabling us to continue to work with CRY and provide future cardiac testing opportunities within our island communities".

This will be the seventh annual screening event, aimed at identifying cardiac problems in young people. Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) has produced statistics which report that an average of 12 young people die each week in the UK from previously undiagnosed cardiac conditions. Of these, approximately 3 – 4 deaths occur in Scotland.

The Fund was set up in memory of Andrew Macleod, a 21-year-old trainee marine engineer who died suddenly in 2011 whilst on board ship in Hong Kong. He was discovered to have been suffering from a cardiac condition which had produced no symptoms, and of which he was completely unaware.

Despite being subject to regular medical examinations because of his chosen career, Andrew’s condition remained undetected because, like many cardiac complaints, it required targeted diagnostics to identify its presence – something which is not a standard part of routine medical examination.

Murdo Maciver of TCDL said: "Our board felt very strongly about supporting the Fund with this donation. The entire community was touched by Andrew’s story and we are impressed by AMMF’s commitment to the screening programme, which is expensive to run, but incredibly important. It is our privilege to be able to supply funding for another screening event and we hope that as many young people as possible take up the opportunity to be tested."

Further information on the services provided by Cardiac Risk in the Young can be found on their website www.c-r-y-.org.uk

Every name can tell a story…if you know the story it’s trying to tell.

"The trouble is, we haven't got a bass player."

"The trouble is, we haven't got a venue."

"The trouble is..."

"That was all we ever heard," jokes Trouble Is... frontman, Phil Young. "I thought we might as well call ourselves Trouble Is.. since we were told that every day!"

The band formed in 2013 when Phil moved to the islands from Coalville, in Leicestershire.

Despite initial struggles, the line-up now consists of Phil on lead guitar and vocals, David Bell on bass guitar and Ken MacLennan on drums.

The band's distinctive bluesy sound is partly due to their unusual choice of instruments: cigar box guitars. The instruments come all the way from Florida and are created by Rob Wrobel of Rob's Cigar Box Guitars.

"As far as I am aware, we're the only ones in Scotland who play them," Phil relates. "I heard that a lot of early blues players in the 1920's couldn't afford proper instruments and made their own out of old cigar boxes.

"I fancied one quite a while ago and I thought I would take the plunge last year. They are so much fun to play. You can virtually sound good on them with just one finger – that's how easy they are!"

The trio released an album in November called Killing Time. Recorded at the Wee Studio in Stornoway, the album is an easy-to-listen-to, American-flavoured, gravel-voiced celebration of the blues.

"We are looking to play more gigs, locally and in the mainland," Ken says. "Two of the tracks in Killing Time made the top 40 of the Scottish new music local charts.

"Killing Time was also Album of the Week in the Isles and Cuillin FM. Our band has been described as one of the hardest working bands on the island and that's how we want to keep it!"

Phil, who writes the band's songs, describes the process, saying: "I don't know where the songs come from. I can go for months without writing anything and then I can write a song in 20 minutes that's word perfect, with chords and everything. I honestly don't know how I do it, because when I sit down and try, I can't manage it!"

What does the future hold for Trouble Is...? Phil reveals: "We would like to start a blues club on the island, if we can find a venue. There is only one blues club in the whole of Scotland.

"We are also booked to play at the Stramash festival, but not had the day confirmed yet."

Plans are also in place to release a second album. "Phil can leave a gig, jump in the car and have written another song by the time he gets home," laughs David. "We've already got enough material for another album and I think it will be a very exciting one."

To the members of the Lewis and Harris Youth Concert Band, spring only means one thing – the Scottish Concert Band National Finals, to be held in Perth on the 14th & 15th of March.

In 2019 the band won a prestigious Gold award at the 10th anniversary competition, and the young people are hoping to build on that success in this year’s contest.

The Scottish Concert Band Festival is a national organisation which for the past 11 years has organised an annual wind band festival for young people consisting of regional heats followed by a final in Perth. This year 35 school bands made it through to the finals. There is no overall winner – instead the purpose is to encourage each band towards higher achievement and to showcase the best of Scotland’s talent.

Amongst the pieces which the young people have been working hard to perfect for the competition is The Colin Scott Mackenzie March, specially commissioned for the band to mark a visit by the Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland to Stornoway in 2019. 

Written by island string tutor Neil Johnstone, it was arranged by Colour Sergeant Evatt Gibson, of the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The first military brass band in Scotland was formed in Stornoway in 1875.  Attached to the local artillery regiment, the band became known as The Ross and Cromarty Mountain Battery Band.  The band comprised around 13 young men, all of whom attended the Nicolson Institute.  Over the years their popular concerts raised enough money to help build the Drill Hall, which is still in use today.

The battery, complete with band, departed for the continent on the outbreak of the Great War. They were amongst the first troops to land on the beaches at Gallipoli and the last off from the second landing of Suvla, both actions of which they were very proud. They were always in the thick of things and enjoyed a very good reputation with the other units.  Corporal Colin Scott Mackenzie was the senior trumpeter in the battery throughout the Gallipoli campaign and accompanied the Colonel on horseback so that he could sound whatever call the CO wanted. In the Second World War he achieved the rank of Major, but he never forgot his days with the battery band. 

The Colin Scott Mackenzie March will be the opening piece at the competition, and the performance will include 11 youth band members in WW1 uniform to represent the members of the Ross and Cromarty Mountain Battery Band. This will be followed by John William’s Hymn to the Fallen, played as a tribute to the Battery Band and featuring a solo percussionist, Simeon Fletcher. Lastly, the band will play Psalm and Celebration, by Bruce Pearson.

The Scottish Concert Band Festival National finals take place at Perth Concert Hall over the weekend of 14th and 15th March 2020. Tickets can be bought on the door on the day or from www.horsecross.co.uk. The members of the Lewis and Harris Youth Concert Band, their Musical Director Gavin Woods and Assistant Director Calum Watt would like to thank Car Hire Hebrides for their generous support.

Corporal Colin Scott Mackenzie.

An endling is an individual that is the last of its species. Once the endling dies, the species becomes extinct.

With ENDLING, at An Lanntair on Monday March 16th at 8pm, Rob Heaslip reimagines mourning rituals through dance, vocals, music and design.

Popular and folk culture collide in a world where death is tinged with acid pink, green and purple.

This piece started in 2016 when Rob became the inaugural HATCH recipient with Dance Ireland.  With some further support from Creative Scotland he gathered a team that filled the room with languages, talent and curiosity from both Scotland and Ireland and for four weeks they delved into folklore; what it once used to mean and what it means today and the role it plays in people’s lives.

Heaslip is fixated on the role of the Gaelic languages within culture today. He wasn't born into it, but he knew that he loved the Irish language, and in a way, its sister in Scotland. He loves how it sees the universe differently, moves at a different pace to English, and has a wonderful poetic way to describe the actions and beliefs that help us meander through life.

It was through his time with The National Folk Theatre of Ireland that he discovered his passion for it.

Rob had originally gone into the studio with a single idea to create just the one piece of performance work, but he soon realised that it was all just too vast. He had originally planned to call it ‘A Glimpse of Flesh and Blood’.

It was Aaron Jeffrey, artist and close friend of Rob's who suggested the trilogy – birth, life and death – just as humans see life. Aaron went a step further and suggested doing the cycle in reverse. 

Rob came across a short clip that contained the bird song of a species from an island in the Pacific. The last male of the species, calling out to find a mate that was no longer there. He was all alone, and the narrator called him an endling.

The story rang bells for Rob and drew parallels with his own culture and his relationship to Gaelic, how he perceived it to be fading and disconnected.

He knew there and then that he didn’t want that ENDLING in the Pacific to be forgotten. So, this work is for him.

Rob wants ENDLING to identify as a piece of Contemporary-Folk Dance Theatre. He wants it to draw from elements of the Gaelic languages - speakers, communities and cultural references. It is a full-evening production, with traditional and contemporary Gaelic musical arrangements delivered by vocalists, accompanied by a contemporary set and an ensemble of dancers.

To create it he drew inspiration from accounts, documents, Gaelic songs, imagery of the landscape and of course, from studies of funerary and mourning rituals that are traditional to Gaelic-speaking areas of both Scotland and Ireland.

Rob likes to think that the show will offer viewers the chance to experience work with a unique aesthetic and audiences will be able to engage with high-quality thought-provoking performance, whether they are looking for inspiring entertainment, or a moment of time-out to appreciate the work from a visual and vocal perspective.

Photograph by Brian Hartley

Residents on the Aegean island of Lesbos are now trying to personally stem the wave of desperate migrants flowing in from Turkey and beyond.
About 25,000 migrants were already living in the overcrowded Moria camp before Turkey suddenly said last month it would allow passage to many more refugees.
Melissa Silver, a director of Intermedia Services (Stornoway) Ltd which publishes welovestornoway.com, has been working as a volunteer with organisations trying to help the refugees since September 2019. Her main work has been with the charity One Happy Family on Lesbos.
In her blog today (Sunday March 8) she writes:”One Happy Family. I’ve written a lot about it over the months. I spent five months there, and left for “three weeks” to have a change of scenery and to do something a bit more physical, some dirty work. I left with a smile saying “see you soon!” The happiest place on earth, my home, I’d be back in just a moment. None of what has happened in the last few weeks ever crossed my mind. It never, ever crossed my mind that OHF might not be there.
“But yesterday, OHF was found in flames. The School of Peace, the most colourful and happiest of places - every afternoon, you could hear dozens of kids chanting and laughing - was already gone by the time the fire brigade got there. The school of peace reduced to nothing. As for the rest, we wait and see.
“Once you become part of OHF, whether you stay for three weeks or a year, and regardless of where you then go - you never really leave. OHF steals a little piece of your heart and keeps it there with that of all who came before you.
“OHF is a place of solidarity, a place of love and laughter, a place of dancing, of sharing. This attack on a building was an attack on the whole concept of this. But while my already broken heart breaks further, I remind myself and those hurting around me, that it was just a building. No one was hurt.
“OHF represents a love like no other - it’s a love of every single person no matter who you are, what you are, where you’ve come from or where you’re going - and this love will win."
As the flood of incoming migrants soared over the past ten days, simmering tensions had already boiled over — with some locals blocking buses from taking new refugees to the camp, leaving the group to spend the night on the beach.
Another group of locals prevented migrants, including young children and babies, from disembarking a dinghy at a harbour.
“They can’t turn us into Ellis Island,” Christina Chatzidaki, a resident of Lesbos’ capital Mytilene, where the camp is located, told German outlet DW.
“Mytilini has 30,000 inhabitants, but there are 25,000 refugees on the island — the figures alone show how absurd the whole thing is,” she added.
Thousands of island locals protested in Athens recently for the government to process or remove the refugees.
“It’s a powder keg ready to explode,” regional governor Kostas Moutzouris said about the situation.
Tensions are also on the rise among asylum seekers in the camp, which was only designed to hold 2,800 people.
Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said the country faced “an organized invasion from a foreign country.”
“Turkey is making use of innocent people in its efforts to destabilise Greece and Europe,” he told state ERT TV.

Prior notification for farm-related building works, North Uist

Lynda Maclean of 24 Claddach Baleshare has applied for planning permission to extend an existing agricultural building at 24 Claddach Baleshare. The extension is to be 9 metres long, 5 metres wide and 5 metres tall, and it is to be constructed of green box profile sheeting. It is to improve the current shed that is on the property to make room for livestock and machinery.

House extension, Benbecula

Agnes Blaziak of 6a Gramsdale has applied for planning permission to extend the property at 6a Gramsdale. The purpose of the extension is to create two lettable units. Work is to include creating one more parking space so that the total number of spaces available is increased to three.

 

 

One of the most iconic buildings in Harris is coming to the end of its life.

According to the planning department of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Mrs Chirsty and Mr Angus Macleod of Hotel Hebrides have applied for planning permission to demolish Tarbert Stores, which is a listed building, at Pier Road, Tarbert, adjacent to Hotel Hebrides and opposite the bus station/car park.

The Assessment of the Existing Condition demonstrates that the Tarbert Stores building "is incapable of meaningful repair".

The report says that the necessary structural safety repairs and required upgrading of the building structure and fabric to comply with current building regulations cannot be achieved without significant alterations, which would result in the complete reconstruction of any original fabric at Tarbert Stores.

Photograph by John Maher

 

Lewis

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

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

Four new houses, Barvas

Alex Murray (construction) Ltd has applied for planning permission to erect four single-storey detached houses at Loch Street, Barvas. The houses are to have two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a living room, a bathroom and a porch. Work is to include creating an access, parking suitable for eight cars, and installing four air source heat pumps.

Change of use of barn, Valtos

Margaret Knight of 38 Cliff, Valtos, has applied for planning permission to change the use of the barn at Studio 38, Cliff, Valtos, to an artists studio.

New house, Coll

Andrew Maclennan of 10 Tong Park has applied for planning permission to build a house at 41B Coll.

New steel building, Stornoway

Angus Campbell Ltd has applied for planning permission to erect a steel building at Cannery Road, Stornoway. The building is to be 12.2 metres long, 6.1 metres wide and 4.5 metres tall and is to be used for storage.

Extension to building, Borve

Derek Macleod of 36 Borve has applied for planning permission to extend the building at 36 Fivepenny, Borve. The extension is to be 5 metres by 4.2 metres and is to be covered in block roughcast. The roof is to be made of box profile, and the windows and doors are to be plastic.

New house, Laxdale

Kirsty Munro of 2a Guershader, Laxdale, has applied for planning permission to build a house at 2 Guershader, Laxdale. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, a kitchen/dining area, a living room, two bathrooms, a study and a utility room. Work is to include creating an access and parking suitable for two cars.

New polycrub, Barvas

Allan Kerr of 13 Upper Barvas has applied for planning permission to erect a polycrub at 13 Upper Barvas. The polycrub is to be 12.8 metres long, 4.2 metres wide and 2.6 metres tall. It is to be constructed from wooden boarding and clear polycarbonate sheeting.

(This list has been corrected since first being published)

 

Reports that Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer is planning to scrap the lower rate of fuel duty on red diesel in next week’s Budget would mean another financial blow to crofters, fishermen and industries says Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil.

It is suggested that the Chancellor is planning to end the 11.1p/litre duty rate and charge users the full 57.7p/litre fuel tax in his Budget to be outlined on Wednesday March 11.

Angus MacNeil MP said:“I am writing to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak and the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack to underline the huge importance of this potential decision.

“Scrapping the lower rate of fuel duty will devastate marine and agricultural economies.  It will effectively double fuel prices for fishing boats, lobster boats, prawn boats and will leave processing jobs in a precarious situation.  As for crofting and farming, these are industries that cannot absorb such increases and this type of economic shock will put many out of business. 

“There are many other users of red diesel who will be utterly gobsmacked if the Chancellor brings in this change.  I can only hope that this is alarmist talk because with everything else that is happening this year with the economic environment, a price increase of this magnitude cannot be absorbed and should not even be considered by the Westminster Government.”

 

Breasclete School’s STEM Club has won Primary Club of the Year following their efforts at the Highland Regional Celebration of STEM in Inverness yesterday (Thursday 5 March).

STEM Clubs are out-of-timetable sessions that provide young people with the chance to explore aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) in less formal settings. They aim to enrich, rather than deliver, the curriculum.

The Breasclete Community Association congratulated the school yesterday on its Facebook page: “Congratulations to Sgoil Bhreascleit for winning Club of the Year at the Highlands and Island STEM challenge in Inverness today. We are very proud of you all”.

More images from the day can be viewed here.

St. Kilda is being featured on Clydesdale Bank’s new range of polymer £20 notes.

The new notes also feature an image of Sea Harris’s very own Enchanted Isle, which transports visitors to St. Kilda for the day.

Commenting on the Sea Harris Facebook page, owner and skipper Seumas said: “Delighted to see St. Kilda feature on Clydesdale Bank’s new range of polymer £20 notes, even more delighted to see our boat Enchanted Isle to feature on it also down in the left hand corner, in good company beside Robert The Bruce!

“This isn't the first time Clydesdale have featured St. Kilda though, it also featured previously on their £5 paper note as part of their [World] Heritage Series of notes.”

A pop-up LGBTI+ Elders Social Dance Club will be hitting the dance floor in Stornoway on Saturday 21 March as part of the year-long Coming Back Out Ball celebrations.

The event is taking place at An Lanntair, Stornoway from 2-4pm and is an opportunity for older members and allies of the LGBTI+ community to meet new people, celebrate community, chat and have a dance in a safe and fun environment.

This pop-up event is in addition to the very successful monthly Social Dance Clubs that have been running in Glasgow and Inverness since May 2019 and which will run until May 2020. Pop up dance clubs will also be appearing in Perth, Edinburgh, Ayr, Lyth and Rothesay.

The Social Dance Clubs are part of The Coming Back Out Ball which is a year- long, multi-event celebration of lesbian, gay bisexual, trans and gender diverse and intersex elders in Scotland. A group who have lived through times when being LGBTI+ could result in imprisonment, loss of employment and rejection by family or friends.

The project originated and has been pioneered in Australia by arts company All The Queens Men as a way to celebrate a generation discriminated against for years and who, according to recent findings, fear having to ‘return to the closet’ as they get older. This is the first time that this community committed project has been created and shared outside of Australia.

The LGBTI+ Elders Social Dance Clubs will come to a fabulous climax with the spectacular Coming Back Out Ball in June 2020. The Ball, hosted by Karen Dunbar will be a spectacular celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender Diverse, and Intersex elders. It is for those who have taken part in the LGBTI+ Elders Social Dance Clubs, friends, family and those in the wider community.

A night of celebration, special guests, performances, food, drink and dancing featuring performances from iconic singer songwriter Horse Macdonald, the legendary Jo Clifford and Dean Atta- the sensational performance poet. With more acts to be confirmed.

The National Theatre of Scotland, All The Queens Men, Eden Court and Luminate and LGBT Health and Wellbeing are delighted to be working alongside agencies and organisations in Scotland to hold the first national forum about LGBTI+ people and ageing

The Coming Back Out Conversation, to take place in the lead up to the Ball, will be a one-day event opening up a vital discussion between a wide range of attendees, offering the chance to hear from LGBTI+ people about their experiences of getting older in everyday life, in care services and health provision, and anything else which emerges from consultations in the lead up to the event.

Learning will be shared from and with Australian partners, All The Queens Men, to find out about the progress that has been made in the state of Victoria in terms of legislation and social change for LGBTI+ elders.

Working alongside Scottish Care, Scottish Trans Alliance and LGBT Youth Scotland, this conversation event promises to be a dynamic encounter between LGBTI+ Elders with lived experience and those who have the power to implement real change.

The National Theatre of Scotland Creative Lead on the project is Lewis Hetherington and for All The Queens Men, Artistic Directors Tristan Meecham and Bec Reid.

Loganair has reacted to the closure of Flybe by saying it will be taking up 16 routes formerly flown by Flybe over the next few months.

The airline aims to add nearly 400 new flights each week and has opened a special recruitment line for former Flybe employees seeking to continuing their aviation careers with Loganair.

The 16 routes – from existing Loganair base airports at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Newcastle – will be launched progressively over the next four months.

Flights on the first and largest group of these key air routes will commence as early as Monday 16 March.

All flights are already on sale at www.loganair.co.uk and via travel agent systems. The plans include

Route between

Flights commence

Lead in fare One-way

Outline of Loganair service

Aberdeen & Belfast City

16 March

£ 49.99

Daily Embraer Regional Jet service

Aberdeen & Birmingham

16 March

£ 57.99

Up to 3x daily ERJ service

Aberdeen & Jersey

09 May

£ 79.99

Saturday ATR72 service

Aberdeen & Manchester

16 March

£ 57.99

4x daily ERJ service

Edinburgh & Cardiff

23 March

£ 49.99

Daily ERJ service

Edinburgh & Exeter

23 March

£ 54.99

6x weekly ERJ service

Edinburgh & Manchester

23 March

£ 49.99

Up to 4x daily ERJ service

Edinburgh & Newquay

20 June

£ 69.99

2x weekly AT7 service

Edinburgh & Southampton

15 June

£ 54.99

Up to 4x daily AT7 service

Glasgow & Exeter

30 March

£ 54.99

Daily ERJ service

Glasgow & Southampton

30 March

£ 54.99

3x daily ERJ service

Inverness & Belfast City

23 March

£ 49.99

Daily Saab 340 service

Inverness & Birmingham

16 March

£ 54.99

4x weekly ERJ service  Daily from 23 March

Inverness & Jersey

30 May

£ 79.99

Saturday ATR72 service

Newcastle & Exeter

6 July

£ 54.99

Daily ERJ service

Newcastle & Southampton

23 March

£ 54.99

3x daily ERJ service

[Aircraft – ERJ is an Embraer Regional Jet with 49 or 37 seats; AT7 is an ATR72 with 70 seats; SF3 is a Saab 340 with 33 seats.]

Loganair’s Chief Executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “The collapse of a long-standing airline like Flybe marks a desperately sad day, especially for the airline’s dedicated team of employees and for customers facing disruption to their journeys. By stepping in quickly with a comprehensive plan, Loganair is aiming to maintain essential air connectivity within the UK regions to keep customers flying, and to offer new employment to former Flybe staff members who are facing an uncertain future today.”

Customers formerly booked on Flybe services on the same routes will need to make new bookings at www.loganair.co.uk, and obtain a refund via their payment card provider for tickets booked with Flybe. In common with all other airlines, Loganair has no access to Flybe systems or customer data to be able to facilitate re-bookings.

Loganair has partnership arrangements with several international airlines including Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air France, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and United Airlines.

Customers who held a Flybe booking including onward travel with one of these airlines, or as part of a package holiday, should contact the travel agent or airline with whom the booking was made to arrange for re-booking onto the new Loganair flights on equivalent routes.

Additional 70-seat ATR 72 turboprop aircraft will join Loganair’s fleet over the coming weeks to service the new routes, alongside the existing 44-strong fleet of turboprop and Embraer Regional Jet aircraft. The ATR aircraft have the lowest carbon emissions per passenger of any regional aircraft.

Loganair will be recruiting for additional pilots, cabin crew and engineers to be based at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle airports to support the expansion.

It is expected that over 100 new positions will be created across the four locations, and Loganair will be prioritising applications from former Flybe staff for all of these roles. There will also be a small number of new head office support roles.

The safeguarding of these routes by Loganair will also help former Flybe ground handling agents and airport operators at locations such as Southampton and Exeter to preserve employment in their businesses.

Chief Executive Jonathan Hinkles concluded: “The plan represents the outcome of several weeks of behind-the-scenes contingency planning work, during which we’ve evaluated many routes and aircraft.

"It’s critical to the continued success of our own airline that we refrain from over-expansion, and that our growth can be delivered within our operational and financial means. I am confident that the plans being announced today are robust and sustainable, enabling former Flybe customers to benefit from Loganair’s high standards of customer service and on-time performance on a range of new routes, with a strong emphasis on those to and from our Scottish heartlands.”

Inverness airport: Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd announcement

Flights with Eastern Airways between Wick John O’Groats Airport and Aberdeen Airport will run as normal. 

If you need more information please contact Eastern Airways on 01652 680600.

Flybe flights from Inverness Airport to both Belfast City Airport and Birmingham Airport are no longer operating – please do not travel to the airport.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has today (Thursday 5 March) announced 12 locations throughout the Western Isles where sanitary products are to be made available, free of charge.

Under an initiative sponsored by The Scottish Government, COSLA and Young Scot, the Comhairle is to offer free sanitary products in public buildings. Access to free sanitary products has been in place in schools across the Western Isles since August 2018.

The sanitary products will be available in toilets signposted by posters. Tampons and pads are left in bags on the coat hooks within cubicles and individuals are invited to take what they need.

In Stornoway the free sites include toilets at the council offices, the sports centre, town hall, library and Museum nan Eilean. Ness and Shawbost swimming pools and Harris council offices will also have the products.

In Uist and Barra they can be found at Balivanich council offices, Lionacleit toilets, Barra council offices and Castlebay Community School.

In January, the Scottish Government launched a campaign called ‘Let’s call periods, periods’ which was aimed at challenging the stigma around periods and encouraging more people to talk openly about them.

The marketing campaign was aimed at young people and designed to show how, as a society, we use all kinds of words and phrases to avoid using the word ‘periods’ when they are a natural bodily function experienced by more than 50% of the population.

The campaign also included a scheme to expand the provision of free period products to those who need them the most in community settings, via local authorities and community groups.

A new super challenge is due to take place this summer organised by The Leanne Fund to mark 10 years of service to support people with Cystic Fibrosis.

The Tiumpan 20/20 challenge on the Isle of Lewis is a 40k Duathlon Race from Lews Castle in Stornoway to Tiumpan Head, Point. It will take place on Saturday 15 August.

The 20k run and 20k cycle is a single or team event and will take participants through Stornoway, all the way to Tiumpan Head lighthouse where runners will transition to their bike and cycle back to Lews Castle.

Chrisetta Mitchell, Development Manager of The Leanne Fund said: “The Tiumpan 20/20 challenge is a new and exciting event for us and we hope to see lots of sign ups.”

Prizes include one for the participant or team member who raises the most in sponsorship who will win two Loganair return flights.

Chrisetta added: "We are really grateful to Loganair for their generous donation which we hope will inspire competitors to raise even more for individuals affected by CF."

Enter online at www.theleannefund.co.uk

For further information about the event please visit www.theleannefund.co.uk/tiumpan2020

All four councillors for Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay and South Uist have welcomed an update from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on progress with the future community campus proposed for Barra and Vatersay.

Councillors Donald Manford, Paul Steele, Iain Archie Macneil and Calum Macmillan said yesterday (Wednesday 4 March) that the update was "comprehensive" and they commended the enormous work and commitment that all the officers had put in. 

They said: “It stands out strikingly in the progress that has been made when you compare this project with the previous project. The decision of the Health Board was taken in December. This structure report was agreed in February and this council is hard on the heels of it at the beginning of March. We cannot see that there can be any credible criticism of this level of progress. 

“We look forward to seeing the completion of a very heavy workload between now and next month’s submission which will hopefully finance what can finally become a project.”

A report to the Committee can be found here. It includes information on the Governance arrangements for the project and on a first-stage submission to be prepared for consideration by the Scottish Government Health and Learning directorates by the end of April 2020.

The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles has issued a message to his parishioners on changes of practice to help contain the potential spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Bishop Brian McGee sent his message yesterday (Wednesday 4 March) requesting that all congregations throughout the diocese implement the recommended actions with immediate effect and until further notice.

His directive will be followed by congregations in Stornoway, Uist and Barra and come in response to what he called “the confirmed arrival of the Coronavirus in Scotland”.

Bishop Brian said: “I have decided that throughout our diocese the founts are to be emptied of Holy Water.
“Furthermore, during the celebration of the Eucharist the Sign of Peace is to be offered by bowing to each other rather than by shaking hands. Holy Communion will not be received on the tongue and the chalice will not be offered to the congregation.
“I have taken this decision as a precaution and to help safeguard your health and the health of others. The ruling is temporary and I will revoke it when it is considered appropriate to do so. Let us continue to pray for those who, across the world, are suffering from the virus, for those who care for them and that medical advancement will successfully combat it.”

Latest figures published this morning show that confirmed cases of the virus in Scotland have increased to six, with new cases in Grampian, the Forth Valley and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

As reported on welovestornoway.com yesterday, NHS Western Isles and GP practices in the Islands have posted links to public information on how to behave during a virus outbreak. The NHS across Scotland is also contacting people who have spent 15 minutes or more within two meters of someone infected.

A helpline has been set up for people who do not have symptoms but are looking for general information at 0800 028 2816. Those who think they may have the virus or have recently travelled to an affected area are encouraged to contact their GP or call NHS 24 on 111.

Bishop Brian is pictured during an ordination ceremony in Skye last month (Diocese of Argyll and the Isles).

Galson’s community-run energy company, Urras Energy, is to announce plans for releasing capital first loaned to the company by shareholders in 2015.

The announcement of the capital repayment to shareholders is to be made at the company’s Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 17 March. 

£705,800 was raised from 167 shareholders at a share issue which closed in February 2015. The money financed much of the construction cost of Galson Energy Ltd’s second and third 900kW wind turbines at Ballantrushal, as the company awaited loan finance from the ethical bank Triodos.

At this month’s AGM, details will be given about how an initial capital repayment scheme will work.

Also to be reported on at the AGM is progress on replacing the business centre at South Galson, which was destroyed by fire in February last year. Planning permission and a building warrant are in place for a new business centre of a similar size but more modern layout to the original.

Urras Energy Ltd’s AGM is to be held at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis at North Dell and will include a tour of the recently refurbished building and refreshments.

Officers searching for missing person Gordon Buchan in Skye & Lochalsh have released two new images as part of efforts to locate him 

The 56-year-old from Kyle of Lochalsh was reported missing on Monday 2 March.

Enquiries have established that he was last seen at the Co-operative supermarket in Broadford around 6.30pm on Sunday 1 March.

The CCTV image released from the shop is the most recent confirmed sighting of Gordon.

A second image shows his light blue Citroen C4 car, registration RO06 KFU, which was later found parked outside the Taste of India restaurant in Kyleakin.

Extensive searches have been ongoing in the area throughout the week.

Inspector Lynda Allan said: “We are releasing these further two images in the hope that they might jog the memory of someone who may have seen Gordon, or might be able to help in this missing person investigation.

"Extensive searches have been ongoing and I am grateful to all those who have been involved in them over the past few days. 

"Clearly Gordon’s family are extremely concerned for his welfare and we have been supporting them through this very difficult time.  

"Anyone who may have any information which might assist should call police on the 101 number, quoting incident 1739 of 2 March. 

She added: "We are also asking anyone who may have travelled along the A87 road between Broadford and Kyle of Lochalsh, on Sunday evening or Monday morning, in a vehicle which may have been fitted with a dash-cam, to come forward in order that we may examine any footage for anything which might assist us."

Pictured: CCTV image of Gordon Buchan from Broadford Co-op and an image of his Citroen car in Kyleakin.

 

The best of produce from near and far 06/03/2020

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

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

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Aubergine

 

£1.65

 

Butternut Squash   

 

£2.40

 

Green Cabbage

 

£1.95

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£1.95

 

Cabbage (White UK)

 

£2.40

 

Cabbage (Red UK)

 

£2.60

 

Cauliflower

 

£1.85

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.30

 

Fennel

 

£1.40

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Kale 250g

 

£2.30

 

Turmeric (200g)

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Beetroot (UK)

 

£2.45

 

Broccoli (UK)

 

£3.95

 

Dirty Carrots

 

£1.95

 

Ginger

 

£6.00

 

Horseradish

 

£12.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£2.95

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.00

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Parsnips

 

£2.95

 

Golden Wonder

 

£1.25

 

Kerr’s Pink

 

£1.25

 

Roosters

 

£1.25

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.55

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

White Turnip

 

£3.35

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.50

 

Cos Lettuce

 

£1.50

 

Cucumber

 

£1.15

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.00

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£3.95

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.15

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£3.95

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.10

 

Gala Apples

 

5 for £1.50

 

Washington Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.50

 

Clementine’s

 

5 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.85

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.50

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Yellow Melon

 

£1.95

 

Oranges Large

 

3 for £1.80

 

Blood Oranges

 

4 for £1.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.50

 

Plums

 

5 for £1.50

 

Pomegranates

 

£1.50

 

 

 

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.70

 

Bramleys

 

£3.15

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£2.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£4.95

 

Rhubarb

 

£6.95

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

Flybe, a once familiar sight at island airports, has suffered financial collapse and ceased flying.

Its services still went to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Wick and Inverness airports until yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 4 March).

A spokesperson for AGS Airports which owns and manages Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, said: “The loss of Flybe is a devasting blow for the airline’s employees and the tens of thousands of passengers who relied on its routes.

“It unfortunately brings into stark focus the fragility of the UK’s domestic connectivity. Earlier this year the UK Government committed to levelling up all regions of the UK by conducting a review of regional connectivity.

“It’s vital this work is progressed as a matter of urgency and reforming Air Passenger Duty (APD) is part of that review. We are already speaking to other airlines about backfilling the routes operated by Flybe for which there is clear demand. 

Almost all the flights to AGS Airports’ hub at Southampton were provided by Flybe, which was Europe’s biggest regional airline and Flybe’s network included more than half of British domestic flights outside London.

Any passengers due to travel with Flybe’s franchise partners, Blue Islands and Eastern Airways, are advised to contact their airline to confirm their travel arrangements.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority will be updating its website at caa.co.uk/news and Twitter feed (@UK_CAA) with information for consumers.

The CAA in a statement yesterday (Wednesday 4 March): “All Flybe flights are cancelled. Please do not go to the airport as your Flybe flight will not be operating.”

“Flybe customers are urged to make their own alternative travel arrangements via other airlines, rail or coach operators,” it said.

The carrier’s collapse came after the British government tried to save it, while fending off allegations from competitors that it had provided state aid to Flybe.  It is believed no aid was actually provided.

Flybe had a major presence at airports such as Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester and Southampton, and flew some nine million passengers a year to 170 destinations across the continent.

A consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital bought Flybe in February 2019. Known as Connect Airways, it paid just £2.2 million for Flybe’s assets but pledged to inject cash into the airline to turn it around.

Flybe has struggled with a series of issues, including the weakening of the sterling currency. The weaker pound hurts airlines like Flybe that have significant costs in dollars but take in revenue in £s.

The airline also was struggling to pay its airline passenger duty, a tax on flights that many airline groups have long complained restricts growth.

Flybe states on its website this morning: “If you are due to fly with Flybe, please don not travel to the airport unless you have arranged an alternative flight with another airline.

“Please note that Flybe is unfortunately not able to arrange alternative flights for passengers.

“If you have a booking sold by another airline that includes travel on a Flybe flight, please contact the relevant airline or travel agent to confirm if there is any impact to your travel plans.

“Customers are also advised to monitor the Civil Aviation Authority website for further information (www.caa.co.uk).

“If you require any further information or assistance, please contact the Administrators by phone on 0207 951 7801 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Loganair asks for patience

Meanwhile Scotland’s airline Loganair has asked for patience from passengers booked to make connecting flights between Loganair and Flybe, as they field thousands of enquiries on disrupted travel.

In a social media post this morning (Thursday 5 March) they said: “In light of the sad news in regard to Flybe we are experiencing an extremely high level of calls, our team are working hard to address all of our customer's queries as efficiently as possible

“If you are not travelling within the next 48 hours, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with and we will respond as quickly as possible. We are currently working on how to best help our customers booked with or via Flybe and will update our website and social media throughout the day. 

“Loganair-operated flights are not affected and will operate as normal. We appreciate your patience at this time.”

Eastern Airways

Flybe franchise partner Eastern Airways, which provided a Stornoway-Aberdeen service for many years, is showing the following message on its online flights booking page: "Passengers on routes operated by Eastern Airways should continue to check-in for their flights as normal."

References to Loganair and Eastern Airways have been updated or added since this was first posted.

Island crofters have begun to receive 'convergence payments' says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

Across Scotland, more than 17,400 individual farmers and crofters have now received their individual allocation of the initial £86.2 million of convergence funding.

These initial convergence payments are the first tranche of a £160 million-pound package the UK government has agreed to pay to rectify a ‘historic wrong’ relating to EU Common Agricultural funding that it failed to pass on to Scotland between 2014-2018.

Further payment will be made in the coming weeks to ensure every eligible farmer and crofter, including new claimants in 2019, receives a payment by the end of March.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “Since the Scottish Government successfully persuaded the UK Government of the need to repatriate this funding, I have worked to make sure that the money goes toward those it was originally intended to help.

“Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has confirmed that the Scottish Government’s approach will ensure that this vital funding gets to where it needs to be. I believe this is in keeping with the original spirit and premise of convergence.”

 

National agency Bòrd na Gàidhlig has praised Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's Gaelic Language Plan.

And that Comhairle says it welcomes the comments from Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig said, “The work that has been carried out regarding the use of social media to promote Gaelic has been welcomed.  The Bòrd is pleased to see that members of staff have been give the opportunity to attend Gaelic classes. It is also encouraging to see that the council have offered fluent members of staff the opportunity to undertake grammar classes.”

“The Bòrd is pleased to see that the progress of this plan complements the priorities in the National Plan. The progress that has been made throughout the area regarding the promotion of the learning and usage of Gaelic. The Council has carried out praiseworthy work in in the area to create usage opportunities for both children and adults. The Bòrd praises the Council for the creation of the Dìleab project. The Project has created important opportunities for people in the Western Isles to use Gaelic with other generations.”

Bòrd na Gàidhlig also highlighted the Comhairle’s new Gaelic Medium Education policy saying, “The Bòrd welcomes the changes within the Council's education policy that has resulted in all children, who are starting primary one, being enrolled in Gaelic medium education in the first instance, with the opportunity for parents to opt for English medium should they wish.

"This progress will contribute to growth in the usage and learning of Gaelic within the Western Isles. Following on from this, the Bòrd praises the Council for organising an information session about the benefits of Gaelic medium education, that was made available for attendance in Stornoway and online.

Councillor John A Maciver, Chair of the Gaelic Committee, said: “These are good comments from Bòrd na Gàidhlig on the work that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar does in relation to Gaelic.  The Comhairle is fully committed to the Gaelic Language and will continue to encourage the use of Gaelic throughout the Western Isles.” 

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act was commenced on 13th February 2006 and it established Bòrd na Gàidhlig as a public body which is responsible for the preservation of Gaelic as an official language which enjoys the same respect as English in Scotland. The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 received Royal assent on 1st June 2005.

The Act stipulates that Bòrd na Gàidhlig prepares a National Gaelic Language Plan every 5 years, and that the Bòrd asks certain public bodies to prepare and implement a Gaelic language plan. It is part of the Bòrd’s remit to give advice on matters relating to Gaelic Education, and to advise the Scottish Ministers on Gaelic matters.

The Act gives an official framework to the efforts to preserve and sustain the Gaelic language and culture, and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, in partnership with other organisations and people, is responsible for carrying out the provisions of the Act.

Message in a Bottle/Brath ‘sa Bhuideal

A love letter from a boy to his childhood sweetheart is the inspiration for a new multi-media show that will be performed at the 25th anniversary Hebridean Celtic Festival.

Message in a Bottle/Brath ‘sa Bhuideal is a music and audio-visual production by Ingrid Henderson, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters.

It will be part of a programme of shows at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway during HebCelt.

In 2018 a bottle washed ashore on the Hebridean island of Canna contained a simple message, written ten years earlier by a boy in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, declaring his love for a girl he had known since they were four.

The story, and the romantic notion of casting a message into the ocean and allowing fate, the currents, wind and nature to guide the journey and decide its destination, formed the catalyst for the piece.

Using new music and song, powerful imagery and animation, it explores themes of ocean currents, migration and environmental impact, while also celebrating Scotland’s incredible marine life and coastline. Interwoven within this are ancient Gaelic melodies and songs, highlighting the strong connections coastal communities have with the sea.

Between Islands

Opening the week’s programme on Wednesday 15 July is Between Islands, the culmination of three musical projects devised by An Lanntair with the aim of encouraging collaboration between the culture and heritage communities of the Western and Northern Isles.

An important aspect of the project has always been the creation of inter-island musical partnerships, and the three specific events created to date each featured as the opening night concert for HebCelt.

This year, a performance has been specifically created to celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary. Those appearing are Arthur Nicolson, Jenny Napier Keldie and Maggie Adamson (Shetland); Kris Drever, Louise Bichan and Saltfishforty (Orkney); and Willie Campbell, Jane Hepburn Macmillan, Kathleen Macinnes and Julie Fowlis (Outer Hebrides).

The project is part-financed by An Lanntair, the Scottish Government and the European Community LEADER 2014-2020 Programme. In 2020 events will take place throughout the Northern and Western Isles and include workshops, lectures, musical events and the launch of a website and publication. Exhibitions on the Between Islands theme will also open in Stornoway, Uist, Kirkwall and Lerwick museums over the summer.

Between Islands Project Coordinator Alex Macdonald said, “It is entirely fitting that we created something unique for HebCelt’s silver jubilee, especially as we have worked in partnership to promote the Between Islands shows in the past.

“This show, however, really is pulling out all the stops as we combine artists from all three previous shows for a one-off performance.

“We are grateful to LEADER for funding the project and we are extremely lucky to be able to present such a stellar line up for the festival. The projects were created on individual themes so the opportunity to present them collectively, and of course for the artists to work collectively, is something very special.”

Freumhan/ Roots

The following evening (Thursday 16 July) Freumhan/ Roots brings together Lewis musicians and long-time friends James MacKenzie, Norrie MacIver and Calum Alex Macmillan for a suite of traditional music and songs, as well as new material which will be performed for the first time.

The music has been influenced by the trio’s Lewis upbringing, with subjects related to their homeland, the island landscapes, legends, characters and communities which they each represent.

Material will also be drawn from the rich musical and Gaelic song heritage of the island with a strong piping influence. Jane Hepburn (fiddle) and Alistair Paterson (piano) will join the group for this celebration of Lewis music old and new.

Fergie Macdonald

Closing the An Lanntair programme will be ceilidh legend Fergie Macdonald. No stranger to the Hebrides, where he has played the length and breadth of the islands for many years, Fergie is still very much in demand.

The button accordion player first picked up the box aged nine and, despite being unable to read or write music, has released 50 albums over the years.

His An Lanntair show will comprise a first half of stories and tunes compered by band mate Alan Henderson and a second half where he will be joined by his band which includes Alan, Addie Harper and Paul Maclean.

Fergie will also be playing at Tarbert Village Hall on Friday 17 July as part of HebCelt’s programme of community shows. These will also feature Atlantic Canada supergroup Còig in Breasclete on Wed 15 July.

HebCelt Director Caroline Maclennan said: “As usual An Lanntair’s shows are strong and full of variety and involve some of the finest singers and musicians to play at the festival over the years.

“It mixes traditional music with new material and will be a centrepiece of HebCelt’s programme during our 25th anniversary celebration.”

The 25th HebCelt will be held from 15-18 July in Lewis and Harris. Already headliners Texas, Seasick Steve and Saving Grace featuring Robert Plant and Suzi Dian have been announced for the milestone festival. Other acts confirmed so far include Skerryvore, Skipinnish, Tide Lines, Julie Fowlis, Trail West, RURA, Kinnaris Quintet and Colin Macleod.

Stay connected with all the festival’s news:

Love was in the air – and on the beach – at Barra airport on Saturday (29 February), as visitors Jordan and Ashleigh made a leap of faith and got engaged.

The only witness to Jordan’s proposal was Twin Otter Victor Kilo, which had just touched down on the day’s first flight when he popped his question on the beach runway.

Airport staff were quick to add their congratulations, wishing the couple “a lifetime of happiness together” on social media.

The picture shows Jordan and Ashleigh with their romantic transport to Barra on Saturday.

Passengers awaiting flights from Stornoway airport were evacuated from the terminal this morning (Wednesday 4 March) after smoke sensors warned of a possible fire in the building.

The airport’s on-site fire crews were called to the front of the building after an alert of smoke and all members of the public were asked to gather outside in the airport car park.

An airport spokesman said the false alarm appeared to have been caused by burning toast and that no flights were delayed arriving into or leaving from Stornoway as a result.

Our picture was provided by reader Campbell Morrison and is used with thanks.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan has called for ‘preparation, not panic’ as the latest advice is issued on Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland.

As of this lunchtime (Wednesday 4 March) the Scottish Government has confirmed that three people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland. They are in Tayside, Grampian and Ayrshire. They are all reportedly clinically well and are receiving treatment.

Dr Allan today confirmed that he had written to the Scottish Government to ask for information on island resilience plans in the event of an outbreak in the Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles and GP practices in the islands have posted links to public information on how to behave during a virus outbreak. The NHS across Scotland is also contacting people who have spent 15 minutes or more within two metres of someone infected.

A helpline has been set up for people who do not have symptoms but are looking for general information at 0800 028 2816. Those who think they may have the virus or have recently travelled to an affected area are encouraged to contact their GP or call NHS 24 on 111.

Dr Allan said today: “It is critical not to panic, but rather to follow the advice and guidance of health officials. It is likely that more people in Scotland will test positive, however, people can take several basic hygiene measures—such as washing hands frequently—to significantly reduce chances of getting the illness.

“I would like to thank and commend our health professionals for their tireless efforts to reduce the spread of Coronavirus spread in the country. I would also recommend that people visit nhsinform.scot for updates and more information from the NHS.”

An Lanntair is delighted to be one of a select number of venues to host both the performance and exhibition of Airs in March 2020.

Scottish pianist Mhairi Hall brings together layers of warm harmonium, synergising ambient sounds from nature and archive recordings to present a special collection of historic Gaelic and Scottish slow airs, beautifully interpreted on the piano.

Born and brought up in Aviemore, composer, pianist, and performer Mhairi Hall has performed internationally and recorded with many leading musicians, bands and singers, and is regarded as one of Scotland’s finest and most creative pianists. Her debut album Cairngorm, recorded along with her Trio, was launched at the top of Cairngorm Mountain in 2009; and 2012 saw the release of specially collaborated live album Contours, performed by her Trio, Edinburgh Quartet, and Patsy Reid.

Landscape artist Beth Robertson Fiddes accompanied her throughout the development and recording of the Airs album in Crear, Argyll. Listening and absorbing Mhairi’s work and drawing inspiration from it she composed her evocative mixed media paintings, which so vividly complement and visualise the music.

Beth is an artist based in Ullapool. She studied at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 1995 with a degree in sculpture. Since then she has continued to draw and paint, travelling around the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland, including St Kilda, to collect source material and sketches which are then worked up into larger pieces in studio.

An Lanntair Head of Visual Art & Literature, Roddy Murray, said: “We’re particularly pleased to present this exhibition as part of our month of Gaelic. It’s a genuine collaboration: Beth’s paintings of the West Highlands are a ‘pitch-perfect’ response to Mhairi’s music, rooted in the Gaelic tradition. They have nourished each other creatively to produce something singular that belongs to them both.”

Airs was supported by Creative Scotland, and was launched earlier this year at Celtic Connections, Glasgow.

Airs comes to An Lanntair in March, with Beth Robertson Fiddes' Airs exhibition opening at An Lanntair gallery on Saturday 21 March; and Mhairi Hall performing Airs on Friday 27 March.

Deep Pool in Skye
Dun from Hirta

Two paintings by Beth Robertson Fiddes

Two men are to appear at Stornoway Sheriff Court this afternoon (Tuesday 3 March) following a disturbance in the town late last night.

Police were called at 11.50pm on Monday to an address on Island Road in Stornoway where the two men, aged 38 and 40, were engaged in a dispute.

The men were arrested and charged with offences including assault and breach of the peace.

They’re being kept in custody at Stornoway police station pending their appearance in court this afternoon.

The UK Government should extend the exemption of Air Passenger Duty (APD) to incoming flights to the islands says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

Currently island communities are exempt from APD for flights from island airports to mainland Scotland but this does not include flights to the islands.

In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP ahead of the March 2020 budget, Mr MacNeil said the majority of passengers on flights to the islands are island-based and flights to the islands are the return leg of the journey.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is clear that it is accepted that the essential air services connecting the UK’s most remote communities are worthy of support, given that the exemption already applies for the outward journey, it is therefore a logical conclusion that such flights should be fully exempt from APD rather than only one half of the journey.”

The cost of extending the current exemption to incoming flights to the Highlands and Islands is estimated to be £3.25 million per year (250,000 return journeys x £13 tax).

An exemption for island air services is also consistent with environment objectives as air travel generates lower carbon emissions per passenger than ferry travel.

Full tax exemption for travel to the islands would also be consistent with policies in other countries such as France where flights to Corisca and overseas territories are exempt from the new air travel tax. In the Netherlands too, a new tax from 2021 will also exclude taxation on flights to overseas territories.

Two handcrafted musical instruments have made their mark for The Leanne Fund.

The Long Island guitar and Mandocaster mandala (latter pictured below) were created by Dr Ali Whiteford of Garrabost, Isle of Lewis and were donated to the charity which supports those affected by Cystic Fibrosis across the Highland and Islands and Grampian regions.

Chrisetta Mitchell, Development Manager of The Leanne Fund said: “We are very grateful to Dr Whiteford for donating these beautiful instruments.

“They are one-of-a-kind and were on display for all to see at An Lanntair's Grinneas exhibition recently.”

The instruments are inspired by local music and landscape.

Pictured are Chrisetta Mitchell and Dr Whiteford with his cheque to the Leanne Fund for the sale of the instruments.

 

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan has hit out at the price inflation of heating oil in Uist.

A recent quote by Scottish Fuels was 30% higher for the islands than on the mainland. 500 litres of kerosene heating oil was priced at 53p per litre in South Uist and 40.35p per litre in Stirling.

Until recently, residents of HS6-HS8 had a choice of fuel providers, including Highland Fuels, and this market competition helped to keep fuel prices from over-inflation. But now, it appears that Inverness-based Highland Fuels has withdrawn island service.

Alasdair Allan MSP has written to the Director of Highland Fuels to ask why they do not continue to deliver to the islands.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: “An effective monopoly of fuel provision locally by any single company is never a good situation for consumers.

“The islands have one of the worst rates of fuel poverty in the UK. This situation is further compounded by a cost of living that is higher than any other remote rural area on mainland Scotland and the UK.

“This is a serious issue which contributes to household poverty and increased burden on public services.”

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan has hit out at the price inflation of heating oil in Uist.

A recent quote by Scottish Fuels was 30% higher for the islands than on the mainland. 500 litres of kerosene heating oil was priced at 53p per litre in South Uist and 40.35p per litre in Stirling.

Until recently, residents of HS6-HS8 had a choice of fuel providers, including Highland Fuels, and this market competition helped to keep fuel prices from over-inflation. But now, it appears that Inverness-based Highland Fuels has withdrawn island service.

Alasdair Allan MSP has written to the Director of Highland Fuels to ask why they do not continue to deliver to the islands.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: “An effective monopoly of fuel provision locally by any single company is never a good situation for consumers.

“The islands have one of the worst rates of fuel poverty in the UK. This situation is further compounded by a cost of living that is higher than any other remote rural area on mainland Scotland and the UK.

“This is a serious issue which contributes to household poverty and increased burden on public services.”

 

Stornoway film production company, MacTV, has won £28,500 of international funding for a proposed film on Scotland’s peatlands.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron congratulated MacTV on securing the investment from Canada Media Fund for the film project, Secrets in the Peat, which will explore the ancient secrets of peatlands, and the special relationship that communities have with them.

Mr Cameron said: “It is very encouraging to see Gaelic programming attracting such interest. It seems particularly appropriate that a Stornoway-based company should be involved in developing a project about peat, considering the cultural and historical importance of our peatlands to communities in the Western Isles.

“The fact that this announcement coincides with one by MG Alba which states that international agreements have brought additional content to the value of £8 million for BBC Alba, it just shows the potential that exists for building on our Gaelic-language heritage and creating distinctive new content.

“My congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this project together and I look forward to viewing the end-result when it is broadcast in 2021.”


A winter show and sale of livestock this weekend will raise money for two charities which support parents who have been bereaved at or soon after their child’s birth.

The show is the second to be organised by Stacey Easton and Murdie Maciver, who sadly lost their own baby boy, James Murdo Maciver, in October 2017.

Their last event at Lewis and Harris Auction Mart event was a great success, so they are hosting another charity sheep show, auction and raffle this Saturday, 7 March, with 14 classes of sheep to be judged.

Proceeds will be split between the Western Isles Hospital maternity unit and the charity SIMBA (Simpsons Memory Box Appeal), which helps bereaved parents to preserve memories of their child.

Raffle prizes so far donated include a football signed by Rangers legends Ronnie Mackinnon, John Greig and Derek Parlane, a CalMac voucher and £100 to spend at the Harbour Kitchen restaurant in Stornoway.

Murdie himself will be auctioning two prime gimmers, one of which has been scanned with twins and another with a single lamb. Half a pig will also be auctioned on the night.

The auction begins at 2pm on Saturday and is at the auction mart building at Steinish.


Live country music of the highest calibre is coming to Stornoway on Thursday (5 March) whe the Brighton-based country singer Ags Connolly appears at the County Hotel.

Touring the UK to promote his third album Wrong Again, Ags comes to Stornoway as well as visiting Glasgow, Aberdeen, Liverpool and London.

Ags has built a reputation over the years as an uncompromising country traditionalist in an era when the pop and rock incarnations of country music are enjoying a surge of popularity. He still continues to defend the last outpost of the genre's traditional roots, leading to plaudits from reviewers and punters alike.

Wrong Again was released in November 2019 and was described by Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2 as "modern day traditionalism of the very, very best kind". As with his previous two albums, Wrong Again was named Album of the Month by Country Music People magazine while being described by songwriting legend Tom Russell as "killer".

Meanwhile, US music publications Billboard and Glide Magazine respectively praised his "deep and emotive vocals" and branded the album "a must listen" for fans of real deal country music.

Doors open for the County Hotel at 7.30 pm on Thursday and tickets can be bought at WJ MacDonald Butchers on Francis St for £10, or are available for £12 at the door.

Stornoway band Peat & Diesel have reached new heights of fandom - even during a gap in their touring schedule.

A new single has been released today (Monday 2 March) which pays tribute to Peatlemania, but the single itself is by another band, The CundeeZ, who hail from Dundee.

The track Peat & Diesel has been released, according to the Dundee band, “in recognition of our Hebridean brothers. The track features bagpipes, choonage, craic and the kitchen sink! Definitely our best work yet. Fae Dundee to Stornoway, east meets west – Boydie’s Horo Gheallaidh is sweeping the nation!”

CundeeZ band member Gary Robertson said: “As soon as I heard Peat & Diesel’s music I was hooked. I don’t think any other band has grabbed me the way they have. Their style of music is infectious, Boydie’s lyrics are hilarious and they are really genuine, humble guys.

“Writing a song was really to honour them and recognise the great joy they have brought to so many people.”

As part of their tribute, The CundeeZ plan to accompany the song with a video which is being filmed today on the moorland around Achmore. The single Peat & Diesel is available on all digital platforms from today and will be on the forthcoming album Teckle and Hide.

Peat & Diesel themselves are on a rare break back in the normal routine at home after their recent tour, ahead of new tour dates in Ireland later this month. They’ve already sold out gigs in Dublin and Galway and have two others in Belfast and Cork.

Picture shows The CundeeZ during filming for their video at Achmore today.

Acclaimed Scottish fiddle group RANT, made up of four of Scotland’s finest fiddle players, will take their third album The Portage out on tour as they head to An Lanntair, Stornoway on Friday 10 April.

The Portage was recorded over four days in the renowned Mackintosh Queen's Cross in Glasgow – the only church in the world to be designed by architect, artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

This special space was the ideal setting to capture what RANT do best – showcasing the rich resonance of their four fiddles in various tunings, textures and layers in a stark, honest recording.

The musicians – two from the Shetland Islands and two from the Highlands – will now bring this sophisticated, authentic performance to life for Stornoway crowds this spring.

Audiences can expect to hear RANT’s iconic sound, which is both rich and lush, yet retains all of the bite and spark synonymous with Scottish fiddle playing.

Using just their fiddles, Bethany Reid, Jenna Reid, Lauren MacColl and Anna Massie will weave a tapestry of melodies both old and new from across Scotland and Scandinavia.

Lauren MacColl of RANT said: “Recording The Portage in such a special, tranquil location, rooted in the undeniable artistic style and importance of Charles Rennie Mackintosh was an unforgettable experience that allowed us to capture our sound in a really focussed, natural way.

“Earlier this year, we returned to that room to play Celtic Connections and we’re now planning on taking the same magic that was created at The Mackintosh to An Lanntair. We have been playing and honing our sound together for several years now and our live set reflects our love for a wide range of material each member brings, along with the stories which lie behind the music. We look forward to putting on an unforgettable night for people in Stornoway.”

Since the release of their debut album RANT in 2013, the band have made major festival and concert appearances across the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. They provided strings for Julie Fowlis’s Gach Sguel album, and their music has been used for both BBC and ITV national television programmes.

Known for their work as soloists and with various bands, this album and tour a celebration of the instrument they all have a passion for.

Tickets: http://lanntair.com/events/event/rant/

Rain, wind, floods and blizzards did everything they could to throw Lewis athletes off their stride in mainland competitions yesterday (Saturday 29 February), but the hardy island competitors came out of the experience still smiling.

Ultra-athlete Kevin Donner did the island proud yesterday (Saturday 29 February) with a finishing position of 80th out of 250 race entrants, as he competed in the fourth edition of the Chester Ultra 50-mile race

The race was cut to a mere 44 miles because of flooding on the course, which took in trails along the River Dee, the North Cheshire Way and the Sandstone Trail.

Meanwhile seven young athletes from Stornoway Running and Athletics Club faced a marathon of a different kind as they headed down to the Emirates Arena in Glasgow for the Scottish Athletics national indoor age group championships.

Horrendous road conditions made the trip itself an achievement, but as an SRAC spokesman said: “SRAC athletes competed against teams travelling from England and Ireland as well as Scotland, so there’s a slight possibility we may not have travelled the furthest. But who else can claim being escorted by a snow plough?”

Competitions are still ongoing in Glasgow today, with results being posted via the SRAC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/stornowayac/

Pictures show SRAC team members at the Emirates stadium yesterday, and ultra runner Kevin Donner after finishing his race in Chester.

 

Ferry operator CalMac has today (Sunday 1 March) launched the UK’s first online tool that gives public access to carrying data for individual ferry routes.

The simple-to-use online system allows customers to select a time period, route and traffic type, generating a report with full statistics at the touch of a button.

The data, which will be refreshed every month, is displayed in a table and can be viewed onscreen or printed. It’s based on the company’s audited statistics and allows people to compare carrying statistics by the month, by traffic type or by route.

Based on today’s data, the Stornoway-Ullapool route carried 10,529 passengers in January this year, with 4,184 cars, four coaches and 1,007 commercial vehicles. In the same period, the Uig, Tarbert, Lochmaddy service carried 5,383 passengers and the service between Castlebay and Oban/Lochboisdale just 961 people.

Carrying information will be available on each of CalMac's 29 routes.

CalMac's managing director Robbie Drummond said the company was the first to offer this level of transparency across all routes.

He said: “Previously if anyone wanted this level of detail it would have meant an extremely labour intensive series of reports to be run manually, then sent to the customer. All this information is now available instantly for anyone interested. People will now be able to see for themselves what our carrying figures look like on a monthly basis.”

The new online tool can be accessed at https://www.calmac.co.uk/corporate/carrying-statistics

 

Stornoway Ladies Rugby team scored two massive hits at the weekend, when they travelled away to Renfrewshire to take on Bishopton Ladies yesterday (Saturday 29 February).

After two postponed fixtures the girls were fully revved up and ready to take a convincing win, with the final scoreline 0-31 to SYRFC Ladies.

Not only that, but the girls picked up a new fan on the way after bumping into Lewis Capaldi and persuading him to give them a soundbite!

You can view that on our Facebook page.

Picture shows the team ready for departure at Stornoway airport yesterday morning.

Stornoway police are asking for information after an incident of vandalism on Bells Road on Friday evening (28 February).

A dark red Vauxhall Corsa car had its rear window smashed between 4.50pm and 7.50pm while parked on Bells Road.

Anyone who may have seen how this happened is asked to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH262/20.

The 2020 Western Isles Young Musician of the Year competition is on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 March.

And the organising committee say that this year’s competition has expanded to create equity across musical genres, with new categories and awards planned.

Committee chairman Gavin Woods said: “We have experimented over the last few years and found that some instruments can be judged against each other, while others don’t work so well when you compare them to each other.

“So this year we will have three competitions – Young Classical Musician, Young Singer of the Year and, new for this year, Young Piper of the Year. We hope next year to introduce a further competition, for Young Traditional Musician of the Year.”

An ensemble competition for small groups of up to six players will be judged at primary, junior (S1-S3) and senior (S4-S6) level and there’ll be a classical competition for primary pupils only.

There’s also a composition prize for youngsters who have composed their own music, similarly judged at primary, junior and senior age groups.

The timetable for the competition is intensive, with the ensemble competition to be judged on Friday 6 March from 7pm at The Nicolson Institute.

On Saturday 7 March piping will be judged at the Nicolson and the rest of the competitions at Stornoway Primary School, before a grand final in the ballroom of Lews Castle on Saturday night. That’s open to the public for an admission price of £5 on the door.

Last year’s winner of the overall title Western Isles Young Musician of the Year was tuba-player Calum Poustie. The committee have been supporting his fundraising for a new tuba, at a cost of nearly £7,000, by applying to the EMI music fund for a contribution towards the cost.

Gavin Woods said: “Western Isles Young Musician of the Year has been working in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Rotary Club of Stornoway to provide a platform for talented young musicians across the Western Isles.

“Our association with Rotary means that winners of the senior singer competition and the young musician of the year are eligible to go forward to the Rotary national final – Ceitlin Mackenzie competed there in 2018 and Calum Poustie in 2019, both in Perth.

“That competition gives them more experience of playing in the public eye and allows them to take part with other young musicians from beyond their own area, so they can judge themselves against a wider standard.”

 

The first week of March sees a crack team heading off the islands to tackle the first event of the rallying season.

Driver Ali ‘Nomie’ Macleod from Tong and co-driver Thomas Jefferson of Stornoway will be throwing everything they’ve got at the Coogie Urquhart Snowman Rally, run by Highland Car Club.

The rally means 43 miles of road and gravel racing that roars away from a start-point in Inverness on Saturday 7 March. There are forest tracks and roadways, all selected to test the car and its drivers to the max.

Behind them is a team of mechanics, logistics planners and sponsors, building up excitement for an event that everyone knows could come crashing to a halt at any second.

That’s happened to Ali and his car before. It’s a rare kind of car – a rear-wheel-drive Escort MK3 – and it’s prepared by experts, but as Ali said: “No matter the preparation, it’s all down to the day. At last season’s Argyll Rally I burst a brake-pipe on stage one and ended up in the ditch. That was it, over.”

Luckily the adrenalin, meticulous preparation and petrol-head obsession with fine-tuning the vehicle don’t make up the whole rallying package. Ali’s support team of five are also with him for every mile, and are ready to laugh with him when he leaves his car teetering at the top of a bank just two miles in.

The team includes Donnie, Morris and Jamie Ferguson, Derek Beaton and Angus ‘Grogie’ Maclean, who act as mechanics, plan each stage, respond to the logistical challenges the organisers throw their way and drive the chase car, following him round the route to be sure he gets where he needs to go.

“Rallying isn’t just about driving the course, it’s logistics, timing and complicated calculations,” says Ali. “You get a text at 10.30pm telling you your start time tomorrow is 10.15am, and you have to be there to the minute and be ready to race.”

The Snowman Rally turns 65 years old this year. In 2020 it runs over five scenic stages around Inverness-shire, the Black Isle and Cromarty and is the first rally of the Scottish Championship season.

This year Ali intends to compete in the three rallies that make up the North of Scotland Championships, starting on March 7th and continuing in April with the Speyside Stages and in August with the Grampian Stages.

Shifting a car and seven team members from Lewis around Scotland doesn’t come cheap and that’s where the background team members – the sponsors – come into their own. Principal sponsor Autoparts Stornoway Ltd is joined this year by the Home Improvement Centre, K’s Stitches and Isleblast and Powder Coating, with Nomie’s Bodyshop

Their support means the accommodation, car transport, support car and essentials like tyres and fuel can be covered, leaving Ali and his team free to actually do the planning and driving.

And if he ends up in a ditch, well, there’s still the experience of being part of the team. Ali said: “It’s all part of rallying. The craic you get with the boys and with the other competitors is all part of it. They had a laugh at my expense and I was able to laugh with them.

“They’re going to be waiting for me at every stage to change oil and tyres, driving miles to be at the end of the stage by the time I get there and putting their commitment into getting me round the course. That’s what it’s all about – the teamwork and the craic.”

They’ve been given race number 47 in a field of 95 and are the only islanders – though there are two from Skye and one from Moscow! The scrutineering is at Autovision Vauxhall on Harbour Rd Inverness on Friday from 4pm and cars will be starting from Fairways Leisure, Castle Heather, Inverness from 8.30am Saturday.

(The text has been revised since being originally posted)

Photograph:  Tom Maciver of Autoparts, co-driver Thomas Jefferson and Ali Nomie Macleod.

New figures have revealed that 167 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by the police in the Western Isles during 2018-19.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “This level of domestic violence will concern people across the Western Isles.

“Although the annual figures seem to have stabilised in recent years, this still means that, on average, the local police are having to deal with more than three cases a week.

“Sadly, the reality revealed by the report is that the vast majority of cases across Scotland involve male perpetrators and female victims in a home setting. These statistics reflect a litany of human misery and cruelty.

“Therefore, while it is very important that the police and other agencies involved have the resources to apprehend offenders, we also have to ensure that we can provide the right levels of support and care to the victims of abuse.

“I remain concerned that the Scottish Government has abolished jail sentences of less than a year as this may be sending out the wrong message to potential offenders. I do hope in the light of this report, ministers will reflect on the wisdom of their policy.”

Across Scotland, the number of domestic abuse cases rose for the third year in a row to 60,641, a new all-time high.

Around four in every five cases involved a female victim and male perpetrator, and the vast majority occurred in a home setting.

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

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

New house, Claddach Kirkibost

Jamie Quarm of 3 Slighe Ruaridh, Claddach Kirkibost, Lochmaddy, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 16 Claddach Kirkibost. The house is to consist of one bedroom, one bathroom, a lounge, a kitchen, a dining room, a vestibule and a utility room. Work is to include creating an access and parking suitable for one car and the installation of a shed and a septic tank.

New garage outbuilding, Eochar

Timothy Doubell of 35 Kilaulay has applied for planning permission to erect a garage outbuilding with shower room, sauna and store room at 35 Kilaulay, Eochar.

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

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

New house, Newmarket

Mr & Mrs Morrison of 27b Newmrket have applied for planning permission to erect a house at 64c Bakers Road, Newmarket. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen/dining/living area. Work is to include creating an access, parking suitable for two cars, and installing an air source heat pump. 

Demolition and new house, Uig

Matthew Datziel and Louise Scullion of 9 Norrie Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, have applied for planning permission to demolish the Mission Hall at Mangersta, Uig, and build a new house. The house is to consist of one bedroom, one bathroom and a kitchen/dining/living area. Work is to include creating a new access.

New house, Tong

Raymond Mackenzie of 1 Fod View, Tong, has applied for planning permission to build a house at 4b Tong. The house is to consist of three bedrooms, one bathroom, a sitting room and a lounge/kitchen/dining area. Work is to include creating an access, parking suitable for three cars, and installing an air source heat pump. 

New agricultural shed, Breasclete

Angus Macdonald of 14b Breasclete has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural shed at 14b Breasclete. The shed is to be 13.72 metres long, 9.14 metres wide and 4.7 metres tall. The shed is to be used as a lambing shed and feed store. 

Extra activity in the seas in the Minch and west of the Hebrides was already noticeable today (Sunday March 31st), as the international military exercise Joint Warrior got under way.

Mine-sweeping and other mine countermeasure activities are planned for an area east of Lewis, with a number of Royal Navy vessels and ships from Norway, France, Germany and Denmark involved in that element of the exercise, as well as remotely controlled submersible vehicles.

Submarine activity begins to the west of Lewis and Harris on Tuesday (April 2nd) while there will be submarine presence in the north Minch from Thursday (April 4th) onwards.

A dispute about pay between Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) means that disruption to air travel to and from the Western Isles is possible from tomorrow (Monday April 1st).

Air traffic controllers are undertaking industrial action to support their claim for a double-digit wage increase in 2018/19 or a long-term commitment to above inflation pay awards.

Leverburgh and Stornoway RNLI lifeboats were both called out on one shout on Saturday (March 30th) as a fishing vessel got into trouble in the Minch.

The Castlebay-registered Minch Harvester, a 17 metre trawler, was working off Stockinish on the east side of Harris just before 8am, when she called Stornoway Coastguard for help after grounding.

A man who drove his car off the road in Upper Coll this morning (Sunday March 31st) was found to have been drinking and will appear in court.

The single-vehicle road traffic incident was reported to police as having happened around 7am today and the driver was later traced and was found to have been drinking.

He was taken to Stornoway police station and charged with drink-driving, and was released when sober on an undertaking to appear in court on April 16th.

Man in court after fight

A 23-year-old man is to appear in Stornoway Sheriff Court later this month, after getting involved in a fight at licensed premises on Saturday afternoon.

Parents, children and staff gathered together on Friday 29th March to wish Mrs Mary Ann McCombe, Play Leader at Sgoil Àraich an Tairbeirt their best wishes as she leaves to take up a new venture.

Black Bay Recording Studio on Great Bernera has taken a major international step forward.

It has been selected by prestigious studio agency, Miloco, to become part of their world-wide recording studio offer.

Black Bay Recording Studio on Great Bernera has taken a major international step forward.

It has been selected by prestigious studio agency, Miloco, to become part of their world-wide recording studio offer.

A large quantity of prescribed medication was misplaced in Stornoway overnight.

Police Scotland officers are trying to locate the medicine, which they say was misplaced between 10am on Friday 29 March and 7am today (Saturday 30 March.)

The medication was all contained in a white coloured Boots prescription bag.

Now is your chance to join in with NHS Western Isles’ successful Step Count Challenge – covering 172 miles with your progress tracked along a virtual route of the Outer Hebrides using the Big Team Challenge App and web-system.

NHS Western Isles Health Improvement Practitioner, Karen Peteranna, said: “Last year’s Step Count Challenge saw over 50,000 miles of steps logged by walkers up and down the Outer Hebrides.

Today is the first day for new Essence of Harris shop in Tarbert.

They have moved to a new shop right in the heart of the village, opposite Hotel Hebrides and across from the ferry terminal which was formerly the tourist office.

College lecturers across Scotland are to escalate their industrial action over pay.

Members of the EIS Further Education Lecturers' Association (FELA) voted to intensify their action.

They have already staged four one-day strikes.  Strikes have now been scheduled for 8, 15 and 16 May. 

An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway was evacuated this evening (Friday March 29th) after a major flood which affected the building from the inside.

The venue was busy with a sold-out special event in the restaurant and a showing of the popular film The Mule, starring Clint Eastwood, both under way.

Stornoway Coastguard Coastal Operations Centre had to deal with two emergencies at sea within one hour yesterday afternoon (Thursday March 28th).

The Coastguard rescue helicopter R948 was scrambled at 3.40pm to the assistance of the Dutch cargo vessel Northern Rock, who had called for assistance with a sick crewman.

Eight elite athletes from the Outer Hebrides are set to benefit from a scheme designed to support travel costs for island competitors.

This is the second year of the pilot Islands Athlete Travel Award Scheme supported by sportscotland whereby eight

CNES Trading Standards have destroyed dangerous goods which were seized from doorstep sellers visiting the islands over the last year.

The first new dental practice to be established in the Western Isles in more than 30 years opened in Stornoway town centre.

The Castleview Practice, on Cromwell Street, opens under the direction of owner, dentist Mr Sridhar Kalvakuntla, who said: “Opening Castleview is a big responsibility but it is also exciting.

“At Castleview our main priority is to keep our patients pain free. We understand the majority of patients can be anxious about dental treatment, and we put all efforts in to providing a stress-free environment in our new practice.

Celebrity spotters should keep their eyes open next week in Harris and Lewis, as the Christmas special episode of the BBC drama Call the Midwife begins filming in the islands.

The prestigious Pipe Major Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Competition, being held in Stornoway on April 5, is to be broadcast to the four corners of the world this year and in the years to come.

Organisers hope to reach a new global online audience through live streaming the event, which is sponsored by community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, and ultimately increase the size of the live audience for the competition, held annually in the Caladh Hotel.

Donald S Murray - former teacher at The Nicolson Institute and Sgoil Lionacleit - has been given a place on the shortlist for Best First Novel of the Year for his work As The Women Lay Dreaming, a novel set amid the Iolaire disaster.

Donald, from Ness but now living in Shetland, said last night: "I'm astonished and amazed to reach the final hurdle in the Authors Club shortlist for the Best First Novel of the Year. I never dreamed this would happen!

The Royal Mail has won praise for its service quality from Stornoway after it even defied the impact of last week's storms.

Mrs C. A. Hardy of 43 Knock, Point, contacted us to say: "How great is our Royal Mail. 

The Flannan Isles Exhibition and Memorial, which commemorates the tragic and mysterious loss of the three Light Keepers in December 1900, will be opening again for 2019.

The exhibition at Breasclete Community Centre will be open Monday to Saturday 2pm – 4pm, from 1st April until 31st October. It has fully accessible facilities, including a lift, and groups are welcome with advance notice (telephone 01851 621214 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

There is also a memorial at the shore of East Loch Roag, it is on the Breasclete/Pentland Road cross-roads and parking is available.

 

Three students from the Western Isles were among 24 Highlands and Islands students to make the long journey to London on Saturday (March 23rd), taking their place among hundreds of thousands demanding a rethink on Brexit.

And Harris student Kelly Mackay, 17, insists that they have as much right to have their voices heard as older voters, who won’t have to live with the consequences.

There’s a chance to see some of the stars of Western Isles cheer and hip hop tonight (Wednesday March 27th) as the North West Allstars put on a cheer and dance display at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais.

Production is gearing up at the Arnish fabrication yard, with a delivery expected tomorrow (Thursday March 28th) of almost 1,000 tonnes of steel.

The load is expected to be delivered from Glasgow, weather permitting, aboard the Latvian-registered cargo vessel Liva Greta.

A Crowdfunding appeal page has been launched by Scalpay Community Association as they continue their plans to completely refurbish the island’s playpark.

Stornoway harbour is due to see the first cruise passengers of the season on Friday (March 29th), when the Portugese-registered vessel Astoria makes the first of a scheduled five visits to Stornoway.

The first turf was cut today (Tuesday March 26th) at Newton as the Newton Marina development gets under way.

Minister for public finance and digital economy Kate Forbes joined representatives from Stornoway Port Authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and contractors RJ McLeod Contractors Ltd at a turf-cutting ceremony where the new facility will be built.

Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron has piled extra pressure on energy regulator Ofgem to reconsider its recommendation to restrict the capacity of the proposed Western Isles interconnector to 450mw .

A new leisure link partnership with four other areas of Scotland that will see ‘Slàinte Mhath’ members able to access leisure facilities outwith the Western Isles for the first time, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar announced (today March 26th).

The scheme, involving the four other areas will be known as the “Leisure Link Partnership” and it's believed to be the first of its type in Scotland.

‘Slàinte Mhath’ members will now be able to access gym, public swimming and fitness classes at leisure facilities across Highland, Moray, Orkney and Argyll and Bute at no extra cost.

A new leisure link partnership with four other areas of Scotland that will see ‘Slàinte Mhath’ members able to access leisure facilities outwith the Western Isles for the first time, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar announced (today March 26th).

The scheme, involving the four other areas will be known as the “Leisure Link Partnership” and it's believed to be the first of its type in Scotland.

‘Slàinte Mhath’ members will now be able to access gym, public swimming and fitness classes at leisure facilities across Highland, Moray, Orkney and Argyll and Bute at no extra cost.

A major exhibition of photographs about the Outer Hebrides which has already been seen in a wide variety of European countries – from Italy to Finland – and in the USA and Japan, comes to London next month as part of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House – from April 18th to May 6th.

While most rural areas complain that the young leave for the cities, a growing tribe of around 40 surfers in the Hebrides are bucking the trend.

Some are natural born islanders, but the majority have moved to the islands attracted by the waves and the way of life.

If you grew up listening to ABBA’s Dancing Queen or the Bee Gees Night Fever, the chances are you were a teenager of the Seventies.

And it is perennial favourites like these that will be the soundtrack to next month’s 60th School Reunion, when former pupils who went to school together in the Seventies get together to catch up with old friends, make new connections, and reminisce on years gone by.

The first Lewis and Harris Local Industry and Jobs Fair is being held today (Tuesday March 26th) in Ionad Spòrs Lèodhais/Lewis Sports Centre.

And SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan is encouraging constituents to attend.

Trading Standards at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are asking residents in the islands to be wary of any telephone calls purporting to be from their bank. 

A spokesperson said: “We have received reports that the scammers call claiming that there has been suspicious activity on your account, usually a large four figured amount of money being paid out to someone you don’t know.

Rev Gordon Macleod - seen above with wife Diane - was inducted as the new Minister of Stornoway High Church of Scotland, on Friday March 22nd - the first time in  more than 100 years that a native of Stornoway has become the Minister at that Church. 

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) has issued a special safety bulletin to all mariners that use GPS to prepare for a rollover event that will occur on 6 April 2019

On April 6 navigation data from some older GPS systems might become inaccurate due to the ‘week number’ rollover event. 

A solution has been suggested to the mystery of a picture hidden in the back of a landscape engraving which could show some of Stornoway’s former academic successes.

But the solution may rest in the Antipodes – in a very Scottish-influenced area, the district of Otago in New Zealand.

The community shop, An Clachan, in Leverburgh, has now upgraded its pumps to allow fuel sales after hours making it the only 24/7 petrol station in Harris.

This is as well as supplying general groceries, off sales, local crafts and hardware.

 A rigid inflatable boat (RIB) was reported stolen in Stornoway this week.

The Highland & Islands Police Division say they are appealing for witnesses.

Hebridean businesses were well-represented among yesterday evening’s (Thursday March 21st) successes at the Scottish Rural awards held at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.

Winner in the business start-up category is HebShuttle, a cycle tour and transfer operator based in Stornoway and Benbecula.

The company offers bike transfers, self-guided cycle trips and hire of bikes, including an opportunity to cycle the complete Hebridean Way road cycle route between Barra and the Butt of Lewis.

Storm winds and heavy rain meant this morning (Friday March 22nd) started with disruption for many islanders.

Households in Uig were without power from 6.30am after wind damage to equipment on the main transmission network.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has backed calls for the regulator for the UK’s electricity market OFGEM to reconsider its proposed rejection of plans for an interconnector to transmit power generated on the Isles of Lewis and Harris.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan raised the issue of an interconnector to the Western Isles with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during Thursday’s session of First Minister’s Questions.

She replied: "The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to unlocking the vast renewables potential of our islands and the associated economic benefits for our island communities. We are very concerned at the uncertainty over the proposed connection from the Western Isles.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is pushing for a debate and vote in the House of Commons next week to end Brexit.

Meanwhile, during yesterday (Thursday March 21st) more than 2.25 million people signed an official petition to the UK Parliament, calling for Article 50, which invoked the Brexit process, to be revoked.  

And UK’s top business and trade union leaders called the Brexit crisis a national emergency and demanded that Prime Minister Theresa May produce a “Plan B” to prevent a no-deal departure from the European Union.

A paralympic athlete born in Stornoway has won a place in Team GB – and hopes to be in Beijing in 2022 for the winter Paralympics.

Andy Macleod is now training and competing at world cup level in the Great British para snowboard team, ahead of the formal selection process which will begin in 2021.

Stornoway Rugby Club’s ladies team have their fingers crossed for a historic match scheduled for Saturday (March 23rd) at Bayhead.

Police Scotland have now confirmed the identity of the woman who died in an incident at Nisabost beach on the Isle of Harris.

Strong winds overnight from Thursday March 21st and through today (Friday) mean cancellations and disruption warnings on island ferry services.

All sailings between Tarbert and Uig on Friday 22nd March have been cancelled with an amended timetable scheduled to operate on Saturday 23rd March.

Ferries to Castlebay have also been cancelled, and warnings of disruption exist for the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra services - with the 1300 from Eriskay leaving at 1200 today (Friday 22nd March)

The official opening of the £1.9 million Laxdale Primary School extension and developments took place this morning (Wednesday 21st March). 

The project has provided two brand new pre-school playrooms, a gym and assembly hall, a new canteen and dining area and external improvement works. 

The project was designed and delivered by the Comhairle’s in-house Building Projects team and construction work, which has been ongoing since June 2018, was carried out by O’Mac Construction Ltd.

A pupil from Castlebay School has produced the winning design in a poster competition designed to raise awareness about autism in the islands.

John Francis O'Carroll - seen above - won a £50 voucher and his school won a £100 book token for a poster design that the judge, NHS Western Isles Speech and Language Therapist Catherine Byrne, said ‘gave very positive messages, had a striking design, was very visual and had ‘the world needs all kind of minds’ as its unique and original slogan’.

Over the last month, the Integration Joint Board for the Western Isles has been consulting on how best to make use of three care units in Point, Uig and Carloway.

Demand for the care units has fallen and as such the IJB is interested in views about what options should be pursued in relation to their future use.

Claims that the future of Stornoway's Bethesda Hospice will be threatened by a funding shortfall have been met with concern and a declared willingness to talk by the chief officer of the Integration Joint Board (IJB).

Ahead of a planned meeting between Bethesda's trustees and the IJB on Monday (March 25th), claims have been made that the hospice faces a severe funding shortfall if NHS Western Isles and the IJB do not significantly increase their funding support.

Hebrides Energy is continuing to seek to ensure that customers are on the best possible deal for them following the transfer of Our Power customers – including those who had signed up to Hebrides Energy tariffs – to Utilita.

A spokesperson for the Hebrides Energy said: “The agreement between Hebrides Energy and Our Power was automatically terminated once that company went into administration, and there is no intention to enter into a new partnership with Utilita.  

Hebrides Energy is continuing to seek to ensure that customers are on the best possible deal for them following the transfer of Our Power customers – including those who had signed up to Hebrides Energy tariffs – to Utilita.

A spokesperson for the Hebrides Energy said: “The agreement between Hebrides Energy and Our Power was automatically terminated once that company went into administration, and there is no intention to enter into a new partnership with Utilita.  

A poignant family tribute to an inspirational Gaelic song enthusiast, singer and teacher will be staged as part of the Hebridean Celtic Festival this summer

Rod Mackenzie, who passed away two years ago, was the founder and leader of three Gaelic choirs from Back, in Lewis, who frequently enjoyed success at the Royal National Mod and other competitions. His extensive work and commitment to his community earned him a place in the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

Police have confirmed that a woman has died following an incident at a beach in the Nisabost area of the Isle of Harris this morning (Wednesday March 20th).

A full emergency was called after Stornoway Coastguard control centre received a 999 call from a member of the public, reporting a woman in difficulty in the sea.

Pictured: stock image of Stornoway RNLI Lifeboat

Stornoway Lifeboat was launched yesterday afternoon (Monday March 19th) after the locally-registered prawn trawler Prevail called for help.

An appeal has been made by Western Isles Police on Twitter following an incident involving two cars in Stornoway at the weekend.

A blue Volvo car was damaged while parked on Torquil Terrace in Stornoway.

An outreach support project for island carers will definitely begin again this summer, after its funding gap was closed by a donation of £3,000 from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.

An outreach support project for island carers will definitely begin again this summer, after its funding gap was closed by a donation of £3,000 from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust.

The Carers Trainers Project is run by Western Isles Community Care Forum – the umbrella organisation set up for voluntary care organisations – who are delighted to have secured the project for another year, beginning in June.

A variety of activities for autism awareness month will help to spread the message of inclusion for children and adults who experience autism – themselves, at their school or in their families.

In the run-up to World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, Autism Eileanan Siar has planned a series of events to engage and educate children at school, the community as a whole and businesses in particular.

The Western Isles Island Games Association (WIIGA) sponsored by The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) has finalised selection for the NatWest International Island Games this summer.

The week-long International event is this year being hosted by Gibraltar, one of the 24 members, between 6th July and 12th July.

WIIGA will take a squad of 45 covering five sports to the Games, which includes athletes, coaches, management and medical team.

Athletes and coaches from the Western Isles islands Games Association were feted at a major public event at Harris & Lewis Smokehouse in Stornoway this morning (Tuesday March 19th)

There was a storm of protest today (Tuesday March 19th) after renewable energy plans for Lewis and Harris were thrown into doubt.

Energy regulator Ofgem says today that it is minded to approve a proposal by Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) to build a 600MW subsea electricity transmission link from Shetland to mainland Scotland.

But Ofgem is minded to reject SSEN’s separate proposal to build a 600MW transmission link to connect the Western Isles to the mainland.

Work is under way at Stornoway’s central post office on Francis Street in a renovation project which will see all the windows in the front of the building replaced with replicas of the original windows from a century ago.

Find out more about Parkinson’s and help improve the support available for people with the condition and their families in the Western Isles at a free event run by Parkinson’s UK on Thursday 11 April from 2.30pm – 6pm at the Cabarfeidh Hotel, Manor Park, Stornoway, HS1 2EU. 

Police are asking for public help after an apparent attempt to start a fire in a parked car in Stornoway.

The red Vauxhall Agila was parked on a driveway on Springfield Road when, sometime between mid-February and Sunday (March 17th), someone attempted to start a fire within the vehicle.

Hebridean businesses will be well-represented at Thursday evening’s (March 21st) Scottish Rural awards in Edinburgh.

As well as a nomination for Donald Macsween from Air an Lot in Ness, in the agriculture category, a number of other Western Isles organisations will be heading for Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh to find out whether they have won an award.

Lewis weatherman Eddy Graham has been appointed one of the co-editors of the Royal Meteorological Society’s journal Weather, following the retirement of the current editor.

Eddy, who lectures at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) at Lews Castle College, will take over the reins as co-editor alongside University of Exeter lecturer Gavin Huggett from March 31st, when retiring editor Jim Galvin steps down.