Cutting bills: From left to right, Poverty Action Group chair Angus McCormack, TIG chair Donald Nicholson and TIG director Stewart Wilson at the launch of TIGSWITCH.

The first dedicated energy switching site for customers in the Western Isles has been launched by Tighean Innse Gall, who are working to eradicate fuel poverty and improve housing conditions.
TIGSWITCH.COM is the first switching site in the UK which takes into account the unique situation for gas customers in Stornoway, where they cannot switch supplier away from Scottish Gas due to the structure of the local network.
For these customers, the website displays an obvious message, warning them they will be unable to switch gas supplier, saving a lot of time and confusion down the line. When it comes to electricity though, the website will research all the available suppliers and tariffs and could save customers hundreds of pounds.

Cutting bills: From left to right, Poverty Action Group chair Angus McCormack, TIG chair Donald Nicholson and TIG director Stewart Wilson at the launch of TIGSWITCH.

The first dedicated energy switching site for customers in the Western Isles has been launched by Tighean Innse Gall, who are working to eradicate fuel poverty and improve housing conditions.
TIGSWITCH.COM is the first switching site in the UK which takes into account the unique situation for gas customers in Stornoway, where they cannot switch supplier away from Scottish Gas due to the structure of the local network.
For these customers, the website displays an obvious message, warning them they will be unable to switch gas supplier, saving a lot of time and confusion down the line. When it comes to electricity though, the website will research all the available suppliers and tariffs and could save customers hundreds of pounds.

Islands MP Angus MacNeil delivered a speech on Amendment 7 during yesterday evening's parliamentary debate

UK MPs will now have a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels after a parliamentary debate – in which Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil delivered a speech – voted 309 to 305 on Amendment 7 yesterday.
The amendment now passed will ensure that MPs have a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck.
“The actions of this Tory Government is akin to setting sail on the Titanic and refusing to take a lifeboat,” said Mr MacNeil. “This is a Laurel and Hardy Brexit – it is a fine mess and all due to vanity.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus MacNeil together with leading figures from the Western Isles fishing industry - Duncan MacInnes, Secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association and Donald J Maclean, Managing Director Barratlantic - yesterday (Tuesday December 13) met UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill MP to discuss the crew shortage crisis impacting on the West Coast fishing industry.

Following the meeting Mr MacNeil said: “Fishermen and fishing industry representatives felt it was a constructive meeting.

“Mr Goodwill said they will look at the details of a scheme which was run in the past under the former Immigration Minister, Damian Green, which enabled non-EEA fisherman to come in. They are looking at details towards a working solution so it was a cooperative meeting.

New research from Citizens Advice Scotland has found that 1 in 4 people who responded to their survey from the Western Isles say they can’t afford to eat balanced meals and are worried about food running out before there is money to buy more.

The 'Bringing Food to the Table' report from Citizens Advice Scotland is based on survey responses from 2,651 people across Scotland, with more than 200 responses from the Western Isles area.

People filled in an online survey or a paper version in their local Citizens Advice Bureau, in September and October this year.

[gallery ID=116]

One of Stornoway’s landmark buildings for young people is under threat of closure, with supporters launching an appeal today (Tuesday December 4th) to ‘Heal our Hall’.

The unassuming building of the Scout and Guide Hall on Keith Street has provided decades of activity and safe space for young people in the Scout and Guide movements and beyond. Up to 220 youngsters still use the hall every week, but its physical condition is fast deteriorating and needs urgent refurbishment.

Andy Robin, the former Commonwealth wrestling champion and well-known as the guardian of Hercules the bear, has died aged 84.

He is to be buried in North Uist where Hercules is buried alongside a commemorative statue.

The 9ft tall, 380kg bear became the world’s most famous bear. In addition to appearing in wrestling matches with Andy, he appeared in television commercials and also had a cameo part in the James Bond film Octopussy with Roger Moore. He also met Margaret Thatcher.

Andy’s wife Maggie belongs to Grimsay in Uist and it was in nearby Benbecula that Hercules made international headlines when he disappeared for three weeks while filming for a TV commercial.

On August 1, 1980, he went for a swim near Petersport in the south east corner of Benbecula. He was last sighted on the Island of Wiay which lies off Petersport.

There was a massive land, sea and air search following his disappearance and he was missing for three weeks. The bear was finally sighted near Clettraval in North Uist. Although Andy was in hot pursuit Hercules seemed reluctant to give up his new-found freedom. He was finally shot with a tranquiliser dart. After he fell asleep, he was put into a large net and air lifted to Lochmaddy playing fields in North Uist where he was then transferred to his specially built cage-come-travelling home. A delighted Andy and his wife then went into the cage and fed Hercules on prawns.

But the tale did not end there. Andy was charged with keeping a wild animal without a local authority licence contrary to the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

When the case was called at Lochmaddy Sheriff Court, a letter was submitted from Mr Joe Beltrami, the well-known Glasgow lawyer acting on Andy’s behalf, pleading not guilty to the offence and the trial was fixed for July 14. The maximum penalty for such an offence was £400.

Andy denied that on August 20 and 21, 1980, and September 13 and 14, 1980, at Petersport, Benbecula, the Island of Wiay, and the Island of North Uist, that he kept a dangerous animal, namely a European Brown Bear of the family Ursidae, without a local authority licence.

Andy had planned to bring the bear to the trial as a ‘silent witness,’ in his new £65,000 coach, built for him in Belgium.

However on May 7, 1981, the Procurator Fiscal, Mr Colin Scott Mackenzie, dropped the charge, and explained: ‘I have informed Mr Beltrami that if Mr Robin could obtain a proper licence under the Dangerous Wild Aninals Act of 1976 from Stirling District Council, then I would consider that the public interest had been served and that the public would then be protected. I now understand that the District Council has granted the necessary licence.’

Mr Mackenzie also revealed that since Mr Robin had been charged that he had received pleas from ‘diminutive citizens’ urging ‘hands off Hercules.’ He said: ‘I assured them individually that I was not going to do anything to Hercules and that it was his owner I was dealing with. Now that the licence has been granted, he is no longer in jeopardy from the authorities.’

One man who was disappointed was George Peat of the Lochmaddy Hotel in North Uuist. His hotel had been fully booked by Press representatives and TV crews who had planned to cover the ‘Hercules trial’.

Andy said at the time: ‘I am delighted with the decision to drop the charge as it clears Hercules name for the future. He can now work anywhere in the UK. He is the only bear in the world with two licences -- one for a performing animal and one for a dangerous animal.“

The £1000 reward for information leading to the capture of Hercules was shared by two Balmartin crofters.

Hercules was featured on the cover of Time and helped to promote the Miss World contest. Hercules caddied for comedian Bob Hope at the Scottish golf course of Gleneagles. Hercules was once named "Personality of the Year" by the Scottish Tourist Board and received a telegram from US President Ronald Reagan.

Hercules was born in captivity at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie. The park was unable to accommodate more bears, and if the cub could not be rehomed, it would have to be put down.  Andy Robin had appeared on the same card as a wrestling bear in 1965. Learning the cub was available, Robin and Maggie bought the bear in 1976 for £50, with the idea of training it. In September, with the cub old enough to leave his mother, the couple brought him to their home on Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane.

The couple were devastated when Hercules died in 2001 and then left their ranch in Sheriffmuir to move to Auchterarder where Maggie ran the Bear Necessities Boutique.

In 2013, Andy and Maggie were invited to unveil a life-size statue of Hercules on North Uist and two years later Hercules was reburied at the same spot.

Andy suffered a stroke six years ago and his health deteriorated in the last few weeks, leading to his death on Wednesday, December 4, evening at St Margaret’s Community Hospital in Auchterarder.

Angus MacNeil, SNP candidate for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (pictured above in South Uist at the start of this week), has urged everyone to prepare for polling day tomorrow (Thursday 12th December.)

With forecasts predicting colder weather and the shorter days at this time of year this polling day will be very different from the normal early summer elections.

Mr MacNeil said:“With only about 6.5 hours of daylight and the risk of inclement weather it is important to plan how and when you will get out to vote.

“Polling stations are open from 7am – 10pm and I would urge people to vote as early as possible and not wait until later when darkness and falling temperatures could cause problems.

"For those with transport please consider whether neighbours may need lifts to the polls.

“Finally if you are a football fan and are planning a night watching Scottish teams in Europe on the TV remember to vote early and good luck to both Scottish teams!”

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate

Primary school children are being offered ‘sport and elf’ activities on Christmas Eve, while the grown-ups finish preparing for Santa’s arrival.

On Monday December 24th there are activities at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais from 10am, with morning sessions in sports and water confidence for P1 and P2 children (10am to 11.30am) and P 3 and P4 children (11.15am to 12.45pm).

Community learning and development (CLD) in the Western Isles is not improving fast enough, according to an Education Scotland report published on Monday December 2nd.

Her Majesty’s education inspectors have criticised the governance and performance management of CLD provision in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, singling out information sharing and planning as areas that need improvement and stating their intention to return for a third time next year to re-examine progress.

They urged the Comhairle to be more transparent after community consultations, so that local people understand how their views influence decision-making.

The report, signed off by HMI Alona Murray, said: “The direction of CLD provision in Eilean Siar is not sufficiently clear. Although partners are making progress against some aspects of work, the governance and performance management of CLD across the authority area continues to require significant improvement.”

The report comes after a follow-up inspection, which itself was triggered in July 2018, when inspectors found that improvements were needed, noting then that: “partners do not yet have a full understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement.”

Today’s report says that, although provision for learners and communities remains of good quality, there has been insufficient progress made against the two main areas for improvement in the original report.

HMI Alona Murray said: “Senior leaders continue to value the role that community learning and development (CLD) plays in contributing to local authority and Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP) priorities. However, the governance of CLD remains a significant area for improvement. The local authority has made very little progress in identifying shared CLD priorities.”

Singled out as good examples of partnership working are the Harris Forum and the CLD partnership in Barra and Vatersay, which continue to work well. Inspectors also cited Comann nam Pàrant’s successful challenge on Gaelic Medium Education in P1 at Stornoway Primary School, saying that it was an example of how the youth and community voice is well supported and strong.

And there were compliments for initiatives within Stornoway, such as the Chill Out Group in the Nicolson Institute and the Full Circle family learning project delivered by Pointers Youth Centre, An Lanntair and the NHS. Inspectors found that mothers are positive about the programme, which is improving their social network and providing peer support.

Community and voluntary organisations and volunteers also garnered praise from inspectors, with the development trusts in both Uig and Harris, the parent-run Còmhla Group in North Lewis, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis (Ness Historical Society) and Kinloch Historical Society all named for the ways in which they are meeting local needs.

However, they said: “There is little progress in developing joint targets and performance measures to better capture the full impact of CLD….Too often teams and partners are unaware of what happens with the data they currently provide or how it can be best used to drive improvement. This area now requires improvement to ensure that the individual and collective contribution of CLD is recorded and recognised.”

Wider public community consultations were noted to be influencing council priorities and planning, but inspectors said that this is not always clear to stakeholders. They said: “There continues to be a need to improve the coordination of consultations and the sharing of findings to avoid duplication and reduce the risk of alienating residents.”

The inspectors concluded: “As we are confident that the provision for learners and communities remains of a good quality, we will not undertake further scrutiny in regard to these aspects of work.

"However, there has been insufficient progress made against the two main areas for improvement in the original report. As a result, we will return around 12 months from the publication of this report to monitor progress against these areas.”

You can read the full report here



Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is encouraging people in the Western Isles to shop locally tomorrow (Saturday) and support the local economy this Small Business Saturday (2nd December).[He is pictured above with  Louis MacIver of Tech Mobile, Stornoway.]

Small Business Saturday boosted takings for small shops by £717m last year in Scotland, and with research showing that money spent locally is more likely to stay in the local economy, a key aim of this campaign is to encourage lasting, year-round support for small businesses.

There are 1,175 small businesses in the Western Isles, employing 5,410 workers.

The islands' fishing industry has benefited from Revolving Loan Fund support

Comhairle councillors have agreed to a transfer of £141,000 to the authority’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).
The Sustainable Development Committee agreed to transfer the funds, which were earmarked for the Global Guarantee, to the RLF which provides loans and micro-loads to local businesses.
Administered by the Comhairle’s Business Gateway team, and with the total value of the fund currently standing at in excess of £1.2million, the RLF also encompasses the Outer Hebrides Fisheries Investment Scheme (OHFIS) – enabling the council to provide support to the fisheries sector also.

The winning team. left to right: Mrs Muriel MacKenzie (RME teacher), Lia MacDoanld, Jessica MacDonald, Calina MacKenzie, Shannah MacKay, Leah MacKay, Ellie MacIver and Mr Richard Fraser (RME teacher)

The Nicolson Institute held its third annual Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) final on Tuesday 6th December. 

As part of the Religious and Moral Education course all S5 pupils were involved with YPI (Youth and Philanthropy Initiative) this year. 

The finals featured seven teams whittled down from an initial 25 participating groups.  Each group had to choose a local charity and compete against one another to win a £3000 prize.  The competition was judged by Councillor Catriona Stewart (Chair of Education), Councillor Zena Stewart (former Depute Rector) and Mr Donald MacLeod (Senior Education Officer).

[gallery ID=126]

Christmas is going with a swing for the over 60s in Point and Sandwick thanks to donations totalling £3,100 from Point and Sandwick Trust.

The community wind farm charity gave festive grants to three friendship groups for the over 60s so they could put on Christmas parties without having to worry about the cost.

Representatives of Neuro Hebrides were stunned last night (Wednesday December 6) to receive £5483.15 as a donation from the annual Charity 999 Football Game organisers, which brings together Stornoway-based police and fire service personnel every year in fund-raising rivalry.

In a departure from usual practice, those involved with the group – which had just held one of its regular meetings – had no idea how much has been raised until the 999 organisers unveiled the giant cheque. They said they were “speechless” when the total was read out and promised they would make very good use of the donation which is far bigger than others received so far.

The police team won the match held on Saturday October 14th on the all-weather pitch on Smith Avenue and the organisers thanked local businesses for their continued support for the game that enabled such suns to be raised for a good cause.

More than £60million is to be invested in the Hebrides Range - including at St Kilda pictured above – over the coming years, with the future of the facility guaranteed until 2028.

However, the Uist community newspaper Am Pàipear has learned that West Camp in Balivanich is to be scaled back.

Earlier QinetiQ announced a £1billion contract amendment to the Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA) from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The contract for the development of 10 new homes for affordable rent at Cleascro Road, Leurbost was awarded today to Calmax Construction.  Preparatory works are underway with a view to the building works commencing in January 2018 and keys being handed over to new tenants in November 2018.  The total cost of the project is £1.52m of which just over £1m will be funded by Scottish Government Grant. The Comhairle are contributing £24k to the project demonstrating their commitment to developing homes in the rural areas. HHP will provide the remainder of the funding.

On December 28th 1918, the new Parliamentary constituency of the Western Isles returned its first Member of Parliament.

Former Labour MP and Government minister Brian Wilson tells about this largely forgotten centenary

The past year has provided a steady flow of centenary commemorations, all related to the closing stages of the First World War and, in the case of Lewis and Harris, its terrible immediate aftermath.

Less attention has been paid to events which were unfolding at home, far removed from theatres of war.

The Western Isles is better protected with 100 AEDs available throughout the island chain

The Western Isles are one of the best protected communities in the UK in terms of life-saving training and equipment thanks to a collaboration between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and charity Lucky2bhere.
The 100th automated external defibrillator (AED) on the islands was presented last week to the management of The Cabarfiedh Hotel in Stornoway – the result of the proactive approach taken by the local authority and Lucky2bhere which has provided more concentrated access to AED, and comprehensive Emergency Life Support Training (ELS), than anywhere else in the UK.
Comhairle Councillor Angus Morrison has been instrumental in the campaign both as a Councillor and a Volunteer Trainer and Co-ordinator at Lucky2bhere.

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

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

News story from BBC Alba 3.43

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate


This year’s Donald Stewart Memorial Trust award has gone to Sir E Scott School, Harris.  The Trust decided unanimously that this year’s award be made to Peigi McKellar, who completed her 6th year in Sir E Scott School, Harris in June 2015.  Peigi is currently in the middle of a Gap year and has just returned from a 2-month trip to Nepal, where she was undertaking voluntary work in hospitals and orphanages. 

The Trustees were highly impressed with her overall performance both in and out with the school, but particularly impressed with her commitment to extracurricular activities such as music, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and a variety of sports.  Peigi represented the Western Isles at the World Island Games in Jersey 2015.  They were also delighted to learn of her sense of values and her thoughtfulness and commitment to helping improve the lives of others. The Trustees were very interested to learn that, along with a number of other young people from the local Youth Fellowship Group, she visited Nepal in the summer of 2013.  

Plans are underway for the next Lewis and Harris 40th Reunion, due to take place on the weekend of 14 April 2017. Various events are planned, including a formal meal, family fun afternoon, informal casual get-together and a fellowship. It promises to be a weekend of catching up with great company, fantastic food and lots of entertainment. All those who started school in 1982 are encouraged to come along if at all possible. In the meantime, you can join the ‘2017 Reunion’ Facebook group, keep an eye out for updates on the website at or email the organising committee using This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The family of a Barra RNLI lifeboatman have pledged to make 2019 the year that he and his crewmates get the recognition they deserve, 40 years after a shout where the whole crew nearly lost their lives.

Lifelong RNLI supporter and fundraiser Christine Macintyre has just (December 11th) received a promise from the RNLI that the crew of the 1970s lifeboat R A Colby Cubbin No.3 will be recognised, with a plaque on the future lifeboat station due to be built in Castlebay.

But she still believes that individual RNLI medals should be awarded to every man in the crew of eight, in recognition of exceptional service on the night of November 18th 1979.

Around 650 homes in the Western Isles are without electricity, according to Scottish & Southern Electricity. 

Outages have been reported in Marig, Rhenigidale, Scaladale, Balallan, Laxay, Grimsay and Uig. 

A team of engineers is en-route to the fault, which has been located. 

Organised by Stornoway Singers, the two-hour long community concert on Saturday December 14th will include all your favourite carols – as well as a bit of the unexpected!

Calum Watt, who will be singing and playing in the brass quintet, explains: “We are performing lots that people can sing along to – as well as ‘For Unto Us A Child Is Born’ from Handel’s Messiah. 

“The reason we’re doing that is because we plan to invite people to join us in what’s called a ‘scratch Messiah.’

“That means that people who don’t normally sing in a choir get to come along and in one day we teach them the notes and all join together for a big concert with orchestra and soloists. 

“That will be held next year, and the aim is to encourage people to get involved and sing with a bigger choir.”

Stornoway Singers are made up of 40 performers, aged from 16 to over 70.  Alan Fish, Stornoway Singers' Chairman, says: “We do a wide spectrum of stuff, from classical to silly. 

“Our latest performance was Bach's St John Passion, performed in Stornoway Town Hall and in Talla na Mara, Harris.  Before that we staged Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance! 

“We put on a variety of concerts and we always do something at Christmas time.  The idea is to get people into the Christmas spirit and spread some cheer.

“Of course, we will be singing all the old favourites, and the brass quintet gives the carols a lovely warm Christmassy feel. 

“But we’ll also be performing more unusual Christmas music, including Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Crown of Roses,’ a modern, minimalist carol by Morten Lauridson entitled ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ and a toe-tapping number called ‘Just Another Star.’

“We will be fund-raising for Catch 23, a mental health charity running (amongst other things) a drop-in centre in Stornoway for people with mental health issues.”

The event, held in The Nicolson Institute, will take place on 14 December at 7:00pm.  “We expect a turnout of around 200,” explains Alan.   “It’ll be cabaret style, with people sitting at small tables rather than in rows, and refreshments will be provided.

"It’ll be a good night, and everyone is welcome to join us in the Nicolson Institute on Saturday 14 December at 7:00pm.  Tickets can be bought at Nicholson's Newsagents, Stornoway."

Photo by Rod Huckbody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Rod Huckbody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copies of the survey are available from Alasdair Allan’s local office at 20 Kenneth Street, Stornoway or online at


Twenty years of support for children and young people in the Western Isles were celebrated on St Andrew’s Day (yesterday, Friday November 30th) with a birthday party for Action for Children Eilean Siar.

The offices in Bayhead were buzzing with staff, supporters, family and friends as the national charity marked two decades working in the islands with a cake, speeches and colourful displays showing how far they have come.

The ‘Clann an Là Dè’ (Yesterday’s Children) older people’s group from Shawbost, Lewis, had a good natter with Karen Peteranna, NHS Western Isles Health Improvement Practitioner, recently about opportunities for physical activity and the challenges to being physically active.

Physical active can have many benefits to your health, improve your sleep, help maintain a healthy weight and manage stress. 

An adventurer walking the whole coast of the UK has appealed for help from the people of Lewis and Harris, after stepping off the ferry in Stornoway on Wednesday (December 5th).

An adventurer walking the whole coast of the UK has appealed for help from the people of Lewis and Harris, after stepping off the ferry in Stornoway on Wednesday (December 5th).

Chris Lewis, an ex-serviceman who has been through challenges since leaving the armed forces, has been trekking the length and breadth of the UK since summer 2017. He’s raising funds for the armed forces charity SSAFA and is accompanied on his walk by his dog, Jet.

He’s decided to remain in the Western Isles for the whole winter, to ensure he covers every inch of the coast, but after suffering a mouth infection and having a tooth removed, Chris has realised that he’s going to need help to make sure he gets through winter safely.

On Sunday (December 8th) he set off from Stornoway to walk up towards Ness, at the same time putting out a plea to islanders to help with the logistics of his island winter.

Chris said: “Good people of Stornoway, I need your help. I cannot physically carry the amount of food needed for our next leg and want to walk every inch of this coast so I’m looking for anyone who may be able to assist with drop offs at chosen points along the route, where I can cut in off the coast and meet you on a road to re-supply.”

He’s asking for people to contact him via his Facebook page at via his website if they can help.

Apart from the logistics, Chris is setting his sights on a memorable visit to the islands. He’s already walked the coasts of Barra and the Uists, and now intends to visit every cove and bay in Lewis and Harris.

He said: “It’s always been on my mind that I’ve wanted to be in the Outer Hebrides and here it is – yeah we’re going to be here through the winter and it’s going to be hard work, but it’s all been hard work!

“All of a sudden here I am arriving in Stornoway to go and see what I think will be possibly some of the most beautiful places in the United Kingdom. I cannot tell you how happy I am.”


Our picture shows Chris and Jet in Barra earlier this year.


Air traffic control centralisation need not be in Inverness, MSP Rhoda Grant told MSPs on Thursday (December 6th).

At General Questions  in the Scottish Parliament, the Highlands & Islands Regional Labour MSP questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, in relation to the centralisation programme being proposed for Air Traffic Control.

Rhoda said “ I asked the Cabinet Secretary if the proposal to centralise Air Traffic Control  was island-proofed, if an impact assessment had been carried out and if he would reverse this decision, which was to base the HIAL Central Air Traffic Control System in Inverness.

Donald Mackenzie, Western Isles Generation Manager at SSEN (right) and Alasdair Allan MSP (left) on a tour of the Battery Point Power Station

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan met with engineers and staff at the Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) depot in Stornoway on Monday to hear about the work they are doing to upgrade the electricity network across the Western Isles.

During Mr Allan’s time at the depot he was updated on the £3m SSEN is investing in upgrading the electricity network across the Western Isles to help improve security of supply.

Dr Allan with Francesca and her winning design for the MSP's official Christmas Card this year

Selected from among hundreds of entries, the winner of the design for Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan’s Christmas Card this year is announced as Sgoil Tholastaidh Primary 7 pupil Francesca Greenstock.
Dr Allan is delighted to announce Francesca as the winner of the annual schools competition to design his official Christmas Card – which will be sent out to over a thousand people and organisations locally and nationally.
There were hundreds of different entries from primary schools across the Islands, and runner-up in the Christmas Card competition was Calum MacLeod from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath.

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

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

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

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

Please view the following video:

ALL schools and nurseries in the Western Isles are to be closed tomorrow.

The decision has been made by the Comhairle after reports that the current storm affecting the islands is to worsen later this evening.

Alasdair with HIV Scotland, CEO, George Valiotis, and community activists, Cathy Crawford, Will Dalgleish and Stephen Duffy

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, has taken part in HIV Scotland’s “What will you do?” campaign, organised as part of World AIDS Day.

Every year on the 1st December people across the globe mark World AIDS Day: the international day to remember the 35 million people who have died worldwide from AIDS-related illnesses, to prevent new cases of HIV and to stand in solidarity with people living with the virus.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has pledged to support Scottish Government efforts to cut down on nuisance calls – after it was announced that a new commission is meeting this week to tackle the issue in Scotland.

Nuisance calls can be particularly disruptive for vulnerable people, causing distress and even financial hardship.

Sing a Long concert, Town Hall, Stornoway


Tuesday 15th December

For more information phone the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Resource Centre, 18 Bells Road, Stornoway on 01851 70 2123 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP has joined Save the Children's campaign, and, along with 2,000 campaigners, he has written a welcome message to the lone child refugees arriving in the UK - and he is encouraging his constituents to do the same. 

Almost 2,000 unaccompanied children have arrived in the UK this year, many of whom have fled war and persecution.

The messages written for these children will be published in books distributed all over the UK to help child refugees to learn English.

Angus Brendan said: “I’m delighted to support Save the Children’s campaign to welcome child refugees in the UK. These children have been through so much – fleeing conflict and persecution. I’m glad that the UK can help provide them with a safe home and a fresh start.”

“As winter sets in I remain concerned about the plight of child refugees in Europe who are all alone and have no family with them. I’m supporting Save the Children’s call on the UK government to offer to relocate up to 3,000 of these children to the UK.” 

Join the campaign, and write your welcome message here:

One week left to enter!

MOTORISTS in the Western Isles have been issued another ice warning by the Met Office. 

The yellow 'Be Aware' status is in place until 11am tomorrow.

Meanwhile, several properties throughout the islands are still without telephone or broadband services due to the high amount of lightning strikes last week.

There were over 5,000 strikes recorded across the Highlands.

At a service in Tarbert on Sunday, ten elders and two deacons were admitted to office in the North Harris Free Church congregation.

The service was conducted by the interim moderator, Rev Dr Iain D Campbell, who was assisted by assessor elders from the Presbytery in forming the Kirk-Session. The North Harris congregation became a congregation of the Free Church in October 2014. 

The new office-bearers are Antony Latham, Angus McKellar, Calum MacKinnon, Farquhar MacLeod, Gordon Macleod, Neil C MacKinnon, Duncan MacPherson, Donald MacSween, John MacSween and Angus A. Morrison (elders), and David Cameron and Adrian Glen (deacons). They had all previously served as office-bearers in Tarbert Church of Scotland. 

Army Reserves winter Highland tour

If you've ever wondered who the Army Reserves are and what they do, Sgt Tommy Stewart has some facts, figures and further information about their next 'Look at Life' event on the 18th of January:

"Christmas is over, the days are short, grey and cold with nothing to look forward to until Easter time, or so you thought! The Army Reserves are in town offering you a wide variety of roles and jobs that can all be undertaken in your spare time, while at the same time helping you gain vital spare cash for your summer holidays.

Some of you may have heard the phrase “Voluntary Army Reservist”, but just who are the Army Reserves and what do they do? And how do they affect me? These are questions I will get to shortly, but first I must dispel some myths about the Army Reserves.

Police were active in Stornoway over the busy pre-Christmas weekend, and a number of people were charged with offences.
At 5.30pm on Friday (December 21st) police were called to Perceval Road in the town, where a 19-year-old man was arrested and taken into custody. He was charged with breach of the peace, vandalism, police assault and possession of a class B drug and was kept in custody until sober. A report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Stornoway's An Lanntair arts centre currently intends to open its doors as normal tomorrow (Friday 23rd December) …although the town's sport centre is closed.

An Lanntair's galleries, cinema and café bar will be open for customers and audiences from 10am till late.

The centre says: "We will continue to monitor the Met Office updates closely and will advise customers immediately if there are any changes to this plan.

There are plans for action to improve road safety in Assaye Place, Stornoway – a long running issue of concern for local residents.

Councillors at this week’s meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agreed that a Traffic Regulation Order should be implemented that would prevent vehicular access to Assaye Place from Willowglen Road, except for local access, for a trial period of eight months.

Following the successful launch of the Islands Athlete Travel Award Scheme in March 2018 up to eight élite athletes from the Outer Hebrides are again set to benefit from the continuation of the pilot scheme designed to support travel costs in the islands.

The aim of this scheme is to help the élite athletes of the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland to gain better access to competitive and developmental opportunities available on the mainland.

Eight individuals could benefit in the Outer Hebrides with £1,500 available per person this year.

Sir Paul McCartney has come to the aid of the families of two Barra teenagers caught up in the Manchester bomb attack in a gesture that has been described as both "amazing and brilliant" and "poignant" by the parents.

The ex-Beatle was moved by the plight of schoolgirls Laura MacIntyre and Eilidh MacLeod who were both attending their first big pop concert.

Eilidh, 14, a keen piper, was one of 22 people killed in the attack at Manchester Arena. Laura, 15, has returned to the island's Castlebay Community School after spending many weeks in hospital being treated for serious, and initially, life-threatening injuries.

Sir Paul McCartney has come to the aid of the families of two Barra teenagers caught up in the Manchester bomb attack in a gesture that has been described as both "amazing and brilliant" and "poignant" by the parents.

The ex-Beatle was moved by the plight of schoolgirls Laura MacIntyre and Eilidh MacLeod who were both attending their first big pop concert.

Eilidh, 14, a keen piper, was one of 22 people killed in the attack at Manchester Arena. Laura, 15, has returned to the island's Castlebay Community School after spending many weeks in hospital being treated for serious, and initially, life-threatening injuries.


The Scottish Government has declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone requiring that all poultry and captive birds must be kept indoors, or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.

This precautionary step has been taken in response to multiple reports of a strain of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N8 causing high mortality in wild birds in mainland Europe, mostly affecting waterfowl. There have been no cases of this strain detected in the UK.

The Prevention Zone applies to all of Scotland and will remain in place for 30 days. A Zone has also been declared in England. 

Ballet from the Hebrides played to packed theatre audiences in An Lanntair arts centre last night.
Ballet Hebrides brought a version of The Nutcracker to life on the stage with a dazzling complexity of choreography which can only be achieved by intense attention to detail and long hours of rehearsal.

Additional seating had been added to allow additional people to attend the sold-out performances – there were two in one evening.
There was simple but very effective staging to create the illusion of life in and around Lews Castle under the Mathesons where the action was taking place – including an elegantly simple fall of snow.

Barbara makes a welcome exit, but other unpleasant weather visitors are still likely this Christmas!

Storm Barbara is now long gone, having taken up residence in the Norwegian Sea overnight. The highest recorded wind speeds in the Isles (at Met Office sites) were 70mph in Stornoway and 75mph in South Uist - considerably lower than predicted by various met models in the days leading up to the storm. This was a fortunate, as if the winds had been any stronger, much greater disruption would have been likely.

In Barbara’s wake, however, frequent squally wintry showers of hail, sleet and snow have followed through overnight. Another bout of heavy rain and severe gales is likely tomorrow, Christmas Day, in association with the next named storm, #StormConor. A Met Office “Be Aware” yellow warning remains in operation for our region.

On Boxing Day, we will again see a switch back to much colder conditions, with perhaps the accumulation of some snow in places, and a biting, raw wind. Thunder and lightning are also possible again.


BARRA and Vatersay Community Wind Energy Project has been awarded the Best Community Project Award at the Scottish Green Energy Awards at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

The awards, a celebration of the success of the Scottish renewable energy industry, reward organisations, projects and individuals who have demonstrated outstanding performance. 

Cllr Alasdair Macleod, Chair of Sustainable Development at the Comhairle, said: “I would like to congratulate all concerned with the Barra and Vatersay project. This is a great example of a community working together to utilize the fantastic renewable development opportunities we have here in the Western Isles. I sincerely hope that many more communities use this as an example of what can be achieved through community partnership and innovative thinking.”

Strong winds mean ferry cancellations for Barra today (Friday December 14th) with the services between Castlebay and Oban cancelled for the day.

The Sound of Barra (Ardmhor to Eriskay) ferry is suspended for the morning, with a review due at 1pm on the resumption of services.

The forecast today is for strong gale force south-easterly winds, gusting up to 53mph this afternoon, and for gusts up to storm force 10 tomorrow (Saturday).

A FISHING boat which fouled its propeller had to be towed back to safety by the Barra Lifeboat on Saturday night. 

The 14.5 metre 'Louisa' made a call to Stornoway Coastguard at 7.45pm, four miles south west of Barra Head.

The Barra lifeboat was sent to the scene, and the boat was safely secured in the harbour by midnight. 

There were five persons on board the 'Louisa', which is registered in Stornoway, all of whom were uninjured.

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

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

Four options were considered as part of the study.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post has been updated since first being published.




The Castlebay Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland is listed to close next summer, at the peak of the tourist season, leaving Isles of Barra and Vatersay without a bank branch or a cash machine.

It is one of 62 branches set to be closed by the Royal Bank across Scotland.  The bank announced this morning that the branch would close on 14 June 2018.

Protests have come from the UK Government as Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said:  “I am very disappointed to hear of the plans by the Royal Bank of Scotland to close so many of their branches across Scotland. This is a serious issue for the communities they serve.   While usage of branches may have dropped, they are still a lifeline for many people, especially in rural areas.  I'll be seeking a meeting with the senior leadership of RBS to discuss these closures as a matter of urgency."

RBS says: "Since 2012 we have seen the way in which people use Royal Bank of Scotland Castlebay branch change dramatically, with now 86% of customers already banking in other ways locally. Transactions in Castlebay branch have reduced by 43% since 2012 with now only 11 customers visiting the branch on a weekly basis."

An award-winning community social enterprise is under threat from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar because the local authority is insisting on demolishing its premises.

Bùth Bharraigh, a local producer co-operative, visitor information provider and community hub in Castlebay, is under orders from the local authority to move from its current location in the former Co-op building  – but directors of the Bùth claim the new site would put them out of business as it is not located where newly arrived tourists can find it.

They say the unit they are being offered half a mile away is much smaller, more expensive and is not a good location for tourist information. They would have to reduce the amount of services they provide and stock held.

They also say the Comhairle has refused to engage with them, ignored pleas for a meeting, ignored lawyers’ letters on behalf of Bùth Bharraigh, ignored a Freedom of Information inquiry probing the legality of the demolition plan, and failed so far to publicise comments in response to an asset transfer request for their building, which closed on November 22.

Bùth Bharraigh directors are growing increasingly concerned ahead of a meeting of the Sustainable Development Committee at the Comhairle today (December 4) where their fate will be discussed. A report is to be given to the committee by the Head of Economic Development and Planning but was not made publicly available on the Comhairle website ahead of the meeting.

Also, the item will be taken in private – a move which raised concerns still further, as Bùth Bharraigh has not even been informed by the Comhairle that it is on the agenda.

According to the agenda, the item was to be in private because of “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (other than the Comhairle)”.

Director Sarah Maclean said: “Nobody has been in touch with us from the council. They didn’t tell us it was going to be discussed and they didn’t the last time, either. That’s twice now they haven’t informed us that we’ll be a topic of discussion.

“Taking the item in secret is deliberate so that we can’t find out what they’re up to, frankly. I think it’s so that it will be a done deal until it is too late.”

Three years ago, the community of Barra wrote to Comhairle chief executive Malcolm Burr and the then council leader Angus Campbell to try to save the building. 

In that letter, dated December 5, 2016, they said: “We are writing to confirm that we, the people of Barra, do not want the old Co-op building in Castlebay demolished.” There were 137 signatories.

The debate about whether to demolish the building goes back to 2012 when it was lying vacant and suffered storm damage. However, since 2013 it has been occupied by Buth Bharraigh who have architects plans and costings to refurbish and renovate it. Bùth Bharraigh believe demolition would contravene council strategies and programmes aimed at tourism, creating employment opportunities and encouraging social enterprise.

In the 2016 letter, the community also said: “We have tried since 2014, without success, to make CnES officials understand that residents now want to keep the building.”

Five years on, the message has still not got through to the Comhairle.

After a meeting with Malcolm Burr in May 2017 at which the directors laid out the case for the Bùth remaining in its place.

In its current central location in the old Co-op building, Bùth Bharraigh fulfils multiple functions.

As well as acting as a route to market for around 80 local producers, Bùth Bharraigh serves as a visitor information centre, laundrette – laundry contracts include social care – as well as bike hire, Hebridean Way pit stop and community hub cafe with free WiFi.

They won the title of UK Social Enterprise of the Year in the 2016 Rural Business Awards and were highly commended in the category of Rural Enterprise in the 2017 Scottish Rural Awards, winning the Scottish Rural Parliament Innovators Award for Business 2015/16 and reaching the finals in numerous other awards including Scottish Social Enterprise of the Year, Community Ownership Awards (Scotland) and the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards, as an Independent Retailer. Bùth Bharraigh Ltd is also an Accredited Living Wage Employer.

Residents of Barra who are keen to keep Bùth Bharraigh in its current home gathered for a picture at the weekend, to show their support for their community social enterprise.

Sarah said afterwards: “They were shocked at the fact that Malcolm Burr just didn’t get back to us and they want the building to continue. Regardless of what the council says, most of the people on the island do think the shop is a good thing and doing an important job, but not everybody is going to write a letter or jump up and down about it.”

She also stated the Comhairle were onto their third supposed reason about why the Bùth had to vacate the building.

Their first reason, she said, was that the building was not structurally sound. However, a structural survey proved that the frame was “structurally sound” and drew up plans for a complete renovation in the future. Complete renovation quotes had come in at around £400,000. If allowed to remain, Bùth Bharraigh hopes to raise some of that through crowd funding.

The Comhairle’s second reason, she stated, was that it did not have community support. 

“Then when we disproved that, they said it was about road safety – but a Police Scotland report showed there has never been an accident outside the shop."

With the issue due to be discussed at the Sustainable Development Committee, Sarah expressed concern about what might be in the report due to the content of the previous one which went to the Comhairle’s meeting in September.

Since this meeting, Bùth Bharraigh has hired lawyers to fight its corner and the legal firm sent its second letter to the Comhairle last Friday. The Comhairle has not yet replied to the first lawyer’s letter sent in September and has also failed to answer a Freedom of Information inquiry about the legality of the Comhairle’s process, within the set timescale. 

Sarah said: “They should be working with us to get the best outcome for Barra and our business. We’re a successful community business and we’re under constant threat. We haven’t been able to develop and barriers have been put in our way. We’ve been held back. We have even won Rural Social Enterprise of the Year – and that was a UK award – and it just doesn’t make a bit of difference.

“They will be putting producers’ takings and jobs at risk if they force us to move. 

“We’re open when the ferry comes in and we’ve taken on the tourist information and we don’t get any money for that. That is a big service that we provide and if we move half a mile it’s going to be so difficult for visitors to get accommodation and information on arrival.

“The big thing for me is the frustration that the council don’t recognise what a great thing we are doing. Plus, it’s the frustration that they just don’t get back to us. We asked them for a meeting recently and it was just ignored.”

In their original lease application, Sarah said they asked for a “20 year lease with an option to buy” and were then given a five year lease by the Comhairle in 2013. Problems began afterwards. 

She said: “In these premises, we have been trading and established our business over the past six years. If we moved, we’d have to reduce the amount of stock we carry and we couldn’t do the laundrette. We would probably have to shut the Wifi cafe. But the location is the biggest thing.”

Turnover has been around £750,000 over the past six years but Sarah said the Comhairle’s attitude remains dismissive. “The council have never taken us seriously. We’ve always just been a bunch of women in Barra with a wee project but we’ve grown from strength to strength and we’ll continue to do so if we stay in the same spot.”

Bùth Bharraigh is due to hold its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, December 12, amending its Articles of Association to ensure it will fully comply with the conditions for an asset transfer, should that be approved.

 The Isle of Barra is on a short-term lockdown as storm winds sweep across from the Atlantic, with transport services suspended this morning (Friday December 7th).
Ferry services have been cancelled between Ardmhor and Eriskay, with a review due at 1pm, and there is no sailing between Castlebay and Oban.
MacNeil Coaches have suspended all public bus services on the grounds of safety, with a review at lunchtime in the hope of running the 13.20 service, weather permitting. All school buses have also been suspended.
However, flights from Glasgow to Barra are currently expected to depart as scheduled.
Barra is experiencing wind speeds gusting over 70mph this morning, with the forecast showing continued gales, diminishing in strength through the day.
A Met Office weather warning and a SEPA flood warning are in place for the remainder of the day, and SSEN are on storm alert in case of any power supply issues. 

A Lewis-based company has been shortlisted for the Scottish Enterprise Life Science Awards 2017.

The awards, which will be held on 2 February in Edinburgh, recognise the success and achievements of Scotland’s internationally renowned life sciences sector in areas including innovation, export and international trade, investment, community engagement and collaboration.

BASF Pharma (Callanish) Ltd in Breasclete has been shortlisted for the export and international trade category in the awards. The company manufactures omega-3 products for the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement industries. It employs 74 people at the facility and is part of the world leading chemicals company BASF.

A special Beatles album to be personalised by Sir Paul McCartney raised more than £3300 at auction today (Wednesday) to aid the families of two Scottish island teenagers caught up in the Manchester bomb attack.
Sir Paul was moved by the plight of schoolgirls Laura MacIntyre and Eilidh MacLeod from Barra in the Outer Hebrides who were both attending their first big pop concert.
Eilidh, 14, a keen piper, was one of 22 people killed in the attack at Manchester Arena. Laura, 15, has bravely returned to the island's Castlebay Community School after spending many weeks in hospital being treated for serious, and initially, life-threatening injuries.

Trusadh – Mod Week 2016 / Trusadh -  Seachdain a’ Mhòid 2016
BBC ALBA – Monday 26 December 9.00 – 10.00pm

Following more than three years in the planning, endless meetings and no fewer than 25 fundraisers, the Royal National Mod, Scotland’s premier Gaelic festival of language, arts and culture, was back in Stornoway in October 2016.

But with an estimated 8000 attending, how does an event of this scale all come together?

Lord-Lieutenant Mr Alexander Matheson OBE presenting Neil Macleod BEM with his BEM medal

Mr Neil Macleod, who lives in Stornoway but was born and brought up in Garyvard, South Lochs was presented with the British Empire Medal at a social event in Ravenspoint Centre on Friday 20 November.

Mr Macleod, who was awarded the BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List earlier this year, for services to crofting and the community in the Western Isles, was presented with his medal by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant in the Western Isles, Mr Alexander Matheson OBE.

Family members, relatives, ex colleagues and friends gathered to hear the Lord-Lieutenant pay tribute to Neil’s commitment and dedication to crofting and the community for well over thirty years. On congratulating Mr Macleod on his award he also referred to the unwavering support of his wife Anne-Chris over the years, and said that the community owed them a huge debt of gratitude. 

Accepting the award Mr Macleod thanked the Lord-Lieutenant and said “This is a momentous occasion for me to have been considered worthy of this prestigious award.  The reason for the venue tonight is that this building, now known as Ravenspoint, was my first school many years ago.  Another memory that ties me to this building is the organisation Co Chomunn na Pairc, which successfully runs this enterprise today.  During the period when it changed direction I was invited to chair the organisation. Today we have the “proverbial phoenix from the ashes” -  this was not done without much help from innumerable people and agencies who all contributed to make this place what it is today.

My recognition has to be shared as I was only articulating the aspirations of many.  I hope I have lived up to your expectations”.

An engineer to trade, Mr Macleod in partnership ran a successful engineering business in Stornoway for thirty eight years.  Since retiring from his business in 2006, he trained as a Harris Tweed weaver, continues to weave and has served as Chairperson of the Harris Tweed Weavers’ Association and has seen many benefits accrue to weavers.  He has been an Assessor with the Crofting Commission for the South Lochs area of Lewis for many years and is a former Chairperson of the Scottish Crofting Federation. He has been at the forefront of initiatives which encourages young crofters to enter the industry, and was a founder member of the Lewis & Harris Rural Training Group.  He was also involved in the setting up of the Lewis & Harris Sheep Producers’ Association, which he chaired for a number of years, as well as the Lewis Crofters’ Cooperative, and was a key player in ensuring that the Auction Mart at Steinish was re-established to provide local producers with an invaluable facility on the island. He is a Director of Lewis Crofters as well as sitting on three Quality Meat Scottish Committees. In his earlier days, Neil was a founder member of the Stornoway Running & Athletics Club and is a qualified Sports Coach.


With the New Year looming, can I take this opportunity to thank the staff of EVENTS, HEB Magazine, The Skye Magazine and, both past and present, for their extraordinary work over the year. 
Our thanks also to our contributors, to our printers in Dingwall and Inverness; to our distributors in the Islands, to the many locations which host our stands and displays, and to the hundreds of advertisers who trust us with their message and believe in what we are trying to do.
But above all, our heartfelt thanks to our customers and readers who are our constant inspiration. Communication is a two-way process and the feedback we get from you about how we are doing is utterly invaluable.  We are so grateful for your kind words, your contributions, and your support.
Best wishes for 2015 and a million thanks to you all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Local charity Falmadair (Gaelic for tiller) is holding a raffle to raise funds for equipment and running costs for the four traditional sailing skiffs based in Stornoway.

Falmadair was originally set up to work with Comunn Eachdraidh Nis to look after the Sgoth Niseach Jubilee after her first renovation in the late 1970s.

Jubilee SY233 was built in 1934 by John Finlay Macleod, the man who swam ashore with the rope from the stricken Iolaire on the morning of 1st January 1919. The 1970’s renovations were carried out by his son, John Murdo Macleod. Sadly, John Murdo passed away recently at the age of 96. He has left a legacy of beautiful boats and passed on his skills and inspiration to many people during his time as a teacher.

The Darkest Dawn author Malcolm Macdonald’s book signing event in Point yesterday afternoon (Monday December 17th) was a great success, with staff from Buth an Rubha having to rush out to get extra copies to keep up with demand.

People who had bought the book on the Iolaire tragedy queued for the author's signature and commemorative inscriptions as it emerged that publishers Acair are looking at doing a third print run in January, because of demand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is available atòrd-na-gàidhlig-annual-audit-report-201819

There was a great turnout for the Bosom Buddies Christmas Party, held in the Grianan Day Centre in Stornoway on Wednesday (December 16) morning. Mums and babies had a great time, and were glad to see Santa, at the breastfeeding support group’s festive get-together.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scottish government budget proposals mean more cash for Island health services – but less for industrial development across the Highlands and Islands.

And the entire plan depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. 

The draft budget announcement says health services in the islands will receive a £2.7m boost next year.  


Brian Wilson
BBC ALBA – Dihaoine 2 Faoilleach 9.00 - 10.00f
Tha sgeulachd an neach-naidheachd, an neach-poileataics agus an neach-gnìomhachas, Brian MacUilleam, air innse tro chòmhraidhean, tro thasglann farsaing de dheilbh is fiolm agus tro bheachdan bho charaidean is eascharaidean. Bho làithean òige ann an Dùn Omhain, gu Oilthigh Dhùn Deagh na oileanach, gu Westminster na BhP, a’ gabhail a-steach an t-Eilean Sgìtheanach na neach-naidheachd, tha an stòraidh aige air a h-innse le caraidean, luchd-eòlais agus feadhainn a bha uair na ‘n nàimhdean phoileataiceach aige.
Tha seann Rùnaire Stàite na h-Alba, am Morair Forsyth à Druim Leathann a faicinn Brian mar, “…beagan de chomhaicheadh,” air a ghlacadh eadar na beachdan poileataiceach clì a bha e a’ leantainn na òige agus an tagradh a rinn e nuair a bha e na bu shine as leth an treas slighe agus margadh shaor. Tha an neach-naidheachd Torcuil Crichton ag radh nach e, "neach taic Blair no neach leantainn Brown ach na MacUilleamach" - duine a tha a’ deanamh a shlighe fhèin.
Fad a bheatha, bha sùil gheur aig Brian air cothroman, an còmhnaidh deiseil airson diofar a dhèanamh. Chuir e fhèin agus caraidean Am Pàipear Beag air bhonn an a 1971, agus le bhith a dèiligeadh le naidheachdan dùthchail, nàiseanta agus eadar-nàiseanta dh’ atharraich iad gu tur an ìomhaigh a bha air a bhith aig pàipear-naidheachd ionadail. Làidir na bheachdan agus tro na bha e a' sgrìobhadh, bhiodh e a’ sabaid as leth còirichean choimhearsnachdan iomallach air feadh Alba fhad’s a bha e na bhall phàrlamaid. Bho rinn e dhachaidh ann an Leòdhas, tha Brian air a bhi soirbheachail mar stiùiriche de chompanaidh Clò Mhòir, agus a’ toirt an aon lèirsinn is spionnadh gu caibideil ùr na bheatha.
"Brian Wilson,” a dèanamh dealbh fhosgarra de dhuine prìbheideach a tha a’ cur seachad cuid mhòr dhe bheatha fa chomhair an t-sluaigh.
Air a' riochdachadh le Bees Nees Media
9f Dihaoine 2mh Am Faoilleach 2015

The plight of broadband users in North Tolsta – highlighted on yesterday – has brought a swift response from British Telecom and Highlands and islands Enterprise who are providing superfast fibre broadband in the Outer Hebrides.

This came after Connected Communities customers in North Tolsta  were contacted by to advise them that their current service would very soon be unavailable. 

This is because the old school at Aird in Point is unsafe and is being demolished, and the equipment which delivers the main connection to Tolsta is located there.  Without the building to host the equipment and the associated power supply, the equipment would not be able to continue serving the North Tolsta area.

The Broken Ravens will be returning to An Lanntair on Friday, 6th January, where they will be joined by local bands Dedrok and The Howling Lords for an evening of rock. 

This follows a run of U.S. dates supporting Puddle of Mudd and gigs at world famous venues such as Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Strip. Their debut, self-titled EP will be coming out on February 10th.

The Ravens will be making this a night to remember, with more visuals, and a free raffle of band goodies and US souvenirs, as a small token of their thanks for the support they have at home.

For more information visit or call 01851 708480

BT has said that recent issues with slow broadband speed in the Western Isles have been fixed.

In response to an enquiry by Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, the firm said that 'significant works' had taken place to alleviate problems which saw the islands with little or no coverage.

Said Mr Allan: "I also took the opportunity to ask both HIE and BT about the roll out of fibre cable across the Minch and throughout the Western Isles, which is currently underway. As people will be aware the Scottish Government and others have funded the laying of cables with the aim of bringing superfast broadband to much of the Western Isles between now and 2016 and improving the service on offer even in those small number of areas where superfast broadband will continue to be unavailable. 

"I explained that I receive regular enquiries from around the islands asking what this will mean for specific communities. While it is clear that there won’t be detailed answers to that question for some months I am hopeful that BT and HIE will now be in a position to provide at least some indication soon about the shape of the service in different parts of the islands."

In a boost for local charities, Lewis Builders Ltd have raised funds through the sale of redundant items from the old Ardseileach site on the Willowglen Road out of Stornoway.

The construction company are currently building a care home and two cluster units of supported accommodation for adults with learning disabilities, having demolished the old buildings.

They raised £1,000 from the sales and have decided to match the amount by donating an additional £1,000 and splitting it between Alzheimer Scotland (Lewis & Harris branch) and Bethesda Hospice.

The Lewis Pipe Band will be hosting their annual traditional Burns Night Supper on Saturday 27th January 2018: An evening to celebrate the life of Scottish Bàrd Robert Burns with food, drink and dance!

The night, to be held the Caladh Inn, starts at 6.30pm with a traditional three course Scottish meal, which will be followed by a ceilidh with entertainment that will ensure your feet are tapping all night long.

Tickets cost £25 per person and will be available from band members and the Caladh Inn reception from 8th January 2018.
For more information, please visit the Burns Night event page on Facebook

Bus service statuses will be reviewed for services departing after 18:00, when the amber weather warning ends.  

Services have been suspended as follows, in relation to weather conditions:

·        Westside Circular via Barvas – last departure 1200 Noon

·        Westside Circular via Garynahine – last departure 1200 Noon

·        No Services Stornoway to Ness

·        Stornoway to Tarbert – last departure 1230

·        Stornoway to Back and Tolsta – last departure 1315

·        Stornoway to all Point Districts – last departure 1300

·        Stornoway to North Lochs – last departure 1240

It's been a busy couple of months for the Primary 1 pupils of Sir E. Scott School.

Dorothy Kennedy of Blythswood visited the school to tell the children all about the charity's shoexbox appeal, and went through all the items that go into the boxes.

It was a very informative visit, and the children learned a lot about other children who are not as fortunate as themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Very positive’ with a ‘lively discussion’ was the description of how the first meeting of the independent Caledonian MacBrayne Community Board went recently.
Set up to provide an insight into the issues affecting island and rural communities for ferry operator CalMac, the Board met for the first time last month.
Board Chairman Angus Campbell, former Comhairle Leader, said: “The first meeting was very positive with a lively discussion about the purpose of the Board and a universal commitment to make sure it was as effective as possible.”

With the well-forecast arrival of Storm Barbara, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries are experiencing widespread disruption across the 200-mile network today.

Winds gusting up to 90 miles per hour are expected later today across the Western Isles, and gale force conditions will be experienced elsewhere.

Many travellers have heeded advice to explore festive journey options in light of the predicted conditions and did travel yesterday (Thursday December 22) instead. A total of 98.3 per cent of sailings ran on the Clyde, 100 per cent in both the Southern and Inner Hebrides, 69 per cent for the Small Isles, Skye and Raasay area and 83 per cent for the Outer Hebrides.

CalMac has joined 40 organisations from across the UK to pledge to take action to tackle the challenges of climate change.

The company has signed up to the Prince of Wales’ ‘Waste to Wealth Commitment’ organised by his responsible business network, Business in the Community.

Leaders from business, government, academia and civil society joined the Prince at the initiative’s launch in London. The pledge is designed to help tackle the challenges of climate change by committing to actions to prevent the destruction of natural habitats. The target is to double the nation’s resource productivity by using them more efficiently and to reduce avoidable waste by 2030.

Time waits for no man, woman or ferry and, although we have yet to wave 2016 goodbye, CalMac has now opened its popular photographic competition for its 2018 calendar.

But you’d better be quick – the contest closes on January 8 2017.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an islander, a business visitor or a tourist – it doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or an amateur – the competition is open to all.

Through flexible timetabling and responsive crewing, ferry operator CalMac says it managed to run around 75% of services to keep islands and isolated communities connected during Storm Frank.

A total of 296 sailings took place on December 30, out of a timetabled 374. Routes affected by the weather included Coll, Tiree and Colonsay which all had sailings moved back to Hogmanay along with Mallaig Armadale which ran 50% of scheduled sailings and the Gigha service which experienced 33% cancelations. In total the CalMac customer care team managed more than 1000 calls over the course of the day.

CalMac is warning anyone planning to travel by ferry this week and into the holiday period that strong winds are forecast in many parts of its network, leading to possible disruption of ferry services.

Already, a 'Be Aware' caution is in place for Stornoway-Ullapool sailings tomorrow (Tuesday) due to a forecast of high winds.

Operations Director Drew Collier said: “Weather forecasts for the west of Scotland are predicting a stormy week for many especially as we near the weekend when people will be travelling for Christmas. We will review sailings on a case by case basis but would advise anyone planning to travel by ferry to take this into account when planning journeys in the next few days." 

The arrival of the UK’s second named storm of the winter has been well-publicised by meteorologists and is due to make landfall on Scotland’s west coast late Thursday/early Friday (December 22/23).

Named Storm Barbara, the deep depression weather system is expected to bring damaging, high winds with it and an amber ‘be aware’ warning has been issued by the Met Office.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne is advising customers to pay close attention to weather forecasts and to plan accordingly where possible.

Disruption to CalMac routes across the network continues, as Storm Barbara tracks its way across Scotland's west coast, but there has been resumption of services in many areas today (Saturday December 24), says the company.

Customers are still advised to regularly check the company's website, social media and app for on-going updates - some of the services which have resumed are operating on a revised timetable to fit around weather windows, while others are as per published schedules. Details of what to expect on each and every route is available on all of the above channels.

With services running today to Lewis, Harris and North Uist, much of the Western Isles, which saw all services cancelled yesterday (Friday December 23), has some re-established connectivity, and the picture is similar further south in the network.

On Tuesday 9th, the multi-agency Emergency Planning Group for the Western Isles (WIEPCG) met to discuss the severe weather forecast for Wednesday 10th.  

A notification, valid from 03:00 until 18:00 today, was received from the Met Office warning of westerly winds, at times reaching 70 - 80mph, combined with "exceptionally high waves."  The public were advised to prepare for dangerous conditions, exercising special care along causeways and coastal roads.  
The police advised the public not to travel unless absolutely necessary.  
In the Western Isles, all schools, nurseries, depots, libraries, museums and sports and leisure centre facilities are closed today.  Bin collection services have also been cancelled.  The Creed Recycling Area is closed.  Homecare across the Outer Hebrides will face disruption - care will be delivered according to assessed risks, with need prioritized.  Day Care for Adult Services is cancelled.  Provision for complex care in care units will continue with local staff.  Care times may be subject to change, but identified contacts will receive communication in relation to changes.  
Public bus services across Uist and Barra may be restricted to 11am to 6pm.  Public bus services across Lewis and Harris may operate a normal school holiday service, however all services may be subject to short notice cancellation and delays.  The public are advised to contact the bus operator directly.  Contact details are published on the bus service timetables on the CNES website.  
SEPA issued a flood warning for the Western Isles, alerting the public that "very high waves" were expected from Tuesday morning, putting exposed coastal areas including roads, causeways and low-lying properties at risk from flooding.  
CnES Roads and Police are monitoring all causeways, as well as the Bràighe.  
The construction industry are advised to secure scaffolding and loose items on building sites and the public are advised to secure lose debris.
The Comhairle ask family, neighbours and friends living locally to assist and support the elderly and vulnerable.  

Updates will be provided via the Public Information section of the Comhairle's website at:

CNES Public Notices

Twitter: @cne_siar

WIEPCG are on Facebook where information will also be updated as appropriate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Car Hire Business Opportunity @ Stornoway Airport


An opportunity has arisen to provide car hire services at Stornoway Airport.

Interest is invited from parties wishing to apply for a contract.

Closing date 31 January 2020


Full details including an application form are available from:

Jeff Collins, HIAL Head Office, Inverness Airport, Inverness, IV2 7JB,

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.      Call: 01667 464007

Car Hire Business Opportunity @ Stornoway Airport


An opportunity has arisen to provide car hire services at Stornoway Airport.

Interest is invited from parties wishing to apply for a contract.

Closing date 31 January 2020


Full details including an application form are available from:

Jeff Collins, HIAL Head Office, Inverness Airport, Inverness, IV2 7JB,

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.      Call: 01667 464007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information can be found at the HiTravel web site

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has announced this year’s winner of the annual school competition to design his official Christmas Card.

The winner was chosen from among hundreds of different entries from primary schools across the Western Isles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A court case claiming that the tender for accommodation at Lews Castle was awarded unfairly collapsed in Edinburgh today. 

At the Court of Session, Lord Tyre accepted the Comhairle’s case that the claim against the tendering award had not been made timeously, and dismissed the claim by Kenman Holdings at the first stage. 

Kenmans did not submit a tender for the contract.

Stormy weather and ferry cancellations are affecting tonight’s Iolaire memorial concert in Stornoway.

Castlebay School from Barra has had to pull out of the event, tweeting: “So disappointed we won’t make it, hope it all goes well.”

POLICE in the Western Isles are urging caution to drivers, with black ice lying on some stretches of road.

A car skidded into a ditch at Cameron Terrace, Lochs, but no-one was injured.

A gale-force storm is expected to hit the islands tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC ALBA – Thursday 31 December 11.30pm – 1.15am

BBC ALBA will once again celebrate Hogmanay in fine style this year with a live ceilidh featuring a host of wonderful singers and musicians to help bid fond farewell to the old year and give a rousing welcome to 2016. 

The big Christmas lights switch-on in Stornoway town centre is set to go ahead tonight (Friday December 7th), despite the rough weather, with an amended programme to help keep everyone dry.
Organisers said the Christmas switch-on had gone to ‘plan B’, with all the events going ahead within the Town Hall, plus added activities indoors.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar advise that there are a number of planned changes to island Refuse and Recycling Collection points during the festive period from Christmas Day (Monday, December 25th) to Monday, January 1st, 2018.
“Collection times may vary and the revised day of collection may be before the usual day of collection,” advise the local authority, adding: “Householders are requested to present their wheeled bins at the kerbside by 8am on the revised collection day."
In Lewis, for Residual and Organic collections (black bins), there will be no refuse collection in the Inner Point area on December 25th. Instead there will be a collection for Inner Point (Aiginish, Garrabost, Bayble Upper & Lower, Eagleton, Swordale, Knock, Seaview Knock) on Saturday, December 23rd.

Christmas Eve service at St Columba's Church, Lewis Street, 11.15pm
Followed by Hot Chocolate and Mince Pies! Come along and celebrate Christmas!

{aridoc engine="google" width="100%" height="860"}{/aridoc}

{aridoc engine="google" width="100%" height="860"}{/aridoc}

Alasdair Allan MSP presenting a copy of his 2013 Christmas Card to this year’s winner of his schools’ competition to design the front cover - Anna MacAulay of P7b Stornoway Primary School

Na Saboteurs - BBC ALBA – Saturday 25 December 6.30 – 6.45pm  (Also Tuesday 27 December at 5.40pm)

Zoë Mustian, Daniel Macleod (top row) with Fiona Mackenzie, Michael Hines, Catriona Lexy Campbell

Teatime on Christmas Day has a very youthful Lewis flavour for viewers of BBC ALBA.

Na Saboteurs, a 15-minute film, is about two children, each with their own problems and both with plans to resolve them.

Magaidh, a 10-year-old girl, is unhappy at the prospect of her father, Pol, having the local teacher, Ms Lorna Dunlop, over for dinner.  They both miss her mother, but Pol has perhaps moved on a little more than his daughter.

Admission Free!! 
Ceud Mìle Fàilte
Leverburgh Village Hall
South Harris
24th December 2014 


Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946)
starring James Stewart and Donna Reed
An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he never existed.
Doors open: 3.30pm
Film starts: 4pm
Refreshments on sale with all proceeds going to Obbe Parant is Paiste
Please contact Kerri Ramsay for any further information This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Breacan Training and Seatrek office is now closed for the Christmas holidays.  We will open on Wednesday 6th January 2016.

Martin's Memorial Church, Stornoway, invite you to enjoy the second year of their beautiful Christmas Nativity, this Friday 8th December, between 7pm and 9.30pm.

Free tea, coffee and warm mince pies will be available, along with crafts, games and toys for the children. Everyone welcome!

Photo by Rod Huckbody

Not to be outdone by the luxury trees at the Harris Tweed Authority and at the Isle of Harris Distillers, Lewis Tyre Services has created their own characterful version of the definitive Christmas tree.
The tyre tree with a smile on its face is the artistic work of Lewis Tyre Services employee Mark Macpherson, who was easily persuaded to pose with his creation.
That might be the winner of this year’s challenge!

[gallery ID=117]

With the big Christmas switch-on coming up in Stornoway on Friday (December 7th) some people further afield have been trying to show how it’s done with creative takes on the Christmas tree.

[gallery ID=127]

The weekend’s fine, still weather proved just perfect for some pre-Christmas activity in Stornoway town centre and out on the waters of the harbour.

On Saturday (December 22nd) a crowd of runners in Santa suits took to the streets of Stornoway for the annual Santa run.

Meanwhile Western Isles skiffs and rowers gathered for a festive row in the harbour on the calm waters of Stornoway harbour.

Christmastime is coming…and Harris and Lewis Smokehouse is happy to embrace it. 

Our team are ready to welcome you...

Just pop in to see us and get some early Christmas spirit...

Why not drop by now and see what’s on the menu?

Convenient parking…and you could have a coffee and croissant while you plan ahead.

Endurance swimmer Colin S Macleod and mountain biker Kerry MacPhee have both been recognised for sporting achievement, during a civic event hosted by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to celebrate 20 years of Lewis and Harris Sports Council.

Over £400,000 has been distributed to sports clubs, groups and individuals during the 20 years, and many of those responsible for keeping the sports council going were present at the buffet reception on Wednesday (November 27th).

Convenor Norman A. MacDonald highlighted the work of individuals and coaches who have worked so hard to support the development of sport in Lewis and Harris. Special mention was made of achievements over the last twelve months by Kerry McPhee in mountain biking and Colin Macleod in recognition of his magnificent Minch Swim.

Annette Murray was also presented with a commemorative certificate from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in recognition of the work done by the Sports Council. Among those present was 82-year-old Ethel McNally, a stalwart of both the running and swimming clubs, who still swims and runs regularly.

Awarding a certificate of recognition to Minch swimmer Colin Macleod, Convenor Cllr Macdonald said: “It’s something that many other people wouldn’t even have considered, even in a swimming pool, far less across the Minch, but Colin has shown his determination, having set a goal for himself and really determined to complete it.

“That is something that is very important for all sports people. If you have that determination then you will achieve what you want to achieve.”

Also due to receive civic recognition later this month are swimmer Kara Hanlon and triathlete Christina Mackenzie, both of whom will be given their awards when they return home for the Christmas holidays.

The picture shows those attending the celebratory event, with Annette Murray, Kerry MacPhee and Colin Macleod centre front.


The IET has launched its 2015 programme of events and talks on technological topics of interest to everyone.  The events take place at Lews Castle College and everyone is welcome to attend - free-of charge.  Refreshments are provided and each event starts at 6 pm.

20 January 2015@ 6 pm Lews Castle College

The first talk will be by Bill Ireland of Logan Energy on 20 January 2015.  Bill has an MA from Oxford University and is Managing Director of Logan Energy.  He will talk about the use of Hydrogen in the expanding role of providing clean energy – zero emissions.

Logan Energy is the established expert on energy solutions harnessing the power of hydrogen to provide clean energy solutions and has installed approximately 10MWe of fuel cells with a current world installed capacity of 60MWe.  They have unrivalled experience of the integration and installation of fuel cell technologies from a wide range of manufacturers.  However, they do not limit themselves to the application of fuel cells but includes all technologies that either generate or utilise Hydrogen.

Their expertise in the application of fuel cells includes electricity generation, combined heat and power (CHP), heat cooling and power (CCHP or tri-generation) utilising a number of base fuels ranging from natural gas and LPG through various bio-fuels to anaerobic digester gases.


4 February 2015 @ 6 pm Lews Castle College

Chris MacLeod is a recent addition to Lews Castle College staff and will talk about Intelligent Electronics: Where it’s been and where it’s going.

Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain's pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence and said “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” 

This talk looks at the history of electronics and how its development has led to more complex and intelligent machines.  The similarities between the brain and electronics are discussed as well as how technology is likely to progress in the future – particularly in this field of Artificial Intelligence.

Chris has a BSc in Physics and Electronics and another in Biology and Geology; an MSc in Computing and Communications Systems and a PhD in Artificial Intelligence. He is a member of the Institute of Physics and a Chartered Physicist. Before joining UHI in 2014 He was a Senior Lecturer at The Robert Gordon University for twenty years and a Research Scientist with Hughes Aircraft Company for six years, working mostly in the USA, some of this time on contract to NASA.

He has around 70 publications in various fields of Science and Engineering; currently his main research interests are in Artificial Intelligence (especially Evolutionary Connectionism and its application to Robotics) and Spacecraft Propulsion and Power Systems.




A COASTAL flooding alert has been issued for the Western Isles.

Very high waves are expected to affect the islands from Tuesday morning. 

Exposed coastal areas including roads, causeways and low lying properties may be at risk from flooding due to wave overtopping, particularly during periods of high tide. 

For information, high tides at Leverburgh are at approximately 8am and 8pm on Tuesday.

The community group leading the development of the 40km coastal path from Stornoway all the way round the peninsula of Point holds their AGM today (Tuesday, December 18) at 2pm.

The meeting, in the offices of Point and Sandwick Trust at the Old School in Knock, is an opportunity for the Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path group, a registered charity, to review the start of the £1million project as the first phase nears completion.

Santa was escorted to the Stornoway Christmas Lights Switch-On by members of the Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team on Friday night

Coastguard Rescue Teams around the Western Isles were kept busy as Storm Caroline brought in the winter weather.
On Wednesday (December 6th), members of Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team assisted Western Isles Police in monitoring the Braighe causeway in Lewis during the period over high tide as waves were overtopping the sea wall.
The islands’ Coastguard Teams were out again on Friday (December 8th) as Barra Coastguard Rescue Team were tasked at 0928 hours to prepare the helicopter landing site at Saint Brendan’s Hospital for the Coastguard Helicopter R199 to carry out a medical evacuation.

It may be the cup that cheers, but it seems tea is no longer the beverage of choice for travellers with ferry operator, CalMac.
Latest figures released by the company show that over the summer season it sold more than twice as many cups of coffee than the more traditional choice of hot drink.

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

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

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

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

He said: "It is a well-known tactic for scammers to alarm the account holder into believing their money is at risk and trick them into transferring their money to them.  The effect can be devastating for the businesses and people that fall victim of these scams and I would urge everyone to be on guard at all times against this type of activity. The criminals who use tactics like this go to great lengths to appear legitimate, including making it appear that they are calling from the genuine number which is printed on your bank card.  It is important to remember a genuine caller from your bank would never ask you to transfer money during an unsolicited call. 

"Always be suspicious if someone claiming to be from your bank requests your bank or personal details - they should already have them and they wouldn't ask for them over the phone. It is best to politely end the call and call back on a number you have sourced yourself, ideally using a different phone. Alternatively seek advice from your local bank if that is an option." 

For more advice or information visit…/advice-for-victims-…/fraud/

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is to write to the Scottish Government and to Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP, registering strong concern in regard to the removal of the Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Comhairle will also reiterate its policy position around the need to focus economic development effort on island areas and on the most disadvantaged communities.

Seafish, the Seafood industry body, is urging Western Isles commercial fishermen to apply for a funded place on a locally-run training course run by the Western Isles Sea Fisheries Training Association to help improve safety at sea.

The funding for free training, which is available to all commercial fishermen to refresh and advance safety knowledge and skills, is available until 31 March 2018, when current funding is due to end. It can be used to attend a wide range of locally held safety courses; from basic training and safety refreshers, to more advanced courses such as navigation, engineering and stability awareness and a Skipper qualification.

The call from Seafish comes as the industry reflects on a ten-year period that saw over 3,300 accidents involving UK fishing vessels, with over 500 fishermen suffering serious injury and almost 100 losing their lives.

The demolition for the award-winning Buth Bharraigh community shop in Castlebay - which has aroused a protest campaign in Barra - is in line with the wishes of the community, says Comhairle nan Eilean Siar,

In a statement, the Council said: "With regard to the former Co-op building in Castlebay, Isle of Barra, the proposed demolition of the property was included in the Comhairle’s successful ‘South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme’ bid to the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund in 2013, reflecting the wishes of the local community.

"The successful bid delivered investment of up to £2m in Barra with two new business units in Castlebay, the regeneration of the Vatersay Hall, and included the demolition of the former Co-op store together with funding for environmental improvements, the nature of these to be agreed by the community in due course.

"Bùth Bharraigh was made aware of the Comhairle’s intention to demolish the building prior to the Comhairle facilitating its temporary occupancy of the building in late 2013 and this occupation was always intended to be of a temporary nature.

"Castlebay Community Council confirmed their decision in 2016 that the old Co-op building be demolished as part of the South Uist and Barra Regeneration Programme."

The Comhairle insist that it has continued to support Bùth Bharraigh with alternative premises including specialist advisory support. "The Comhairle continues to make significant investments to support a range of business and community projects in Barra, recognising the contribution which Bùth Bharraigh and other community enterprises make to the local economy."

However, the existing shop has won widespread praise on Twitter with one erpson commenting that two years ago "I stayed on Barra for two months and spent a lot of time at the Bùth. Through them I met a wonderful range of people and was given a true insight into the island community. I got amazing tourist information, brought local produce and crafts."

There's a on-line petition to save the shop.

The Pairc Trust on South-East Lewis has recently completed a Housing Needs Analysis of the Pairc Estate, which indicates that the local community is very supportive of a small development of affordable housing in the Estate, either to rent or to buy.

The Trust is convinced that additional social and affordable housing in Pairc is key to reversing population decline, encouraging a more balanced age structure, and achieving the community's social and economic goals for the area.

The Trust completed the purchase of the Estate on behalf of the community in December 2015, and has a long term vision to reverse a century of population decline in South Lochs, by providing additional local jobs, affordable housing and improved community facilities to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron

It has been revealed that over 700 hospital appointments in the Western Isles have been broken in 2016/17.
Information obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show that there were 713 instances where a referral had been made where the patient “did not attend”, meaning that hundreds of appointments that could have gone to others were wasted.
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, said: “These figures are very concerning, particularly in light of the fact that so many people have not been treated after they were referred by a GP within 18 weeks.

A confidential 24-hour telephone helpline service has been set up to help pupils and staff of The Nicolson Institute following the passing of S4 pupil Anton Michael.
Anyone affected by the Anton’s passing is urged to contact the helpline on 01851 705600 for support.
Support is also being offered with two counsellors now based within the school until the end of term and available to pupils and staff.

Plans are in place to ensure that ballot boxes reach the General Election count centre in Stornoway on Thursday night (December 12th) – whatever the weather throws in the way.

Depute election officer Derek Mackay told that there is a ‘Plan B, C and D’ for bringing in the ballot boxes from Barra and the Uists, despite the time of year and the current level of weather disruption.

Thursday night’s Election count begins as polls close at 10pm, with ballot boxes from Lewis and Harris brought by road to Lewis Sports Centre, where a well-practiced count procedure will be supervised by returning officer Malcolm Burr.

A boat has been chartered to cross the Sound of Barra, with Barra’s ballot boxes then travelling by road to Benbecula airport, where they will join other boxes from around the Uists and Benbecula.

The single flight to Stornoway will then ensure that all votes cast in person by Western Isles electors are under one roof for the count to be completed. Postal votes from all other voters will already have been brought to the count centre, with a result ready for announcement around 1.30am on Friday 13th December.

If weather conditions make the flight from Benbecula impossible, a boat has also been chartered to be ready to make the crossing of the Sound of Harris, but Mr Mackay said that boats would only be used where it was safe to do so.

But, he added: “The forecast for the end of the week is looking better than the current situation, so we will be reviewing the plans on Wednesday when we have a shorter-term forecast and it is clearer what we may be dealing with.”

THE Convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has paid tribute to Councillor Kenneth Murray who passed away aged 64 this morning.

Cllr Murray worked at the Shawbost Mill as Director for 37 years and was elected to the Comhairle as a Councillor for Sgir’ An Taobh Siar agus Nis in 2007 and was re-elected in 2012. 

He was also appointed to the role of Chairman of Environment and Protective Services Committee in 2012.

Convener Norman A Macdonald said: "Kenny was a good man and was a very active participant in all of the Comhairle’s processes. 

"A keen sportsman, he also made a significant contribution through his involvement with Camanachd Leòdhais and the Lewis and Harris Sports Council over many years. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Annette, his extended family and friends."


THE following is this year's Christmas message from Comhairle Convener, Cllr Norman A. Macdonald:

2014 has seen a continuing challenging financial situation for many in our communities and has meant hard choices for families and equally hard choices for those running public services. 

Fuel poverty continues to be a scourge in the Islands with recent figures showing an increase in fuel poverty and, most alarmingly, an increase in extreme fuel poverty.  

Funding for the two local Sports Councils through devolving £13,000 to the Lewis and Harris Sports Council and £8,500 to the Uist and Barra Sports Council has been agreed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee.

The Sports Councils operate a grant aid programme for their memberships.

The Sports Councils also work with the Western Isles Development Trust to distribute the £60,000 fund donated by Transocean following the oil rig incident near Dalbeg in 2016.

Funding for the two local Sports Councils through devolving £8,500 to the Uist and Barra Sports Council  and £13,000 to the Lewis and Harris Sports Council has been agreed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education, Sport and Children’s Services Committee.

The Sports Councils operate a grant aid programme for their memberships.

The Sports Councils also work with the Western Isles Development Trust to distribute the £60,000 fund donated by Transocean following the oil rig incident near Dalbeg in 2016.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has raised concerns over the current position of Gaelic broadcasting after the UK Government announced it was cutting its funding, meaning that there will be a gap of £1m in the budget.

Chair of the Gaelic Committee, Cllr John A MacIver said: “It is very concerning that the Westminster Government is cutting all of its funding for Gaelic broadcasting.

"The new channel, BBC Alba, has been very successful since it was established back in 2008 and it has helped to promote the language to a wide audience.

"Thousands watch the channel every week with programmes, which are interesting and appealing, adding to the rich heritage and culture of the language.

"We hope that Westminster will look at this again and understand the importance of the channel to Scotland and particularly to highlanders across the country.”

There will be no trial period opening of Lewis Sports Centre on a Sunday, the Comhairle have confirmed.

A crowdfunding campaign organised by local group 'Families into Sport for Health' today reached its target of £11,400 to pay for a year-long trial.

One anonymous backer pledged £1,500 to push the amount past its target with just hours to spare.

The crowdfunding campaign was backed by the National Secular Society. 

However, speaking to, the Comhairle - who own and operate the Sports Centre - have in the last hour stated that there will be no trial opening. 

An Accounts Commission report into local government finance has revealed that the Western Isles receives amongst the highest funding per head of population.

Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “The reason the Islands have a high level of funding per head of population in Scotland is because we have a low population but a high level of need. Sparsity of population, geographic remoteness, a low Council Tax base and a high number of older people all contribute to high costs and a need for a greater allocation per head of population from the Scottish Government.

"These factors mean it is essential for our communities that no more cuts are imposed upon the Islands revenue settlement”.  

AN SNP councillor has said he is 'very disappointed' that lowest paid Comhairle workers will not receive a backdated wage increase to comply with the Living Wage - while those paid highest will.

At a meeting of the full Council on Thursday, members voted to backdate the Living Wage to all employees paid on Grade A and B from 1 April 2014.

For all other employees, the matter will be considered at the local authority's budget seminar in January 2015.

Said Cllr Gordon Murray: "I am very disappointed that the Comhairle administration chose not to backdate the Living Wage for the lowest paid employees for 2013. This payment would have been an investment in people and indirectly benefited the local economy at a time when household budgets are under severe pressure. 

"I am happy that the SNP Group backed my amendment to backdate, along with Councillor Neil Beaton, making a stance for low paid workers."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Lanntair is delighted to announce the ‘Critic’s Choice’ award winners at Grinneas nan Eilean – The Islands’ Open Exhibition.

This year Grinneas Nan Eilean also expanded with the introduction of Grinneas na h-Oigridh, showcasing the creativity of those under 18 – as well as giving you the opportunity to have your say on best in show – the ‘People’s Choice’ awards.

An Lanntair Head of Visual Art & Literature, Roddy Murray, said: “The range of work this year is vast and the standard as high as anything I have seen at previous Grinneas exhibitions.

“Hanging up to 400 pieces is a challenging, exhausting, but ultimately rewarding process and was completed only 10 minutes before the official Opening!”

It was a tough selection for the ‘Critic’s Choice’ judging panel, comprising of Murdo Macdonald, Art Academic and former lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art; Janis Scott of Morven Gallery, Borve; and Art Teacher Kate Macdonald.

However, congratulations to Grinneas Nan Eilean Critic’s Choice First Place winner Mairi Gillies for Pìobaireachd Crùbaige 1 & 11, as the panel commented: “A fascinating use of delicate natural objects, juxtaposition of textures and materials which demand close attention.”

Second Place was awarded to Jon Macleod’s Oceanic’ which proved ‘atmospheric and subtle with strong shapes and composition’; and Third Place to Kathleen Smith for Alone at Dusk, which the panel felt ‘had a textural quality and intricate detail’.

The judging panel also selected ‘Highly Commended’ to Jane Paton, for ‘her tweed dresses, 60s styling and superb handling of textures’; Laura Maynard for ‘her use of perspective and layers’; Lesley Mackenzie’s Stac Lee, which had ‘a strong sense of place and atmosphere’; Andy Laffan’s ‘dramatic’ gneiss sculpture Cornerstone 1, and Joanna George’s Felt Vases’ which were ‘tactile and intriguing’.

And in Grinneas na h-Oirgidh, First Place Critic’s Choice went to Dulcie MacDonald, who the judges felt had ‘a natural flair for watercolour’ displayed in her work Clouded Vision. In Second Place is Ena Mahony for The Time Traveller, which ‘showed a joyful use of colour’; and Third Place to Caitlin Morrison for her ‘mature use of material’ in work ‘Venom and Eddie’.

And who will win our ‘People’s Choice’ awards? Only you decide!  Call in this Christmas and enjoy the talents of our islands’ artists and artisans and make sure to cast your vote for your favourite.

Grinneas Nan Eilean and Grinneas na h-Oigridh, the Islands’ Open Exhibition 2019, is open until February 2, 2020.

Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has sent the leaders of the Scottish parties a list of questions that are important to its membership, in advance of the forthcoming General Election.

“With so much apparent chaos and uncertainty now and in the foreseeable future,” said Yvonne White, chair of SCF, “it is imperative that Scottish party leaders give a clear indication as to their intentions concerning agriculture in our country and, more specifically, in the Highlands and Islands.

"Our questions to the leaders focus on crofters’ main concerns. For example, we ask for the parties’ aspirations for a trade deal with the EU after the transition period ends. What would they envisage appropriate export and import tariff levels on beef and lamb to be?

“We also ask about environmental and animal welfare standards – something in which crofters take great pride and which gives Scotland a great marketing opportunity. Will we maintain our high standards and will imports have to comply with these?”

Ms White went on to say, “Our current veterinary profession and abattoir facilities rely on skilled personnel from Europe. What provision is being made to ensure that these professions are not adversely affected by leaving the EU?

“We ask what their plans are for a Scottish agricultural support policy, what the levels will be, how they will defend this against competing sectors and how they will protect crofting against the claims of the large-scale agri-businesses.

"We want to know how they intend to show that the production of grass-fed, outdoor-reared meat from the hills and islands is a healthy and environmentally valid way of using ground that can’t produce arable crops to provide food?

“Our crofting communities are a very significant constituency” concluded Ms White. “Now is the time for the Scottish parties to lay out their stalls and demonstrate their understanding of, and aspirations for, crofting and Scottish agriculture.”

Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Alison MacCorquodale says: "The way our crofting sector manages the land will become increasingly important. Our renewable resources must be harnessed to provide clean energy, while a revitalised Arnish Yard will help to build the renewable infrastructure required to meet Labour’s ambitious targets."

She said the contribution from the islands should be built around “the three Es – energy, environment and employment” but it would need political leadership to deliver.

“Voters at this election have a stark choice between a Tory government which evades the problem or a Labour government committed to tackling the issue head on”.

Alison said, “With rising sea levels affecting low-lying areas and increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather becoming the norm, islanders are already experiencing the initial effects of a changing climate.

“This is not something we can leave to future generations,. It requires action now.

“Labour’s green industrial revolution is the radical solution to this massive issue. It will transform our economy to a low carbon one, slashing emissions and creating thousands of jobs in the process.

Alison added: “While the Western Isles are already suffering effects from the climate emergency, we are also uniquely placed to deliver the solutions."

UK Parliament election December 12th

Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency

Alison MacCorquodale is the Labour Party candidate

Angus MacNeil is the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate

Neil Mitchison is the Liberal Democrat Party candidate

Jennifer Ross is the Conservative and Unionist Party candidate



The 2018 Crofting Census will be issued on Monday 7 January 2019.

The Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 stipulates all crofting tenants and owner-occupier crofters have a legal obligation to complete and return their census form to the Crofting Commission.

Rod Mackenzie, Convener, said: “Last year saw a 14% decrease in the number of forms returned whereas in previous years the percentage was increasing.

The Crofting Commission has issued the 2015 Crofting Census.  Crofters are legally obliged to complete and return the Crofting Census, which was issued for the first time last year, to the Crofting Commission before the end of the three month completion deadline on 31 March 2016. 

Following the 2014 Crofting Census, over 9,000 changes were made to the Crofting Commission's Register of Crofts. This is the biggest single update of the Register in over 60 years. 

At the request of the Convener, the interim CEO called a special meeting of the Crofting Commission on Friday 9 December 2016.  The Commissioners present reaffirmed the importance of working together effectively in the final months of their terms.  

The Board also discussed the status of the meeting held in Brora in September and how to move forward.  

The Board decided that there was one meeting in Brora which took place in two valid parts - the meeting previously referred to as a special meeting being a continuation of the scheduled Board meeting.  Any consequences from this will be considered at their Board meeting on Wednesday 14 December 2016.

Jamie McGrigor, Highlands & Islands Conservative MSP and Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Crofting, yesterday attended the “Future of Crofting” conference organised by the Scottish Crofting Federation at Highland Council HQ in Inverness. Jamie opened the conference and chaired its first session which focussed on crofting law and regulation.
Speaking afterwards Jamie McGrigor MSP said:“ There was a tremendous turnout by many crofters and others with great knowledge of the subject and it was great to see them all gathered in one room. Notes were taken from every session and key points will be collated into priorities which will be presented to the Scottish Government.

A gasp of astonishment was the universal reaction from people crammed into An Lanntair’s Gallery on Saturday afternoon (December 29th) for the launch of Margaret Ferguson’s amazing artistic tour-de-force, Iolaire 100.

More than 100 paintings – all dedicated to and derived from the Iolaire disaster and almost all being portraits of victims from across Lewis and Harris – form the show.

These are the product of more than three years of work – and are a feat of inspiration that few could hope to match.

Be on your guard in both the actual and virtual worlds this Christmas as Police Scotland reminds communities against the risk of online fraud over the festive season.
There has unfortunately been a number of incidents targeting individuals and businesses online with scams in the Highlands and Islands alone.
And as the festive period means a higher number of transactions being completed online, some unscrupulous groups and individuals will actively seek out opportunities to put these frauds into action.

Dancing went on long into the evening at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais in Stornoway on Friday night (November 29th) as part of the four-and-a-half hour show that was Dileab 2019.

The oldest member of the audience was reportedly 90 years of age - and there were many youngsters too. The whole event was regarded by the audience as a real representation of the awesome range of talent and skills of local performers from any age-groups, including the first performance by the full complement of the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band under the leadership of Ashley Macdonald and Anna Murray, with help from David Maclennan.

The show was introduced – and the performances linked - by Derek ‘Pluto’ Murray, the acclaimed Ness broadcaster.

He said it had been “one of the greatest privileges of my life. Huge thanks to Dileab2019 and CnES for the opportunity to witness the awesome talents that are Nicolson Institute and Sir E Scott School choirs and “Dual” folk group along with Face The West, The Tumbling Souls, and Skippinish, the headline act. 

On Twitter, the Dileab 2019 organisers said: “A fantastic night ended with our headliners Skipinnish who were brilliant. The crowd loved it and the kids really enjoyed singing with them. Huge thanks to Derek Pluto for being an excellent MC and all the bands and performers for taking part in Dileab2019.”  Along with Derek ‘Pluto’ they emphasised that the next outing for the choirs and musicians is at a major Celtic Connections event in Glasgow next month. 

On Twitter, Dileab 2019 organiser Evelyn Coull said: “A huge thank you to the pupils, teachers, tutors, musicians and families who made the evening so brilliant.”

Earlier Rhona Johnstone had tweeted: “This is my Friday. The big day has arrived. Dileab2019 and all the hard work has paid off.  Delighted to have Skipinnish with us for our big gig tonight. Emotional moment listening to the band and school choirs singing the Iolaire song at sound check.”

There will be more Dileab events during 2020 as part of the national year of Coasts and Waters under the title Dìleab: Air a' Chuan.


ICY roads are affecting the Western Isles today, in the aftermath of the 'weatherbomb'.

Police are currently attending an accident at Balallan, where a works pickup skidded and landed on its roof.

The male driver was shaken but uninjured.

Stornoway photographer Scott Davidson is the winner of the second Hebridean Dark Skies Festival photography competition, it was announced today (Monday December 2nd).

Scott’s winning photograph, Callanish and the Cosmos, will feature on the cover of the festival’s printed programme, available from this week. The photograph will also feature alongside five other shortlisted entries in an exhibition opening at An Lanntair on Friday 7 February, the festival’s opening day.

Festival programmer Andrew Eaton-Lewis said: “Callanish is surely the most photographed location on Lewis so it is a big challenge to create an image that feels original and surprising, but what Scott manages to do with light and perspective in this image is really striking and memorable. We’re delighted that this captivating photo will be helping to showcase the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival to the world.”

In addition to Callanish and the Cosmos, the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival photography exhibition will feature work by five other shortlisted photographers, Douglas Rattray, Andy Yearley, Jethro Thomas, Christian Cooksey and Steve Ferguson, all from Lewis and Harris.

The second Hebridean Dark Skies Festival will run from Friday 7 February to Saturday 22 February, with an ambitious and exciting programme theatre, live music, film, visual art, food, astronomy talks, and stargazing. Highlights will include:

  • The Only Light Was Stars by Karine Polwart, an exclusive early glimpse at the the singer-songwriter’s supernova-themed follow up to her hit show Wind Resistance.
  • Universe (of Music) with Chris Lintott and Steve Pretty, in which a leading astronomer and a jazz musician team up for an evening of ‘conversation, contemplation, science and music’.
  • Creativity and Curiosity, an exhibition in An Lanntair’s main gallery inspired by collaborations between artists and astronomers, to be launched with A Day of Creativity and Curiosity, a packed day of events on the festival’s opening weekend.
  • g-Astronomy, an interactive dining experience in which astrophysicist Roberto Trotta will create menus with chefts at An Lanntair and Uig Sands.
  • Cosmos Planetarium – returning for a second year, the popular portable planetarium will present a new programme at An Lanntair and across Lewis.
  • Dark Skies film programme bringing together four science fiction films - Solaris, Contact, Interstellar and Ad Astra - that explore human connections across the cosmos.
  • Stargazing events across the island presented by Highland Astronomy Tours and Steven Gray from Cosmos Planetarium.
  • To close the festival, a revival of Neosa’s sellout production of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds featuring some of Lewis’s most talented musicians.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival was launched in February this year, with audiences travelled from across the UK to see festival guests including Chris Lintott, singer-songwriter Emma Pollock, BAFTA award-winning actress Shauna Macdonald, Scotland’s Astronomer Royal John Brown, and Scotland’s top children’s theatre-maker Andy Cannon.

The 2020 festival will be dedicated to the memory of John Brown, who sadly died at the end of November, just days after the festival programme was printed. A guest of honour at the first Hebridean Dark Skies Festival’s opening weekend, Professor Brown was also a significant source of support and advice as the festival programme came together, and was to have made a second appearance at the second festival in February.

The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival is programmed by An Lanntair (part-financed by Outer Hebrides LEADER funding), in partnership with Stornoway Astronomical Society, Calanais Visitor Centre, Gallan Head Community Trust, and Lews Castle College, and with support from Outer Hebrides Tourism and Visit Scotland.

The second festival is part of a new winter tourism campaign, Winter in the Wild, led by An Lanntair in partnership with Outer Hebrides Tourism, Visit Scotland, Hebridean Hopscotch, Loganair, Cal Mac, Glasgow Airport, and other local organisations. #winterinthewild.

One of Scotland’s most successful and enduring bands, Deacon Blue, will headline the multi-award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival next year as part of a tour to mark their 30-year career.

The band, known for a string of best-selling songs including ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Dignity’, ‘Wages Day’ and ‘Fergus Sings the Blues’ in the 1980s, have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with new albums bringing their music to another generation of fans.

Their 2018 ‘To Be Here Someday’ tour will celebrate their entire back catalogue, which now spans four decades.

The deadline has been extended for the Western Isles Children's Humorous Photographic Competition 2016 on an Anti-Litter theme .

The organisers say: 'We've had a lot of interest from various schools, following our 'jester' visits, but many of them have asked for more time to submit their pupils' entries.  

COUNCILLOR Kenneth M. Murray has died, the Comhairle confirmed today. 

Mr Murray, who was 64 and from Shawbost, represented the 'An Taobh Siar agus Nis' ward. 

He was married to wife Annette, who is head-mistress at Stornoway Primary School.

They had no children.

 The Isle of Harris learnt with sadness yesterday (Monday December 3rd) of the death of one of Harris Tweed industry’s great supporters, Maureen Mackay of the Luskentyre Harris Tweed Company.

Maureen came to Harris on holiday from her home in Rugby, Warwickshire and met her husband, the celebrated tweed weaver Donald John Mackay, during her visit. Their marriage provided tremendous support to both and helped the expansion of Donald John’s business to reach royalty and international fame.

After the warmest December fortnight on record in Stornoway, island meteorologist Eddie Graham is predicting a stark change in the Isles’ weather fortunes during the run-up to Christmas and over the festive period.

Writing on his Hebridean Weather Blog, according to Eddie the average daily high temperature in Stornoway over past two weeks has reached a record +12C -  a value more akin with early October than mid-December.

However, all set to change during the coming week – as a very strong west or south-westerly wind establishes itself from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards. Torrential rain, severe gales, hail squalls, sleet and even some (brief) snow are likely between now and Christmas, as the weather becomes extremely disturbed and reverts to a more familiar seasonal pattern. Snow may lie (briefly) on Wednesday night and into Thursday (the winter solstice), and there is a risk of thunder and lightning too.

Stormy weather is not unusual around Christmas, and the worst storms in living memory have all occurred during the months of December, January or February.

@eddy_weather, 19/12/2016

A search was launched in Tarbert yesterday (Thursday December 27th) for the defibrillator from outside the CalMac offices in the port, which had vanished from its storage box.

A big appeal was made on social media for its return…and it was later located in the nearby car park.

A report published by Citizens Advice Scotland has shed light on the ‘postcode penalty’ which sees island residents pay up to four time as much for delivery than consumers elsewhere in the UK.
With a debate set to be heard in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow (December 6th), the Consumer Futures Unit (CFU) of Citizens Advice Scotland is publishing research which shows that people in northern Scotland pay a ‘postcode penalty’ of up to 50% in surcharges imposed by delivery companies.
The new report – ‘Postcode Penalty: Delivering Solutions’ – sheds light on the issue as CFU hope to work with the Scottish Government and local authorities to identify ‘suitable trial projects’ aimed at reducing costs in 2018.

Demand for the latest and most comprehensive book on the Iolaire tragedy is so high that another reprint is being planned.

And 'The Darkest Dawn' author Malcolm Macdonald will be doing a book signing event in Point at 3pm tomorrow (Monday December 17).


Alzheimer Scotland Lewis and Harris Annual Dementia Dip will take place on the 1st January 2016 at 2pm, at Gress Beach. 

Registration is £5 with a pledge to raise £50 sponsorship. 

Sponsor forms and registration forms can be requested by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The annual Dementia dip at Gress Beach went ahead with a lucky break in the weather on Boxing Day  – after earlier fears that the event would have to be called off, the sun even came out for a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Members of the public are being encouraged to only order the medication they need over the festive period to prevent medicines being wasted.

Medicine waste has become an increasing issue over a number of years, and there are steps that members of the community can take to help ensure that medication is not going to waste.

Over public holidays, such as the festive break, local patients are being asked in particular not to request double prescriptions from their GPs. You can always contact your GP Practice at a later date to order a repeat prescription.

Before requesting a prescription, take a look in your medicine cabinet to see what you actually need – you may not require another prescription at this stage. You may have ordered extra of a repeat prescription last time and forgot. Or, you may not have used all the different medications in your prescription.

Even if you never open them, once you leave a pharmacy with your medication, your medicines cannot be recycled or used by anyone else. This means that even if you return them, they have to be destroyed. Unused prescriptions cost the NHS across the UK over £300million every year.

This could fund

  • 11,778 new community nurses or
  • 80,906 MORE hip replacements…or
  • 101,351 MORE knee replacements…or
  • 19,799 MORE drug treatment courses for breast cancer…or
  • 300,000 MORE drug treatment courses for Alzheimer's

It’s also important to let your GP or Pharmacist know if you’ve stopped taking any of your medicines


  • Check what medicines you still have at home before re-ordering
  • Discuss your medication with your GP or Pharmacist on a regular basis
  • Don’t ask for double prescriptions
  • Think carefully before ticking all the boxes on your repeat prescription forms and only tick those you really need
  • If you don’t need the medicine please don’t order it! If you need the medicine in the future you can still request it.
  • If you need to go into hospital, please remember to take all your medicines with you in a clearly marked bag.
  • Please also remember that your medicines are prescribed only for you; it’s not safe to share them with anyone else.

REVELLERS in the Western Isles have been urged to act sensibly on Friday as they leave work for the holiday period.

Highlands & Islands (Labour) MSP David Stewart has taken the opportunity of reminding constituents who finish work for the Christmas break to enjoy themselves and not spoil the festive season for themselves or their families by over-celebrating on what has been classed by some as ‘Mad Friday’.

 "We are in the season of goodwill and at a time when we all as far as possible want to spend quality time with our families," he said. 

"Not sitting in a police cell or looking at a summons."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Friday, 14th December, North Tolsta Historical Society declared their new premises at the Schoolhouse open with a special Iolaire Commemoration Exhibition.

The building was full to capacity with schoolchildren, parents, grandparents and friends eager to see the refurbished schoolhouse.

On behalf of the Comann Eachdraidh, Murdo Morrison, The Anchorage, and Iain Angie Murray, son of Domhnall (Brus) Murray, presented each child with a boxed Iolaire Pin Brooch.

THE drink drive limit is to be reduced from midnight tonight.

Drivers will only be permitted to have 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood - a reduction of 30mg from the 80mg previously allowed.

This now means that one pint of beer or one glass of wine could tip you over the legal limit.

It can take roughly 10 hours to be alcohol-free after drinking one bottle of wine, and roughly 13 hours to be alcohol-free after drinking four pints of strong lager or ale.

Court for drink-driver

A 49-year-old man is to appear in court from custody on Tuesday (December 4th) following the court holiday tomorrow, Monday.

Stornoway police were called to a location in Point after receiving information regarding the man’s driving and arrested and charged him with drink driving.

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

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

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

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

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

Nineteen other road traffic offences were also detected.

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

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

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

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

Police activity in Lewis has led to the arrest of three people for drugs offences this week.

At 10.25pm on Sunday (16th December) a 37-year-old man was searched in Stornoway under the the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. He was found to be in possession of a class A drugs in sufficient quantity for supply to others, and of a large amount of cash. 

Stornoway’s drugs detection dog Jaxx was with police officers on Friday (December 14th) when a drugs warrant was executed at an address on the outskirts of Stornoway.

The work of the police team led to arrest of a man aged 34, and he was charged with possession of drugs.

The man is to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.


Drugs with a 'street' value of £30,000 have been seized in the Highlands and Islands throughout December as targeted action continues to take place across the region.

Under Operation RAM 26 search warrants were enforced resulting in 18 drugs seizures and the recovery of £7,000 in cash. Five people appeared from custody in relation to these warrants and enquiries into a number of cases are ongoing. And 54 searches were also carried out on people in the street or in vehicles which resulted in further recoveries.

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Sutherland, who leads Operation RAM, said: "Over the last few weeks we have used information supplied to us by concerned members of the public to target those involved in the sale and supply of illegal drugs across the Highlands and Islands, directly leading to the results we are sharing today.

A 56-year-old man was arrested in Stornoway town centre in the early hours of Christmas Day (Tuesday December 25th) and spent part of his Christmas morning in custody.
The man was charged with being drunk and disorderly and with possession of a class B drug, and was kept in custody until sober. He was released after receiving a recorded police warning over his behaviour.

The message about the opening of e-Sgoil goes out from the event in Francis Street, Stornoway yesterday (Tuesday December 20th)

Council convener Councillor Norman A Macdonald welcomes guests from across the education world in the Islands and Scotland as a whole.

There was an early Christmas present for one Stornoway family as baby Florence Macmillan made her arrival at lunchtime on Christmas Eve.

A first child for mum, musician Jane Hepburn Macmillan, who works for the Harris Tweed Authority and dad, joiner Kevin Macmillan, Florence had been expected to arrive on Boxing Day.

She’s already made her first stage appearances as a bump affectionately known as ‘baby HepMac’, with Jane continuing her performances right up to December, when she was on stage with Colin Macleod at An Lanntair and as one of the musicians in the Dileab concert at Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais. Mum, dad and baby HepMac have also featured in a video blog throughout Jane’s pregnancy.

[gallery ID=114]

A unique collaboration between Harris Tweed Hebrides and Pakistan’s leading fashion designer has created a stunning couture collection that was showcased last night (Friday) at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.

Hassan Sheheryar Yasin - known as the designer HSY - was invited by UK Medical Aid to Pakistan to design a collection using the iconic fabric as the centre-piece for their annual fundraising dinner which is being held outside London for the first time. 

The effects of the weather bomb have resulted in more than 17,000 people in the Western Isles going without power.  15 flood warnings and 12 flood alerts have been issued by the SEPA.  
Waves measuring 52 feet have been recorded off the Outer Hebrides.  
A Spanish fishing vessel is being escorted to safety after encountering difficulties off Orkney.  
On the roads, police have warned that travel conditions in badly-affected regions of Scotland could be "hazardous," and the Skye Bridge and Forth Road Bridge have been closed to high-sided vehicles, while the Tay Bridge was only open to cars.


A pupil from Stornoway has been chosen as one of Scotland’s Young Ambassadors for Inclusion.

Eilidh Macleod, of The Nicolson Institute, was chosen to represent Western Isles as part of the new Scotland’s Young Ambassadors for Inclusion programme developed by Education Scotland.

Through the programme, young people who face barriers to education will be given a voice at a national level to help make a significant impact in raising awareness of the issues around additional support needs and inclusive education.

Three community groups which help the elderly live more connected, fulfilling and happy lives have been given money by Point and Sandwick Trust, the charity behind the biggest community wind farm in the UK, located just outside Stornoway.

Point and Sandwick Trust, who make an annual profit of around £500,000 from their three turbines at Beinn Ghrideag, have committed to supporting six big projects throughout the Outer Hebrides, with sizeable cheques recently given to the likes of Bethesda Care Home and Hospice.

However, they have also vowed to do their bit for organisations at a more local level, and recently gave £500 to several community groups for the elderly.

Islanders are heading to the polls today (Thursday December 12th), with polling stations open until 10pm for voting in the UK General Election. will be with you through the night as the na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency count takes place at Lewis Sports Centre, and you can follow our live coverage on our Facebook page at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trading standards officials at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are advising residents not to respond to a scam Euromillions Commonwealth Lottery letter currently in circulation in  the islands.

The letter “notifies” the recipients that they have won £490,000 in a Dublin lottery, the letter has an Australian address and a Gold Coast 2018 logo on the top right hand corner.

EVENTS newspaper is one of two Western Isles titles in the running to scoop the Community Newspaper of the Year award at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards.
EVENTS has been shortlisted alongside Ness community newspaper Fios and Black Isle based publication Chatterbox.
The winner of the Community Newspaper of the Year category will be announced on Friday, February 3rd, during the Highlands and Islands Press Ball and Media Awards, held at the Kingsmill Hotel, Inverness.
Lewis-based news blogger Katie Laing has also been shortlisted in the Highlands and Islands Media awards, in the Best Use of Digital Media award category.

Malcolm, Murdo and Angus.

Smokefree Hebrides was delighted to receive a surprise Christmas visit from three of their successful quitters.

Malcolm Campbell (Stornoway), Murdo Fraser (Aignish), and Angus Campbell (Stornoway), arrived at the Smokefree Hebrides offices at Laxdale Court, to offer their thanks for the support received on their quit smoking journey.  

All three men have now been quit for several years and are overjoyed by this.

PHOTOGRAPHS of abandoned homes on Lewis and Harris make up a stunning new exhibition by Harris-based photographer John Maher, which will open in Edinburgh next week.

'Away Being ' will launch on Sunday January 4 at St Margaret's House, on London Road.

John Maher is best known as having been the drummer of rock band 'Buzzcocks'.

For more on his work, see here

A team of explosives experts have been called to Rodel in south Harris after reports of suspected ordnance on the shore just below the former Rodel Hotel.
Coastguard volunteers were asked to check the reported silver cylinder, spotted above high water mark on the shoreline around 12.30pm on Sunday (December 30th).
The incident is being co-ordinated by police and the Explosives Ordnance Department are sending a team from Glasgow, who are due to deal with the object tomorrow (Tuesday January 1st).

Stornoway Golf Course was a busy place on Sunday as over 100 families and friends enjoyed some winter sledging fun

The question ‘Should all sport taking place in the Castle Grounds be treated in the same way by the Stornoway Trust?’ was answered by over 740 voices in an online survey open for only four days.
More than 75% of survey responses were in favour of all sports being given the same standing in Lews Castle Grounds.
And community landowner, the Stornoway Trust, is now in negotiation with Stornoway Golf Club to open the golf course to family play on a Sunday.

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

1pm today: Police Scotland publicly identified crash victim.

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

 A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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