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Loch a Tuath News, the community newspaper serving the Back district of Lewis and adjacent villages beside Broad Bay, has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS).

This is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

Loch a Tuath News is a volunteer-led community magazine that covers a population of over 2000, several villages, two schools and many community groups and activities. The magazine has been published monthly since 1997, recording topical events and is a current record of that which becomes history.

The citation for QAVS said, ‘LATN is one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. Their work, along with others from across the UK, reminds us of all the ways in which fantastic volunteers are contributing to their local communities and working to make life better for those around them.’

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2 June, the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, including a rural support group for farmers in Shropshire; a running club engaging all ages in County Tyrone, a film academy and community hub based in South Wales, and a food bank in Greater London feeding vulnerable individuals and providing training opportunities.

Mary Ann Graham, Chair of LATN, said: ‘We are delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious award. The contribution made by the many volunteers involved in community groups throughout the Outer Hebrides is often unseen and it is important that the impact their hard work has on their communities is recognised. We are so thankful for our own dedicated volunteers and passionate Editor, without whom, the magazine could not be produced.

"We would like to thank Dr Neil Davis for nominating us, and Ms. Kirsteen Maclean (Sgoil a’ Bhac) and Mr Murray Macleod (Stornoway Gazette) for supporting the nomination. We also appreciate the help of Deputy Lord Lieutenants Iain Macaulay (now Lord Lieutenant) and Annie MacSween for guiding us through the process over the last few months.’

Jayne MacArthur, Editor of the magazine, said: ‘We are over the moon to receive the QAVS award. It is recognition of the hard work that has been put into the magazine by every single one of our volunteers, past and present. To receive this award in the same year we were named Highlands and Islands Community Newspaper of the Year is quite overwhelming, but it is great for all those who are involved both now and who have been involved in the past to receive recognition for the hours they put in to produce a great quality publication enjoyed by many.

"In the early days of the pandemic, in particular, we went to great lengths to ensure the magazine was published, sometimes having to deliver copies by hand as many of our volunteers had to shield.

"Many living alone in our community valued the dependability of their copy. Collaborating with other local groups, such as the Community Council, enabled outreach into the community, identifying those who might be lonely and needing assistance.

"People who were unable to be contacted physically benefited from connectedness and retained a sense of being part of the community. The LATN is a fixture in many readers’ houses and has been a beacon of stability and contact for those isolated and anxious, and we will continue to do our best to serve our readers.’

Representatives of Loch a Tuath News will receive the award crystal and certificate from Iain Macaulay, Lord Lieutenant for the Western Isles, later this summer. In addition, two volunteers from LATN will attend a garden party at Holyrood in July 2023, along with other recipients of this year’s award.

Photo credit: Ralph Tonge Photography

Minister for Civil Society and Youth Nigel Huddleston said: “Scotland has legions of fantastic volunteers whose hard work and dedication is a tribute to the country. 

“They give up their time to help others and The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service recognises their selfless acts of generosity and kindness.

“I congratulate all those receiving awards in this milestone year of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.”

Sir Martyn Lewis, QAVS Chair said: “I warmly congratulate all the outstanding voluntary groups who have been rewarded with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this year. The level of commitment and innovation shown by these volunteers is truly impressive. We owe a debt of gratitude to them, and the countless others who give up their free time regularly to improve the lives of others in their community."

Empowering others is also an area well represented in this year’s Queen’s Award with confidence building, training opportunities, educational support, and sports all being highly recognised. Volunteers working in hospices, cancer support, long-term illness, search and rescue and first aid also feature prominently.

Coinciding with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service recognises that volunteers continue to provide a vital social function and continue to improve access to services across the country. 

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said:“I’d like to wish all award-winners the warmest congratulations.

“From setting young families on the path to a healthy future in Clackmannanshire, to tackling loneliness through community gardening in Skye, these 22 organisations highlight the remarkable contribution volunteers make right across Scotland.

“As we celebrate our longest-serving monarch’s Platinum Jubilee, it is inspiring to see so many voluntary groups showcasing the same spirit of dedication, hard work and kindness that has characterised Her Majesty’s reign.”

This year’s recipients also include:

  • Port William Community Association, near Newton Stewart which is helping residents of a remote village to engage with all generations, organising a yearly carnival week and marking anniversaries of national importance.

  • Home Start Clackmannanshire is helping families with young children achieve strong foundations for a happy and healthy future through a range of supportive activities and running a charity shop to raise funds.

  • Black Isle Cares is supporting older and socially isolated members of a rural community and actively involving young people. Includes meal deliveries, gardening and intergenerational social activities.

  • 1st Buckie Company Boys' Brigade is challenging young people from 6 -18 years through physical and skills-based activities, community involvement and spiritual development in an area of NE Scotland.

  • The Cromar Future Group is engaging teachers and young people with STEM subjects by arranging expert volunteers to teach, run youth clubs and facilitate an annual festival for the benefit of local schools.

  • Also a recipient is the Broadford and Strath Community Company which has established a Community Garden and Growers Hub in what the citation describes as being "in a remote community on Skye". Provides excellent support for those struggling with loneliness or poor mental health.