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Isles MP Angus MacNeill has accused Historic Scotland of monumental failure as the custodian of Kisimul Castle in Barra.

With just weeks to go before the island hosts in Homecoming 2023 festival, the MP has been angered at the lack of progress in refurbishing the iconic castle.

Speaking after meeting with Historic Scotland to discuss the reopening of the castle for the Homecoming events, Mr MacNeill commented: “I am extremely disappointed and, in fact, angry with Historic Scotland, who have made absolutely no progress on Kisimul Castle since they met with the community last summer in Castlebay Hall. They were told at this meeting about the importance of the Castle being available for the Homecoming events taking place in June 2023. A year later, and no work at all has been carried out on the Castle.”

He has accused the government agency of showing no sense of urgency, care or thought about the local community or next month’s visitors.

“For some descendants of families who left in 1923, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and with weeks to go before the Homecoming events, Historic Scotland is still passive and careless about the Castle,” Mr MacNeil hit out.

“Having bureaucrats over to measure or look at things with no greater intention than snail’s pace progress is a slap in the face from Historic Scotland to the island and those wishing to visit the Castle.

“I doubt my words, or anyone else’s words, will have much effect in encouraging Historic Scotland to carry out work in the next few weeks before the Homecoming. I asked if it was possible for people to at least enter the courtyard but, in a metaphoric shrug of the shoulders, was told that would not be allowed either.”

He, therefore, predicted there would be a lot of disappointment because of the “lack of care and professionalism” from Historic Scotland.

This year, the Barra Homecoming festival is particularly poignant as it marks the centenary of islanders leaving for a new life in Canada. Many of their descendants from Canada are expected to attend.

Earlier it was reported that boat tours and a special plan for a homecoming week in June will help to bring the Kisimul Castle experience slightly closer for visitors.

The plans for ‘visitor engagement’ come after Scotland’s custodian of historic buildings came under fire, with their announcement of an interpretation display in Castlebay Community Hall, rather than a reopened castle site (read more here www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/28459-kisimul-display-not-enough-say-visitors).

On Wednesday 26 April HES also revealed that actual renovation and safety works on the castle in the bay had not started, although the underwater piping described to Clan MacNeil last summer has now been done.

A spokesperson for HES told welovestornoway.com: “The issues at Kisimul are complex and, in preparation for our high-level fabric inspection, engineers have provided a further update in terms of access requirements before works can commence.

“This is currently being reviewed. Alongside this we have continued to invest in further works at the site including laying underwater piping. 

“Safety remains our number one priority and access to visitors will be made when it is safe to do so.”

There has been no new report on Kisimul, with HES saying: “We are operating on a number of existing reports and the advice of our internal and external engineers.”

But there are plans in place to add to the visitor experience created at Castlebay Hall, which HES said ‘allows visitors to continue to engage remotely with the Castle, with interpretation, more on the history and Castle-based building activity on offer.’

Their spokesperson said: “We appreciate that this is a reduced visitor experience, and that the Barra community are keen to showcase Kisimul to visitors arriving from across the world.

“We are working with the community to strengthen our outreach offer, alongside what is currently on offer. We intend to offer boat tours around the exterior of the castle this season.

“We are also developing an offer aligned to the homecoming week in June, with details to be released shortly.”

In January this year, Kisimul was one of the iconic buildings named in the Scottish Parliament, as MSPs fumed about ‘historic sites which have been left to crumble’ under the guardianship of HES.