Local News for Friday 18th May 2018

More fury over ferry break
There’s been an angry response from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to CalMac’s announcement that the MV Clansman is to return to dry-dock. CalMac said this week that the new propeller shaft, awaited after a temporary repair that took several weeks, has now been delivered, and the vessel will dock again for the replacement from June 1st, returning on June 12th. During this period an amended service will operate on the Mallaig Armadale route and the Mallaig Lochboisdale route will be suspended. The Comhairle has expressed anger and frustration over the implications for the travelling public, local and visiting, at one of the busiest times of the year. Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of the Comhairle's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said, "We were contacted by senior management from CalMac to confirm the scheduling of the dry-docking of the Clansman and what temporary arrangements are being put in place while she is out of use. CalMac has decided to allocate the MV Lord of the Isles on the routes serving Coll, Tiree and Colonsay during this period with the effect that she will not be available to provide a service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale. The alternatives for passengers wishing to travel to South Uist is to use the Oban Castlebay and Sound of Barra crossings or the Uig Lochmaddy crossing. This will undoubtedly be inconvenient for everyone planning travel to and from our islands, and I daresay will not only lead to a number of cancellations, which the tourism sector can ill-afford, and a loss of confidence in these services going forward. This could in turn result in visitors choosing alternative holiday destinations in the future. This is particularly frustrating for those involved in the tourism sector and we are disappointed that all the efforts by the businesses and their representative bodies have been undermined by recent events". CalMac said additional sailings have been organised on the Barra to Eriskay route and the MV Loch Bhrusda will also be deployed on the Skye route to provide additional sailings. MD Robbie Drummond, who visited the islands last week, said: “This is an essential piece of work that we wanted to schedule in before the summer season fully started. We have built a temporary timetable that causes the least disruption whilst maintaining all lifeline services. We fully appreciate the impact this will have on the communities affected. Although it will be frustrating for communities to see the Clansman come back into service and then leave again so soon, this was a preferable option to having her laid up until the new propeller shaft was manufactured, delivered and fitted.” A full scheduled timetable will run again from June 13th.

Read more: Local News for Friday 18th May 2018

Local News for Thursday 17th May 2018

A song for Eilidh
A new single by the popular band Skipinnish will be released on Saturday as a tribute to Barra teenager Eilidh MacLeod, who died one year ago in the Manchester Arena bombing. The Scottish trad band will donate all the proceeds from the re-written song Wishing Well, to help build a permanent memorial to Eilidh on the island. Songwriter Angus MacPhail has met Eilidh’s parents and the family, getting their approval for the idea before changing the lyrics of the song. Malcolm Jones from Runrig produced and plays on the track. The new recording will go on sale at midnight on Saturday May 19th, with all proceeds from the release going to the Team Eilidh fundraising group, which hopes to raise £5,000 to fund a permanent memorial to the 14-year-old and to ensure her love of music lives on through the Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band. Members of Skipinnish are also running the Edinburgh half-marathon on May 27th to raise money for the campaign, and will join Team Eilidh to run the Manchester 10K the week before. Angus MacPhail said: “Memory is one of the most powerful means of dealing with tragedy and a memorial will hopefully help the family and the island heal together. If the song Wishing Well will also help this bright, talented piper and Highland dancer be remembered, then I’ll be very glad.”

Read more: Local News for Thursday 17th May 2018

Local News for Wednesday 16th May 2018

Four go to Moldova
A team of four sets out this morning for Moldova on a mission to take better emergency services to impoverished communities there. The trip is co-ordinated between Blythswood Care and the Scottish Emergency Rescue Association, with three retained firefighters from Stornoway Fire Station – Iain Murray, Alex Maclennan and David Campbell – heading for Edinburgh today. They’re travelling in a ‘retired’ fire engine which has been refurbished and equipped on the island as part of a convoy of five, due to set out from Edinburgh tomorrow morning. Meanwhile long-time Blythswood supporter Charlie Nicolson flies today from Stornoway, via Glasgow and Bucharest, to meet the SERA crew at the Romanian border before heading to Nisporeni in Moldova. There, fire crew training will be given to 40 Moldovan volunteers, together with safety training in schools and other volunteer support. The team return to Stornoway at the end of May. The whole expedition is part of a long-standing project organised by SERA to take emergency equipment from Scotland to communities where it can be used even after its service life here has ended. It also cements a regular link between the Isle of Lewis and the town of Nisporeni in Moldova.

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 16th May 2018

Local News for Tuesday 15th May 2018

Aberdeen flights cut by stealth
Eastern Airways has been warned of damage to its reputation, as flights between Stornoway and Aberdeen have been cut by stealth over recent week. The airline, which has partnered with Flybe to offer two flights a day to Aberdeen since March, has regularly cancelled services which are undersubscribed, losing trust from passengers booked to travel on the flights. Now politicians are calling on Eastern Airways to honour their commitments to passengers, and rethink cuts to the service. Eastern Airways have accepted that ‘reliability has fallen somewhat short in recent months’ and stated that they intend to revert to the previous service of just one daily service on weekdays this summer. Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said: “This is a disappointing development and Eastern Airways and Flybe must ensure customers are kept informed about the proposed changes.” Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “Eastern Airways is risking reputational damage with its casual approach to frequent timetable changes, and the lack of meaningful engagement with service users and other stakeholders. Less passengers will use a service that is known to be unreliable. Island-based oil and gas workers are relying on a punctual air service to meet their needs. There have been far too many cancelled flights and the decision to revert back to one plane a weekday will mean many will have to spend more time on the road and less at home with their families.” Writing to the airline, Councillor Donald Crichton said: “The frequent cancellations are unacceptable and customers have been treated appallingly. It is clear that Eastern Airways are fast losing the good will of the travelling public.”

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 15th May 2018

Local News for Monday 14th May 2018

Death of popular radio presenter
Tributes have been paid to Isles FM’s much-loved veteran presenter Lionel Sewell, who passed away early this morning. For many years Lionel presented popular shows including Southern Comfort, Country Roads, the Tuesday afternoon show with the late Peggy MacNeil and Saturday Night's Moonlight Shadow, with his beloved partner Chrissie. Listeners commenting after the news broke earlier today described him as a charming man, an asset to the community and a big part of the Isles FM family. We send our deepest condolences to Chrissie and to all Lionel's family, and hope listeners will keep them in their prayers at this sad time.

Read more: Local News for Monday 14th May 2018