Local News for Friday 13th October 2017

Island schoolgirl left ‘stateless’ by Home Office
An island schoolgirl has been left ‘stateless’ because of the Home Office’s refusal to grant her a passport, despite the fact that she was born in Scotland and has been brought up here by her father and grandparents. The unnamed 14-year-old has applied for a passport and been refused because she could not provide the birth certificate of her mother, who left her in the care of her father and grandparents in 2005. Now that her father has passed away, she is unable to give the Home Office the proof it calls for to entitle her to British citizenship. Islands MP Angus MacNeil, who has taken up her case, called the actions of the Home Office ‘callous’ after they said she had no automatic claim to British citizenship through her late father. Mr MacNeil said: “Here we have a 14-year old girl who simply wants a passport, but the cruel actions of the Home Office prevent her from doing what many of us take for granted. The family have been going round in circles since the passport application was refused. The girl’s mother cannot be traced and neither can her birth certificate, and the Home Office refuse to accept her late father’s birth certificate. This girl was born in Scotland – if the Home Office can’t confirm she is a British citizen then what is she? Stateless? I will continue to maintain pressure on the Home Office – it is simply wrong that a 14-year old girl is being treated in such a callous way.”

HebCelt is best of the best
Hebridean Celtic Festival is ‘the best of the best’ – and that’s been made official at an awards ceremony this week. HebCelt picked up two trophies at the Drum Scottish Event Awards on Wednesday, as the Festival of the Year and the ultimate honour, the Grand Prix ‘best of the best’ in events. Damian Clarke, chairman of the judging panel, said: "The organic growth of HebCelt is testament to the hard work and passion that the team have put into making this an international success. What a wonderful example of an event bringing both social and tourism benefits to a small community. HebCelt was placed top based on the 2016 HebCelt, headlined by Runrig, where an estimated 18,000 people – by far the event’s highest audience – savoured four days of outstanding music in the host town and surrounding communities. The festival generated £2.2 million for the economy and helped safeguard 40 tourism-related jobs. HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “Winning two titles is a magnificent achievement and a huge honour for everyone connected with the festival. This news has made what has been a great year even better.”

Strong winds affect island travel plans
The island exodus to Fort William is due to start today as the Lochaber Royal National Mòd holds its opening ceremony, with island competitors taking part in competitions from Monday. Two swathes of strong winds could affect travel plans, with ferries between Stornoway and Ullapool on alert for disruption today, and gales expected from lunchtime onwards. Yesterday’s sale of sheep at Lewis and Harris Auction Mart in Steinish was postponed due to the difficulty of transporting sheep from the island in the forecast conditions. It’s been rescheduled for Tuesday next week.

The Met Office has issued a storm warning for Monday from 8am, as the remnants of ex-Hurricane Ophelia track in from the Atlantic. A spell of very windy weather could bring transport disruption, power cuts and possible injury from sea-flung debris in coastal areas, they warn, effects currently predicted as high impact, although there will be further updates over the weekend. The Chief Forecaster said: “Southerly winds are most likely to gust between 50 and 60 mph across much of the warning area with perhaps gusts of 70 to 80 mph in more exposed parts. These strong winds are forecast in association with the northward track of ex-Ophelia across or near to the west of the British Isles. Heavy rain is also possible in association with this system with northwestern UK most prone at this stage.”

Yesterday’s sale of sheep at Lewis and Harris Auction Mart in Steinish was postponed due to the difficulty of transporting sheep from the island in the forecast conditions. It’s been rescheduled for Tuesday next week.

Otters harmed in North Uist
Police in the Western Isles are appealing for witnesses to the reported worrying of otters by a dog in North Uist. The incident happened on the Clachan Sands on Tuesday, October 10th at about 11am. A man using a black German-registered Volkswagen Transporter van was seen in the area with a husky dog, which was reported to be worrying otters on the beach. Anyone with information relating to this incident should contact Benbecula Police Station on 101.