Local News for Thursday 10th May 2018

Mosque opening tomorrow
Stornoway’s new Mosque will open on James Street at 2pm tomorrow, with a large crowd of supporters and keen media interest expected. The opening, which continues with refreshments until 5.30pm, is open to all after a visiting teacher leads the first Friday prayers from 1pm. Some of the workmen involved in the lightning conversion of the former disused store, restored to use in just four weeks, are expected to be travelling from Leeds and other parts of the mainland to help celebrate. Work continued right up to the wire, with specially-woven carpets still being laid today. A crowdfunding appeal launched to raise £50,000 for the costs of the conversion will close tomorrow, with the total raised now approaching £95,000. Surplus money will be given to the islands’ Muslim community to help towards running costs and maintenance of the new building.

SNH gathers seashells on the seashore
The common Gaelic names for shellfish – and some that aren’t so common – are being gathered by Scottish Natural Heritage, in a consultation that starts this week. SNH began to collect the names for shellfish, molluscs and other sealife by interviewing people in the Western Isles, discovering the Gaelic for such terms as ‘shellfish gathered by moonlight’ and the commonly-found seashell ‘pelican’s foot’. They’re also looking for names that help describe parts of a shellfish, such as the foot of a mollusc, or the trail it leaves on a rock as it moves around. The consultation, now open, closes on June 19th, and you can look at the names gathered so far, and find out how to contribute what you know, by following the link on our Facebook page or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Winter payments ‘blunder’ hits isles
Scottish Labour fears that 4,200 pensioners in the Western Isles will miss out on early winter fuel payments, due to what they call a ‘blunder’ by Scottish Government. Both Scottish Labour and the SNP made manifesto commitments to offer early winter fuel payments to those who live off-grid, such as homes that do not have access to mains gas. Early payments allow pensioners to stock-up on oil and bottled gas, and to take advantage of low prices before winter. A parliamentary question asked this week by a Labour MSP discovered that ministers have yet to have any discussions about introducing early payments – so pensioners will again miss out on earlier payments this year. Scottish Labour’s Rhoda Grant MSP, member for the Highlands and Islands, said: “These are deeply worrying reports. Early winter fuel payments to the pensioner households who live off-grid would help pensioners, particularly those in rural areas more likely to be suffering cold, damp winters of fuel poverty. SNP MSPs were elected on a manifesto commitment to deliver early winter fuel payments – and they should explain why it is now not being delivered.”

Island businesses benefit
Meanwhile Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan announced this week that the Scottish Government’s rates relief scheme has saved island businesses £25 million since 2009 in rates relief. The figures were provided by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP in a written answer to the Scottish Parliament. Dr Allan said: “These statistics very clearly illustrate that the Scottish Government is delivering for our local businesses here in the islands. Businesses in the Western Isles have saved £25 million over the past 7 years, with 1,693 properties benefitting. Here in the islands, our local businesses face a unique set of opportunities and challenges. Since coming to office, the SNP Scottish Government has taken strong action to support business growth and jobs in the islands, helping to keep money in our neighbourhoods, all in the backdrop of a tough economic climate as a result of the global financial crash.”

Hebridean Princess due
The small luxury cruise ship Hebridean Princess is due into Stornoway tonight, intending to stay for the day on Friday so that her passengers can enjoy the sights of Lewis before heading off to Tarbert on Friday evening. The cruise season got off to a bad start, with larger vessels scheduled to arrive so far unable to make their visits due to weather conditions, so port officials will be hoping for a successful visit. Hebridean Princess is a regular caller at Stornoway, and is due to be in port five times this summer. Next week should see the tourism season moving up a gear, with ships due in on Sunday, Monday and Saturday.