Local News for Wednesday 25th October 2017

Celebrating the ultimate in books
The Hebridean Book Festival, Faclan, begins today, with a programme celebrating the ancient idea of Ultima Thule, the place beyond the borders of the known world. A four-day programme of film, lectures, book launches and events for children will open up this mysterious world, bringing ghostly happenings to the autumn evenings, and discovery of all kinds of extreme environments, from mountain tops to lost worlds. Today’s programme opens with two films, one exploring the mysterious inner world of South Uist grass-weaver Angus MacPhee, and the second Werner Herzog’s masterpiece, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, following a band of conquistadors as they search for El Dorado. Later this evening Western Isles writers’ group launches their new anthology, Beyond Words, and there’s a discussion of the place of photography in the work of Stornoway-based publishers Acair, who celebrate their 40th anniversary this year. For a full programme of the next four days, go to An Lanntair’s website and look for Faclan.

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 25th October 2017

Local News for Tuesday 24th October 2017

Small business key to island success
Nearly twice as many working islanders are self-employed than in the rest of Scotland, according to a submission to government made yesterday by the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland. FSB Scotland is to tell a committee at Holyrood that island businesses want younger local populations, better transport links and much improved broadband. Their calls are based on research with 275 island firms, carried out in the Western Isles, Shetland, Orkney and others of the 93 inhabited Scottish islands ahead of planned legislation aimed at giving island authorities new powers. David Richardson, the FSB’s Development Manager for the Highlands and Islands said: “The prosperity of a local place is intertwined with the ongoing success of its local business community. While this rings true across the country, it is particularly the case for Scotland’s island communities.” FSB highlights census data showing that 13 per cent of Scottish island residents work for themselves, in comparison to a national average of 7 per cent. Keeping young people in the islands, providing good services for tourists and improving connectivity are all issues they highlight. Mr Richardson is giving evidence to the Rural Economy committee tomorrow. He said: “Our research shows that one in five islands business owners has considered moving to the mainland. To state the obvious, the long-term success of island communities require their local private sectors to thrive, to power job creation, local growth and to retain and attract younger residents.”

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 24th October 2017

Local News for Monday 23rd October 2017

50th call-out for Stornoway Coastguards
Stornoway Coastguard Volunteers had their fiftieth tasking of 2017 yesterday, when they were asked to man the Western Isles Hospital landing site and assist Scottish Ambulance Service with the transfer of a casualty from Coastguard helicopter R948. The casualty was a man working in St Kilda who needed to be transferred to Western Isles Hospital due to a medical condition. Stornoway Coastguard was called at 10.36am on Monday and the man reached the Western Isles landing site at 12.33pm.

Read more: Local News for Monday 23rd October 2017

Local News for Friday 20th October 2017

New rules for mariners
Three new codes of practice for seafarers are coming into force on 23 October, which will improve safety for everyone in the fishing industry. The codes introduce new safety requirements, adopt technological developments and address recommendations from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch. Some of these were made by MAIB in their report following the sinking of the fishing vessel Louisa, off Mingulay, with the loss of three lives. Monthly emergency drills, liferafts for specific vessels, radar reflectors and bilge alarms, are all specifically named, as well as fitting of carbon monoxide monitors, EPIRBs and personal locator beacons with built-in GPS. David Fenner from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: “We have worked hard with all those connected with the fishing industry on these Codes. This is all about reducing the risk of serious accidents and deaths. Even one death is one too many. The new requirements for liferafts, EPIRBs and Personal Locator Beacons are being phased in so if your vessel is already registered as a fishing vessel, you will have until 23 October 2019 to comply. This will allow you to apply for funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to claim back up to 60% of the cost.”

Read more: Local News for Friday 20th October 2017

Local News for Thursday 19th October 2017

Re-think on tourism info needed
Outer Hebrides Tourism is calling for a re-think on information for visitors to the islands, after VisitScotland announced that Visitor Information Centres (VICs) in Barra and Lochmaddy will close at the end of this month. Lochboisdale VIC closed last year and VisitScotland is still to decide whether Tarbert or Stornoway information centre will survive as the last remaining tourist office in the whole of the Outer Hebrides. Outer Hebrides Tourism says that physical information centres in the Western Isles remain popular, and could be replaced by an alternative network of centres if VisitScotland closes them down. In a statement yesterday OHT said: “A single ‘hub’ may not be the right solution for a 150-mile chain of distinct islands with unreliable mobile signal coverage. This does not mean we cannot have a thriving and attractive network of information centres across the Outer Hebrides, helping visitors understand our islands, its heritage, get the most from their stay and put something back into the local economy. These could be co-located with existing tourism businesses, run by the industry or by adapting Visit Scotland’s proposals to better suit local circumstances.”

Read more: Local News for Thursday 19th October 2017