Local News for Thursday 3rd November 2016

2016 HebCelt ‘big boost for islands’
The 21st birthday celebration for Hebridean Celtic Festival didn’t just offer a cause for celebration in July, but a lasting impact on island economoy, according to new figures released today. Am economic impact report says the HebCelt 21 generated more than £2.2 million for the islands’ economy and helped safeguard 40 tourism-related jobs. The 21st festival, headlined by Runrig, was held from 13-16 July in Stornoway and was the most successful in its history. Over 7,500 paying guests visited the festival during its four days and overall attendances reached 17,830. Today’s survey, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), found that 63 per cent of festival goers came from outside Lewis and Harris, with almost three quarters saying they were only here to attend HebCelt. Visitors from Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand added to those from elsewhere in the UK to bring money in to the islands, spending an average of £500 each during their stay, with the bulk of it (78 per cent) helping the islands’ economy. Public subsidy invested in the festival was £120,000, bringing in £18 for every £1 from the public sector. Festival director Caroline Maclennan said: “This new report demonstrates that HebCelt makes a huge contribution to island life in many ways. It is vitally important to the economic wellbeing of the islands as well as enhancing our culture and creative talents”.

Read more: Local News for Thursday 3rd November 2016

Local News for Wednesday 2nd November 2016

Callanish stones centre – bigger and better
A multi-million pound extension plan has been unveiled for the Callanish Stones visitor centre, as tourist numbers swell each year. The popular centre – and the stones themselves – are on the itinerary of every coach tour and, with cruise ship numbers going up, there’s a need for more space within the centre. Now the trust which manages the site, Urras nan Tursachan, has unveiled drawings and plans for a £4 million upgrade which will expand café, toilets, kitchens and the display itself, with new interpretation. You can see the plans on display at the visitor centre, and inside Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle.

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 2nd November 2016

Local News for Tuesday 1st November 2016

Funding decisions ‘holding up investment’
Leaders of three island councils were in Inverness yesterday, in intensive discussion with Scottish government ministers about opportunities being denied to island communities. Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles council representatives have put their signatures to a letter from Holyrood to UK energy and industrial minister, Greg Clark, expressing concern about the effects of continued uncertainty on support for large-scale renewable energy projects on the Scottish Islands. They say at least £1.3 billion of investment in so-called ‘shovel-ready’ projects is being put at risk by UK Government dithering. An independent report estimated that Scotland’s island economies could gain up to £725 million over the next 25 years from renewables projects, but these can’t progress without investment. Speaking after yesterday’s meeting, deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said: “In the wake of the EU referendum, the UK can ill afford to miss the opportunity to unlock £1.3 billion of investments offered by projects on the Western Isles and Shetland. We urge that this period of uncertainty is brought to a swift conclusion and that a decision allows island projects to compete in the next allocation round”.

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 1st November 2016

Local News for Monday 31st October 2016

Population decline – work against it, says MSP
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan is calling for a concerted approach to make sure that projected population decline in the islands does not become reality. Last week figures were published which showed that the islands’ poopulation was set to drop by 14% by 2039, the biggest loss of any Scottish local authority area. As well as meeting with Comhairle representatives when the figures emerged, Dr Allan has written to Islands Minister Humza Yousaf to draw his attention to the need to make sure these projections don't become a reality. Dr Allan said: "Depopulation is something that has been affecting us for a long time, with our population  nearly half what it was a few generations ago. There is always more we could be doing to attract people to the islands. That means headhunting people who have moved to the mainland, creating a welcoming environment for people wishing to move and bring their families here and ensuring more of our young people actually want to stay, or want to come back after they have been to University.”
Tiumpan light off till 2017
Tiumpan Head lighthouse will not return to its usual strength and reach until at least January, according to Northern Lighthouse Board, who have extensive maintenance work planned at the Point lighthouse. The main lighthouse beam was withdrawn on Thursday and a small temporary light mounted on the outside of the light. It will not rotate and does not shine inland, reaching up to 12 miles out to sea, instead of the former 25mile rotating beam.  A spokesman for Northern Lighthouse Board said that a new notice would be issued to mariners once maintenance work is complete and the main light is re-established.
New York marathon for police officer
Stornoway police officer Louise Henderson is off to the USA this week, ready to compete in the New York marathon on Sunday November 6th . Louise will join a group of serving police officers raising money for the PC Nicola Hughes memorial fund, which supports children who have lost parents or close relatives. PC Nicola Hughes died in Manchester in 2012 while investigating a burglary. The fund has been set up in her name by her father, Bryn Hughes. Stornoway officer Louise, who’ll be representing Police Scotland, is close to her £1,000 fundraising goal, but if you’d like to help get her over the finishing line, you can donate via JustGiving by searching for ‘Louise Henderson’s NY Marathon. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Louise-Henderson16
Gambia project
A work party from Lewis and Harris is off to Gambia this week as the Stornoway-based charity continues its work with the community of Kabekel. Fundraising activities in the next couple of weeks include this Saturday’s Zumbathon at the Bridge Centre, suitable for everyone from kids to pensioners. Two groups of volunteers will be going to Gambia this month, with one group setting out tomorrow for a week and the second from the 22nd-29th November. The groups aim to build relationships in the village, finish painting the school, support the delivery of clean water through further education and support evangelism in the village of Kabakel.
Rugby result
Stornoway Rugby club had a welcome win at home at Bayhead on Saturday, when they beat Ross Sutherland 31-7, earning valuable points. There’s another home fixture next weekend when Stornoway host the Highland 2nd Fifteen – a daunting opposition who inflicted a 75-nil defeat on the islanders when they met away from home earlier this month.

Local News for Friday 28th October 2016

Red Cross won’t be at island events – official.
The British Red Cross will no longer provide first aid support at events held in the Western Isles, it was confirmed yesterday. Red Cross volunteers first heard the news and contacted MP Angus MacNeil. It’s now been confirmed by the British Red Cross formally to Mr MacNeil, who said: “It is very disappointing that the British Red Cross have taken this decision without prior consultation with the Red Cross volunteers or event organisers in the Western Isles. The volunteers feel that they and the people of the Western Isles, who so generously support the Red Cross, have been treated badly. “ Mr MacNeil looked ahead to a future without Red Cross support with concern, saying: “If events go ahead without first aid there could be negative consequences. Red Cross have withdrawn this provision from a remote, isolated, rural island community, without discussion or apparent care for the consequences. Volunteers, whilst bitterly disappointed with the attitude of the British Red Cross, are nevertheless looking positively to the future.  They are currently engaged in discussion with another first aid provider.”

Read more: Local News for Friday 28th October 2016