Local News for Wednesday 23rd November 2016

No tug decision ‘vindicated’ – MCA
The chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Sir Alan Massey, yesterday told a House of Commons committee that the decision to leave the West Coast of Scotland had been ‘vindicated’. His  remarks came as the committee took evidence on the grounding of the Transocean Winner, the oil rig which went aground at Dalmore in August. After attending this week’s meeting, Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said the west coast of Scotland remains unprotected and vulnerable. Despite the grounding of the rig, Sir Alan Massey told the House of Commons Transport Select Committee that it had been the right decision to reduce ETV provision in Scotland to just one vessel. The Committee was carrying out an evidence session into the Transocean incident at the request of Mr MacNeil, who said: “It was not surprising to hear the comments from the MCA yesterday, they do after all work for the UK Government. Sir Alan Massey said that it would take ‘very unfortunate circumstances of bad luck’ for the case for two ETVs in Scotland to be looked at again – the reality is that most maritime emergencies are ‘unfortunate circumstances of bad luck’ and that is when a tug would be required. The UK Government is playing fast and loose and crossing its fingers that statistically rare probabilities do not ever occur.” Isles MSP Alasdair Allan added his concern, saying that the remarks were completely misguided and defended Tory cuts rather than offering a justifiable reason for reducing the number of emergency towing vessels. 
Dr Allan said:
"The grounding of the Transocean rig should be a wake-up call for industry. Towing rigs to places such as the Mediterranean for decommissioning is less safe, more harmful to the environment and more inefficient than decommissioning in Scottish ports."

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 23rd November 2016

Local News for Thursday 17th November 2016

Energy row pits community against Comhairle
A row has broken out over renewable energy projects in the islands, after a statement released by Cllr Angus McCormack this week accused the Comhairle of ‘consistently ignoring’ community windfarm projects. Cllr McCormack, who is chair of Point and Sandwick Trust, urged colleagues at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to "start backing the community energy movement" and to “stop putting all their eggs in one basket” by supporting larger projects under development. In his statement, he said:  "Neither LWP nor The Stornoway Trust has built a single turbine in 13 years of trying. Meanwhile the communities have invested nearly £30million, built 15 turbines from Barra to Ness and are distributing £2million per year in community benefit. By any measure, this is a real success story.” Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have strongly refuted his claims. Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell said: "Over the recent past the Comhairle has invested £1.5m in community renewable projects the length and breadth of the Outer Hebrides.  In the course of this year to date Community Energy Scotland have assisted some 40 community organisations.  It would not have been possible for then to deliver this support and advice to potential community generators were it not for the assistance of the Comhairle.  Ironically one of the supported community organisations was Point and Sandwick Trust”. Cllr Campbell went on to say that arguments between community and commercial wind farm companies were irrelevant. He said: "There is no such thing as a community or commercial inter-connector – there is simply the need for a proper robust grid connection to the National Grid.  The case that the Comhairle is making for the inter-connector is just as much about ensuring connections for new community organisations as it is for large scale projects.  The more positive way is to work together to achieve the big renewables win that the Outer Hebrides public deserves.”

Read more: Local News for Thursday 17th November 2016

Local News for Wednesday 16th November 2016

Storm heroes on island ferries
A new BBC Alba series which started last night focusess on the work of two Barra mariners in keeping the ferries running. Storm Heroes gives Caledonian MacBrayne lifeline routes a feature role throughout, with masters from MVs Hebrides and Lord of the Isles talking about stormy weather and the challenges they face getting through, as well as the difficult choices they must sometimes make. The four-part series, in Gaelic with English subtitles, sees presenter Donnie Mackay joining people who leave their warm beds to battle the elements on our behalf. We see how they prepare ahead of bad weather, and how they manage to do their jobs when the storm arrives. Barra Masters Michael MacNeil, skipper of MV Hebrides and Iain MacNeil, skipper of MV Lord of the Isles, both featured in yesterday’s programme. Crews from MVs Hebrides, Loch Portain and Loch Bhrusda also feature later in the series, as does SSE Hydro worker Neil McCormick in Uist, delivering emergency power where it’s needed, and care worker Chrissie Macrae in Stornoway, who looks after the elderly in their own homes. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar roads manager Roddy MacDonald also features in a later episode.

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 16th November 2016

Local News for Tuesday 15th November 2016

Community rallies behind Glen House
A call to the community to help save Stornoway’s iconic Glen House has brought in an ‘overwhelming’ response from island people. Local business BeSpoke Bicycles turned to Crowdfunding when the renovation of the house looked beyond hope, with serious damage to the interior meaning the total cost was far higher than expected. Owner Alistair Glover’s aim is to turn Glen House, the oldest building in the Castle Grounds, into a cycle hub and café. After seeing his appeal feature in media, including on isles FM on Friday afternoon, he has been overwhelmed by the public response which has seen over 180 people make pledges – including one anonymous funder pledging £1,000. The appeal has now exceeded its £7,500 target. Alistair said: “I honestly don’t know quite what to say! I’m utterly gobsmacked and there really are not enough thank-yous in the world. Everyone who has pledged, from £2 to the £1,000, is helping to make the dream of The Hub come true and bringing Glen House back to life.” A ‘stretch target’ has now been set at £12,500 , to allow final refurbishment such as car parking area with a permanent tarmac surface. To pledge to the BeSpoke Bicycles’ Crowdfunding site – and find out more about The Hub project at Glen House – please visit www.crowdfunding.co.uk/the-hub-3

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 15th November 2016

Local News for Monday 14th November 2016

War memorials for all the fallen
With a weekend just past of services honouring the memories of fallen servicemen and women, there’s been good news in Barvas, where a new war memorial has been unveiled, and in Tolsta, where the existing memorial has been granted funding for a full renovation. Now Isles MSP Alasdair Allan is encouraging other local groups to apply to the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund (CMRF) to renovate their local war memorials. CMRF is a £1 million fund, launched in 2013, as part of the Scottish Government’s commemorations of the centenary of the First World War. Dr Allan said: “Our local war memorials are a mark of history and a tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  While so many communities take great care of local memorials, upkeep can be difficult and expensive. It would be great if as many repair projects as possible could be completed in time for the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018. We owe it to our servicemen to preserve the monuments that honour and remember the fallen.”

Read more: Local News for Monday 14th November 2016