Scene of fire expert wanted

I am looking for someone who is well-informed about examining the scenes of fires to establish the cause.  A photo of a room following a fire has come into my possession and what I am looking for is a well-informed opinion on whether it may have been started deliberately – using an accelerant, perhaps.  Tel: 01851 720801.

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Olly writes about the perches in the harbour

Dear Iain,

I note with interest that in your blog you have raised questions about
the recently installed perches in Stornoway harbour.

The perches were installed by Hebrides Marine Services Ltd, who were
contracted to do so by Wallace Stone LLP.

All diving works were carried out in accordance with Diving at Work
Regulations 1997 . Correct signals were displayed .markers

Hebrides Marine Services Ltd was formed in 2012 in order to showcase the
marine services available in Lewis and Harris to clients particularly in
the marine renewable sector.

There was a single meeting where a number of suppliers of marine
services got together to discuss the possibilities. The web site and
some promotional material was produced for a trade fair on the mainland
as a result.

In reality when the company was actually formed only three of the
interested companies decided to participate. The are Lews Castle
College, Lochs Diving Services Ltd, and Atlantic Marine Services Ltd.

HMS Ltd can of course call on any supplier of services when the need

The HMS Ltd website needs to be updated.

I hope this answers your concerns.

I am concerned however that a comment on your blog from Captain Morris
Macleod Master Mariner, may be insinuating some wrongdoing on behalf of
either HMS Ltd or LDS Ltd. I am sure that this is not intentional and
can be clarified.


Olly Alston

Lochs Diving Services Ltd
19 Marvig
South Lochs

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Time to change the islands’ home meals service


I like the concept of a “Community Empowerment Bill” for our older people, as is being discussed today in Holyrood at an Older People’s Assembly. Existing legislation on this theme – Self Directed Support (Direct Payments) – enables older people to take control of their own social care services, and receive cash from the Comhairle, instead of services.

This empowers them to choose and manage their own care, such as Home Care (recruit your own staff), respite care (decide when and where you wish this), day care, and of course personal care, including meal preparation, help with cooking/feeding and importantly maintaining social contacts and friendships within the community (help with travel, eg Dial-a-Bus).

The fact that the Comhairle are insisting that all service users access their new Community Meals Service with frozen food menus, pay a delivery charge of £15.55 per fortnight, and will not be allowed to opt out, runs contrary to this principle of “empowerment” and “choice”.

If service users are unhappy about this, they should immediately apply for Direct Payment service (SDS) and take control of their own package. Dedicated staff are in post to make this happen – just inform your care manager who is in charge of your care plan, or ask for an urgent case review and state your preference for Direct Payments. Put this in writing.

The Community Meals service is due to commence in the Uists and Barra on 24th November, so don’t delay in considering your options. Frozen meals may be perfectly acceptable to some but a delivery charge of £15.55, and no alternative service now allowed, is totally unacceptable. How is this likely to be accepted in Lewis and Harris when the same scheme is rolled out there in the New Year? I simply ask the question.

Read more here about today’s event at Holyrood:

Are the Comhairle seriously out of touch with the national agenda on “transformational change” in resourcing our community care services, and are our older people now facing the brunt of further cuts in services? The Community Meals Service was discussed and voted on by our councillors many months ago, in the clear knowledge that this would contribute to budget savings of £105,000.00. Are our old people now being asked to pick up this tab? A nifty piece of footwork by our elected representatives.

Andrew Walker
Kyles Flodda

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My reply to SPA chief executive

Letter sent this morning by me

Iain Maciver
Journalist and broadcaster

31 October 2014

Jane Maciver
Chief executive
Stornoway Port Authority
Amity House


Dear Madam

Thank you for your email last night, complete with threat of legal action to shut me up.

You have run to your expensive lawyers because you personally will not have to pay them and because you think that will make you look good in the eyes of this community. It will not. Sorry to disappoint you but I have no intention of stopping telling people how you and your henchman have shattered the reputation of a once-proud Stornoway institution over the last four and a half years. By the way, those are another burgher’s words, not mine.

If you think there is any inaccuracy on my blog, you should write to me specifying what you believe is the error and telling me precisely what you see as the facts. That is what rational, sane people do and I am always happy to co-operate to ensure all sides have their say. Please remember to tell your lawyers that it is you who refuses to answer my questions and that I am entitled to assume you wish to make no comment.

However, I have to take your threat seriously. Obviously, I have told my family what you intend to do to me. I have told them – and I’m telling you now – that I will not stop the flow of information on my blog. So you could have me hauled to court, we could lose our home and I could be flung in prison. Their tears will dry soon enough but my position is clear.

I would rather die, curled up on the stone floor of a stinking jail with harbour rats gnawing at my corpse, than consider for one second giving in to the ludicrous threats of a pair of power-crazed bullies who some time ago completely lost sight of what’s right and what’s wrong and who seem to have no idea what high standards in public life should actually mean.

However, I do thank you very much for writing to me directly at last. Do enjoy the rest of your day.


Iain Maciver

PS – When you get a minute, would you please answer my previous question to you asking why a yacht in the harbour has been allowed to run up unpaid harbour dues of several thousand pounds? Thank you so much for your time.

PPS – As there seems to be a curious and coincidental problem with your board members’ email system, please copy this reply to all of them.

Posted in maritime, Stornoway, Western Isles | Leave a comment

Bombshell as SPA board member exposes troubled chief executive’s lies and continuing confabs with her pal Angus Smith

In an incredible development tonight, after the chief executive of Stornoway Port Authority earlier claimed in a statement that Angus Smith resigned as chairman due to “extraordinary” media coverage, a board member has broken ranks and suggested that statement is complete nonsense.

Former MSP Alasdair Morrison has now dissociated himself from the ramblings and threats to journalists by his chief executive. In a move that should finally end the board’s confidence in their flailing chief executive, Morrison has also revealed she consulted her pal Angus Smith – that’s right, the ex-chairman – before firing off the bizarre tissue of lies in a futile bid to make her dear pal Smith look good.

As if that was not bad enough, she did not bother to consult her own board members. Morrison had no idea she was putting out the nonsensical release. I suspect someone told him what was on this blog and he went ape. His chief exec is one classy corporate lawyer (ok, end of sarcasm).

Here, read what I got from him:

I’d be obliged if you would publish the following self-explanatory statement on your blog. I am writing to you in my capacity as a serving Board Member of the Stornoway Port Authority. Please ignore the email address and associated title – my SPA email system is currently not working. You will appreciate that I am happier responding to questions if I receive them in written format (email) – I suspect that I will not be saying anything more on this matter until it is discussed by the Board.

Alasdair Morrison said tonight that the chief exec’s weird press release about “media intervention” causing Angus Smith to quit was “misleading” and he had not even seen it before she sent it off to the media.



“I wish to publicly disassociate myself from the misleading statement issued this evening by Ms Jane MacIver, chief executive of the Stornoway Port Authority.

“It is a matter of private and now public record that our former chairman Angus Smith resigned following a breach of every guiding principle and standard that board members are meant to adhere to. These standards include; openness, integrity and honesty.

“I was astonished to learn this evening that the former chairman was consulted about the contents of this news release prior to its publication. That courtesy was not extended to current and serving members; I saw the news release after it was published.”


30 October 2014

Alasdair Morrison
Board Member
Stornoway Port Authority

Posted in maritime, Stornoway, Western Isles | 3 Comments

After gagging her own staff, Amity House boss hires lawyers to gag me

Stornoway Port Authority has issued an incredible press notice (below) tonight blaming an “extraordinary media intervention” by really awful journalists for Angus Smith’s resignation. Two blog posts? Interestingly, in its update of events, the SPA somehow forgot to mention its own ongoing and utterly disgusting treatment of its workers, the number of former staff and board members who fled Amity House in disgust after being bullied and lied to in the past few years, how one boatowner has allegedly escaped paying thousands of pounds of berthing dues because of his board connections and the curious claim of the top officer to be a successful corporate lawyer. I could go on …


Lady gagger

Of course, I have now been tossed the obligatory threat of legal action – the last-ditch ploy of the morally-bankrupt who can’t argue their own case but who has access to someone else’s cash. The chief exec has warned she intends to spend the harbour dues on lawyers because my language “implies wrongdoing on the part of members of the Authority’s Board or on the part of its employees”. Employees? I’m no lawyer but I think she means herself.

Why does she need to spend the SPA’s cash – or what is left of it after her recent hugely-expensive globe-trotting with Angus Smith – on legal advice when she is supposed to be a “successful corporate lawyer”? After all, her legal training and experience is what we were told on good authority was the reason why she was hired. Fact. 

As the union Unison has confirmed it is considering legal action against the SPA for its continuing ill-treatment of its staff, some legal eagles will be wringing their hands with delight tonight as they are about to be handed oodles of SPA cash … and nobody in authority is bothered enough to do anything about it.

Of course, if I do not shut up, each allegation will have to be examined in open court to test its veracity and that would be very good for this community.  I’m broke so is anyone interested in contributing to my legal defence fund? Just joking. 

I promise here and now that I will go to prison rather than cave in to threats from this particular bully – jumped-up corporate lawyer or not. 

On the other hand, if she wants to keep a few bob out of the lawyers’ clients’ accounts, she could instead invite me to Amity House for a coffee and we could have a recorded discussion where she could put her side on all these issues in her own words. Now that’s what I would call an extraordinary intervention. Still, it’s probably less-stressful for a successful corporate lawyer to just lift the phone to one of her ex-colleagues …


Recent speculation in the local media has led the Stornoway Port Authority to release the following information regarding the background to the recent resignation of Chairman Captain Angus Smith:

At a Board Meeting on 17th July 2014 Captain Smith, who is a boat builder, declared his interest in a Board discussion regarding proposed works on a Port Authority vessel as he explained he might be helping a local engineer with his tender for the works.

Following allegations made to the Board regarding Captain Smith’s potential involvement in the works personally, an investigation was carried out and the findings of that investigation were reported to the Board meeting held on Friday 24 October 2014 at which the Board determined that no tender had been submitted by the local engineer, no contract had been awarded to that engineer and no benefit of any kind had accrued to Captain Smith or the engineer.

The Board also found, however, that his informal discussion with the engineer about how they might work together amounted to a breach of its guidance for good governance and censured Captain Smith for this. The Board did not regard this as a matter justifying Captain Smith’s resignation.

The Board convened again on Tuesday 28th October to consider the extraordinary media intervention following Friday’s Board meeting. In light of public perception, and in the interests of the Port Authority, Captain Smith tendered his resignation.


How to threaten a journalist by Ms A Jane Maciver, a brilliant corporate lawyer (unverified)

Dear Mr Maciver (that’ll be me)

The Authority has received from you over the last week a substantial number of enquiries.  Many of those have been couched in language which implies wrongdoing on the part of members of the Authority’s Board or on the part of its employees.

A number of your enquiries concern personnel issues on which we would not, and you would not expect us to, comment.  Other enquiries concern the commercial relationship between the Authority and its customers and, again, those are not matters on which we would make public comment.

I should make it clear that we are obtaining legal advice on the terms of a number of your published articles.  We will take seriously any defamation of our employees or members of our Board.

Yours sincerely

A. Jane Maciver (her)
Chief Executive
Stornoway Port Authority

Posted in maritime, Stornoway, Western Isles | 5 Comments

Unison considers legal action against SPA over intimidated staff

Your handy Thursday morning news briefing as more chaos and management failures are exposed at Stornoway Port Authority

The public services union Unison is on the brink of taking legal action against Stornoway Port Authority for its appalling treatment of harbour workers who now feel intimidated and may soon have to work without any pay, I can exclusively reveal today.

The union has been in protracted discussions with the Amity House-based authority over rotas and pay for the workers.

Ken Matthews, the regional organiser of Unison, told me: “As a result of management decisions, a temporary rota has been in place for some considerable time. Port Operatives work on annualised hours, paid over 12 months, and Unison has raised concern that, under the temporary rota, Operatives will have completed their contracted annual hours by early December and management have so far declined to confirm whether staff will have to work overtime during the month to cover the operation of the port.”

The union thinks the current situation is likely to incur significant additional operating costs to the Port Authority.

Mr Matthews said: “Port Operatives now feel intimidated into working a new rota and potentially unpaid work. Regrettably, there is a significant risk that Unison will take further action, including legal action where appropriate, should the Port Authority not resolve matters quickly.”

The union has confirmed that it is following current events closely.


More staff and board members have made unexpected departures from SPA in the last three years than in the rest of the organisation’s 148-year history.  The resignations and abrupt departures have a common theme as the people concerned have told acquaintances of an obvious lack of professional skills, bullying by management and being lied to by management.

Obviously, with a recent management departure, there is now a wonderful team in place which this community will be proud to see lead the organisation into the glitzy spotlight of its 150th anniversary in two years time. With more questions about more contracts coming to the surface, why the struck-dumb board members and the Scottish Government, which is following these revelations closely, are still sitting on their hands is anybody’s guess.

Posted in maritime, Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged | 1 Comment

Mystery of the Stornoway harbour markers

Red markers have appeared out from the pontoons in Stornoway harbour. Various marine types tell me they cannot recall tenders being invited for the work and they are not particularly happy about that.

So the question on everyone’s lips is who did the work and what was the reason for tenders not being invited in the usual way that such trusts and other public bodies normally contract such works to make best use of funds for their stakeholders?


Who put that there and how did they get the contract?

Of course, it may all have been done perfectly legitimately and there may be a simple explanation, which is why I am asking these questions.

For one reason or another, the current management team at Stornoway Port Authority is not particularly bothered about answering questions honestly, or at all, when they come from journalists – particularly those annoying types who spend time speaking to harbour users, for example.

As I am still waiting for answers to other questions from them, I shall not trouble these important people with this little matter as I know how busy they are between gagging their own staff and ordering them not to talk to me if they see me on the street.

However, I feel sure some of our helpful readers will have the answers that people are seeking. If, however, the supposedly open and transparent SPA wishes to be more helpful on this occasion, I think they know how to get in touch.

Posted in maritime, Stornoway, Western Isles | 2 Comments

Loud bang shakes Uist and Barra

UPDATE:  MoD was today unable to confirm unofficial reports of explosion on beach to destroy old ordnance. More info coming tomorrow.

What may have been an earthquake shook parts of Uist and Barra this morning (Wed).

Locals described buildings shaking and hearing a loud bang which was thought at first to have come from a local quarry. Reports on social media confirm that it was heard in Benbecula in the north and as far south as the Isle of Barra.

Neither military nor civil aviation controllers say any aircraft in the airspacecould have caused the bang and tremor but their enquiries are continuing.

Sheila MacCormick, manager of the Borrodale Hotel in Daliburgh, South Uist, has been describing what she and her staff felt in the hotel.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Stornoway Port Authority gags staff

Stornoway Port Authority has issued a gagging order to stop its workers and office staff telling anyone about recent events or giving their own opinions of its crisis-ridden management.

The order was issued before the chairman resigned as the board flouted government anti-secrecy rules and refused to answer questions by the moderator of this blog since Saturday. spa

Happily, however, several friends and relatives of SPA people have now vowed to keep the information coming.

On Tuesday evening, at a special meeting of the SPA, chairman Angus Smith offered his resignation in the interests of the port authority. It was accepted by the board.

At a previous special meeting last Friday, the board found that Mr Smith had been in breach of what it called “procedural guidelines”. There was no explanation what that jargon actually meant but it is known in the island community that he had allegedly taken an unconventional approach to discussing with the boss of a local engineering firm an award of an upcoming authority boat repair contract.

The board insists that no tender was received from any local engineer, no contract had been awarded and no financial or other benefit had accrued but has not denied these were the facts at issue.

A statement from the board expressed its appreciation for the work that Mr Smith had done on behalf of the port authority in his four and a half years as a member.

Of course, it is sad when it happens but the chairman has admitted that at least the public perception of what he did was potentially damaging to the board so he quit. He should be given credit for that.

There have already been the inevitable calls for an end to my questioning to allow the SPA to move on. However, it is clear that many stakeholders want answers on many other outstanding issues and I shall be pursuing those too.

  • Despite a concerted attempt by certain people to smear this blog moderator with a series of lies published elsewhere to try and stop my probing, that is not going to happen.  I was called thick in one Facebook post – yeah, but so is my skin. Attempts to discredit me were bound to happen. This is good old Stornoway with all its horrible tribalism, nepotism and turning of blind eyes. Yet, despite all that, Stornoway also has among its residents a lot of very fine, decent and honest people who simply will not stand by when public servants struggle with what’s right and what’s wrong and then refuse to be accountable. I thank them.
Posted in maritime, Stornoway, Western Isles | 2 Comments