Isles Labour backs Dugdale


Kezia Dugdale who has won backing in the Western Isles

The chairman of Western Isles Constituency Labour Party has said that their nomination for Scottish leader of the party will go to Kezia Dugdale.  Party members had been impressed by her when she visited the islands to support Alasdair Morrison, who was standing in the General Election in May.

Billy Mackinnon also said their nomination for Deputy Leader will go to Richard Baker.

Posted in Labour, Western Isles | 2 Comments

Why is comhairle trying to block cheap electricity for islanders?

The SNP group is cranking up the pressure on the comhairle leadership to pull off a deal to give cheap electricity to every home in the Western Isles – but they say the council is inexplicably dragging its feet.

It says members of the comhairle leadership are burying their heads in the sand on the issue and are now simply failing to answer questions from the SNP.

Exasperated members of the SNP group have gone public on the leadership’s inaction after advice from Ofgem last week which seemed to confirm the SNP group’s view that local authorities can offer cost-price electricity to the local market.


Gordon Murray says comhairle leadership just does not respond to questions

The SNP group says it has long since been an advocate of using the huge potential of renewable energy to radically lower electricity prices for every home in the Outer Hebrides.

Councillor Gordon Murray said the islands are in a situation where we have the worst fuel poverty levels in Western Europe. He said 71% of island homes are in fuel poverty and yet we have the best renewable energy on the planet, according to a council report earlier.

He said: “Surely our council can meet the needs of the local economy who are suffering due to the high energy prices. We will continue to press for cost-price electricity and ensure this addresses our shocking fuel poverty issues.”

In an email to Coun Murray, Ofgem said: “There are no fundamental barriers to local authorities supplying electricity at cost. We have some insights from other local authorities exploring this route across Great Britain.”

Ofgem have extended an invitation to the comhairle to discuss what it can do. However, there are now mounting allegations that certain comhairle directors are dragging their feet to try and derail the SNP campaign.


Busy Alasdair Macleod always has an excuse for not replying, says SNP group

Councillor Murray added: “I am surprised that this option has not been fully explored by the Comhairle over the years and when I asked at full council on Wednesday 24th June if the council could look at this, the Chair of Sustainable development and newly-appointed director of the Outer Hebrides Energy Supply Company, Councillor Alasdair Macleod, failed to give an answer claiming the Convenor, Councillor Norman Macdonald, intervened without giving him a chance to respond.

“In an email exchange, I asked Councillor Alasdair Macleod again if he would commit to exploring this option fully with advice and guidance from Ofgem and have had no response.”

Posted in council, energy, snp, Western Isles | 5 Comments

NHS Western Isles paid doctor £19,000 for just one week’s work

by Rita Campbell

AN agency doctor was paid a staggering £19,000 for a week’s work with NHS Western Isles – the equivalent of £1million a year.

Health board chiefs were under fire last night for paying the huge fee to the consultant psychiatrist who spent 40 hours on duty and the rest of their time in the Hebrides on call.

The wage packet – which worked out at £483 per hour – was branded a “shocking waste of money” amid calls for the Scottish Government to “get a grip” of the NHS.

The agency doctor’s £19,305.22 pay cheque was almost £4,000 more than the £15,363 starting salary an nursing auxiliary can expect to earn for a whole year.

The spending was revealed after a freedom of information request to the Western Isles health board.

Officials said the doctor, who specialised in old age psychiatry, was on call for the remaining 128 hours of the week, but it is not known if he or she was actually called out.

The board admitted its spending on temporary consultants had rocketed from £452,000 in 2012 to £1.269million last year.

Over the same period the number of consultants employed dropped from 43 to 36 over the same period.

Highland and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “It is absolutely horrific. It’s a shocking waste of money.

“The NHS is getting to a stage where the Scottish Government really needs to get a grip of it and make sure there are people trained for these jobs.

“If that means that they have to provide a core of staff that can work between trusts, especially small trusts like that, then that is what they have to do.

“The amount of money that is going out on locums is eye-watering. Surely we need to create a pool of people that can do that type of work.”

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “I can’t see how any board can pay that much money for one worker in a week, and assure the taxpayer that it’s value for money.

“Agency workers should only be used in an emergency, and not on a routine basis. There should be more full-time employed staff and constant recruitment drives to prevent this from happening.”

Eben Wilson, the director of pressure group TaxPayer Scotland, said: “Far too often taxpayers are hearing about these huge agency costs by the NHS.

“We are hugely concerned that our money is being diverted like this with little thought about the expense and what that money might have been used for instead.”

Over the past year, use of agency staff has increased by more than 50% across Scotland.

They provided cover for the equivalent of 191 full-time staff at a cost of £16million.

A spokeswoman for NHS Western Isles said: “NHS Western Isles is committed to providing the best service possible for patients and although we cannot comment on specific cases, NHS Western Isles’ policy is that agency staff are only used when we have exhausted all other means of obtaining staff to maintain a safe service.

“Although there is a framework contract in place in Scotland for agencies providing locum cover, if they cannot accommodate our request, then we have to engage with agencies outwith the framework and we do not have control over their charges.

“When a gap in service arises unexpectedly, as a result of sickness absence, we have to put cover in place urgently.

“This can mean that the cost is high, but there is no other option if we are to maintain safe levels of medical cover. This is not an experience peculiar to the Western Isles.”

Posted in health, Western Isles | 2 Comments

Lewis Pipe Band gets sponsor

Lewis Pipe Band is to be sponsored by Lewis Wind Power, developers of the Stornoway Wind Farm.

The company, a joint venture between global engineering giant AMEC and the French-owned power company EDF Energy, says the deal will secure the financial future of the award winning pipe band, which recently won a trophy at the European Championships.

Lewis Pipe Band has helped put Lewis on the map by taking part in various piping competitions and have competed at the British, European and World Championships, as well as the world-famous Cowal Championships.

John Buswell, the project director of the Stornoway Wind Farm, said they were delighted to be helping Lewis Pipe Band with their funding. He said Stornoway Wind Farm had sponsored a variety of organisations over the past few years and were always happy to support active community groups like the pipe band.

Lewis Pipe Band chairman Sandy Gomez said with the band going from strength to strength, their success came at a price with the band having to travel to the mainland.
“This welcome sponsorship from Lewis Wind Power will help us to continue to compete in national and international competitions and is particularly timely with the World Championships in Glasgow coming up in August.”

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Three detained after incidents on Stornoway-to-Ullapool ferry

Three men were detained after an alleged disturbance of the Stornoway-to-Ullapool ferry on Saturday evening, police have now confirmed.

Passengers and crew were said to have become frightened and felt threatened by the behaviour of three men during the voyage to Ullapool on the MV Loch Seaforth and the captain was alerted.


Passenger area on the Loch Seaforth

The captain contacted police and officers were waiting when the ferry docked at the Ross-shire port.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed that a van was stopped with assistance from a road policing unit after it had come off the ferry at Ullapool. Two men, aged 35 and 36, were detained by officers but a third man gave them the slip and was seen by members of the public being chased through the streets.

He was eventually found and also detained and he turned out to be a 20-year-old who was wanted on an apprehension warrant issued in the Kilmarnock area. His two colleagues are now also charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with incorrect details being given to police officers.

Police stressed that it was a road policing unit that was involved in the incident at Ullapool and not an armed response unit as witnesses may have thought. It is understood the three men detained are not local to the north of Scotland.

It is still not known if the three men who were detained were the same ones who had caused concern by their behaviour on Harris last week.

Posted in crime, ferries, police | 3 Comments

Trust me to get the rudest cab driver in all Inverness – column

Many years ago at a party in Steinish a couple called for a cab to take them home. Getting no response, the driver came to the door to let them know he had arrived. The host asked the driver if he could wait a few minutes as the couple were not quite ready. She asked him in out of the cold.

That was when someone, probably unaware of who he was, asked him if he’d like a drink. Ach, he had time for a swift one. Big mistake. About half an hour later, he was knocking them back having forgotten all about his responsibility to take his customers home.

Then disaster. As he downed yet another, the king of the road teetered back and fell into the hearth. He ended up sitting on a roaring fire. The stench of smouldering corduroy has stayed with me. His blazing behind was assailed with cushions and the contents of a vase of flowers to extinguish him. Only in Stornoway.

It wouldn’t happen in Inverness. Last week, five minutes after calling to order a ride from my guesthouse on Telford Street, a text said my cab was on the way. Soon another message said my chariot was outside. Dashing out into the rain, I found … nothing. Getting soaked looking up and down the street for yet another five minutes was not my idea of fun.

Then a taxi turned into a side street further down. Knowing a similarly-named Telford Road was nearby, I trotted the 20 yards in case it was my cab. ‘Twasn’t. As I ambled back to my digs, my ordered car pulled up outside. In I clambered, expecting a fulsome apology for the lateness. taxi

“You were going to run off before I arrived,” was the driver’s charmless greeting. What? Why was I being accused? Did I hear him right? A joke, maybe? No hint of a smile was playing upon his lips. He repeated the charge, with even more sneering. Rather than apologise for his own lateness, he thought it better to get his attack in first. An interesting approach to customer service.

I explained why I had gone to check the side street. His sour response: “Aye, right.” Then he turned up the radio full blast. Although I like Steve Wright In The Afternoon, I take exception to it blaring so loudly that I cannot even think.

Although I’d been in a happy frame of mind after a successful session with a chiropractor the day before which almost did away with my pangs of agonising sciatica, I was exasperated at this fellow. Not a word more did he say until we arrived at Bridge Street when he was suddenly transformed himself into Mr Nice telling me he hoped I would enjoy my day. Really? Ah, after insulting me he was now angling for a tip.

That was never going to happen, matey boy. I counted out the £4.50 fare in as many coins as I could find, digging deep in every pocket and as slowly as I could. My turn to make him feel uncomfortable. Even when I handed over that sum, I maintained eye contact so he could not be sure if a generous tip was coming or not. Not. Seething, I exited and jotted down his registration details, the relevant times and saved those text messages.

Hours later, I was still fizzing. So Mrs X treated me to a teatime refreshment at an hostelry we hadn’t visited before. In a cathedral city, a drinkypoo is usually a king’s ransom. Not here. A busy place, they did discount double drams and cheap chow. Two main courses for less than £7.50. I mustn’t name the place but whether spoons or forks are your cutlery of choice, you’ll get a bargain.

Don’t sit up at the far end. Not unless you particularly want to put up with the constant swish of kitchen doors and the disturbingly loud crashes as less-professional members of staff fling empty bottles carelessly into a big bin. What a racket. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks and that carry-on had better have stopped. Ridiculous. Nearly wet myself with every clatter.

Later, Mrs X whispered that the other customers were acting a bit weird. She said not to look up and that they were all looking at us. What was the first thing I did? Yeah, I looked up. Oh heck. At least a dozen of the patrons were staring straight at us, not saying a word. It was like a scene from a horror film. Then I thought I heard the dulcet tones of the newsreader Fiona Bruce. We were sitting under the telly.


Posted in P&J column | Leave a comment

More Red Arrows pics

These are by John Maclennan

Red arrows 4

In arrowhead formation, they fly high over the ferry terminal


Red Arrows 2

Action over the cruise liner Minerva

Red Arrows 3

Colourful fan from the stern of the ferry Isle of Lewis


Posted in aviation, port | Tagged | Leave a comment

Have you videos or pics of Saturday night in Ullapool?

There was a frightening incident on the ferry Loch Seaforth on Saturday evening as it sailed from Stornoway to Ullapool. A group of police officers, including what was said to be an armed response vehicle, was waiting for the ferry.

A vehicle was then pulled over after being driven off the ferry. As the driver was being detained, his passenger broke away and appeared to make a run for it with the north of Scotland’s finest burly cops in hot pursuit. ULLAPOOL

Witnesses tell me many people took photos and video which I would be very pleased to receive copies of. I may not be able to publish them immediately for legal reasons but they would be very useful at a later date. Full credit will be given, if wished.

Posted in ferries, police, Ullapool | Leave a comment

Missing Uist woman found

pol logoPolice in the Western Isles have said that Marion Donald, who was reported missing from South Uist, has been traced safe and well in the local area. 

They said they would like to thank Stornoway Coastguard, members of the public and the media for their assistance.

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If you send journalists a press release as an email attachment, they may not open it.



The reason I found it funny is that I remember journalists complaining about exactly the same thing when I was a hack as far back as the late nineties. It seems that fifteen years later, some PR people still haven’t learned that journalists hate it when you send your press release as a PDF or Word attachment.

Try to understand things from the journalist’s perspective: every day you’re likely to receive dozens, maybe hundreds of emails begging for your attention. At best you can skim through them all, picking out the ones which might be interesting to you. But if the important detail is hidden in an attachment, you have to interrupt your flow and wait for the document to open, which could take anything from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Doing this once or twice might seem like a minor inconvenience, but those minor inconveniences pile up pretty quickly when you’re dealing with dozens of them every day.

And imagine if they’re reading emails on a mobile device, do you really think they’re going to open attachments then? Life is simply too short.

When you email your press release to a journalist, you’re asking them to take time out from what they’re doing to pay attention to your pitch. That’s always going to be a hard sell so, if you want to improve your chances of getting through to them, the very least you can do is make life easier for the journalist by including the release as plain text within the email.


  1. The one that bugs the hell out of me is those little graphic attachments that people use as their email business card. I always feel obliged to open them because they just MIGHT be a photo that brings everything to life!

    I really don’t need to see your business card every time you mail!

    1. Or as somebody pointed out on Twitter – sending infographics as PDF attachments. Imagine asking a blogger to publish your graphic and then giving it to them in a format they can’t actually use on their site…

Posted in Media | 1 Comment