Predict the Loch Seaforth start date and win a £100 voucher

Press arrow above for interview

Islanders can win £100-worth of shopping vouchers if they can correctly guess when the new larger Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway finally starts service.

A series of delays and mistakes have angered islanders on Lewis and meant the £42 million vessel MV Loch Seaforth is regularly to be seen on crew training around the west of Scotland but it cannot take yet fare-paying passengers as the pier works at Stornoway and Ullapool are not yet ready after a series of project planning blunders.

Now a cheeky Stornoway guesthouse operator has joined up with a supermarket to offer a prize to anyone who guesses the correct ferry start date in a move which also supports the local fishermen’s mission.

Ali Maclennan 2

Ali Maclennan at the current ferry, the Isle of Lewis

Ali Maclennan, who runs the Hal o’ the Wynd guesthouse opposite the ferry terminal being upgraded with wife Shona, came up with the idea after seeing at first hand the work done on Lewis by Finlay Macleod, the islands Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen superintendent.

Ali said: “Everybody is waiting for the new ferry to start but when is that going to be? The ferry cannot start until the completion of the pier works and with the weather we have been having recently the start date is still not known.

“So why not enter our fun fundraiser? Every pound you donate entitles you to an entry to guess the date of her maiden voyage to Ullapool or even another port along with the number of passengers on that sailing.”

The Loch Seaforth was originally due to enter service in September 2013. It was then supposed to begin sailings last summer and then in September. A taskforce set up by the Scottish Government to expedite the project now says it may be June before the ferry is fully deployed.

Supermarket giant Tesco has teamed up with Alistair’s guesthouse to put up a £100 Tesco voucher for the winner.

The winner will be the person who selects the correct date and is closest to the number of passengers. The competition will close as soon as the ferry start date is officially announced.

There has been controversy since it was announced that all vehicles crossing from Ullapool from May will be diverted to Tarbert on Harris, a move which tourism operators fear may cause mayhem as many visitors already booked and will expect to be arriving in Stornoway.

You may donate to the fishermen’s mission, and be part of the Loch Seaforth start date contest, by going to:  www.justgiving.com/Alistair-Maclennan/

CalMac has so far not commented on the draw and the prize being on offer.

Posted in ferries, tourism, Ullapool, Western Isles | 3 Comments

Coastal Communities Fund to help boost eco-tourism

The housing association Tighean Innse Gall (TIG)  is to get £497,419 to support and improve energy efficiency and promote the use of renewables for B&Bs, self-catering and small tourism related businesses throughout the Outer Hebrides.

It will also help promote the islands as an eco-tourism destination “The Energy Isles – Low carbon tourism in the Outer Hebrides”.  tourism

In total, over 300 businesses from Barra to the Butt of Lewis will benefit from investment in energy efficiency measures. The whole island economy will benefit from additional visitors who choose to take a holiday in the Outer Hebrides as a result of the additional promotion of the area as a destination that cares about protecting its environment.

TIG director Stewart Wilson said: “TIG have traditionally worked in the domestic sector and have not until now been able to support small businesses. We are thrilled at the opportunity to reduce our tourism carbon footprint and make more eco-tourism available through greater energy efficiency and use of renewables.”

Tighean Innse Gall is supported in the project by Outer Hebrides Tourism which will market the project to businesses across the Outer Hebrides.

Ian Fordham, chairman of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said: “We are delighted to work with Tighean Innse Gall on this highly innovative partnership to deliver real help and support to tourism businesses in the Outer Hebrides – providing clear reductions in business running costs and helping to market the Outer Hebrides to an even broader market.”

Funded through the Coastal Communities Fund, the project will run from April 1, 2015 to December 30, 2016.

Coastal Communities minister Penny Mordaunt MP said: “These fantastic projects demonstrate the creativity, enterprise and passion needed to help seaside towns become year round destinations that people are proud to live and work in.”

Posted in tourism, Western Isles | Leave a comment

MSP’s electricity survey backs fair charges and public ownership

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has published a report on the findings of his energy survey of more than 14,000 of his constituents over Christmas.

DaveThompsonMSP20120629

Dave Thompson MSP

Dave Thompson’s survey asked a number of key questions, including whether or not residents think the 2p electricity surcharge is fair, whether they think everyone in the UK should pay the same rate, whether electricity companies should have social responsibility and whether or not electricity production and supply should be brought back into public ownership.

The results are claimed to have shown that there is overwhelming support for taking electricity production and supply in Scotland back into public ownership and that there should be no energy surcharge applied on the basis of remoteness.

Mr Thompson said: “I am not surprised the inherent unfairness of the 2p energy surcharge applied to the Highlands has galvanised Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch to reject it to the tune of 95.2% respondents.”

However, the big news is that of the 1,711 replies received – 98.7% stated that electricity production and supply should be brought back into public ownership.

“This is a fascinating response and one that shows folk will only put up with big company profiteering for so long, and no doubt their belief is backed up by the unfair 2p energy surcharge currently applied to the energy rich north, which is nothing short of scandalous.”

He has called on the UK Government and the energy regulator Ofgem to recognise that the people of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch have spoken, charging the same rate irrespective of location is in their gift and he urged them to abolish the unfair policy forthwith.

Mr Thompson concluded: “They should also take note that there is a quiet revolution for change emerging in the Highlands from those who wish to go further than abolishing the unfair charge by bringing electricity production and supply in Scotland into public ownership, a policy that I would wholeheartedly support, so that never again will we in the Highlands have to face the incredulity of being treated like second class energy consumers.”

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Holocaust Memorial Day – January 27

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

Lews Castle College

Tuesday 27 January 2015

9 am – 6 pm                       Exhibition

9 am – 6 pm                       Moving Portraits

9.30 am – 10.30 am          Amnesty

11 am – 12 noon               *Films introduced by

Jonathan Topper (702309)

12 noon – 1 pm                  LUNCH

1pm – 2 pm                        Welcome  –  Robert Macneil MBE

·         Lighting of Candle

·         Moving Portraits

·         Contributions from other campuses

·         Thank you

2.30 – 3.30 pm                   *Films

4 pm – 5 pm                       Amnesty

Wednesday – Friday

9 am – 6 pm                       Exhibition and Moving Portraits

*Films:                                 Faithful under Trials

Purple Triangle

Posted in crime, death, education, Stornoway | Tagged | Leave a comment

Campaign for twice-daily Aberdeen-Stornoway air service

Labour candidate Alasdair Morrison is reigniting the campaign to establish a twice-daily Aberdeen to Stornoway air service. Alasdair Morrison said: “This morning I had a very encouraging and useful discussion with Eastern Airway’s commercial director, Kay Ryan.

The airline is very keen to work with the UK Government and local agencies to examine how a package of support can be pulled together to allow them to establish a twice-daily air service between Aberdeen and Stornoway.Eastern

“I have also been communicating with the office of Chief Secretary at the Treasury, Danny Alexander MP. Danny Alexander established the Regional Connectivity Fund and I know he’s keen to see it benefiting  passengers and airlines in all parts of the UK. We now need the UK Treasury, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Eastern Airways to thrash out the detail and set about discussing the second Stornoway-Aberdeen flight in a positive manner.

“A decade ago we worked in a collegiate fashion when we established the Aberdeen service, as well as the Air Discount Scheme. I am certain if the pragmatism of that time is replicated – we could see an air link of great economic and social importance improve. Whilst I am encouraged by today’s discussions – we now need the actions that follow to be equally positive.”

Text of correspondence from Alasdair Morrison to Danny Alexander MP sent on 22 January 2015.
 
Dear Danny,

During my terms as an MSP I worked closely with your colleague Nicol Stephen, who at that time was the MSP for Aberdeen South and Scottish Transport Minister, and his successor Tavish Scott MSP. Our collegiate approach to transport challenges in the Highlands and Islands saw the development of the Stornoway to Aberdeen route and the establishment of the Air Discount Scheme. I am sure that you and your department would look favourably on any application to your Regional Connectivity Fund to further develop the air link between Stornoway and Aberdeen.
I have written to Eastern Airways urging them to apply to your Fund, with a view to having two flights a day between Stornoway and Aberdeen. I am certain that if the pragmatic approach taken years ago to establish the route can be adopted again we can see a welcome improvement in a service of great economic and social importance.

Leis gach deagh dhùrachd,

Alasdair

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Macneil raises parliamentary questions over Stornoway call centre

Following a meeting on Saturday with Flora Somerville (Unison), a staff representative from Citizens Advice Direct (CAD) call-handling centre, Stornoway, and local councillor Gordon Murray, Angus MacNeil MP is to table Parliamentary Questions to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to clarify the situation in terms of funding.

The news that the future of the Citizens Advice Direct call-handling centre in Stornoway is uncertain has caused alarm in the community.  The uncertainty is due to the fact that the current CAD contract expires on 31st March 2015 and there has been no confirmation of a renewal of its contract from Citizens Advice Scotland, or terms of renewal for the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. As a consequence, Advice Direct Scotland issued employees with redundancy notices on the 1st January 2015.  The consequences of the loss of 27 jobs in an already economically-fragile Outer Hebrides are very serious. direct

Mr MacNeil has also written to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) who rent the premises to Advice Direct Scotland, to ask if a more suitable financial arrangement can be found to safeguard the jobs.

Ironically, the centre in Stornoway has been outperforming other centres around the UK making it probably the number one call-handling centre in the UK.  The highly-trained and dedicated staff have not only proven themselves to be extremely capable in the service but have become an established and highly-committed workforce locally whose loyalty, in a sector where staff turnover is high, has certainly contributed to the high performance ratings.

Mr MacNeil said:  “I met with a staff representative and a Unison representative during what is a worrying time for all employees at the Citizens Advice Direct call-handling centre in Stornoway.

“Essentially this could stem back to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at Westminster not providing the necessary funds for CAD to ensure it continues its work.  In short, the employees have a target of about 46 phone calls a day and the average call time is nine minutes.  Employees are well-trained and highly-specialised in consumer law.  They work intensively handling an estimated 200,000 calls per year, primarily from across Scotland but on occasion the rest of the UK.

“Therefore, I am tabling questions to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at Westminster, to try and understand their role in the current concerning situation and how we can encourage them to help.  Secondly, there is a concern that of the premises in Scotland that CAD operate, they own one and rent the other, perhaps giving the owned site in Glasgow an advantage.  Therefore I have contacted HIE to establish this, also what help can be given to level the playing field?  Needless to say, maintaining jobs in the islands, is a priority and these jobs important in Lewis.”

Cllr Gordon Murray said:  “I welcome Angus MacNeil’s intervention on behalf of the local workforce at Citizens Advice Direct, Stornoway. The loss of those jobs would have a catastrophic effect on not just Stornoway but the Western Isles.”

Posted in jobs, Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged , | Leave a comment

MV Isle of Arran starts on Ullapool run tomorrow

From tomorrow (Monday) till Saturday 7th February, for the period of MV Isle of Lewis annual dry dock, sailings between Stornoway and Ullapool will be undertaken by MV Isle of Arran. The following timetable will be in operation for the duration of this period.

Bus connections may be affected during this period.

Posted in ferries, Stornoway, Ullapool, Western Isles | 1 Comment

MP welcomes Vodafone announcement

STATEMENT

MACNEIL WELCOMES VODAFONE ANNOUNCEMENT: BALIVANICH, LOCHBOISDALE, LOCHMADDY & TARBERT SHORTLISTED TO RECEIVE 3G MOBILE COVERAGE

BALIVANICH, LOCHBOISDALE, LOCHMADDY & TARBERT SHORTLISTED BY VODAFONE TO RECEIVE 3G MOBILE COVERAGE IN NATIONAL RURAL NOT SPOT PROGRAMME #ROSS100

·         Balivanich, Lochboisdale, Lochmaddy, Tarbert, named as four of 100 rural communities across the UK shortlisted for the Vodafone Rural Open Sure Signal programme

·         Community-led initiative with Vodafone brings much needed mobile coverage to help boost rural economy

·         Vodafone spending more than £1 billion on its UK network and services

Vodafone UK has announced the beautiful rural communities of Balivanich, Lochboisdale, Lochmaddy and Tarbert in the Outer Hebrides are four of the 100 rural mobile not-spot communities shortlisted to receive 3G coverage under its Rural Open Sure Signal programme.

 

The communities have until now suffered from unreliable mobile coverage and slow network speeds. With the installation of Vodafone’s innovative Sure Signal technology, the local communities will benefit from high quality 3G voice services, and much needed access to the internet via mobile devices, contributing positively to business and everyday life.

The names of the latest communities shortlisted to join the Rural Open Sure Signal 100 programme have been announced. The list includes communities from across the UK including Trevose (Cornwall), Benacre (Suffolk), Sandness (Shetlands) and Silchester (Hampshire). Vodafone will now start working with the Village Champions on a full assessment of the application made to take part in this community-led initiative, with the service expected to go live this year.

The Rural Open Sure Signal 100 programme is a national initiative by Vodafone UK to provide reliable mobile access to up to 100 rural communities in mobile not-spot locations. Launched in July 2014, with support from local MPs, councils and rural action groups, the programme has received an overwhelming response from around the country. Applications have come from island communities in rural Shetlands to rural communities in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, picturesque villages on the south west coastline as well as along the east coast in Norfolk.

Mobile connectivity plays a vital role in keeping communities in touch and helps support local economies. However, rural and remote locations often miss out on advantages provided by modern communication tools, due to the complexity of delivering network coverage. This can be because of the geography of the area or difficulties with planning permissions in places of outstanding natural beauty. The Rural Open Sure Signal programme uses innovative ‘femtocell’ technology to provide an alternative solution to bring mobile access in locations where it isn’t possible for networks to provide coverage through traditional means.

Isles MP Angus MacNeil, who supported this programme locally and urged local communities to apply said“This is certainly a welcomed initiative from Vodafone, which has the potential to improve mobile telephone coverage to 3G standard for many not-spots in rural and island areas.

“I am hopeful that in the next round of applications, other places in the islands will apply and be successful.

“I was pleased to attend Vodafone’s reception yesterday at Westminster, with Anne MacLellan from Lochboisdale.”

 

Jeroen Hoencamp, Vodafone UK Chief Executive, said: “I am delighted Balivanich, Lochboisdale, Lochmaddy and Tarbert have been shortlisted as four of our 100 ROSS communities and I’m excited about the transformation this pioneering programme could bring to these communities. The communities who have worked with us to introduce Open Sure Signal have all told us how life has improved markedly, from the ability to make an appointment at the local doctor to telling their families they are running late for lunch.  We are committed to investing hugely in our network and using innovative technologies such as Sure Signal to provide coverage to rural communities means we can reach areas where it’s been impossible to reach using traditional means.”

Vodafone’s Rural Open Sure Signal programme has now seen the connection of 13 rural communities across the UK. Communities connected so far have been enjoying social media using mobile internet whilst businesses, from GPs to pubs to a mussel farmer in the Shetlands, now have mobile signal to help make their businesses work better.

As well as using Rural Open Sure Signal to plug rural “not-spots”, Vodafone is spending more than £1 billion on its network and services across the country, including extending its 4G coverage to 395 cities and towns and thousands of smaller communities across the UK.

Posted in politics, telecoms, Western Isles | Tagged | 4 Comments

£3.58 million duty paid for flights to the islands – Macneil

£3.58 MILLION PAID IN AIR PASSENGER DUTY FOR FLIGHTS TO NA H-EILEANAN AN IAR

Recent calculations of the House of Commons Library show that between 2011 and 2013, passengers flying to the Western Isles paid £3.58m in Air Passenger Duty (APD).

Although flights from the Western Isles are not charged Air Passenger Duty, flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness to the Western Isles are subject to APD.

According to new House of Common’s Library figures requested by Angus MacNeil MP, the amounts paid in APD in respect of flights to Na h-Eileanan an Iar were £1.21 in 2011, £1.12m in 2012 and £1.25m in 2013, totalling £3.58m.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil said: “This is an astonishing figure from a London tax that punishes locals, the business community and visitors further. This figure should not be taken lightly, it represents at least £52 for every return flight for a family of four.

“This tax was designed to reduce congestion in London and South East of England airports. Instead APD punishes Scotland and its island communities by making our airports uncompetitive in their efforts to attract and consolidate new direct routes. This duty is restricting Scotland and our islands ability to realise the economic and business benefits which direct air connections bring.

“While other countries, such as Ireland, abolish air passenger taxes, the former Labour UK Government consolidated and increased APD and the current Tory-LibDem coalition made it highest air passenger tax in the world.

“Thanks to an extremely long campaign, the SNP has forced the UK Government to plan the devolution of this tax to Scotland. We are looking forward to gaining control over this tax and reduce it by 50% with the aim to abolish it completely as soon as we can.”

Posted in aviation, snp, transport, Western Isles | Tagged | Leave a comment

Morrison pushes Danny Alexander for better Aberdeen air link

Statement
MORRISON URGES DANNY ALEXANDER MP TO SUPPORT IMPROVED ABERDEEN AIR LINK
Morrison urges Alexander Alasdair Morrison has today written to Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to request his support in improving the vital Aberdeen to Stornoway Air Link.
Alasdair Morrison said: “I have today called on Danny Alexander MP to ensure that any approaches made to the Regional Connectivity Fund in relation to the Stornoway to Aberdeen air route be actively encouraged and favourably received by his department. The current service, while welcome, needs to be expanded to meet the needs of those who rely on this lifeline service which is central to the economic viability of the islands.”
 Text of correspondence from Alasdair Morrison to Danny Alexander MP
 Dear Danny,
During my terms as an MSP I worked closely with your colleague Nicol Stephen, who at that time was the MSP for Aberdeen South and Scottish Transport Minister, and his successor Tavish Scott MSP. Our collegiate approach to transport challenges in the Highlands and Islands saw the development of the Stornoway to Aberdeen route and the establishment of the Air Discount Scheme. I am sure that you and your department would look favourably on any application to your Regional Connectivity Fund to further develop the air link between Stornoway and Aberdeen.
I have written to Eastern Airways urging them to apply to your Fund, with a view to having two flights a day between Stornoway and Aberdeen. I am certain that if the pragmatic approach taken years ago to establish the route can be adopted again we can see a welcome improvement in a service of great economic and social importance.
 
Leis gach deagh dhùrachd,
Alasdair
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