Breakthrough in Gaelic-medium education with PGDE launch



Breathrough in Gaelic-medium education to be launched in Stornoway 

This Friday, Februray 27, marks what is being seen as a historic development of Gaelic-medium education by Lews Castle College UHI at Stornoway Town Hall.

The launch of the new Professional Graduate Dipoma in Education (PGDE) secondary Gaelic teaching course delivered by the college is said to mark “the building of the bridge between Gaelic-medium primary education and Gaelic university education,” said Callum Ian Macmillan, the business development director at Lews Castle College UHI.

The official launch of this “ground-breaking” teacher training course will be made at the start of the Lews Castle College UHI open day at Stornoway Town Hall at 10.30am by Scottish Government education minister Dr Alasdair Allan.

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UTBO – the curse that’s strangling island commerce and tourism


Feedback from Industry Meetings and Survey on Outer Hebrides Ferry Services

OH_Logo_Grass_RGB_150_pxThank you to everyone that came out to the OHT meetings in North and South Uist last week, and to those that also completed the online survey on the options for additional Stornoway-Ullapool services this summer. Apologies to businesses in Barra for having to cancel the meeting in Castlebay due to the weather – we will re-schedule for as soon as possible.


North and South Uist Ferry Services

From the information shared from the OHT research on availability, there are huge issues with ferry availability on all routes to the Uists.

  • Uig – Lochmaddy availability has become rapidly worse over that past 3 years, and
    Uig – Lochmaddy had 124 out of 361 sailings unavailable to book online (UTBO)
  • 70% (59% in 2013) of all sailings were during July & August.
  • 83% (58% in 2013) of all runs in July were UTBO and 56% (60% 2013) in Aug.
  • The main constraints for North Uist are found in July & August but there is a noticeable increase in pressure during all months especially June
  • 42 days between July 4th and Aug 16th had at least one sailing UTBO.
  • Peak sailings on a Saturday were UTBO 2-3 months in advance.
    Oban – Lochboisdale in peak season has the lowest frequency of service, and the worst availability
  • During the peak season the route can be UTBO for over 10 days in a row.
  • A lot of sailings are UTBO for 1-2 months in advance of departure.
  • 100% of sailings in July and fully UTBO (unable to book online)
  • 82% of sailings in August UTBO
  • Most constrained day for travel out of Lochboisdale is Friday, followed by Saturday.
  • The pilot service from Mallaig – Lochboisdale has been plagued with weather related cancellations, and has suffered from a major loss of public confidence in its reliability, meaning that the results from the pilot are unlikely to be meaningful.

Detailed notes from both meetings in the Uists will be posted online shortly, and we understand that the tourism and business community in South Uist is now planning to establish a local ferry user group to further gather information and data.

Additional Stornoway – Ullapool Services

The full feedback from the OHT survey on additional Ullapool – Stornoway services in summer 2015 has been provided to our stakeholders, and will be posted online shortly.

In summary, there was an overwhelming support for the option of additional services firstly on Saturday, and then Friday and Monday leaving Stornoway at 10.30am and returning at 2.30pm. In addition, the comments provided also gave a further insight into the impact of inadequate ferry services on tourism and other businesses in the Outer Hebrides. This view has been presented to the Stakeholder group, and it has been agreed to propose that additional sailings be on Friday and Saturday, timed as above, for a ten week period this summer.

Whilst there was undoubted support from the industry for 3 additional sailings per week, the stakeholder group was reluctant to push the request too far. Calmac will be producing a formal proposal based on this to Transport Scotland for Ministerial approval. We will keep issuing newsletters over the coming weeks, as we get more information to share with you.

As ever, thanks for your support

Executive Committee – Outer Hebrides Tourism

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New milestone for world-class St Kilda milestone

From Ionad Hiort

An invited audience from all over Scotland tomorrow (Thursday) will be at a key event progressing the St Kilda Centre – Ionad Hiort – in the Uig area of Lewis.

James Rebanks, the consultant appointed with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to advise on the next stages of the project, will present his interim conclusions on the project’s business case.


Mangersta                                 Credit: Elsie Mitchell

Mr Rebanks, from Cumbria, has an international reputation as the leading specialist in World Heritage tourism. St Kilda is the UK’s only double World Heritage Site and the Uig project is the official UNESCO case study on “remote access” to World Heritage Sites in general.

The presentation will take place in the council chamber of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in Stornoway followed by a site visit in Uig.

The initiative to create an Ionad Hiort/St Kilda Centre came from five organisations – HIE, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, National Trust for Scotland, Visit Scotland and the National Gaelic Arts Agency. In 2010, they formed an ad hoc group which invited communities to put forward proposals for the Centre.

The clifftop site at Mangersta was unanimously selected, though it has always been clear that other communities in the Western Isles will be involved. Since then, an enormous amount of work has been undertaken by the local community company that was established to define and advance the project.

However, Uig is a small and economically fragile community and it was always intended that, at the appropriate point in time, there would be re-engagement with the original sponsoring bodies, other potential funding sources and interested parties in order to bring the project to fruition.

James Rebanks has engaged widely with stakeholder bodies, the local community and many other interested and potentially interested parties. He has examined the economic feasibility of the project and the many associated issues involved in ensuring that it is a sustainable undertaking in every sense of the term.

Iain Buchanan, chairman of Ionad Hiort steering group, said: “The response to this event has been excellent. It confirms how much interest there is, at national and international levels as well as locally, in St Kilda, its unique history and heritage.

“This is an opportunity for our various partners to discuss this important study before it is concluded in March and will be a key milestone in the development of Ionad Hiort.”

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Job opportunity with Outer Hebrides Tourism


Job opportunity as Tourism Development Officer (Lewis/Harris) – 20 hours per week

Fixed Term contract: 1 April 2015 – 31 Dec 2016

Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT), in partnership with Tighean Innse Gall, has been awarded funds from the Coastal Communities Fund to deliver a major energy efficiency project for tourism related businesses in the Outer Hebrides.

This exciting project will reduce the running costs of tourism businesses, help us promote the Outer Hebrides as a destination that cares about the environment, and deliver additional visitors and spend in the local economy.

OHT is now recruiting for a part-time Tourism Development Officer to join our team to help us deliver this project.

Key aspects of the role include:

    • Promote the Energy Isles project to the Outer Hebrides Tourism Industry
    • Engage with tourism businesses on the benefits of the project, and sign up eligible businesses to participate in the project
    • Maintain records of businesses participating in the projects, and ensure participants agree with project conditions
    • Co-ordinate with existing OHT activities to promote the destination and participating businesses to consumers, principally through the Outer Hebrides destination website and social media
    • Ensure delivery of agreed project related data from participating businesses

The person specification includes:

  • Experience in or of tourism industry
  • Excellent interpersonal and relationship development skills
  • Confident and assured communicator, with strong presentation abilities
  • Appreciation of governance requirements for CIC’s and publicly funded projects
  • PC literate with excellent Internet and social media skills
  • Full driving licence and access to a car
  • The salary is £27,000pa, pro rata 2.5 days per week, with a flexible working arrangement based on an annualised hours basis.

If you are interested in working with us, and helping to further develop the Outer Hebrides as a visitor destination, please e-mail for a detailed job description and person specification.

Applications will close at 5pm on Friday 6th March, with interviews to take place by 18th March 2015.

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Racist anti-English attack on Facebook

So there has been a pretty vicious racist attack on Facebook against a youngster who recently moved here from England. What’s worse is that the person apparently responsible hacked a schoolgirl’s account to launch the attack. She has claimed no responsibility and has named the young man she says is responsible. fb_icon_325x325

It is obviously time for that idiot – who may or may not have the surname as myself – to come clean and start putting right the damage and hurt he has caused. He needs to make heartfelt apologies to a certain family pretty soon or he may find himself having to do so from the dock of a court.

Thank you to the people from Ness who helped me with these inquiries.

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SNP must address bed-blocking and fund Bethesda extension – Morrison

Statement by Alasdair Morrison, Labour Candidate 

Parliamentary candidate Alasdair Morrison has demanded that the Scottish health minister provides funds to Bethesda Care Home and Hospice to help address the bed-blocking issues at Western Isles Hospital.


Space available but no Scottish Government cash for step-down facility. Alasdair Morrison at Bethesda with members of the hospice and care home management.

Speaking following a meeting with DR Macdonald at Bethesda Care Home and Hospice, Alasdair Morrison said: “Despite the best efforts of our excellent NHS staff, they are working in demanding conditions where too many of their  patients are being kept in hospital when they should really be cared for in a step-down facility. I was shown today the facility that could house these much-needed beds for people who don’t need the level of medical care a hospital provides but need to be cared for in a facility that will see them through the period until they are fit enough to their own homes.”

He said the council and the health board were to be commended for allocating revenue money that would pay for the day-to-day running of the beds. Currently there is room in the upper part of Bethesda that could accommodate these much=needed beds, which in turn would immediately relieve the bed-blocking at the Western Isles Hospital.

“I was told during my visit to Bethesda that capital support of around £450,000 would allow for this facility to be furnished and allow Bethesda to care for people who are looking for a step-down facility which in turn will allow them to return to their own homes when they improve.”

Mr Morrison said that if the SNP was serious about tackling the challenge, the minister must address the matter immediately by providing capital funding.

“I have made repeated requests to both our MP and MSP to support me on a cross-party basis. Sadly, they have yet to respond to any of my invitations. I do hope they will start to put party before people and support this reasonable call to the health minister which will allow us to jointly address a problem that frustrates patients, NHS and council home care staff.”

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Lochboisdale to Mallaig route must be in tender

Statement by Alasdair Morrison, Labour Candidate

Parliamentary candidate Alasdair Morrison has written to the SNP urging them to support him in a cross-party initiative that would focus on improving ferry services to Uist and Barra. He has also demanded that the Lochboisdale – Mallaig route be an integral part of the tender document the Scottish Government is due to publish shortly.

See text of letter to Alasdair Allan MSP & Angus MacNeil MP below:

Dear Angus and Alasdair

Sadly, you have failed to reply to any of my reasonable requests to co-operate on a cross-party basis on issues of importance to the people and communities of our islands. Notwithstanding your baffling silence on these matters it is my intention to campaign positively and work with any like minded person, regardless of political affiliation.

Can I once again appeal to you to support our communities and insist that the Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry route be part of the tender document the Edinburgh Government is putting together? You will be conversant with the shambolic three year winter trial your Government imposed on South Uist. It simply isn’t working. However, we should now work together to rectify the situation.

Councillors, community councils and tourism organisations have all stated that they want to see a proper all year trial on this route. Can I ask you to publicly state that you will urge the Transport Minister Derek Mackay to put in place a meaningful trial and that he also puts the Lochboisdale – Mallaig route in the ferry tender document that will shortly be published.

I would also urge you to insist that the tender process be completed before the Scottish Parliament elections so that the people of theses islands can clearly see which parties and representatives are actually fighting to improve services.

I do hope that you will respond to this request.

Leis gach deagh dhùrachd,

Alasdair Morrison

Posted in ferries, Western Isles | 11 Comments

Reinstate local tug, urges Labour candidate

Statement from Alasdair Morrison, Labour candidate

Labour candidate Alastair Morrison has written to the Scottish Secretary urging the government to reinstate a tug boat in the Minch in order to safeguard our mariners and the marine environment, as well as fishing, aquaculture and tourism jobs which depend on it.

Alasdair Morrison said:  “The cargo ship which has run aground off Ardnamurchan serves as a warning of the dangers that threaten our fragile marine environment. Whilst we are pleased that at this point there has been no reported pollution, this would appear to be very fortunate.

“There was a significant delay after the ship grounding before the only available tug arrived in the area due to the distance it had to travel. We once had a tug, based in Stornoway, which allowed a more immediate response. That is the service which must be reinstated. Does there have to be a serious incident before the government listen to the people and accept we need a dedicated tug in the Minch waters?”

Posted in coastguard, community, maritime, politics, rescue, Western Isles | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Weather scuppers Barra tourism meeting

Tourism Industry Meeting Barra – Cancelled
Due to the cancellation of the ferry to Barra because of the adverse weather, we are sorry but we have had to cancel tonights meeting in Castlebay Hotel at 7.30pm.We will re-schedule the meeting in due course.

Executive Committee – Outer Hebrides Tourism

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Morrison demands ferry retendering be pulled forward

Statement by Alasdair Morrison, Labour Candidate

Labour candidate Alasdair Morrison is today highlighting the ‘cynical manipulation’ of the ferry retendering process by the SNP Government.

Alasdair Morrison said: “The Scottish Government underestimate the people of the Western Isles if they think we cannot see their cynical manipulation of the tender process. This process should be about protecting island ferry services, jobs and our communities. If this process is to have a modicum of integrity it must be truncated and the decision taken months before the Scottish Parliament elections.

“I am astounded that the Transport and Islands Minister, Derek Mackay, is postponing the decision until three weeks after the next Scottish Parliament elections. Our lifeline ferry services are too important to be manipulated for political gain and this must be about services and communities.”

Posted in ferries, Labour, Western Isles | Tagged | 6 Comments