Referendum results breakdown


WARD             Electorate         Yes           No    Turnout   Spoiled   Total       %
Barra, etc                2,045            1,106         592       1,698              1           1,699
Benbecula, etc        1,976               690          962       1,652                           1,652
Harris and SL         1,461               526          699       1,225             3            1,228
Uig and NL             1,952               739          935        1,674             2            1,676
Point                        1,539               618          733        1,351                           1,351
Stornoway S           2,379               858       1,060       1,918             3            1,921
Stornoway N          2,460            1,042       1,061       2,103             2            2,105
Broadbay                1,850                712         900        1,612             3            1,615
West Side, Ness      2,121                797       1,019       1,816             2            1,818
Postal votes            5,125             2,107       2,583      4,690             3            4,693

Totals                 22,908           9,195   10,544   19,739           19        19,758    86.20

Posted in politics, referendum, Western Isles | 11 Comments

Last orders for Shawbost pub won by community group in auction

Villagers used revenues from their wind turbine to bid in an auction for their local pub in Shawbost.

It has now emerged the group have won the pub and the West Side regulars are in shock – as the first thing they are going to do is shut it down.

The Inn Between – previously known for many years as Raebhat House – will be turned into offices and facilities for a series of thriving community projects.

Inn Between 555

Last orders – the Inn Between will soon be turned into offices and a minibus garage

The pub, which also does B&B with four letting rooms, had previously been on sale with a price tag of £180,000. However, with no buyers lined up, the owners put it up for auction recently just as Horshader Community Development realised they were getting so busy they needed offices to work from.

Although the pub is actually outside the Horshader area, which takes in South Shawbost, Dalbeg and Dalmore, it was close enough to consider so it was decided to put in a bid although it seemed unlikely that anything would come of it..

With rumours mounting that there had been a development, David Wright, the Horshader Community Wind Development Project chairman, said: “I can confirm that Horshader Community Development has bought the Inn Between. Raebhat House will be used for our offices and a community meeting space.”


We’ll be missing you.  But is there something also missing In Between the M and the O?

The community group currently works from the old Shawbost school building.

Mr Wright also confirmed the premises will no longer be licensed as a pub and restaurant. There are nearly 40 years since former World War II flying ace Bill Macleod extended the house called Raebhat into a restaurant.

One pub regular, who asked not to be named, said he was staggered when he heard the pub was being closed down. He said: “I don’t know what to say. It was a great meeting place for the area and it made sure we didn’t have to travel far for a pint. How am I going to talk to people now? Looks like I’m going to have to go on Facebook like everyone else round here.”

Horshader Community Wind Development Project is expecting to start a new community minibus in January so the new premises will also be used as parking and a garage for that.

“Regarding the remainder of the premises, we will be consulting with the community on how they want that space to be used,” said Mr Wright.

The Horshader group has proved to be one of the most go-ahead community groups in recent years. A charitable trust, it was set up in May 2005 and pulled off a £450,000 award from the lottery to get the turbine up and running and it began generating two years ago.

The group initially tried to set up three turbines but limited grid capacity meant they could only have one. However, that sole 900kW E-44 turbine is now raking in profits of about £100,000 a year which has sparked other developments like its community growing project.

That project got funding of £101,371 to erect six polytunnels that the community use to produce local fresh fruit and vegetables which will have lower carbon emissions as both the food and consumers travel less. It also involves composting of food waste, rainwater harvesting and the re-use of tools.

Posted in community, Lewis, renewables, Western Isles | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When you see an odd-looking CalMac ferry, just check which side the bubbles are on

Last week everyone was saying how fed up we were with the wrangling over the referendum but at least it would be over in a few days. Hmm, hasn’t happened like that. Many issues are bubbling under and I’ve never seen or heard so many people so animated and so prepared to state their position.

A political analytical psychologist – did he really tell his careers officer that’s what he wanted to be when he grew up? – says it won’t last. We are in what he calls “a post-close-vote bubble” and within six weeks we will all return to our usual nice, polite selves although our views may still be strongly-held.

American elections, apparently, have showed him that ordinary voters cannot keep up political fervour for longer than a month and a half without going a bit doolally. Professional politicians, of course, can keep it up for six decades, no bother. No, I didn’t say they were doolally. The transatlantic mindbender added: “If the Scots somehow manage to keep the momentum going longer than that, it would wreck my theory and burst my bubble.”

So many bubbles. They are everywhere. I don’t just mean these thin, usually spherical or hemispherical films of liquid filled with air, gas or children’s breath but the theory that prices can rise above their true value and continue to do so until prices go into freefall. Or that psychologist’s bubble which is his own theory or mindset that he is sticking with until it goes pop.

That’s a bit heavy, sorry. Yet the more you think about them, the more you realise how important bubbles are. They help keep our dishes and clothes clean. They help keep us clean too and is there anything more fun than taking half a dozen kids and giving them bottles of bubbles to blow?

Whole countries can shake as volcanoes spew out bubbles of boiling lava. Some of the biggest mammals in the world could not exist without bubbles to aereate the seas. Humpback whales herd krill for their dinner by releasing bubbles. I know certain humans who do something similar when they’re in the bath.

I could go on about the scientific properties and applications of bubbles but there is one situation in which their role is crucial. That situation is maritime transportation. Oh yes, on the high seas or even on a wee fishing loch, you have to watch for bubbles at all times. Even seeing a few in your boat, could spell disaster.

You should also watch for bubbles outside your vessel. On the big CalMac ferries we are all so used to spotting bubbles gurgling around the stern. That is a good indication that the propellors are turning and you are embarking on your voyage. And as the ferry sets off, there is a trail of bubbles left behind. That is called the wake, probably because it is a sign that the engines are working so you can then assume the crew are alert and not asleep.

However, CalMac has in its fleet a few ferries which have two sterns. Or two bows. Like the two-headed llama, called the Pushmi-pullyu, in Dr Doolittle, these ferries can sail in either direction. Forward or astern; the captain just turns his seat. Such vessels can travel back and fore between ports without ever having to turn round. The MV Loch Portain, which plies between Berneray in North Uist and Leverburgh in South Harris, is a particularly fine example of these ultimate roll-on roll-offs.

I mention this because Mrs X left here to go to Uist last Saturday. She checked the CalMac timetable so she would arrive early at the ferry terminal in Leverburgh. Sure enough, she was at the terminal and could see the ferry Loch Portain out in the Sound of Harris. Good, she thought, it is on the way in and there is no queue so she would have plenty time to nip down the road to Strond and take a few photos. Click, click, click and she drove back to the ferry terminal. Hey, something’s wrong. Uh, where’s the ferry? Someone couldn’t have just nicked a ferry, could they?  MV-Loch-Portain

My beloved then realised, after a call to her clever husband, of course, that she had been reading the summer timetable. When she had arrived in Leverburgh and had seen the push-me pull-you ferry coming in, it was actually going out. If she had looked a bit closer through the lens of that big camera of hers, she would have noticed that the bubbles were on her side – which meant it was sailing away. You see? It is all about the bubbles and which side they are on.

Although I am now so rushed by women wanting into the bathroom, there was a day, before I became entangled with Mrs X, you understand, that I liked nothing better than a long soak in the tub. Bubbles in the bath was the ultimate treat for me after a long day. She was the best neighbour’s daughter anyone could have.

Posted in ferries, Harris, politics, Western Isles | 2 Comments

The ongoing saga of the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre

Dear Editor

Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar took three weeks to reply to my previous letter (Aug 31) regarding the redevelopment of the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre. Before transcribing their reply word for word, I’d like to make it clear that my motivation for taking an interest in this subject was not to create doubt and uncertainty about the viability of this project (as some seem to think). It was to keep the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre initiative in the public eye.

This motivation was vindicated by the fact that only about 5% of the people whom I come into daily contact with outwith the Uig area were even aware there was a plan to redevelop the former Bhaltos school site. The only beneficiaries of such a chronic lack of publicity are those with a vested interest in allowing the project to quietly fade from view and the money saved by the Comhairle spent elsewhere, for example on the Lews Castle renovation development.  I’d also like to reassure any doubters that there are no practical problems than would occur in any other location to developing this much-admired panoramic site overlooking Cliff Bay that was once home to a popular outdoor centre which, unfortunately, was allowed to fall into disrepair.

The vast majority of the increasingly-impatient local population are also fully supportive of this long-awaited project which, hopefully, will bring activity and employment to an area sorely in need of both. As is the case in all communities, there are of course a small minority who are against any change to their familiar surroundings. Personally, I would extend my very best wishes to anyone, in whatever capacity, who wants to become involved in progressing this development.

The comhairle’s reply to the questions in my previous letter about the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre was as follows: “This is a community project led by Urras Ionad Bhaltos (UIB) in partnership with the comhairle. Following public procurement, discussions are ongoing regarding project costs and funding and a potential operating model. A report will be presented to the forthcoming comhairle committee series and the UIB group.”  A further piece of information was provided by Uig councillor Norman A Macdonald, who was quoted in this week’s West Highland Free Press, saying: “We are in the middle of a tendering process and should have more information next month.”

Though I’m happy to pass on those sparse snippets of news to anyone who is interested, it would be inappropriate of me to try and add anything in the way of explanation to either of these statements because I’ve been reprimanded by a high-ranking and well-known islander who criticised me for asking questions in public which according to him should be left to more competent and learned people than me to deal with in private. My annoyed critic also complained that it’s individuals like me who cause complications and delays by posing needless questions that distract the comhairle from its work.

This reprimand to your letter writer doesn’t go any way to explain why it’s taken near on 10 years, without any interference from me, to reach this stage in the redevelopment plan for the Bhaltos Outdoor Centre, in which both the comhairle and my critic have been involved from the beginning.

Yours sincerely

Iain M Macdonald

Posted in community, Lewis | Leave a comment

Mystery of disappearing silver Audis on September 11

A very odd report on the Gazette website, in the usual dry, vague language that every journalism lecturer in the world warns will turn readers off, about a silver Audi having been nicked from the Barvas Moor area late on September 11.

From the Barvas Moor area? From around the Barvas Moor area. Really? Yup. The Gazette report says:

“Police are appealing for information regarding a the theft of a vehicle that occurred on the evening of September 11th. A silver Audi was taken from around the Barvas Moor area, Isle of Lewis. Anyone with information is urged to contact police by calling the station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

This, of course, will have nothing to do with another silver Audi nicked from the back of the Royal Hotel at around the same time and found crashed on, yes, you guessed it, the Barvas Moor.  Oh look, here’s a wee pic of that one:


Posted in crime, police, Stornoway | Leave a comment

Judy Murray in the islands

Yes, Charlie. It really was Judy Murray you saw last week.

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Six very confused people voted for both answers on ballot paper

The Counting Officer for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has announced the total votes cast for each answer in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

  • A total of 9195 votes were cast for Yes and a total of 10544 votes were cast for No.
  • A total of 19 votes were rejected for a number of reasons, including: 6 voted in favour of both answers; and 13 were unmarked or void for uncertainty.
  • The turnout for the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar area was 86.2%.
Posted in indyref, politics, Western Isles | 1 Comment

Fog in Western Isles threatens to disrupt referendum result

Press and Journal

Heavy fog in the Western Isles threatens to disrupt tonight’s referendum result.

The Western Isles was in the running to be the first of 32 regions in Scotland to declare the local result, looking at a 1.30am announcement. But the blanket of haar lying over the islands has put well-organised plans to use a chartered plane to fly ballot boxes from Uist and Barra to the count centre in Stornoway at risk.

Returning officer Malcolm Burr is consulting with weather and aviation experts. Ferries and boats will be put on stand-by today as it would too hazardous for aircraft to fly in such poor visibility.

All scheduled flights to Stornoway are delayed indefinitely this morning. Planes from Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh cannot get in or out of Stornoway airport.

A spokesman for Mr Burr said: “We just have to wait and see. We have contingency plans in place which includes using a fishing boat to take the ballot boxes across the Sound of Harris.”

Posted in indyref | 1 Comment

Niece of SNP former leader Donald Stewart tweets

Interesting tweet from Shona Angus.

Posted in indyref, politics, Scottish, snp | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Point Power gets the green light

What is claimed will be Britain’s largest 100% community-owned wind farm being developed by Point and Sandwick Development Trust now has funding in place to make it a reality.


The 9 megawatt wind farm is now being built and it should be in proper production by February next year. It will generate enough energy for over 6,000 homes and its gross turnover is estimated at about £3 million a year. Over the next 25 years the expected profit is estimated to be £50 million net.

The total funding package for the scheme, currently being built at Beinn Ghrideag near Stornoway, is £14.6 million and 90% of that is funded by borrowing at commercial rates. The funders are:

Santander Bank –                          £10.4m loan
Scottish Enterprise REIF fund – £2.2m loan
Social Investment Scotland –      £600,000 loan
The Big Lottery –                          £900,000 grant
Social Investment Scotland –      £500,000 grant

Point and Sandwick development manager Calum MacDonald, the former Labour MP, said: “This is a breakthrough project for community energy both in terms of its size and its financing structure. It will transform the prospects of some of the remotest and most marginal communities in Britain.
“We are very grateful for the fantastic support we have received from our technical and legal advisors, SgurrEnergy and HBJ Gateley, and from our key funding partners, Santander Bank, Scottish Enterprise REIF fund, Social Investment Scotland and the Big Lottery. We are also grateful for the early seed funding and vital support we received from Community Energy Scotland.”

Mr Macdonald hoped their success will encourage other communities in Britain to think big. He said that with the right support from Government and from the private sector, there was no limit to what can be achieved by community enterprises in the renewables sector.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments