Doctors accept timeline of what happens when you quit smoking

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Gap opening up again in local fuel prices


It’s back to Back then

For the last while, the Stornoway area fuel prices came down and for a while were cheaper than some mainland outlets. Yippee. Now some local ones are creeping up again.

Despite the claimed freedom of all retailers to go to whichever distributor they wish for their fuel, there is again a marked difference in prices if you take the time to shop around. Certain outlets seem to be always at the high end of the scale while others are on the low end.

A Stornoway businessman said today he had spoken to several pump bosses in the last while. He said: “They are just glad the focus is off them. They get badly hit when people like you show what they are actually charging. One of them has been taking just three foreign holidays instead of the usual four.”

So, just for fun and to save us all a few bob, let’s see how the prices stack up this week:


130.9p Gordon Diesel,
Back Shop and Station, Back
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

133.9p Engebret – (now shown as Highland Fuels)
Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SL
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

135.9p Campbells Service Station
Cannery Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Gulf brand, last updated on 23 July

135.9p  Manor Service Station
Bayhead, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July



131.9p Gordon Diesel,
Back Shop and Station, Back
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

135.9p Engebret (shown as Highland Fuels)
Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SL
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

135.9p Campbells Service Station
Cannery Road, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Gulf brand, last updated on 23 July

137.9p  Manor Service Station
Bayhead, Stornoway, Isle Of Lewis, HS1 2SE
Unbranded, last updated on 23 July

With diesel now 6p lower at Back than a Stornoway outlet, some motorists in diesel vehicles would save money by travelling to Back rather than using their local town pump.

Posted in fuel, prices | Tagged , | 1 Comment

About 3,000 islanders without broadband

About 3,000 Western Isles customers are without broadband since Tuesday after a fault at the Gairloch exchange.  Engineers are on the case. For the unaffected customers, speeds have never been faster.

How has the outage affected you? Drop me a note to internet @

PS – Some people seem to think their phone service is also affected. Not sure how widespread that is. No confirmation of that from BT.

Posted in Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Ethos of ‘blame’ in serious case reviews

Serious case reviews are supposed to be how authorities learn lessons. But do they?  A government report suggests some simply do not because they can’t stop blaming others.

Ethos of ‘blame’ in serious case reviews acts as a barrier to learning, report finds

Government report calls for a re-think on how serious case reviews are conducted, and more training to embed learning and practice

Credit: Image Source/Rex Features

Credit: Image Source/Rex Features

Inaccessible language, an ethos of ‘blame’ and a lack of local attention are all hampering social work learning from serious case reviews, a government report has found.

The report, commissioned by the Department for Education and carried out by Kingston University, examined the roadblocks that social workers face when trying to learn from serious case reviews (SCRs).

It recommended that SCR models should “reset the process to promote learning rather than blame” and have more focus on reflection and analysis, rather than primarily description and judgments based on hindsight.

Researchers found policy and procedure development and implementation is “not proportionate or sensitive to the scale, locality and context of the case” when analysing SCRs, while this is exacerbated by the selectivity of media coverage.

Similarly, it found rapid policy change in the wake of SCRs impacts significantly on frontline staff and creates confusion.

“Recently serious case reviews seem to have become more of a process of allocating accountability and blame,” said Professor Ray Jones, who worked on the report.

“What the government needs to do is make the process more practical and less onerous.”

The level of regular and appropriate training across disciplines is insufficient, the report also found, while frontline staff have limited involvement in the generation of learning, and ensuring its relevance and applicability.

Communication systems were also criticised for being ineffectual in ensuring learning informs practitioners across disciplines.

The findings were informed by social care professionals across England with “considerable consistency of views across all four geographical areas of England”, the report stated.

There was also agreement about the barriers from frontline practitioners and managers, senior and strategic managers and across all agencies working in safeguarding.

The report also called for a continuing programme of training to embed learning and practice change, and for changes in policy to be discussed and tested with frontline practitioners.

The findings are, “[in the rest of the UK] a job for the new education secretary [Nicky Morgan MP] if serious case reviews are going to have a positive rather than a negative impact”, Jones said.

10 recommendations

The report recommended key changes to the SCR process.

1: To review the appropriateness of SCRs as a process for embedding learning across disciplines.

2: To develop an ongoing and accessible database of national and regional learning – to identify emerging key themes.

3: Design and develop evidence-based learning ‘tools’, applicable nationally, to facilitate collective, targeted and tiered learning.

4: Develop national database for all practitioners to access SCR executive summaries with on-going key themes identified.

5: Ensure clear guidelines to enable confidence across disciplines in information sharing, thresholds, recording systems and measuring impact.

6: Develop a CPD programme for all practitioners to enable deeper learning to overcome obstacles to good practice.

7: Cross-disciplinary course development from initial training for all practitioners in the future.

8: Develop national learning and auditing tools that can be used to increase local awareness of key themes from SCRs.

9: Capture, within local and national reporting, the recording of how learning and practice changes from SCRs are taken forward.

10: Integrate, within existing and planned inspection processes, the assessment of the impact of the key themes identified by SCRs.

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Son welcomes back the Rockall record-breaker

Rockall record-breaker Nick Hancock returned to the Western Isles yesterday (SUN) after 45 days on the rocky outcrop and was immediately hailed a hero – by his son Freddie.


A couple of days after starting as a crewman with Kilda Cruises, David Campbell, 21, (right) from Leverburgh found himself with Nick Hancock on the steep rock 250 miles out in the Atlantic.

The tot, aged two, was waiting at the pier at Leverburgh in the south of the Isle of Harris with his mum Pamela when his adventurer dad arrived on a cruise boat after his stay which has put him in the record books and raised thousands for forces charity Help For Heroes.

Initially, a bit put out that he had to wait so long to spot his dad, the wee boy was ecstatic to see him at last as the boat neared. As Nick stepped ashore, the wee boy ran to him to welcome him back.

My dad rocks

An emotional Nick said: “You have grown since I left. You’re speaking so much better and I love you.”

Freddie and his mum surprised Nick with a special “Welcome home, Daddy” banner draped over the side of their car. But the wee lad seemed unimpressed by his dad’s new thicker beard and demanded to know what he saw on the rock.

Mum Pamela also had an emotional reunion with husband Nick and said: “Although I did not try and stop Nick having this adventure we have really missed him. It is wonderful to have him back. Freddie is really excited.”

Luckily, conditions were calm on Saturday morning when the cruise boat Orca III arrived at Rockall to pick up Nick. The operation to get him, his Rockpod and his many items of gear went smoothly.

Nick said: “I survived a horrendous storm on July 1st and I lost several barrels of supplies. It would have been very difficult if not impossible to continue to 60 days as I originally hoped.”

Several of the crew from the Kilda Cruises boat as well as STV cameraman Michael Skelly and former rescue helicopter winchman Chris Murray also managed to get onto Rockall and now have a tale to tell their grandchildren.

So too did the boat skipper, Captain Angus Smith of Stornoway.  A veteran of yachting and cruising, Capt Smith said: “That was my sixth visit to Rockall and I finally got on. It was very special.”

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Boeing 777 in sky-high drama near Barra rekindles atrocity fears

A twin-engined Boeing 777 airliner bound for the United States declared an emergency when one of its engines failed south of the Western Isles at the weekend.


After initially continuing on one engine, the Boeing 777 then turned round.   Flightradar24

The Boeing 777 cargo plane, using the callsign Box412 and operated by German carrier AeroLogic, was forced to turn around and scuttle back to Leipzig International Airport after one of its two engines spluttered to a halt just south of Barra on Saturday night.

In the light of the recent atrocity over the Ukraine when exactly the same type of aircraft was brought down by a missile, there was a worldwide response from various civil and military agencies when the captain transmitted the electronic code, or squawk, declaring his aircraft near the Hebrides was in imminent danger.  As it involved a 777, the incident sparked immense interest.

En-route from Frankfurt Airport bound for Chicago’s O’Hare International, it was carrying freight which has not been specified but is thought to be postal and freight items.

An air traffic control source said: “Nobody could understand why an aircraft that had declared a full emergency continued for so long on the same course. That sparked a lot of speculation and I have no doubt that staff on duty would have quickly alerted the American authorities of a potentially serious threat heading their way. Thankfully, it was not serious as these planes can continue on one engine but would not be allowed to cross that much water without the two functioning.”

Enthusiasts and aviation security experts around the world watched the drama unfold until the plane, which was at 31,000 feet, eventually turned round west of Barra and requested clearance from air traffic control at Prestwick to fly directly back to Germany.

Although AeroLogic did not respond to enquiries, local reports in Germany say the aircraft later landed without further incident at Leipzig where AeroLogic, a joint venture of Deutsche Post (DHL) and the airline Lufthansa, has a base.

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When will the ambitious plans for a woman astronaut from Harris get off the ground?

What a week it’s been for women – and it’s only Wednesday. It has finally happened. The established mother of all churches, the Church of England, is finally on the way to get women bishops. Celebrations are well under way throughout the land as a new age of equality and understanding has dawned. As one exuberant lady from the Home Counties said so cutely after the vote, ‘God is smiling sweetly upon her people’.

Yippee. Small sherries all round. More tea, vicar?


How the Caw could look

The air of celebration and generosity of spirit sweeping the nation does not seem to have reached the Hebrides quite yet. There was a bit of a party going on next door on Monday night but I think that had more to do with the news that Prime Minister David Cameron had given Ken Clarke the boot. Nice one, Dave.

That reshuffle is a turn-up for the books. All those crotchety old Tories put out to grass to make way for thrusting, young women to take charge with handbags full of new, fresh ideas. We will have a whole new breed of hard-working women like, er, Maggie Thatcher or, er, well, you know, Theresa May. Heck, is this really such a good idea, prime minister? Anyone got wee Willie Hague’s number? He was alright. Call him back. He can stay. Don’t call Ken Clarke though.

There has been a surprisingly muted reaction on Lewis to the shock news that Stornoway could become a spaceport – a sort of ferry terminal of the skies for space tourists. I suppose with space tourism companies going to charge about £58,000 a head for a hurl, it won’t make that much of a difference if Flybe charges a few hundred more to get here from Heathrow.

By the time you read this it may have been announced whether places with long airport runways like Campbeltown, Kinloss, Lossiemouth, Prestwick or even Stornoway will be chosen. My money is on Stornoway or Campbeltown because I know they both have very long strips of tarmac.

In my RAF air traffic control days, I spent three weeks on exercise on the Mull of Kintyre. Yes, I saw Paul and Linda McCartney there though I didn’t actually meet them. They were too busy gesticulating across to us that we were on private property and to get lost.

Each day I had to patrol that endless tarmac at RAF Machrihanish, also known as Campbeltown Airport, making a visual inspection to make sure it was clear of stones, nuts and bolts that fall off planes and birds. We would chase off any wildlife too.

That runway just went on and on and on and on. You get the idea. It was a long runway. At something like 10,000 feet, it was the longest in Scotland. Having a Land Rover helped a bit. Stornoway has a mere 7,500 feet of the black stuff but you could easily get a shuttle up from that.

Although no one in Stornoway itself is excited, news of the spaceport possibly coming to the islands has got our neighbours quite ecstatic down on the Isle of Harris. So excited were they, in fact, that Harris Development has already begun looking to using the facility to put their own astronaut up there on the space station or even beyond. And, in keeping with the new world order, she may not be male.

I can see it now. Two astronauts from Harris in a spaceship circling high above the earth. One goes on a space walk while the other stays inside. When the space walker has finished she tries to get back in and finds the cabin door locked. So she knocks. No answer. She knocks again but louder. Finally, she hears a voice from inside the spaceship saying: “Who is it?”

At their meeting earlier this week to decide on their space strategy, I am told that a man from Stockinish spoke up strongly in favour of the plan saying there were dames with talent and expertise between Bowglass and Borrisdale. That should ensure one of them made took the controls with Richard Branson, whose aerospace company is already looking to test and train would-be astronauts. There has to be at least one Hearach lady who would make the grade for Virgin.

Mr Stockinish said he did not want to send a Hearach woman to the International Space Station. Many men have been there. He did not want to send a Hearach woman to the moon. That too had already been done. He said: “There’s something that has not been done. I think we should send a Hearach woman to the sun.”

Technical types with engineering experience gained with Caledonian MacBrayne, who have been drafted in to advise the bosses of Harris Development (Space Division) Ltd, were horrified. One said: “No way, a’ mhate. If you send a woman to the sun, she’ll burn up.”

The Stockinish man shook his head and said: “Ah well, do you really think I am that stupid? I’ve already thought of that. We’ll send her up at night.”

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Bubbly on Rockall as occupation records fall

With more than 40 days on Rockall under his belt, Nick Hancock has now broken the current solo occupation record set in 1985.


Nick marks the solo record by popping a cork

Today (Thursday) he is also set to break the 42-day overall occupation record, set by three members of Greenpeace in 1997, because Nick will have been on the rock for 43 days.

He celebrated achieving the solo record by popping a small bottle of champagne while also sending a tweet with a message to veteran adventurer Tom McClean, of Morar in the west Highlands.

Tom has held the solo occupation record for 29 years and Nick’s message was simply: “Sorry Tom.”

Mr McClean’s wife Jill has since sent a message saying: “Tom is busy at present planning his ventures and has asked me to say ‘well done’ to Nick and to tell him to keep up the good work!”

A horrendous storm on July 1 resulted in Nick losing four barrels of supplies which he had hoped would help him reach 60 days on the rock. However, with the two current records in the bag, Nick is now ready to return.

Boat operator Kilda Cruises say expected favourable weather conditions at the weekend mean they now plan to be at Rockall to take Nick off on Saturday.


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Revealed – why council buses are not filling up at Gordon Diesel

An island filling station owner has suggested he will never get the contract for supplying council vehicles because of Western Isles Council’s lack of transparency.


Gordon Diesel is now 4p a litre cheaper than town pumps but council vehicles cannot fill up.

Gordon Maclennan confirmed he had not won the contract and, even though their vans and buses pass his pumps every day, he thinks it unlikely he will ever get much business from the comhairle.

Mr Maclennan is confident he is the cheapest retailer and his current 132.9p per litre for petrol and diesel at his outlet at Back, six miles from Stornoway, compares favourably with other filling stations in Stornoway itself which are selling diesel and petrol this week at 136.9p a litre – 4p more for each litre than he charges.

It has now emerged that Campbell’s Services, which is owned by council leader Angus Campbell, won the council vehicles fuel contract which the procurement section of the authority claims was the best price – even though it is not the cheapest for the public.

That prompted Mr Maclennan to say: “Mr Campbell is, of course, entitled to undercut us. This is what the free market is all about, indeed our transparent pricing policy at Back makes it very easy to undercut us. One just begs the question why the same low price is not available from him to all the other residents on the island.
“So I guess despite our best efforts we are never going to get one of these shiny new council buses to stop at our pumps despite the fact they pass within two metres of it.”

Western Isles Council insisted it always tries to get the best price for fuel supplies and it said weekly pricing had confirmed that Campbell’s Service Station in Stornoway was currently offering the best price. It failed to explain whether the council was getting special discounts not available to the motoring public in the islands.

It added that several suppliers will be on the approved list – known as a framework – and it is known that its drivers are told which filling stations they are to use.

In its statement, the council added: “The contract is a framework agreement and the comhairle uses multiple outlets and suppliers to ensure best value and service coverage. Suppliers on the framework are not ranked but the comhairle determines which outlets to use based on best value, taking into consideration predominately price, but also operational and logistical requirements. The comhairle undertakes weekly price checks to facilitate individual and departmental users’ selection of the appropriate supplier.”

It confirmed there were seven fuel suppliers on the framework namely: Ardhasaig Filling Station in Harris, Campbell’s Service Station in Stornoway, Creagorry Motors in Uist, Engebret Ltd in Stornoway, Gordon Diesel in Back, Lochs Services Limited at Leurbost (also owned by the council leader) and Manor Filling Station, also in Stornoway.

Council leader Mr Campbell said his business, like all businesses across the islands, have to tender for supplies to the council through the framework and he suggested he did offer various discounts to big customers which ordinary island motorists could not get.

He added: “Any customer who buys in large quantities is entitled to a discount dependent on volume and guarantee of payment terms. It is up for any retailer to offer incentives to their customers.
“We do this through loyalty points to all customers who pay cash on the day, through our small business rebate scheme or indeed through money-off offers in other goods such as car wash discounts.
“Every business has to make a commercial decision as to what is best for their business, the staff they employ and their customers. We would not comment publicly about how other business operate but we are happy to stand by the principles of how we do ours.”

The council said a request for a copy of the tender prices used to choose a supplier would be dealt with under Freedom of Information rules.

There was a furious response on social media to news that council drivers are not allowed to use the Mr Maclennan’s independent filling station at Back which has in the last few years led the way in standing up to fuel distributors who have been forced to relax the conditions of their contracts which now allow island retailers freedom to choose any supplier

Many claimed it was an indication of corruption and others said they thought it was a conflict of interest for Mr Campbell to be both leader of the council and a fuel supplier to it. They said he must decide whether he is to be one or the other.

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Should the cops in the north carry guns or just wear the Team Scotland uniform?

It’s the same everywhere you go. Cutbacks in public services are having a bad effect everywhere you look. We keep being told that the economy is picking up and the country is now doing a lot better than it was but money is still tight. While many industries are paying people less, the way the pubic services tackle it is by getting their staff to do more.

I’ll tell you how bad it is. It’s hitting the police service. A tourist came up to a man in uniform in Inverness city centre the other day and asked him: “Are you a policeman?” He replied: “No, I am in CID. I’m actually a detective.” A bit puzzled, the woman then asked: “So why are you in uniform?” The policeman replied: “Because today is my day off.”

A uniform says so much about the person. It says that they are a responsible person who can be relied on at all times to help with one problem or another and that are proud to be identified as a person who can do all that. It doesn’t have to be silver buttons or peaked caps either. Is there anything as smart or glorious as a collection of people all wearing exactly the same colour and material?

Unless they are Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games. It is impossible to fathom whether the new rig-out they will have on in the big parade is the height of fashion or something my dear granny would have turned up her nose at. Have you seen that clobber? The models, with their oversized shawls and ill-fitting kilts, all looked like they had decided to slip into a pair of curtains from a closing down sale.

The last time I saw curtains like that they hung in a Stornoway hotel when I was there at a wedding reception. Garish maybe, but very soft and warm curtains they were too. I found that out after I had been sick in the flower pots outside and needed to have a quick wipe of my gob before rushing back in for the last waltz with a dame from Plasterfield. The band played Move Closer. She did. She’s still close 18 years later. By the way, happy anniversary, Mrs X.

Some accessories can clash a bit when you wear them. Like, for example, guns. Most Inverness councillors think the weapons dangling from some of our more dashing policemen is out of place in the low-crime, tourist-focussed, very photogenic Highlands and Islands.

They could be right. Are we not all worried our famous cuff-round-the-ear and occasional boot-up-the-bum (in the 1970s, I hasten to add) style of policing could turn the charming officers that now pad around the streets of Stornoway into something akin to the swaggering, gun-toting patrolmen on the streets of San Francisco. Next thing, they’ll be getting them to shave their heads and issuing them with lollipops.

It’s a worry. Some of the cops and ex-cops I have spoken to are not too thrilled either. Mrs X, however, is all for it. Ladies of a certain age often seem to have a thing for men in uniform and now they have a reason to look them up and down and claim the bulge they are looking for is merely caused by steel and leather.

What with all the cutbacks being brought in up and down the country, you would think the last thing they would be splashing out on would be shiny new weapons. The big problem of course, is that Cops Scotland were very coy about their plans. They told no one about their intentions – especially these nosey parker councillors who want to stick their big noses into everything.

It’s all a question of priorities, of course. I have no idea if the story is true or not but I did hear a story about one lady who getting ready for bed at her home near Inverness recently. Out of the corner of her eye she saw two shadowy figures letting themselves into her shed out in the garden. Ah-ha, if the cops came round quickly, they would catch the thieves in the act.

She quickly phoned 101 and, after being told who she was calling, as if she didn’t know, and how to call any other force in the UK, she eventually got through and was told that no squad car could get to her house for at least an hour. Appalled, she hung up. Five minutes later she rang back to say: “Don’t bother coming round in a hurry. It’s all over. I’ve shot them both.”

Within 60 seconds, there were four squad cars and a fully-armed response unit outside her gate and they caught the burglars red-handed. It was all over in a flash. As the two idiotic intruders were being led out, the inspector said to the woman: “I thought you said you’d shot them.” She smiled sweetly and replied: “And I thought you said there were no police in the area.”

Posted in P&J column, police | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments