Stornoway now has “a rogue port”

With various political types whizzing around the town today hearing first-hand from local people how they have been treated by officials at Stornoway Port Authority, an interesting point has come to light.

Under the rules laid down by Transport Scotland, all trust ports must hold an annual open board meeting which must be widely advertised in the media.  They must give at least 20 working days notice so the deadline has passed for one to be held by SPA in 2014.

Whether SPA will still be what is being referred to as “a rogue port”, disregarding the rules and refusing to answer questions openly and truthfully, in what is supposed to be their glitzy anniversary year in 2015 remains to be seen.

Posted in authority, port, Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Big Debate from Stornoway

I was on the panel of The Big Debate from An Lanntair art gallery in Stornoway today. So here is the iPlayer link for everyone who has asked.

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CalMac may rip up its temporary Stornoway to Ullapool timetable

Ferry company CalMac and Western Isles Council have agreed to a review of alternative arrangements for the six-week period of works on the linkspan at  Ullapool Harbour.

It was agreed at a meeting today that CalMac would bring back their findings on a number of alternatives.

Concerns have been raised by the council and other stakeholders over the lack of consultation and the proposed alternative arrangements during the six-week period.

Councillor John Mackay, the council’s chairman of transportation and infrastructure, said: “This was a very encouraging meeting which all agreed should have taken place earlier. However, CalMac were made very aware of the concerns amongst the local community and have agreed that alternatives should be fully explored.

“They will come back to the comhairle with options within the next week or so and I am optimistic that we can find better options than that currently on the table in terms of minimising disruption to services and the travelling public.”

The council said that CalMac has agreed that in the interests of all parties, but most importantly the local community, there should be better communication between the company and stakeholders in the Western Isles.

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Letter – Does the Harris congregation want to kill gay people?


A minister called Rev J Colin Caskie has been writing on Hebrides News claiming to speak on behalf of the Church of Scotland congregation in Tarbert, Harris.

He wrote: “For the avoidance of doubt this is a congregation which upholds all the doctrines of historic biblical Christianity and does not agree with recent moves by the General Assembly to change attitudes to human sexuality.”

Does the Tarbert congregation uphold the biblical doctrine in Leviticus 20:13? It says: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

Either Rev Caskie, and everyone in the congregation at Tarbert, believe that my partner and I should be murdered or they do not actually uphold the biblical doctrine. Which is it?

I am thinking of calling the police.


D M Macleod
(Full address withheld)

Posted in churchman, Harris, religion, Western Isles | 3 Comments

Leasan sa Bhas – a scary factual tale of drugs, death and demons on Scarp

This amazing programme was on BBC Alba late last night (Wed) and I thought I’d watch it as I’d missed it each time it was on before.  I was scared witless. Who would have thought of goings-on like that on a wee island off Harris?  Did she poison him with her own drugs to stop him killing her?

It was very well done and told a true story extremely well with very knowledgeable contributors.

Pour yourself a large tea, coffee or whatever and settle back because it lasts an hour. It is subtitled and will be on this iPlayer link for another six days.

Posted in crime, Gaelic, police, TV | Leave a comment

Comhairle ponders how it could take over Stornoway Port Authority

Hebrides News has reported that some in the comhairle want to look at taking over Stornoway Port Authority as concern rises in the community that it is not fit for purpose.

Meanwhile, a councillor told me today: “It is a serious situation. It is obvious the organisation is not functioning properly when it would rather spend its money on lawyers gagging commentators like yourself than focussing on following the official guidelines. Amity House is a mess and the continuing cover-up is now bringing shame on the town. Many of us are very grateful that you published that report on the Pathfinder because now things are falling into place about what has really been going on and who was trying to benefit.

“The members of that board will all have to account to the people of Stornoway why they approved the purchase of that vessel.  There are certain characters in Amity House who we can all expect to blame you for some of their problems but you must keep up the good work. Without your reporting we would not know half as much as we do now.”

Here is the story from Hebrides News:

Councillor Donald Crichton has called for the Comhairle to take over the Stornoway Port Authority.  Mr Crichton said the move would make the harbour more “democratic and accountable.”

He raised the “breakdown in governance at the Stornoway Port Authority” at council’s transport committee. Mr Crichton is concerned the “problems” at such an “important strategic organisation may have “implications” for the infrastructure improvements taking place.

He queried: “If the paralysis continues when would the local authority be able to make a move or express our concerns?” Council chief executive Malcolm Burr declined to comment on that in public. Mr Burr highlighted the right for the Comhairle to nominate councillors onto the harbour board has been abolished under the new trust port system.

Council chief executive Malcolm Burr said the old method gave a link to having elected members of the community a say in the running of the port.

Posted in authority, port, Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged | 3 Comments

Updated – SPA sets the lawyers onto me

This afternoon I received a threat of legal action from a hugely-expensive firm of solicitors called Brodies who claim to be acting for Stornoway Port Authority.

They have demanded that I immediately take down my blog post with the survey of the Pathfinder vessel which the authority controversially bought and which then promptly sank.  How I got my hands on that report is “being investigated”.

I am awaiting my own legal advice on how to respond to the SPA’s latest tactics. Meanwhile, I have removed the document concerned from the blog.

PS – Just to clear up a rumour being put around by someone who really ought to grow up, there is no suggestion that the report I published was a fake.  The grounds of complaint in Brodies’ letter are: “The publication of this report has the potential, amongst other things, to affect the Authority’s relationship with its insurer and to prejudice the administration of its ongoing claim in respect of the Pathfinder.”

Oh, and both lawyers I have spoken to about this have described these grounds as “rubbish” which are merely “designed to muddy the waters”.  How very apt. An allegedly respectable firm like Brodies spouting rubbish? Surely not?

Posted in authority, port, Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged | 15 Comments

Please save Isles FM, urge Highlands and Islands MSPs


Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, have called on the good folks of the Western Isles to get behind their community radio station, Isles FM.  The community radio station, which is 100% run by volunteers, needs to raise £6,000 before Friday for a licence to stay on air.  The station, which has been serving the community for 20 years, had to let Ofcom know by today (Wednesday) if it was able to apply for a new licence.  The deadline has now been extended to Friday and the station still has £2,000 to secure between now and then to safeguard its future.


Mrs Grant, who will be in Stornoway later this week, said “I know the station’s volunteers have been working hard to raise the money they need for the licence and have been supported well by local businesses, individual listeners and local musicians and I would encourage everyone to dig deep to keep this station going.  It is such a valuable community asset and would be a huge blow to the islands’ communities if it was unable to continue.”

Mrs Grant’s colleague, David Stewart, said “Community radio stations are vital not just for pleasure for the masses but they offer company for many elderly people or people living alone and are a huge help to the communities they serve in keeping everyone updated with school closures, road closures, community events and the like.  I really hope the community rallies behind the dedicated volunteers at Isles FM and saves the day.”

Posted in Appeal, Media, Western Isles | Leave a comment

Results of Stornoway to Aberdeen air service study

The results of a study into the potential demand for an enhanced Stornoway to Aberdeen air service have been published.

Residents, businesses and visitors who travel between Lewis/ Harris and the Aberdeen area were encouraged to take part in an independent online survey on journey needs, and almost 400 responses were received.

Launched in June, it is part of a study commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in response to requests from groups in Lewis and Harris for an enhanced air service between Stornoway and Aberdeen. The study, undertaken by consultants ekosgen, in partnership with Reference Economics and RDC Aviation, was based on the survey findings in addition to Civil Aviation Authority data.

Eastern_Airways_G-MAJAThe final report indicates there is significant demand for an improved air service between the two regions, demanding both a morning and evening flight, rather than the existing one early afternoon flight. Most demand comes from residents of Lewis and Harris who work outside the islands. In addition to offshore workers, this includes people employed onshore in the oil and gas sector in the Aberdeen area and those in shipping and other sectors.

Tony Jarvis, HIE’s Senior Development Manager for Transport, said: “We would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views through completing this survey.

The report has been shared with Eastern Airways, the operator of the Aberdeen to Stornoway route, and discussions are continuing with them regarding the future of the service.”

Kay Ryan, Eastern Airways’ Commercial Director, said: “We welcome the feedback from the Outer Hebrides survey and continue to evaluate an enhancement to the route in line with aircraft availability and forecasted passenger demand.

The study can be viewed in full by visiting

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Isles FM still needs to raise about £2,000 by lunchtime on Friday

Make a donation to help Isles FM survive by pressing Donate on the Paypal link above. You do not need to have a Paypal account as you can also donate with a debit or credit card via the above link.

Update: Isles FM cannot stay on the air without paying the licence fee to Ofcom on Friday. It needed £6,000 two weeks ago. Many people have been donating and helping in other ways but it still has nearly £2,000 to go. 

Do you value having a community radio station?

Have you ever listened to Isles FM:

    • At times of severe weather
    • To see if schools are open or closed
    • To hear about travel disruptions
    • To hear the latest news
    • To get an insight into issues of local importance
    • To get information about road closures, or when the Braighe will re-open
    • To find out about local community event
    • To hear programmes and features about the islands
    • To enjoy different types of music, from contemporary to country, to Celtic and Gaelic, to Classical

Do you feel our community would be poorer if Isles FM did not exist?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, read on… The clock is ticking on the Isles FM Broadcasting Licence Fee appeal.

We only have until the end of the month to raise £6000, to pay for our broadcasting licence (the licence lasts for 12 years, but it has to be paid now) and we need YOU.

This is YOUR community Isles FM is YOUR community Radio Station Isles FM needs YOUR donations to fund the Licence


Any donation to the cause would be really appreciated. Here is how you can help:

  • Phone the station on 01851 703333 with a pledge
  • Call in to the station at 50 Seaforth Road, Stornoway with your donation
  • Post a donation cheque to Isles FM, 50 Seaforth Road, Stornoway HS1 2SH
  • Click on the ‘Donate’ button above. That is a Paypal link but you do not need a Paypal account to donate. You can also pay via that link with your debit or credit card.

Isles FM has been broadcasting for more than 20 years and we are hoping to make our 21st birthday and well beyond. But we need you to help us start that journey.

Some say the islands have taken a step backwards, with newspapers not available until the afternoons (and not at all if the ferry is cancelled). We will go back by 20 years if we lose our local community radio station as well. Let’s all work together to avoid that happening.

Thank you!

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