Last Sunday – the Lewis Sabbath TV documentary

A TV documentary on the decline of the Lewis Sabbath made in 2012 and last year by London-based filmmaker David Cairns is to be screened tomorrow night (Friday) at 7.30pm on BBC Two Scotland.

David is well-known here for his work on island customs and, as a student, he covered the local debate on the introduction of seven-day ferries and the subsequent first Sunday sailing from Stornoway.

This latest film is called Last Sunday and features Jutta and Rille, originally from Berlin but now living in Uig, going for a Sunday swim while Stornoway nursing student Amanda Darling goes sailing. The Macleod family take a stroll together. Alasdair and Chrissie go to church. Does the traditional Sabbath still exist?


Posted in Lewis, religion, Sabbatarianism, Western Isles | Leave a comment

New charge for plastic carrier bags has come into force today

by Neil Evans on 20 October 2014
New levy to cut waste

A new charge for plastic carrier bags has come into force today.

People in Scotland use more single-use bags per head than anywhere else in the UK, with more than 800m given out every year.

All retailers will have to charge a minimum of 5p for bags, large or small, and will apply to plastic, paper and biodegradable materials.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “I’m extremely proud that this landmark legislation is now in force. Our carrier bag addiction is symptomatic of our throwaway culture and has serious implications for the environment. Huge numbers of these bags end up as litter, blighting our communities and clogging up our seas and natural habitats, affecting many sorts of wildlife and marine species in particular.
“We want that to change and for people to stop and think about whether they really need to take another bag. Alternatives like bags for life are easy to get and are much more sustainable.”

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland said: “We know that in other parts of the world charges for plastic bags have led to dramatic reductions in their use, as well as positive changes in consumer behaviour. A great example is Denmark, which introduced a charge in 2003, and now has the lowest plastic bag use in Europe, using 4 plastic bags per person per year.
“Single use carrier bags are symbolic of our wasteful attitude to resource use which must be addressed if Scotland’s vision of a zero waste future is to be realised.”

Posted in environment, politics | 4 Comments

Letter – Post-mortem into the untimely death of the Yes campaign’s referendum dream

Dear Editor

Now that the SNP-led Yes campaign has ended in defeat, the inevitable post-mortem into their 18th September referendum loss continues

The post-mortem results clearly show that the SNP fully deserved their loss because of the patronising way they engaged with Scotland’s electorate who they treated like little children unable to tolerate for the greater good any inconvenience which may have resulted from independence.

Everything had to be sugar-coated by the SNP, even to the extent of reassuring us that post-independence we would still be able to watch Coronation Street, or wave to the queen and her regal offspring passing in their glittering carriages. How very thrilling indeed!

The SNP’s independence campaign could instead have been bolder and more imaginative by including in it proposals to address a poisonous injustice contaminating the heart of Scottish society ever since the debt-ridden collapse in 2008 of Edinburgh-based banks, RBS and HBOS

Both those banks were the victims of a reckless, negligent and avaricious management, none of whom the Scottish Government have called to account for their actions. What a contrast to how government agencies and the banks themselves treat ordinary people who for various reasons fall into minor financial arrears.

To address this anomaly, the SNP could have included in their Scottish independence manifesto a promise to enact a new law which would make it a criminal offence to be implicated in causing a Scottish-based bank to require a taxpayer-funded bailout. Such a bailout would also automatically invalidate all the previous employment contracts of those implicated.

The law could be drafted in such a way as to encompass offences related to the 2008 banking bailouts while the Yes campaign could also have strongly emphasised that a newly-independent Scotland would pursue those bankers wherever they went with the same zeal the newly-formed Jewish state hunted down war criminals and brought them to justice The prospect of such a mouth-watering pursuit could have been sufficient incentive for previously disinterested and undecided voters to have swung the referendum result in favour of the Yes campaign.

The fact that the combined intelligence of the SNP hierarchy didn’t have the good sense to use to their advantage the fully-justified public resentment of the preferential treatment of the banks and their fatcat management proves that the Scottish populace were correct in rejecting the Yes campaign. Why should we have credited those same people who were incapable of grasping a golden opportunity to lead the way in showing other countries how to deal with their banking bailout profiteers with the capability to govern an independent Scotland?

So now the Yes campaigners can only dream of what might have been and repent at leisure, while distracting themselves by eavesdropping on the latest gossip in Coronation Street’s Rovers Return. Or some might prefer to resume their inexplicable infatuation with an Anglo-Saxon royal family largely descended from an unenviable lineage of corrupt land-grabbers and debauched philanderers.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s tainted and disgraced bankers have no need of any such repentance, so long as a docile and forgetful non-independent Scottish society continues to offer them the undeserved hospitality that keeps them in the lavish style to which they have become accustomed.

Yours faithfully
Iain M Macdonald

Posted in Letter | 3 Comments

That daredevil Skyeman on his bicycle has had this feartie quivering behind the sofa

I’m so not well. If you have an ounce of sympathy left in you, shove it my way. So many things have happened this week that left me feeling moby dick that, after I write this, I’m going straight back to bed. The sight of that large hairy creature showing off her backside to me in a show of defiance was the last straw. And no, in case you’re wondering, it wasn’t Mrs X going for a shower. Not this time.

It was an ape on the news. Me and those animals have history, you know. Many years ago, I unexpectedly ended up on Gibraltar for a week when the RAF Nimrod I had been hitching a lift on had a mechanical problem. What can you do on Gib? Having illegally burrowed under a fence into Spain, flown across to Morocco on a puddle jumper that made Loganair seem executive class, and drunk as much in the beer cellar as I could, it was time to go up the Rock.

Easier than a Munro, there was not just a road but also a cable car. There are also these knuckle-dragging primates wandering around looking for treats. Being a lowly-paid airman, I wasn’t inclined to share my lunch with an ape. Oops. One of them sank his canines into my inner thigh.

Stretchered off, I was subjected to painful examinations, probes, needle insertions and other awful indignities. In my morphine-induced haze, I mumbled about being mauled by King Kong. The doc explained I’d actually been attacked by an ape known as a macaque. Apparently I replied: “I didn’t know you spoke Gaelic but that’s a good word to describe it.”

Now the most uncontrollable of the macaque pack are being shipped to Blair Drummond Safari Park. Why? To be nearer me? So they can have another go at my pink bits? Now I’m quivering. Bet you they’ll escape soon. I’ll have to live behind the sofa.

I shall have to get fit – so I can run fast in case I meet one again. Maybe I should get one of those machines called bicycles again. That thought brings back memories of learning to ride. There I was, racing around the garden on my bike while calling out to my mother to watch what I could do. “Look mum, no hands. Look mum, no feet.” Brag. Look mum, no teeth.

With painful memories swirling around in my head, I happened to watch that wee TV prog Riding The Ridge the other night with Dunvegan lad Danny Macaskill making his way along the stone-strewn top of the Black Cuillin – on his bike. I winced in disbelief. I have flown in a jet fighter upside down over the North Sea while retaining most of my breakfast but this made me more unwell. The queasiness has lasted for days; all I have to do is think of daredevil Danny perched atop the pinnacle, holding the cycle over his head and … ooer. Gulp.

No matter how good the suspension on that bike, there must have been some sensitive parts of the Macaskill anatomy that ached for days after that. And did you see when he was riding along that really narrow ridge with all the loose stones? I knew it wasn’t a live broadcast but my brain was screaming at me that the guy I was watching was taking his final cycle. Meanwhile, my stomach was churning like a spin dryer on its final cycle.

Had the fearless fellow veered two inches sideways, he would have plummeted to his doom. For someone suffering from vertigo, as both Mrs X and I do, it was not just frightening but quite horrific to watch. We each had to hold onto something. What can you hold onto when you’re scared witless in a sitting room? Each other? Don’t be daft. I wasn’t that scared. I only went behind the sofa because I thought I saw a macaque on the ridge.

Danny’s so calm, so unruffled. Not like any of the Skyemen I know. When the dank, black rain came down on the hill and prevented them making any upward progress, Dan The Man didn’t resort to uttering: “Yuck. Just my luck. We’re stuck”, or any words that rhyme with that. He yelped: “Oh, dearie me.” Mind you, when he was practising that amazing crash as he went pell-mell into the fence and landed on his noggin, I’m sure I heard something fruity in Dunvegan dialect.

Seriously, so many people cycle now. There is a story about a certain unconventional minister who had his cycle go missing. However, he told his friends he would get it back on Sunday. At his next sermon he would go through the 10 Commandments and when he would get to ‘Thou shalt not steal’, God would sort it out.

The following week he was in the saddle again. He was asked if the 10 Commandments had worked as planned. He said: “I got as far as ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’ when I suddenly remembered where I left my bike.”

Posted in P&J column | Leave a comment

Electricity giant shrugs off “national disgrace” storm

It is being claimed members of the Western Isles Poverty Action Group were “astounded” to learn today that Scottish and Southern Electricity imposes a surcharge on all Highlands and Islands customers of 2p per unit compared to consumers elsewhere in Scotland.

Councillor Angus McCormack, the chairman of the group, said: “This is a national disgrace. The Outer Hebrides has the highest fuel poverty figures in Scotland at 71% (compared to a 27% Scottish average). A 2p reduction in unit costs would have a significant impact on fuel poverty. A consumer using 15,000 units per year would save £300.”

The group has now called on the Scottish Government to resolve what it claims is “an iniquity” as a matter of urgency. It will seek the support of the Comhairle, the health board and the Community Planning Partnership to lobby to have the “absurd anomaly” rescinded.

Mr McCormack asked: “How can SSE claim to have any social conscience when it is complicit in creating the conditions for fuel poverty?”

However, SSE is unfazed at the attack. An SSE spokesperson told me: “Regional pricing affects all energy suppliers and incorporates the additional costs associated with transporting energy to remote areas. SSE favours replacing this with one national charge so a customer pays the same price if they live in Benbecula, Bristol or Bradford.”

SEE, however, decided not to explain what it was doing to get rid of the “absurd anomaly”.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Beware fake emails from Paypal

Islanders have been receiving emails about declined Paypal transactions. They seem to explain a non-existent problem and suggests you take steps to link your Paypal account to your bank account so the money will come straight out of your bank.

A local man has been in touch with Paypal and they say the email is not from them. If you follow the suggested links, you may be opening your Paypal account to be accessed by others. Paypal asks anyone who gets such an email to forward it to

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

SNP Group demand implementation of Living Wage (which happens to be already implemented)

This blog is always interested in demonstrating how our elected representatives carry out the onerous tasks entrusted to them. With that in mind, we allow you to listen in to this recent exchange which we publish in the public interest (with minor spelling and grammatical tweaks and some identifying details removed – just to keep us out of court, you understand).

From: Cllr. Gordon Murray
Sent: 13 October 2014 13:05
To: Cllr. Angus Campbell
Cc: Cllr. Kenneth Macleod; Cllr. Rae MacKenzie; Cllr. Philip R. Mclean; Cllr. John A. Maciver; Cllr. Donald Manford

Subject: Living Wage

Dear Angus,

At the last Budget Setting meetings in February this year, the SNP Group were delighted that your administration agreed with us that the Living Wage should be implemented.

The payment of the Living Wage will give a significant boost to the low paid workers who are affected the most by the rise of inflation and also the council workers pay freeze.

The financial challenges facing our islands are great and especially to those who earn the least. With the levels of Fuel Poverty so high in the Outer Hebrides and one of the major contributing factors to Fuel Poverty is the low levels of wages for a lot of working people, the implementation of the Living Wage is of huge importance.

It is now mid-October and the Living Wage has not been implemented by your administration. I would like to know why this has not been done as agreed by all elected members and when will it be put into effect as per the unanimous decision between your administration and the SNP Group,

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours Sincerely,

Gordon Murray

On 14 Oct 2014, at 16:56, Cllr. Angus Campbell <> wrote:

Dear Gordon

I am not aware of any administration within this council far less any deal between your own group and any other that might exist. Rather than playing games, I will however deal with the important issue of the living wage.

The Comhairle has, and is paying, the living wage. The proposal put forward through the budget was not if we should pay it but if island allowance should be included in the calculation. After detailed discussions with the unions involving myself and the chair of H.R. committee I was happy to propose to council that we should find a mechanism of doing that and I was pleased it received support from all councillors including your own group.

Officers were asked to come up with a mechanism to allow this to happen without affecting the single status gradings as agreed with our employees and report back. This I am assured will come to our next meetings and I would expect that to include backdating to April of any amounts due

Fuel poverty is an issue this council has put a lot of effort into combating during the years I have been in council and this can be illustrated by the setting up of the fuel poverty action group and the excellent work it has done. Much remains to be done however and as recognised through OIOF campaign a united lobbying effort on several main issues would help.

The islands should be allowed to take the funding streams available for insulation and energy efficiency and create bespoke island schemes. We should campaign for the fuel derogation scheme to be extended to fuel used to heat homes. There should be a new approach to economic development that gives us access to funds and powers that allows us to create an economy that can support wages right across these islands, not just in the public sector, that allows people to afford to pay heating bills.

Grid connectivity would of course be a huge driver for that economy but also allow us to access community benefit to help the most vulnerable in our islands. I take it for granted that all councillors would be united behind these principles and would continue to work together to eliminate fuel poverty in our islands. My door is always open if you want to come in and discuss.

Best regards

Ps. I have included all members as I believe they should have this first hand rather than through blogs and news platforms.

On 14 Oct 2014, at 17:10, “Cllr. **** wrote:

Indeed Leader

The SNP blog appears to exist in a little world of its own quite outwith reality. It even claims success in the Comhairle where there was no dissension in the first place. At the very least I must wonder if the SNP group really understand what is going on.



From: “Cllr. ****
Subject: Re: Living Wage

We are all aware or at least should be aware how much the SNP like to make such noises through their ***es.

Posted in council, Western Isles | 14 Comments

Island blogger snatches top magazine’s travel prize

A blogger from the Isle of Lewis has won the travel category in prestigious awards run by the top women’s magazine Cosmopolitan.

Katie Macleod, who is 26 and from Bayble in Point, was the only Scottish winner at the glitzy awards ceremony on London’s South Bank.

Her unique blog is distinctive by featuring not just exotic destinations she has visited around the world but also some lesser-known highlights of the Outer Hebrides.

Katie took to writing at an early age and has been recording her thoughts on the world around her since the age of eight. However, it was while teaching in China with the British Council four years ago, after she left university, that Katie started blogging to document her stay.

When she came home and realised how much she enjoyed researching and writing about the places she had seen, she decided to keep at it and began her blog entitled Stories My Suitcase Could Tell.

Katie 1

Katie with her award for Best Travel Blog

She says: “It is very time-consuming and many people don’t realise the time spent behind the scenes between writing drafts, taking photos, editing and so on.”

Last week Katie left Stornoway, where she works as a feature writer on the local Events publication, to attend at the Oxo Tower where the prestigious magazine’s awards bash was sponsored by big names like Next and Thomson Holidays.

A party atmosphere was very evident with fine food and speciality cocktails on offer. Katie said: “I was over the moon just to be shortlisted and I wasn’t expecting to win at all.”

She won the travel blogging category outright, the only Scots winner of the night.

After whizzing back to Lewis and getting her breath back, she said: “I really don’t know why they chose mine. Maybe it’s because I also write about out-of-the-way places up here.”

Her distinctive mix of subjects has been noticed before. A piece Katie wrote about the district of Ness, in the north of Lewis, was voted as the top travel blog post in a competition run by travel company Holiday Hypermarket earlier this year. For that she won vouchers for a holiday in Kenya.

She has also won a travel writing competition organised by luxury travel agency Black Tomato. She said: “The prize for that was two nights at the Raffles Hotel in Paris, which was incredible.”

Although last year’s Cosmopolitan Magazine travel blogging winner was offered a book deal, Katie insists she has no immediate plans for bound print as she is kept very busy at her job in Stornoway and, of course, with her multi-award-winning blog where she is about to publish her thoughts on a visit to St Kilda.

Check out Katie’s blog at

Posted in Western Isles | Tagged , | Leave a comment

BT to improve island broadband links as suspicion falls on NATO wargames

Urgent work has begun at the Stornoway telephone exchange to make fed-up islanders’ broadband speeds faster.

It follows several days of chaos which saw thousands of computer users on the Isle of Lewis severely affected and some businesses forced to close temporarily as their online systems ground to a halt.

However, there is still no official comment on claims that preparations for a NATO exercise off the north-west of Scotland may have triggered the faults.

It was on Sunday and Monday that the worst effects were felt. An island travel agent, Hebrides Travel, had to shut its doors early as they were unable to deal with customers orders or queries. Staff at the Stornoway branch of Argos also admitted to customers they were unable to access online stock and ordering systems.

It is understood that a bank branch also had serious problems but the bank would not confirm the extent of the disruption to its business.

BT said: “We’re aware that a number of people have been experiencing slower broadband speeds than usual and we’re sorry for the inconvenience this has caused.
“As a result, we are carrying out engineering work in Stornoway exchange this week which is freeing up capacity on our broadband links and ultimately increasing speeds.
“In the longer term, further engineering work is being planned at Stornoway, Back and Crossbost exchanges which will improve performance and reduce congestion on the islands’ broadband links.”

The company said they had recently seen a huge increase in broadband activity in the islands as homes play host to an increasing variety of devices which rely on broadband and people are downloading more films, music and catch-up television than ever before.

Some islanders however thought it likely that preparations for an multi-nations military exercise called Joint Warrior in the Minch could be responsible. The Ministry of Defence has said jamming of communications systems would be involved and it is understood the islands’ broadband signal is currently beamed on a microwave link across the Minch.

Asked on Tuesday morning whether its jamming operations could affect islanders broadband connection, the MoD has declined to make any comment.

Meanwhile, BT said its work with the Digital Scotland Super-fast Broadband partnership to bring fibre broadband to the islands was making steady progress. Two fibre optic submarine cables have been laid – one stretching 79km between Stornoway and Ullapool, the other spanning the 57km between Carnan on North Uist and Dunvegan on Skye.

In addition there are island to island subsea cables from Lochmaddy to Leverburgh, Lochboisdale to Eriskay, and Eriskay to Northbay in Barra and more a 100km fibre spine running the length of the island chain.

This massive engineering effort prepares the way for the next stage of work that includes provision of fibre cabinets that will connect homes and businesses to fibre broadband. It will be phased in during 2015 and complete by the end of 2016.

By the end of 2016, more than 200,000 homes and businesses across the north of Scotland and the islands will be able to benefit as a result of the project and BT’s commercial roll-out. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is leading on the £146m partnership investment, along with the Scottish Government, Broadband Delivery UK and private sector partner BT.

Posted in broadband, military, Stornoway, Western Isles | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Three Stornoway teenagers detained over fire-raising

Three teenagers have been detained by police in connection with a worrying fire-raising incident in Stornoway.

In the early hours of last Friday, emergency services in Stornoway were called to a building fire on Cromwell Street. Firefighters had the blaze under control before 8am.

No-one was injured as a result of the fire.

Police have today confirmed that three teenagers, two boys and a girl, all aged 13, are being reported to the Procurator Fiscal and the Childrens Reporter in connection with the incident.

Posted in crime, fire, Stornoway | Leave a comment