Ferry disruption possible on Friday and Saturday

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CalMac says that because of the weather and the significant northerly swell expected in the Minch, all Ullapool to Stornoway sailings on Friday and Saturday are liable to disruption.

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UPDATED – Your views wanted on the ferry disruption – by Friday

Thurs am – Now updated with link to draft diversion timetableOH_Logo_Grass_RGB_150_px

Outer Hebrides Tourism

Update on Ullapool – Stornoway Ferry Disruption

As you will have seen from the high profile in the local media, Outer Hebrides Tourism has been extremely active on behalf of the industry in raising your concerns about the Ullapool to Stornoway service disruption.

The views we have put forward, in summary, are:

  • The ferry service should not be disrupted in April and May – this is our peak visitor season, and the economic cost to the island is too great
  • The consultation on the disruption was woefully inadequate, and the input from the tourism industry should have been included in the discussions on the programme. We believe that the work should be programmed at a time to cause the minimum economic impact, rather than the current desire to get it done as quickly as possible
  • If the work does go ahead in April/May, then there should be a comprehensive package of measures to minimise the financial impact to our industry, and to our visitors.
  • If the work does go ahead in April/May, the replacement service options should be open to industry consultation, and fully reflect the industry requirements
  • These views have been most strongly represented widely, including to our local elected representatives, the Ministers for both Transport and Tourism in a conference call, Calmac, Transport Scotland and to the Outer Hebrides Ferry Users Group.

We have a further meeting in Stornoway with the Minister for Transport and the Islands on Monday, 2nd February, and will continue to press the industry views.

Now, we need your input urgently on the proposed alternative service from Uig to Stornoway. The draft timetable is available for download here.

We want your views on:

  • In weeks 1, 3 and 5 there are 2 sailings on most days.
    Do you believe this is adequate, and do you have any view on the proposed timings? Note: The evening sailing arrives into Stornoway between 11pm and midnight.
  • In weeks 2 and 4, there is only 1 sailing per day. There are two options provided on the timing for the one sailing (essentially early or late).
    Do you have a view on whether the early or late option would better meet the needs of your visitors travelling to and from the islands?
    Do you believe that 1 sailing per day is an adequate provision for those 2 weeks?

We would also like to get any further information about the impact of this disruption to your business. We’ve had lots of examples of annoyed customers and cancelled bookings provided already, but we need as much information as possible to help us quantify the economic impact to our industry. The more we understand the scale of the impact, the better we can argue for appropriate measures to be put in place to mitigate the damage to your businesses.

Please let us have your views by responding to mairi@tourism-hebrides.co.uk  – all responses will be treated confidentially unless you specifically give us permission to quote any examples you give us. We need your feedback quickly, so please get back to us by the end of Friday, 30th January.

Finally, on a much more positive note, you might have seen in the local press that it has been confirmed that Tighean Innse Gall (TIG) in partnership with Outer Hebrides Tourism have been awarded a grant of £497,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund. The award will enable TIG to work with us to reduce the carbon footprint of Outer Hebrides Tourism member businesses and for us to promote the various activities and opportunities available in the Outer Hebrides which would appeal to an environmentally-aware visitor.

More details on this exciting initiative will be coming out in another newsletter.

Executive Committee – Outer Hebrides Tourism
(Donald Macarthur, Lorna Eller, Linda Macleod Brown, Ian Fordham, Kenneth Mackenzie, Pete Cooper, Anne Ryan, Graham MacLennan, Jan Visser, Andrew Ross, Alan Graham, Sean Stephen, Guy Adams)

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Predict the Loch Seaforth start date and win a £100 voucher

Press arrow above for interview

Islanders can win £100-worth of shopping vouchers if they can correctly guess when the new larger Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway finally starts service.

A series of delays and mistakes have angered islanders on Lewis and meant the £42 million vessel MV Loch Seaforth is regularly to be seen on crew training around the west of Scotland but it cannot take yet fare-paying passengers as the pier works at Stornoway and Ullapool are not yet ready after a series of project planning blunders.

Now a cheeky Stornoway guesthouse operator has joined up with a supermarket to offer a prize to anyone who guesses the correct ferry start date in a move which also supports the local fishermen’s mission.

Ali Maclennan 2

Ali Maclennan at the current ferry, the Isle of Lewis

Ali Maclennan, who runs the Hal o’ the Wynd guesthouse opposite the ferry terminal being upgraded with wife Shona, came up with the idea after seeing at first hand the work done on Lewis by Finlay Macleod, the islands Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen superintendent.

Ali said: “Everybody is waiting for the new ferry to start but when is that going to be? The ferry cannot start until the completion of the pier works and with the weather we have been having recently the start date is still not known.

“So why not enter our fun fundraiser? Every pound you donate entitles you to an entry to guess the date of her maiden voyage to Ullapool or even another port along with the number of passengers on that sailing.”

The Loch Seaforth was originally due to enter service in September 2013. It was then supposed to begin sailings last summer and then in September. A taskforce set up by the Scottish Government to expedite the project now says it may be June before the ferry is fully deployed.

Supermarket giant Tesco has teamed up with Alistair’s guesthouse to put up a £100 Tesco voucher for the winner.

The winner will be the person who selects the correct date and is closest to the number of passengers. The competition will close as soon as the ferry start date is officially announced.

There has been controversy since it was announced that all vehicles crossing from Ullapool from May will be diverted to Tarbert on Harris, a move which tourism operators fear may cause mayhem as many visitors already booked and will expect to be arriving in Stornoway.

You may donate to the fishermen’s mission, and be part of the Loch Seaforth start date contest, by going to:  www.justgiving.com/Alistair-Maclennan/

CalMac has so far not commented on the draw and the prize being on offer.

Posted in ferries, tourism, Ullapool, Western Isles | 12 Comments

Future of Western Isles Foyer is assured

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP and Shadow Minister for Transport and the Islands, David Stewart, has said he is delighted that the future of the Western Isles Foyer at Bayhead in Stornoway is looking assured following his recent intervention.  During a visit to the Foyer last month (15 December), Mr Stewart was made aware of some funding concerns the project had and took steps to help the organisation, including asking the health board to step in to see if they could help.

David Stewart said “I first visited the Foyer in April 2012 and was impressed then with the vital work the service provides in re-integrating the islands young people into independent living.  The Foyer works with service-users to help them secure accommodation, to provide information and advice and to provide access to education, training and employment to allow young people to lead independent and fulfilled lives.

Mr Stewart continued: “When I returned to the Foyer again last month I was pleased to see that the good work was continuing but was alarmed to hear that there were some funding concerns.  This project provides invaluable help and advice to the islands 16 -25 year olds who need to re-integrate into independent living through their supported accommodation; their Lifeshaper project and through the Drop-in Centre at Bayhead which provides a safe environment for young people to gather and access services relevant to their needs.  I was eager to help and asked NHS Western Isles if they were able to provide some of the help that the project needed.  I am delighted to be advised that successful discussions have taken place with both the NHS and the Comhairle and the project’s future is now looking a lot more secure than it was just a few short weeks ago.  I appreciate the budgetary pressures NHS Western Isles and the Comhairle are facing, like every other health board and local authority in the country, but I am delighted that the way has been cleared for The Foyer to continue for the foreseeable future.”

Rebecca Mahony, Project Leader, Western Isles Foyer said ”We are very grateful for the intervention made on our behalf by David Stewart and for the funding commitment from both NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.  We are delighted to now be in a position where we know that we have sufficient financial stability to continue to deliver valuable support to our service users, who are young people aged 16 – 25 who are homeless, in housing need or subject to other significant social disadvantages, for the foreseeable future.”

David Stewart visiting the Foyer Project in the Western Isles on December 15.

The Western Isles Foyer is an organisation set up to develop a housing, advice and information service to young people in the Western Isles.  This innovative project is the first Foyer to be piloted in rural Scotland; partners include the Local Authority, NCH, Tighean Innse Gall, NHS Eileanan Siar Western Isles and Voluntary Action Lewis.

The Lifeshaper project focuses on development of independent living skills and getting young people into positive destinations in respect of education, employment and training.

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By Election for West Side and Ness

Comhairle By Election

A By Election is to be held for the return of a Councillor for the An Taobh Siar agus Nis (West Side and Ness) ward of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Nomination forms can be obtained from the Election Office at the Comhairle offices on Sandwick Road, Stornoway on weekdays from 10am to 4pm, by telephoning 01851 822613 or from the Comhairle website at www.cne-siar.gov.uk/electionoffice.

Completed nomination forms must be delivered to the Election Office by 4pm on Monday 9 February 2015.  If more than one valid nomination is received, an election will be held and voting will take place between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 12 March 2015.

Applications to register to vote must reach the Electoral Registration Officer, 42 Point Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis by Wednesday 25 February 2015. For advice on postal or proxy voting, contact the Electoral Registration Officer at the above address or telephone 01851 706262.

Posted in council, Western Isles | Tagged | 1 Comment

Survivors Murdo and Calum discuss ferry crisis

Murdo and Calum discuss current affairs
Murdo :   What’s all the fuss ….. has war been declared ……are the jihadists already at the gate?
Calum :    Much worse than that, it’s the Stornoway- Ullapool ferry.
Murdo :    Has it hit Chicken Head and capsized? Surely CalMac haven’t recruited another Italian captain who likes showing off his nautical skills to his Rubhach girlfriend?
Calum :   No, the ferry is in capable  hands and running normally (weather permitting) and will be doing so until April 20.
Murdo :   What’s the problem then?
Calum :   They’re closing the single lane Ullapool linkspan for six weeks while it’s being upgraded to two lanes.
Murdo :    But surely that’s the best time of year to do this beneficial upgrade. The linkspan would have to be shut for longer in the depths of winter when the contractors will be hampered by stormy weather and lack of daylight, and redirected drivers would have to negotiate unfamiliar, possibly icy, roads in darkness. 
Calum :   Doesn’t matter about them. They are saying the tourists will be unable to cope with the April closure, that Lewis will return to the Dark Ages as supplies run out, and that tourist providers and hauliers will go bankrupt.
Murdo :   Can you not see that they are exaggerating, Calum? 
Calum :   So what effect will the temporary closure have in reality?
Murdo :   It could slightly inconvenience the tourist trade for a short period ……. I don’t see why they should be excused the occasional inconveniences that are borne by every other occupation. The amended ferry timetables and routes could also mean a slight delay in getting frozen pizzas onto Tesco’s shelves, and the hauliers having to spend time adjusting their logistics,  rather than departing their palatial homes for a second annual foreign holiday. 
Calum :   Well, if that’s what they now call an impending crisis, who’s going to ensure that Tesco’s are well stocked with essentials such as Cadbury’s crème eggs  during this emergency?
Murdo :     You’ll have to address these concerns to the taskforce, Calum.
The conversation continues next day………
Calum :    So what’s going to happen to the Stornoway – Ullapool traffic during the linkspan closure?
Murdo :    It’s going to be diverted through the Uig ferry terminal on Skye en-route to Tarbert.
Calum :     Accommodation providers are saying this diversion will cause great anxiety for disorientated tourists who will be greatly distressed to learn they have landed in Tarbert rather than Stornoway.
Murdo :    Well, they will soon get over it when they see a big sign directing them right to Stornoway on the one road leading out of the Harris metropolis, on which the only possible danger they might face is an ambush in Balallan by fanatical local poachers.
 Calum  :   Oh now you’re really exaggerating there, Murdo. 
Murdo  :   No more so than those who are objecting to the temporary  closure of the Ullapool linkspan.
Calum :    Aye, right enough, Murdo. I’m surprised that our MP, Angus Macneil, is one of those objecting to the closure. Normally, he would welcome such a shutdown so that he could blame it on the Westminster  government.
Murdo : He can’t pull that trick this time because he has to keep up with his Labour opponent in the May election, Alistair Morrison, who also doesn’t want the Ullapool linkspan temporarily closed 
Calum :    Is that the same Alasdair Morrison of Gaelic media fame, a prominent Glasgow Rangers fan, who was also on the Stornoway  Harbour board which is  being blamed by some for the new ferry delays.?
Murdo :   The very same man.
Calum :   That cove certainly wears a lot of hats.
Murdo :   He probably buys them at a discount from the Harris Tweed Hebrides shop .
Calum :    Has he got his finger in that pie too ?
Later that day
Calum :   Compared to some of the other  loudmouths, our MSP Alasdair Allan is keeping rather quite about this ferry business and is slow to criticise.
Murdo :    He might be the most sensible of the lot of them.
Calum :   Why do you say that, Murdo?
Murdo :   It may be giving him pause for thought through looking at his own flagship Holyrood parliament workplace in Edinburgh; an extravagant shed that was three years overdue in completion, cost 10 times the original estimated price and is leaking like a sieve.
Calum :   Well, that certainly  puts our own troubles into perspective and should be a lesson for any sensible person. Maybe that is why they call Mr Allan the Minister For Learning.
Murdo :   Are you planning on going to the mainland yourself, Calum, anytime during the Ullapool linkspan closure period?
Calum :    Yes, I’m going to a Fleetwood Mac concert but I’m finding the travel arrangements from the island rather difficult and problematic.
Murdo :   Is that because of the linkspan closure , Calum ?
Calum :   No, its because I can’t make my mind up whether to take the car down through Skye, reduce my carbon footprint by taking the new ferry and southbound bus, or fly from Stornoway airport. I’m really spoilt for choice.
Murdo :    Well in that case you’ll just have to heed the advice given in one of Fleetwood Mac’s best known songs.
Calum :   What song is that, Murdo?
Murdo :  ‘Go Your Own Way.’
The above conversations were recorded  by Iain M Macdonald
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Woes and worries raised at ferry users meeting

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar says it raised a range of concerns at today’s meeting of the Hebrides Ferry Users Group including the impact the closure of the Ullapool Linkspan would have on the communities and the tourism industry within the Outer Hebrides.

The concerns were expressed to representatives from Transport Scotland, CalMac and CMAL at the meeting. It was agreed that fuller consultation would take place prior to timetables and the allocation of vessels being finalised.

Chairman John Mackay said: “We also remain concerned about the capacity of ferry services on the Stornoway – Ullapool route following the introduction of the MV Loch Seaforth and would reiterate our specific request that the MV Isle of Lewis be retained on that route over the summer months to augment the MV Loch Seaforth.

“We do not believe that relying solely on the MV Loch Seaforth will enable Transport Scotland and CalMac to satisfy the demand over what is an increasingly important period for the economy of the islands.”

He said the Comhairle intends to continue dialogue on the replacement services particularly with regard to maximising timetable opportunities.

Mr Mackay concluded: “The Comhairle welcomes the establishment of the Ferries Taskforce by the Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay MSP. We look forward to continuing to work with the Minister in ensuring that the best solution for the Outer Hebrides is achieved.”

Posted in ferries, Stornoway, Ullapool, Western Isles | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Coastal Communities Fund to help boost eco-tourism

The housing association Tighean Innse Gall (TIG)  is to get £497,419 to support and improve energy efficiency and promote the use of renewables for B&Bs, self-catering and small tourism related businesses throughout the Outer Hebrides.

It will also help promote the islands as an eco-tourism destination “The Energy Isles – Low carbon tourism in the Outer Hebrides”.  tourism

In total, over 300 businesses from Barra to the Butt of Lewis will benefit from investment in energy efficiency measures. The whole island economy will benefit from additional visitors who choose to take a holiday in the Outer Hebrides as a result of the additional promotion of the area as a destination that cares about protecting its environment.

TIG director Stewart Wilson said: “TIG have traditionally worked in the domestic sector and have not until now been able to support small businesses. We are thrilled at the opportunity to reduce our tourism carbon footprint and make more eco-tourism available through greater energy efficiency and use of renewables.”

Tighean Innse Gall is supported in the project by Outer Hebrides Tourism which will market the project to businesses across the Outer Hebrides.

Ian Fordham, chairman of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said: “We are delighted to work with Tighean Innse Gall on this highly innovative partnership to deliver real help and support to tourism businesses in the Outer Hebrides – providing clear reductions in business running costs and helping to market the Outer Hebrides to an even broader market.”

Funded through the Coastal Communities Fund, the project will run from April 1, 2015 to December 30, 2016.

Coastal Communities minister Penny Mordaunt MP said: “These fantastic projects demonstrate the creativity, enterprise and passion needed to help seaside towns become year round destinations that people are proud to live and work in.”

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MSP’s electricity survey backs fair charges and public ownership

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has published a report on the findings of his energy survey of more than 14,000 of his constituents over Christmas.


Dave Thompson MSP

Dave Thompson’s survey asked a number of key questions, including whether or not residents think the 2p electricity surcharge is fair, whether they think everyone in the UK should pay the same rate, whether electricity companies should have social responsibility and whether or not electricity production and supply should be brought back into public ownership.

The results are claimed to have shown that there is overwhelming support for taking electricity production and supply in Scotland back into public ownership and that there should be no energy surcharge applied on the basis of remoteness.

Mr Thompson said: “I am not surprised the inherent unfairness of the 2p energy surcharge applied to the Highlands has galvanised Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch to reject it to the tune of 95.2% respondents.”

However, the big news is that of the 1,711 replies received – 98.7% stated that electricity production and supply should be brought back into public ownership.

“This is a fascinating response and one that shows folk will only put up with big company profiteering for so long, and no doubt their belief is backed up by the unfair 2p energy surcharge currently applied to the energy rich north, which is nothing short of scandalous.”

He has called on the UK Government and the energy regulator Ofgem to recognise that the people of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch have spoken, charging the same rate irrespective of location is in their gift and he urged them to abolish the unfair policy forthwith.

Mr Thompson concluded: “They should also take note that there is a quiet revolution for change emerging in the Highlands from those who wish to go further than abolishing the unfair charge by bringing electricity production and supply in Scotland into public ownership, a policy that I would wholeheartedly support, so that never again will we in the Highlands have to face the incredulity of being treated like second class energy consumers.”

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Holocaust Memorial Day – January 27


Lews Castle College

Tuesday 27 January 2015

9 am – 6 pm                       Exhibition

9 am – 6 pm                       Moving Portraits

9.30 am – 10.30 am          Amnesty

11 am – 12 noon               *Films introduced by

Jonathan Topper (702309)

12 noon – 1 pm                  LUNCH

1pm – 2 pm                        Welcome  –  Robert Macneil MBE

·         Lighting of Candle

·         Moving Portraits

·         Contributions from other campuses

·         Thank you

2.30 – 3.30 pm                   *Films

4 pm – 5 pm                       Amnesty

Wednesday – Friday

9 am – 6 pm                       Exhibition and Moving Portraits

*Films:                                 Faithful under Trials

Purple Triangle

Posted in crime, death, education, Stornoway | Tagged | Leave a comment