Local News for Friday 12th February 2016
Crofters question payment delay
Delays in the payment of support for crofters are causing some to question why they should bother filling in the paperwork at all. The Basic Payments Scheme has been subject to extensive processing delays, meaning only about one third of crofters have received partial payments for 2015, with the 2016 deadline now looming. Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan this week asked Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to acknowledge the concerns of crofters in the islands. Dr Allan said: "I took the chance to question the Cabinet Secretary on provisions for those experiencing hardship resulting from delays in the system, and he confirmed that those crofters should contact the helpline on 0300 300 2222 to make a case for their applications being prioritised. Across Scotland, around a third of farmers and crofters have had the first instalment of this years grant paid and, with additional staff working extra hours, this figure is rising. The Cabinet Secretary's intention is that as much as possible of the rest will be paid by the end of next month, with everyone else paid by the end of April. If any crofter wishes to contact me about their own situation I am very willing to pursue it with the Government."
Read more: Local News for Friday 12th February 2016
Local News for Thursday 11th February 2016
Better fitted Loch Portain to return
The Sound of Harris ferry, MV Loch Portain, is set to return to the route with a new passenger lift and safety systems, when she comes back at the end of February after an extended period away in dry dock. Her long absence has been caused as a state-of-the-art life saving system is fitted on the passenger deck, designed to speed up evacuation in an emergency. CalMac's director of operations, Drew Collier said: "Safety is our number one priority and we are anxious to fit the most up to date safety equipment on the market. This new system can give passengers and crew reassurance that they can rely on the most technically advanced system in the unlikely event of an emergency." For its everyday service, the Loch Portain is also being fitted with a new passenger lift from the car deck to the upper decks. The MV Loch Bhrusda is filling in on the Berneray Leverburgh route and, with a smaller vehicle capacity, needs passengers to book well ahead if possible. Drew Collier said: "The winter annual refit period is always a challenge for us and the upgrade work means it is off-route longer than usual. We thank people for their patience while this improvement work is done. I'm sure passengers will notice a difference to their sailing experience particularly with the new lift being installed when the vessel returns."
Read more: Local News for Thursday 11th February 2016