Local News for Thursday 21st September 2017

Charge motorhomes to visit – MSP
The prospect of charging a levy to owners of motorhomes visiting the islands has been raised within the Scottish Government, after Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan wrote to Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP. He asked what consideration could be given to a “motorhome levy”, aimed at raising revenue to improve local infrastructure. The suggestion comes after islanders commented on over-full ferries, and on anti-social dumping of toilet contents in public drains. Visitors responded that there were too few publically available chemical disposal points. In August a new disposal point was opened by North Harris Trust at Urgha, between Tarbert and Scalpay. Alasdair Allan said: “It has been a fantastic thing for our local economies in the Western Isles that we have had record numbers of tourists. The numbers of motorhomes using island ferry routes has shot up, there is a lack of suitable sites for them, a lack of waste disposal units and the extra space that they require on the ferries has contributed to the capacity problems we have seen over the summer. Motorhomes play an important part in our tourist economy and they are welcome. This is about recognising the pressures created on infrastructure by such a rapid growth in tourism and providing communities with a new source of funding that they can direct as they see fit.”

Read more: Local News for Thursday 21st September 2017

Local News for Friday 22nd September 2017

Car parking charges start on Monday
Parking charges due to start on Monday in Stornoway town centre received ‘no objections’ from the public when the Comhairle consulted on the proposal. The Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agreed in June meeting to extend pay and display into the Fisherman's car park, parking by the Star Inn and at the Caledonian Hotel.

Read more: Local News for Friday 22nd September 2017

Local News for Wednesday 20th September 2017

Labour tries to push forward interconnector
Scottish Labour is putting pressure on the UK Government to put more effort into an interconnector for the Western Isles, to help build a future for renewable energy in the islands. Lesley Laird MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, has written to the Scottish Secretary urging the UK government to bring forward plans to build the interconnector. Ms Laird has argued that, given there is widespread agreement on the benefits of the proposal, the Conservative government should begin the construction process immediately. She said: “On my visit to the Western Isles last month, I heard first-hand the benefits this interconnector could bring to the community. It would bring huge economic and environmental benefits to the people of the Western Isles, with independent experts estimating it would add over £400 million to the local economy. It is vital that the Tories stick to their manifesto commitment, and they must begin construction of the interconnector as soon as possible.”

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 20th September 2017

Local News for Tuesday 19th September 2017

Bid to bring back forests
Climate change and hardy survivors of the islands could be the key to bringing back forests to the Western Isles. A new project headed by Horshader Community Development Trust is looking to save seed from surviving native trees and to plant them as part of a project called Hebridean Ark. David Mackay of the trust, who’s been planting trees himself for over 25 years, says deforestation started with the Vikings chopping down trees, and was also spread by the need of the population for space to grow crops. But now, he says: "We're trying to bring back trees that have always been here, they're part of the Hebrides. The genetics of these trees have a timeline going back 2,000 years on the islands - they're hardy, like the people here." Species which could re-establish include rowan, birch and juniper, all of which have surviving examples in isolated spots around the islands.

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 19th September 2017

Local News for Monday 18th September 2017

No wolves in Lewis – official
Wildlife rescue workers have responded angrily to a report of wolves in the Castle grounds, which they described as ‘sensational and reckless’. The Western Isles co-ordinator of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, David Yardley, used Facebook to slam the Sun newspaper’s report of ‘wolves howling’ in an area described as ‘forest’ opposite Stornoway. A Stornoway Hotel manager had reported the eerie sounds and went to the press with his story, although numerous local sources confirmed the sounds as seals calling in the harbour. David Yardley said: “We confirmed the sounds as grey seals and made this clear to him. We've notified the coastguard and the grounds keeper in the past as to what they were, after receiving a number of calls to an animal in distress. These actions cause confusion among the public that we as BDMLR are required to respond to. The day we don't respond could be the day someone loses a pet. “

Read more: Local News for Monday 18th September 2017