Local News for Wednesday 24th August 2016

Rig movement goes to plan
The movement of the oil rig Transocean Winner from Dalmore looked set to be completed according to plan yesterday evening, as four tugs worked together to bring the rig round the Butt of Lewis and down to Broad Bay. The Union Bear, Union Princess, Forth Drummer and Forth Warrior were all alongside the rig as she rounded the Butt yesterday afternoon. A fifth tug, ER Vittoria, waited in position in Broad Bay to begin the process of anchoring the rig, while the original towing vessel Alp Forward stood by in Stornoway harbour during the operation.


 
Transocean Winner’s departure from Dalmore was accomplished smoothly and without incident on Monday evening, about 100 people waiting on the beach to see her float free as darkness fell around 10pm. A coastguard spokesman said the two week period while the rig was grounded at Dalmore had gone ‘swimmingly’ from a public safety point of view. He said: “We kept the area safe for two weeks and Monday night was a massive operation, involving all our volunteer teams, as we managed viewpoints for spectators.” Coastguard volunteer teams will now be stepped down to only occasional patrols in Point and Back to maintain public safety.
 
The Secretary of State’s Representative Hugh Shaw is expected to remain in Stornoway for the next few days, as the operation moves to recovery and stabilisation of the rig.
 
Busy time for harbour
Stornoway Port and harbour are in the midst of an exceptionally busy period, as work vessels mingle with private yachts and cruise ships. Over the next four days five cruise ships are due in – the Clio, Seabourn Quest, Hebridean Princess, Hebridean Sky and Oriana rubbing shoulders with salvage vessels, routine ferry and fishing traffic. After the Oriana’s visit on Saturday, bringing over 1800 passengers and 760 crew to the islands, there are just four more cruise visits due in September before the season’s end.
 
Auction season begins
The first sale of lambs and sheep is at Steinish Mart today, organised by Lewis and Harris Auction Mart in association with Dingwall and Highland Marts. The sale starts at 9.30am and sees almost 3,500 animals pass through the pens. Booking closes on September 7th for the second sale of the season, on Wednesday 14th September. Online booking is open at www.lewisandharrisauctionmart.co.uk
 
Ministers’ island visits
Depute First Minister of Scotland John Swinney is in Stornoway this afternoon, visiting e-Sgoil at the old Museum building on Francis St, Stornoway. He’s also due to be in Harris, as was the Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf, yesterday. Mr Yousaf used his visit to announce that a specific Islands Bill is to be taken forward during the first year of this parliament. He said: "We have placed the aspirations and needs of our island communities at the centre of our empowerment agenda”.
Accompanying each of the Ministers on their visit was islands MSP Alasdair Allan, who said the visits emphasised the Scottish Government’s strong support for this community. Dr Allan was himself round and about the Isle of Harris this week, and said: “While the economy in Harris does remain fragile, there is a great deal of community spirit and resilience on show here and this makes it a fantastic place to live.”