Local News for Friday 9th December 2016

Lights on for Christmas
Stornoway Amenity Trust’s big Christmas lights switch-on ceremony is tonight, with the switch being thrown by Nicolson Institute pupil Alice Macmillan, multiple gold badge winner at this year’s Royal National Mòd. The celebrations start with a Christmas character dash and fun run at 6.20pm, with prizes for winners and for best costumes. The entertainment includes Lewis Pipe Band, the Lewis and Harris junior concert band, dancers and carol singing.  There’ll be road closures in the town centre tonight with closed roads around Perceval Squae, from the Crown Hotel to Scoytland Street and out to Bayhead from 6pm. Joining in the celebrations are Martin’s Memorial Church, with carols and hot drinks, Pointers youth drop-in, where Santa will be in residence, and a range of charity and craft stalls in the Town Hall.

Santa run
Those with an appetite for festive fun will be pleased to hear that this year’s Santa Run is to be on Christmas Eve at 10.30am, once again raising funds for the Lewis Branch of Cancer Research. The run starts at the Town Hall and finishes at the Smith Avenue Running Track, a distance of about two miles. Organisers aim to make it the biggest and best evert, and Santa suits are available for collection from Tuesday at Lewis Sports Centre.
HebCelt first acts announced
The first acts have been announced for the 2017 Hebridean Celtic Festival, with Irish superstars the Waterboys the first headliners to be announced. It’s the third HebCelt appearance for the veteran band, which was founded by Mike Scott in 1983. They’re set to close the festival on the Saturday night, July 22nd. Also on the bill will be singer songwriter Lucy Spraggan, and the new Scottish band Tide Lines, featuring former Skipinnish member Robert Robertson.
Reasons why Isles are ‘expensive’ – Comhairle
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has commented on an Accounts Commission Report into local government finance, which found that the Western Isles receives amongst the highest funding per head of population, Cllr Angus Campbell, Leader of the Comhairle said: "The reason the Islands have a high level of funding per head of population in Scotland is because we have a low population but a high level of need. Sparsity of population, geographic remoteness, a low Council Tax base and a high number of older people all contribute to high costs and a need for a greater allocation per head of population from the Scottish Government. These factors mean it is essential for our communities that no more cuts are imposed upon the Islands revenue settlement".

Seabird numbers plummet
The number of wild seabirds on St Kilda has dropped dramatically, with kittiwake numbers at ‘dangerously low’ levels, according to the National Trust for Scotland. Monitoring sites this year showed that not a single kittiwake chick survived to adulthood, with collapsing stocks of some food species blamed. Plankton which were once rich around the island group have migrated nearly 1000 km north in warming seas. Numbers of puffins, skua and gannets could also be affected. An NTS spokesman said that St Kilda’s former residents would be horrified if they could see cliffs once teeming with birdlife in their current condition.
Time trials are being combined with a festive get-together for Western Isles swimmers on Saturday, when Swim Western Isles holds its second time trial event. The evening kicks off at 5.30pm and all Swim Western Isles youngsters have been invited t take part.