Local News for Thursday 19th January 2017

Ferry pulled off route for ‘essential repairs’
The MV Lord of the Isles is to be withdrawn from service from Monday, after maintenance checks discovered an area of thinning metal which needs urgent repair. Severe weather on the route between Lochboisdale, Mallaig and Oban is blamed for the wear, which will mean complete suspension of that route for at least a week. South Uist passengers are being urged to use extra services across the Sound of Barra, and to travel to the mainland from Castlebay on the MV Isle of Lewis. Robert Kelso, CalMac's Fleet Technical Manager, said "The ship's steelwork is inspected to a 5-yearly fixed schedule under MCA rules and wasn't due to be looked at again until the end of this year.   However, due to the severe weather conditions in which our ships operate, the onboard engineers do routine inspections in-between the formal one, and the latest of these just before Christmas found a small section which needed repair. We were keen to avoid taking the ship out of the water during the busy Christmas holiday period so agreed with the MCA that the work could be deferred until early in the New Year. We cannot say how long the repairs will take until the work has been formally assessed and scoped but we will do everything we can to get her back into service as soon as possible. In the meantime, we apologise for any inconvenience caused." Lord of the Isles will make her usual run to Oban on Monday morning, but will then be taken to dry dock in Greenock. Additional early morning and late evening services are being put in place on the Sound of Barra while the repair work is carried out.

Energy secretary pledges isles visit
Tuesday’s meeting between Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil and the UK Secretary of State for Energy Greg Clark has led to a renewed pledge from the Energy Secretary to visit the islands and see what the situation is on the ground for renewable energy projects. Mr MacNeil was giving evidence as part of the current consultation on Remote Island Wind subsidies, and also discussed the specific challenges facing island renewables in what he said was ‘a productive and interesting exploratory meeting’. Both Greg Clark and under-secretary Jesse Norman MP showed interest in renewables in the islands, with Mr Clark renewing his promise to visit the islands by early March. The consultation formally closes on January 31st. After the meeting Mr MacNeil said: “Obviously with the consultation ongoing the Ministers have to remain tight-lipped at the moment and it is difficult to say what the outcome will be, but with the Secretary of State planning to visit the islands, it will at least give interested parties an opportunity to state their case.”
Lewis and Harris new NEIGH-bours
Police horse Harris, who was named by the Scottish public after an open vote by Police Scotland last week, has been joined in the stables at the mounted division by another new recruit – police horse Lewis. The new recruit, described as ‘smaller and quieter’ than Harris, has reportedly taken to the job ‘like a duck to water’. Police Scotland have film of Lewis and Harris together on their Facebook page – follow the link from Isles FM.