Local News for Tuesday 13th June 2017

Islands Bill published at Holyrood
An historic bill has been introduced to Parliament to meet the unique needs of Scotland’s islands now and in the future. The Islands (Scotland) Bill published yesterday includes measures to ‘island proof’ future legislation and policies, to create a National Islands Plan and to protect the Na h-Eileanan an lar Scottish parliamentary constituency boundary. Also suggested are measures to ensure more flexibility around Councillor representation in island communities and to extend the powers of island councils where marine licencing is concerned. Presenting the bill, Islands Minister Humza Yousaf said: “This government is committed to promoting islands’ voices, to harnessing islands’ resources and enhancing their well-being. The measures in this bill underpin this ambition. In particular, the provision to ‘island-proof’ decision-making across the public sector will ensure the interests of islanders are reflected in future legislation and policy from the very outset. The Bill’s been given a welcome by Western Isles politicians, with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Cllr Roddie MacKay, saying: "This is the most significant piece of legislation for islands since the Local Government reorganization in 1974 and the establishment of islands councils. It is a significant step forward against depopulation, one of the greatest threats to our Island way of life. One of the founding tenets of OIOF was that Scotland's islands are 'special' – this is formal Government recognition confirmation of that fact.” Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan endorsed the Bill, saying: "The publication of these measures shows that the Scottish Government is serious about bringing more powers direct to island communities and making sure that national laws are workable in an island context."

   
Ferry passengers ‘lose lifeline link’ – MSP
Islanders needing to travel to and from the mainland through the summer are in danger of losing their lifeline link because of tourism pressures on the ferry network, according to Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant. Mrs Grant is not the only one to show concern, with holiday accommodation owners also flagging up risks to tourists with the shortage of space on island ferry routes. Mrs Grant said: "I have been contacted by constituents who have recently tried to book  travel on the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry, the MV Loch Seaforth, and been denied vehicular travel and, on one occasion, astonishingly, foot passenger travel. We are now reaping the rewards of decision by CMAL and the Scottish government to only put one ferry on this lifeline route against many stakeholders’ objections at the time." The Stornoway Ullapool route is not the only one under pressure, with Saturday vehicle crossings between Tarbert, Uig and Lochmaddy also hard to come by. One accommodation provider also warned holidaymakers that booking via CalMac is the only safe course, after visitors found their travel booked on a universal ferry booking service had not secured them a place on the Uig Tarbert crossing.
 
Conservative candidate thanks electors
As the dust continues to settle following a turbulent election week, the Western Isles Conservatives are hailing their best electoral results in the islands since 1970.  Their candidate Dan McCroskrie polled 2,441 votes, which he said showed that there is Conservative revival in the islands. The local Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association has thanked everyone who voted for Mr McCroskrie, who said, 'This was a phenomenal result for the Conservatives in the Western Isles.  We secured our best vote in nearly 50 years and that was down to a superb group of members, supporters and activists who worked incredibly hard to get this result.  I would like to thank everyone who contributed to my campaign from every corner of the Outer Hebrides and we look forward to the next challenge ahead of the 2021 Scottish elections'
 
Free sport for kids
A meeting of the Education, Sport and Children's Services Committee today will be asked to approve free "Slàinte Mhath" memberships to groups supporting vulnerable or at risk children. The 'Slàinte Mhath' Scheme, offered at island sports centres, has been used as a good example of how councils should handle health and leisure facility fees. Since its introduction in January 2010 there has been a 25% increase in the number of people using sports facilities. This week’s round of council meetings also include tomorrow’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, at which councillors will be asked to approve a two hour "no return" period across all Pay and Display car parks in Stornoway Town Centre.