Local News for Friday 16th June 2017

Councillor’s challenge to UK Government
Councillor Donald Crichton, Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's Sustainable Development Committee, has urged UK Energy Secretary Greg Clark to make good on a Conservative manifesto commitment and support the development of island renewable projects. In a letter to the Energy Secretary, Mr Crichton said: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar believes renewable energy, and wind energy in particular, has the potential to deliver a transformational economic step-change for the Hebrides. This is an opportunity that our communities are keen to seize. Our developers are confident that they can deliver significant quantities of clean, green energy to the UK consumer at a significantly lower cost than any other technology. I believe that the work undertaken by yourself, allied to the clear commitment in the Conservative Party Manifesto, places us in a position where significant progress can be made over the next 12 months.  I look forward to that progress being made.”

Jobless figures down in Western Isles
The latest labour market statistics show an improving local employment picture for the period February to April 2017. The National Labour market statistics, released yesterday, showed 285 people in the Western Isles unemployed and claiming benefit, a drop of 55 or 16% on the same period last year. The picture for 18-24 year-olds has improved most, with just 35 looking for work, down 36%. The JobCentre in Stornoway said that the hospitality sector is in their busy season and still have vacancies in housekeeping, catering/ waiting staff and reception staff, with more opportunities still available in the retail sector. Stornoway Jobcentre also offer a variety of work experience opportunities for people to gain experience and improve skills.
Apprenticeship scheme opens
Meanwhile the Comhairle yesterday published the 2017 Apprenticeship Programme, with over 40 apprenticeships available from the Butt to Barra, across a wide range of sectors and departments. These new posts are now live on www.myjobscotland.gov.uk Information evenings will take place over the next two weeks in Stornoway, Tarbert, Castlebay and Balivanich. Cllr Angus McCormack, Chairman of Education, Sport and Children's Services, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for people from the Butt to Barra to earn whilst they learn, and very importantly - to do so in their own areas. The Comhairle is committed to workforce planning and having a sustainable platform for the future, to help our communities and our islands to flourish and we will continue to work hard to ensure that we achieve these aims."
Hebridean Cycle Challenge
The Hebridean Cycle Challenge is tomorrow, with 55 riders and their support vehicles set to leave Lochside Arena at 10.30am. Organisers are asking drivers to be aware that there’ll be some disruption to traffic on the route, which heads towards Stornoway then turns to the Pentland Road where the cyclists will continue on to Carloway Community Hall. It’s expected that cyclists will be on the road up until about 1.30pm, so avoiding Pentland Road will help to keep everyone safe and avoid driver frustration.
Midge Biters Rally
The second annual Midge Biters Rally also rides out from Stornoway Golf Club tomorrow, with motorbikes gathered from all over the islands and mainland Scotland. Registration starts this afternoon and the bikers will gather for a social evening at the Golf Club tonight. Tomorrow’s ride heads to Leverburgh from Stornoway, stopping in Tarbert and returning via Callanish, before a second social evening with awards being presented at the Golf Club.
Cruise ship
The MS Hebridean Sky is expected in Stornoway harbour today on the first of two visits this summer. Sister ship to the MS Island Sky and MS Caledonian Sky, she’s described as ‘one of the finest small ships in the world’. She was formerly known as the Sea Explorer, but underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment in Sweden in Spring 2016 before being re-launched as the MS Hebridean Sky.