Local News for Wednesday 28th June 2017

Gold at Gotland
Kara Hanlon was the Western Isles golden girl going into day three of the NatWest Island Games in Gotland, Sweden, and she started a gold rush for her team, with sisters Kerry and Kirsty MacPhee also topping the podium on Tuesday afternoon. Kara beat all-comers in the pool on Monday evening, winning her final in the women’s 50metre breaststroke half a second ahead of silver medallist Laura Kinley of the Isle of Man. The MacPhee sisters, from South Uist, commanded the field in the mountain bike cross country yesterday afternoon – Kerry bagging the individual gold medal and Kirsty the silver, to make sure of the team gold between them. Those medals moved Western Isles well up the table, placing them ahead of Orkney and Shetland in the good-humoured Scottish island rivalry, but a long way below table-topping Jersey, already on 31 medals, 14 of them gold, by yesterday afternoon.

Western Isles women have earned their place in the 4 x 100 metres running relay on Friday, qualifying third in their heat in a time of 50.47. Sian Macdonald, Abbie Mackay, Eilidh Macleod and Jenny Mactaggart will be running against both Shetland and Orkney, among other teams in Friday’s final.

Today sees Kirsty MacPhee in action again, with Christina Mackenzie in the women’s individual road race, while in the men’s race Harris cyclist Stuart Ashley and Point’s Craig McCulloch form the Western Isles team. Western Isles women kick off against Ynys Mon at 5pm in their final group stage football match, and our golfers go into the second round of the competition hoping to improve on the team’s 10th position, and perhaps on David Black’s joint 12th place in the individual rankings. There’s action too in shooting, in the pool and on the track, where Eilidh Mackenzie and Connor Maclean go for the Western Isles in the 5,000 metres.

No more islanders’ blood donations
Blood donations from residents of the Western Isles have quietly come to a stop, with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) saying they they have stopped planning for blood donation programmes in Stornoway. The last visit by the blood donor vehicle was in September 2016, and SNBTS have cited “unpredictable weather conditions” and “transport delays” among reasons for discontinuation of the service. Blood has to be delivered to the blood bank within 22 hours of being donated, and any time delay during donor sessions risks the blood being discarded as unusable if this time is exceeded. There’ll be no impact on the delivery of tested and processed blood to the Western Isles. Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said he was ‘disappointed’ at the decision, which has been rumoured for some months, as regular donors looked for this year’s sessions. Dr Allan said: “I know many people in the islands will be disappointed they will no long have the opportunity to donate blood on a regular basis. The sessions in Stornoway were very well attended, which is a fantastic testament to the sense of community and citizenship we have here in the Isles. I plan to meet with the Associate Director of Donor and Transport Services at SNBTS in the coming weeks to discuss this issue and the possibility of its reintroduction in future.”

Broadband speeds among lowest – Which
Broadband speeds in the Western Isles are the 6th lowest in Britain, with Shetland, Orkney and the Highlands even slower in the average speeds received. That was the news from the consumer organisation Which, yesterday releasing their findings on average broadband speeds around Britain. The news came as no surprise to Scottish Labour Connectivity spokesperson Rhoda Grant, who said: “This report again highlights that remote and rural areas including Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the Highlands in my region are still at the back of the queue for connections and that more than half of homes in some parts of rural Scotland are still struggling with very slow internet speeds. It’s the rural areas that have most to gain from being able to access superfast broadband but yet again the Highlands and Islands appear to be an afterthought.”

Young police volunteers march with cadets
The Western Isles Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV) joined the local community in Stornoway this week for the Armed Forces Day parade and lowering of the flag in the town centre. The 10 youth volunteers helped police officers with road closures, ensuring the area was safe for the parade to pass through. Adult Volunteer Tom Danks and six of the youth volunteers also marched in the parade and took up position behind the Army and RAF cadets. PSYV Co-ordinator PC Rick Henderson said: "Despite having only begun marching during their induction course, the youth volunteers did the PSYV Western Isles group proud and were brilliant in their drill movements."

Tick awareness wins parliament approval
NHS Western Isles has been applauded by the Scottish Parliament in their efforts to reduce Lyme disease and promote tick awareness. Ticks are particularly common in the grasslands of the Uists and in areas that are frequented by deer, and their bite can transmit Lyme disease to humans. There were 33 confirmed cases across the Western Isles last year, a rate significantly higher than the UK average. In a Scottish Parliamentary motion, Donald Cameron MSP stated the debate provided “an important opportunity to discuss an issue that connects rural affairs and public health... in particular, the Uists, which Lyme disease affects more than any other part of Scotland.” Mr. Cameron said, “I welcome the seriousness with which the issue is being taken by NHS Western Isles and I welcome the actions that it is pursuing to raise public awareness.”