Local News for Thursday 21st September 2017

Charge motorhomes to visit – MSP
The prospect of charging a levy to owners of motorhomes visiting the islands has been raised within the Scottish Government, after Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan wrote to Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP. He asked what consideration could be given to a “motorhome levy”, aimed at raising revenue to improve local infrastructure. The suggestion comes after islanders commented on over-full ferries, and on anti-social dumping of toilet contents in public drains. Visitors responded that there were too few publically available chemical disposal points. In August a new disposal point was opened by North Harris Trust at Urgha, between Tarbert and Scalpay. Alasdair Allan said: “It has been a fantastic thing for our local economies in the Western Isles that we have had record numbers of tourists. The numbers of motorhomes using island ferry routes has shot up, there is a lack of suitable sites for them, a lack of waste disposal units and the extra space that they require on the ferries has contributed to the capacity problems we have seen over the summer. Motorhomes play an important part in our tourist economy and they are welcome. This is about recognising the pressures created on infrastructure by such a rapid growth in tourism and providing communities with a new source of funding that they can direct as they see fit.”

Goose management call from Comhairle
The Scottish Government has been accused of ‘retreating’ from the problem of goose overpopulation in the islands, with chair of the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee, Cllr Donald Crichton, writing to Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, to express concern about goose management. Cllr Crichton wrote: “As you will be aware geese are causing severe damage to grass and crops across the Outer Hebrides, particularly in sensitive habitats such as the Uist machair. This, in turn, is having a detrimental impact on crofter's livelihoods. Goose management schemes, when properly funded and managed, can effectively control populations of geese. We have been advised that a £10,000 Challenge Fund – to be shared between Coll and Tiree, the Uists, Lewis and Harris and Orkney – is the only central avenue open. This funding is insufficient and will not cover the costs of running a scheme in one area, let alone the required shooting and scaring efforts required across our respective crofting communities.” Cllr Crichton also noted that licences to sell goose meat are no longer being granted, making it impossible for any management scheme to become sustainable in the long term.. He said: “Without a licencing scheme and adequate funding, it is inevitable that the goose population will rise to the further detriment of croft land, our communities and our already fragile local economy”.

Harris Tweed Hebrides Italian connection
Harris Tweed Hebrides has signed a marketing agreement with an Italian specialist company who will represent the company in all European markets other than the United Kingdom. Japan and the UK are the two main markets for the iconic cloth at present, with around 20% of sales going into Europe. The new marketing agreement was announced in Paris, during the world’s leading textiles trade show where Harris Tweed Hebrides is represented as usual by a sales team from the Shawbost mill, working alongside their new partners in Marzotto Wool Manufacturing. Ian Angus Mackenzie, chief executive of Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: “We have worked with Marzotto for several years and have developed a high respect for their integrity and knowledge of the textiles industry. I am confident this agreement can work well for both parties and also for our existing clients in Europe.”

Lamb prices down at latest sale
The price of lambs at the latest sale at Steinish dropped by an average of £4.57, according to the sale report published by Dingwall and Highland Marts. Lewis and Harris Mart saw 3,607 sheep and lambs go through the auction on September 13th, with store lambs averaging £35.43, up to £76 gross for a pen of mules from West Tarbert. Gimmers sold to £88 for Cheviots from Back, and feeding sheep sold to £66 gross for a pen of Cheviot ewes, also from Back. The next sale is of breeding rams on Monday October 2nd.