Local News for Wednesday 15th November 2017

1500 shoeboxes for Blythswood
Over 1500 shoeboxes filled with gifts, toiletries and good wishes will leave Lewis today bound for Romania, in a record year for the Blythswood shoebox appeal. DR Macleod have donated transport to take the boxes from Stornoway to Blythswood’s headquarters in Evanton, from where they’ll go on to deprived communities in Romania. Scheme co-ordinator Cllr Charlie Nicolson called the response from the islands ‘tremendous’ and thanked individuals, churches, schools and groups in Lewis and Harris for their contributions to the 2017 appeal. He said: “Over 1500 Shoeboxes were donated and will be leaving the Island on Wednesday. The local Blythswood Support Group would like to acknowledge the amazing volunteers that helped throughout the Island and at the Appeal Centre in Stornoway, including students from the UHI, senior pupils from the Nicolson Institute and adult volunteers.” The local Shoebox Support Team also included Dorothy Kennedy, Christopher Martin and DJ Macleod.

BiFab workers carrying on
Workers at the threatened yards of the fabrication company BiFab, at Arnish and in Fife, have voted to carry on working while the future of the company remains uncertain. A cashflow crisis connected with BiFab’s massive Beatrice Offshire Windfarm contract led the firm to file papers ahead of going into administration at the weekend. But members of the GMB union at the yards have reportedly agreed to a ‘work-in’ – continuing work on the contract without the certainty of being paid. Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has spoken of the importance to the island economy of manufacturing jobs at Arnish. He said: “The Arnish yard is renowned for the quality of what it makes and the quality of the workforce. The Scottish Government has engaged in discussions with the company and I have been given an assurance that they stand determined to fully explore all options to save the company and the jobs that depend on it.” Meanwhile MP Angus MacNeil is also using his influence to back urgent talks aimed at securing the company’s future. He said: “Clearly I am concerned for the jobs at Arnish and I know that many families will be very worried during this period of uncertainty. The lead developer SSE and the others, in conjunction with Copenhagen Partners and Red Rock have a huge part to play, as do the Royal Bank of Scotland, the main contractors Seaway Heavy Lifting, The Scottish Government and Price Waterhouse Cooper who are all working hard to find a solution. Ultimately I feel that BiFab is a very good engineering company who have been caught on the hook of a complex contract. It is important to bridge them through this period as they will be successful on their own two feet in the future, as well as maintaining and developing skills in Lewis."

Iolaire commemoration plans revealed
Further plans have been revealed for events for the Iolaire Centenary Commemoration in the Western Isles. Over 200 island sailors returning from the First World War lost their lives in the early hours of the first of January 1919, when the Iolaire sank after running aground on the rocks off Holm. It remains the worst maritime disaster during peacetime in the UK. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will host a community event on the evening of 31st December 2018 and a formal civic event on the 1st January 2019. Centenary Commemoration events are being overseen by the Iolaire Working Party comprised of representatives of the Comhairle, Comuinn Eachraidh, Sandwick Community Council, Stornoway Historical Society and Museum nan Eilean. The Comhairle is also liaising with the Royal Navy and Scottish Commemorations Panel. A new Facebook page has been launched which will provide updates over the coming months on the events being planned. The page can be accessed on Facebook by following the link on the Isles FM page.

Weather dependent, there are plans for a vigil at the memorial at Holm in the early hours of 1st January 2019, with a short service and laying of wreaths timed to coincide with events on the night of the first of January 1919. A service during the day of 1st January 2019 is also being planned. A planning application has been submitted to improve the path leading to the Iolaire memorial at Holm.
Museum nan Eilean is also preparing an exhibition marking 100 years since the sinking of the Iolaire. Museum staff would like to hear from anybody who has objects or papers relating to the tragedy, which may be suitable for the planned exhibition.

Warning on ‘council’ scam
Trading Standards at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have warned of a local scam call from a withheld number, claiming to be from the Town Hall. A spokesperson said: "The caller states that you are in Council Tax arrears, and requests payment over the phone. Trading Standards advise that you should delay your call for at least 10 minutes after the initial contact as scammers could keep the line open without your knowledge, or alternatively phone the Council's tax Team on the number, below, using a different phone or a mobile phone." Any resident concerned about Council Tax arrears should contact the Comhairle's Council Tax team on 01851 600502.