Local News for Monday 19th March 2018

HebCelt ‘best in Scotland’
Hebridean Celtic Festival has been crowned with another honour, winning the award for best cultural event or festival at the Scottish tourism 'Oscars' – the prestigious Scottish Thistle awards. Judges praised the Hebridean Celtic Festival for delivering "an internationally acclaimed event" and noted its record-breaking attendance figures in 2016. Festival director Caroline Maclennan said: "This is another fantastic honour for everyone connected to the festival, including our audience, sponsors, supporters, volunteers and community. Getting this recognition from the tourism industry underlines the festival's drawing power for visitors, many of whom use the event as a starting point for a longer visit to the Outer Hebrides. As well as its cultural significance, it is also a huge economic driver for the islands." Alan MacKenzie, Island Manager at VisitScotland, said: "I would like to say a massive congratulations to Hebridean Celtic Festival on being crowned the best in Scottish tourism.

Fuel shortage ends
The fuel tanker Sarnia Cherie docked in Stornoway harbour in the early hours of Saturday, signalling the end of a fuel shortage in the islands which has been causing concern to the Comhairle. The Emergency Planning Coordinating Group for the Western Isles met on Friday to discuss the situation, after being in constant communication with Certas Energy and Highland Fuels for over a week. The group said they wished to thank Certas Energy, Highland Fuels, Caledonian MacBrayne and all other local partners who helped bring the situation to a satisfactory conclusion.

First hurdle passed for families bill
A Private Member’s Bill put forward in the House of Commons by Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has passed its first major hurdle, getting g through a second reading in Parliament with the backing of MPs of all parties. The bill, proposed by Mr MacNeil, seeks to allow refugees families to be reunited, with relatives allowed to travel to the UK to join their families. It won votes on Friday from SNP, Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, Green and DUP MPs. The Bill will now proceed to Committee Stage for further scrutiny and amendments. The Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill would give child refugees in the UK the right to sponsor their close family to come to the UK, and would expand who qualifies as a family, so that young people who have turned 18, and elderly parents, can live in safety with their families in the UK. It also seeks to reintroduce legal aid, so that refugees who have lost everything get support to navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families. The Bill has been backed by the Refugee Council, the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty UK, the British Red Cross and Oxfam GB. After the successful vote Mr MacNeil said: “The Refugee Family Reunion Bill is not a party political issue, but a humanitarian one. It is a Bill that puts compassion first and seeks to bring to an end the callous approach of the UK government which has kept refugee children away from their parents, siblings and wider family.”

First cruise
The cruise season got off to a bumpy start on Saturday, when the first ship due into Stornoway, regular visitor Astoria, spent just a short time in the outer harbour after a rough journey from Orkney. No passengers were landed and the Astoria continued on to her next destination in the more sheltered waters of Tobermory. The Astoria was the first in a slate of 46 cruise visits expected by Stornoway Port Authority, including at least three first-time visitors. The next vessel expected is the Marco Polo on Tuesday April 10th, by which time hopefully spring will be here!

Lewis Camanachd travelled away again on Saturday to meet Boleskine in the Marine Harvest North Division 2, and were on the receiving end of a 2-nil scoreline, the home team getting the points. The season continues next Saturday with an away match against Kilmallie. Throw-up time to be advised later in the week.