Local News for Tuesday 3rd April 2018

MSP steps in to ferry chaos
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has stepped in to raise the problems affecting ferry users in North Uist and Harris with both Calmac and Transport Minister Humza Yousaf. The MV Hebridean Isles is now covering the routes from Uig to Tarbert and Lochmaddy, while MV Hebrides is away servicing other routes and Clansman is in dry dock. Dr Allan said: “The capacity of the relief vessel on the ‘Uig Triangle’ route is clearly not enough to cope with the demands of passengers at this time of year, as recent days have shown. The crew of MV Hebridean Isles have put in a huge effort trying to cope, for which they deserve thanks, and there have also been some extra sailings by the Lochboisdale ferry to try to pick up the strain for people in Uist. With MV Hebrides not due back on the route for a month or so, there is a real problem on these routes. As local MSP, I have urged Calmac to take whatever measures are possible to ensure that capacity is available for people to travel to and from Lochmaddy and Tarbert adequately in the coming weeks.”

CalMac has admitted that the situation this week is just the start of a probable summer of discontent, with ageing vessels and the increasing popularity of the Hebrides as a holiday destination creating a recipe for trouble. Nearly half of the ferries working island routes are already beyond their 25-year life expectancy and the risk of mechanical failures and breakdown is growing. Robbie Drummond, interim managing director of CalMac, said: "We ask a lot of our fleet, and indeed our people, at the busiest time of year on our network. I am very conscious of the workload our boats will be undertaking and the strain that puts them under, particularly the older vessels in the fleet. We're already dealing with the consequences of that reality and I'd like to apologise to everyone as the MV Clansman is currently in dry dock awaiting the return of the propulsion unit sent to Denmark for repairs. CMAL is investing in new ferries, with the Glen Sannox due to be launched in November. Until then, we will of course proactively manage as best we can with the current fleet, but I fear that it will, at times, cause issues on some of our routes."

Ferry terminal work starts
Work has started on upgrades at Stornoway Harbour, which will include extra marshalling lanes and changes to check-in procedures. The increased capacity should reduce delays on Shell Street during busy early morning and lunchtime check-in periods. Improvements also include removing the mini-roundabout at the terminal building, bringing car parking closer to the building and creating additional drop-off spaces. The work is being carried out by Breedon Hebrides and are being 50 per cent funded by Transport Scotland. The authority's Chief Executive Alex MacLeod said: "It became apparent that both the marshalling layout and parking arrangement at the ferry terminal required further development. Extensive traffic management arrangements will ensure that there will be minimal effect on ferry terminal users during this time."

Tenth birthday for HTH
Harris Tweed Hebrides were given a tenth birthday salute at the Scottish Style Awards at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow at the weekend. It was the first in a series of events marking ten years since Harris Tweed Hebrides took over a derelict mill at Shawbost when the industry was at its lowest ebb. The company now gives employment to around 250 mill-workers and weavers in Lewis and Harris. Mary McGowne, organizer of the Scottish Style Awards, said: “Everyone in the fashion and textiles industries admires the exciting and remarkable success of Harris Tweed Hebrides. On their tenth birthday, it’s only right to recognise it with a special show which gives a taste of what has been achieved with the fabric”.

PM Macleod competition sponsorship
This week sees one of the most prestigious piping competitions in the world, the Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition, taking place in Stornoway, with the added good news of a five-year sponsorship deal from wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust. Point and Sandwick has pledged £5,000 to the competition every year for five years. The competition costs around £11,000 a year to put on, with the Piping Society footing the bill for air fares and accommodation for some of the world’s top pipers taking part, as well as the judges. Point and Sandwick Trust chairman Angus McCormack said: “We have a strong ethos of supporting arts and cultural activities on the island. Piping is an integral part of our culture and we are very pleased to be able to help the Piping Society in their efforts to continue this prestigious annual competition in Stornoway.” This year’s competition, the 25th annual event, takes place in the Caladh Hotel on Friday, April 6th and will be followed by a ceilidh at night and a workshop for pipers the next day. The competition celebrates the musical legacy of P/M Donald MacLeod, one of Stornoway’s most famous sons.

Climate money aids energy challenge
Galson and Carloway Trusts are sharing nearly £150,000 awarded through the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) to help tackle climate change by running projects that reduce local carbon emissions. The two trusts will offer free support to residents of both Carloway Estate and Galson Estate, helping people save energy in the home as well as supplying information on energy efficiency measures and climate change. Kenneth Maclennan, chairperson of Carloway Community Trust, said: “Working alongside another land trust will support the delivery and development of the project and we hope to recruit and train a team of volunteers, who will become “Energy Champions” to deliver a project that meets the needs of our communities.”