Local News for Thursday 5th April 2018

Big guns called for cash machine crisis
Western Isles MP has called on the Payment System Regulator to break through ‘a wall of silence’ in the continuing cashpoint crisis in Tarbert. The ATM at the bus station in Tarbert was once again out of order over Easter weekend, just as the first wave of visitors arrived for the summer break. Mr MacNeil, councillors and representatives of North Harris Community Council have been in contact with Cardtronics, the company who have responsibility for this ATM on numerous occasions to report disruptions. Mr MacNeil said: “Once again, the ATM in Tarbert is out of action and Cardtronics continue to ignore the pleas from the local community. Despite assurances that they wanted the Isle of Harris to receive an improved and more consistent level of service - they appear to have washed their hands of this ATM. A wall of silence continues from Cardtronics. Therefore, I am today contacting the Payments System Regulator to ask that they investigate the catalogue of complaints with this ATM.”

Spaceport ‘a serious proposal’
A spaceport in the Western Isles has become ‘a very serious proposal’ according to the leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Cllr Roddie Mackay. Cllr Mackay was among a group of island officials who met Scotland’s Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP in North Uist this week, to discuss the possibility of having a spaceport located in the Hebrides. Representatives of Qinetiq and Isles MP Angus MacNeil were also there to hear the site at Scolpaig in North Uist described to the minister. Mr MacNeil said: “Uist is the lead site in the UK for a vertical take-off facility to be located. Not least because of the local expertise which could launch and successfully guide monitor and control such a rocket. Last year during the maritime exercise Formidable Shield, Hebrides Range in Uist became the only place in the UK to have fired a rocket into space – indeed it was the heaviest, largest and highest rocket launched into space that has ever been fired from the British Isles. Any spaceport site would be based in Scolpaig in North Uist with a firing take off angle about 85 degrees towards the northwest, going high between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, it would not be going over any land at all and be higher than aircraft altitudes within 20 miles. Given the track record of Hebrides Range in being able to conduct very technical launches with an excellent safety record, there can be nowhere better to bring this work than to Uist.”

Port plans to get new airing
Plans to re-shape Stornoway Harbour and marina, extending facilities and creating a new deep water berth, are to be put before the public this month. Public exhibitions will be held on ambitious proposals that include a deep water port and new marina as part of Stornoway Port Authority's 20-year Master Plan. Three opportunities to look at the proposals are planned, and Alex Macleod, the Authority's Chief Executive, said: "These meetings are important parts of the whole process. They will give us the chance to present the proposals and get responses from the community. The planned developments will provide huge economic benefits for the whole island, and we want to move forward with the community fully informed about our plans.” An exhibition on Tuesday 24th April, between 10am-6pm at Stornoway Town Hall will set out the proposals and a second exhibition, on Monday 4th June will see the Port Authority explaining how the proposals have evolved since the first consultation event. There will also be a presentation about the Newton Marina and deep water port projects, and an opportunity to make comments, at the Port Authority's annual public meeting at 7pm on 23rd May at An Lanntair.

Showcase for young people at HebCelt
Young people are to be placed centre stage at Hebridean Celtic Festival this July, with a special Year of Young People event, bringing together 20 musicians aged between 12 and 16 from Barra, North and South Uist and Lewis and Harris. The group will perform a suite of traditional music and Gaelic songs including a new Gaelic song by singer songwriter Eilidh Mackenzie, from Lewis. Eilidh, who comes from a family of Gaelic singers, is a former Mod Gold Medal winner. She will be involved in the project organised by HebCelt and Fèisean nan Gàidheal, the umbrella association of the Fèis (Gaelic arts tuition festival) movement. It is supported by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Lewis Wind Power, which also sponsors the festival’s Islands Stage, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). HebCelt Director Caroline Maclennan said: “The islands are blessed with so many skilled musicians and this project in the Year of Young People will showcase that wonderful talent. The festival is always eager to encourage and promote young artists and we are excited to be able to present this project on the main stage, which places the performance amongst our headline shows.”

Crowdfunding launched for Stornoway Mosque
A JustGiving crowdfunding page has been set up to raise £50,000 towards building the planned Mosque in Stornoway town centre. Leeds construction businessman Aihtsham Rashid is currently working at the site on James Street, and launched the page after an approach from island-based contractors, representing the small Muslim community in Lewis and Harris. He’s been asked to lend his support due to his expertise on the construction of mosques on the mainland, but has now added fundraising to the tasks he has undertaken. Mr Rashid told Isles FM: “God willed it and I am here. A friend from Leeds is project-managing the site and asked for my help, so I jumped on a plane and am now working on the site.” Of the £50,000 fundraising appeal he said: “The word is spreading around the world and it’s great to see. We have had donations from as far away as South Africa. We’ve also had support from island suppliers with the materials. This job requires a lot of financing which the locals cannot afford being such a small community of Muslims." You can donate by following the link on our Facebook page.