Local News for Thursday 19th April 2018

New hope for Arnish
There’s new hope for jobs to return to the Arnish yard in Stornoway, with the Scottish Government’s announcement that they have brokered an agreement between Canadian company JV Driver, through its subsidiary DF Barnes, and Bifab to re-start marine, renewables and energy fabrication. After the announcement this week, islands MSP Alasdair Allan said: “When BiFab got into difficulty last year, the Scottish Government made a commitment to work to secure a long term future for jobs and that is exactly what has happened. I would like to pay tribute to my Scottish Government colleagues Keith Brown MSP and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, who have done a tremendous amount of work to ensure these yards have a future. The workforce at Arnish have demonstrated great resolve and determination in the face of this ordeal, and the unions have worked hard to achieve a positive outcome. Were it not for the combined efforts of the community and the Scottish Government, it is questionable what the state of play would be today.” The news was also welcomed by MP Angus MacNeil and by the Comhairle. Mr MacNeil said: "This is a good step forward, with investment coming in from the Scottish Government through HIE and Scottish Enterprise. The Scottish Government will be encouraging and helping in the gaining of orders. Arnish already have a great track record of producing , fabricating and delivering and we wish them every success going forward." For Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the chairman of the sustainable development committee, Cllr Donald Crichton, said: "The Comhairle warmly welcomes this announcement and the potential it offers for a more sustainable future for the Arnish Yard manufacturing facility. I appreciate there is a lot of hard work ahead, but this is a hugely positive step.”

Tourism industry call for ferry action
The Outer Hebrides Tourism Association has asked for ministerial intervention in the current ferry crisis, fearing possible impacts this summer and beyond for the tourism industry. OHTA said CalMac were ‘juggling’ ferries services for operational reasons and had sacrificed capacity at short notice, serving the Uig triangle with a vessel too small to deliver an effective service and taking MV Lord of the Isles off the Mallaig Lochboisdale route until further notice.OHTA has written to Humza Yousaf, Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, seeking his personal intervention for the urgent reinstatement of the Lord of the Isles and inviting him to a meeting to address growing concerns around Calmac’s ageing fleet and current construction delays to two new ferries, with no further vessels in the pipeline. In a statement the organisation said: “OHT is extremely concerned over the recent recurrent warnings from Calmac that their vessels are too old to guarantee service reliability, so asks what steps are being taken to provide, at absolute minimum, a fit-for-purpose ferry service for the future to the Outer Hebrides.”

Jobless totals down
There are 300 people out of work and claiming benefit in the Western Isles, down by 45 or 13% on the position one year ago. Stornoway JobCentre said that the percentage change over five years was 40%, or 200 less people out of work and claiming benefit. The figures were released on the back of national labour market statistics, which showed a decrease in Scottish unemployment of just over 8,000 people over the past year. Stornoway Jobcentre offer a variety of work experience opportunities, work trials and sector based placements, working closely with employers across the Western Isles in order for people to gain experience and improve skills within different sectors. There is a Community Hub in the Jobcentre in Stornoway, where partner organisations come in to offer support and advice. Anyone interested in any of these initiatives should contact the local Jobcentreplus office.

Connor’s new bike
A brand new bike funded by pupil power and top-up funds from Point and Sandwick Trust will help Sgoil an Rubha pupil Connor Macleod join in with independent cycling fun and exercise. Pupils in Connor’s P3-5 class organised a sponsored cycle and raised £608 towards the £900 specialist bike, with Point and Sandwick adding £250 to ensure that Connor, from Upper Bayble, could get his own perfect set of wheels. It’s a third contribution from PST to school activities in Point – they have already donated two full sets of school sports strips and money for Lego play therapy sets. Connor is in principal teacher Anne Macphail's P3/4/5 composite class and will be able to keep the bike in school or take it home as it is highly portable. Anne said: "The whole class wanted to do something for Connor that shows he's included. It wasn't about the money. It was about giving him the same rights that they have. The kids absolutely adore Connor. They were very enthusiastic about doing something for their classmate. The kids all came together and the community helped us".

Clean Coast ton-up!
Clean Coast Outer Hebrides bust their one-ton rubbish target wide open once all the totals were in from last week’s beach cleans, with a staggering 1.5 tons of plastic and rubbish collected from beaches around the Outer Hebrides. A big total was achieved at Balranald in North Uist, where 660kg was collected on Saturday. Over eight days, 48 individual beach cleans were carried out, with 142 people collecting 1,542kg. Also on Saturday, North Harris Trust filled five one-ton bags with rubbish at Outend Scalpay. Beach cleans will continue to be organised throughout the summer by Clean Coast Outer Hebrides and other organisations.