Local News for Thursday 28th June 2018

‘Excellent teamwork’ on St Kilda rescue

Stornoway Coastguard rescue team carried out a difficult rescue in a challenging setting on Tuesday afternoon, with rope technician Nathan Harris singled out for special praise. The team were tasked by Stornoway Coastguard at 14:30 to travel to St Kilda aboard rescue helicopter R948, to help an 87-year-old man whom had fallen down a cliff on the west side of St Kilda. He had been part of a small expedition party and had been camping alone overnight, but had fallen and cut his legs, and was stranded in a very difficult location. Tarbert and Scalpay coastguard teams were taken to the island by the RNLI Leverburgh lifeboat as a back-up team, but Stornoway coastguard team were able to recover the man using rope rescue techniques, before he was transferred to Stornoway aboard the helicopter. Volunteer teams from Tarbert and Suth Lochs manned the landing site, and he was taken to Western Isles Hospital by ambulance. The Stornoway coastguards were returned to Leverbugh on the lifeboat and were full of praise for the smooth teamwork that made the rescue possible, saying: “Our rope technician, Nathan Harris, carried out a highly technical rescue in a very difficult location and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar provided transport to get the team back to Stornoway – a great example of multi-agency team work! We wish the casualty a speedy recovery.”

Mobile branch cut in Barra

Royal Bank of Scotland have cancelled their trials of a mobile bank branch for Barra, citing low usage and ferry capacity issues as the reason for their decision. The mobile branch has been visiting Castlebay on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and Northbay on Thursday since RBS made their announcement that the Castlebay branch was to be closed. Islanders have conducted a concerted campaign to maintain footfall in the Castlebay building – perhaps one reason why the bank in a van is not being well-used. Isles MP Angus MacNeil says he now hopes the ‘penny has dropped’ for RBS who may be realising that cutting island branches is a false economy. Mr MacNeil has been campaigning for the branches in Castlebay and Lochboisdale to be retained and had accused RBS of taking up valuable space on the ferries at the busiest time of the year. The Castlebay branch remains under threat of closure but is the subject of an independent review by Johnston Carmichael. The Lochboisdale branch is operating on reduced opening hours and Mr MacNeil is calling for the review to also include the South Uist branch. He said: “The penny may finally have dropped that it is better not only for their customers but also their own bank balance to abandon all plans for branch cuts.”


Allan returns to backbenches

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has returned to the back benches at Holyrood after he announced this week that he had left the Scottish Government’s ministerial team and will now concentrate on his ‘first and foremost duty’ – serving the people of the Western Isles. Dr Allan’s announcement on Tuesday came just before First Minister Nicola Sturgeon named her new ministerial team, in a reshuffle which saw a number of prominent departures. Dr Allan has been serving as Minister for International Development and Europe since 2016, a post which followed the role of Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages under former First Minister Alex Salmond. He said: “I would like to thank both the First Minister and the former First Minister Alex Salmond for allowing me the opportunity to serve in two successive Scottish Governments. It has truly been an honour. Representing the people of the Western Isles in Scotland’s Parliament is my first and foremost duty. My constituency spans 130 miles and encompasses 13 inhabited islands. Balancing both my roles as the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Na h-Eileanan an Iar and a Government Minister has proved more than a little logistically challenging at times. I am greatly looking forward to be able to spend even more time in the islands that I am now proud to call my home.”