Local News for Thursday 16th August 2018

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), operating as Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission under licence, has recently submitted to the energy regulator, Ofgem, a Strategic Wider Works (SWW) ‘Final Needs Case’ for a subsea cable transmission link from Western Isles to the Scottish mainland.

The network reinforcement is required to enable renewable generation seeking to connect on Western Isles access to the GB market.

The Western Isles is home to some of Scotland’s greatest wind resource and following the growth in small-scale renewable electricity generation over recent years, the existing Western Isles electricity network is at full capacity meaning no further generation can connect without significant network reinforcements.

Following confirmation from the UK Government to allow remote island onshore wind to compete in the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction in May 2019, there is now an opportunity to progress with the transmission reinforcement, subject to the success of Western Isles renewable developers in the CfD auction and regulatory approval.

SSEN’s proposed solution would deliver a single 600MW subsea circuit from Arnish on Lewis to Dundonnell on the Scottish mainland. This would then connect to SSEN’s Beauly substation near Inverness via underground cables.

Minister for Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, was at Calanais Visitor Centre recently to see how the Isle of Lewis’ ancient past is being recreated using the very latest in digital technology.

Lewis based charitable trust, Urras nan Tursachan, in partnership with St Andrews University, is using cutting edge geophysics, and digital technology to bring to life a monumental landscape lost for 5000 years.

The trust operates the Calanais Visitor Centre, one of the most visited tourism locations in the Outer Hebrides with over 50,000 visitors in 2017. The Centre acts as the gateway to the iconic Calanais Standing Stones, one of the most important monuments in Scotland.

Following his tour the Minister said: “I very much enjoyed my visit to Calanais - there is clearly something very special about the stones themselves and this site and the surrounding landscape is of truly global cultural significance. The Centre’s digital project will preserve every detail of this iconic Scottish location. By using virtual and augmented
reality, all visitors to the island - regardless of age or mobility – will be able to experience Neolithic Lewis, as part of an exciting new Calanais Visitor Centre project opening in 2021.

Against a background of year on year visitor growth, Urras nan Tursachan is working with partners including Historic Environment Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to develop Calanais as a world class visitor attraction.

A Scottish Government advance payment scheme to help cash-flow for crofters and farmers affected by adverse weather conditions is welcomed by the Scottish Crofting Federation.

“The National Basic Payment Support Scheme announced by Scottish Government could help some croft businesses that have been hit by the weather extremes and consequent high feed prices” said Patrick Krause, chief executive of the Scottish Crofting Federation. “Realistically, some crofters are worrying about how they will survive in the coming months with the knock-on from a protracted winter then lack of grass due to drought.”

The National Basic Payment Support Scheme (NBPSS) is being launched to allow crofters and farmers early access to their annual support payments. The funding usually arrives between December and June but loans will be available from October and will offer eligible crofters and farmers up to 90% of what they are due.

Mr Krause added, “The problems don’t necessarily manifest in all crofting areas, but rather are a consequence of forage shortages all over Scotland, which is already leading to higher prices for bought-in hay. An advance can help with cash-flow, but of course the basic problem of feed shortage is still there.

“Crofters are very often existing on marginal land and face adverse weather regularly. This year has been particularly difficult so any help from Scottish Government is appreciated,” concluded Mr Krause.