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Isles FM News – Friday 18th February 2022

LEVERHULME COMMUNITY HUB LTD SIGN £1M CONTRACT FOR REFURBISHMENT WORKS

Leverhulme Community Hub Ltd have announced that a contract of works for the renovation of the former Leverburgh school building has been signed with local construction firm, Lewis Builders. Lasting 52 weeks, the contract will see a full refurbishment of the Lord Leverhulme-built facility, including the installation of energy efficient measures.

Once complete, Leverhulme Community Hub will consist of a café, launderette, charity shop, gym, historical society, along with offices for let and a community space for hire.

The signing of the contract is a momentous occasion for the Hub board of directors who have worked tirelessly for over 6 years to bring the project to this stage.

Funding from a variety of sources has made the renovation project possible. The Board wishes to express its thanks to: Architectural Heritage Fund, CARES, Crown Estates, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Garfield Weston, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Islands Green Recovery Fund (Inspiring Scotland), Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, Scottish Land fund, Western Isles Lottery and the Western Isles Development Trust.

Working alongside Lewis Builders and the LCH Board will be a construction design team comprising of Taighean Innse Gall, IMQS, Greenspace Live and Total Design.

FIRE ALARM LAWS AND INSURANCE

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant was concerned that home insurance would be invalidated if homeowners fail to comply with the new fire alarm laws which are now in place in Scotland. However, she has since received reassurance from the Association of British Insurers (API) that this is unlikely. In their email to the MSP, they say:

‘Our members are aware of the new regulations coming into force and are unlikely to invalidate a home insurance claim for existing customers who haven’t yet complied with the new law in Scotland. Anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions should speak to their insurer.’

Major insurers such as, Aviva, AXA, Admiral Group and LV= have confirmed that they will not invalidate claims where their customers have not yet been able to install the new interlinked fire and smoke alarms. Following this response, the MSP has further enquired whether there will be a time that these new fire alarm laws will invalidate home insurance.

Rhoda Grant MSP said:

‘I’m glad that this is the current position of most home insurance companies and I wish to spread this reassuring message from API.
I will also continue the fight to see that help is extended to low-income households as it’s vitally important that we are all as safe as we can be within our homes.’

CONTRACT FOR LOCHMADDY PIER IMPROVEMENT WORKS AWARDED

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has awarded a £15.3m contract to civil engineering contractor George Leslie Ltd to carry out upgrade works at Lochmaddy Pier in North Uist.
Lochmaddy Pier is owned by the Comhairle and, working closely with Transport Scotland, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), CalMac Ferries Ltd and The Highland Council, the pier and associated infrastructure is to be upgraded to improve the ferry service provision at Lochmaddy and provide an enhanced experience for all ferry and harbour users both now and into the future.

The project forms a key part of the programme of infrastructure improvements on the Skye Triangle ferry routes with improvement works recently completed at Tarbert, Isle of Harris, and ongoing at Uig, Isle of Skye.

Constructions works are scheduled to start in March 2022 and completed in spring 2023. CalMac will continue to operate ferry services during the works.

Transport Scotland continues to work with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, The Highland Council and CMAL in the delivery of the ambitious plans for the facilities at the three ports of Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig through the Skye Triangle Infrastructure Improvement Programme.

Isles FM News – Thursday 17th February 2022

ISLES CARLOWAY BROOCH STILL SHUT AFTER ALMOST 3-YEARS

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is pressing Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to prioritise the reopening of the historic Carloway Broch on Lewis.
The broch, a tower built in the 1st Century AD, is one of the most important visitor attraction in the Western Isles, but was closed in 2019 after a visitor had a fall on site. Since then it has been awaiting restoration work before it can be reopened.
Mr Cameron said:
‘After nearly three years, the patience of the local community is finally running out. Dun Carloway is an essential part of the tourist offering here and we cannot afford to let this go on.
‘I am asking HES to provide me with a date by which the work will be completed so that local hospitality and tourism providers can make their own plans.’
Local Councillor, Ranald Fraser said:
‘It is hugely disappointing that we are still waiting for HES to complete the works at the Broch. Our tourism sector is dependent on landmark attractions such as the Broch at Doune Carloway being fully open and accessible.
‘This unique attraction and combined with the nearby Callanish standing stones, provides a truly memorable experience for visitors coming to our islands.
‘We are simply not prepared to wait any longer for HES to get their act together.’

ADDITIONAL FUNDING TO SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR WILD SALMON AND SEA TROUT

The Scottish salmon sector’s investment in a fund to support the wild salmon industry has increased following the success of the previous round in 2021.
The ‘Wild Salmonid Support Fund’, which opens for applications today, will make an additional £120,000 available this year to help support a sustainable future for wild salmon and sea trout in Scottish rivers.
Last year more than £9,000 was awarded to Carloway Estate Trust on Lewis to help develop the river and loch system to encourage a healthy, strong and increased salmon population.
Aimed at tackling the decades long decline of wild salmon and sea trout, the fund will invest in fisheries organisations that work to enhance and protect wild fisheries and habitats.

Organisations are encouraged to request grants in the range of £10,000 and £35,000 before the application period closes on Monday, March 21, with a decision to come in the week commencing May 23. Individual projects should be completed with 18 months of the project being awarded funds.

More information is available online at: www.foundationscotland.org.uk/wild-salmonid-support-fund

BILL ON CANDIDACY RIGHTS FOR FOREIGN NATIONALS

New legislation has been published to ensure all nationals of Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Spain can stand as candidates in Scottish local government elections.
Following changes made in 2020, all nationals from these countries can already vote in local elections and those with settled status or pre-settled status can stand as candidates in local government elections.
The Scottish Local Government Elections (Candidacy Rights of Foreign Nationals) Bill will ensure those without settled or pre-settled status can also stand in local government elections in Scotland following treaties between these EU countries and the UK Government relating to the extension of voting and candidacy rights.
The Bill also allows Scottish Ministers to add to the list of countries through regulations if further treaties are signed.
Subject to the parliamentary process, the Bill is expected to come into force during the summer.

Isles FM News – Wednesday 16th February 2022

CNES TRADING STANDARDS FAKE INVOICES WARNING

Trading Standards at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are warning businesses across the Islands to be vigilant in relation to possible scams involving fake invoice requests sent by email to businesses across the Islands.
The Comhairle has had a recent report of a business receiving a demand for payment that, in this case, appeared to be from a business they did in fact deal with and expect to make payments to. However, it appears a hack took place of a genuine email account leading to an invoice being sent that, although appearing legitimate, had been fraudulently altered by changing the payment bank account details changed to that of a fraudster. Fortunately, this was spotted in time and no payment was made.
Jay Moran from CnES Trading Standards, said:
“Criminals will use sophisticated and often extreme means such as this to try and take money from both consumers and in this case businesses, too. Please be careful when making any electronic payments to others, including when regular and expected demands for money are made. If in any doubt, take time to think and make every effort to confirm the invoice is genuine and satisfy yourself that the money is going to the right person or business.”
Any queries/concerns should be directed to Trading Standards on 01851 822694 or ts@cne-siar.gov.uk

MSP WELCOMES SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT COST OF LIVING PAYMENT

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, welcomed the financial support committed by the Scottish Government recently to help households with the cost of living crisis, though emphasised that this was a problem created by the UK Government, and one which only they had the power to fix.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes outlined plans to give 73% of Scottish households (those in council tax bands A to D and those eligible for council tax reduction) a £150 payment, with a further £10m to be targeted at people struggling with fuel bills.
Before the budget amendments were announced, Allan again raised the issue of the significantly higher impact of the price cap rise on island homes with Energy Secretary Michael Matheson, asking:
“The UK’s recent price cap hike will cause many energy bills in the Western Isles to rise potentially even higher than Ofgem’s 54% increase from April, but what can the Scottish Government do to press the UK Government to remedy what has just been inflicted on vulnerable people in the islands?”
The Energy Secretary was sympathetic and said the UK Government should look to remove the obligations which are placed on energy tariffs which would help to reduce the cost of electricity as a source of heating, as well as expanding the Warm Homes Discount Scheme.
Allan has also lodged a motion emphasising the devastating consequences of rising energy bills for island households in particular, and is hoping to secure a Members’ Debate on the issue.

COMHAIRLE CALL FOR URGENT ACTION ON FERRIES

With ferry services in chaos throughout the Inner and Outer Hebrides as a result of over runs in the CalMac dry docking schedule and other issues, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling for urgent action from CalMac and Scottish Government to ensure lifeline service is restored and a community voice is listened to.
While Scottish Government has committed new funds – with a commitment to order two new ferries for Islay to a design that can fit nearly every harbour on the network along with the delayed ferries being built by Ferguson Port Glasgow – this will not be enough to address the existing renewal needs of the CalMac ferries fleet.
To provide short term relief an opportunity exists for Government to purchase MV Pentalina which could enter service immediately to either Arran or Mull and allow redeployment of another ferry to shore up the delivery of services across the network.
Government also needs to increase the planned order of the new Islay ferries from the planned two to at least four ferries. This action would go a long way to re-setting the decades of underinvestment in ferries and give island communities genuine confidence that Government will support their economic recovery from the most challenging period in living memory.

Isles FM News – Tuesday 15th February 2022

AN LANNTAIR RELEASE SHORT FILMS

An Lanntair have recently released a series of short films highlighting the use of Gaelic in the creative industries sector in Lewis.
The films, which were produced with funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, feature our younger generation who are choosing employment in areas which place both the language and culture at the heart of their work.
They span a range of art forms including media, performing and visual arts, and take the form of interviews on both their current work and views on how to support the language and culture going forward.
Alex Macdonald, An Lanntairs Head of Performing Arts, said:
“The theme of these films was how Gaelic inspires, which I believe the resulting pieces clearly illustrate. We were also able to employ two young film makers locally to create the pieces, and our thanks goes to them and all those who participated.”
The films are available to watch now on An Lanntair’s Youtube channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa-il1dszkosCQsLpnUoBQw

DONALD MACLEOD COMPETITION CANCELLED AGAIN BUT KINLOCH RECITAL WILL GO AHEAD

The Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition has been cancelled for a third year due to the Covid 19 restrictions and uncertainty – but a twice-postponed recital will go ahead in the summer, the Lewis and Harris Piping Society have announced.
The planned recital by Pipe Major (PM) Roddy Macleod MBE, organised in conjunction with the Kinloch Historical Society and to feature the music of PM Alex M Maciver, is now scheduled to take place in Balallan on Friday, June 24.
The changes were announced at the AGM of the Piping Society, held via Zoom.
Giving his annual report to the AGM, Piping Society Chairman Dr John Smith said the “raging Covid pandemic” had “severely curtailed” the activities of the Society for the second year running, particularly in relation to the Donald MacLeod competition, where the Society invites the current eight best pipers in the world to come to Stornoway for the event and pays their costs.

He confirmed: “We decided a few weeks ago that the omens were not looking too good for the Donald MacLeod competition scheduled for April 1, 2022, and that the possibility of losing more money on fares was too much of a risk.
“We also consider that the ethos of the competition is for it to take place in Stornoway, so holding a ‘virtual’ competition is not a realistic option. Accordingly there will be no competition this year but hopefully the PM Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition will resume in the Caladh Hotel on Friday, April 7, 2023.

Anyone wishing to become involved with the Lewis and Harris Piping Society is invited to contact Secretary Joanna Graham, via phone 07950124983, email cambies@hotmail.com or via the Piping Society’s Facebook page.

COMHAIRLE UNITES TO PROTEST AT NO ISLAND APPOINTMENTS TO CALMAC BOARD

At its recent meeting Comhairle nan Eilean Siar unanimously supported a motion expressing disappointment at the lack of island based members appointed to the Calmac Board and supported a call for a review of the appointments process.
The motion, unanimously agreed by Members, was as follows:

‘With the appointment of the new Transport Minister, the Comhairle calls on the Minister to immediately review the appointments process so that in future there is more equitable representation across CalMac and CMAL Boards that reflects the experience and skills of the island communities they serve. This is with a view to providing local expertise and better informing the decision-making process for the delivery of ferry services to our communities.’

Speaking to the motion, Councillor Crichton said:
‘It is right that the Comhairle reiterate its disappointment that no island based appointments were made to the CalMac Board, despite strong representations for this to happen and assurances that the communities would be represented. Instead we have a Chairman from Copenhagan who has been awarded for his failure as Chairman of CMAL and the debacle that is well documented about the procurement of our ferries.
‘We need people appointed from our communities to all public sector boards with responsibilities for our islands that live and work in our communities and actually care for them. I hope this is a motion we can all unite behind.’

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