Local News for Friday 10th May 2019


The economic and environmental benefits of planting trees on crofting ground will be in the spotlight on the 2nd day of the Croft Woodland conference continuing today, Friday, in Boat of Garten.

The conference is celebrating 25 years of crofter forestry following the Crofter Forestry (Scotland) Act of 1991.
Its architect, former Western Isles MP Calum Macdonald, and Assynt Crofter Bill Ritchie, a leading mover in the community buyout of Assynt estate, spoke yesterday on the first morning of the conference.

Mr Ritchie recalled:
“The Crofter Forestry Act was very important and Calum was responsible for that. He was the person who steered it through Parliament.”
The Crofter Forestry Act was brought forward by Calum Macdonald as a Private Member’s Bill and it was the first extension of the rights of crofters over their grazings since the 1880s.

Calum explained: ‘Prior to this, the rights of crofters over their grazings were just what they had been for 100 years, namely grazing your animals and cutting peat…The only people able to plant trees in the Highlands were multi-millionaires using it as a tax dodge.

Duncan Mackay who was clerk to the Sandwick North Street township said: ‘Before the Crofter Forestry Act came along we were struggling to raise £70 for fertiliser for the grazings, because if you wanted to do improvements, you had to go round begging for money.’
With the passage of the Crofter Forestry Act, common grazings committees could receive £5,000 a year for 15 years in compensation for planting 100 hectares or 190,000 trees.

Read more: Local News for Friday 10th May 2019

Local News for Thursday 9th May 2019


Western Isles Council is reminding the Public about the ‘Best Start Grant’, the grant comprises two cash payments that you can apply for if you're a parent or a carer. You can get these payments if you have a child who's the right age for a payment whether you're in work or not, as long as you're on certain payments or tax credits
The available Grants are:
1. The Pregnancy and Baby Payment
The Pregnancy and Baby Payment is part of a package of three payments that will give extra money to low income families during the early years of a child’s life. Best Start Grant School Age Payment opens for applications on 3rd June and Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment will be available by Summer 2019

2. Early Learning Payment
The Early Learning Payment is a package of three payments that will give extra money to low income families during the early years of a child’s life. It is a £250 payment made between the ages of two and three and a half years old. This is to help with the costs of early learning for eligible families who have a child
More information and how to apply is available on the Social Security Scotland website at www.mygov.scot/best-start-grant/



An attempt to review the future use of Sandwickhill School and possibly return it to the school estate as a primary school was turned down by the Western Isles Council at the Education Committee recently.
With the current roll of pupils using the facilities down to two and likely to fall further and with another ninety houses planned for the Mackenzie Estate, Stornoway South SNP Councillor, Rae Mackenzie asked for a report to review the future use of the school.
Cllr Rae Mackenzie said: “As the populous grows at Parkend, facilities need to be put in to strengthen the community and there is nothing more community-centred than a school.
"We have a school building on our doorstep, let’s bring it back into use for the surrounding area. Parkend and Sandwick has great potential given the increase in housing and we should be looking at opportunities for shops and food outlets to create a community hub and resurrecting the school would be a great start.”
Cllr Mackenzie has requested that the report be brought back at a later meeting.

Local News for Tuesday 7th May 2019


Speaking in a recent Climate Change debate in the House of Commons, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil asked Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP to push Ofgem to approve a 600MW interconnector for the Western Isles.
Mr MacNeil said: “A major help in reducing the UK’s Carbon footprint is the inclusion of a 600MW interconnector to the mainland – from the best wind resource in Europe.
“At the moment Ofgem are talking about a 450MW link, for just 4p more for the billpayer, we could do a lot more.
“Will he stamp on Ofgem and when they talk about concerns for the consumer, will they talk about concerns for the consumer’s environment and not a tawdry 4p on people’s bill.”
Mr Gove said it was a ‘fair point well made’ although adding it was a decision for Ofgem.
Mr MacNeil had been contacted by many constituents asking him to take part in the Opposition Day Climate Change debate.

Read more: Local News for Tuesday 7th May 2019

Local News for Wednesday 8th May 2019


Organisers of Lewis music festival Stramash are celebrating after securing a five-year sponsorship deal from Point and Sandwick Trust (P.S.T.), which will help with running costs and allow them to expand their operation.

P.S.T. has pledged £7,000 to the festival – a £2,000 grant towards the purchase of a tent extension and £1,000 a year for five years towards running costs.

The annual festival is held every summer on the Castle Green in Stornoway with the aim of providing a platform for local musicians and artists to showcase their own material.
Stramash – on August 9th and 10th this year, with Astrid and Twister confirmed as headliners – is always free to enter, fully inclusive, and the organisers have been gradually buying all the equipment they need over the years, to become fully sustainable.

The money from P.S.T. will allow them to buy a tent extension this year, to increase its capacity by 20 per cent. It will create a much-needed backstage area and a marshalling area for musical equipment, which will allow for bigger musical set-ups on stage and faster changeovers between bands.

Paul Matheson, chairman of the Stramash Stornoway Community Group, said the money from P.S.T. was “a complete game changer”.
Donald John MacSween, P.S.T. general manager, said: “Stramash, organised entirely by Paul and his dedicated band of volunteers and talented island musicians, is now an important part of the summer event scene in the islands.

Read more: Local News for Wednesday 8th May 2019

Local News for Monday 6th May 2019


Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish Government is again tendering for the PSO route from Barra to Glasgow but is asking for more action to ensure the community can access lifeline flights at short notice.

Mr MacNeil said: “It was ironic that on the day of this announcement, there were no seats available between Glasgow and Barra for the next fortnight.

“This is impacting on the local community and businesses, both local and off island, who are having to deal with shorter windows of need and find that bookings are taken by tourists who have booked long in advance, sometimes just doing day returns.”

He added: “I would ask Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Transport to accept that all the seats have booking windows typically of 9-12 months but that they do need to keep some seats with shorter booking windows of 2-4 weeks for the summer period.

“During the summer, the lifeline air service is very often closed to islanders because of the length of booking windows.”

The Invitation to Tender for the contract, which will run for four years from 25th October 2019 includes new measures which will see little used services from Barra and Tiree removed from schedules to create a bank of rotations which can be deployed at the discretion of local communities.

A trial on the Barra service, which sees seats reserved for passengers travelling for medical purposes, will also be formalised in the new contract.

Read more: Local News for Monday 6th May 2019