Thursday, 27 September 2007

Arnish Fabrication Yard

So, we're back to square one. The current operators of the Fabrication Yard have announced they'll be winding down operations after the current order is completed in November. They blame delays caused by public inquiries and government for the drop-off in orders for renewables (is that so?), and will need more money to keep the place going.

AGAIN?

This is the third time that the Fabrication Yard has been allowed to go down the tubes, following an injection of substantial amounts of public money. The Yard was hailed as the salvation of the Lewis economy, particularly with the three windfarms that are planned for the island. I rather think that the operators should be more pro-active in acquiring orders from elsewhere, rather than sitting on their backsides and waiting for the orders to walk in the door.

It is a disgrace that this situation is allowed to develop again, and if the Arnish Yard does close again, I'd be sorely tempted to recommend Western Isles Enterprise demand their money back from current operators.

Even if the Yard was at one time the perceived salvation of the Lewis economy, there will be hardly anybody left believing that.

The Faroese model

├śli Breckmann is a senior politician from the Faroes (an island group midway between Scotland and Iceland), who has called on the Highlands and Islands to emulate the Faroese model. The Faroes, an archipelago of 18 islands and 49,000 people, are an autonomous region of Denmark. The Faroese speak their own language, which is a close cousin of Icelandic, and according to Mr Breckmann, it has been the language which has proven to be the cornerstone under their success. It is used in all aspects of daily life.

The parallel with the Highlands and Islands is that Gaelic is spoken in the Western Isles (and that description stretches from Islay to Lewis) as well as in large swathes of the Scottish mainland. It should be noted that Orkney and Shetland do NOT have that link, as their heritage is more Scandinavian oriented.

Mr Breckmann has suggested that the H&I use their cultural identity and difference from the rest of the UK to foster economic prosperity and a sense of regional pride.

Methinks this is an interesting observation of the situation that our area finds itself in. This part of Scotland is often compared to outlying areas of Scandinavia, with particularly local politicians looking towards the Lofoden archipelago in northwestern Norway as an example to follow. On the other hand, we have a Nationalist Scottish Government, trying to set Scotland apart from the rest of the UK. I wonder what their stance would be on a Highlands and Islands (the larger part of the Scottish landmass) on a Faroese footing, setting itself apart from the rest of Scotland on the strength of its cultural heritage.

It should be born in mind that Mr Breckmann is a politician on the right of the political spectrum, and his ideas have been publicised by the Policy Institute, which aims to promote a free market economy.

Source: BBC Scotland

Monday, 24 September 2007

Images of Point


Portnaguran from An t-Siumpan


Tiumpan Head Lighthouse


Bayble Beach


Eagleton


Garrabost Mill

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Sunday sailings

It has come to my attention that 37 people have contacted Calmac, requesting them to commence Sunday sailings between Ullapool and Stornoway. This apparently started a week ago, with the majority of this correspondence coming from the Isle of Lewis.

It is possible to reach the mainland on Sunday by travelling from Leverburgh to Berneray, then on to Lochmaddy and by a second ferry to Skye. A circuitous and lengthy detour.

I have given my opinion on Sunday sailings in the past, as I believe it will benefit the island. People working away from the island will be able to come home for the weekend and depart on Sunday, in time to resume their jobs on Monday morning. The same applies to students.

I am aware of objections on religious grounds, and to safeguard a unique way of life, which I would be saddened to see the end of.

Calmac will sign the new service agreement this week, and will consider the Sunday sailings proposals next week.

Source: Hebrides Info

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Education, education, education

Fellow Lewis Islandblogger Peatstack gave a nice summary of the debate, intricacies and opinions regarding the proposed closures of S1 and S2 units at several schools in Lewis. This would see all secondary education, from age 12 onwards, centralised at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, with the aforementioned units at Lionel, Shawbost, Back and Sgoil nan Loch closed. Several primary schools would also face permanent closure.

To quote the West Highland Free Press: the Education Minister in the Scottish Government threw a tantrum when she visited Stornoway and had those plans served alongside her cup of tea. The reasoning given by the Comhairle is that the new curriculum, coupled to falling schoolrolls, would make external S1/S2 units economically unviable.

On Tuesday morning, local radiostation Isles FM alerted us to plans to build a new Nicolson Institute on greenfield sites to the east of the urban centre of Stornoway, i.e. at Goathill Farm and Mossend. It's probably a good idea, bearing in mind that the current buildings go back to the 19th century in some cases.

I just scratch my head at the closure of a school like Sgoil nan Loch in 2009, which was built at great expense not much longer than 10 years ago. I thought the S1/S2 units had been implemented to spare young pupils hour long bus journeys to and from school each morning and evening, to allow them to stay in their communities longer. Rather than shelling out on a wholly new Nic, couldn't some of the money be used to maintain the external units?

Friday, 7 September 2007

NHS Western Isles

During 2006, a crisis in the management and finances of the Western Isles Health Board precipitated a wholesale change at the top of the organisation. Chairman, Chief Executive and Medical Director were all replaced.

This afternoon, it was reported that another senior official within the Health Board has been suspended on full pay, prompting a delay in the annual review which was due on Monday 10 September. The Cabinet Secretary for Health was due to visit Stornoway to chair the Annual Review of the Board's performance. In financial terms, this has not improved - there is still a cumulative deficit of around £ 3 million.

The Health Board's website does not give further details, and the Health Minister has expressed disappointment at this turn in events.

Saturday's papers revealed that the Chief Executive had been suspended pending an inquiry into the qualifications he brought into the job.
On Monday, an interim CEO was appointed whilst investigations continue into the suspended CEO's CV.