Islanders told to boil water in 230 Lewis homes

People living in 230 homes on Lewis have been told to boil their tap water.

A boil water notice was issued this afternoon (Sat) after Scottish Water consulted NHS Western Isles and said it was issuing advice as a precaution.

That followed a routine sample showing there had been what was said to be “a small deterioration” in the normal quality of the water supply.

The affected areas and post codes are:
Garynahine (HS2 9DS)
Linshader (HS2 9DR)
Breasclete (HS2 9ED, HS2 9EF, HS2 9FF)
Callanish (HS2 9DY)
Tolsta Chaolais (HS2 9DW)

People living in these areas were told to boil their water before using it and continue doing so until further notice.

They have also been advised to wash dishes with hot water and then dry them thoroughly before use. The water can still be used for bathing and washing (including babies), washing clothes and flushing the toilet.

swScottish Water said water that was boiled was safe to use for drinking, preparing food (including ice cubes and salads), preparing babies’ feeds and disinfecting feeding equipment, cleaning teeth, pet food and drink, and washing open wounds provided it has been allowed to cool.

Water which has been boiled and allowed to cool should be stored in clean containers in a fridge or other cold place.

The water authority declined to give details of the cause other than saying further sampling would take place “when the chlorine level has returned to its normal level”.

Further information is available from the website or by phone on 0800 0778 778.

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Maybe it’s social work bosses who need dementia awareness

Another of these you could not make it up stories

Because I am tucked up with the sniffles, I have been rummaging for these wee but very important news items that I didn’t have the time to do earlier. Or maybe I forgot.

The social work department of Comhairle nan Eilean has been busy setting up dementia awareness courses for home carers. The carers have been very interested to sign up and the workshops were heavily subscribed.

CNES_logoHowever, when the carers turned up, there was no one there. It turned out that the courses had been cancelled.

When I asked the council, a spokesman said: “Yes – that is correct. There was a lack of communication which was most unfortunate.”

What caused that awful and time-wasting lack of communication? I am now very reliably advised that no one told the carers the dementia course was cancelled because a manager at the social work department forgot.

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Rhoda Grant says loss of Chief Constable down to under-funding

Rhoda Grant hits out saying Police Scotland is not funded properly


‘down to underfunding’ – Rhoda Grant

Rhoda Grant MSP said there were no winners in the situation in which Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House is having to stand down.

The Highlands and Islands MSP added: “This is a situation which could have been avoided had Nicola Sturgeon’s government ensured the force was adequately funded, instead of imposing swingeing cuts as the service was centralised and merged into one.
“Sir Stephen House is to be commended on his work to eradicate violence against women, making tackling crimes such as domestic abuse and rape a priority. The momentum that he started must be continued to ensure we live in an equal society where everyone is protected by the law enforcement agencies.”

She stressed the importance of whoever succeeds Stephen House being properly supported by the SNP government and allowed to do the job they are paid to do, which is keeping our communities safe, instead of being left to carry the can for the Scottish Government’s failings.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman Graeme Pearson, a former Deputy Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police and former Director General of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, said stepping down and he thanked Sir Stephen on behalf of Scottish Labour.

Graeme Pearson MSP

Graeme Pearson MSP

“However, we know the problems in Police Scotland extend far beyond the Chief Constable. It was only a few weeks ago that the First Minister gave her full backing to the Chief Constable and now the SNP Government can no longer hide behind him.
“Police Scotland has had to endure months of controversy which has seriously damaged public confidence in the police service. This could have been avoided if Ministers had taken responsibility.

Mr Pearson said even now it isn’t too late for Nicola Sturgeon and her “invisible” Justice Minister to get a grip.

“Police Scotland has been an organisation without proper oversight for too long, and has had to endure cuts from the SNP Government which have left the force under resourced and over worked.

“Officers and staff work round the clock to keep people safe. The controversy of this summer has dragged their reputation unfairly through the mud. The process of reforming Police Scotland can begin now if the SNP Government are willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.”

Posted in police, Scotland | Tagged | 1 Comment

Will the Queen again make Chris Murray toe the line? – column

Freak accidents are hard to predict. I have sat in A&E beside a six-year-old with his head firmly wedged into a pan and I remember when a near-neighbour had to be released from a toilet seat by a squad of burly firefighters. No, these unfortunate incidents were not laughing matters. Not until much later anyway.

The members of One Direction deciding they want to take at least a year off because they are sick and tired of pretending to like each other is not “the freak accident I will not get over”, as one young devotee claimed. What happened to me last week was. We had workmen in and, as usual, the four-legged member of this family would hear the front door and rush down the stairs barking furiously to announce their arrival each and every time. It got a bit much because workmen have to be in and out.

Filling a squeezy washing up bottle with water, I got it ready in my office upstairs. Then, when Hector heard someone come in, he leapt up and headed off down the stairs, barking loudly. I quickly followed and fired the water cannon. Then I realised the workman was already coming up the stairs and the poor cove was suddenly greeted with a jet of water right in the kisser. There just aren’t enough ways to say sorry in that situation.

Chris Murray, with 10 toes intact, at Buckingham Palace

Chris Murray, with 10 toes intact, at Buckingham Palace

Not all freak accidents are painless though. Spare a thought for a friend of mine who suffered a horrific and painful freak accident at the end of last week. You could call it an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction but it had more dire consequences than anything that may have been inadvertently shown to us by famous flashers like Judy Finnegan or Janet Jackson.

The gentleman concerned is now hobbling around in agony after breaking his own wee toe. Ubhag. You probably know that when you head west and cross the Minch the word ouch becomes ubhag. It was how he did it that has raised a few eyebrows. Knowing how sensitive are the sweet readers of this publication, I’ll be brief. That’s a clue, by the way. Well, you see it was like this; he was pulling on a garment and it got caught on the little toe of his right foot.

He must have forgotten he was barefoot and gave it a good old tug to release the undergarment. It’s not for nothing he is known as Balach Mòr or Big Boy. When he gives something a tug it is well and truly yanked. Unfortunately, as he did that he heard a loud crack. Ubhag, ubhag, ubhag.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Mr Chris Murray, holder of the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for heroism as a winchman on the coastguard rescue helicopter, managed to break his teensi-weensie pinkie toe with the most fearsome of dangerous implements – a pair of his own underpants.

Should you meet the Dornoch-born winchman, who is nowadays training other novice danglers on the wire, hobbling along and he happens to mumble something about stubbing his toe or going over on his ankle, it is all nonsense. He is too embarrassed about the truth. He was disabled by his drawers. ‘Twas the pants wot done it.

All of which gives Chris a bit of a problem. He spent more than 20 years battling through storms to rescue many people, being flung against the sides of large ships and was even caught by an enormous wave and washed overboard off the deck of a crippled ship himself. Many times he returned after arduous missions and I saw him wincing with a painful leg after a particularly bruising rescue. Just an occupational hazard.

Chris and his colleagues were summoned to Buckingham Palace some years ago to have a rack of medals pinned onto them for saving the lives of some of the crew of a sunken German ship way out in the Atlantic. So, for us islanders, if we see Chris limping along Cromwell Street we expect the injury to have been caused by something that was agonising, something that would make ordinary mortals weep, and perhaps something to make Her Majesty reach in the medal drawers again.

Sorry Chris, didn’t mean to mention drawers again.

As an ex-military man himself, Chris appreciates that underwear can be a challenge in the field. When I was on RAF basic training in Sherwood Forest, problems with transport meant our two-day stay became four. We weren’t prepared. On day three, the Flight Sergeant announced: “Today we’re going to change our underwear.” We all began to clap and cheer. Then he continued: “Smith, you change with Blenkinsop. Maciver, you change with O’Hara …”

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Engineers to fly in from Spain to fix ferry walkway

A new high-tech passenger walkway which cost £1.75 million has been broken for the past week at Stornoway ferry terminal.

Because of the breakdown, all foot passengers currently must walk along the vehicle linkspan to get on and off the £42 million Ullapool-to-Stornoway ferry MV Loch Seaforth.

Stornoway passenger access system

The Stornoway PAS

It has now emerged the fault is so serious that a team of engineers has to fly to Stornoway from Barcelona to carry out the repairs to the walkway, officially called a Passenger Access System (PAS).

Discussions about the faults with the Spanish manufacturers, walkway specialists Adelte in Barcelona, have resulted in agreement that engineers must come to fix the walkway on-site in Stornoway.

The latest annual accounts of Stornoway Port Authority show that the airport-style walkway, which was bought to get easier access to the new MV Loch Seaforth, cost £1.75 million. It has only been in use since February 16 this year when the Loch Seaforth officially started service.

Alex Macleod, the new chief executive of Stornoway Port Authority, confirmed: “The fault on the PAS has now been identified. The Adelte team are due to arrive from Spain over the weekend, and expect to complete the repairs by Monday or Tuesday next week. The PAS will remain out of operation until the repair works are complete.”

Mr Macleod confirmed there was an extensive warranty on the PAS and he did not envisage Stornoway port having to pay any of the repair costs.

Posted in Ferries, Stornoway | Tagged | 2 Comments

Breaking News – Gordon Diesel slashes motor fuel to under £1.10p

Joy as fuel prices fall again at Gordon Diesel

gdWe can expect more traffic on certain roads in the Back . That’s because a fuel price war seems to have broken out on the Isle of Lewis.

Gordon Diesel Ltd has just slashed the price of Unleaded by 3p per litre. It is now 109.9p. He has also cut the price of Diesel to 109.9p.

One rival retailer in Stornoway was said to be “in shock” after the news was broken to him. We are awaiting with interest how he and the other retailers will now respond to the Gordon Diesel move which is long overdue with wholesale prices having fallen significantly recently.

Here are recent prices at other local outlets, as reported by

116.9p – Engebret Ltd Sandwick Road, Stornoway. (Update 24 Aug)
117.9p – Spar, Bayhead, Stornoway. (Update 19 Aug)
119.9p – Campbells Service Station Cannery Road, Stornoway. (Update 21 Aug)

114.9p – Engebret, Sandwick Road, Stornoway. (Update 24 Aug)
115.9p – Campbells Service Station, Cannery Road, Stornoway (Update 24 Aug)
115.9p – Manor Service Station, Bayhead, Stornoway (Update 24 Aug)

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Rosie Sullivan releases song for St Kilda swim

Singer-songwriter Rosie Sullivan releases her song for the St Kilda swim charities

Young Barvas singer-songwriter Rosie Sullivan recently scooped the top prize in her age range in a major UK music competition. Now she has recorded a song she composed for the recent epic efforts of the St Kilda swim team.

Rosie Sullivan


It is already available on iTunes.

All profits from the song are going to the good causes that the record-breaking swim was for. They are Yorkhill Children’s Charity, the cystic fibrosis charity The Leanne Fund, The Fishermen’s Mission and the Aberlour Child Care Trust.

You need to have an iTunes account and it then costs a mere 79p to download it. Click the link above.

Rosie, who is 12, won the seven to 12-year-old category of the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition.


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Loganair apologises and will review operations

Poor punctuality and reliability forces Loganair to apologise

Loganair has apologised and admitted its services have fallen short over recent months. The company has also announced that it is to undergo a ‘top-to-bottom’ review of its entire operation to achieve better punctuality and reliability for all of its passengers.


Loganair trading as Flybe

Shadow transport minister David Stewart was caught up in a four-hour delay himself at Benbecula Airport last month after the plane was removed from the route and redirected to Glasgow. He complained to Loganair and transport minister Derek Mackay after constituents said services had slipped in recent months and delays were becoming commonplace.

Mr Stewart said: “I welcome the acknowledgement from Loganair that services have fallen short over recent times, and I welcome the operational improvement programme which they have launched to address this. Loganair have told me that they appreciate the punctuality and reliability of services have not been good enough. The improvement programme is a ‘top to bottom’ review of their entire operation to achieve better punctuality and reliability for all Loganair passengers.

Mr Stewart continued “I know how frustrating delays and cancellations are for passengers, particularly when onward journeys and overnight stays have to be altered as a result. Island communities need to know they have reliable air and sea services. I welcome the apology from Loganair and I look forward to seeing improvement in the future.”

Posted in aviation, Stornoway, Western Isles | 2 Comments

Lews Castle College open day

college 5

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Freedom of speech

I probably needn’t add anything else.

Mhairi Black

I have a problem – what is now called ‘an issue’ – with freedom of speech. I have never been able to accept what all right-on readers of the Guardian take for granted: that it must be absolute. It is a pity, for example, that the repellent Glaswegian, Frankie Boyle, gets away with his ‘jokes’ about ill and disabled people (though how satisfying that he has been exposed out of his own mouth in the new film about poor Amy Winehouse).

Even the Guardian, despite its protestations to the contrary, is not an unqualified believer. You bet that its editor rejects pieces which depart in some way from the required orthodoxy. In my own experience with this little magazine over the last 20 years, my repression of freedom of speech always leads to trouble with the wounded contributors. One told me to ‘**** off, Kenneth’; another didn’t speak to me again for 10 years. Not all the rejected pieces were misogynist, homophobic or religiously bigoted; some just weren’t very good. But I am always conscious that these editorial decisions inhibit in a small way the apparently inalienable right to free speech. It would be hypocritical to pretend otherwise.

Conversely, when I think I am encouraging freedom of expression, and taking a certain professional pride in doing so, that can lead to trouble too. Bigger trouble, usually. Here is a tiny example of what I mean. One November week in 2002, some of the most powerful and/or influential people in Scottish public life – about two dozen of them – drew up at a hotel in the Gorbals ill-prepared for the grilling they were about to receive from the young delegates to a conference I was organising.

At the first session, James (Beta-blocker) Black and Ian Hamilton QC were treated with respect, maybe also a little deference, but after that it was no-holds-barred. They managed to extract from the then first minister, Jack McConnell, an admission that he was a socialist. A socialist in Tony Blair’s Labour Party? Heck. That made headlines the next morning. Roseanna Cunningham, the nationalist tribune for Perth, claimed one evening that there was not a problem of homelessness in her town, only to be corrected by two young people who happened to be homeless in Perth. Nobody got away with anything that week. It was glorious. It was free speech at its challenging best.

Not everybody enjoyed the experience. The distinguished Free Kirk theologian, Donald Macleod, whose writing I had always admired, was invited to discuss deep questions of faith. It was an uncomfortable session. The young people poked and prodded, though not in any personally objectionable way (or so I thought), but by the end the speaker was hot under the dog collar. (Not that he was wearing a dog collar. Rather a smart suit, I seem to remember.) He made it clear to me as soon as it was over that he had been humiliated, suggesting that I should have intervened in some way. He then stormed out of the hotel. It was an impressive sight.

We have not spoken since. That’s freedom of expression for you. But I was more than a little intrigued by the recent discovery that my old friend Brian Wilson, founder of the West Highland Free Press, had gone to the barricades for the same Donald Macleod over an article the latter had written about the possibility that our ‘friendly Muslim shopkeepers’ might soon feel compelled to march behind the Islamist fundies. Apart from the condescending reference to Muslim shopkeepers, there wasn’t much wrong with the piece – another expression of free speech; there’s a lot of it about – which nevertheless prompted the constructive dismissal of the distinguished Free Kirk theologian and the subsequent firing of Brian Wilson.

Would I have gone to the barricades for Professor Macleod? Maybe not. The person I felt sorry for was Brian Wilson, who created the best newspaper to have been set up in Scotland in my lifetime and has suffered the fate of so many creators.

Just as I was contemplating in a detached way the many difficulties of defending, or failing to defend, free speech, I was faced with a case closer to home. Jill Stephenson, former professor of German history at Edinburgh University, had been a valued contributor to the Scottish Review, mostly on education, though more recently – as recently as the July edition – on her experiences as a hospital patient. During the referendum campaign she was an effective campaigner for the No side. Since then she has continued to use social media to propagade the unionist cause or attack the nationalist one.

But then Professor Stephenson went too far: she sent out a Tweet describing Mhairi Black, the young SNP MP, as an appalling harridan and a foul-mouthed little slut. There was no justification for either of these potentially actionable slurs and the language was in any case deplorable. I emailed the professor to express shock and disapproval, suggesting that she should apologise. I don’t know if she ever did, but I doubt it. She has put it on record that she doesn’t give a flying **** – I’ve censored that bit of free speech too – what her critics think. A few days later, her folly was exposed by Mhairi Black’s thoughtful and dignified maiden speech, which has earned widespread admiration.

I might as well repeat another thing I said to Jill Stephenson: that if Scotland is to be characterised by this level of abuse on both sides of the constitutional question then I fear for my country and despair of its future. Would I defend to the death the right of these people to say what they want to say, no matter how foul? I wouldn’t. There are limits. And the sooner we start respecting and observing them in a spirit of decent self-regulation, the sooner we will protect freedom of speech from the next big thing: a bad beast known as state censorship.

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