Martin Weale, a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) which decide on UK interest rates, was in Stornoway yesterday (Friday 24th August).
He was visiting the Harris Tweed Scotland Mill on Caberfeidh Road and talking to Alex Lockerby, who has been in the tweed business for more than 40 years.
Members of the MPC undertake a programme of regional visits across all parts of the UK to gain a better understanding of economic and business conditions in different areas of the country.
The information gained from these visits is to supplement information from official statistics and business surveys.
Mr Weale, who met with local business people on Thursday night, as well as taking time to see the island and paddle on Traigh Mhor beach in Tolsta, said: “I’ve got to meet some very enthusiastic business people.
“It’s part of the overall picture I try and form about how the economy is doing.”
He mentioned the island has dimensional businesses, with industries like the tourist trade playing an important role and recognised the importance of traditional trades such as weaving.
He also said that, like in other places in the UK, some businesses are finding the economic climate “difficult”.
Alex Lockerby, who was showing Mr Weale round the mill, said: “It’s always good that the people who are in control of our economy see what is happening on the shop floor.
“If you look back in the 1960s there were 1,500-2,000 weavers, where as now we’ve just got about 130. There were five mills on the island, now it’s down to three.
“There has been a lot of changes, ups and downs.”
He continued: “There’s been a lot more public awareness and publicity going into Harris Tweed. It’s beginning to show a bit of benefit.”