Can daily papers be printed on Lewis?

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A new company, Lewis Printers, have ambitious plans to see daily national papers hit island news-stands first thing in the morning.

The Managing Director of the company, Stornoway taxi driver David MacDonald, told the Gazette national newspapers could be in the shops by 7am in Lewis and Harris, and 7.30am in the Uists, if his plans for a digital printing press in Stornoway are realised.

Sunday newspapers would also be printed, he said, while the digital press would employ up to nine people locally.

The idea is based on the model for British national dailies sold in Malta, where newspapers are printed on site digitally to avoid the extensive delays involved in transporting them over large distances.

Last year daily papers stopped arriving in Stornoway on flights due to increasing costs, and are now delivered by ferry and distributed throughout Lewis, Harris and the Uists. This means they are usually not available until after lunch time, and sometimes later.

Last week the Gazette also revealed the weather has taken its toll, with national newspapers not making it to the island at all on several occasions.

MrMacDoanld said: “We fully appreciate the Scottish Newspaper Society’s attempts to solve what is a difficult problem.

“However we as islanders are well aware that any supply delivery system which relies on control over the weather and ferries was bound to be problematic at best.

“The effects the current situation is having on the community, small business, and the adverse economic effect on the Western Isles GDP is of such a magnitude that we believe every effort should be made by all parties to fund a satisfactory solution to this problem.

“It must also be said that the environmental reduction in CO2 emissions through cancelling transport and reducing paper wastage is substantial.”

He continued: “We have submitted, in conjunction with Kodak, written proposals to the Scottish Newspaper Society and they quite rightly have indicated they have substantial concerns that would have to be addressed, and at this point we are attempting to address them, to try and obtain a satisfactory conclusion to this problem.”

The plans to set up a digital printing press in Stornoway relies on Lewis Printers being awarded a contract to print under licence all daily newspapers.

However Scott McCulloch, Chairman of the Scottish Newspaper Distribution Committee, says so far the idea has not added up.

Mr McCulloch said: “In principle the idea sounds like it could work, but in practice it is not that simple.

“When we have looked at both proposals from Lewis Printers, we’ve rejected them because it would not work due to costs in practice.”

He added that the Scottish Newspaper Society is continuing to look into ways to improve newspaper arrival times for the islands, including ferry timetables.

Meanwhile a Comhairle spokesman described the business proposal as “interesting”.

He said: “There has been discussions. Like any business proposal, the council can advise and provide some sort of support.”