Carloway Broch repair uncertainty as concerns are raised about the impact on tourism

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The culture, wildlife and landmarks play an important part in attracting visitors to Western Isles and, in turn, bolster the Islands’ economy.

With one of those landmarks closed to public access for some time - the Carloway Broch - and a suggestion that this may have an impact on local tourism, there has been a call for the Scottish Government to intervene in the matter.

The issue has been highlighted this week by Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron.

The regional MSP has called on the Scottish Government to resolve the issue and has contacted tourism minister Fiona Hyslop informing her that some coach operators are considering pulling out of the Western Isles because of the continued uncertainty at the landmark.

Mr Cameron explained: “The Broch, which is the direct responsibility of the Scottish Government through its agency Historic Environment Scotland, is a major part of the tourist offering on Lewis. Its prolonged closure, combined with a failure to adequately consult with local stakeholders, is causing consternation in the area.

“This follows a summer when ministers have failed to get to grips with a series of transport disruptions affecting ferries and flights to and from the Western Isles.

“I am very concerned that these continued problems could drain confidence from the business community and unsettle people who are considering investing in the islands. That would make it even harder for us to retain our young people here.

“Fiona Hyslop now needs to intervene and show that she understands the gravity of the situation.”

Mr Cameron’s concerns were echoed by Comhairle Councillor for Uig and North Lochs, Ranald Fraser, who added: “The broch at Doune Carloway is one of our islands’ major landmarks and is vital for our islands tourism and general economy.

“In my view it is ridiculous for Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to have closed this monument without there being any precise information on the nature of the problem or any time scale given to rectify it.

“What is the problem? We have not been told. I strongly request HES start communicating with the local estate trust to resolve this matter urgently.”

The Gazette asked Historic Environment Scotland for an update on the situation at the Carloway Broch, a spokesperson for HES said: “As the safety of members of the public is our utmost concern, as a precaution we closed Dun Carloway Broch following the discovery of loose high level masonry and a potential structural issue.

“Following an initial assessment, we will be conducting a detailed inspection of the site in the next few weeks to determine the extent of the associated issues and fully assess the works required.

“Following this inspection we will be able to determine the appropriate course of action for the conservation of the site.”

There is no firm date for that inspection, but the spokesperson reassured it should happen soon.

There has also been a concern raised by a member of the public that work at the broch has not yet been undertaken due to financial constraints.

When this was put to HES, the body would only answer: “Our assessment will help us determine which works are required and therefore the investment costs.”