Gazette Letters 19-3-15

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Ferry concern

With reference to your front page story last week and the heading ‘Residents call for reassurance over Harris ferry service’ (front page) this was indeed the case.

While I was aware of the cancelled sailings, the impact, and the understandable concerns, what I heard with astonishment was the rumour going around that CalMac were looking to reduce services to Harris, that they might be reduced to sailings on two days a week,or perhaps fewer.

What began as a rumour very soon gathered momentum, and when alerted to this and the dismay and deep concerns felt by all, I immediately contacted CalMac to get the facts.

There was a prompt response by phone from Mr.Robert Morrison, Area Operations Manager.

This was followed by a letter, which I include below and which answers the questions asked.

“Further to the earlier telephone conversation I can confirm that CalMac remain completely focussed on delivering service on the Uig -Tarbert route.

I appreciate that there seems to have been a number of concerns raised but I am unclear on the source and concerns around the Tarbert -Uig service.

We have suffered from weather related disruptions this winter, as you indeed confirmed on our earlier call and this has added great demands on our ability to deliver service at times.

With regards to the vessel deployment the info provided by the Tarbert port office is correct, the

Hebrides will return to the triangle service once the Clansman and Hebrides dry docking is completed.

Last week again due to weather related disruption we lost service on the triangle and when a short weather window (five hours) allowed any service the decision was taken to run Uig- Lochmaddy.

This was mainly to account for the lifeline service and a high degree of freight which was backlogged in Uig at the time.

At the same time the Stornoway-Ullapool service which was running was offered to vehicle drivers as a contingency option.

I recognise your point around travelling foot passengers and will need to check this with the port office.

With regards to Tarbert -Uig we will remain fully committed to this service all year round and fully appreciate the importance of this service.

Finally I can confirm that the decisions around weather cancellations are the vessel Masters to

take and are always supported when called on the grounds of safety.

I hope this info will be of some help.” (Robert Morrison, Area Operations Manager, CalMac Ferries Ltd)

It will be possible to raise questions re the vessels and other matters at the meeting of Harris Transport Forum ( HTF) at the end of March where Mr.Robert Morrison will be present.

In the meantime I trust the above will help to give the needed reassurance.

Catherine MacDonald

Councillor - Harris and South Lochs

Quality not quantity matters

I was interested to note the frequency with which Angus Brendan Macneil has spoken in Parliament during the last five years. Presumably this figure includes all interventions, however short but it appears that he spoke every day that Parliament was sitting over that time. That is indeed an impressive contribution.

I do however have a couple of caveats to add to my praise. Firstly I am unsure what his interventions achieved for his constituents and secondly my thought that it is the quality rather than quantity which matters, a thought I’m sure is shared the by Speaker, John Bercow!

Jean Davis

Muir of Ord

Scotland’s Changing

Over the past few weeks, the UK Government has been engaged in a public information campaign designed to explain to your readers how the devolution settlement is evolving. I wanted to expand on what we are doing – and why.

We – and the main Opposition parties - are committed to implementing the recommendations of the Smith Commission, which will make Holyrood one of the most powerful devolved Parliaments in the world.

The work of Lord Smith and his Commission is already being turned into the building blocks of legislation. Whoever forms the next UK Government will make these law at the earliest possible opportunity.

But Lord Smith was also very clear about giving people a better understanding of what powers are devolved to Scotland – those which are already here and the new ones on the way. These are major changes and it is important people understand what they will mean.

So that is why we have launched a campaign, ‘Scotland’s Changing’. Every household in this country will receive a leaflet setting out the simple facts about what the UK Government is doing to further strengthen the powerful Scottish Parliament.

It has been backed by newspaper and radio adverts and there is also a tumblr site where you can find out more and take part in a light-hearted quiz designed to test your knowledge of Scotland’s devolution settlement.

With two governments in Holyrood and Westminster working together, I believe Scotland has the best of both worlds. The Scottish Government can deliver solutions tailored to specific Scottish needs which is backed up by the safety, security and strength which comes from being part of the wider United Kingdom.

Rt. Hon. Alistair 
Carmichael MP,

Secretary of State for 

Grid capacity - open letter

Dear Mr Ewing/Mr Mackay,

I am writing to you in my capacity as an elected member in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar regarding the issue of local energy generation and grid capacity in the Western Isles.

As the islands wait for the interconnector, which is scheduled for 2019, communities have invested in turbines to generate income and fund projects within their community.

However, the lack of capacity in the local grid is preventing many of these community turbines to export generated energy and thus raise income.

In 2010, SSE stated that:

“Recognising that a number of smaller windfarm developments may be ready to connect prior to the commissioning of this (Minch sub-sea) link, we are exploring with national Grid whether there are any options in managing the generator output to allow for additional generation to connect utilising the existing 132kV transmission circuit that connects the Western Isles via Skye to the Scottish mainland.”

On the 6th of February I wrote to Alec Morrison, Transmission Development Islands network investment Manager SSE power distribution asking whether this was still feasible and to look at increasing the capacity from 20MW to 40MW.

Sources, since then, have said that possibly 60MW would be considered. Mr Morrison wrote back positively by saying that SSE would ask their distribution colleagues and NGET to review the current position and determine if anything further can be done to connect additional community generation ahead of the completion of the Minch HVDC link.

Would the Scottish Government consider supporting such an initiative for the islands given the tremendous opportunity such an increase would bring to the economically fragile communities in the authority.

I would be willing to meet and discuss further opportunities. Please advise your thoughts on this matter.

Councillor Gordon Murray

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Offices