Success stories can often be overshadowed by some of the doom and gloom that we read about in the newspapers every day, however it is important to recognise some of the positive things happening on our doorstep.
While I appreciate the Gazette has acknowledged a bumpy start to 2016 with signs of economic fragility being experienced on the islands and on the mainland, there is a silver lining elsewhere.
I have been working at The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) now for 14 years heading up its processing plant in Marybank, Stornoway and during this time I have seen the company go from strength to strength.
We now employ 215 staff in the Western Isles and the company has committed substantial sums as part of its investment programme to improve existing facilities and farm operations, as well as acquire new sites too.
We are the largest private sector employer in the Outer Hebrides and operate over 20 sites across the area, which produce almost half of our national output.
Aquaculture is very much a growth sector for the region, it provides the local community with stable, year round employment and allows people to maintain their crofting traditions too.
SSC has been working hard over the past few years to grow its exports and last year nearly half of its sales were export. Scottish salmon is seen as a premium, quality product not just at home, but across the world and we want to continue to work closely with the local communities in which we operate, to achieve sustainable production levels that will meet the growing demand for our superior salmon.
We are committed to building a sustainable food business that will create more jobs in the Outer Hebrides, to deliver the sought after pre-rigor fillets we produce at Marybank along with our other added value products.
Alan Brown, General Manager North, The Scottish Salmon Company
In every situation in life these days we all are given instructions in how to lead our lives from Government agencies.
The Police do it, the Council do it, the newspapers and media do it regularly, and now I notice the fire brigade has been telling us how to light candles and blow them out!
Well, I dont need to taken by the hand and told what to do or what not to do in life, as I am from a large family who were well versed in the pros and cons of life and could light and blow out candles quite carefully from five years of age, the same goes for the other instructions we are given now by agencies.
Put it this way we had good parents and good communities back then.
Isle of South Uist
Direction of kirk
The Kirk‘s January newsletter is now on-line, and one of the items reminded me of the excellent piece your columnist Rev. Iain D. wrote on the late David Bowie (Gazette 21.1.16).
In the newsletter the organist at New Kilpatrick Church, Bearsden, gets mention for the musical tribute he recently paid to Bowie on the organ at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
The church’s minister, the Rev. Roddy Hamilton, said the response to Chris Nickol’s performance of Bowie’s “Life on Mars” (a video of same subsequently went viral on the internet), had in many ways given his church “a wee boost of confidence, by making us realise that we are relevant as long as we find the right things to talk about”.
Maybe ignoring Bowie and talking about Jesus would be a good place to start.
Buoyed-up by his boost Rev. Hamilton encouraged folk to come along to his services, adding that the David Bowie performance was a flavour of the kind of music his congregation enjoyed most Sundays at New Kilpatrick church.
All of which strikes me as being more in the line of entertainment than worship, and not for the first time I despair of the direction some in the Kirk are taking.
Much of the debate about the current EU renegotiation by the Prime Minister has focused on restricting access to benefits for those from other European Union countries coming to the UK.
Some perspective is needed on this. What tends to be forgotten is that there are c 2.2 million UK citizens living and working in the rest of the EU with, for example, just over 1 million British people living in Spain and 329,000 in Ireland.
Indeed, unemployed Britons in the EU are drawing much more in benefits and allowances in wealthier EU countries than their nationals are claiming in the UK.
For example, four times as many Britons obtain unemployment benefits in Germany as Germans do in the UK, while the number of jobless Britons receiving benefits in Ireland exceeds their Irish counterparts in the UK by a rate of five to one.
Contrary to popular perceptions, the figures for nationals of those 10 east European countries drawing jobseeker’s allowance in the UK remain modest, despite the periodical outcries about “benefits tourism”.
There are only about 1,000 Romanians and 500 Bulgarians, for example, drawing jobseeker’s allowance in Britain, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Of those EU migrants living here a mere 1.2% are not economically active, amounting to a miniscule number. According to University College London, between 2001 and 2011 EU migrants made an estimated positive net contribution of £20 billion to the UK economy as they tend to be younger and more economically-active than our own workforce, paying more in taxes and receiving less in benefits.
Those from the EU who have made the UK their home make an overwhelmingly positive contribution economically, socially and culturally, and it is good to sometimes highlight the facts as well as remembering those UK citizens who currently live in other EU countries.
The European Movement in Scotland
Edinburgh EH3 7LB
My name is Joya Berrow, I am making a ten minute documentary about a crofter who lives in North Harris in Bunavoneader, his name is Donald John Maciness.
We would like to incorporate archive into the beginning of the film, however we have found that if we would like to use licensed footage from the Scottish Screen Archive we would have to pay huge amounts of money.
I would like to ask anyone who has home videos, photos, archive collections etc in any format from paper, VHS, DVD and from any era, the older the better, to please review them and get in touch with us.
Ideally, what we are looking for is photographs and moving image from the Western Isles of Lewis and Harris that show:
The location/ geography of the island - old maps, signs, aerial shots, travelogue style, landscapes
Practise of crofting - everyday activities, dipping, gathering, building, spraying, black houses, clearances, close up on faces,
Urban landscape - city skyline, people on ferry, construction (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow)
We would also like to work with local musicians when we come back to the island in March 2016, as the soundscape of the film is going to play heavily of the authentic sounds of the island.
If you are play the harmonica, accordion, cello, fiddle, and would like to work with us for a day in March, please get in touch with us and we can discuss our ideas further.
Thank you very much
EDITORIAL - FUEL POVERTY
The issue of fuel poverty and the impact on islanders, as well as other communities across Scotland, was raised in the Scottish Parliament this week.
The Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) published by the Scottish Government reveals that from 2012 to 2014 62% of homes in the region were in fuel poverty with 26% falling into the extreme category, in fact fuel poverty in this region is one of the worst in the country, with only the Orkney Isles worse off.
The survey also reveals that statistics for the area from 2010 to 2012, shows the figures standing at 58% in fuel poverty and 21% in the extreme category, meaning that Western Isles’ residents are getting worse off in this regard.
It seems there is little likelihood that the Scottish Government will be able to meet its target of eradicating fuel poverty by November 2016.
At Parliament politicians demanded that proposed cuts to fuel poverty programmes in the draft 2016-17 budget are reversed. There were also calls for Ministers to revise the 2016 fuel poverty target, examine whether its definition of fuel poverty needs to be updated and commit to additional measures to lift people out of fuel poverty.
Given that the statistics are good evidence to show that fuel poverty is still very much with us, and in some areas is on the rise, these suggestions are a sensible approach to tackle the problem.
Our picture of the week (above) was submitted by Christine Walling and is a shot of Seilebost Beach, Harris, which shows the contrasting colours of the landscape.
To submit a picture for inclusion email your image to: firstname.lastname@example.org