PORT AUTHORITY STEERING A NEW FUTURE COURSE

Stornoway Port Authority is preparing to move into a new era as it seeks to progress a series of major developments in line with its 20-year Masterplan.

The Authority has set out ambitious proposals, including the creation of a deep-water port which will bring major economic benefits to the island.

This will help accelerate growth in the cruise business, by providing a berth for larger ships, as well as providing improved berthing and servicing for oil and renewables projects and a new linkspan/freight ferry berth.

As these various important projects advance, the SPA will appoint new Board members and personnel with appropriate skills and expertise to guide future development.

Margaret Ann Macleod has been confirmed as a full board member for a three-year term, having previously been co-opted for a year. Presently Brand Development Director for Harris Tweed Hebrides, her business background includes international sales and rural economic development.

Margaret Ann said: “I am delighted to become a full member of the Board at this crucial and exciting time for the Port Authority and the wider community”.

“Our bold ambitions can bring enormous benefits to the island and I am determined to help bring the Masterplan vision to fruition.”

Board Chairman, Murdo Murray, added: “Margaret Ann is well known and highly respected in the business community and is a significant addition to the Board.”

“Having already served as a co-opted member, we know how important her contribution will be to our future plans and we look forward to having her valuable input as a full board member.”

In addition, several changes in personnel have recently taken place:-.

After two and a half years service, Tony Morrison has stepped down as Harbourmaster. The Port Authority wishes to thank Tony for his commitment and contribution to the Authority and wish him well in his new venture.

Consequently the Port Authority have taken the opportunity to revise the role of Harbourmaster to fulfil the demands of its 20-year Masterplan and will shortly advertise for the role of Harbourmaster/Operations Manager to support the major changes which are planned.

Assisting the Chief Executive, Alex MacLeod, with the development of the Masterplan will be Brenda Jones, who has recently joined the Authority as Developments Manager. This new post, partly funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is specifically aimed at driving forward the major Masterplan proposals.

Brenda, a Chartered Project Management Surveyor, will use her experience on many large construction projects, which included the Consultant Project Manager role on the recent redevelopment of Lews Castle in Stornoway, to guide future projects.

SPA Chief Executive, Alex MacLeod, said: “We are moving into a period of significant change for Stornoway and the Authority as these crucial developments take shape. As the port changes, so we must adapt at all levels to ensure each project is put in place to maximise the potential for the people who live and work here”.

“Margaret Ann’s knowledge and business acumen will also be invaluable as we take these important steps forward for the community”.

“Brenda has a wealth of experience in bringing forward large-scale programmes and her expertise will be of enormous benefit in the coming months and years. She will work with our new Harbourmaster/Operations Manager to ensure we get the right designs and adopt the right procedures for the multi-functional deep water port”.

“We expect further changes to the Board and operations as these projects come on stream and we adapt to a changing operating environment.”

Last month tests began to help pave the way for the creation of the deep-water port at Stornoway. A series of 24 boreholes in the seabed will help determine the depths, materials and locations to be dredged, as well as data required to design the reclamation and berthing structures adjacent to Arnish and the marina at Newton basin.

It is estimated the cruise sector alone could generate significant additional income for the islands by creating berthing facilities for larger vessels that cannot currently berth alongside.

Stornoway is an established port on the cruise circuit, attracting 66 ships in 2016. However, it currently attracts relatively few large cruise vessels, as those over 156 metres in length cannot berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small boat.

To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships of 330 metres or more. This would attract an additional 20-25 vessels a year and increasing passenger visits towards the levels experienced in Orkney and Shetland, creating a significant number of business opportunities throughout the island as visitor numbers entering through the port continue to increase.

The Masterplan also identified a shortage of yacht berths and amenities constraining potential growth in marine tourism.

ROYAL DORNOCH’S GREEN CREDENTIALS EARNS IT GEO AWARD

An internationally-renowned golf course’s commitment to its community and natural environment has earned it a coveted global sustainability accolade.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club has been awarded the GEO Certified® ecolabel, an international symbol of ‘great golf environments’. This recognises clubs that have met high standards for performance in nature conservation, water and energy efficiency, ethical and environmental supply chain, pollution control and community engagement.

An independent assessment of the famous club concludes: “Royal Dornoch is not only set within a stunning coastal landscape, but its course ranking demonstrates the commitment and expertise given to management, which together place significant responsibility on the club to manage efficiently and sustainably in all areas of working.”

Royal Dornoch Golf Club 2017 Captain and Head Greenkeeper,Deputy Greenkeeper with Certificate,Dornoch,Highlands,Scotland.

The award not only further elevates the standing of the historic club, but also enhances its ability to host major events. The R&A, the game’s governing body, is a supporter of GEO (Golf Environment Organization) and the Certified ecolabel is now a prerequisite for clubs staging large competitions. All ten host venues for The Open are now GEO Certified®.

Richard Allison, Project Manager, GEO Certified – Facilities, said: “Royal Dornoch is an outstanding example of a golf club with sustainability as a natural extension of its operation.

“From habitat creation and steps to future energy independence among its range of sustainability work, our congratulations go to everyone at the club and we look forward to seeing what the next few years brings.”

The assessment highlights the “exemplary” management of a Site of Special Scientific Interest which adjoins the golf course and states the club’s energy resource management is “particularly impressive”.

A new maintenance facility runs on renewable electricity with solar-PV cells providing 12 kilowatts of energy for daily use with surplus returned to the National Grid.

An air-source heat pump provides hot water and underfloor heating for the offices and communal areas, while in the clubhouse major energy initiatives include a phased changeover to LED lighting, installation of smart meters to track consumption accurately, and motion sensors and push-button timers throughout appropriate areas. Electric vehicles are also being introduced to the club’s maintenance fleet.

The club regularly monitors wildlife on the course, with species including otter, snipe, woodcock and pine marten all resident.

Royal Dornoch’s support for the community includes making donations to a number of organisations through a variety of funds. The GEO assessment highlights money raised to provide defibrillators in the town and a community fund that has distributed about £20,000 to worthy causes in three years.

Royal Dornoch’s general manager Neil Hampton said: “This is a very important award for us. We take enormous pride in our environment and are committed to doing everything we can to act responsibly and sustainably.

“The club also takes seriously its role in the community and be as good a neighbour as we can be.

“The GEO Certified award is a prestigious international honour and we are delighted to receive this recognition.”

Phone fraud is a serious and growing problem in the UK and can lead to companies suffering severe financial losses and also disruptions to service.

The issue is costing businesses £953 million annually – making it bigger than credit card fraud.

Dial-through – or voicemail – fraud can cost companies upwards of £1,000 per day and potentially thousands of pounds during a weekend or holiday period.

Inverness-based HighNet say companies, charities and even schools are vulnerable to hackers using dial-through fraud and other criminal techniques when premises are closed.

A study of 1,000 businesses by the Internet Telephony Services Providers’ Association showed 27 per cent had been hacked in the last five years, with losses averaging £12,000.

Dial-through fraud occurs when criminals target phone systems from the outside and use them to make a high volume of calls, typically to premium rate or overseas numbers.

Hackers can obtain access to a business’s call-forwarding system via its voicemail if security passwords have either not been set or are not strong enough. They can then call an extension which has call-forwarding enabled, directing the call to the premium-rate number, with the revenue for those calls being received by the fraudsters.

HighNet, which manages more than 20,000 business lines, said in the past year its security systems have intercepted eight fraud cases – involving numbers from Morocco, Cuba, Liberia, Togo, Tunisia, Albania and Bosnia – potentially worth around £100,000 in total.

Instead, the total cost was limited to £2,327, with some of the victims escaping without any financial loss due to the level of protection they have.

The Elgin-based Peugeot dealership Alan Milne Ltd was a target for hackers who made more than 500 calls to numbers to Guinea and Tunisia in just a few hours via voicemail fraud.

It could have cost the firm thousands of pounds, but a security system costing £1 a month led to HighNet intervening early and no money was lost.

The calls began at 8.08pm on a Friday- a typical weekend exploitation, hoping to get a full weekend of making expensive calls. By 11.30pm HighNet had picked up the criminal attempt, barred the calls and notified the customer.

David Siegel, HighNet’s managing director, said: “Not only did we spot the breach, but we stopped it getting worse and highlighted the problem to their phone system maintainer who subsequently locked out the bad guys.

“If we’d not acted as effectively as we did the hackers could easily have run up bills at a rate of £1,000 for each night they remained undetected.”

Steven Milne, the company’s managing director, said: “This could have been a very costly weekend for the company, but thankfully security measures were in place to stop these illegal calls before they did too much damage.

“It was an eye-opening experience for us and one we’ve learned from as we’ve updated our system and will be a lot more vigilant in future.

“We would also warn others to be aware of how easy it is for unscrupulous hackers to take advantage of businesses who do not take phone security seriously. A holiday period, or even a weekend, could cost them dearly otherwise.”

Aberdeen-based John MacLean and Sons suffered two fraud attacks this year, from numbers in Cuba and Liberia, but timely intervention by HighNet limited potential costs of up to £30,000 to just £600.

In both instances, voicemail in the Aberdeen site that had simple passwords on them were guessed by the fraudsters. This was then changed to divert to international/premium rate numbers, and then corresponding direct numbers were repeatedly dialled at random intervals for short periods each time.

The firm’s finance director Alan Freeland said: “Having recently experienced a third- party hacking into our system and utilising our communication system for fraudulent calls, it only brought home what we already knew; that it will not happen to us ……. until it does!

“We had overlooked the possibility of fraud on our telephone system and relied on old software to protect us.

“Fortunately, HighNet was alert to these scams and brought the issue to our attention very promptly and secured our lines with little impact on service or cost.  Since then we have upgraded our protection and our system is secure again.

“Everyone should ensure their communication lines and systems are fully protected, and we are grateful for HighNet’s speedy response and effective management.”

David Siegel said there are simple precautions firms can take to protect against phone fraud, while additional layers of security can be added to customers’ systems commercially for as little as £1 per month to mitigate financial loss.

“Dial-through fraud is a huge problem and has burgeoned in recent years. Fraudsters scan the internet looking for vulnerable firms to target and are ruthless when they find a weakness.

“As well as the financial loss, it can be very distressing for businesses when they fall victims to the hackers. So, we want people to be on their guard at all times, but particularly during periods like the festive holidays when they could be at higher risk.

“There are easy actions they can take to make their system safer and, for our customers, some very effective ways of countering attacks for very little cost.”

Customer checklist to help prevent phone fraud –

  • Remove all default password settings and limit access to any maintenance ports
  • Passwords and access codes should be changed regularly and, if possible, be alpha/numeric and as many digits as the system allows.
  • Avoid 000, 1234, or extension number = PIN passwords.
  • Delete/change passwords for ex-employees.
  • Consider limiting call types by extension, if an extension user has no requirement to ring international/premium rate numbers, then bar access to these call types.
  • DISA – (Direct Inwards System Access) is typically used to allow employees to dial in from home and make outbound calls (usually high value call types, i.e. mobile, international etc) via the company exchange. If activated it should be closely controlled.
  • Secure the system physically, site it in a secure comms room and restrict access to that area.
  • Regular reviews of calls should be carried out to cover analysis of billed calls by originating extension also to identify irregular usage and unexpected traffic.
  • Ensure you fully understand your system’s functionality and capabilities and restrict access to those services which you do not use.
  • Block access to unallocated mailboxes on the system, change the default PIN on unused mail boxes.
  • Be vigilant for evidence of hacking – inability to get an outbound line is usually a good indicator of high volumes of traffic through your system.

 

 

DEACON BLUE TO HEADLINE HEBCELT AS PART OF ANNIVERSARY TOUR

One of Scotland’s most successful and enduring bands, Deacon Blue, will headline the multi-award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival next year as part of a tour to mark their 30-year career.

The band, known for a string of best-selling songs including ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Dignity’, ‘Wages Day’ and ‘Fergus Sings the Blues’ in the 1980s, have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with new albums bringing their music to another generation of fans.

Their 2018 ‘To Be Here Someday’ tour will celebrate their entire back catalogue, which now spans four decades.

It was confirmed today (Thursday, 7 December) the dates will include a Saturday night headline spot on the main stage at HebCelt, which will run from 19-21 July in Stornoway in the isle of Lewis.

The band said: “We’re really looking forward to getting Deacon Blue to the Outer Hebrides. People have been asking us for a long time and it’s great we can finally make it happen in 2018.

“We’ve heard great things about HebCelt and we look forward to joining you all there. “

Deacon Blue were formed in 1985 and released their million-selling debut album, ‘Raintown’ in 1987.

A string of hits followed before the band split for five years, having achieved 12 UK Top 40 singles and two No.1 albums. While lead singer Ricky Ross built up his career as a songwriter and solo act, other band members also established themselves in various other fields of the media, the arts and academia.

But the band kept alive the prospect of getting back together and a reunion show led on to a new album, ‘Walking Back Home’, in 1999. It was followed up by ‘Homesick’, two years later, after which the band continued to reconvene regularly.

Over the last five years, the band have enjoyed a highly successful renaissance. The success of ‘The Hipsters’ in 2012 marked the beginning of a new chapter in their story, while 2016’s ‘Believers’ became their highest charting album in 23 years.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “This is a massive coup for HebCelt. Deacon Blue are a huge, iconic band whose music transcends age barriers and I can’t wait to see them on the festival stage.

“Next year’s tour will see them play some of their biggest ever shows and we are absolutely over the moon that they have chosen HebCelt to be part of this milestone in their career.”

HebCelt previously announced eight other acts for next summer’s event, including Scottish bands Skipinnish, Blazin’ Fiddles, Tide Lines, The Tumbling Souls, Kinnaris Quintet and Trail West; as well as Vishtèn and the Yves Lambert Trio, from Canada; and Habadekuk, from Denmark.

Weekend arena tickets priced £93, £83 concession and £30 (6-14 years) are available from www.hebceltfest.com
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DECOMMISSIONING FUND MAKES AWARD TO STORNOWAY PORT AUTHORITY

Stornoway Port Authority has been chosen as one of the first recipients for a funding award from the Scottish Government’s Decommissioning Challenge Fund.

The SPA has received a grant offer of up to £73,000 to support feasibility studies it is undertaking at Arnish. The award is one of only seven projects in total from the first round across Scotland which have been offered a share of a £1.1 million tranche of funding.

Alex MacLeod, Stornoway Port Authority Chief Executive with Economy Secretary Keith Brown in Stornoway.

The awarded funding will support work on an a number of feasibility studies including an Environmental Impact Assessment, an engineering assessment and a local recycling options investigation – to develop decommissioning options at the Arnish site.

SPA chief executive Alex MacLeod said: “We welcome this support from the Scottish Government and the Decommissioning Challenge Fund. This funding will go towards vital projects that will ultimately help us to maximise the potential industries and opportunities available for the Arnish and Deep Water Port areas. This is the start of a 2-year process to gain the necessary consents to allow decommissioning works to be undertaken.

“We were pleased to welcome the Economy Secretary Keith Brown to Stornoway ahead of the funding announcement and he showed great interest in our aspirations as well as engaging with our plans. We are also grateful to our partners, including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the Stornoway Trust for their support as we work together in bringing more opportunities to the local economy.”

The application from SPA to the DCF offered a clear fit with strategic aspirations at a local and national level. Enhancing the capabilities of the Arnish Enterprise Area is part of the delivery of a wider £50m Stornoway Port Masterplan which identifies decommissioning as an area of market opportunity for the port.

The Decommissioning Challenge Fund will provide opportunities for the oil and gas supply chain to benefit from the decommissioning of North Sea infrastructure.

Grant offers have been made to projects in Dundee, Methil, Montrose, Ardersier, Stornoway and Hunterston, with a second round of funding underway.

During a visit to Stornoway Port Authority, Economy Secretary Keith Brown said:

“Companies across the supply chain are actively engaged in decommissioning projects, with Scottish based firms having secured more than half of the value of contracts awarded.

“Our Decommissioning Challenge Fund is a clear signal to the market to think seriously about decommissioning – a market forecasted to be worth £17 billion by 2025 – and to plan and invest accordingly.

“In spite of the competition, Scotland has distinct advantages and assets that make it an attractive offer – and we are doing everything possible to stimulate investment and ensure our oil and gas sector remains competitive and attractive for decades to come.”

MINISTER FOR DIGITAL VISITS FIRST CUSTOMER UK-WIDE FOR GIGABIT BROADBAND PILOT FUND

A £2m trial designed to accelerate the rate at which Full Fibre networks are available across the UK has already attracted its first customer, who was visited by Matt Hancock MP Minister for Digital.

Telecoms provider HighNet is one of 17 companies so far confirmed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to be part of the £2 million trial which is taking place in four areas around the UK, including Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

(l to r) – technology and innovation director at HighNet David Alldritt, Matt Hancock Minister for Digital (UKGov), manager of The Bauhaus Hotel, Brian Brechin, and David J Siegel, managing director of HighNet

Under the scheme, suppliers will be offering vouchers worth between £500 and £3,000 each to local businesses which can then be used to pay for the installation of gigabit (Gb) speed connections. The aim of the pilot is to encourage the market to extend full fibre infrastructure in the UK by increasing demand and reducing the cost to customers.

The vouchers will cover the normal charges for installation, including hardware and on-site engineer visits. Businesses can also pool their vouchers to help build clusters of connectivity and further reduce costs.

HighNet has attracted the first customer UK-wide, The Bauhaus Hotel in Aberdeen. Both companies were delighted to host a visit by the minister.

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said:

“Full fibre is fundamental for fashioning a Britain fit for the future, so I’m incredibly excited to visit the Bauhaus Hotel in Aberdeen which is the first place in the whole country to benefit from our new gigabit speed business broadband vouchers.

“We are working closely with Aberdeenshire council, local MPs and broadband providers on this UK Government programme. World class connectivity is increasingly essential to people at work and at home. Last week we announced further funding to make these gigabit broadband vouchers available to businesses across the country next year.

“It’s all part of a plan to support the UK’s future competitiveness in the global market and our ability to attract investment.”

David Alldritt, technology and innovation director at HighNet, said: “We are delighted to be a Government-registered supplier for this landmark scheme and to have attracted its first ever customer. We believe this scheme will be instrumental in improving connectivity, enabling businesses to utilize new technologies to drive productivity and growth. We welcome the minister’s direct interest and his commitment to modernising the UK’s digital infrastructure.”

Brian Brechin, manager of The Bauhaus Hotel, said: “This voucher scheme is an excellent boost to our plans to improve connectivity and provide our guests with an enhanced visitor experience. We appreciate the personal interest the minister has taken in visiting with us and we look forward to benefiting from our Gigabit fibre in the near future.”

Gb connectivity will allow firms to upload and download huge files in seconds and future-proof businesses in the face of ever-increasing demands for internet speed and reliability. It will also allow companies in remoter areas to compete with those based in cities where full fibre connectivity may already be installed.

Four areas across the UK will pilot the scheme to test infrastructure conditions – Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire; Bristol, with Bath and North East Somerset; Coventry and Warwickshire and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York)

The test phase will end when the money is used up, or by the end of March 2019, whichever is sooner.

COUL LINKS GOLF WELCOMES SNH RESPONSE

Developers behind the proposed Coul Links major golf course proposal have welcomed the response from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to their planning application, and now believe there is a strong platform for taking forward a multi-million pound investment in East Sutherland that will generate numerous jobs.

SNH, the national statutory body for environmental oversight, has noted that large economic benefits would arise from the Coul Links proposal, echoing the overwhelming opinion of local communities around Embo and Dornoch, where the course will be created. Coul Links Revised Layout
 
Developer Todd Warnock said: “We acknowledge that SNH has raised two specific objections and we welcome their spirit of partnership and co-operation. The first objection relates to dune habitats which we have discussed with SNH at length and Is captured in our Environmental Statement. This dialogue with SNH has been principally focused on loss of dune heath. The second objection calls for a much more detailed Recreation and Access Management Plan which we will be pleased to provide and we have already begun work in this respect. The narrowness of the objections now allows us to focus on the actions required in order to move forward.”
 
SNH also acknowledged the “creativity and commitment” of the developers “to mitigate and offset impacts” of the development and expressed a strong willingness to continue working together toward completion of the course. 
 
As part of the proposed golf course plans, the current shooting of Special Protected Area wintering birds would cease within the entirety of Coul Links. The Coul Links team is formally calling upon the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and others to join in supporting these plans.
 
Mr Warnock continued: “Our exhaustive efforts in working with SNH to protect and improve the management of this extraordinary site have resulted in a very supportive response. Now, with the SNH response and a steadfast local consensus, it is time to come together. It is because we appreciate the concerns of some NGOs that we call on them to lessen their rhetoric and engage directly with us. Our long standing invitations to these organisations to actually visit the site and engage with us remain fully open.”
 
The developers also highlighted SNH’s positive approach to continue working with the Coul Links team should the proposal receive planning permission, and are looking forward to completing the Recreation and Access Management Plan and addressing the dune heath issue. They also look forward to continued working in partnership with The Highland Council, other statutory bodies and the local community to bring Coul Links forward. 
 
Gail Ross MSP for Caithness, Sutherland Easter Ross, said: “I have discussed the project with many people across my constituency, especially those in the local area and listened to their views. I feel that the concerns that have been raised by individuals and organisations have been addressed and therefore I give my support to the project. It has the potential to be one of the most exciting opportunities for my constituency both economically and environmentally. Now that the SNH response is out and their two objections are narrow and addressable, I look forward to the project being successful at Highland Council Planning Committee.”
 
Joan Bishop, Chair of Dornoch Area Community Interest Company said: “We are pleased by the SNH response. Certainly, this level of dune heath disruption when balanced against the significant economic benefits for the area, seems resolvable. We believe the developers have been unfairly criticised by some organisations and in our view, the SNH response confirms that.” 
 
Local Councillor Jim McGillivray, an Embo resident, said: “SNH sees what we see, and that is an extraordinarily beautiful site without any meaningful environmental conservation or existing management to tackle invasive threats. We live next door and our residents walk Coul Links daily. Without the golf course and related site management, this site will continue to degrade via expansion of invasive species. This environmental commitment, combined with the economic benefits, is why Embo is so solidly in favour of the development.”

TESTING THE WATER FOR STORNOWAY DEEP WATER PORT

Tests will start this week to help pave the way for the creation of a deep-water port at Stornoway, which will bring major economic benefits to the town.

The test holes in the seabed will determine the depth of rock and the soft material above it, providing the information to determine the design and construction of a facility that will help stimulate growth in a number of vital sectors.

A deep-water port is a crucial part of Stornoway Port Authority’s ambitious 20-year masterplan and the exploratory work represents a key milestone in its commitment to the development.

The facility will help accelerate growth in the cruise business, by providing a berth for larger ships, provide improved berthing and servicing for oil and renewables projects as well as a new linkspan/freight ferry berth. It will also provide bulk cargo handling and storage facilities, and enable the relocation of oil terminal and storage tanks out of the centre of Stornoway.

It is estimated the cruise sector alone could generate significant additional income by creating berthing facilities for larger vessels that cannot currently berth alongside.

To prepare for construction, and reduce risk by identifying the ground conditions early in the project development, the SPA has awarded the underwater investigation contract to Northern Irish company Causeway Geotech Ltd.

A series of 24 geotechnical boreholes will be drilled at Glumaig Bay and, whilst the equipment is onsite, will also drill seven at Newton Basin. These will be 150mm in diameter and 10-30 metres deep to obtain information from the sediment and rock for analysis.

The information will be used to identify the depths, materials and locations to be dredged, as well as data required to design the reclamation and berthing structures adjacent to Arnish and the marina at Newton basin.

The contract is expected to run for about seven weeks, after which the boreholes will be sealed.

SPA chief executive Alex MacLeod said: “The award of this contract is the first step on the road to delivering our master plan and demonstrates our commitment to its implementation.

“We are delighted that work is now getting under way and we aim to press ahead so that Stornoway, its residents and our partners can enjoy the economic rewards from this development as quickly as possible.”

The deep-water port proposes –

• A RoRo terminal to provide back-up to the existing linkspan on Pier 3, and support a second ferry service focussing on freight.

• An extensive industrial base for planned onshore wind projects and future offshore wind, wave and tidal energy schemes as well as oil and gas developments in the Atlantic.

• A cruise berth for vessels up to 330 metres in length, bus marshalling area for passengers and access into Lews Castle grounds via a new footbridge.

• Space for relocating the oil terminal and storage tanks away from town.

• Bulk cargo handling and storage, warehousing

Stornoway is an established port on the cruise circuit, attracting 66 ships in 2016. However, the masterplan points out that it attracts relatively few large cruise vessels, as those over 156 metres in length cannot berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small boat.

To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships of 330 metres or more. This would attract an additional 20-25 vessels a year and increasing passenger visits to the levels experienced in Orkney and Shetland

The masterplan also identifies a shortage of yacht berths and amenities constraining potential growth in marine tourism.

The port has a popular marina that was expanded in 2014 and can now take 80 yachts. However, the berths filled up soon after they were installed and there is now a shortage of space during the summer.

To maintain its share of the growing yachting sector, Stornoway needs more berths and other facilities. It is estimated that an additional 100 berths could be filled in the short to medium term.

HIGHNET NAMED AS APPROVED UK GOVERNMENT SUPPLIER FOR GIGABIT SCHEME

Telecoms service company HighNet has been confirmed as the only Scottish-based, UK Government-approved supplier for a scheme to help businesses install gigabit broadband.

HighNet is one of 17 companies so far confirmed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to be part of a £2 million trial taking place in four areas around the UK, including Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Under the scheme, suppliers will be offering vouchers worth between £500 and £3,000 each to local businesses which can then be used to pay for the installation of gigabit (Gb) speed connections. The aim of the pilot is to encourage the market to extend full fibre infrastructure in the UK by increasing demand and reducing the cost to customers.

The vouchers will cover the normal charges for installation, including hardware and on-site engineer visits. Businesses can also pool their vouchers to help build clusters of connectivity and further reduce costs.

HighNet, which manages more than 17,000 business lines across the UK, will work to provide connectivity with infrastructure provider CityFibre, the UK’s builder of Gigabit Cities and the national alternative provider of wholesale full-fibre network infrastructure.

David Alldritt, technology and innovation director at HighNet, said: “We are delighted to be a Government-approved supplier for this landmark scheme which will bring the benefits of gigabit broadband to a range of businesses.”

Gb connectivity will allow firms to upload and download huge files in seconds and future-proof businesses in the face of ever-increasing demands for internet speed and connectivity. It will also allow companies in remoter areas to compete with those based in cities where full fibre connectivity may already be installed.

Four areas across the UK will pilot the scheme to test infrastructure conditions – Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire; Bristol, with Bath and North East Somerset; Coventry and Warwickshire and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York)

The test phase will end when the money is used up, or by the end of March 2019, whichever is sooner.

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WHISKY, HISTORY AND MYSTERY ALL WINNERS AT TOURISM AWARDS

One of Scotland’s most historic battlefields has fought off opposition to pick up two major tourism honours at an annual awards ceremony.

The double success was celebrated by Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness, at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA), which enjoyed another record-breaking year.

Winners in 16 categories overcame unprecedented competition to be crowned the best in the region and picked up the famous piper trophies.

In all, 232 business and individuals – 14 per cent more than last year – were put forward for honours and 55 finalists were vying for the awards, which celebrate and recognise the best places to eat,
drink and enjoy the area’s scenery, hospitality, wildlife, history and culture.HITA banner

HITA chairman Craig Ewan said: “Congratulations to all our award winners and finalists in another outstanding year. HITA continues to grow with the number of entries and nominations rising each year, making it more difficult than ever to win one of our coveted trophies.”

The awards finale, held at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, was addressed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. She said: “As these awards demonstrate, the iconic attractions, vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of the Highlands and Islands continue to be an important tourism draw.

“It is hugely encouraging to see a record-breaking number of entries this year and I congratulate all of the HITA 2017 winners and finalists.”

Inverness, Ross-shire and Moray enjoyed the most success with three trophy winners each, with two going to Skye and others to the Outer Hebrides, Argyll, Orkney, Lochaber and Sutherland.

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards Industry Panel and VisitScotland Board member, said: “On behalf of the panel, I’d like to congratulate all of the winners of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. They are a credit to themselves, their local area and the entire Scottish tourism sector.

“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs and sustains communities. These awards let us recognise the unsung heroes of our industry who show real dedication and enthusiasm for Scotland’s tourism industry.

“As the Scottish Thistle Awards prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary I’d like to wish all HITA winners the very best for the national final.”

HITA, which is run in association with SSE, is recognised as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland. The awards highlight and reward excellence throughout the sector which is worth more than £4.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

Mike Seaton, SSE’s Director of Development, said: “It has been another outstanding and recording breaking year for the Highlands and Islands Tourism awards with nominations up again from last year.

“These awards recognise the excellence of the tourism industry in this region and celebrate, as well as promote, the high standards seen across the Highlands and Islands.

“This is SSE’s fifth year as lead sponsor of the event and we are thrilled to have been part of another amazing evening. The energy industry and the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands help to sustain communities, create jobs and generate income and I hope we can continue to work together and support one another for many more years to come.”

Culloden Battlefield picked up the Best Visitor Attraction title, while Peter Cowe, who has been a volunteer at the site for ten years, was named HITA’s Tourism and Hospitality Hero.

Culloden is the site of the last pitched battle on British soil in 1746 when Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, fought the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops.

HITA judges said the battlefield attraction works hard to constantly improve its offering to visitors and has an ‘unwavering desire to re-awaken the past in the present’.

They said Peter Cowe has a passion for bringing history alive and has a pride for the whole of Culloden, not just the battlefield.

Captain Iain Dunderdale, who has worked for 27 years developing the cruise ship industry which now generates millions of pounds annually, was named Highland Ambassador of the Year.

The Ambassador title is a special award given by the HITA Board to an individual who ‘goes the extra mile’ in contributing to the success of tourism in the Highlands and Islands.

Judges said Capt Dunderdale has built up a business that is burgeoning and contributes greatly to the economic wealth of the area.

Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie, Wester Ross, was named Best Heritage Tourism Experience, an award introduced to mark the Year of Heritage History and Archaeology.

Portavadie in Argyll, a former oil platform construction site which was transformed into a visitor attraction, won the award for Best Accommodation Provider and Links House at Royal Dornoch won the Best Restaurant Experience title.

The Ferry Inn, in Stromness, Orkney, was named Best Pub/Bar and Gordon Castle Walled Garden in Fochabers won Best Informal Eating Experience.

The Hebridean Celtic Festival in Lewis picked up the award for Best Cultural Event or Festival, and the title for Best Outdoor Adventure Experience was secured for a second year in succession by Go to St Kilda.

The Best Sporting Event title went to the Fort William UCI Mountain Bike World Cup; Most Hospitable Hotel was The Torridon in Wester Ross and the Most Hospitable B&B/Guest House award was collected by Inverglen Guest House in Inverness.

Ghillie Basan, a Moray-based food and travel writer, won the Innovation in Tourism Award, and the trophy for Working Together in Tourism went to the Malt Whisky Trail in Aberlour.

Charlotte Poynton, sommelier and assistant restaurant manager at The Three Chimneys in Skye, was named Highland Rising Star.

Judges’ commendations went to Cuil Moss Cottage, Ardgour, by Fort William, in the Best Accommodation Provider category and the Isle of Harris Distillery in the Best Visitor Attraction category.

HITA winners, with the exception of the Highland Rising Star and Highland Ambassador categories, will go on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.