News - Naidheachdan

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has nominated local nurse Catherine Maciver as the constituency’s ‘Local Hero’, and invited her to the opening of Parliament to recognise her work as COVID Vaccination Clinic Lead Nurse for the impressive vaccination rollout in the Western Isles.

Every Member of the Scottish Parliament was asked to name one of their constituents who had made an extraordinary contribution to the lives of other people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those selected by their MSP, including Mrs Maciver, have been invited to contribute to the Scottish Parliament’s Opening Ceremony, an event which will take place on Saturday 2nd October to formally mark the new session of the Parliament.

Catherine Maciver was put forward by the Western Isles Health Board as someone who has been instrumental to the success of the local Covid-19 vaccination programme. A retired senior charge nurse, Mrs Maciver returned to work to head up the mass vaccination clinic in Stornoway.

After his meeting with Mrs Maciver earlier this week, Alasdair Allan said:

“I would like thank Catherine for her incredible efforts, along with those of her NHS colleagues throughout the islands, which have ensured such a rapid and successful vaccine rollout here in the Western Isles. These past 18 months have been challenging for everyone, but particularly for our healthcare workers, and I would like to express my gratitude to everyone at NHS Western Isles for all they have done and continue to do despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am delighted that Catherine has accepted my invitation to represent the Western Isles at the Scottish Parliament’s Opening Ceremony as our ‘Local Hero’. I know that Catherine is keen to make clear that this recognition extends to everyone involved in the vaccination programme locally who ensured that the Western Isles was able to vaccinate its population probably more rapidly than virtually any community in the world.”

Catherine commented: “It is a huge honour to have been selected for the Local Hero nomination and I would like to thank all those who supported the nomination.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to the team of vaccinators who participate in clinics every day and to those who support and plan behind the scenes, to ensure our clinics run like well-oiled machines. Everyone has been amazing and I’m proud to be part of it.”



SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has been raising awareness of the importance of eye health during National Eye Health Week (20-26 September).

Earlier this week Allan visited R Doig Optometrists in Stornoway, where he met two trainee optometrists.

Following his visit on Monday, Allan said:

“I would like to thank everyone at R Doig Optometrists in Stornoway for an enjoyable and informative visit. It is important that people take advantage of their biennial free eye health check and do all they can to take care of their vision. National Eye Health Week is a great opportunity to book your next check-up with an optometrist, and to find out more about eye health in general.”

The purpose of National Eye Health Week is to promote good eye care and spread awareness about what people can do to proactively protect their sight. 50% of sight loss is avoidable, with the key to preventing sight loss the quick detection of any changes to the eyes at regular eye health checks. This allows any problems to be treated before they affect the vision.

In Scotland it is free to get your eyes tested by an optometrist every two years, and people can find their local optometrist on the NHS Inform website:


MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan has paid a special thank-you to shop staff as part of a campaign to tackle crime and encourage greater respect for retailers.

He visited the Co-op in Stornoway yesterday to show support for a drive by the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) urging everyone to #SayThanks the next time they are in their local convenience store.

People are being urged to show their gratitude for all that shop workers have done for them and their community - particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic - after a new law came into force.
The Protection of Workers Act gives stronger protection to retail staff across Scotland who suffer threats, abuse or assaults and has been widely welcomed across the sector.

SGF is highlighting the new measures through it’s Don’t Put Up With It Campaign, urging retailers to report every crime they witness in their shops, as well as urging customers to thank the people who serve them.

“Our shop workers have played a vital part in keeping the country moving throughout the pandemic,” said Allan, commenting after his visit, “and I am pleased to have had a chance to show some of my own appreciation for all they have done and continue to do to keep communities throughout the Western Isles well-supplied.”

The Don’t Put Up With It campaign is being made possible as part of a £50,000 package from the Scottish Government to tackle retail crime. SGF is working with the charity Crimestoppers, its youth programme Fearless and Police Scotland to spread the message.

SGF Chief Executive Dr Pete Cheema said: “The simple act of saying thanks can make a remarkable difference to a retail worker’s day.

“Local convenience stores really stepped up to the plate during Covid, making immediate alterations to their stores to keep them open, make them Covid-safe, and service the local communities who needed them the most.

“So, the next time you pop around the corner for some essential supplies, #SayThanks. If you’re grateful that your local store is there; if you’re grateful they’ve been there during the pandemic; if you want them to stay there as long as you are, #SayThanks.

“And, if you do witness a crime in a shop, please support your local retailer by sharing information and help bring those responsible to justice.”

To find out more about the campaign and find out how you can show your support, go to Follow #DontPutUpWithIt and #SayThanks on social media.

Details about crimes should be reported to Police Scotland on 101. Call 999 in an emergency. Information about those responsible for offences can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan has welcomed a decision by Transport Scotland to reduce ferry fares for school mini-buses across CalMac’s network.

The new scheme will make it cheaper for pupils to travel for extra-curricular activities by bringing in a 50% discount for mini-buses from both island and mainland schools.

Alasdair Allan was one of those who had been calling for a school mini-bus discount to be introduced. Commenting when the news was announced, Allan said:

“This discount will make a big difference to how affordable it is for school groups to travel to and from the islands, whether for educational, cultural or sporting activities. I am pleased by the announcement, as I am sure all pupils and their families in the Western Isles will be too. Travel costs should not be a barrier to any pupil who wants to be involved in these types of activity.”

The discount will be introduced on the 1st December and reviewed after the initial year to establish how it has been taken up and how it is funded. In the longer term, the discount will be considered as part of the fares policy review in the Islands Connectivity Plan.



Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today raised CalMac’s winter maintenance schedule during First Minister’s Questions.

Every CalMac vessel requires essential annual maintenance over the winter months. This presents the company with a complex logistical problem to keep services running while vessels are away from their normal routes.

The islands MSP highlighted how the increased demand for “staycations” will put pressure on services later into the year than usual, and asked about preparations being made for this year’s dry-docking and maintenance programme.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“There has righty been a lot of focus on the issues we have experienced over the summer as social distancing constrained ferry capacity at the busiest time of year. However, for many island communities winter also brings significant challenges.

“As CalMac rotates its fleet to cover vessels entering drydock for annual maintenance and refits, communities can find themselves with a diminished service or a vessel unsuitable for the route. This is especially the case in Barra, where the ageing MV Isle of Arran is far too often brought in to act as relief on the longest route in the network.

“With the demand for sailings likely to continue beyond the normal shoulder months, we need to ensure disruption to communities is minimised as much as possible.”

Alasdair Allan, MSP for na h-Eileanan an Iar, led a Member’s Debate in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 7th September, calling for a proportion of the seats on CalMac’s boards to be reserved for islanders. There are currently no members on the boards of either Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd or CalMac Ferries Ltd who are resident on islands within the CalMac network. Alasdair Allan MSP is of the view that the allocation of board seats to those living in the islands would promote more community input into the decisions made regarding lifeline ferry services.

Speaking in the chamber, Allan praised the efforts of CalMac staff during what has been a very difficult year, while highlighting the frustrations of local people at being unable to travel to and from the mainland for weeks at a time over the summer months:

“I have to be honest that local residents found it increasingly difficult to accept that they were being denied travel for even essential purposes when tourists seemingly had no difficulty traveling at all. That is because tourists are able to book their travel months in advance. I make that last remark, not to take away from the importance of tourists to the islands in any way but simply to illustrate why a booking system based on the first come first served principle mean that the day to day needs of islanders simply cannot compete.

“We know that CalMac needs more vessels, particularly a better choice of relief vessels, a better booking system, a fares review and better communication with customers.”

Allan went on to state that CalMac might be better managed if board members had to face the travelling public themselves, with a higher level of accountability if board members had to face direct consequences of disrupted or fully-booked services for weeks on end:

“I realise that appointing board members is no simple task and that the criteria used for appointment becomes key here. In communities where so many people have their own professional seafaring experience, as well as the lived experience more generally of living somewhere entirely dependent on a ferry, there are plenty people well qualified.”



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