The University of the Highlands and Islands has announced plans to develop a BSc degree in optometry to address the growing demand for eye care services in the region. 

Managers have submitted an initial proposal to the General Optical Council and are working with stakeholders to develop the new course. The Federation of (Ophthalmic and Dispensing) Opticians Educational Trust is providing expertise and funding to help develop the degree. The programme will incorporate new approaches to regional training to support the delivery of optometry services in remote and rural communities. 

The initiative is part of the university's wider plans to develop a School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences which will expand and align its curriculum to meet the needs of the region.

Professor Crichton Lang, deputy principal of the university, said: "We are delighted to be working in innovative ways with industry partners to develop and deliver this BSc degree in the region. This initiative will boost career opportunities, strengthen the supply of qualified optometrists to the industry and contribute to the overall delivery of high-quality health and social care to our communities. These benefits all align fully with our vision for the growing impact of the university's School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences." 

Samantha Watson, chair of Optometry Scotland, said: "The Scottish Government has correctly recognised the pivotal role of eye health and vision to the health, wellbeing and prosperity of our nation. Scotland has very specific eye health requirements with geographical challenges that must be met with a long term local workforce strategy. Optometry Scotland recognises the difficulties recruiting and retaining optometrists in the remote and rural areas of Scotland and supports this initiative."

A boat washed ashore at Ratigan has been reunited with its owner today (Wednesday 28 June.)

Local police recently took to Twitter asking for help to locate the owner.  The boat's owner was later located and the police thanked their followers on social media.  

Funding from the National Lottery is enabling Cornhill Girl Guides to go on an adventure trip to Skye.

Groups and schools across the north-east have been awarded a share of more than £25,000 from the National Lottery.

The cash, made available through the Awards for All Scotland scheme, includes about £3,000 for Cornhill’s Girl Guides.

The guides, which formed in 2002, will use the cash to accompany youth leaders on an adventure trip to the Isle of Skye later this year.

Awards for All Scotland gives groups a chance to apply for between £500 and £10,000 and aims to help improve local communities and the lives of people most in need.



The UK's slowest broadband speeds are in Orkney, Shetland and the Highlands and Islands, according to a report by Which?

The report stated that 10Mbps was the minimum required speed for families under the Government Universal Service Obligation.  However, their research revealed that many areas fell short of those requirements.  

The Highlands had an average speed test result of 8.8Mpbs.  

Dundee City is the only area in Scotland to make it into the top five for best Broadband speeds.  

Commenting on the Which? Report on broadband speeds in local authority areas which shows the Highlands and Islands as having amongst the worst broadband speeds in the UK, Scottish Labour Connectivity spokesperson Rhoda Grant said: “This report again highlights that remote and rural areas including Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the Highlands in my region are still at the back of the queue for connections and that more than half of homes in some parts of rural Scotland are still struggling with very slow internet speeds.  

National Gaelic short film competition, FilmG, has been launched for a tenth year.  

FilmG, MG ALBA's Gaelic short film competition, was established in 2008 as a means of developing Gaelic filmmaking talent and encouraging grassroots Gaelic storytelling through film. Over this time a bank of more than 650 Gaelic short films has been created online and the competition has become a springboard for young people keen to carve out a career in Gaelic media. These youngsters include two Gaelic children's TV presenters, Megan MacLennan and Kerry Anne MacLeod who were both shortlisted for their wonderful performances at the first ever FilmG awards ceremony and who now appear regularly on BBC ALBA. 

The competition is open to all ages.  The theme for the tenth FilmG is "firinn" - "truth."

Gaelic teacher Iain Cumming said: "We've had a great afternoon here in Gairloch, with the whole school as well as members of the community attending the launch and celebrating the excellent films made by Gairloch High School pupils. Over the last few years we've learned a lot about film-making and it was great that all that effort paid off in FilmG 2017. We're very much looking forward to getting involved again this year, in fact some of the pupils are already developing their ideas and beginning work on their scripts!"

A new service for the bereaved in the Highlands will remove the need for grieving families to notify multiple public bodies of a death.

The service was launched today (Monday 26 June) by the Highland Council and is called "Tell Us Once."

The service will ensure that when a death is registered in the Highland area, a notification is automatically issued to most government agencies which removes the need for grieving families to notify multiple public bodies.  The Registrar will explain this opt-in service when a death is being registered.

Councillor Alasdair Christie, Chairman of the Council’s People Committee described the service as: “An extremely helpful support arrangement for people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one which is always a stressful time.  Tell Us Once will help the bereaved while they are making necessary arrangements, often within limited timescales.  The new service is a good example of government departments working together to ease the pressure on individuals.”

Fearann Eilean Iarmain has won the 2017 Golden Plover Award for Moorland Management.

The award is jointly run by The Heather Trust and The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Scotland and  recognises the essential part played by the gamekeepers of Fearann Eilean Iarmain in conserving and protecting the natural environment and the associated wildlife that thrive on Fearann Eilean Iarmain.

Establishing Fearann Eilean Iarmain in 1972, Sir Iain Noble was committed to supporting and to promoting the linguistic and cultural heritage of the crofting communities. As an integral part of these endeavours, Sir Iain invested in the conservation of the environmental heritage, pioneering the establishment of one of the first native woodland regeneration schemes in Scotland. 

Head keeper, Scott MacKenzie, said: “Solid foundations were set over 40 years ago which enable Fearann Eilean Iarmain to continue to shape and build a strong, healthy working environment for future generations. 

Sir Iain Noble understood the value of protecting a healthy, diverse landscape that not only supports the traditional land uses of crofting and farming but also encourages a wealth of wildlife and a diversity of habitats. Much of this was achieved, at the time, by employing a gamekeeper, Skye's only full-time gamekeeper. Today an underkeeper/ghillie is also employed. Amongst our many objectives is to continue the success of ground nesting birds and waders and to manage the moorland and the woodlands so that they continue to be ideal habitats that support a rich diversity of wildlife.”

Lochalsh Junior Pipe Band took second place in their grade at the European Pipe Band Championships.

The Championships, held in Forres, on Saturday 24 June, saw the Isle of Skye Pipe Band take fourth place in their grade.

A team of Scottish Water employees took to Skye for a relay bicycle ride last weekend (Saturday 24 to Sunday 25.)

The team, who hail from different areas of the Highlands, are taking part in a 500 mile relay in order to raise money for Highland Hospice and Water Aid.

This is the third year the team have taken on this challenge and they have already raised over £7,500.

On 23 June, the team set off from Inverness and on the 24 June, they had travelled from Mallaig to Armadale and then through Sleat.

The team's JustGiving page can be found here.


A new four-year deal for the production of drama content on BBC ALBA has been agreed, it has been announced today (Sunday 25 June.)  

Funded by MG ALBA, the Gaelic Media Service - one of the partners behind BBC ALBA – the new contract with Young Films secures the future of the channel's drama series, Bannan and marks a significant investment in drama for the channel.

Filmed on the Isle of Skye, and produced by The Inbetweeners' Chris Young, 23 episodes of Bannan have been produced since 2014, with five of those due to be aired on BBC ALBA in the autumn. The success of Bannan has led to an international deal being signed for the series with DRG, one of the leading independent distributors of programmes in the world.

The new contract, running until 2021, will lead to at least 20 episodes being produced for the channel. The announcement was made prior to a screening of Bannan at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and coincided with the launch of MG ALBA's annual report for 2016/17.

Maggie Cunningham, chair of MG ALBA, said: "The development of drama was a key milestone for BBC ALBA and since it was first broadcast in 2014, Bannan has proved popular with both our core Gaelic audience and non-Gaelic speakers alike.

"We're pleased to announce a four-year deal with Young Films, which will provide longer-term certainty for Bannan's ongoing development. In recent years we have awarded a number of multi-year volume deals to producers for other genres and seen resulting cost savings and collaborations which in turn has allowed more new programmes to be made. Whilst drama production comes at a significantly higher cost than other genres, MG ALBA believes longer-term planning for Bannan can bring similar benefits and also, that such strategic investment in drama enables us to create a strong creative foundation that benefits the future of Gaelic on screen, by strengthening the skills vital to telling our stories."