Na H-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil has written to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar, backing a community initiative by Barra Watersports Club, asking them to look at ways of securing funding to upgrade Castlebay Harbour so that it can be a safer harbour and also cash in on the lucrative market for yachts.

Such a facility would give a much-needed financial boost to the local economy feeding into a growing network for Oban to Stornoway including Mallaig and Tobermory as well as Uist and Harris in a network that should be attractive and beneficial to all.  This is an idea that Barra Watersports Club have been actively involved in.

Angus MacNeil commented:

“It has proved in many studies that have been carried out over the years that visiting yachts provide a much needed boost to areas which have the up to date facilities to accommodate them.  At the moment, the harbour is not adequate for boats mooring there.  One weekend recently two yachts were drifting away due to the strong winds, and on another occasion a couple of years ago, someone on a boat received a spinal injury while moored in the harbour.  We only have to think of the cost of helicopters, lifeboats and coastguards involved in these instances to see that from a safety point of view, a breakwater to provide shelter, would quickly pay for itself.

“I feel that there would be huge economic benefits in upgrading the harbour.  The leisure trade is a growing industry, but yachts will only berth, in numbers, at places, which have all the modern facilities.  HIE have been around looking for ideas that would boost the economy, this is an asset that if constructed would be a game changer economically not only for shops and hotels providing jobs locally, but also for the wider Hebrides.

“I am now writing to HIE and Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar asking them to look at securing funding for a breakwater out from St Brendan’s home hospital, a move supported and wanted by Barra’s Watersports Club.  This would be of enormous benefit locally, and would ensure that Castlebay would get a lot of the yachts who sail around our coasts berthing there instead of going elsewhere where there are facilities.  Evidence shows that yachts people spend more than any other visitors do.  We now have to get serious throughout the West Coast of Scotland capitalising on this potential.  Around 40% of yachts people who say they have sailed on the West Coast have not gone North of Ardnamurchan point mainly due to lack of facilities.  It is surely time we improved amenities and capitalised on the potential. Castlebay to Stornoway including Uist and Harris is a great place to visit, with in many places, facilities 100 yards or so from where yachts people come ashore, we just have to make it better. “