Liam McArthur MSP

Liam McArthur MSP

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has received assurances from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service that steps are being considered to address problems with recruitment and retention of crews to retained stations in Orkney.

Mr McArthur today spoke to Robert Scott, Assistant Chief Officer for the North, to highlight his concerns.

Commenting on his discussions with the Assistant Chief Officer, Mr MacArthur said:

“Retained fire stations and their crew perform a vital role within the communities they serve, so any suggestion that they are struggling or under threat has to be taken extremely seriously.”

“I welcome Mr Scott’s confirmation that a consultation is now under way to look at improving training arrangements and speeding up the recruitment process.”

He said: “While the issue of recruitment and retention is a problem being experienced by stations across the region, there are specific circumstances affecting the islands. I am grateful therefore that Mr Scott and his colleagues have accepted my invitation to come to Orkney in the coming months to hear first-hand from the communities and islanders most directly affected.”

Arctic Tern, by Raymond Besant.

Arctic Tern, by Raymond Besant.

Orcadian wildlife photographer Raymond Besant will host a free talk and launch and exhibition of his work in Kirkwall on Thursday evening.

Raymond’s new book, Naturally Orkney, is in the running for a prize at this year’s Scottish Nature Photography Awards in the Favourite Scottish Nature Photography Book category.

The talk, above The Orcadian Bookshop, in Albert Street, begins at 7.3pm on October 23. Entry is by ticket only, which are free and available from the bookshop during normal opening hours.


Due to worsening weather conditions, Orkney Ferries, Pentland Ferries and Serco Northlink have all announced disruptions to their normal schedules today.

Anyone planning on using the ferries is advised to visit the websites of the corresponding service — at, or — for regular updates


Orkney Islands Council is reminding people intending to vote in next month’s Kirkwall West and Orphir by-election of some important points to remember.

It’s anticipated that a significant number of those who are planning to vote in this election may have voted for the first time in September’s Independence Referendum, so won’t have voted in a local council election before.

Important points to bear in mind are:

  • Nominations close for the Kirkwall West and Orphir by-election on October 27, following the list of candidates standing for election will be announced.
  • The election takes place on Thursday, November 27, with polling stations open between 7am and 10pm
  • Because it’s a by-election for the Kirkwall West and Orphir ward, only residents of this ward who will be eligible to vote. There will be two polling places – the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, and Orphir Primary School. Your polling card will tell you which one you should go to.
  • If you registered to vote in the referendum, then you’ll already be registered to vote in this one too. If you’ve moved house since then, then check that you’ve registered at your new address.  You need to be registered by Tuesday, November 11.
  • 16 and 17 year olds can’t vote in this election – that was only for the referendum.
  • Postal votes need to be applied for by Wednesday, November 12. If you applied for a permanent postal vote in the referendum then you don’t need to apply again.  If you applied for a one-off postal vote, but would like to do that again, then you need to contact the Electoral Registration Office.
  • When you vote, it won’t be using a cross in the box. This time you rank the candidates in order of preference, with 1 being your preferred candidate, 2 your second preference etc. You don’t have to include all the candidates in your ranking if you don’t want to. This voting system is known as the Single Transferrable Vote and is a system of proportional representation.
  • The votes will be counted in the council chamber on Friday,November 28, and we should know the result of the election by lunchtime on Friday.

Returning officer, Alistair Buchan, said: “For many people, the Scottish Independence Referendum was the first time that they had taken up the opportunity to use their vote.

“We hope that that experience will have increased their interest in political systems and in the voting process and that more of our electors will choose to vote this time too.  There are some significant differences between the referendum and a by-election though, particularly in terms of the voting procedure, so we want to make sure that out voters feel fully informed on the process.”


Serco Northlink has temporarily replaced its freight ship Helliar with the mv Arrow, but have said this afternoon that tonight’s and tomorrow’s sailings have been cancelled in anticipation of bad weather.

The Helliar broke down last Monday, with technical difficulties with one of its propellers.

A Serco NorthLink Ferries spokesperson said: “We have secured a replacement vessel for MV Helliar which is currently in dry-dock following technical difficulties with one of the vessel’s propellers.

“However due to forecast adverse weather conditions and operational requirements, this evening’s southbound sailing and tomorrow’s northbound sailing of mv Arrow between Lerwick and Aberdeen have been cancelled.”

“The next scheduled sailing will be on Wednesday, October 22, from Lerwick to Aberdeen at 6pm. In the meantime mv Hildasay will continue to operate as scheduled.”

“We anticipate mv Helliar’s return to service in two weeks — commencing November 3 — once we are satisfied that the necessary scope of work has been completed.”

The cargo vessel Nicola was towed into Scapa Flow this afternoon. (Photo: Mary Harris)

The cargo vessel ‘Nicola’ being towed into Scapa Flow this afternoon by the tug boat Herakles.
(Photo: Mary Harris)

A cargo vessel has been towed in to Scapa Flow after suffering engine failure in the Pentland Firth last night.

The Nicola, which has a crew of eight, broke down just off Strathy Point, with the Coastguard tug Herakles sent to her aid after the coastguard were alerted at 10.25pm on Sunday night.

The vessel was towed into Scapa Flow this afternoon, with Shetland coastguard reporting that the whole operation went very smoothly.


The Orcadian Sky Notes Update: ‘Golden’ planet Mercury in the pre-dawn twilight late October/early November 2014.

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