Friday, 5 September 2008

Is it time for Saor-stàit neo-eisimeil Uibhist?

That's Gaelic for "Uist Independent Free State".

And, perhaps, that time has come.

The Stornoway Gazette has just reported on today's meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee of the Comhairle (the local council) in Stornoway. The decision of the meeting, by 8 votes to 3, was that sports centres in Lewis and Harris should stay closed on a Sunday. And, look, it's the Lewis block vote in action again; there's more background on it here. When it went to full council vote, Sunday closures were retained by 18 votes to 11.

This is different to the situation on this side of the Sound of Harris, where sports facilities such as those at Liniclate on Benbecula, are open on a Sunday.

It's not just sports facilities; supermarkets on the Uists and Barra open on a Sunday. Ferries happily ply their trade between the Uists and the mainland on a Sunday too.

Not Harris and Lewis though. And judging from some of the comments coming out of the meeting today e.g.
"Chief Executive Malcolm Burr said that the issue should come up only once in the council term, which would mean it would not be debated again until after the next election."

...this situation isn't going to change for some years.

On a regular basis, residents, politicians and business people in the Uists are annoyed at the control exerted on these islands from Stornoway. Fishermen still fume that, when the Berneray causeway was built, no bridge was put in for them, the funding being diverted to a Lewis project instead. The block vote of Lewis/Stornoway councillors acts againsts the Uists. And, recently, one - Lewis - councillor in the secondary school closure debate suggested shutting the schools in (no surprise) Uist in order to keep those in (no surprise) Lewis open.

A reminder that it wasn't that long ago since the Outer Hebrides was split between two different local authorities. And that apparently worked okay.

So, could Uist (by which I mean Berneray to Barra) go it alone as a new, independent, nation governing its own affairs?


  1. It is notable that deliveries of goods from the UK mainland almost always come from Inverness via Ullapool-Stornoway, or Uig-Lochmaddy. There's very little movement of such goods across the Sound of Harris.

  2. Lewis has an airport (Stornoway), Uist has two (Benbecula and Barra). So no need for any new airports to be built.

  3. There are substantial council offices in Balivanich, to which executive control of Uist could operate from. But, with checks and balances in place so islands at the extremes of the new nation - Berneray and Vatersay - do not suffer the same block voting and discrimination that they currently do under Lewis occupation.

  4. We already have a national newspaper in Am Paipear.

  5. A Uist currency and a flag wouldn't take long to sort out (Barra already has a flag). Uist stamps would also raise income.

  6. The ferry terminals at Berneray, Lochmaddy, Castlebay and Lochboisdale could be easily converted into passport and immigration control centres.

  7. Visa entrance fees from e.g. people entering from Lewis (especially Councillors who have previously voted against Uist interests) would help generate more income.

  8. Use of private referendum amongst residents, rather than a block of councillors, would settle issues such as education, sports, opening hours.

  9. A tunnel to the UK mainland from Lochmaddy - which Norwegians have confirmed is technically feasible - would provide a 24/7 fixed link - no matter what the weather is - while Lewis people are stuck with their six day a week (and only when the weather is good) ferry link.

  10. Funding allocation disputes between Lewis/Harris and Uists would end. 

It makes sense the more you think about it. The cultures of Lewis and Uist are incomparable. The national dish of Uist, for example, is multi award-winning smoked salmon. What's the national dish of Lewis? A dead cormorant pickled in a vat of red diesel for a month. "Taste the Difference", as supermarket advertisments say...

...speaking of which, why is it that only residents of Stornoway have a local supermarket where they can buy four cans of "value lager" for 25p? Why are we discriminated against, us Uist residents who wish to get a copy of the Gazette and a carry-out on a Thursday night and still have change from a pound? No - independence would mean a Tesco (and hopefully an Ikea too) (Marks and Spencer would be a bonus) for Uist.

The border? Easy. The Sound of Harris provides a natural barrier, and could be operated in a similar way to the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea; here's a picture:


Heck, even if/when Uist goes it alone, it wouldn't be the smallest country in the world, there being eight with even fewer inhabitants. Uist would have a reasonable case for becoming the 193rd member state of the United Nations, alphabetically between Uganda and Ukraine.

We'll also take St Kilda as part of Uist as well (we bags it first), and that becomes our western territorial marker. (Uist) Councillor Archie Campbell has already declared the building of a lighthouse on it, which can double as a watchtower for keeping an eye on pesky invaders from the north i.e. Leverburgh and beyond.

Finally, our emergence as a new nation would be cemented with being awarded the Olympic games. Barcelona 1992 ... Beijing 2008 ... Balivanich 2016. Clearly a natural choice, and after one Uist village submitted an unsuccesful bid to host the 1996 Olympics, we are morally due the games. Athletes would be able to run, swimmers swim, and cyclists ride - seven days a week.

Unlike on Lewis.

And on that jumping issue, the December picture of the 2009 Isle of Berneray calendar shows one resident already in training for 2016, symbolically jumping "over" Harris and Lewis. 

One Uist. One Nation. Under One Flag.

It's Time.


  1. Excellent idea! The two countries already have different time zones. Uist is in 2008; Lewis is in 1893 :-)

  2. Brilliant. An excellent idea!

  3. So long as we can have the People's Republic of North Lochs too, you have my complete support.BTW, the council still haven't replied to my email about the Sunday sport centre thing. Maybe I shouldn't have sent it after being in the pub for lunch. They maybe didn't like the Taliban comparison ...

  4. Could we insist that the national dish is tax free. I pay 26 quid a kilo for the stuff down here in England :(

  5. I haven't tasted guga. Smelt it though. That was enough.

  6. Free Uist!(With tokens from two packets of Kelloggs Corn Flakes)

  7. Go for it. Let me know if you'll need a US liasion!