Councillors unhappy at decision to take baton to St Kilda

As the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton toured the Western Isles on Monday and Tuesday of this week, it ran into a spot of controversy after an unexpected decision to fly it out to St Kilda for an unscheduled leg.

South Uist councillor Donnie Steele criticised the move, claiming it deprived more island youngsters of the chance to take part in the celebrations.

A team of 60 local baton bearers carried the ceremonial staff from  Barra to Lewis, finishing off in Stornoway. However, the baton was also flown to St Kilda courtesy of the Ministry of Defence and Qinetiq.

Mr Steele said: “I am dismayed at the decision to take the Commonwealth baton to St Kilda. This is detrimental to the communities of North Uist, Berneray and South Harris, who miss out on their opportunity to be part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations — an opportunity afforded to many other communities.

Pictured above: Crowds welcome Ronnie MacPhee and the baton to Daliburgh Primary School

“The ward I represent, Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay and South Uist, hugely enjoyed this one-off experience. The decision to miss other populated islands in the Western Isles goes against the ethos of the games and the well-publicised visit.”

Mr Steele was supported by North Uist Councillor Archie Campbell, who said: “Thanks for thinking of the young people of North Uist, Berneray and South Harris who have sadly missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

VisitScotland islands manager Alan Mackenzie, commented: “We are thrilled to welcome the Queen’s Baton Relay to the Outer Hebrides and that its route takes it through so many wonderful locations — including Lochboisdale, Tarbert and Stornoway — and past so much of the stunning scenery which the islands boast.”

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan felt the games could be transformational in their effect. “One of the most impressive things about these events is the number of people locally who have been chosen to run with the baton, something which recognises their own achievements in their communities,” he said.