Barra service ‘superhub’: Hundreds sign petition

Eoghan MacLeod

Hundreds of people from Barra have signed a petition urging Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to revisit plans for a ‘superhub’ on the island which will contain every public service from police station to new hospital provision.

Published on Monday, the petition has already gathered well over 400 signatures and was created by 23-year-old engine cadet Eoghan MacLeod from Vatersay.

He told the Free Press: “I started the petition to get a measure of how many people agreed with me that the hub plan as it stands needs big changes for it to meet the needs of the island.

“I’d heard plenty of people in person talking about their concerns so I just put together what I’d heard and put it on the petition to see if we could make these concerns more visible.

“My grandmother is currently in the old folks home at St Brendan’s as she has dementia and needs to be looked after around the clock. Before there was a space available for her I was away in college and my mother had to care for my grandmother as dementia caused her to become increasingly difficult to look after.

“My mother had very little free time as she had to look after my younger siblings, manage the croft, work five days a week and care for my grandmother. Replacing the old folks’ home with ‘social care flats’ would not be adequate for looking after my grandmother.”

Mr MacLeod’s ‘Halt the Hub’ petition on the 38 degrees website is addressed to the comhairle, Scottish Government, SNP election candidate Alasdair Allan and Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

It states: “If the comhairle is going to spend £53 million on a development on Barra they shouldn’t dismiss opinions expressed by the people living on Barra. The consultation with the local community where most expressed a wish to have separate buildings for different local services appears to have been ignored by the decision makers in the comhairle and the Scottish Government.”

One petitioner, known as Jeanne C, stated on the 38 degrees website: “Nothing about this ugly hub is right and there has been insufficient representation from Barra. All facilities will be smaller – with Covid distancing? We will have no care home and Eoligarry [Primary] School will be closed.

“The comhairle is spending millions on decanting pupils instead of building the new school just near the old one. The comhairle and the health board can do exactly what they like with our island in the face of our expressed concerns. Lewis, by the way, is to have a new care home.”