The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport is to visit Skye.

It is expected that Jeane Freeman MSP will visit Portree Hospital, which campaigners from the north of the island have been fighting to keep open.

Sir Lewis Ritchie, whose review into healthcare provision categorically stated that the hospital in Skye's biggest population centre must remain open – and have its services enhanced – will be visiting in December to meet with the community and NHS Highland officials to discuss progress made on the implementation of his recommendations.

It is understood that the Cabinet Secretary's visit take place at some point during 2019.

A virtual training arrangement for healthcare professionals is being created.

The creation of the virtual Centre of Excellence (CoE) follows a recommendation made in the Sir Lewis Ritchie report on Out-of-Hours services for Skye.

While it is still early days, it is hoped a such a CoE, possibly based at the newbuild Broadford ‘hub’, should help future recruitment and retention of skilled staff to the area, improving sustainability and quality of health and social care services delivery.

Pam Nicoll, programme director for the Remote and Rural Healthcare Education Alliance (RRHEAL), said: “Sir Lewis envisaged this centre being based in SLSWR and being a centre for excellence for multidisciplinary undergraduate and postgraduate training and learning with a focus on delivering community – determined solutions.

“Such a centre could be an excellent way of attracting a range of health and care professionals to live and work in a rural setting and indeed perhaps address the issue of GP burnout that seems to be a feature of urban areas.”

A vehicle's tyres were damaged in Lonemore at the weekend.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland told The Skye Times: "Police on Skye were made aware of damage caused to the tyres of a vehicle parked in the Munro Place area at Lonemore.

"The tyres are believed to have been damaged between 4.15pm on Saturday, September 22 and 2.10pm on Sunday September 23.

"Enquiries are ongoing and anyone with information should call Police Scotland on 101, quoting reference NP3787/18, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

An innovative video consultancy service from the NHS will be tested on Skye.

The NHS Near Me Service currently allows patients to attend appointments in Caithness General Hospital in Wick using video links to consultants in Inverness, saving them the need for a 200-mile round trip.

The service will pilot on the island and allow patients to access the service in their own homes.

NHS say the first step is to recruit members of the local community to help with the design of the service.  Testing will begin immediately, with the aim of offering the service to patients across NHS Highland in 2019.

Clare Morrison, NHS Highland’s Near Me lead, said: “In terms of the next main locations – a NHS Near Me clinic will open at the Lawson Memorial Hospital, Golspie, Sutherland, next month. Then we are aiming to open clinics in Portree Community Hospital on Skye and the Belford Hospital in Fort William by December.

Stromeferry diversion plans will be under scrutiny at an upcoming meeting.

The Stromeferry Bypass is closed for major works overnight until approximately the end of November.

Organiser, Robert MacInnes, told The Skye Times: "As a community, we have been fighting with the Highland Council and Network Rail over the road-on-rail diversion, in which vehicles are convoyed onto the adjacent railway line (using special matting) to avoid the section of road undergoing major work.

"The whole thing from start to finish has been a shambles - cars are only permitted on the road-on-rail diversion when trains are not in a 'token' zone (in this instance between Kyle of Lochalsh and Strathcarron). This means that the openings are sometimes only eight minutes long... not enough time to get queues of over one hundred cars on either side of the route through the works!

A five-year Gaelic Language Plan has been published by the Scottish Parliament.

The Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh MSP, said the plan demonstrates the value and respect Holyrood has for the Gaelic language.

Mr Macintosh said: “For more than a decade, Scots law has recognised the cultural and historic significance of Gaelic, and the vital part it plays in our nation’s age-old story and identity.

“As someone born in the Highlands and the son of a native Gaelic speaker, I was proud to be one of those who voted to pass the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005.

“Over the past 10 years, our plans have ensured that people see and hear Gaelic being used in our Parliament. Despite the prominence of the language at Holyrood, Gaelic remains vulnerable and we cannot afford to be complacent.

It's celebration galore for Portree's gin distillers as they scoop a top award at the Scottish Gin Awards 2018.

Misty Isle Gin was awarded the gold medal for Distilled Gin of the Year yesterday (Thursday 20 September.)

The award ceremony was held in Glasgow and saw the Isle of Harris Distillery win Scottish Gin Distillery of the Year title.  

Alistair Wilson, Managing Director at Isle of Skye Distillers, said: "We are absolutely delighted to win the Distilled Gin of the Year category at the Scottish Gin Awards.

"As Scotland's national awards for the gin industry, taking home a Gold award means so much to us. The fact that Misty Isle Gin has achieved this while we're still only in our second year of production is just wonderful. Being acknowledged by such a prestigious judging panel helps to show we're on the right track, distilling a spirit which is produced locally right here on Skye, from start to finish."

The Highland Council will have to use its own budget to save the 29 toilets threatened with closure.

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning made the announcement yesterday (Thursday 20 September), contradicting recent reports that the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs pressed the Highland Council to request a grant from Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund to keep the toilets open.

The Scottish Government's Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund totals £6 million and is there to ensure local services and facilities used by tourists and communities are protected.

Edward Mountain MSP asked what support the Scottish Government will provide to service the 96 public toilets managed by the Highland Council.

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning said that in a meeting with the Leader of Highland Council he made it clear that the council should "engage with local communities before taking any decision and should consider the potential longer-term impact on tourism in the area, rather than just short-term financial savings."

A campaign for greater awareness of how to safely overtake horse riders and cyclists on rural roads has won the backing of a national horse organisation.

The British Horse Society recently met with Kate Forbes MSP to discuss recent near-misses on Black Isle roads.

Since 2010, there have been almost 150 incidents on Scottish roads involving both motorists and horse riders – including two rider fatalities and 50 serious injuries.

Helene Mauchlen, manager of the British Horse Society in Scotland, said: “Standing on the B9163 at Kinbeachie on an early summer evening when so many riders want to access their safe off road hacking via this B road was simply terrifying.

“The speed and apparent disinterest of the cars racing between the A9 and Cromarty illustrated the problems faced by almost all horse riders and rural communities in Scotland not just on the Black Isle.

Be on your guard against bogus workmen, Highlands and Islands police have warned.

The police say that individuals may see the bad weather as an opportunity to defraud home owners by offering home repairs which aren't needed or have been exaggerated.

Lochaber, Skye & Lochalsh Preventions and Interventions officer PC Katy Duncan has urged people to be wary of these unscrupulous individuals.

She said: "Please be vigilant of anyone calling at your home offering to carry out repair work on roofs and chimneys, or offering to cut down trees which are dangerous.

"No genuine tradesman will cold call at your door offering to do such work.