Districts, October 16 2020

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Sixteen staff made redundant as island hotel shuts

An historic hotel on Islay has officially closed with 16 people losing their jobs.

The 11-room Bridgend Hotel, dating back more than 150 years, suffered ‘heavy losses’ during lockdown, with staff now informed it has shut for the ‘foreseeable’ future.

Hotel owners and major land owners, the Islay Estates Company, have given staff notice to leave accommodation.

A source said that due to the housing shortage on Islay, some staff offered to pay rent in order to stay on.

The company said it had been ‘understanding’ of the living arrangements of former hotel staff.

It said: ‘Of the 16 members of staff that were made redundant, three members of staff lived in tied accommodation.

‘One person requested an extension to the contractual notice regarding accommodation – which we agreed to immediately – granting a licence to occupy until mid-January, in addition to being offered a choice of two properties to move on to.

‘The other staff affected have not expressed any concerns over accommodation.’

In a statement, the company said: ‘Like many hospitality businesses in Islay and around the world, the Bridgend Hotel has incurred heavy losses due to the pandemic.

‘In a normal year summer profits would sustain the business until the spring of the next year.

‘With losses instead of profits during the summer months – and with little prospect of the commercial environment improving for a hotel like ours – it is with great regret that we have made the unavoidable decision to close the Bridgend Hotel for the foreseeable future; a highly regrettable consequence being that all hotel staff have been made redundant.

‘We thank all hotel staff for their commitment in the months preceding closure.’

The Islay Estates Company was established 92 years ago, with Alastair John Morrison, the third Lord Margadale of Islay, among its directors.

He is a member of the Morrison family, and the estate on Islay is the sister estate to its Fonthill Estate, based at the family seat in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The earliest known reference to Bridgend Hotel is from 1849 when it was still known as the Bridgend Inn.

According to local history, before purchasing most of the island, the Morrison family visited Islay on holiday in 1849 and stayed at the hotel for a week.

They later bought Islay in 1853 for £451,000, and began letting out the hotel to a variety of different tenants.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) has warned that the industry employs 3.2 million people in the UK and brought in eight per cent of GDP.

It said the pandemic had hit the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries hard with at least 900,000 jobs ‘at risk’.

Anger at broken glass at Bowmore football pitches

Politicians have condemned vandals who have been smashing glass at football pitches used by youngsters.

Coaches for Islay Youth Football Club appealed to the culprits to stop throwing beer bottles onto the pitch, and leaving smashed glass at the Bowmore pitches.

On two recent Saturdays, they have found glass bottles – thrown over the four-metre-high perimeter fence of the all-weather pitch – and broken glass.

The incidents have been strongly criticised by the local community who have said the police will be notified.

Donald Cameron, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: ‘I find it absolutely staggering that anyone could act so stupidly as to deliberately smash bottles at a community facility like this.

‘This kind of reckless action is disgraceful. Children deserve to be able to play sport safely.’

Youth coach Allan Logan reported the incidents on the Islay Community Noticeboard Facebook page.

He said: ‘On behalf of all the coaches and kids of Islay Youth Football Club we would like to ask whoever thinks it’s cool to be smashing glass bottles up at Bowmore football pitches and surrounding areas – it’s not cool and if you see this post we ask you politely to stop.’

He said broken glass was a safety hazard for children playing football and it meant they have had to clean up and scan every metre of the pitch before they can let children play.

‘It’s hard enough at the moment making everything Covid compliant for the kids to play without having to clean up this every week,’ said Mr Logan.

Councillor Alastair Redman, who represents Kintyre and the Islands, said: ‘It is plain wrong that the organisers should have to spend time carefully checking the pitch to ensure that the players come to no harm from shards of glass.

‘I really hope that the culprit gets the message and we see no repetition of this deplorable activity.’