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No hope for jobless teens in Western Isles

Rev Greg MacDonald

Rev Greg MacDonald

Stornoway looks like an idyllic yesteryear where tourists feel they’ve taken a step back in time.

The God-fearing island comes to a standstill on a Sunday with shops, pubs and cafés all closed.

But behind the old-fashioned facade, the town struggles with the same issues of underage drinking, drugs and anti-social behaviour which plague the mainland.

Stornoway, with a population of 5,600 people, is the only town in the Western Isles and the bright lights draw in teenagers who head there to party.

Just yards from the quaint gift shops and cafes, bored youths down bottles of cider and vodka.

They claim they have nothing better to do than get smashed and are part of a hidden underclass that’s been pushed to the fringes of the close-knit community.

Jobless David Montgomery, 21, said: “All I do is drink. It’s so boring up here — there is absolutely nothing to do.

“I’m on benefits, which is tough. Booze helps block out some of the boredom.”

Many young folk haven’t worked since leaving school, and many still in education fear they’ll NEVER find a job on the remote island.

They say kids as young as 12 are hitting the bottle — but claim nothing is being done about the issue because that would involve facing up to the problem.

Religious leaders fear the lack of faith in the once-staunchly Christian area is to blame for the social problems.Rev Greg Macdonald, of the Free Church of Scotland Continuing, believes youths turn to drink and drugs because society has dumped religion and relaxed strict rules about Sunday working.

He said: “In Stornoway there are plenty of problems.

“The increase in social problems goes hand in hand with a decrease of the influence of the gospel. It’s no surprise that if you accept changes to the moral law, like not protecting the Sabbath, things start to slide.”

And the 36-year-old dad of four is concerned about what will happen if religion is wiped out in the islands. He said: “If there is no Gospel on the islands the people perish, the bible says. It’s hell, that’s the bottom line.

“If this island rejects the word they’ll bring themselves under judgement.”

• Full story at the Scottish Sun.

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