IT’S been quite the year in the Scottish islands – with highs and lows, intrigue, victims, and heroes, it would give the latest series of Shetland a run for its money.

Amidst the high drama and deep ­depressions – meteorological, metaphorical, and sometimes all too real – there have also been a few lighter moments.

This was just some of the island news making waves in 2023.

In January, the Government published a consultation paper about HPMAs. Storm clouds gathered in Skye as proposals for a large wind farm kicked off a debate, which would rumble on for the rest of the year, and Lewis Capaldi went to Coll.

Uig Pier shut for the first phase of its ­upgrade; a contract was signed for two new ferries from Turkey for the Uig triangle, and the new ferry terminal in Harris opened to great fanfare, with enough seats to host the HebCelt.

READ MORE: The science behind stopping another mass whale stranding in Scotland

It was reported that squid were at ­record levels around Shetland, and Twatt in ­Orkney revealed that they have stopped replacing their sign after too many thefts to count.

February saw a win for equality when Lerwick Up Helly Aa permitted women to take part for the first time. Bird flu killed thousands of geese in Islay, and in Tiree, the Factor accused “greedy islanders” of removing sand on an industrial scale.

The MV Hebridean Isles was pulled out of service, and CalMac introduced a ­waitlist system, setting both hospital appointments for residents and holiday house bookings at the same priority level, rendering the entire exercise pointless.

In the same week as Colonsay ­celebrated the opening of their first ­affordable homes in 20 years – a monumental ­community effort – we were treated to a Times ­lifestyle piece about a couple building a £1 million holiday house in Uist.

In March, Highlands and Islands ­Airport staff went on strike. It was ­suspended later in the month after a new pay offer. South Uist voted against a mass deer cull. The headline “­Multi-millionaire Brexit backer pulls out of bid to buy ­Kinloch Castle blaming ‘anarchist’ ­Lorna Slater” was a personal highlight, and experts warned that killer shrimps were heading to Scotland. That was the last we heard of the shrimps.

Opposition to the HPMA consultation began to grow.

April began with Barra highlighting the challenges they faced to find housing for residents, with 175 holiday ­properties ­lying unused most of the year. Skye ­started to raise concerns about a ­shortage of staff related to Covid, Brexit, and housing. Skipinnish released the song The Clearances Again in protest to HPMAs.

In Skye, a Scottish TikToker shared a video of a “magical” fridge that they found “in the middle of nowhere”. So overwhelming was their discovery of an honesty box that they hit the Daily Record. And a hiker issued a warning about kit damage caused by a particularly “switched on” pair of ravens.

By May, water in the Western Isles was becoming scarce. The 150-year-old Birsay Whalebone – one of the most ­photographed objects in Orkney – was toppled by strong winds. Highland ­Council said that commercial flights to Skye remained a “possibility”.

An exploded ordinance was taken into a Shetland primary school, and the new CalMac booking system finally launched. It was an unmitigated disaster. Lorna Slater MSP went to Rum on a private charter. The ensuing PR rumpus was quite something to behold.

In June, a man with a lot of confidence landed on Rockall. He planned to stay for 60 days. By the midway point, he was ­regretting his life choices and cut the goal to 50 days.

Colonsay warned that their community was at risk of dying. In Harris, a row over tourists parking in a cemetery car park began to escalate, and a spaceport was ­approved in Uist.

July dawned. “I was off my head,” said the man rescued from the Rockall world record bid. He then went back to retrieve his gear. That attempt also failed.

Yell and Unst started a campaign for tunnels. The Treshnish Isles were handed over to the National Trust for Scotland, the Tiree Music Festival was cancelled due to extreme weather, a mass ­stranding saw the death of 50 pilot whales in ­Lewis, and the term “Orkxit” was used for the first time as an Orkney councillor ­suggested looking at other options away from the UK.

In August, island MSP Angus MacNeil was expelled from the SNP. Loganair slashed flights to Benbecula, and drink-related deaths in the Western Isles hit their worst level in 14 years.

After a Harris crofter took to Facebook to vent his frustration at finding human faeces on common grazing land, Outer Hebrides Tourism decided that the best approach was to warn that “negativity” towards tourism could cause economic damage to the islands.

Scotland’s Rural College released a study confirming that falling populations, a lack of affordable housing, and high fuel costs are among the challenges facing Scottish rural and island communities.

Stats released in September showed that the Highlands and Western Isles are the most popular locations in Scotland for short-term let licence applications, and Coll hosted the “world’s most remote disco”.

In Skye, a major rescue operation was launched after elite mountain cops got stranded on a mountain. Archaeologists uncovered a complete Neolithic cursus in the Isle of Arran. Speaking of cursus, the MV Hebridean Isles remained seemingly unfixable.

In October, a book overdue by 50 years was returned to Orkney Library, and the Outer Hebrides was ranked the best place for retirees in the UK but scored very low at 1.6 out of 10 on parks and playing fields ...

Harris and Skye were both mentioned as contenders for a new National Park, and the scale of the Western Isles short-term let sector began to emerge. After nine months, the MV Hebridean Isles was finally deemed well.

The HPMAs were officially scrapped in November. Orkxit was also declared dead in the water. Gigha was hit by a meteor the size of a bonfire, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was hit by a cyber attack it’s still recovering from.

Lee Anderson MP suggested asylum seekers should be sent to Orkney, the ­lowest advertised pay in the UK was found to be in the Outer Hebrides, and the idea that giant blimps are the answer to our islands’ problems was again ­floated.

After much fanfare about the ­concept through the year, December saw an Orkney mail drone take a “controlled descent” into water and sink without a trace. At the same time, residents were baffled by mass strandings of rare fish. As if they didn’t have enough to deal with, Lee Anderson MP threatened to move to Orkney if Brexit was reversed.

As early Christmas presents, Uig Pier reopened after an extended second phase of the upgrade, and we discovered that iPad-wielding Health Secretary Michael Matheson has a wee holiday let in the Isle of Skye. At £875 a week, 12.5 weeks of ­occupancy should sort his data bill.

And finally, a French tourist brought her Shetland sheepdog to Shetland to ­reunite him with his roots. She said: “I can see how happy he is to be here, and how proud he is of the island.” Yes, really.

I think we’ll end there. Sadly, I didn’t have the space to cover the full extent of CalMac’s annus horribilis or the ill-fated Ferguson-disaster-tubs, but I’m willing to bet that very little will improve on the transport front, so I imagine I’ll get plenty of chances next year.

Here’s to 2024. Like the next gale, it’s coming whether we like it or not. ­Bliadhna mhath ùr nuair a thig i!