Crofters on Raasay were celebrating this week after Rural Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse confirmed the shooting rights on the island would be secure in local hands for at least the next 10 years.
On Wednesday, Mr Wheelhouse said the initial lease was for five years, with an “automatic” extension of another five years, “on the assumption that the Raasay Crofters’ Association successfully meets the conditions” of the lease.
RCA secretary Anne Gillies said crofters were “very pleased” with the outcome and that a possible requirement to hold an annual public meeting to explain what was being done with the rights was “something we could live with.” On-island processing of deer carcasses was also something that could be explored to increase the level of community benefit, she added.
There was outrage on Raasay in February when it emerged that the Scottish Government had granted the shooting and fishing lease to South Ayrshire Stalking.
In making this week’s announcement, Mr Wheelhouse said: “During the formal consultation to capture the views of all residents on the island on the way forward, which yielded a 51 per cent response rate, it became clear that retention of the sporting rights with the RCA would be the most popular option. Residents also expressed a strong desire for enhanced community benefit and greater transparency in regard to the operation of the sporting rights on Raasay.
“The proposed approach to a new lease offers the best solution in that it respects the wishes of the majority of the respondents that RCA should continue to have the sporting rights, but also ensures that the benefit to the community and the island is maximised. We look forward to discussions with RCA on how we can deliver the will of the community to the benefit of the RCA members and the wider community and also optimise the management of the natural environment on what is an island of outstanding beauty.”
The consultation exercise conducted by the Scottish Government also showed that, out of 74 responses, only six were in favour of the island being purchased in a community buy-out.