Community buy-out of Scalpay a step closer

BY MURRAY MACLEOD

murray.macleod@whfp.co.uk

The community buy-out of the island of Scalpay, Harris, now looks set to become a reality after the provision of grant assistance to enable the community to complete all the necessary legal documentation.

In an unusual move, the island’s landlord, Fred Taylor, offered the island to its 300 residents free of charge — and they quickly seized the opportunity.

Following confirmation of local support for the buy-out, residents then voted to join with the much larger North Harris Trust which has been under community ownership since 2003.

Last Thursday it was announced that the Scottish Land Fund was to provide a grant of just over £60,000 to cover the conveyancing costs and support a development officer post for two years. The job will be advertised shortly.

Sheila Rodderick, a Scalpay resident and North Harris Trust director, said: “As a nominated director for Scalpay it is with great pleasure and anticipation that I look forward to the island being joined to the North Harris Trust.

“Many opportunities and challenges lie ahead for us all but the knowledge that, as part of NHT, the aspirations and hopes of the Scalpay community can be realised is a great motivation.”

She added: “Working alongside the other NHT directors and the capable and experienced staff of the trust, I am confident that the future integration of Scalpay into the framework of NHT will be accomplished smoothly.”

The £60,000 grant was just one of three provided by the SLF, with projects in Huntly and in the small town of Lochmaben near Lockerbie also receiving support.

John Watt, chair of the Scottish Land Fund committee, said: “I welcome the latest round of awards from the Scottish Land Fund, which means more rural communities from all over Scotland now have the chance to take control of their own land and land assets.

“I hope that the news will encourage other groups to own and manage their local resources, creating a sustainable economic future for themselves and for the businesses that operate within their area.”

Ms Rodderick said there was great enthusiasm in Scalpay about the potential benefits of community ownership.

“I am very happy to have been given the chance to take part in this momentous step forward and look forward — with the assistance of the NHT — to seeing the potential of resources and people being realised and the turning of a new page in the history of Scalpay,” she added.

Pictured (above) outside the North Harris Trust office in Tarbert are Lewis Mackenzie of HIE and Calum Mackay of the NHT, along with Scalpay residents Kenneth Morrison, Sheila Roderick, Seumas Morrison, Mairead Morrison, Andrew Morrison, Donald John Cunningham and Alasdair Morrison.