The official opening of a new marina in North Uist, funded by the Crown Estate, threatened to be over-shadowed after the local councillors complained that they were told it would be “inappropriate” for them to attend.
Comann na Mara were handed a £410,000 investment from the Crown Estate on a commercial basis in order to develop the new facility, which offers 26 berths for visiting yachts. Under the Local Management Agreement, struck two years ago, the Crown Estate will look to re-coup their investment.
More than 300 people gathered alongside the new facility at the pier this week to welcome Princess Anne, who conducted the official opening.
However, the run-up to the event was marred after it emerged that the three local councillors were told they should stay away, following their support of a community buyout of North Uist which many oppose.
Councillor Uisdean Robertson said: “I wasn’t really expecting an invite; it was an open event for anyone to attend. But I was taken aback when we were told that it would be inappropriate for us to attend as we had spoken out in favour of a community buyout. I find it disappointing to say the least.”
Also involved in the Comann na Mara project in Lochmaddy are North Uist Estates, who clearly have a vested interest in any local buyout. The factor is George MacDonald, who as deputy lieutenant of the Western Isles had a prominent role to play in this week’s opening.
CNM chairman Gus MacAulay said: “This great day marks the start of an exciting new era of marine tourism in Uist to which everyone can contribute and from which everyone can benefit.”
The floating pontoons have power and water, with laundry facilities due to be installed soon, and a phase two planned with toilet block and showers.
The Crown Estate‘s Scottish Commissioner Gareth Baird said: “Working with Comann Na Mara has shown the success of the collaborative approach and offers a model which we are using to benefit other coastal communities across Scotland.”
He added: “Sailing brings between £280 and £300 million into the Scottish economy every year. This facility will help put the Western Isles on the map when it comes to marine tourism, providing crucial links in the west coast network and ensuring the isles reap the economic rewards.”
On the row involving the councillors, Mr MacAulay said: “The council was well-represented by council leader Angus Campbell; he was the most appropriate person to be there. All the stake-holders were well represented and we had good representation from the local community. It was a tremendous day.”
Pictured (above) at the opening are Princess Anne and Comann na Mara chairman Gus MacAulay