By Adam Gordon –
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has said its decision to give control to the people of Canna to attract new residents to the island was done to protect its “important cultural and natural heritage.”
The decision is the latest stage in a long process which has sought to help the population of the 4.3-mile-long island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides burgeon.
The Canna Community Development Trust (CCDT) has taken on responsibility for regenerating the island following a long recruitment campaign run by the NTS which aimed to attract new families to move to the island formerly owned by John Lorne Campbell – a Gaelic folklorist and scholar.
In an interview with the Guardian published last week, Dominic Driver, NTS’ Head of the Natural Heritage said: “We have to move beyond a paternalistic model. We need to support the local community to develop itself.”
The decision to delegate responsibility to the CCDT comes less than two months after reports emerged in the Herald and Mail on Sunday that a family who moved to Canna – as part of the drive to increase the island’s population – were threatening to sue the NTS. Gordon and Denise Guthrie left Motherwell for Canna but told the Mail on Sunday that they believed the NTS had not fulfilled its aim to bring other families to the island as their four children were left as the only school children on Canna. The Guthrie’s subsequently left after 18 months.
While the ownership of Canna remains firmly in the hands of the NTS, which was granted control from Mr Campbell in 1981, the regeneration of the island led by the Trust is gathering pace – over £17,000 has been raised to establish the first ever road on the adjoining isle Sanday, which is connected by a bridge that can take vehicles.
As the Guardian reported last week, wind turbines and solar panels are being erected to end the island’s dependence on diesel generators as part of a joint project funded by the NTS.
Although there are still no children of school age living on Canna, two people have been earmarked to work as NTS rangers in a job-share role this year, while a development officer is also set to be employed.
Camille Dressler, Chair of the Small Isles Community Council (SICC) said: “SICC is delighted to see that NTS has finally recognised that giving the islanders decision making powers is the best way to achieve progress on the island.
“It has been so frustrating to see the Canna community’s growth checked time and time again, development plans commissioned only to be shelved and not acted upon, and any representation to NTS on these issues by the Small Isles Community Council completely ignored, despite promises to heed community views.”
A spokesperson for NTS said: “Our charity’s role is to enable the local community to develop itself sustainably. We do this by working in partnership with the Isle of Canna Community Development Trust that is driving forward its own projects such as the creation of a new roadway to link up Sanday with Canna and a renewable energy facility and by supporting sustainable businesses to establish themselves on the island.”
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