Two part-time local development officers have been employed to help an island community create an economic, social, and cultural plan for their future growth. Urras Coimhearsnachd Mhuile agus Idhe, the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT), has recruited Alasdair Satchel and Cally Fleming through an initiative being run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Cally and Alasdair will be employed by MICT but will work through Ulva School Community Association (USCA) who will act as the steering group for this project.
HIE is supporting around 50 communities in the most fragile areas of the Highlands and Islands by funding key posts to work locally with a range of community groups. There are now over 10 community groups across Argyll and the Islands supported in this way by HIE.
MICT covers the entirety of both Mull and Iona, but this project will look specifically at the area around Ulva Ferry on the west coast of Mull. The Local Development Officers will work specifically on the development of the area, while also taking into account the needs of the entire community.
Alasdair said: "I have lived and worked on Mull for the last five years. I originally hail from Dunoon, but came to the island as the Education Officer for Mull Theatre and, after the post finished decided to stay on and make my home here. I'm looking forward to embracing the challenges of the LDO post in the years to come."
Alasdair is an active Gaelic learner and is the co-ordinator of An Tobar's Gaelic on Mull project, which is a school and community initiative celebrating the world of Gaelic. The project provides local, national and international context for the language in social, cultural and historical spheres through diverse and exciting means.
Cally has lived on Mull for the past 15 years and has a family background from the North West Mull area. She has been working for the Mull-based Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, and prior to this was involved in tourism development in the Highlands and remote areas overseas.
Cally said: "Having lived in small West Coast communities for most of my life, I am aware of the many challenges facing this area. I have admired the work of the Ulva community via USCA to date to save the Ulva School from closure and look forward to working with USCA and the wider community to look at opportunities and help address issues.
"In my job share position with Alasdair, we will support the community to create a more sustainable future and encourage them to contribute to a vision of what they want Ulva Ferry to be. We will work with the local community to produce a Community Development Plan for the area and subsequently help to deliver identified projects."
The Mull and Iona Community Trust was established in 1998, and has undertaken a number of successful projects in this time. These include construction of the £1.4m An Roth, a multi-functional community facility and enterprise centre opened in February this year. They have also established a countryside Ranger service in partnership with the Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and National Trust for Scotland, and formed Mull Renewables through the community Powerdown initiative.
At present, the Trust has eleven Directors including Community Council representatives from both islands. All residents and groups in both Mull and Iona are entitled to full membership of the Trust and are welcome to attend all Board meetings.
Moray Finch, General Manager of the Mull and Iona Community Trust, said: "MICT are thrilled to be included in the HIE Community Account Management project. We are also the anchor organisation for Ross of Mull and Iona Growth at the Edge which has assisted us in getting the go ahead from HIE to recruit Local Development Officers for the area.
"Having both Alasdair and Cally in post will be a huge boost for us and their wealth of experience in community projects will be a real asset. Work is already underway to create a Development Plan from which we will look at what projects to take forward to make the most positive impact in the community."
As well as being part funded by the European Union's LEADER programme, support is also provided from a HIE member of staff. HIE development manager Donald Melville will be working closely with the community group.
Douglas Cowan, HIE's Area Manager for Argyll and the Islands, said: "Through Mull and Iona Community Trust, we are assisting the Ulva Local Development Officers to complete an ambitious and sustainable development plan. We have a dedicated account manager that will work hand in hand with Mull and Iona Community Trust to ensure they have all the support they need to drive their own development and deliver the most beneficial projects across the area."