The future management of an Outer Hebrides island by its own community has today (Thursday October 3rd) taken another step forward thanks to a grant from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF).
Two years ago, Fred Taylor, the owner of Scalpay, off Harris, offered the island as a free gift to its 300 residents.
Following a vote, the islanders decided to join with the North Harris Trust to reunite Scalpay with North Harris Estate, integrating them together under community ownership.
A grant from SLF of £60,330 to North Harris Trust has meant that the residents of Scalpay can now take their plans forward for the 702 hectare Scalpay Estate, which includes most of the island and seven outlying uninhabited islands.
The grant will support conveyancing costs as well as a two-year Development Officer post.
The Development Officer post will shortly be advertised. The post-holder will be responsible for creating the potential for new opportunities for sustainable business development and expansion in the marine, recreational and tourism sectors through improvements to land, infrastructure and facilities.
Sheila Rodderick, 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 (NHT).
“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.
“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.
“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."
Launched last year, the £9 million Scottish Land Fund is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
This grant is one of three grants announced today, each for very different projects, and will empower community groups and help them to determine their own futures.
Scottish Land Fund Committee Chair, John Watt, 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.”
Ingrid Galbraith, of HIE’s Community Assets Team, said: "Highlands and Islands Enterprise is delighted to be playing a part in delivering the Scottish Land Fund, along with our colleagues in Big Lottery Fund Scotland. This announcement is only the beginning of the journey for these groups and for the Scottish Land Fund itself.
“Community ownership is a model which the SLF partners are all fully committed to. Not only does it build independent, resilient and confident rural communities but it also promotes growth and empowers local people to realise their ambitions.”
A grant of £357,874 to Huntly Development Trust was also announced today, and means they can buy Greenmyers Farm, a small holding near Huntly, comprising a farmhouse, steading, and 63 acres of agricultural land. Community ownership of the small holding will create new development opportunities which could include a renewable energy project, and the creation of small business units.
Thanks to today’s Scottish Land Fund grant of £198,500, the Castle Loch Lochmaben Community Trust will acquire the 178 acre castle loch, Lochfield Cottage and an area of meadow, wetland and a 69 acre of woodland situated on the periphery of the town of Lochmaben, Dumfries and Galloway. Community ownership of the loch will secure the site for the benefit of present and future generations.