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Point and Sandwick Trust

How community power is growing the biodiversity of the Outer Hebrides.

Renewable wind power helps reshape islands' biodiversity

Point and Sandwick Trust is a remarkable community-led organisation which, having developed the UK's biggest community owned commercial scale windfarm, has gone on to invest more than £2 million in island projects.

A charitable trust delivered by local residents for the 18 villages within Sandwick and the Point peninsula, the Trust uses the income from its three turbines to promote the social, educational, cultural and environmental wellbeing of the people of the Outer Hebrides.

They are also a key partner in a transformational environmental project which by the end of April 2022 will have planted 163,000 native trees across the islands.

The Croft Woodlands Project was launched in 2016, and is a partnership including Point and Sandwick Trust, the Woodland Trust and Forestry and Land Scotland. It facilitates the planting of native trees on crofts and common land across the Outer Hebrides. 

What the Trust funds

COVID-19 response, energy projects, donations to community projects and community infrastructure. Find out about some of the projects the Trust has supported.

Find out more

Point & Sandwick Donald John Macsween General Manager
It's a very optimistic thing to do to plant a tree. We plan to continue supporting the project for the entire 25 life cycle of the windfarm.
Donald John MacSween, Point and Sandwick Trust

Point & Sandwick Native Trees Increase

A changing landscape for crofters

The planting of native trees supports the restoration of a landscape which has been lost from the Outer Hebrides for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Evidence of hazel trees has been found in local peat deposits, and there are some natural populations of rowan, willow and alder in isolated loch islands, demonstrating the traditional presence of these trees in the area.

Crofters have historically been very protective of grazing land for sheep and cattle. However, over the last 10 years, in the face of decreasing trends in meat prices and consumption, crofters are more open to diversification opportunities.

Tree planting is ideal for this, providing valuable shelter for crofters’ animals and supporting habitats for insects, birds and other wildlife. Crofters are also diversifying their crops, and an increase in vegetable production supports self-sufficiency and avoids the carbon costs of high food mileage.

The trees themselves are a valuable asset for crofters. Each tree can be valued at between £20 and £100 depending on species and stage of growth. This puts the value created from the Woodland Croft Project at around £2m. 

Support, Skills and Enterprise

There has been great long-term support from within the community for the tree planning initiative.

As far back as 2009 - during the wind farm consultation process - the community strongly supported the use of wind farm profits to support native tree planting programmes. 

This early commitment has converted into action. Some locals have planted over 1,000 trees on their property, with the local football team even surrounding their pitch with new trees. 

Revitalising lost skills

Prior to the pandemic, the Trust led workshops on tree planting and woodland management, re-introducing knowledge which has been lost over generations. These workshops helped locals learn how to prevent and spot signs of disease, how to help trees thrive and how to protect saplings from deer and other animals.

As the trees mature and the pandemic restrictions allow, future workshops will be delivered on topics including how to thin out growing trees, how to harvest and how to process for woodchip, fuel and bedding materials, etc.

Local schools have also been provided with native tree seed packs and, in conjunction with the Woodland Trust, seeds and saplings for fruit and berry trees. This allows the development of long term skills within children, as well as the potential for small scale enterprise. See the Trust's news story about 120 Primary 1s who have taken part this year.

Three new privately operated nurseries have been established to supply the programme and workshops are spreading woodland management skills throughout the community.

Photos courtesy of Sandie Maciver

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