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Knoydart Community's COVID-19 response

Supporting Communities Fund award

Supporting Communities Fund award boosts local response to pandemic

What’s life like in lockdown when you live on a remote peninsula on Scotland’s west coast? Is it easier to isolate when you have 130 residents, and only one main route in and out via ferry?

The residents of the Knoydart peninsula, much of which is community-owned through the Knoydart Foundation, are responding to the challenges and developing plans for what the ‘new normal’ will look like post lockdown.

The Foundation and South Knoydart Community Council are working together as Resilient Knoydart to co-ordinate emergency support for the estate’s residents. They’ve secured an £18,000 award from the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund, distributed in the region by HIE.

Emergency response

Not surprisingly for a community which welcomes thousands of visitors every year, the threat of infection caused a heightened sense of unease in Knoydart. Prior to the official lockdown fewer people were coming to the peninsula, but there were concerns around the need to travel for supermarket shopping; this involves a ferry trip from Inverie to Mallaig.

The community had plans in place for emergency situations, addressing the possibility of being cut off from others. Its principles were quickly adapted to meet the current pandemic situation.

Their plan has six areas of focus, each with a volunteer:

  • Food
  • Transport
  • Local services – electricity, water, broadband etc.
  • Admin and communications
  • Medical
  • Community wellbeing

Community action

First priorities for action were practicalities around transport and food supplies. Arrangements were set up around reduced ferry sailing. Food deliveries have been co-ordinated from a single supplier and orders arrive and are unloaded safely at the pier three times a week.

Communication networks were set up, both online and through letterboxes. Arrangements were made for any residents who fell into the vulnerable group and needed to be shielded.

Impact on the community

Like many other areas of the Highlands, locals are appreciating the peace of having Knoydart to themselves. However, with around a third of the community dependent directly on tourism for their income, lockdown is having a significant impact.

Knoydart Foundation is itself a major employer, and with some staff furloughed, the remaining core staff are supporting local efforts and providing basic maintenance of services - including the power supply.

They’re also keeping the community updated on available support funds to mitigate the impacts on local income. 

The Scottish Government Supporting Communities Fund will help them continue to deliver the immediate response, including ensuring emergency supplies for those impacted by shielding, or loss of income as a result of COVID-19 over the coming weeks.

 

 

We could easily have forgotten about community well-being when responding to the crisis. I’m so glad that didn’t happen. It’s really helped people’s spirits – we’ve had a daily quiz, people sharing good news and videos, and posts about old Knoydart.
Craig Dunn, operations manager, Knoydart Foundation

The future

How will the community come out of lockdown, and continue to build resilience?

Knoydart Foundation’s Craig Dunn believes that the important thing is to be open in discussing the next steps and in finding a consensus.

In the short term the pandemic has put a spotlight on the community’s reliance on the ferry for food supplies. The Knoydart Foundation wants to ensure a good store of dry food essentials, and to grow more of their own fresh produce.

Craig commented: “We’d like to do this in an ecologically sensitive way, thinking about low packaging options with products like oats, pasta and cereals available loose in the community shop. As well as expanding growing in our community garden, we’re also progressing a Scottish Land Fund bid to acquire another 111 acres, which would give us much needed agricultural land."

“It’s a good opportunity to reflect on the other things we can do which help ensure we are not overly-reliant on tourism alone. As a community owned peninsula, land management is vital and can provide valuable income. Tree planting; forestry management; carbon credits; online knowledge courses; and our wild Knoydart venison all provide interesting opportunities.”