Friday, 11 December 2009

Community buy-outs

After the historic news of the Pairc ballot, as reported in previous "breaking news" post, the movement of community buy-outs in Scotland is moving into new territory. Previous buy-outs in Scotland were always reached in amicable agreement with the sitting landlords, starting with the Assynt buy-out in 1992, followed by the Eigg buy-out in 1997 (which succeeded as the sitting landlord forfeited his estate through absence of funds) and the Galson and South Uist buy-outs in the Western Isles. I am aware I am omitting a number of other estates where buy-outs were successful. The Pairc Trust has announced it will now launch a hostile buy-out bid.

The Scottish Government has recently been accused of allowing the community buy-out movement to lose impetus. It is to be hoped that Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham will adopt an attitude, more supportive towards us in the Outer Hebrides. Her ill-advised comments on Harris Tweed (which she described as a garment for the landed gentry of the Victorian era) and perceived lack of enthusiasm for issues pertaining to this part of the world only lead me to hope that there is change on the horizon on the part of Holyrood.

Returning to the issue in hand, I want to point out that it is five years ago since the Pairc residents voted to mount a community buy-out for their estate. Since then, the Galson and South Uist estates have successfully moved into community ownership, whilst Pairc languished in the doldrums of legalistic minefields, laid by the estate owner. The issue of a potential windfarm most likely prompted this course of action, as the prospect of a windfarm greatly increases the value of the land.

I would like to congratulate the Pairc Trust on this great result, and the people of South Lochs on their wisdom in voting for this historic move.

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