Monday, 26 April 2010

Community buy-outs

Over the past 15 years or so, I have supported various community buy-outs, most noteable the Isle of Eigg, but also South Uist and other places. The Pairc buy-out is mired down in legalistics, non-cooperation and acrimony.

Yesterday, the Times published an article in which the Assynt crofters bemoan the fact that they cannot make the land pay. That is a fact of crofting life, and I'm seriously disappointed in the forerunners of the community buy-out movement. Back in 1992, the Assynt Trust were the first to take over their land. Judging by the article in the Times, they have taken to squabbling amongst themselves rather than getting on with the job.

Any crofter, and anyone who knows about crofting will be aware that you have to diversify in order to make the land pay. it won't pay itself by sitting on committees and riding hobby horses through the meeting room. It takes hard graft and inventiveness to make a croft pay.

A good example of a successful community buy-out is the Isle of Eigg. In the 13 years since they bought their island, the Eiggach have worked extremely hard to pay their way. Having the land is only the start. It gives you the opportunity to do what you want and when. But you have to do it yourself, and you have to do it together.

Stop talking and start working, folks.


  1. Sad to say you are right, but not even Eigg is paying in the true sense of the word. ALL of these "buy outs" have been heavily subsidised by the Tax Payer and can only exist with continued financial support.
    Give me one example where the comunnity on its own bought out anything?

  2. That argument continues to be used by those opposed to the buy-out movement, and misses the point. No community in this part of the world can stump up 6 or 7 figure sums of money, although Eigg had a happy windfall of half the asking price in 1996/7. If memory serves, Eigg have paid back what they had to pay back.

    Community buy-outs are not about spongeing off the taxpayer, it is about sustaining a way of life, hard fought for over the years in the face of active suppression. The Isle of Lewis has at least four monuments in memory of those who sacrificed their liberty for the land struggle. The community buy-out movement is the late 20th/ early 21st century continuation of this empowerment of the people (to quote Alistair Macintosh).