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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 06:02 GMT 07:02 UK
Call to help residents buy island
Achamore House
The current owner lives in Achamore House
The government has been urged to safeguard the future of Scotland's largest privately owned island.

Alan Reid, the Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute, said the sale of Gigha presented an opportunity to take it out of private ownership.

His party colleague George Lyon, the MSP for Argyll and Bute, will join him on the island for a meeting with representatives of its 110 residents.

Mr Lyon said the island's situation illustrated a classic example of a community being bought and sold without their consent.

Meanwhile, community councillor Alistair MacNeill said the community wanted to own their own homes.

Gigha, which lies three miles off the Kintyre peninsula, was last week put on the market for 3.85m. Owner Derek Holt, 74, cited ill-health as the reason for the sale.

The thought of communities being bought and sold as some millionaire's plaything is abhorrent

George Lyon MSP

The selling agents, FPD Savills, have reported that the island is already generating interest - with at least one prospective buyer understood to be an American.

However, Mr Reid said the Scottish Executive should take action to ensure the island does not fall into the hands of an absentee landlord.

He said it should provide money to help finance a purchase or take action through land form.

The 3,400-acre island contains 37 cottages, a shop and a pub, as well as a nine-hole golf course and private airstrip.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Lyon said it was up to the executive to help act upon the wishes of the island community.

Concerned community

He said: "This is a classic example where an island community has been bought and sold over the past 30 years and never has anyone given them the chance to purchase the island and take control of their own destiny.

"I believe the community wants to buy the island and I want to help them do that.

"The thought of communities being bought and sold as some millionaire's play thing is abhorrent."

Community councillor Alistair MacNeill said the populations desperately wanted to own their own homes, but it remained a worrying time.

Mr Reid said: "I know some islanders are not happy with the present situation and I believe they need the right to buy their own homes and land to secure their future.

"We want to discuss things with the locals to find out what is the best way forward.

"It may not be in their interests to buy the whole island, but we have to come up with the right solution and certainly money from the Scottish Executive's land fund could help."

Gigha island
The island extends to more than 3,000 acres

He added: "One solution could be that a private owner takes over the fish farm and some of the land, but the locals get the right to buy their own homes and the island's facilities, such as the shop."

The MP said that previous purchases of islands by residents, such as Great Cumbrae, which was offered to its people by the last owner, and Eigg, bought following a long campaign by islanders, showed the idea was feasible.

Mr Reid said: "I think the Cumbrae situation, where the previous owner did give the people the chance to buy and they did, is comparable, although Cumbrae has better communications.

"The fact that Cumbrae and Eigg have happened means, I hope, that we are beyond the bad old days when the government just sat back and let the island go to the highest bidder."

An executive spokeswoman said no formal approach had been made for funding, but any application would be given due consideration.

George Lyon MSP
"I believe the community wants to buy the island"
Alistair MacNeill, Community Councillor
"Everyone wants to own their own homes"
See also:

10 Aug 01 | Scotland
Isle be yours - for 3.85m
20 Apr 99 | Features
Tiny school's closure fears
05 May 99 | News
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