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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 16:25 GMT
Islanders face 1m bill
Gigha
There are hopes that cottages will be improved
Islanders will have to pay back a quarter of the 4m they secured to buy Gigha, it has emerged.

The 110 residents have been celebrating their successful bid for the 3,400 acre island, which will be handed over to a community trust.

Owner Derek Holt accepted the community's bid of 4,000,250 - even though one of the three rival offers was thought to have been close to 5m.

Gigha coastline
More than 100 islanders live on Gigha
The islanders received 3.5m from the New Opportunities Fund's Scottish Land Fund programme and 500,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise's Community Land Unit - along with an anonymous donation of 250 - to make their bid possible.

But they now face the new challenge of having to pay back 1m to the Scottish Land Fund over the next two-and-a-half years.

At least a fifth of that figure must come from the islanders' own fundraising and the rest can be raised through their business development plan.

But spokesman Willie McSporran said he was confident they could raise the cash - and that funding pledges had already been received.

"This is a historic moment for us, we are stunned and delighted that the community will now become the owners of Gigha," he said.


Our fundraising efforts are very important and we also hope to get a lot of support from the public sector agencies and other organisations

Willie McSporran
"However, we are also at the outset of an enormous challenge. We need to make the island a success and make sure it delivers for the whole community.

"Our fundraising efforts are very important and we also hope to get a lot of support from the public sector agencies and other organisations."

The seven directors of the Isle of Gigha Community Trust will meet soon to discuss the way forward.

It is expected that assets such as Achamore House will be sold to raise funds - but that its gardens, which are seen as a major tourist attraction, will not go on the market.

Mr McSporran hoped the island's population could start to increase again and predicted residents would be given the chance to set up bed and breakfast businesses.

Willie McSporran
Willie McSporran: "Historic moment"
He hoped to see improvements to cottages in the longer term, and said other possibilities included the establishment of a tea room and museum.

New Opportunities Fund chief executive Stephen Dunmore said that the more money the community raised through fundraising the better.

"This will be absolutely vital to ensure their plans for the future development of the island have a solid foundation and get off to the best possible start," he said.

The organisation went above its usual limit of 1m when they awarded the Gigha islanders a grant of 3.5m.

Mr Dunmore said this decision had been taken "because of the exceptional circumstances faced by the community and the absolute necessity that their bid was a strong and realistic one".

'Vitally important'

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace spoke to islanders on a phone link to express his "delight" at the community's success.

"In the next few weeks and months they face a challenging time - not least in their fundraising efforts, which will be vitally important," he said.

"But from my discussions with other community groups that have taken this step, I am confident that this will also be both exciting and liberating."

And he said he would make his own personal contribution to the islanders' fundraising efforts.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Craig Anderson reports
"This is all part of the government's land reform regime"
See also:

30 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders win battle for Gigha
30 Oct 01 | Scotland
God's mild Scottish island
12 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders back buy-out bid
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
Isle be yours - for 3.85m
16 Jul 01 | Scotland
Land reform warning to ministers
29 Sep 00 | Scotland
Man of many jobs retires
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