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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 15:28 GMT
Island officially changes hands
Isle of Gigha
Residents were successful in their buyout bid
The residents of Gigha - who organised a community buyout of their home - have formally taken ownership of their island.

The community raised 4m to buy the island, rather than see it sold to another private landlord.

Money from the National Lottery secured the island's future after businessman Derek Holt decided to sell up last summer.

The 110 people who live on the Inner Hebridean island set up a community trust to bid for the land.

Although we've known since October that our bid to buy the island had succeeded there's no denying that many of us were waiting for this day to come before we believed it was truly happening

Willie McSporran

They were able to make their successful offer, after winning 3.5m of lottery funding - the biggest ever allocation of money from the Land Fund.

Of that money, 1m was a loan, which has to be repaid within two years and the trust is already planning how to raise the cash.

The official handover of the island on Friday took place at a special ceremony where a set of keys was presented to community chairman Willie McSporran.

At the ceremony, Mr McSporran defended the size of the cash boost received from the lottery.

He said: "In the months since our bid was accepted we've all heard some outrageous outbursts from people questioning the purchase and the assistance we've received.

"They believed we already lived an island idyll, but everything was not rosy, we did have issues and challenges to deal with, such as restrictive leases, a lack of communication and community involvement with the landowner and limited investment in the island's infrastructure.

'Public support'

"Hopefully, now we can start to put these things behind us and move on.

"We are delighted with the support we have received so far, but with over 1m to repay we still require public support either in donations or in coming to visit the island, where they will be made most welcome."

The remainder of the cash - to allow feudal rule to be brought to an end after hundreds of years - came from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Community Land Unit.

Willie McSporran
Willie McSporran took possession of the deeds
Mr McSporran said major challenges lie ahead with the title deeds now in the hands of the islanders.

"Although we've known since October that our bid to buy the island had succeeded there's no denying that many of us were waiting for this day to come before we believed it was truly happening," he said.

"However, I think it's also important to say that this is really only the beginning of a longer road for us.

"In the short term we need to raise money, not only to pay what we owe, but to provide us with working capital - and we are already actively planning the steps we'll take to secure our longer term future."

A programme of events has been organised to mark the formal handover including the flying of a new flag designed by the islanders.

BBC Scotland's Craig Anderson reports
"This is now a community owned enterprise"
See also:

30 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders win battle for Gigha
30 Oct 01 | Scotland
God's mild Scottish island
30 Oct 01 | Scotland
Gigha residents await buy-out result
29 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders 'optimistic' as bids close
12 Oct 01 | Scotland
Islanders back buy-out bid
24 Aug 01 | Scotland
Land reform splits Lib Dems
18 Aug 01 | Scotland
Islanders consider community buy-out
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
Call to help residents buy island
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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