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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 06:09 GMT
Crofters consult on forced buyout
Lewis
Crofters could use new legislation to buy their land
A community in the Western Isles could be the first to use a new law to force their landowner to sell land to them.

A group of crofters on the Galson estate in the north of the island of Lewis is planning to launch a community buyout.

It is set to leaflet every household in the area canvassing opinion.

The move follows the passing of the Land Reform Bill by the Scottish Parliament in January.

Right to buy

It gave crofting communities the right to buy their own land.

This was an outcome described by the Conservatives as a "Mugabe-style land grab".

The 55,000 acre Galson estate is home to about 3,000 people.

It is owned by a local family, the Grahams, most of whom live on the island.

Tenants pay peppercorn rents and say they have no problems working with the landowners.

Annual rent

The Graham family do not want to sell.

But a group of crofters is planning to use new legislation to force them to sell their land.

Crofter James Macdonald believes the land should belong to the people who stay there and work there.

"I would certainly like my sons to stay and I'm sure they would as well," he said.

"But as so very often happens they don't see any future in the place for them, there's so little work."

Basically it's got a lot of people thinking if there is going to be benefits to the islands, why shouldn't the crofters and the residents of Galson Estate get the full benefit?
Calum Iain MacLeod, Councillor
The new owners of the land could be in line for an annual income of tens of thousands of pounds if plans for a windfarm on the island go ahead.

Amec and British Energy want to develop the largest windfarm in Europe on Lewis, with 250 to 300 windmills.

The energy companies would pay an annual rent, thought to be about 1,000 per turbine, to the owner of land on which windmills are situated.

Local councillor Calum Iain MacLeod supports a buyout.

"Basically it's got a lot of people thinking if there is going to be benefits to the islands, why shouldn't the crofters and the residents of Galson Estate get the full benefit?" he said.

Community questions

However, much of the community remains to be convinced and leaflets will now be delivered in a bid to persuade them to own the land they live on.

Katie MacKenzie is a councillor for the Port of Ness area at the northern of the estate.

She believes it is unfortunate that the questions of the windfarm and a community buyout have been linked.

"I'm not sure that everyone wants to have a buyout," she said.

"The Galson Estate has been a very good landlord to us and there are many unresolved questions, questions that have to be resolved before people agree."




SEE ALSO:
Land reform bill wins support
23 Jan 03 |  Scotland
From Assynt to assent
23 Jan 03 |  Scotland
Giant wind farm for island
13 Dec 01 |  Scotland


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