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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
Assynt community considers buy-out
40,000 acres of the Assynt estate has been put up for sale
A community is considering a bid to buy 40,000 acres of land on the Assynt Estate which has been put up for sale.

The Vestey family is putting half of their north west Sutherland estate on the market.

It is understood people within the Assynt community are gauging interest in a possible buy-out.

In 1993, the Assynt Crofters Trust set the trend for future buy-outs when it bought the 21,000-acre North Assynt estate for 300,000.

Community buy-outs

The current land for sale includes Glen Canisp and its deer forest and lodge and two of Sutherland's iconic mountains - Suilven and Canisp.

The area is almost totally uninhabited apart from a few estate employees and extends from Lochinver to Inchnadamph in the east and west and from Loch Assynt to Drumrunie in the north and south.

A spokesman for the Inverness-based selling agents, CKD Galbraith, said it is likely to be six weeks before it is officially on the market.

New legislation has given local communities the right to make pre-emptive bids to buy land which goes on the market.

Local interest

Bill Ritchie was part of the trailblazing Assynt crofters who bought out their land 11 years ago and is already gathering thoughts on a possible local buy-out.

He said: "If you view this as a private holding then you would see the land as quite a different prospect.

"But if you view this land as a lot of natural resources which can be sustainably developed by the local community for the benefit of the community, then a whole different picture arises.

"You would have numerous opportunities. These lands used to be lived on, don't forget."

Official support

Highland Green MSP Eleanor Scott agreed that the news of the sale was exciting for the Assynt community.

She said: "My primary concern now is for the local people.

"I sympathise with the current employees of the estate and hope the outcome will secure their livelihoods and also help to revitalise the community.

"I hope the Assynt community will be able to make the most of this opportunity and, if they decide they wish to buy the estate, they will get full support from the Scottish Executive and the relevant agencies."

Highlands and Islands MSP Rob Gibson also welcomed the news.

'Generations to come'

The Scottish National Party politician said: "Some communities may be unprepared for the opportunity to take over the land that surrounds their village. Not so Lochinver.

"What better than a local community consortium to bid a fair price and rebuild the reputation of one of the most outstanding scenic areas in Scotland."

A spokesman for the current owners stressed they had been in the area since the 1930s and would remain there "for generations to come".

The land's millionaire owners will retain more than half of their present 100,000 acres despite the sale, and are selling up as part of a reorganisation of their holdings.

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