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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 14:48 GMT
Crofters back forced buyout plan
Lewis
Crofters on Lewis want to buy their land
A Western Isles community is to test new land reform laws by attempting to force a landowner to sell part of his estate against his will.

More than 70% of the eligible voters on the Galson estate on Lewis took part in a ballot, with 85% supporting the bid.

The Galson Estate Trust will now seek permission to buy moorland where a major wind farm is proposed.

Some crofters oppose the turbines, but a spokesman said the trust would be able to negotiate a good deal.

About 3,000 people live on the 55,000-acre estate, which is owned by the Graham family.

This indeed is a historic occasion for this community and for Galson Estate Trust
Norman Thomson
Galson Estate Trust

The Land Reform Bill, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2003, introduced the right for crofting communities to buy their own land.

The Galson Estate Trust wants to carry out a phased purchase of parts of the estate, which the Graham family does not want to sell.

The trust's Norman Thomson said: "I feel absolutely wonderful that we've got the result that we were looking for.

"This indeed is a historic occasion for this community and for Galson Estate Trust.

"The result means we can now move the process forward to buy the land."

Phased buyout

In November, crofters voted to press ahead with a buyout of the Pairc Estate on the east of Lewis after negotiations with the landowner broke down.

The Galston trust will submit an application to the Scottish Executive next month, with the aim of taking ownership of the moorland by the start of next year.

The trust will then seek to buy the crofting land, which it hopes to own within 18 months.

Power company Amec is seeking consent to build nearly 100 turbines on the moorland.

Ballot
Campaigners welcomed the ballot result

BBC Scotland's Kenny MacLeod said: "The majority of crofters seem to be vehemently opposed to the wind farm plans as they stand at present.

"The turbines would, they say, be a blot on the landscape and would decimate the vast tracts of moorland.

"If the crofters own the land they would probably be in a better bargaining position to negotiate with companies like Amec."

The landowner had proposed to share some of the income from the wind farms with the crofters, but the offer was dismissed as derisory.

The hostile buyout was condemned by the group representing Scotland's landowners.

The Scottish Rural Property and Business Association said it had severe reservations about the Land Reform Act being used to "capture" development that was already likely.


SEE ALSO:
Crofters consult on forced buyout
18 Mar 03 |  Scotland
Tenants vote to 'force' land bid
30 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Land reform bill wins support
23 Jan 03 |  Scotland
Giant wind farm for island
13 Dec 01 |  Scotland


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