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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 15:55 GMT
Islanders close in on buyout bid
South Uist
The community has 3,500 residents
The islanders of South Uist are on course to complete Scotland's largest community land purchase.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved a 2m contribution towards the 4.5m needed to buyout 92,000-acre South Uist Estates.

HIE's 2m pledge, plus 2m from the Big Lottery Fund leaves 500,000 to find.

Islanders, who have raised 50,000 from their own appeal, hope to secure the remaining money needed in time to meet the sellers' deadline of 30 November.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council are considering funding totalling 250,000.

It is going to unleash the potential of what is a very determined and very creative community
HIE chairman William Roe

HIE chief executive Sandy Cumming said decisions by both organisations were "imminent".

Meanwhile, the buyout group - Storas Uibhist (Gaelic for the store or wealth of Uist) - will take out a 26,000 bank overdraft so the purchase can go ahead on 30 November and leave them in control of the area on 1 December.

Angus MacMillan, chairman of Storas Uibhist, welcomed the latest round of finance.

He said: "They are delivering what Scottish Parliament's wish for land reform and community ownership.

"What it means for us is that the resources and the wealth of the islands can be harnessed."

Mr MacMillan said the buyout will mean the community can benefit from potentially lucrative shooting, mineral and fishing rights.

Golf course

South Uist is also home to a golf course designed by legendary player Old Tom Morris. It is proposed to restore the Askernish course to its original 1892 layout.

HIE chairman William Roe said his organisation was convinced to make its 2,079,953 contribution because of the strength of the group's plans for South Uist.

He said of the buyout: "It is going to unleash the potential of what is a very determined and very creative community."

Mr Roe added that South Uist could become a model for other communities to follow.

Sandy Cumming
HIE chief executive Sandy Cumming said more funding was "imminent"

However, Mr Cumming denied HIE will be seen as a soft touch and other landowners will start selling off estates if they believe they can get enterprise money.

He said the body has "finite resources" and any bid for financial backing would have to come from a community and not a private landowner.

John Watt, HIE's director of strengthening communities, also reacted to other criticism of the buyout.

He said: "I have seen and read that this means Lottery money for individuals to buy their houses. Everyone remains a tenant, but the landlord is a community company."

The decision to approve funding was taken during a closed doors meeting of HIE's board held ahead of its first ever meeting in public.

The area involved in the buyout has 3,500 residents.


SEE ALSO
Islands buyout gets lottery boost
07 Nov 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Price fixed for South Uist Estate
18 May 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Islanders close to estate buy-out
13 Apr 06 |  Scotland
Islanders back estate buy-out bid
07 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Funding for island buy-out study
19 May 04 |  Scotland

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