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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
The lands in communities' hands
Miabhag Nam Beann, Harris. Picture by Iain Maclean
Miabhag Nam Beann on Harris. Picture by Iain Maclean

A group of crofters in Assynt began the modern trend of community buyouts 15 years ago.

Today the list of community land ownership projects in the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) area runs to 365,340 acres (147,848 hectares).

They include the sprawling lands of South Uist on the Western Isles to a handful of acres taken over by a forestry trust in Sutherland.

And the cost of the buyouts runs to millions of pounds.

The major projects include the following. Figures on acreage have been provided by HIE.

ASSYNT CROFTERS' TRUST

Stooks on a croft. Picture by RSPB Images

Assynt crofters bought the land on which they lived and worked from a bank after the Scandinavian property developer which owned it went bust.

The purchase of the 21,000-acre (8,498 ha) North Lochinver Estate in Sutherland by a trust formed by about 100 crofters went through in 1992.

Backed by the government and public support the crofters of Assynt raised 300,000 to buy back what they considered to be the land of their forefathers.

ASSYNT FOUNDATION

Suilven. Picture courtesy of Undiscovered Scotland

The foundation runs 44,400 acres (17,968 ha) on behalf of the local community. The land was purchased for 2.9m in 2005.

It is made up of two estates - Glencanisp and Drumrunie - and includes the mountains of Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag.

The Glencanisp Estate also includes a Victorian hunting lodge, which is the main source of income for the foundation and is let out for group self catering holidays, corporate events, weddings, deerstalking and fishing groups.

GALSON

Lewis

The 56,000-acre (22,662 ha) Galson Estate on Lewis was bought for 1.2m in 2006.

Islanders raised more than 600,000, with more than 500,000 from the Scottish Land Trust and more than 100,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The estate includes large special areas of conservation and special protection areas and is home to birds such as golden eagles, fulmars and gannets.

GIGHA

Gigha. Picture by PA

The island of Gigha transferred to the then 110 residents' control in 2002.

At more than 4m it was at the time the most expensive land buyout in British history.

Gigha is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and can be accessed by a 20-minute ferry journey from Kintyre.

It is often called God's Isle, a rough translation of the name "Gudey" given to it by the Vikings.

KNOYDART

Knoydart. Picture by Pit Klemm

Knoydart is steeped in the history of the Scotland's clans and Highland Clearances.

In 1948, a group of crofters known as the Seven Men of Knoydart launched a land raid in a bid to live independently from the landlord system. They were unsuccessful.

However, the community achieved what the seven had set out to do in 1999 when the Knoydart Foundation purchased the 17,200 acres (6,960 ha) for 750,000.

NORTH HARRIS

Cliseam, Harris. Picture by Iain Maclean

The trust was set up in 2002 to steer the purchase of 55,000-acre (22,258 ha) North Harris Estate.

It comprises 104 crofts, 12 townships which includes the main population centre of Tarbert. The area is the most mountainous region in the Western Isles.

According to the trust's website, there is still 15,000 outstanding to be raised towards the initial 100,000 appeal.

SOUTH UIST

South Uist. Picture by Duncan John MacEachen

Islanders on South Uist took control of their estate in Scotland's biggest ever community land buyout in 2006.

The estate, which was owned by a sporting syndicate, changed hands in a 4.5m deal.

The transfer took place amid storms with winds gusting to 70-80 mph.

The 92,000-acre (37,231 ha) area accounts for nearly a quarter of the Outer Hebrides land mass.


SEE ALSO
Isle celebrates independence day
12 Jun 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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