A crofting village of only 29 people in the Uig area on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis has taken its first steps towards a community land buyout bid.
Urras Mhangurstaigh was formed to promote a buyout of the village of Mangersta and its common grazings, extending to 9,000 acres. At present the land, which is entirely under crofting tenure, is owned by Uig and Hamnaway Estates.
With support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s (HIE) Community Land Unit, Urras Mhangurstaigh has now been incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and will be able to apply to the Scottish Government to register its interest under the Land Reform Act.
The group has identified a range of projects aimed at retaining population, creating employment and supporting crofting agriculture which underpins the village economy.
Earlier this year, six people from Mangersta visited the island of Gigha to see at first-hand the transformational work done there under community ownership. There has also been close contact with successful buyouts in Uist, Harris and Lewis.
The chairman of Urras Mhangurstaigh, Iain Buchanan, said: “A few small scale developments would provide income for the village and for the wider Uig community. Uig has seen continuous population decline, and the only people who are going to change that are those of us who have made the commitment to live and raise our families here.
“We hope to be in a position to submit our ‘Register of Interest’ to the government this year. Following that, our wish would be to have positive and amicable discussions with our landlords so that both parties can co-exist to the mutual and long term benefit of this fragile community and sporting estate.”
Uig and Hamnaway estates has previously engaged with the Uig community by helping towards the successful development of the Uig Shop, and more recently by offering to gift land for the location of the St Kilda Centre.
Elsie Mitchell, secretary of Urras Mhangurstaigh, said: “Gigha, in particular, showed us what can be achieved in a small community when people work together for the overall good. Real economic benefits have been gained from renewable energy and the population has almost doubled in less than a decade. We have the same potential in Mangersta to create employment and reverse population decline.”
Community land advisor at HIE, Margaret Anne Elder, said: “We are delighted to be providing advice and assistance to the community group whose ambitious plans could transform and energise the local area. While Urras Mhangurstaigh is following in the footsteps of others, each community is different and faces its own challenges, and so HIE’s support is an important factor in ensuring it successfully achieves its aims.”
Note to Editor:
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) delivers the Scottish Government's economic strategy by supporting the sustainable growth of ambitious businesses and communities across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
You can visit our website at http://www.hie.co.uk and follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/highlandsandislandsenterprise
Issued by: Mairi Bertram