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December 17, 2008

Local people take ownership on Isle of Rum

The Scottish Government is set to transfer land and assets to the value of £250,000 into community ownership if next month’s community ballot gives the go ahead. The Isle of Rum Task Group has been working over the past year to establish a plan which will deliver a thriving and sustainable future for this small island community

Rum set to choose own future

The New Year may at last bring community ownership to the Isle of Rum.

Environment Minister Michael Russell announced that the Scottish Government was ready to transfer land and assets worth around £250,000 to the community from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) along with responsibility for the development of these assets.

The transfer of the community hall, village shop and tearoom, campsite and surrounding land will take place after February 2009 providing there is a positive vote from the community. The ballot will be held in early January and the transfer will allow the trust to develop visitor accommodation and designate land for crofting.

Speaking during a meeting of the Isle of Rum Task Group in Arisaig, Mr Russell said:

“In June this year, I announced that the principle of a transfer of land and assets to the Isle of Rum Community Trust had been agreed.

“I am delighted today to announce further progress towards realising the goal of establishing a viable community with a thriving local economy.

“The planned transfer of land and property in Kinloch Village and Glen will provide a platform for development of a thriving and sustainable community. It will create opportunities for local enterprise while improving the facilities and services available to visitors to the island.

“I should like to take this opportunity to commend the Task Group and the Trust for the progress that they have made over this past year.

“The support and commitment of SNH has been significant in helping to move the process forward, as has Lesley Riddoch’s contribution as Chair of the Task Group. I am pleased that she has agreed to continue to support the community as we more towards the first phase of land and property transfer.

“Much has been achieved in the last year, but there is much still to be done to conclude the final arrangements and to build towards the transfer of other assets to community management in the future.”

Andrew Thin, Chairman of SNH said:

“I am delighted we have got to the stage where we are almost ready to transfer land to the Community Trust. So many people have put in so much time and effort into this process and I believe we have the right solution at the right time.

“This is a key step in the establishment of an independent community and economy for the island and we look forward to working closely with the Trust on its future plans.

“This will also allow SNH to get on with the business of managing the island’s outstanding natural heritage and working with the community to enhance the visitor experience.”

Rum has been owned and managed by the Government conservation agencies since 1957. It passed from the Nature Conservancy Council to SNH in 1992.

The Rum Summit, convened by Michael Russell on December 3, 2007, brought the island’s community and the key Government agencies together to discuss the economic, social and environmental potential of the island with the principal objective of developing a joint approach to realising the full benefit of the isle’s resources.

The summit led to the formation of a task group which aimed to identify and facilitate actions in support of the development of a dynamic community on Rum which is not solely dependent on SNH. The task group reported to the Minister on progress in June. Today’s meeting will hear progress reports from the task group.

Achievements on the island over the past year include:

• Investment of £500,000 by SNH to improve the water supply and initiate a feasibility study to improve the electricity supply. These are essential pre-requisites for further development on the island.

• Formal establishment of the Isle of Rum Community Trust as the future custodian of community interests on the island.

• Recruitment of a development manager to work with the community and task group partners to take forward planning for community development on Rum.

• Endorsement for the Village Development Plan.

• Creation of three crofts in Kinloch Village with the potential for creating a further two.

• Devising a clear plan of the future housing needs of the community encompassing the self-build of 20 house plots, potential renovation projects and affordable housing.

The land and property identified for the first phase of the transfer by February 2009 is: the community hall, village shop and tea room site, campsite, boathouse, potential hostel development site, land for the construction of holiday accommodation, the designated croft land and other miscellaneous land not proposed for agricultural use.

The community are to be balloted on the proposal that the whole package of assets is transferred to the Trust in a phased manner. The ballot is expected to take place in January 2009.