November 21, 2012
A welcome gift
In stark contrast to Bute and Applecross, the landowner of the island of Scalpay appears driven by altruism and an interest in what is in the best interests of the community. Fred Taylor, who inherited the island from his father, has offered to make a gift of the island. The community have just voted overwhelmingly in favour of accepting Mr Taylor’s offer. Intriguingly, they are less decided as to whether to run the island themselves or hand responsibility over to another, well established community landowner.
Residents on Scalpay have overwhelmingly voted to take over the island offered as a free gift by its landlord Fred Taylor. The thirty or so islanders attending the postal ballot count in the chilly village hall cheered as returning officer Derek Mackay announced the result.
At 197 votes against eight it was a decisive mandate to accept the generous offer of the free land. But it was the slimmest of margins – 110 against 96 votes – which will see islanders requesting a merger with the much larger community-owned North Harris Trust.
However, the proposed merger is not a forgone conclusion. The bigger community estate will have to consult and ballot its members over accepting Scalpay into their midst. Its unclear what will happen if they reject the proposal.
Island landlord Fred Taylor offered a free gift of Scalpay to its residents and encouraged them to take control of their own destiny. Mr Taylor pointed out a community landlord would have wider access to the fresh investment vitally needed to regenerate the island’s ailing economy which is blighted by depopulation, departing youth, few facilities and lack of jobs.
After the count, Finlay Macrae, secretary of the buyout steering group thanked Fred Taylor for his efforts to revitalise the community and highlighted the result gives a “very clear message to set the ball rolling” for the transfer. Mr Macrae said Scalpay will become a “community-owned land holding. Now the question is how to go forward.”
The next step is a “bit of an unknown beast, he said, as the proposed merger is not a forgone conclusion. The bigger community estate will have to consult and ballot its members over accepting Scalpay into their midst. Its unclear what will happen if they reject the proposal.
Buyout steering group chairman Paul Finnegan said the community management model vote was “much more closer than I expected.” He added: “It’s not a clear mandate to go with North Harris Trust. We’ll have to talk to them and see where we take it from here.”
Kenneth Macleod said: “It’s a fantastic result – its great we can now hopefully shape the future of the island.” Cllr Philip Mclean said: “This vote is a milestone in the history of Scalpay. The mandate to accept the island into community ownership and to take over the baton from current owner Fred Taylor was clear and credit should be given to the steering group’s chairman Paul Finnegan and its secretary Finlay Macrae for taking matters this far.”
“I now wish the group every success in taking matters forward. Wherever the outcome, Scalpay has been given a new lease of life as a result of tonight’s ballot.”