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August 26, 2015

Staffin community think big

At the turn of the 20th century, the Government funded the construction of a slipway at Staffin in the north of Skye.  The impact on the community was massive.  For the first time, supplies could be delivered safely by sea. And more than 100 years on, the slipway continues to be the main priority for this 600 strong community as they look to the future. Only this time, their plans are a little more ambitious. And in an area where employment opportunities are scarce, the prospect of 60 new jobs is an enticing one.


An ambitious plan to transform the fortunes of a north Skye community based on a significant upgrading of its harbour, could cost more than £18m.

But community leaders are determined to find funding which could see Staffin become a major new centre for fishing, processing and marine tourism. More than 60 new jobs could be created in the community of just under 600.

The Staffin slipway, built more than a century ago, was a lifeline for generations of local people with essential supplies being delivered by boat, according to the Staffin Community Trust.

The original slipway was built in the early 1900s by the Congested Districts Board, which was set up by in 1897 by the Government for the improvement of certain depressed areas of the Highlands and Islands.

In 2000 the slipway was extended with a new breakwater, but it still cannot be accessed for loading or unloading vessels at certain times because of low tides.

In 2011 a community survey showed improvements at the slipway was the main priority for people living in Staffin.

Two years later a company called Skye Sea Harvest Ltd approached the trust because it wanted a suitable location for a new seafood processing facility. It has been working with the community since.

Funding for initial feasibility studies was provided by the company and matched by the European Fisheries Fund.

The plan is to build a fish processing unit with a dedicated pier for wellboats servicing local fishfarms; better landing facilities for local fishing and cruise boats; as well as pontoons for visiting yachts. Crucially there would be access at all states of the tide.

A new report for the community trust by consultants has now put the cost of additional studies, construction, dredging and installation of services at £18.6m. Rock from a local quarry is recommended for use in the project. Forty jobs could be created in seafood processing and a further 20 in other marine and tourism activities.

Despite the high cost there is great local determination to see the vision realised, Hugh Ross, the community trust’s local development officer said:


“The Staffin Community Trust is fully committed to the Staffin Slipway Development and is determined to deliver this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure permanent employment for the district and reverse the area’s economic decline. In every community consultation held in Staffin the redevelopment of the slipway has always been the main priority for local people. The Scottish Government has major targets to grow both the salmon production and marine tourism markets by 2020 and the trust believes the slipway development ticks all the boxes. The trust and Skye Sea Harvest are currently investigating funding sources, with guidance from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to progress the development.”