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November 15, 2017

Not about the money

Everyone understands that it’s important for public assets to be managed efficiently and responsibly. Equally, everyone understands that the management of those public assets involves, to an extent, keeping an eye on what is in the public’s best interest and recognising that often transferring that asset to the local community is in the public interest. What is less accepted is that community ownership is simply another a form of public ownership and that this should be reflected in any price paid for the asset. Which is why this transfer of forestry land is worth a special mention.

Scottish Government

An organisation in Skye are to become the first to acquire land under a new scheme to transfer publicly-owned forestry assets, to the benefit of local communities.

Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) launched the Community Asset Transfer Scheme earlier this year. Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA) applied to purchase land close to the Fairy Pools, an increasingly popular tourist site.

FES have now agreed to transfer the land for £2,500, a discount of £27,500 on the market value, because of the substantial public benefit that will be delivered. MCHA intend to expand car parking facilities, alleviating long-term concerns for tourists and residents, as well as installing new visitor facilities.

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop made the announcement while visiting to Skye to meet with local tourism interests, including launching a cross-sector strategic group to identify tourism-related issues in Skye and recommend where action is needed.

Ms Hyslop said:

“I am delighted Forest Enterprise Scotland have agreed to the sale of this land, which will help the local community respond to the pressures and opportunities that comes with having a world-class attraction like the Fairy Pools on your doorstep.

“We recognise the recent surge in interest seen by some of our tourism sites, particularly in rural locations. That is why we recently announced a new £6 million Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

“Alongside the Skye strategic group, the Scottish Government will continue to do all we can to support sustainable growth in tourism, working in partnership with local communities – in Skye, throughout the Highlands & Islands and across Scotland.”

Julie Burnett, a Director of MCHA, said:

“Minginish Community Hall Association is delighted at the success of our transfer request. This is a key milestone in the project to provide improved parking facilities close to the Fairy Pools.

“The community benefit of the land transfer and the overall project cannot be overstated. Both residents living in Glen Brittle and future visitors to the Fairy Pools will benefit from the proposal to expand and improve the existing small car park.”

Jack Mackay, FES Community & Visitor Services Manager, added:

“We’re very pleased that our new Community Asset Transfer Scheme is supporting the local community and tourism on Skye through this important transfer of land.

“This was a strong evidence-based asset transfer request, which showed how community ownership of a relatively low value public asset can deliver significant benefits to community and visitors to Skye.”