Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hebridean roots and island community buyout.


South Uist


My daughters have ancestral roots in several places in the outer Hebrides including Solas and Greinetobht in North Uist, Baile a' Mhanaich and Cill Eireabhagh on Benbecula and Loch a'Charnain and Staoniebrig in South Uist. Generations of depopulation have led to our family leaving the islands for places like Glasgow, Australia and New Zealand. My friend Cailean is a more recent emigrant from Lewis to Inverness which is near where I grew up in Dingwall.

I was delighted to hear that the remaining residents of the South Uist Estate, which includes Eriskay and parts of Benbecula, have been awarded £2 million Lottery funding towards a community buy out of the estate.

Other remote Scottish estates have been successfully bought by their communities. Gigha for example is now thriving again. I wish the residents of South Uist Estate good fortune in the future.

PS 14/11/2006 Highlands and Islands Enterprise has donated a further £2 million to the buy out fund.


  1. Douglas, this one's a bit confusing. What are these people actually buying and from whom? Or is it more of a grant to help create new opportunities for people? How does it actually work, as it sounds quite interesting and may work in places here in Canada?

  2. Hello Michael, almost all of rural Scotland is owned by a relatively small number of people. This means most rural dwellers have to rent their property, house, croft, farm etc from the land owner who also places restrictions on development. This is because many own sporting estates: hunting shooting and fishing etc. and they want to maintain the status quo of unpopulated solitude.

    Recently groups of resident tennants have been banding together and buying out the landlord then running the estate as a cooperative. Estates in Assynt, Knoydart, Eigg anf Gigha are now seeing population growth as people are attracted back because they are allowed to build houses and work in new businesses. My goodness but schools are even reopening!

    However, I am afraid I have a bit of a Bolshevik attitude to this as my Grandfather and Grandmother were virtual serfs on just such a Scottish estate. For a much more neutral and unbiased view, may I refer you to the writings of a Lewis man: Alastair MacIntosh?

    Douglas :o)

  3. BBC Scotland celebrated this event with a great advert for the delights of South Uist - a wind and rain-swept reporter being battered by the elements in front of the camera, ending with "BBC man, live, from South Uist".
    It's much nicer when it's sunny out there. And then there's no comparison with anywhere else in Scotland.

  4. Hi Greg I saw that one. I agree about the Outer Hebrides in fair weather, the light, the colour of the sea, its quite magical.