Residents Look to Buy Tiree from Clan Chief

Balephuil Bay, Isle of Tiree

Balephuil Bay, Isle of Tiree

Crofters on an Inner-Hebridiean isle are looking to buy their island home from the chief of Clan Campbell under a community ownership plan. Residents on the Isle of Tiree, currently owned by Argyll Estates, say community ownership could generate fresh investment and economic growth on the island.

The Tiree Community Development Trust are currently putting together a feasibility study to look at the benefits of community ownership, although any bid could take at least four years to come together. The trust also intends to write to the Torquhil Campbell, current chief of the Campbells and 13th Duke of Argyll, to ask his opinions on the buy-out.

The low-lying Isle of Tiree, which lies west of the Isle of Mull, has an area of 7,834 hectares and a population of around 650. The land is highly fertile with crofting, tourism and fishing the main sources of employment for the islanders.

Andy Wright, governance and finance manager of the trust, said inspiration for the bid has come from seeing how other proposals on other islands have worked, as well as Scottish Government incentives to encourage more community land ownership. “Our steering group has held a couple of meetings just to get feedback” he said. “The first thing we want to do is make sure everyone knows what something like this would mean before we start pushing ahead.”

“There’s a lot of questions being asked about the community land ownership proposal, for example people with crofts are a bit confused about what it means for them – they wouldn’t lose their crofts. There is a general feeling that with community ownership things would be a lot more pro-active. Certainly it could make moving things forward a lot easier.”

Argyll Estates’ factor Andrew Montgomery says there would be no objection to the crofting lands being taken into community ownership – but little else. “I don’t think there is too much support for the proposal,” he said. “I have spoken to a number of people who would be against it for one reason or another. The last time there was talk of a community buyout there was a flurry of crofts purchased because these people don’t want to be involved in the community buyout. I suspect the same will happen again.”

“I think many community land ownership bids seem to come from areas where there’s been disquiet – where something has happened that isn’t great for the community. Rather than hinder we try to help as much as we can. It is worth saying too that even if the community owns the land, the same problems will remain and someone still needs to run the place.”

Mr Montgomery added that he knows the Duke is not keen on the proposal. “(The Duke) has a great fondness for Tiree and they go over every year for their holidays. It’s not a flat out no, but there’s reasons for and against on both sides I think. It’s something we need to look at further but really I haven’t given it much thought.”

Among the Duke’s 29 titles are Master of the Royal Household of Scotland, Hereditary Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland (ranking 25th in the Scottish Order of Precedence) and Admiral of the Western Coasts and Isles. The Duke served as a Page of Honour to Queen Elizabeth II from 1981 to 1983, and is the current captain of Scotland’s national elephant polo team.


About Nadine Lee

Originally from New Zealand, Nadine is a documentary researcher now based in the north east of Scotland.

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