Residents back £4.2m community buyout plans for island


Almost two thirds of residents have backed a community buyout plan for the Inner Hebridean island of Ulva.

Only six people, including the landowner, live on Ulva but the ballot included residents of Mull.

The North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC), which is behind the bid, launched the poll last month.

It confirmed 255 of the 401 eligible to vote (63.6%) took part in the ballot to determined the future of the island, which has been valued at £4.2m.

Of those who voted by noon on Monday, 163 residents backed the buyout (63.9%) while 91 opposed the plan.

One ballot was spoiled.

The postal poll was ordered by the Scottish government and organised by Electoral Reform Services.

Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for land reform, will now decide whether to trigger the Right to Buy in light of the result and a business plan that has been put together by NWMCWC.

If approved, this would give the community company the green light to put together a funding package with hopes of completing the purchase by June.

'Control over destiny'

John Addy, a director of NWMCWC, welcomed the result.

He said: "This goes to the heart of the land reform process which is about who makes the decisions and has control over the destiny of communities – landlords or the communities themselves.

"We strongly believe it should be the latter.

"A new owner would be free to make his or her own decisions on what happens to the island, who and how many people can live there, and whether or not to encourage visitors or even whether to continue to allow operation of the ferry and access to the pier by fishermen.

"Community ownership, however, will bring certainty that repopulation of the island and its social and economic development for the common good will always be the top priorities."

'No security'

Mr Addy said the existing housing stock on the island and other buildings, including the historic Telford church, are in a poor state of repair and maintenance.

He also stressed the present tenants have no security of tenure as their leases expired last November and the lease on the Boathouse restaurant expires in June.

Argyll and Bute MSP Mike Russell tweeted: "Excellent news regarding the #ulvabuyout – clear majority of those who voted in favour of proceeding with buyout. Much to do but a great expression of confidence."

NWMCWC has acknowledged it faces a major task to revitalise Ulva and said housing, agriculture, forestry and tourism must be developed in a carefully-phased manner to make up for the lack of investment in recent decades.

The organisation also hope the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) will be able to contribute the major part of the money needed to buy the island.

This will require ministerial help as SLF funding is normally capped at £1m and 95% of the total.

A crowdfunding appeal has so far raised more than £21,000.

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