Eigg celebrates 20th anniversary of historic buyout
RESIDENTS on the Isle of Eigg have been celebrating 20 years since the island’s trailblazing buyout in 1997.
Twenty years ago Eigg was bought by the community following a major fundraising effort by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust (EHT), a partnership of residents who now own and manage the island, with the support of the Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT).
Prior to 1997, the island was owned by ‘absentee’ German landowner, Dr Maruma.
At that time the population was just 64 people, but following a series of initiatives such as new homes and renewable energy, the number of permanent residents on Eigg has grown to 105.
Constituency MSP Kate Forbes was among the guests attending last Monday’s event, which included speeches from representatives of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Highland Council.
Speaking after the event, Ms Forbes said the day was a celebration of what communities can achieve when they are ‘not at the mercy of landlords’.
‘It was an honour to be on the Isle of Eigg to celebrate 20 years of community ownership – not only because of the progress that has been made but also because of the people who were there. Some of these people have been instrumental in leading the way on land reform and believing that communities should be in control of local assets.
‘Twenty years ago, Eigg led the way in showing the world how to create a sustainable community by owning the land, acquiring security of tenure and working together.
‘Today, the lively community numbers over 100 people and it’s largely down to the sheer determination and commitment of a small number of people who weren’t satisfied with the status quo.’
Eigg captured the attention of the world as the community appealed for contributions, and people followed the progress of the community buyout.
Ms Forbes added: ‘My hope is that Eigg demonstrates what can be done and other communities choose to take control of their futures. There is huge economic potential for communities on their front doorstep.’
Bob and Louise Giles travelled from Michigan, USA, to join the party and present the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust with a cheque for $1,000 on behalf of the St Andrew’s Society of Detroit.
The 450-strong society has sent annual donations to support Eigg residents with their regeneration plans, and Mr and Mrs Giles were thrilled to see the transformation that community ownership has delivered.
Mr Giles, a former president of the society, said: ‘Our first visit to Eigg was on July 4, 1997, when we organised a beach barbecue to celebrate Eigg’s independence.
‘It was our independence day and it was a great joy to share in the celebration of such a marvellous achievement. The progress we have witnessed this week is truly inspiring and we have such a story to tell when we return to Detroit.’
MSP Kate Forbes was on Eigg for the celebrations, as were Bob and Louise Giles, from Detroit, inset.