Eigg cel­e­brates 20th an­niver­sary of his­toric buy­out

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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