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Scottish community group gets green light to buy island

by Astrid Zweynert | azweynert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 2 February 2018 18:11 GMT

An abandoned dwellng is seen on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, an island off the northwestern tip of Scotland in the Outer Hebrides, Britain April 28, 2016. Picture taken April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

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"The #Ulvabuyout team are totally over the moon"

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON, Feb 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scotland has given the green light to a community charity to buy a small island famed for links to Scottish missionary David Livingstone and English children's author Beatrix Potter amid a drive to broaden land ownership.

Environment minister Roseanna Cunningham said she would allow a community trust on the island of Mull to buy the neighbouring island of Ulva for 4.2 million pounds ($5.95 million).

"This means the community now have the opportunity to buy the island. If the community concludes the purchase, they will join previous successful community buy-outs across rural and urban Scotland," Cunningham said in a statement.

Scotland embarked on a campaign to ensure land is an asset for the many, not the few, with a landmark bill in 2015 amid growing tension over the dominance of large, often absent, land-owners whose hold over the country dates back to an era when it was a largely agricultural nation run by the wealthy gentry.

This had led to about 430 people owning half of Scotland's privately held land.

Under Scottish law communities can apply to register an interest in land and the opportunity to buy it when it comes up for sale. This puts a temporary stop on any sale by its owners.

Ulva, which neighbours Mull on the west coast of Scotland, has been in economic decline for decades and has less than 10 residents, including its owner.

The North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC), which is behind the plan to buy Ulva, was set up in 2006 to purchase and manage woodlands in the north west of Mull.

The NWMCWC said last year it wanted to invest in the 1,860 hectare (4,600 acres) island's infrastructure and local industry to boost its flagging fortunes.

The charity also said it wanted to help Ulva attract tourism because of its connections with famous figures such as David Livingstone whose ancestors came from the island and Potter, who visited the island and had relatives there.

"The #Ulvabuyout team are totally over the moon to have just received notification that consent has been given for us to proceed with plans to buy Ulva".

The charity was unavailable for comment.

The NWMCWC launched a community right-to-buy application, which delayed the sale of Ulva to private buyers.

The charity has now been allowed to buy Ulva, provided it raises enough money to meet the asking price by June. An online fundraising campaign has raised 26,100 pounds so far.

NWMCWC can apply for funding from the Scottish Land Fund, which has 10 million pounds a year to spend from the national lottery on community buyouts.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert , Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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