Twenty-two Island residents have thrown their hats into the ring to compete for the available trustee postitions (to see the full list of candidates names: click here). This year’s election has seen the highest number of candidates for 40 years.
The Stornoway Trust is one of the oldest community estate trusts in Scotland and was formed in 1923 when Lord Leverhulme gifted 69,000 acres of land to the people.
It covers a large part of Lewis, taking in North Tolsta, Newmarket, Point and part of North Lochs as well as the town of Stornoway itself.
Nowadays, it has an annual turnover of about £1million and employs 32 people.
Around 50 per cent of the adult population of the Outer Hebrides are entitled to vote in the Trust election – and Stornoway Trust Factor Iain Maciver spoke about how special that was.
He also welcomed the numbers of candidates and the three female candidates.
“The response is encouraging,” he said. “It shows the interest that there is in the Trust and people willing to put their names forward.
“I now hope that the number of candidates will encourage a high turnout from the electorate.”
Looking back, he added that there had been some particularly long-serving trustees, including Sandy Matheson who was on the Trust for 42 years “and each time he stood he polled well”.
There were others including “Coinneach Mor and Barley who were all 20 years plus”.
He said: In the old Town Council days, the five ex-officio were councillors and sometimes they were the same as well – just being returned, returned, returned.”
The Factor “very much” welcomed the fact three women were standing but said it was “not unusual” to have female trustees, citing Zena Stewart and Fiona Cowan in recent years.
“As far as I’m concerned, gender isn’t the important thing but the quality of the candidate and their commitment to the Trust and I think women have the ability to bring a different perspective potentially to the table.”
Speaking of trustees past and present, he said: “I’m certainly proud to have worked with people who I and the community hold in high regard and I think the Trust has been the better for it.”
He said he hoped future trustees who be “of the same stature” and “focused on doing what is right for the Trust” in the interests of the wider island community as well as Stornoway because of the key role the Trust plays in many aspects of island life, not least in securing employment.
So what does he think makes a good trustee?
“A person who is in for the right reason, prepared to put the time in that is now required, listens carefully to the issues and takes a balanced view, who speaks or acts once they have a proper grasp of what they are dealing with.
“It’s very easy to make promises and then find that the world is not as flat as people may think or try to make them believe.”
There are challenge times ahead, for sure.
“There’s the whole uncertainty over Europe. There’s anxiety amongst crofting and crofting townships over future support for crofting and obviously with 1,300 crofters that’s an important issue for the Trust.
“There’s concern over Anish and the Trust will possibly once again get drawn into mapping out a future for the yard.
“There’s the employment situation where a lot of the island workforce are forced to work away, the need for job security… I think that’s important.”
There is the question of “how we can maximise the benefit from our resources, be it the environment, our wind renewable energy resources, and how we can offer a future particularly for young people.”
Mr Maciver said he had “no clue” what the issues would be this time round, with Sunday golf having been one of the topics last time.
“Will there be a battle line?” he said. “That’s entirely up to the candidates.”