Setting on a new course for Scalpay

Scalpay Mini Market. SGD. 20098
Scalpay Mini Market. SGD. 20098

SCALPAY could become a significant centre for yachts visiting the Western Isles if plans go ahead to take the island into community ownership.

The development of a pontoon and the installation of moorings as well as onshore facilities is just one of the ideas on the table for how the island could be developed if it is agreed to go ahead with a community takeover

Current owner Fred Taylor has offered to gift the estate to the people of Scalpay in a move which would be a first in present day Western Isles.

Last year islanders agreed to consider the idea through a feasibility study and a public meeting is to be held on Tuesday October 23rd to consider this progress and possibly move to a public ballot on November 6th.

The study, carried out by Pool DTAS and Econdyn Consultants on behalf of the Scalpay Community Land Transfer Steering Group has concluded that there is much potential for the island but the options for managing the estate will have to be considered further.

Looking at marine development the report states: “Scalpay boasts two excellent natural harbours with piers and slipways which, up until now have been used predominantly by fishermen. However approximately 100 yachts per year currently anchor overnight at Scalpay though, due to lack of facilities, there is little impact on the local economy.”

The study suggests that as well as moorings and a pontoon, onshore facilities such as showers, toilets, access to fuel, electricity, stores and meals could provide a boost to the local economy.

The former Scalpay school building also has potential to generate income for the community and Scalpay Community Development Ltd have already been in negotiations with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar about purchasing the building.

The community are keen to develop tourism opportunities and with 12 self catering properties; six B&Bs and a new guesthouse due to open next year, there is plenty of scope to do so.

The report highlights that the principal attraction of the island is the historic Eilean Glas lighthouse and there is potential to upgrade the footpath to it as well as creating an improved coastal round-island walk.

Interest has been expressed in a community run residential care service, states the report, but concludes that the cost of establishing and running this would likely be prohibitive and so suggests the development of other services for older people such as social activities, outing and a lunch club which could make sue of community facililties.

A community wind turbine for the island is also being looked at in a seperate feasibility study carried out by Ecodyn Ltd which has identified two sites.

Options for managing the estate include setting up their own community organisation to take over ownership and management; to join together with the neighbouring North Harris Trust; or to take a partnership approach between a Scalpay community organisation but to affiliate with third party to assist in administration, development and management of the estate.

The study warns that if the community wish to retain the status quo, it would be inevitable that the estate would transfer to another organisation or individual at some point in the future.

Another part of Harris is also considering its future this month with another community meeting taking place regarding a buyout of the Bays of Harris Estate last week.

Residents met in the Bays Centre, Leac a Li, to discuss taking forward a community buyout. A meeting in Leverburgh earlier this year attracted support from local residents.

Forty-one people attended the meeting and 36 were in favour of taking the matter forward to form a steering group and commission a feasibility study.

As a result of the two community meetings attended by 93 people, 77 voted in favour and 16 against and so a steering committee will now be formed to take the next steps.