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Does this Skye community have the secret to unlocking Scottish Government cash?

Broadford and Strath Community Company
Shirley Grant, Roddy MacLeod, Neil Hope, Norma Morrison from the Broadford and Strath Community Company. Councillor John Finlayson and Hamish Fraser from the community council.

Broadford could land a new school, housing and community facilities thanks to a smart strategy led by local groups.

Last month, the P&J reported on an ambitious masterplan for Dunvegan, in the west of Skye. But neighbouring Broadford is not to be outdone. It’s one of the fastest growing communities outside of Inverness – and it’s determined to deliver for its growing population.

Young people are a particular focus. Currently, they’re travelling to Portree for sports training, and some young teens are enduring a 120 mile trip to play football.

“In cities people complain if they have to travel for 25 minutes but we have people travelling hundreds of miles,” says Hamish Fraser, who chairs both the community council and the Broadford stakeholder group. “We can’t go on like this. It’s depriving our young people.”

Bad to worse

This isn’t a new issue, either. Hamish says the community has lobbied for better facilities for more than 21 years.

“The school opened in 1976 and it was too small even then – they were teaching in the dining hall,” he recalls. “In terms of the fabric of the building, it’s gone from bad to worse since then.”

Local parent Norma Morrison agrees. Now 45, she says local facilities were better when she was at school than they are today. “My oldest child is 19 now and there were buckets in the corridor when they were at school. So we’ve been campaigning for a really long time.”

Broadford primary school
The existing Broadford Primary School is not fit for purpose. Photo by Sandy McCook

However, lots of areas campaign for new schools.

So, what makes Broadford – or Dunvegan for that matter – any different?

‘The opportunity of a lifetime’

One part of the answer, is strategy. Hamish explains.

“All the community groups got together and formed a working group to unify the whole place. It consolidated the different lines of communication and made life easier.”

The Broadford working group includes the community council, community company and around 11 smaller local committees. Together, they have worked closely with the Scottish Government, Highland Council and HIE to shape a vision for the area.

“We started out looking at the school but it quickly mushroomed from there,” says Hamish. “Now we have the opportunity of a lifetime to also deliver sporting and social facilities for our young people into the future.”

As well as serving on the parent council, Norma is community co-ordinator for Broadford and Strath community company, which is spearheading the effort.

Broadford and Strath Community Company
Norma Morrison, Roddy MacLeod, Shirley Grant and Neil Hope of Broadford and Strath Community Company. Picture by Sandy McCook

Norma explains the vision. “The initial plan was to have a building attached to the school with everything in it, but we recognise that funding is an issue and the new school is our priority. We’re now working on a community campus idea with the extra sporting facilities provided nearby.”

The new primary school will host the Highland Council’s housing service point as well as a brand new library. Pupils currently have to go to the village hall for gym class, but that will be a thing of the past with the addition of a gym hall and badminton court.

The new build is included in phase two of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP), and funding is earmarked in the council’s capital plan.

Amazing track record

However, Broadford doesn’t want to stop there. As part of the community campus plan they hope to deliver an artificial pitch, changing pavilion and tennis court, plus a refurb of the village hall.

Discussions are underway with sportscotland and other potential funders, and hopes are high. “We’re confident that the new school will go ahead, as it’s an established project in the LEIP programme,” says Norma. “We have that commitment from the Scottish Government and our MSP Kate Forbes has been brilliant in terms of supporting us over the years.”

A woman cutting a red ribbon with a large pair of scissors
Kate Forbes MSP has been very supportive of the Skye project.

Given the community company’s track record, it’s easy to see why. Norma says the group has raised over £2 million for local projects over the years. It runs a community campsite, growing club and forest school, and is now building toilet facilities too.

Hamish has every faith. “The community company are at the head of this initiative and will bring it forward,” he says. “They have a proven track record so there should be no fears from any potential funders.”

Ms Forbes says she’s “delighted” with progress on the new school. “I first got involved a few years ago, when the prospects of a new school were very low,” she added. “Through hard work and determination, I worked with the parent council, community council and the local councillor John Finlayson to ensure that a new school was secured.

“I strongly believe in public investment in rural, local communities, and so combined with the new hospital in Broadford, this new school will be a significant asset to south Skye.”

Hospital needs workers

It’s clear that this is an ambitious community – and it needs to be. Health secretary Humza Yousaf officially opened the new Broadford Hospital in May this year, but staffing is a challenge.

“Look at the investment that’s gone into the new hospital,” says Norma. “They need more staff and we need the infrastructure here. We need the schools and facilities to encourage people to come and stay in the area.”

Affordable housing will help, too, and talks are underway with Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association to build new homes on the site of the old Broadford school.

Broadford's new community hospital
Locals hope new housing, schools and community facilities will help attract new staff to Broadford and to its new community hospital. Picture by Sandy McCook

‘Long overdue’

Despite a challenging budget regionally and nationally, Skye local and Highland education chairman John Finlayson is feeling positive.

“Highland Council identified Broadford as the second highest priority after Tain for the LEIP programme,” he says. “The partnership working and support between the Scottish Government, Highland Council and the local community has been instrumental in ensuring great progress.

“A community campus is long overdue to support our rapidly growing community. I’m sure everyone’s hard work will see it made a reality before too long.”

Clearly, this is a plan that takes in every element of life on Skye. “I joined the community council 10 years ago and we were talking about the new school,” recalls Norma. “Back then, a lot of people were saying there was no point even trying.

“All that has changed now. There’s a real will for this both for Broadford and south Skye. We’re very lucky to have so many strong characters willing to give up their time.

“It needs to happen.”

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