The importance of a local shop was underlined for the community of Carbost in Skye during the pandemic.
The facility has been an essential service throughout the Covid crisis.
It remained open even during the process of changing hands, from private ownership to being acquired by the community it serves.
It is one of a number of examples of residents buying community assets despite the restrictions of the pandemic.
Week of events to mark community buyouts
Ten acquisitions, including those in Aberdeenshire and the Highlands and Islands, are being marked during Community Land Week from 9-17 October.
They also include a cafe, a woodland and a resource centre which all received support from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF).
The Carbost community shop, in a 100-year-old corrugated iron building, was bought in January.
A steering group was formed in 2018 to work on a community buy out.
The sale was due to be completed in April 2020, but was delayed during lockdown.
The shop was bought by the community with a £145,000 grant from SLF.
It serves the 400-strong community and large numbers of tourists.
An event is being held at the shop on Saturday October 16 as part of Community Land Week, organised by Community Land Scotland (CLS) and the Scottish Government.
Cathy Simon, a director of the shop, says: “Apart from the challenges of working our way through buying property during lockdown, Covid showed us how important it was to have a community shop that would support our local village with essential supplies and help deliver to those vulnerable people shielding.
Skye woodland bought during lockdown
“We are so proud that we never shut the shop for one day with the transfer of private ownership to community ownership.
“Being 18 miles from nearest supermarket it would have been very hard in winter weather if we had lost our local facility.”
Another event on October 16 is marking the acquisition by Portree and Braes Community Trust of woodland at Bayfield during lockdown.
The trust completed the purchase in October 2020 with funding from the SLF.
The free event will feature campfire food and nature walks with outdoor education specialists ACE Academy.
ACE works with schools exploring plant, tree, animal and insect species as well as organising litter picks and teaching ‘leave no trace’ philosophy.
The trust has also upgraded a helipad at Portree and provided additional public toilets to cope with demand in tourist season.
Last year it bought disused tennis and squash courts to create a car park with motor home parking and waste disposal facilities.
Development officer Fiona Thomson says: “The work of the community trust varies from trying to secure land and buildings for community use to promoting renewable energy projects, organising community events and improving access to education and training opportunities.”
Buyout protects Lewis centre for the future
The centre accommodates community groups including the Pairc playgroup.
The trust is inviting the community to a pre-birthday celebration on Saturday October 9 for the playgroup which is 25 years old in 2022.
Other projects include investigating peatland restoration on common grazings as part of efforts to address climate change.
Estate office manager Fiona Stokes says: “Our long term vision is to reverse a century of population decline in South Lochs, by providing additional local jobs, more affordable good housing, and improved community facilities to improve the quality of life for all local residents.”
The Udny Community Trust in Aberdeenshire is holding an event on 14 October as part of Community Land Week.
It will be held at the building they acquired in Pitmedden in March 2020 at the start of lockdown, opening the doors of Cafe48.
The purchase was supported by a £100,000 SLF grant and revenue from a community-owned wind turbine.
The trust will also unveil the newly refurbished ‘Quarry Room’ multi-use community space.
Development officer Yvonne McLeod says: “The funds produced from selling locally-produced clean energy are ploughed back in to the community.”
The trust has installed a disability accessible toilet and a wheelchair lift for the café and has plans for a new accessible entrance at the rear.
Purchases can empower communities
Linsay Chalmers, development manager at CLS, says community buy-outs can improve the prospects of future generations.
She says purchases stimulate confidence which empowers communities to develop economic opportunities.
They can also help develop vital housing and build on a growing awareness of environment and heritage.
“This week of celebration is justly deserved. Community land purchase is the start of a long journey often to reverse many years of decline.”
Funded by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Land Fund is delivered by the National Lottery Community Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
SLF chair Cara Gillespie said of the week of celebrations: “This is a chance to hear first-hand about the challenges and opportunities ownership brings.
“But even more so, a chance to celebrate the power of collective community action.”