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Eigg marks 25 years of community buyout and inspires others to take control

Eigg's An Laimrig community hub is being upgraded
Eigg's An Laimrig community hub is being upgraded

Eigg’s community landowners have been praised for inspiring hundreds of land and building buyouts over the last 25 years.

Islanders are marking the anniversary of the takeover on June 12 1997 with a series of events over the weekend despite poor weather.

The then 68 residents took control after years of uncertainty over ownership.

Eigg was bought for £1.5 million

The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust (IEHT), a partnership between islanders, Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, bought the island for £1.5 million.

It is now seen as a model for the community land ownership movement and has influenced other buyouts.

The population has risen to 110, visitor numbers have doubled, new houses have been built.

New businesses have also started including a tree nursery which visitors were shown round today.

The island’s self-sufficient renewables system has replaced diesel generators to provide 24-hour power and will be upgraded soon.

Visitors at Eigg’s tree nursery during the 25th anniversary celebrations. Photo Jill de Fresnes

A £3 million-plus upgrade of An Laimhrig community hub is also nearing completion.

Today IEHT secretary Maggie Fyffe addressed a crowd made up of the community and visitors who braved stormy seas to attend.

She said: “Twenty five years – a quarter of a century. Who would have thought that during that time the population would have almost doubled, visitor numbers massively increased, and that we would outgrow An Laimhrig which we so proudly opened 24 years ago today.

“I think a lot of what has been achieved is down to partnerships, each bringing knowledge and experience to the table.

‘A pride in everything we do’

“Also, to the community of Eigg, the volunteer hours so generously given, vision, commitment, energy and a good dose of fun along the way, but with a pride in everything we do to try to make Eigg a great place to live.”

On Saturday a concert will be held featuring bands who played at the buyout ceilidh.

Linsay Chalmers, development manager, Community Land Scotland, said the Eigg purchase sparked a wave of community buyouts in Scotland that continues to this day.

“In 1997, their situation was dire and the people of Eigg felt they had no choice but to buy the island.

“But they quickly demonstrated what can be achieved when a community owns its land and has control over its own destiny.

The Shearwater ferry taking visitors off the island after the celebrations. Photo Jill de Fresnes

“Not only have they inspired hundreds of communities across Scotland to buy land and buildings over the past 25 years, their reputation has spread around the world.”

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “25 years ago, the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, through their own international fundraising efforts, were able to purchase the land that they call home.

“A remarkable testament to the resilience and vision of islanders.

“Since then, the island has become a hub of community enterprise and innovation and is home to a host of key endeavours.

“Eigg has been transformed since the buyout: the population has grown by more than two thirds and properties have been renovated creating more employment opportunities.”

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