Islanders have voted overwhelmingly against a community buyout of North Uist.
Residents at a heated public forum in Paible School on Tuesday night slammed local councillors for launching a process to take over the 75,000 acre estate island.
A show of hands indicated that only three out of the 70 plus people present backed commissioning a feasibility study to examine the pros and cons of community control.
An estimated 75% of the audience who voted want to kill off the idea.
Despite the meeting’s strong support to leave things as they are, an island-wide postal ballot will formally canvass the island’s 1,000 adult residents.
North Uist is owned by Fergus Leveson-Gower, 54, the 6th Earl of Granville who is a cousin of the Queen.
His is opposed to selling so continuing the process would be a hostile takeover bid.
Local councillors, Archie Campbell, Uisdean Robertson and Neil Beaton, are sounding out support for a community takeover, believing it will regenerate the economy and stem depopulation.
Cllr Neil Beaton explained to the audience it was felt unfair that the vast bulk of the population who couldn’t attend the meetings were being denied a voice.
A properly conducted independent ballot would give everyone a chance to have their say whether or not to grant a mandate for a steering committee.
If the process was voted down by a fair and democrat ballot, then “at least everybody had the chance to express their view,” he stated.
Ena MacDonald received a round of applause when she stated: “I feel it is morally wrong to create a hostile buy-out.
“At the moment I think we are fortunate to have a landlord like the Granvilles.”
North Uist is owned by Earl Granville through a family trust and is run by North Uist Estate.
Estate factor and North Uist resident George Macdonald, who attended the meeting said later: “The meeting spoke for itself in that very few people present favoured taking the issue forward.”
A statement from North Uist Estates laid out Earl Granville’s family’s stance: “We certainly hope that the community will not favour a buy-out and it is by no means certain that there will be sufficient interest in a buy-out for a similar suggestion was put to the crofters a couple of years ago and this met with a negative response.”
The estate says the Granville’s businesses generate a turnover over £2.5 million locally and employ nearly 100 islanders in full-time, part-time and seasonal roles.