Plans for economic growth set out for community owned islands

South Benbecula causeway from South Uist

Ambitious plans to grow the economy of a group of community-owned islands have been revealed – including a major new house-building project.

Storas Uibhist, the community company responsible for managing the estate of South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula, say new infrastructure is vital for population growth.

The £4.6million community buy-out of the islands marked its 10-year anniversary in December – and the company will set out its plans in detail for the next decade at a special conference today.

Storas Uibhist manages everyday affairs for the population of around 3,500 people in the islands.

A key feature will be expansion around the harbour area in Lochboisdale – including what is described as a “new village”.

Construction of a new £10million marina at the South Uist harbour was a significant achievement during the first 10 years since the buy-out.

And it will remain a key area during the next decade, with plans for a new ferry terminal and a pier to attract cruise ships and industrial use.

Dozens of derelict homes around the harbour will also be renovated for low cost housing and holiday lets.

Other plans include heritage trail celebrating local history including the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden and the sinking of the whisky laden ship, the Politician, in the Sound of Eriskay – made famous in the Whisky Galore book and film.

Meanwhile, a new distillery and micro brewery will be built, along with an enterprise zone to boost sales of island food and drink.

The chairman of Storas Uibhist, Angus MacMillan, who also led the successful buyout campaign 10 years ago, said: “The next decade is about growth.

“With 25 staff now working for the estate, we have set in place strong foundations for the future.

“The economic future of the islands is in our own hands and our focus will be on creating jobs, stemming outward migration and increasing the population.

“We have a huge opportunity to use the natural resources of the islands, at land and sea, for the benefit of the people who live here. We need to build more houses, attract new people to the islands and increase tourism.”

Mr MacMillan highlighted two £10million projects as key achievements in the first ten years of community ownership – the installation of a windfarm at Loch Carnan and the new marina at Lochboisdale used by fishermen and visiting yachts.

He also noted the reopening of the Old Tom Morris designed golf course at Askernish, which has helped attract golfers from all over the world to the islands.