On the Isle of Skye

Islanders to take control of Skye estate

The long-term future of an estate on Skye has been secured by a partnership deal between islanders and conservationists.

The John Muir Trust has bought the 8,400-acre Sconser estate, which it will manage jointly with the people in the crofting township. The estate formally changes hands on Friday.

The deal means the trust is one of the biggest landowners in Skye, controlling 28,500 acres, including the entire Red Cuillin mountain range.

The trust also owns the 5,000-acre Torrin estate, which it bought in 1991, and the 15,100-acre Strathaird estate, acquired from the Jethro Tull singer Ian Anderson in 1994. Management partnerships have been set up with local people to carry out the day-to-day running of these estates with trust representatives.

A similar agreement has been reached in Sconser and is seen as a model for land ownership in the Highlands and Islands.

As a first step, the trust is applying to the Crofters' Commission to extend the common grazing at Sconser from 1,700 acres to 5,000 acres.

Nigel Hawkins, the director of the John Muir Trust, said: "We have found tremendous goodwill in the local community and we are convinced we can all work together in the best interests of Sconser."

Talks on the takeover have been taking place for more than two years. The purchase price of more than 100,000 was helped with a 75 per cent grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The land lies in the Cuillin national scenic area with parts also in the Cuillin site of special scientific interest.

The John Muir Trust, which is also part of a consortium of interests to join local people in an attempt to buy the Knoydart estate from a private owner, is to launch a Red Cuillin appeal to its members and the wider public to raise the rest of the money required for the purchase and to help the future management of the other Skye estates.

The estate, which stretches from the east coast of the island to the top of the 2,500ft Glamaig mountain - the highest in the Red Cuillin - has a population of 109 living near the shore of Loch Sligachan. It has been owned since the 1950s by the Campbell family, who will continue to live in Sconser House.

Fiona Campbell said the family wanted stability for the estate's long-term future and safeguards for the crofters, but agreed the John Muir Trust could become involved only with the support of the local community: "We believe Sconser now faces a secure future managed by those who have its interests at heart. My family are very happy about this."

The Scotsman; week of November 3, 1997;
by John Ross

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