- Monday, 19 March 2012 09:24 Hits: 4001
Many kinds of misfits and vagabonds drift to "The Edge", and some of them are quietly going about achieving a revolution of sorts, taking back the land from wealthy, distant landowners and planning for generations ahead.
I attended the inspiring Community Land Scotland conference in Tobermory this month and it struck me that the majority of community buy-outs have been at the margin, along the west coast. I was also interested to note the timescales involved – it might take a decade from first interest to actual ownership, and another decade before the benefits of community ownership really bed in and make a recognisable difference to the landscape of the community. I picked up a copy of James Hunter's "From the Low Tide of the Sea to the Highest Mountain Top" and would recommend it to all of you (even if you just look at the beautiful photographs by Cailean Maclean). It's about community ownership in the Highlands & Islands and has some interesting facts and figures, for example: around £30 million of funding from the national lottery and the public purse has been invested in community land ownership over the past 20 years, which is equivalent to the cost of one 600 yard section of the Edinburgh tramway!
A weekend of sunshine has certainly lifted my spirits, and there are undeniable signs of spring everywhere – daffodils, leaves on trees, the promise of life returning to the island. It's been a long, wet winter over west. Being a Development Officer in such a small, remote community is hard; there's no real down-time because almost every conversation is somehow connected to work. It's frustrating to listen to drunken conversations about all the things people could do on the island, knowing that they'll never get around to doing them. Talk is easy. This is the kind of place where if something could go wrong, it probably will. Suddenly I find myself managing some large and unwieldy projects while still trying to carry on with all the other time-consuming things involved in managing community-owned property. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm only one person, there's a limit to how much I can do, and that it's ok to say "sorry, I don't have time to do that right now". It's difficult for me, because I want to be the person who does everything. Some superpowers would be good: the ability to be in two places at once, for example, or the ability to freeze time. To cheer myself up the other day I calculated how much grant funding I've succeeded in bringing to the island since I started in June last year: it came to more than £113,000 (and doesn't include the funding for my post, since I can't take credit for that). This means that:
• The Trust's admin post can continue for another year,
• A feasibility study can be carried out with a view to redeveloping the old steading in the village and building a community bunkhouse,
• Rum gets its first disabled access toilet, and people no longer have to use the loo with a view behind the boatshed (there's no loo),
• Campers will soon be able to go Glamping,
• The village hall will be double-glazed,
• Everyone can grow delicious tomatoes in the community polytunnel, and
• Rum Community Ranger Service is safe for another three years.
It works out at around £4,000 for each adult resident on the island – though I can't help feeling that everyone would love me more if I'd actually given them the money...
This is my last blog for the Scottish Community Land Network as you know it, though I may return with the Highlands & Islands Enterprise replacement. It's just over a year ago that I saw the advert for the Development Officer post on Rum and thought; "What the hey, just apply for it and see what happens". Funny how life works out.