Scottish community trust given green light to buy island

In a controversial move, the Scottish government has allowed the North West Mull Community Woodland Company to buy Ulva, near Mull, under a right-to-buy application

Ulva
Ulva

A Scottish community trust has been allowed to buy the island of Ulva, near Mull, as a community asset for more than £4m as a result of a decision by the Scottish government.

The North West Mull Community Woodland Company, which is behind the plan to buy Ulva, was set up in 2006 to purchase and manage woodlands in the north west of Mull.

In a statement made last year, the NWMCWC said it wanted to invest in the island’s infrastructure and local industries, and help it to attract tourism because of its connections with famous historical figures such as David Livingstone, Samuel Johnson and Beatrix Potter.

A community right-to-buy application was then validated, which led to the postponement of the sale of Ulva to private buyers until the Scottish government decided whether to allow the purchase by the charity to go ahead.

The charity has now been allowed to buy Ulva, assuming it raises enough money to meet the £4.2m asking price, which was set by an independent valuer.

The Scottish government’s decision was taken under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, a statement from the government said.

Most other community right-to-buy deals have focused on community assets such as pubs and local amenities, and the Ulva purchase would be one of the biggest to have taken place in the UK.

But the potential purchase has been controversial locally, with Mull Community Council last month voting against allowing the NWMCWC to purchase Ulva.

In a statement made earlier this year, the Howard family, which owns Ulva, said they were opposed to selling to the charity and claimed that the NWMCWC was "relying heavily on the Scottish government to provide the overwhelming majority of the funds, not only to purchase the island but to continue to support its future at the taxpayer’s expense".

The statement said: "Anyone who lives or travels to Mull can quite quickly see where this so called £4m-plus could be better spent encouraging the ever-depleting rural community to remain in the area and not be drawn to the prospect of better jobs and easier access to public services that towns and cities can offer."

The Howard family had previously said they would ensure security of tenure for the six current residents of the island if it was sold to a private bidder and would ensure investment was made to the island’s infrastructure.

In a statement, Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for land reform in the Scottish government, said: "If the community concludes the purchase, it will join previous successful community buy-outs across rural and urban Scotland.

"The community right-to-buy, which we expanded through the Community Empowerment Act 2015, is unlocking potential in communities throughout our country, giving local people a say in their future.

"The Scottish government will continue to promote community land ownership and work to ensure that land in Scotland delivers benefits for everyone."

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